Salvation Has Never Changed — Justification Has Always Been through Repentant Faith, by God's Grace
Updated: May 7
The way God has saved sinners has never changed — not from Adam to the last person that will ever be born again in this world. Justification, that is to be declared righteous by God, has always been by Gods grace, through repentant faith.
There is a group of people known as hyper-dispensationalists (such as these) that believe salvation has changed during different dispensational times; that it once was by works (so grace plus law), and that it could be lost but now in the church or Gentile age, it is by faith through grace and eternally secure. Some of these also believe that salvation will be by works once again in the Tribulation period. There are others besides hyper-dispensationalists that believe this. The late Peter Ruckman is an example of a hyper. He believed that eternally secure salvation by grace alone through faith alone is only for the church age; supposedly in past times for Israel and in future times such as the Tribulation period salvation is not by repentant faith alone, but by faith and works. This is heresy plain and simple, and frankly people that believe this do not know the gospel, or the Bible in general.
Let us consider some evidence from the Bible that plainly reveals that salvation has always been by grace through repentant faith, apart from any works.
1. Abraham’s salvation as recorded in Gen 15:1-6 is referenced in Hab 2:4, and these two passages are themselves referenced in Jam 2; Rom 4; Gal 3; and Heb 10-11, showing that justification has always been by faith alone, rather than by works. Rom 4:20-25 tells us if we believe like Abraham did, then we also can be justified by faith like he was. So the foundational faith is not post-old covenant, but Abraham who lived pre-old covenant.
Paul proved his teaching of justification by faith alone with these OT texts. All these passages show that Abraham, Moses, Habakkuk, James, and Paul all taught the same human response was required to be saved—repentant faith, and repentant faith alone.
Rom 4:1-8 is a wonderful text of Scripture on justification by faith alone apart from works, describing Abraham and king David’s testimonies of conversion:
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
Paul proves the glorious truth that God justifies the ungodly apart from works by quoting Gen 15:6 (Abrahams conversion) and Ps 32:1-2 (David’s conversion). If salvation were by works in Abraham’s day or in King David’s day, how could Paul quote Gen 15 and Ps 32 to prove exactly the opposite doctrine — e.g.
“For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God . . . Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. . . . God imputeth righteousness without works.”
And if there are different ways of salvation in different ages, why does Paul prove his doctrine of unmerited salvation from the way people in the patriarchal and legal dispensations were saved?
2. The Old Testament (OT) is full of the truth of salvation by grace through faith alone, apart from any works. Consider a few examples. God’s Sabbath teaches salvation by faith and resting from works, according to Paul in Hebrews 3-4, so from the very seventh day of creation God’s resting taught man: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Heb 4:9-10). One of the reasons that the death penalty was deserved for working on the Sabbath was to teach Israel what a grave sin it was to seek to enter God’s salvation rest by effort instead of resting in Jehovah and His provided atonement alone.
Moses told Israel that their being chosen (i.e. the election of the nation of Israel) was sheer and totally undeserved grace and love for them (De 7:6-8), just like salvation in Christ was sheer and totally undeserved grace (Hab 2:4; cf. 1 Jn 4:19).
There are many texts that reflect this, such as:
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Is 55:1-2).
How were they supposed to come? Through repentant faith in the Messiah (Is 52:13-53:12), as the text in Is 55 continues:
“Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. . . . Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Is 55:3, 6-7)
Gods command to obey His Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-2), prefaced to the giving of the Ten Commandments, was not to merit salvation, but indicated that obedience flowing from a heart of love (Ex 20:6) was the fruit of true salvation (Ex 20:20), and that God would prove them in this manner (trying faith through obedience — cf. Ps 11:5; Pr 17:3, which He still does today: e.g. 1 Th 2:4; 1 Pet 4:12). It was by God’s grace (Ex 20:1-2) and love (De 7:7) that Israel was delivered from Egypt, grace that would hopefully lead them to salvation, so they could obey His commandments (De 6:4-6; 30:6), which law was given to “prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not” (Ex 20:20), which words immediately proceed the giving of the Ten Commandments. No one is saved through obeying the law; the law has always been a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal 3:23),
“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith [ref. Hab 2:4]. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.” (Gal 3:11-12).
This by the way is written entirely in the context of Abraham’s salvation, and his example to us (Gal 3:6-29).
The ultimate command, under which the ten commandments fall along with all other commandments (hundreds in the OT, the Hebrew scholar says 613, and thousands in the NT), is the first and greatest of all commandments, which was first preached by Moses to the Israelites in the wilderness:
“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (De 6:5).
