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Essay: What is Salvation?

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Gup20, Mar 11, 2014.

  1. Gup20

    Gup20 New Member

    May 11, 2004
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    I'd like to present an essay here that I am writing and have you guys criticize it.

    Why faith? How does that lead to salvation?

    This question seems fairly simple, but I’ve found the answers you hear are very diverse, depending on the doctrinal beliefs of the one answering. I’ve also seen atheists ask this question rhetorically; “Why would God need you to believe in Him… is He that insecure?” Years ago, I was working for a church that started to espouse a doctrine called Dual Covenant Theology where it was believed that the Christian church should not proselytize Jews because the Jews had their own, separate covenant with God whereby they would all be saved. It was believed that Jews did not have to believe in Jesus Christ before they died to be saved. While I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, I felt in my spirit that this was an error. I saw scriptures like John 14:6 where Jesus says that He is the way, the truth, and the life and that no man comes to the Father except through Him. Wasn’t Jesus talking to Jews when He said that? That nagging question put me at odds with the leadership of the church I worked for, and I decided that if I was going to risk my employment that I should be quite sure of what I believed. This caused me to look deeply into the scripture to discover the truth for myself.

    The Covenants
    Using my favorite online Bible, I decided to do a search for the word “covenants” to see what I could find out about them. My thinking was that I would find that there was only ever one covenant – believing in Jesus Christ. As I was skimming the verses that came up on the first search result, one in particular caught my eye:

    Galatians 4:22
    For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman.
    23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise.
    24 This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.​

    I thought – You have got to be kidding me! I just started this study to prove that there was only one covenant and the first thing I do is find a verse that specifically says there were two covenants. I had to investigate this letter to the Galatians further because clearly my thinking was wrong, and I needed to discover the truth of the matter. This essay is essentially the culmination of that study. Here is a spoiler: there are two covenants, but only one of them is achievable by any person who has sinned (Galatians 2:16). The purpose of one of the covenants was to force us to turn to the other for salvation.

    Galatians 2:16
    nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.​

    So the first thing we see here is that Paul talks about two possible ways that someone might be justified as righteous. It is clear that these two entities are the two covenants as Paul defines them. This agrees with the Galatians 4:24 passage where Paul describes the two covenants as two women. He equates Hagar & Ishmael to The Law and Sarah & Isaac to faith.
    The writer of Hebrews holds the same definition of the two covenants: (note: I use the NASB Bible because I like it’s more literal translations. The NASB capitalizes portions that are quoted from other passages of scripture. I encourage you to go find the original quoted passages in your own study!)

    Hebrews 8:6
    But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
    7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
    13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

    Hebrews 7:18
    For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness
    19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.​

    So the two covenants are: works of the law and faith.

    The book of Galatians is a powerful and amazing letter! It is a letter to the church of Galatia who were going down an errant doctrinal path. They were telling the Gentiles there that, in order to be saved, they had to be circumcised according to the Jewish Law and tradition. Paul spends the book of Galatians explaining the severity of this error and laying out the revelation God gave him from the Torah concerning Christ and salvation. It is important to note that Paul saw what the Galatians were doing as extremely hostile to the gospel. He called it “another gospel” and even went so far as to pronounce a curse on those who would teach it (Galatians 1:8-9). I believe that Galatians is a warning to anyone who would try to conflate the two covenants, or to add conditions from the covenant of The Law to the covenant of faith in the gospel.
    The real meat of this study comes from Galatians 3 and 4. But before we delve into that, lets lay some ground work.

    The Fall and Death
    Before we learn about salvation, we first have to understand why we need salvation. In Genesis, the Bible describes a perfect creation without corruption or death. But soon we read about the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and that this first sin brought death into the world for the first time. Paul confirms this history in multiple epistles:

    Romans 5:12
    Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—

    1Corinthians 15:21
    For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
    22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.​

    So man’s sin brought death into the world. But the good news (gospel) is that God has provided a way whereby we can be saved from the punishment we justly deserve (death) and have eternal life. That way is Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

    Since death came by sin, it stands to reason that life can only come by righteousness. That is where the two covenants come in. These two covenants are covenants for being justified as righteous.

    Galatians 3:21
    Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. ​

    But how does that righteousness become ours? It seems the scripture is saying that of the two ways to be declared righteous, only one of these ways can actually impart life.

