There is something that we frequently take for granted in these discussions. What does salvation mean? In my first posts, I have at several points referred to this issue as salvation from damnation. That is because when scripture speaks of salvation or being “saved” it is not necessarily speaking of salvation from damnation. The word is used in scripture in a wide variety of ways such as being made whole, physical healing, deliverance from a storm, and a proper relationship with God (I think Sozo, the TOL member has made this point as his handle is the Greek word in question). Arguably, the sense of the word here is experiencing a full relationship with Christ, the absence of which does not mean damnation. If there’s one place that we see solid evidence, it is precisely in these passages concerning Cornelius because Paul concludes “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.” (NASB) (ESV says “is acceptable to him.”)Let us remember that we are not talking about Cornelius' integrity but his salvation.
The conclusion is unavoidable. He is speaking about Cornelius, who prior to “speaking words by which he might be saved,” (Acts 11:14) was acceptable to God. Those simply aren’t the words with which you would describe the damned. As Calvin observed this, let us all take note of the momentous event where I am in agreement with John Calvin against Pilgrimagain.
Ah, now who’s practicing eisogesis? “Must” is not “if.” Surely I agree that we must do this when the full truth has been revealed to our hearts. As for the explicitness of scripture, scripture explicitly says “if,” not “must.”Remember this must be read in the context of explicit scripture which tells us that we must "Believe in our heart and confess with our tongue."
Now I raised the issue of the Old Testament Jews and how they could possibly be saved without the explicit knowledge of Christ. The answer given was this:
Now I find this highly dubious for several reasons. Frequently the New Testament authors speak of the prophets, Moses, and Abraham as looking forward to the coming of Christ. But this is hardly a prescription for salvation from damnation and has more to do with demonstrating that Jesus is the culmination of the orthodox faith of the founders of Judaism. There are no doubt countless Old Testament heroes for whom we find no evidence of Messianic anticipation and their stories do not support this claim. Of course we find it in the Old Testament, just not universally through all the characters that we meet, Jewish or Gentile.However, the Restrictivist would and does argue that the saving faith of the pre-incarnation Jew is in the promise of salvation through the Messiah. That's the whole point of Jewish faith isn't it? The long awaited messiah who would deliver them? Did they understand exactly what that would look like? No. But still they knew that God would provide for their deliverance and it was faith in that future provision that saved them and was accounted to them as "righteousness" just as it was said of Abraham.
Many of these heroes of the faith have a special status in that they did not come to know God via belonging to the covenant people. These people are referred to as holy pagans. They where not a part of the line that descended from Abraham nor have they been given the law.
We will start with probably the most important of the holy pagans, Melchizedek, whose priesthood was a model for the messianic priesthood. Secondly, we have Jethrow, the father-in-law of Moses. His priesthood originated somewhere in the pagan world outside of what we know to be kosher. But this man was allowed by Moses and Aaron to give sacrifices to God. Furthermore, the Jewish legal system of a hierarchy of judges was his innovation.
There is also Job who was found blameless and upright in God’s sight. Even after Job crossed the line, he ended up on good terms with God.
Now, maybe a messianic prophecy could be found within Job (then again, even if it were, that doesn’t mean Job knew about it!), but other than the point of citing three holy pagans who did not hold any messianic anticipations to our knowledge, I’d like to pose this question: Why should we believe that there are no Melchizedeks or Jobs within history after around 33 A.D?
Now returning to my original point that a messianic anticipation was by no means a litmus test for the faithful, I’d like to raise the issue of the prostitute Rahab. Rahab is recognized as a hero AND example of the faith by the author of Hebrews and James. She has an honored place in the lineage of Jesus. But to insist that she was saved because of a messianic anticipation is a colossal stretch.
Regarding Paul’s speech at Athens:
However, the notion that God has reprobated all of their ancestors, friends, and loved ones to an eternity of punishment sabotages the effect of the message that God has been working with them closely. It is entirely out of character.Of course God is not absent. How could the creator be absent from his creation? This of course is not the same thing as saying that God saved them.
If that were true, salvation as Paul preached to them is merely about escaping damnation. But that is not true because knowledge of Christ brings us closer to God. That proximity is not necessarily the difference between eternal damnation and the escape from the damnation.If this was true then there was no need for Paul to have gone and preached to them of the true nature of this God.
Which God overlooked in the past.Thus their continued idolatry at the feet of the other statues.
Paul didn’t stop with the hope that they would merely search for him but also said that God himself hoped that they would find him. It is quite odd that God should do something for some purpose that he knows will result in precisely the opposite effect. (As an aside, Acts 17:27 is such a wonderful verse where both the Open View and Inclusivism meet.)The idea is that general revelation prompts men to reach out for God. But reaching for God and being saved by God are not the same thing.
With regard to covenants:
But God is not limited to looking upon external signs but rather looks upon the heart.Back then as well as now what is needed for a treaty or covenant to be valid? The verbal consent of both parties. (Indeed in this day and age it must be written!)
Also keep in mind that many of the official covenants were initiated between God and the patriarchs. Those born afterward were God’s people by virtue of being descendents of Abraham and Sarah and then Jacob. Their children needed no official verbal agreement.
God made covenants with Adam and Noah and all men corporately fall under that covenantal relationship.
There was no salvation clause within the Abrahamic covenant and yet that is the covenant which provides the model for the covenant that Christ has made with us. The means of entrance into that covenant, specifically faith, was something that one woman Rahab had taken advantage of, although the content of her faith was very sparse and barely informed by the revelation to the Jews.