The Lord Jesus Christ referenced this commandment multiple times (along with the second greatest), preaching it to unsaved Hebrews in His day as well. This is essentially what the whole duty of man is, which is illustrated by obeying His Word (Eccl 12:13; Jn 14:15-24; 1 Jn 2:3-5; 2 Jn 1:5-6; etc). Salvation will bring about a great love for the LORD thy God, by the “love of God [that] is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom 5:5) and its this unending love the compels us to love Him with all our heart, soul, and might. This is mentioned in the very Ten Commandments:
“And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Ex 20:6 — repeated in De 5:10)
Its also repeated by Moses in De 7:9,
“Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;”
Obedience to God’s Word as an evidence of salvation, is mentioned everywhere in the Bible. For instance:
“Therefore thou shalt love the LORD thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway.” (De 11:1)
“And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,”
Love cannot be divorced from obedience, just like grace and faith cannot be divorced from true salvation. It would be pointless to love God by obedience, if salvation came through obedience to the law -- the motive for our obedience would completely change.
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Rom 11:6)
This is stated in the very context of Israel of old, and the passage preceding this verse indicates clearly that salvation has always been by grace:
“Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Rom 11:5)
In De 30:6-8, Moses gives us further light as to how this love for God will come about, and how it will demonstrate itself by obedience to Him:
“And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.”
3. The few Hebrews that were truly saved in the wilderness, were saved by grace thorough faith, apart from any works. The Hebrews writer in his contrast of the Hebrews in his day with their Hebrew forefathers in the wilderness, makes it clear that those in the Exodus sojourn were for the most part unsaved (the entire context here makes that plain, Heb 3:7-4:12 exposited in detail here) because they did not believe, they did not exercise faith:
“For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Heb 4:2)
The OT makes it crystal clear that the Hebrews in the wilderness sojourn, were unsaved,
“Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:” (Ps 78:22).
The point here is that they rejected the salvation God offered to them, which was by His grace through repentant faith. Salvation has never changed.
4. Psalm 2:12 makes it abundantly clear that salvation in the OT was by grace through faith:
“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
If salvation was ever by works in the OT, why would God command them to sing that ALL who trust in God’s Son are blessed (not “some” are blessed, those who trust and also do enough law-keeping works to be saved?) Is the Psalter deceiving Israel when it regularly teaches salvation by faith alone?
5. Some hyper-dispensationalists claim that we are to only follow the Pauline epistles in this age, since only Paul the Apostle taught salvation by grace through faith. The new gospel of Paul was the “mystery of Christ” revealed to him, claimed by people like this one. If this is true, why did God the Spirit inspire Paul to pen chapter 10 verses 9-13 in the book of Romans? Why do I ask? Rom 10:9-10 is quoting De 30:14, and Rom 10:13 is quoting Joel 2:32. If Rom 10:9-13 proves salvation by grace through faith in this period of time, but not in other time periods, why does Paul quote De 30, from the Mosaic dispensation, given to the alleged “under the law” Jewish people, and Joel 2:32, which is about the salvation of people in the Tribulation period? Is Paul misinterpreting the OT, or are men like Justin Johnson and Peter Ruckman misinterpreting the Bible, and perverting the doctrine of the gospel?
6. The Hebrews writer testifies that every prophet from Abel (Heb 11:4) to “Samuel, and of the prophets:” (Heb 11:32) was saved by grace through faith, in that chapter commonly known as the hall of faith. Many are not even mentioned here, so this is just a small sample. All dispensational ages, pre-patriarchal, patriarchal and legal dispensations, are covered in the naming of the regenerate believers in Heb 11, from the fall of man to the end of the Old Covenant, and all were saved by grace through faith: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, Gedeon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David, Samuel, and the prophets.
These all knew that the prerequisite to pleasing God is faith and faith alone, and saving faith requires believing that God is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him:
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb 11:6)
What is that reward? Salvation of course and eternal life. To please God requires faith, and “the just shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38; Hab 2:4), so the just are pleasing to God, which starts with conversion.
7. Peter testifies that ALL of God’s OT prophets witnessed to justification by faith alone in the Messiah,
“To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Ac 10:43).
8. Does the idea that anyone at any time can be saved partially by works deny the depths of the sinfulness of the human heart? Isaiah, confessing what Israel will pray at the end of the Tribulation, affirms:
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Is 64:6).