    Galatians 2:21
    “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

    Romans 3:20
    because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

    Romans 4:5
    But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

    Matthew 5:20
    “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”​

    So the mechanism for salvation is righteousness. But what is righteousness? I would define it as the state of being sinless, or the opposite of being a sinner. To be righteous is to be morally perfect or to be without sin as God is without sin. Jesus said in Matthew 5:20 that our righteousness had to surpass that of the most righteous religious people of that day, the scribes and Pharisees. In other words, those super-righteous religious leaders weren’t even good enough. Romans 3 says,
  2. Gup20

    Gup20 New Member

    May 11, 2004
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    Romans 3:21
    But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
    22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;
    23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
    24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

    Romans 3:10
    as it is written,

    Here we see from Romans 3:10, 23 that all have sinned and fall short of the standard of righteousness necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven. Paul even quotes scripture (Psalm 14:3, Psalm 53:3) and says that there is no one who is righteous, not even one. All are classified as sinners, and therefore no one deserves life. All justly deserve death, which is the punishment for sin (Romans 6:23 – the wages of sin is death).

    We see in Romans 3:24 the idea that we are justified as righteous through Christ’s redemption. To redeem means to purchase or exchange. But for that substitution to happen, that purchaser would need to have their own righteousness that they could exchange for the sin of the one being purchased. Christ was the only one who lived a perfect and sinless life. He was the only one ever qualified to give up His righteousness (His life) in exchange for our sin.

    2Corinthians 5:21
    He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.​

    Here we can see the Biblical foundation for the notion that the redemption of Christ caused the sinner (Abraham for example) to be made righteous, and caused the sinless Jesus Christ to become sin-filled. This verse demonstrates that great exchange. Perhaps it would be easier to say that our sin was imputed to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness was imputed to Abraham. Many people have great difficulty with the notion that Christ, who was sinless and righteous, could actually become sin. But this is the nature of the exchange. At some literal point, God had to see Christ as sinful, and He has to see us as righteous. But remember, Christ volunteered for this exchange.

    Psalms 16:10
    For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

    Philippians 2:5
    Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
    6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
    7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
    8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
    9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,

    Matthew 27:46
    About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”

    Galatians 3:13
    Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”—

    Deuteronomy 21:23
    his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.

    Hebrews 9:15
    For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

    Isaiah 53:6
    All of us like sheep have gone astray,
    Each of us has turned to his own way;
    But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
    To fall on Him.

    Christ emptied Himself of His fullness to become a man. He also became obedient to death – remember death comes after sin and is the just punishment (wage) for sin. Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified on a cross (on a tree). Remember He said He could call 12 legions of angels to come and protect Him (Matthew 26:53), but He allowed Himself to be taken and killed. Through crucifixion on a tree (a cross), He became a curse for us (remember also the sky turned dark at His death). The sin laid upon Him caused God to look away from Him and forsake Him. I am not saying that Jesus sinned, but rather that He became sin and Abraham became righteous in this great, redemptive exchange. Some might object – “But that would mean that Jesus, cursed and sin-filled, couldn’t lift Himself out of hell. He would be stuck there!” Yes. That is true. That was quite the leap of faith on Jesus’ part, wasn’t it?

    The Promises
    But Jesus had the benefit of a promise from God that God would lift Him out of hell… that God would not leave His soul in Sheol, and that He would again inherit righteousness back to Himself.

    Galatians 3:16
    Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

    19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

    Hebrews 1:4
    having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

    Hebrews 13:20
    Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,​

    This begs the question – why does God promise Jesus that He won’t leave His soul in hell, and why is salvation promised to Jesus Christ? Why does Paul say that Jesus is the one “to whom the promise had been made.” What promise? As we’ll soon see from Galatians 3, the promise was that of life as an everlasting inheritance for the spiritual descendants of Abraham! All Jesus has to do to inherit again His own righteousness is believe God’s promise to Himself. So then Jesus becomes the example for us – the first raised out of hell in the fulfillment of God’s promise that He would inherit that righteousness.

    Romans 6:5
    For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,

    1Corinthians 15:23
    But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,

    Hebrews 6:12
    so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
    13 For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,

    Having laid the groundwork of what sin and righteousness are, and having defined the two covenants whereby man can be declared righteous, let’s now delve into the text of Galatians 3 and 4!

