Is It The Case That Christ Is The Same Object Of Faith In The Old Testament? (Genesis 15:1–6) -- By: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 55:2 (Jun 2012)
Article: Is It The Case That Christ Is The Same Object Of Faith In The Old Testament? (Genesis 15:1–6)
Author: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Is It The Case That Christ Is The Same Object Of Faith In The Old Testament? (Genesis 15:1–6)

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Walter Kaiser is president emeritus at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 130 Essex Street, South Hamilton, MA 01982.

Some Christian believers at times boldly announce that the method by which persons were converted in the OT (and therefore the method that is now available to pagans everywhere who are outside of Christ, but who want to believe) has a different object of faith from that which is described in the NT. Perhaps one of the most forthright examples of such a distinction in the doctrine of salvation between the two Testaments comes from the pen of Charles Ryrie. In 1965, he taught:

The basis of salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement of salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age [however,] is God; the content of faith changes in the various dispensations.1

But does the content of faith change for each age or group of people? Is that what the Scriptures expressly teach? That is the issue we wish to investigate here.

Over against the dispensational view is the covenantal view as set forth in the Westminster Confession (Chapter VII, section 3):

Man, by his Fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace: wherein he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.

Covenant theology, then, makes the object of faith in both Testaments the same content: it is faith in Messiah, rather than a general trust or belief in God. Dispensationalists, on the other hand, contend that “it is historically impossible that the Old Testament saints should have had as the conscious object of their faith the incarnate, crucified Son, the lamb of God, and that [they understood that] the sacrifices depicted the person and work of Christ.” Such a view of the Messiah is, in their thought, a “historically impossible anachronism.”2 Of course, it is impossible if all of those features included in that OT definition of truth belief are comprehensively the same as those included in the content of faith in the Messiah as taught in the NT. But the tension is still there even when these matters are correctly sorted out.

Therefore, th...

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