If even the “best” we can do in our unsaved estate is a filthy rag, how can it help one to be saved? We deserve to go to hell for the “best” thing we have ever done, because of how our indwelling sin leads even our “best” actions and intentions to be tainted by sin, rather frequently motivated by selfish lusts. Does that not obliterate salvation by works at any time?
9. Have the full ramifications been thoroughly thought through, concerning the embracement of such an egregious teaching that saints in the Old Covenant were saved by faith plus works? If this were true, then the Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught salvation by works, since His birth, life and ministry were under the Old Covenant. Is this what Jesus taught? Do you really want to give that charge to God the Son?
No, Jesus did not teach a works gospel, which would have contradicted His own gospel and thus make Him a sinner like you and I. Paul says in Gal 1:6-9 that whosoever teaches another gospel than the gospel of faith by grace, including angels and even himself in that, is “accursed.” And the primary false gospel he is referring to here is a works gospel, which we know as we continue reading the epistle to the Galatian’s (e.g. Gal 2:4-5; 5:1-6). If Jesus taught a works gospel, it would mean Jesus is accursed. It is very fearful thing to call God the Son accursed, and I for one wouldn’t want to be guilty of that! Whether or not you intend to bring that charge to God the Son, you are doing so in embracing and propagating this “damnable heresy” (2 Pet 2:1) of works-salvation under the Old Covenant, and that is counting the blood of Christ an unholy thing (which is in fact what occurs with this teaching, whether the false charge against Christ stands or not),
“Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? . . . It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb 10:29, 31)
10. All of the Scripture passages used in support of this error are misinterpreted out of their immediate context, and greater context, in a big way. The passages have to be privately interpreted and falsely divided from Scripture. For instance, Justin Johnson misuses Jam 2:24; 1 John 2:5; Matt 19:27; and Heb 10:26, conforming these Scriptures to his beliefs.
(a) Jam 2:24 is interpreted out of its immediate context, which is vv. 14-26, and greater context, which is Rom 3:19-26; 4:1-22; Gal 3:1-29; etc. Rom 4 and Jam 2, with accounts of Abrahams salvation followed by evidence of salvation, perfectly harmonize.
(b) 1 Jn 2:5 is completely butchered out of context, which is 1 Jn 2:3-5, which reads “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” Yikes, how someone can take 1 Jn 2:5 and attach that to OT saints being bing saved by faith plus works, is absolutely terrible and shows really how far a false teacher will go to force Scripture into his beliefs. 1 Jn 2:3-5 by the way perfectly harmonizes with the rest of Scripture on obedience to God’s Word being a sure mark of true conversion: Num. 15:39-41; De. 12:32; 13:3-4; 26:16-19; 1 Sam. 15:22-23; 1 Ki. 8:23, 57-58, 61; Ps. 103:17-22; Matt. 7:20-21, 24-27; 12:47-50; Mk. 3:31-35; 4:21; Lk. 17:10; Jn. 7:16-18; 8:31-32, 51; 10:25-27; 14:15, 21-24; 15:10-14; 17:6; 2 Cor. 2:9; Eph. 2:10; Heb. 10:36; Jam. 1:22-25; 2:14-26; 5:7-11; 1 Jn. 2:3-6, 15-17; 3:22-24; 5:1-3; 2 Jn. 1:5-6; Rev. 22:14-15.
(c) Matt 19:27, which reads, “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” This is Peter’s response to the difficulty of salvation (Matt 19:18-26), and it fits perfectly with the rest of the NT, and OT for that matter. The immediate context is all about salvation (vv. 13-30) as are the parallel passages in Lk 18 and Mk 10, and they dovetail with all the rest of Christ’ gospel preaching in the NT (e.g. Matt 10:32-39; 16:24-26; Mk 8:34-38; Lk 9:23-26, 57-62; 13:1-0, 23-30; 14:15–15:32; 19:1-10; Jn 2:24-26; etc). The following report on the rich young ruler, is a clear exegesis on this passage and reflects the one true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: The Religious Rich Young Ruler (Mt 19; Mk 10; Lk 18): The Standard of Christ’s Gospel Preaching. Forsaking all, which is self denial and turning from anything that is sinful in ones life, which is all, which is self, is the absolute requirement to be truly converted (Lk 14:15-15:32). There is no other salvation in the NT or OT, and it dovetails with the Lordship of Jesus Christ. “Forsaking all,” is precisely the manner in how Jesus evangelized, with His one true and pure unadulterated gospel.