    Galatians 3:1
    You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
    2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
    3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?​

    Paul makes excellent use of a rhetorical question here. He basically says “if you received salvation (credited righteousness) by the covenant of faith in the gospel, then how can the other covenant, the works of the Law, modify (perfect) that righteousness?” If you are getting your righteousness through covenant A, then the only way to lose that righteousness is through covenant A. You can’t gain righteousness through covenant A and then lose that righteousness for not complying with covenant B. In other words, if you are saved through faith in the gospel, then you can’t lose your salvation because you didn’t get circumcised.

    Paul then moves into what is, in my opinion, one of the most amazing revelations of scripture.

    Galatians 3:6

    This is the scriptural basis for faith being the transactional medium for righteousness. Paul shows that the Torah, the law itself, provides the basis for salvation by faith because he is quoting from Genesis 15.

    Genesis 15:5
    And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
    6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.​

    What the Lord showed me was that it wasn’t that Abraham simply believed God when God told him any random thing. The reason Abraham was credited as righteous was because he believed something very specific. For example, if God said “the sky is blue” and I believed Him, it doesn’t make me righteous. Paul continues to lay out the case in Galatians 3 for us:
  3. Gup20

    Gup20 New Member

    May 11, 2004
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    Galatians 3:16
    Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather toone, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.​

    When God says to Abraham “so shall thy seed be” He was talking about Jesus Christ! So it wasn’t that Abraham believed any random thing, but rather that God told Abraham specifically about Jesus Christ, and when Abraham believed God regarding Jesus Christ, he was made righteous. Isn’t this the same as we Christians do today? Aren’t we made righteous by believing the gospel of Jesus Christ? Some might say, “but faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Yes, that is true and I believe that God Himself was preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to Abraham and when Abraham believed the gospel of Jesus Christ, he was saved – or made righteous. Paul confirms this in Galatians 3:8:

    Galatians 3:8
    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 Abraham was made righteous because God preached the gospel to him and he believed the gospel. This means Abraham was the first “Christian” – the first person saved by grace through their faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul confirms that Abraham was indeed the first believer:

    Galatians 3:7
    Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.

    Galatians 3:9
    So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

    Luke 19:9
    And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.”​

    Paul then moves into describing to the Galatians how this works. Paul reiterates that while righteousness can come by the covenant of the law, there will be no one who will be made righteous that way (presumably because all have sinned and are thereby disqualified from being declared righteous by The Law). The only way to be made righteous once you have sinned, is through the covenant of faith.

    Galatians 3:11
    Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”​

    Paul describes that the righteousness we receive is the righteousness of Christ. He redeems us by purchasing us, and exchanging his righteousness for our sin – but even more specifically Christ’s righteousness went to Abraham.

    Galatians 3:14
    in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

    Hebrews 2:16
    For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham.​

    Galatians 3:14 reminds me of Deuteronomy 30. The Bible sometimes uses the word blessing as a synonym for salvation, and an antonym for sin and death.

    Deuteronomy 30:19
    “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants,​

    Paul talks about the promise of the spirit through faith. So what is this promise? The next section of Galatians 3 describes this.

    Galatians 3:14
    in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
    15 Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.
    16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.
    17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.
    18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.​

    This promise is the promise of salvation. It is the gospel. In verse 15 Paul defines this promise as being the very covenant of faith itself. He goes on in verse 16 to say these promises were spoken to Abraham, but were specifically referencing (and being made TO) Christ. Then Paul makes a powerful and illuminating statement in verse 17 – the covenant of faith came 430 years before the covenant of The Law. When you look at this statement with verse 15 – that once a covenant has been ratified, you cannot add conditions to it or set it aside, you realize that there is no legitimate theological position for any sort of works-based salvation. So when was this covenant ratified?

    The covenant of faith was ratified by God in Genesis 15 – immediately following God making Abraham righteous by his faith in the gospel. A friend of mine, once preached a message on the ratification of that covenant – in those days a covenant was ratified by splitting an animal in half and walking between the two halves with a torch. In Genesis 15:8-17, Abraham asks God how he can know and be sure that the things God promised him would come to pass. God makes the covenant and ratifies it by having Abraham get a heifer, a ram, a goat, a turtledove, and a pigeon and split them in half. After dark, God passes between the two halves as a pillar of fire, thereby ratifying the covenant. Once ratified, it can’t be added to or have conditions placed upon it. So The Law, which came 430 years later, doesn’t modify the covenant of faith.

