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Foundation Principles

Part 1: Foundational Principles

from Studies in the Atonement by Dr. Robert A. Morey

e shall now set forth some foundational principles which shall guide us in our study of the nature of our salvation.

Foundational Principle 1: The Unchanging Character of GodBack to top.

Why was mankind created? Was it not to bear God’s image, i.e. to reflect His moral character? We read in Gen. 1:26, 27:

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, according to our likeness! Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all crawling things that crawl on the earth!”

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So God created human beings in his own image:
     in the image of God did he create them,
           male and female did he create them.

But man fell into sin, and his image‑bearing capacity and faculties were distorted and corrupted. He is now called a “child of Satan” because he bears the image of Satan more than he bears the image of God:

They replied to him, “Our father is Abraham!”

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing what Abraham did. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham would not have done that. You are doing your father's works.”

They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children. We have one Father, God himself.”

Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would have loved me, because I came from God and am here. For I have not come on my own accord, but he sent me. Why don't you understand my language? It's because you can't listen to my words. You belong to your father the devil, and you want to carry out the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and has never stood by the truth, since there is no truth in him. Whenever he tells a lie he speaks in character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But it is because I speak the truth that you do not believe me. Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? The one who belongs to God listens to the words of God. The reason you do not listen is because you do not belong to God.” (John 8:39‑47)

You used to be dead because of your offenses and sins, n which you once lived according to the ways of this present world and according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now active in those who are disobedient. Indeed, all of us once behaved like them in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of our flesh and senses. By nature we deserved wrath, just like everyone else. (Eph. 2:1‑3).

God in His mercy did not abandon man to His just judgment. Instead, God decreed a plan of salvation which would save man from the penalty, power, and presence of sin and, at the same time, recreate him in the image of God.

And we know that he works all things together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom. 8:28‑30)

However, that is not the way you came to know Christ. Surely you have listened to him and have been taught by him, since truth is in Jesus. Regarding your former way of life, you were taught to strip off your old man, which is being ruined by its deceptive desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new man, which was created according to the likeness of God in righteousness and true holiness.

Therefore, stripping off falsehood, “let each of us speak the truth to his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, yet do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, and do not give the devil an opportunity to work. The thief must no longer steal but must work hard and do what is good with his own hands, so that he might have something to give to the needy.

Let no filthy talk come out of your mouths, but only what is good for building up as the need may be. This way you will give grace to those who hear you. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, quarreling, and slander be put away from you, along with all hatred. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another just as God has forgiven you in Christ. (Eph. 4:20‑32).

Thus we must conclude that man‑as‑image‑bearer was the purpose of God in creating man and is also the purpose of God in saving man. We were created and are saved in order to bear or reflect God’s character in the universe.

God’s purpose in saving man gives us a sure guide in determining the essential content of salvation, i.e. what salvation will do for and to man.

Is not holiness an attribute to God’s character (Isa. 6:3)? It is not surprising, therefore, to learn that man was originally created in holiness and that God supplies an imputed and imparted holiness in His plan of salvation for man (Eph. 4:20‑24).

Holiness is essential to man’s salvation because he cannot be created in God’s image without it. Thus we are told that “without holiness none shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Holiness is an essential part of salvation. Without holiness, salvation is impossible. That holiness is essential in salvation because God is holy and man was created and is saved to bear this aspect of God’s character is clear from Lev. 11:44 and 1 Pet. 1: 15, 16.

For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth (Lev. 11:44, KJV).

Instead, just as the one who called you is holy, be holy in every aspect of your life. For it is written, “You must be holy, because I am holy.” (I Pet. 1: 15, 16)

We must conclude therefore that God’s holiness demands that salvation contain an imputed and imparted holiness for sinners regardless of the age in which they live. To say that salvation is different in each age is to say that God’s character changes. This is impossible for we are told in Mal. 3:6,

I, the LORD, do not change.

Therefore, salvation in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament must supply the needed holiness which will render sinners acceptable in the sight of a holy God.