(d) Heb 10:26 once again reflects how he does not understand Scripture and is completely wresting and corrupting the Word of God (2 Pet 3:16-17; 2 Cor 2:17). Verse 26 is privately interpreted, while the whole context doesn’t end till v. 39. When you take the entire context into view, you know exactly who the Bible is referring to: false believers. Those that have a profession but not a possession of Christ, which was true of many of the Hebrews. They drew back (Heb 10:38) because what they had wasn’t actually real. It was fake, imitation and conformity. But truly saved people do not draw back, ever,
“But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” (Heb 10:39).
All four of these passages are cherry picked by Johnson, completely privately interpreted, which is to interpret a passage apart from harmony with the rest of Scripture, and its very bad.
Peter Ruckman further contended that Great Tribulation saints would also be saved by works plus faith. He argued his point using Rev 14:12, which reads,
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
But Rev 14:12 does no such thing—it just proves that true faith will manifest itself in one’s life, a fact that is all over the Pauline epistles (Rom 2:6-7; 2 Cor. 2:9; 1 Cor 6:9-11; Eph 2:10; etc), all over John's epistles (e.g. 1 Jn. 2:3-6, 15-17; 3:22-24; 5:1-3; 2 Jn.1:5-6), all over the Gospels (e.g. Matt. 7:20-21, 24-27; 12:47-50; Mk. 3:31-35; 4:21; Lk. 17:10; Jn 7:16-18; 8:31-32, 51; 10:25-27; 14:15-24; 15:10-14; 17:6), all over the OT (e.g. Num. 15:39-41; De. 12:32; 13:3-4; 26:16-19; 1 Sam. 15:22-23; 1 Ki. 8:23, 57-58, 61; Ps. 103:17-22) and other places in the NT (Heb. 10:36; Jam. 1:22-25; 2:14-26; 5:7-11; Rev. 22:14-15).
The Bible harmonizes perfectly. There is only one doctrine in God’s Word, not more than one or different ones in different ages. One doctrine, just like “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all…” (Eph 4:4-6). One, not two, just like there is only one type of Christian in the Bible, not two (i.e. the carnal “Christian”, or the lukewarm “Christian”, or the backslidden “Christian”, or the “Christian” in unbelief — these false classes debunked here).
Why is there so much misinterpretation going on? I believe the Bible makes it clear why that is.
“As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.” (2 Pet 3:16-17)
When men like Justin Johnson and Peter Ruckman approach Scripture, they are not looking to conform their lives and beliefs to Scripture, but rather conform Scripture to their lives and beliefs. Of course this is always a mark of a false teacher (3 Jn 1:9-11; 2 Cor 11:4, 12-15), though the false doctrine (Rom 16:17; 2 Jn 1:9-11) and corruption of Scripture (2 Cor 2:17; 2 Pet 3:16-17) and their rejection of Biblical reproof clearly debunking their heresies already does that as well (1 Tim 6:3-5; 1 Jn 4:6).
If the hyper-dispensationalists are correct (I speak as a fool), than we cannot preach against works for salvation, we can’t preach that its impossible and hopeless to attempt to obtain salvation by works, since at one point in time salvation was apparently possible by works, which then means the Roman Catholic Church isn’t wrong after all when they teach salvation by faith plus works, they are simply putting that way of salvation into the wrong period of time. I’m sure they would appreciate this type of heresy and adapt it as their own, to prove their own dogmas. How can that not be an attack on the gospel even now? Is it okay to make salvation by works and salvation by faith alone to be a mere dispensational distinction like whether or not it is okay to eat ham or shrimp?
People that are truly regenerate and thus indwelt with the Holy Spirit of God know the truth and do not believe a lie (Jn 18:37; 1 Jn 2:20-21), and are taught the truth by the Spirit of truth (Pr 8:8-9; 22:20-21; Jn 16:13) and have the truth dwelling in them forever (2 Jn 1:2). We do not see this in people who intentionally corrupt and pervert the Scriptures and the gospel of Christ.
If what hyper-dispensationalists claim to be truth was true indeed, then the gates of hell have prevailed against the church, but that is completely contrary to Matt 16:18 and Eph 3:21. It also mean that the true local churches across the centuries were teaching lies about the gospel until such a time as these men came along to explain the truth.
Based upon the truth of Scripture, the undeniable facts presented above, are you willing to reject hyper-dispensationalist false teachings about the existence of multiple ways of salvation?