    The next point to note is that Paul says in Galatians 3:18 that this promise is an inheritable promise. Indeed we see from the Genesis account, God makes it an “everlasting covenant” that will be inherited by all of Abraham’s descendants.

    Genesis 17:2
    And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
    3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
    4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
    5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
    6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
    7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
    8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.​
    #3 Gup20, Mar 11, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 11, 2014
  4. Gup20

    Gup20 New Member

    May 11, 2004
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    So at the inception of the covenant of faith, God does something interesting. He gives Abraham a new name. Here we see the concept of being “born again” being alluded to. He says that Abraham (no longer Abram) will be the “father of many nations.” I specifically used the King James here because I think it’s one of the only translations that agrees with Galatians 3:16 in showing “seed” as a singular rather than a plural like “descendants”. Here in Genesis 17:7 we see that God is establishing the covenant of faith with Abraham and says that it will be an “everlasting covenant” both to Abraham and then inherited by his “seed” in their generations. This alludes to the fact that while the promise is being made to Christ, it is also to those who are “in Christ.”

    I now believe with all of my heart that God is referring to Abraham’s spiritual seed (those who have the same faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ that Abraham had), not his physical seed (the Jews). I do leave room (and I think a case can be made) for the possibility of a simultaneous dual meaning. I no longer have room for a physical-descendant-only interpretation. This is confirmed by many passages:

    Galatians 3:7
    Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.

    Galatians 3:26
    For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

    Galatians 3:29
    And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

    Galatians 4:30

    Romans 9:6
    But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;
    7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.”
    8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.

    Hebrews 2:16
    For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham.

    Luke 19:9
    And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.”​

    In the Galatians 4 passage, Paul describes Ishmael as the son of the law, whereas Isaac is the son of the promise. He says that the natural, physical heir was cast out so that the inheritance of the promise could come through the miracle child Isaac (representing the spiritual kinship, rather than the physical kinship). Jesus confirms this in Luke 19:9 above, but goes into much detail in John 8:

    John 8:31
    So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
    32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
    33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”
    34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.
    37 “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.
    38 “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.”
    39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham.
    40 “But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.
    41 “You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.”
    42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.
    43 “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.
    44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.​

    Here, we see that Jesus was saying that if they had faith in him, they would be saved, or made righteous and free from sin and death. They say “we are not slaves” but Jesus responds that anyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. Then, they make the point that they are Abraham’s descendants. Jesus says “If you were Abraham’s descendant, you would do what Abraham did”. What did Abraham do? He believed the gospel of Jesus Christ! Jesus is saying if they were truly Abraham’s descendants as God defines it, they would believe in Him. Jesus goes on to say that their father is the devil, thereby demonstrating that being a descendant of Abraham in God’s eyes is not a literal, but spiritual kinship. But take special note of verse 43 of John 8. I used to skip over this verse, but even as I type this out, God is showing me the meaning of that verse; Jesus asks – “Why is it that you do not understand?” Then Jesus answers his own question; “it is that you cannot hear my word.” Remember faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Jesus is saying they do not have faith because they do not hear His word, confirming they did not have faith in Him, and then pronouncing them disqualified as children of God and of Abraham, and instead qualified as children of Satan.

    Later in John 8 Jesus confirms that Abraham did indeed have faith in Him:

    John 8:56
    “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”​

    So if no one will be saved by the covenant of The Law, what then is the purpose of the covenant of The Law? Paul reveals this in the latter half of Galatians 3.

    Galatians 3:19
    Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

    Galatians 3:22
    But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

    Galatians 3:24
    Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
    25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.​

    The purpose of the law was to point us back to the covenant of faith. The Jews had immediately forsaken the faith aspect of Abraham’s salvation, and instead thought that their physical kinship and the fact that they were circumcised qualified them to inherit the promise. The Law is a teacher to show us there is no other way besides the covenant of faith.
  5. Gup20

    Gup20 New Member

    May 11, 2004
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    Another important topic I want to discuss here is the concept of circumcision. Why circumcision? Is God into genital mutilation because He wants to deprive us of pleasure?

