“God gradually prepared man for salvation, and prepared salvation for man.”
Chapter 10 - The Preparation Of Redemption
1. When did God first reveal His purpose to redeem man?
As soon as man had fallen. In Gen. 3:15 is a promise, often called the “protevangelium” or “protogospel.” “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.” This refers to the ultimate victory which humanity, “the seed of the woman,” is to obtain in the constant struggle which began in Eden. Its still deeper significance gradually became apparent in succeeding prophecies, culminating in One who, while “the seed of the woman” and the true representative of the race, is also true God.
1 Cor. 15:22 — “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 47 — “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is of heaven.”
2. What two-fold preparation at once began?
God gradually prepared man for salvation, and prepared salvation for man.
3. How was man prepared for salvation?
Through the education of many centuries, in which his knowledge of sin was deepened, his inability to aid himself was recognized, and his need of redemption from a higher source was acknowledged and devoutly longed for.
4. How was salvation prepared for man?
By the gradual revelation of the Plan of Redemption in type and ceremony and promise, until in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4) the Son of God became incarnate.
5. State the relation of the two parts of the human race to this two-fold preparation?
The former occurred chiefly in heathenism, exhibiting the efforts of man by the exertion of his own powers to struggle upwards towards God (Acts 17:27). The entire history of the Gentile world is told in the words of Augustine: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it rest on Thee.”
The latter occurred in Judaism (Rom. 3:1,2). Through the positive revelation, even though incomplete, there was a constant approach of God towards man, through successive stages until Christ came.
6. Are we to understand, then, that the preparation through heathenism was entirely negative, and that through Judaism entirely positive?
No. For in a less degree heathenism afforded some positive elements, in the preparation of the means through which the Gospel was to be diffused. The universal empire of Rome, the universal language, the means of communication between nations, the culture of the race, became important instrumentalities for the progress of the Gospel.
So there was also, a negative element in Judaism. When man attempted to attain righteousness before God by his fulfillment of all the prescriptions of the Law, he learned his helplessness. Rom. 3:20, “Through the law cometh the knowledge of sin.” The entire system of rites and ceremonies and sacrifices, declared as the Epistle to the Hebrews shows, the incompleteness and unsatisfactoriness of the then existing order, and pointed to what was higher and better.
7. Was there then no salvation for any who lived and died before Christ?
Yes. Where there was faith that received the assurance of God’s grace and the promise of salvation hereafter to be provided in a way not understood at the time.
“Paul cites concerning Abraham (Rom. 4:3), ‘He believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness,’ i. e., Abraham knew that God was propitious to him only on account of His promise; he assented to God’s promise and did not suffer himself to be withdrawn from it, although he saw that he was impure, and unworthy; he knew that God offers His promise on account of His own truth, and not on account of our works or merits” (Melanchthon).
For further Scriptural proof, see Chapter 11 of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
8. What ground is there for saying that the Old Testament saints had only a general promise concerning a salvation hereafter to be provided?
Eph. 3:5; Luke 10:23, 24; Heb. 1 1:40; 1 Peter 1:11.