What’s the difference between salvation in the New Testament and Old Testament?


Let’s start with a good understanding of salvation in the New Testament and then we can compare that to what was going on in the Old Testament. The contrast between the two will be very apparent.

In the New Testament, a person is saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house,” (Acts 16:31). “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,” (Jn. 1:12). Other verses that say the same thing are Jn. 3:18; Jn. 3:36; Jn. 5:24; Acts 13:39; Rom. 10:9-10; etc.

When a person believes on Jesus Christ he receives the free gift of eternal life. “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many,” (Rom. 5:15). See also Rom. 5:16-18; Rom. 6:23; 1 Jn. 5:11.

This free gift is received by faith apart from any works. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Eph. 2:8-9). “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness,” (Rom 4:5). These verses say the same thing: Titus 3:5; Rom. 3:28; Rom. 3:24; Rom. 11:6; etc.

The sinner that gets saved by believing on Jesus Christ realizes his need of salvation by recognizing that he does not have the righteousness to get by God’s judgment. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one,” (Rom 3:10). “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God,” (Rom 10:3).

Hence, he is given the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that he can be justified (judged by God and found “not guilty”). “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” (Rom 10:4). “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Cor 5:21). Other good verses on this are Rom. 4:6; 1 Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:9; 1 Cor. 6:11; etc.

Thus, a New Testament saint is “born again” at salvation and becomes a new creature in Christ. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” (John 3:3). “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new,” (2 Cor 5:17). Check out these companion verses: 1 Pet. 1:23; Eph. 4:24; Jn. 1:13; etc.

Furthermore, once he has Jesus Christ and eternal life, he is eternally secure and cannot lose his salvation that is in Jesus Christ. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life,” (John 5:24). “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,” (John 6:37). Check out these verses, as well: Heb. 13:5; 1 Jn. 5:13; Rom. 8:38-39; etc.

The reasons New Testament saints cannot lose their salvation are:

  • They have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ and made a member of Christ’s flesh and of his bones (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 5:30-32). Jesus would have to perform an amputation to get you out of his body;
  • They are already raised with Christ and seated with him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). Christ would have to kick you out of heaven to make you lose your salvation;
  • They are held in the hand of God Almighty, out of which no man can pluck them and from which no man can fall (Jn. 10:28-29, Jude 24);
  • They have already been made sons of God (Jn. 1:12, 1 Jn. 3:1-3). Even in the earth, nothing can change the blood relationship of a father and a son. Likewise, now that you are a son of God, nothing can break that relationship; and
  • They are sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30).

Now, in the Old Testament, there was nothing like this. No one could believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved because there was no “Jesus” there. The man named “Jesus” was not born until Matthew 1:21-25. And New Testament salvation is absolutely dependent on his name (Acts 4:12).

Back then, there was an element of works involved in their salvation along with their faith (Hab. 2:4). “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them,” (Rom 10:5). “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD,” (Lev 18:5). “… but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments,” (Mat 19:17) [spoken by Jesus himself before his death, burial and resurrection]. See Eze. 18:5-9; and Eze. 18:21.

Also, in the Old Testament, a man had to have his own righteousness according to the works of the law to be saved. “And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us,” (Deut. 6:25). “The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness: according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me,” (2 Sam. 22:21). Here are some other good verses to check out: Deut. 24:13; 1 Ki. 8:32; Ps. 7:8; Ps. 15:1-5; Eze. 18:22, etc.

An Old Testament saint’s righteousness and works actually revealed his heart. He could not keep all the law without sin (Rom. 3:19-20). But his desire to try to keep the law and live a righteous life indicated his love for God and his love for his neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40; Rom. 13:9-10; Jn. 14:21; Acts 13:22; Deut. 8:2; 2 Chr. 32:31, etc.).

No Old Testament saints were “born again.” The concept was completely foreign to Nicodemus who was a master of Israel. “Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born,” (John 3:4)? Furthermore, Old Testament saints were not regenerated (Titus 3:5), and they were not spiritually circumcised (Col. 2:11-12).

And Old Testament saints were not eternally secure. They could lose their salvation. “But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die,” (Ezek 18:24). Here are some more verses on that: Eze. 18:26; 2 Sam. 7:15; 1 Sam. 16:14; Eze. 33:12-13.

Finally, when an Old Testament saint died, he did not go into heaven like New Testament saints (2 Cor. 5:8), he went to Abraham’s bosom. “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried,” (Luke 16:22). They did not get out of Abraham’s bosom until after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:8-10).

So, you see, then, that there are major differences between the Old and the New Testaments regarding salvation. Major changes occurred after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Even the disciples were not “converted” until after Christ arose (Lk. 22:32).

Hope this helps,

Pastor Bevans Welder