    First, we have to realize that circumcision was instituted when God made the covenant of faith with Abraham in Genesis 17. You might ask, “What does circumcision have to do with faith? It is a work, isn’t it?” Yes, it is. Paul makes a fantastic point in Romans 4:

    Romans 4:7
    9 Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, “FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
    10 How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;

    Paul says that Abraham was made righteous by his faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ prior to being circumcised. He makes this point to demonstrate that Abraham was made righteous as a Gentile, but it has deeper implications as well. It shows Abraham’s righteousness came before any works were performed. So why circumcision?

    Romans 4:11
    and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them,
    12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
    13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.​

    We can see that he was righteous prior to being circumcised, so his circumcision didn’t make him righteous, his faith made him righteous. But this still doesn’t answer the question of why circumcision. Why wouldn’t God just say Abraham could wear a club ring on his finger signifying his faith, or a certain color robe or something?

    Recall the purpose of The Law and the Old Testament in general. Galatians 3:24 says the Law is a tutor to lead us to faith in Christ. Galatians 4 talks about Abraham and Sarah and Hagar as an allegory. I have started to think of the Old Testament as not only the literal history of Israel, but also as a long series of parables. God taught us with parables in The Law, and Jesus continued to teach us by parables in His earthly ministry. It seems to be God’s preferred way of teaching. So what can we learn from circumcision? Well, once again, Paul tells us:

    Colossians 2:11
    and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;

    Deuteronomy 30:6
    “Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.​

    I think God institutes circumcision as a tool to remind Israel (and us – Romans 4:23) of the true meaning of the covenant of faith. It is a symbolic representation of what happens to the believer when they are saved! Paul says this in Romans:

    Romans 8:10
    If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

    Romans 7:21
    I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.
    22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,
    23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.​

    So according to Paul, we have a righteous inner spirit living inside condemned and sinful outer flesh. Indeed, the scripture describes that when we die, we shed the sinful, condemned flesh and the righteous inner man is joined with Christ. Like a foreskin that is cut away, leaving only the inner, righteous portion, so too will we be freed from our sinful, outer flesh one day. Paul says in Romans 8 that God condemns sin in the flesh (making a distinction between the flesh and the spirit), so that The Law would be fulfilled in us.

    Romans 8:3
    For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
    4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.​

    God condemns sin in the flesh. In a manner of speaking, our sin is banished from our spirit and exiled to our flesh. Our spirit then is a righteous, inner man (as Paul described a couple of verses prior in Romans 7). The Bible says our condemned, sinful, outer flesh, however, fulfills the requirement of The Law. I suggest to you that there are two ways to “fulfill” the law. The first way (the way Jesus did it) was to keep the law perfectly and never sin and be qualified as righteous. The second way, however, is to break the law and then suffer the penalty for breaking the law (the wages of sin is death). In both circumstances, the law is fulfilled.

    Does this leave us without a body for the rest of eternity? Paul talks about resurrection of the body in 1 Corinthians 15.

    1Corinthians 15:35
    But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?”
    [[verses 36-41 talk about a seed first dying and being buried in the ground before it changes into another form – the form of the plant which looks different from the seed]]
    42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body;
    44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
    50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
    52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
    53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.​

    This describes a shedding of the outer, sinful flesh by the righteous, inner spirit. That spirit is then rejoined with a resurrected, immortal body that has been changed at the last trumpet (the 7 trumpets described in Revelation, I would guess). Isn’t circumcision a really accurate picture of this shedding of the sinful outer flesh to reveal the righteous inner spirit?

    Paul makes an important point at the end of 1 Corinthians 15. This idea of the flesh fulfilling the law on behalf of the spirit (which was infused with the righteousness of Christ through kinship with Abraham in order to “survive” the death of the body) is the mechanism whereby death is finally destroyed by God.

    1Corinthians 15:26
    The last enemy that will be abolished is death.

    1Corinthians 15:54
    But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.
    56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;

    Romans 6:5
    For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,
    6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
    7 for he who has died is freed from sin.

    Romans 7:1
    Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?
    4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.​

    So by our bodies dying, and our righteous spirit living on in the absence of the body, when the body is resurrected at the last trumpet, it will never be subject to sin and death again, for it will have already fulfilled that law.
    One last note on circumcision, Paul says that,

    Galatians 5:6
    For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

    Galatians 6:15
    For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

    2Corinthians 5:17
    Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.​
  6. Gup20

    Gup20 New Member

    May 11, 2004
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    Here, I think Paul is really driving home that circumcision doesn’t matter for salvation. He says we are a new creature, a new creation (so what does the old creature matter?). When we are born again, our spirit is made alive, but our sinful flesh will fulfill the law and die, so it doesn’t really matter what happens to that flesh. It is unredeemed and unrighteous. It will die with its sin. It will be judged with death. Conversely,

    2Corinthians 5:6
    Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—
    8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.​

    Our spirit, which is alive now and joined with God’s spirit, will not experience death. As soon as our bodies die, we will be present with the Lord. Then, at the return of the Lord, we will get our resurrected, perfected (read “changed”) bodies that are no longer marred by sin and death… no longer corrupted.

    Another important aspect of the promises of God to Abraham is that of the promise of the lands of Canaan to Abraham (Genesis 17:8). It never made sense to me why God would include the promise of what is present day Jerusalem as part of His covenant of faith. What does physical land have to do with salvation, and what strange set of circumstances would have to take place in order for Christians, rather than Jews, to lay a claim to that promised land?

    The answer flowed from studying circumcision. In 1Corinthians 15:52 it says that “at the last trumpet, the dead in Christ will be raised and changed.” This got me thinking that the Apostle Paul was really linking circumcision to the end times in 1Corinthians 15. So perhaps the promised land had to do with the end times. This was confirmed when I read and saw a series called Revelation: TheFuelProject Guide (which you can find on YouTube). Without a doubt, this is the best exposition on the end times I’ve seen. The author, Mark Fairley, lays out a description of end times, which ultimately culminates in Jesus setting up His kingdom on earth and ruling from what is now Jerusalem. The only ones allowed into the gates are those who inherit salvation as the spiritual children of Abraham.

    Psalms 69:27
    Add iniquity to their iniquity, And may they not come into Your righteousness.
    28 May they be blotted out of the book of life And may they not be recorded with the righteous.

    Revelation 20:12
    And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.

    Revelation 21:27
    [regarding the city where Christ reigns on earth] and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

    Hebrews 11:8
    By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.
    9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;
    10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.​

    So to summarize this theological position- God creates a perfect world without sin and death. Adam’s sin brings death to the world as judgment for that sin. God preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ to Abraham, and when Abraham believes the gospel, he is made righteous, having been given Christ’s righteousness. God makes a promise to Abraham, but more specifically promises Jesus Christ that Christ’s righteousness - which he gave up by becoming obedient to death on the cross - He would receive back as an inheritance from Abraham. This inheritance, God promises, will be an everlasting inheritance to all who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ (just as Abraham believed), thereby qualifying as a child of Abraham, the father of many nations. At the inception of the covenant of faith, God institutes circumcision as picture of the salvation to come. However, the physical seed of Abraham quickly lose sight of the covenant of faith, and God institutes the covenant of The Law (which Christ alone can fulfill sinlessly) to point them back to the covenant of faith. At the end times, all who are in Christ by inheriting the promises God made to Abraham will also inherit the promise of the right to live in the Holy City of Jerusalem with our Lord - the New Jerusalem.


    Works-based salvation

    Now lets discuss some of the implications of this theology. The first implication I’ve already mentioned; this theological position really eliminates any last vestiges of works-based salvation. If The Law didn’t exist when Abraham was credited with righteousness, and once a covenant has been ratified, no conditions can be added to it, then we can see how righteousness by faith is truly apart from the law. We’ve been so conditioned to see The Law as the original covenant and faith in Christ as the “new testament,” or new covenant, that we didn’t realize that The Law has never existed outside of or independent of the covenant of faith, but the covenant of faith has, and does exist outside of the law. Why is it important to do away with works-based salvation models? Well, clearly, Paul pronounces a curse on those who promote works-based salvation… that’s one good reason. But another is that, once you are free to serve God out of love rather than out of fear of death, we will be oriented for a proper relationship with God.

    1John 4:18
    There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.​

    Another way of looking at The Law then emerges. No longer is it a means of acquiring or maintaining righteousness, but rather, it is a teacher to force us to look back to the original covenant of faith for our salvation. It is a tutor to teach us truths about God and the way things will be in the kingdom of Heaven. A good analogy would be if a parent says “if you have a good attitude while doing your chores, I will give you a cookie.” The child then sets about accomplishing the chores, all the while maintaining a sour and angry attitude. The child then expects the cookie because, after all, the chores got done. The parent then says, “Ok let me write down a definition for what a good attitude is to demonstrate for you that you are not having a good attitude, even though you are doing the chores, you still don’t have a good attitude, and won’t get a cookie until you change the attitude.”

    Once Saved Always Saved?
    Perhaps you noticed I slipped in another implication at the beginning of the last paragraph; another implication is that of “maintaining” salvation. If one doesn’t gain salvation through works, then one can’t lose their salvation through evil works since works is not the transaction medium for salvation – faith is. So then, if we realize that our salvation comes indirectly by faith qualifying us for kinship with Abraham, and then receiving Christ’s righteousness as an inheritance because of that kinship, we know then the only way to “lose” salvation is to not be qualified as an heir of Abraham. The only way to do that is to not have faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Keep in mind that an heir doesn’t earn an inheritance… they receive it based on kinship, not merit.

    Hebrews 10:36
    For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
    39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

    Hebrews 3:12
    Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.
    14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,

    Hebrews 4:3
    For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.
    10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.
    11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.
    12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.​

    Here we see that one must continue in faith to continue in Salvation. While works of the law are not mentioned as being required to persevere in, unbelief can cause God to no longer be pleased with us. Also, we see the Word of God has divided soul and spirit. This means that, for the believer, the works of the flesh and a person’s spirit are separated.
  7. Gup20

    Gup20 New Member

    May 11, 2004
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    Original Sin
    This theology has implications for many other theological perspectives as well. For example, the idea that we have a sin nature (a phrase that does not appear in scripture) which prevents us from “choosing God.” I believe this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what our “faith” should be in. If faith is in God directly, that is one thing (the demons believe in God, but that doesn’t save them). If faith is in faith itself (ie - I believe that, by believing hard enough, xyz will happen) that is another. But Paul teaches that the covenant of faith is faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the “good news” that Jesus Christ came to take away the sin of the world. You don’t need any particularly spiritual super power to believe a news report. Paul uses that term in Romans 10 when he quotes Isaiah:

    Romans 10:16
    However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?”​

    Then, when we have believed the report of good news, this in and of itself does not save us. The process is indirect. Our faith qualifies us as a child of Abraham (having believed the same report of good news as he did), and if we continue in faith, then we continue to be qualified as heirs of Christ’s righteousness, given to Abraham, and promised to those who believe. Another key aspect of this is the idea of Original Sin. A more Orthodox view of original sin is that we are all not only caught up in the effect and consequence of Adam’s sin, but that we are also all guilty of Adam’s sin. But I just don’t see that in scripture.

    Romans 5:12
    Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
    14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.​

    The Bible doesn’t say that Adam’s sin was distributed to all men. It says that the consequence for Adam’s sin – death – was distributed to all men. This makes sense with the Genesis account where God cursed the earth with death. He didn’t curse the earth with sin – He said, “for dust you are and to dust you will return.” In other words, the death that was a result of Adam’s sin is perpetuated. One could also say that death is inherited through kinship with Adam.

    So where does the “sin nature” (again, not a phrase that appears in scripture) come from?

    Hebrews 2:14
    Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,
    15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
    16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham.

    Romans 8:15
    For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”​

    Does this bring John 8 to mind? It should. Remember Jesus says those who commit sin are the slave to sin, and who the son sets free is free indeed. These passages in Hebrews 2 and Romans 8 are within the context of “the children” as in kinship with Abraham and God – or those who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ as Abraham did, who are in Christ, the spiritual seed of Abraham. So I believe the term “original sin” is a misnomer and should really be “original death.” Adam’s death is perpetuated by the curse (which hasn’t been lifted) and, out of our fear of death, we are slaves to the dictates of sin in our flesh because we are sinners who deserve death.

    3John 3:17
    “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
    18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
    19 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
    20 “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
    21 “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”​

    Here we see that those who commit sin shy from the light because their deeds are evil, and they don’t want them to be exposed. It says that he who does not believe has been judged already. I think this is referring to the curse, and Adam’s judgment – of course that judgment is death. However, in Christ, through the kinship with Abraham we are born again as a New Creature, and therefore in the same way that we inherited death from our father Adam, we shall inherit life from our father God through Christ via the righteousness that He gave Abraham which we as believers in the gospel inherit because of God’s everlasting covenant with Abraham.

    Romans 5:17
    For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

    1Corinthians 15:22
    For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.​

    Another interesting implication is that of the resurrection. Some believe that Christ’s sacrifice and redemption was limited, or only for those with faith. It is said that Christ only died for those who would have faith in Him. But allow me to offer another model. I believe that Christ’s redemption on the cross and subsequent resurrection was for all, but only those who are of faith will inherit life in the resurrection. In other words, because of Christ, all will be resurrected, but not all will enter the kingdom of heaven. That is only for those who believe the gospel and obtain the righteousness of Christ through the inheritance by kinship with Abraham.

    Acts 24:15
    having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

    John 5:28
    “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice,
    29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.

    Rev 21:8
    “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”​

    What other implications can you think of?
    #7 Gup20, Mar 11, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 11, 2014
  8. TrevorL

    TrevorL Member

    Oct 21, 2005
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    Greetings Gup20,

    I was interested in your essay and overall it has much to commend it. You consider a good range of Scripture and make clear deductions from what you read. I agree that there is only one way of salvation, through the faith of Jesus Christ. There are a few things that I have difficulty with, and some other aspects that are fairly close, but I would like to clarify. I will only quote small portions.

    This is only a minor clarification and in a sense you are correct. You seem here to be substituting the responses to the two covenants for the two covenants.

    The first or Abrahamic Covenant comprises the promises made to Abraham concerning the land and the seed, and all the detail associated with these elements. Abraham responded by believing these promises and this belief motivated his life. This caused a gradual change in his life and God commends Abraham, not only for his initial faith, whereby he was accounted or reckoned as righteous. He is also commended later in his life as being strong in faith and also his obedience in Genesis 22 based upon his faith and trust in God and His promises is commended.

    The second or Mosaic Covenant is The Law given at Sinai epitomised in the Ten Commandments. Many of the children of Israel responded to this Law by seeking to attain unto righteousness by obeying the Law. Many did not come to a realisation that The Law was added to highlight sin and man’s failure to keep the Law, so that he would look for salvation in and through Christ and the Abrahamic Covenant.

    I have quoted this at length, but there is more in your essay. I cannot agree that the reckoning of Abraham as righteous is based upon a simple equation of substitution as you suggest. I have some difficulty in trying to explain this, but Jesus never lost his righteousness. He did not exchange his righteousness and become a sinner. He never sinned.

    Isaiah 53:10-12 (KJV): 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

    Rather than substitution the phrase representation could be used. Jesus was fully accepted by God and not rejected. He represented the sinners before God His Father, and on his behalf and in response to his prayers, the Father forgave the sinners, forgave all those who have been and will be united with Christ in belief of the offering of Jesus as the sin, trespass, burnt and peace offering. Substitution is a commercial transaction and does not allow forgiveness. Representation involves faith and forgiveness. There is a big difference between suffering from the causes and effects of sin and being a sinner and unrighteous. Jesus was “sin” by the use of the figure of metonymy or a similar figure.

    A minor clarification – Yes, Abraham is set forth as the father of the faithful, but all those from Adam who will be saved by faith are “Christian” because they believe in the seed of the woman promised to Eve in the garden.

    Perhaps a larger subject but I cannot accept your exposition here and most of the following detail. Romans 8:3 teaches me that Christ condemned sin in his own flesh, and all that follow him through faith in his crucifixion, death and resurrection also condemn sin in the flesh. There is an extended use of metonymy or a similar figure of personification the motions or lusts of “sin” as a ruler, or ruling principle in mankind here based on the context of Romans 7 and 8.

    These are a few things that you may like to discuss or reject and depending on whether we can resolve some of this I will decide whether to raise a few other minor aspects of your essay.

    Kind regards
  9. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Mar 25, 2010
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    You have not understood several biblical teachings so your understanding is not in line with the Biblical revelation.There are more Covenant s. All sinned in Adam. We all sinned in him at one point in time.rom.3:23