The same can be said of God’s attribute of perfection. Man was created perfect. Through sin, he has lost this perfection. Now, through grace, salvation comes to re‑create man in the perfection of God. Thus we read in Matt. 5:48, “So be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Perfection must be a part of salvation regardless of what age in which the sinner lives. Thus glorification awaits all the people of God from every age (Rom. 8:28‑30). They will all be “made like unto Him” when He comes (I John 3:1‑2). At the resurrection of the just, all the people of God from every age will experience the entire sanctification of body, soul and spirit because no imperfect or unholy creature will be allowed into heaven (1 Thess. 5:23, 24; Rev. 21:27). The Old Testament saint must be given perfection as well as holiness if any salvation is to take place at all. The unchangeable character of God demands it.

Just these two Biblical examples are enough to establish the truth that the unchangeable character of God guarantees that salvation will be essentially one throughout all ages. Indeed, the necessity of holiness and perfection alone can supply us with sufficient reason to see the Old Testament saints regenerated, justified, sanctified, adopted, called, glorified, etc. The entire process of the application of redemption has as its goal, the recreating of man in the image of God. Whatever is needed today to make sinners acceptable in God’s sight, has always been and will always be needed.

Foundational Principle 2: The Eternity of the CrossBack to top.

The relationship between eternity and time is a very difficult subject. But what seems to be clear to nearly every Christian is that time is a creation of God. Time has a beginning and an end because it is bound to created reality. Eternity existed before time and the eternal state will again set in after the day of Judgment. God is transcendent over time and eminent in time at the same time.

Being transcendent above time, God sees all of history from beginning to end as present to His sight. He sees Adam eating the forbidden fruit, the flood, the birth of Christ, the discovery of America, the present situation and future events all at the same time.

Perhaps this diagram will help to understand God’s transcendence.

God sees all of time from beginning (A) to end (Z). Everything which we call “past” and “future” is present to Him who sees all. Thus each incident which happens in time is, at the same time, a fact of eternity. God does not have to wait until something happens before He can know about it. God’s omniscience guarantees that He knows about everything past, present, and future. See Battle of the Gods for a complete statement.

The prophecy is not God’s hope that certain things will happen in the future, but instead, prophecy is God telling us what He knows will happen because He already views it as accomplished.

This is why prophecy is said to be “confirmed beyond doubt” (2 Pet. 1: 19). This is why the people of God are said to be “glorified” while this aspect of salvation is yet future and concerns the resurrection of the dead (Rom 8:30). God speaks of our glorification as a fact of eternity while it is yet a future incident in time.

The transcendence of God above or over time guarantees that history will follow God’s eternal plan. History is His‑story. Time is not unfolding itself according to chance but according to God’s eternal purpose.

This is particularly clear in reference to the work of Christ. Christ came to earth at the precise moment God had decreed according to Gal. 4:4, 5:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as his children.

The death of Christ is viewed as being planned by God from all eternity in Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28:

This very man, after he was arrested according to the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. …For in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate actually met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do all that your hand and your will had predetermined to take place.

Thus it is obvious that the death of Christ is a fact of eternity to God because it is real historical incident in time. God has viewed Christ as crucified from all eternity. This is why Peter could speak of salvation as flowing from the blood of a perfect lamb,

…but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or defect. On the one hand, he was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but on the other hand, he was revealed at the end of time for your sake. (Pet. 1:19, 20).

In this passage Peter keeps the balance between the eternal and historical aspect of Christ’s death. Christ was the Lamb of God before the worlds were created but He was manifested in history to shed His blood for His people. This truth is further strengthened by Rev. 13:8 where we read,

All those living on earth will worship it [the Beast], everyone whose name is not written in the Book of Life belonging to the lamb that was slaughtered from the foundation of the world.

We are aware that some commentators have felt uneasy with the phrase “slaughtered from the foundation of the world” and have said that the phrase “from the foundation of the world” should modify the word “written” and not “slain.” Thus the verse would read,

“…whose names are not written¾from the foundation of the world¾in the book of life of the Lamb slain.”

But there are no real grammatical, textual, contextual or theological reasons to reject the traditional translation. And in the light of Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28; 1 Pet. 1:19, 20, the principle of the analogy of Scripture would point to the traditional exegesis where Christ is viewed as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

It was just as easy for the Apostle to speak of our glorification in the past tense, while not yet historically present, as it was to speak of Christ’s death as a fact of eternity though recently accomplished in time. In the sight of God, the redemptive work of Christ is a fact of eternity as well as being a fact of history.

The truth of the transcendent character of the historical work of Christ answers the question: How could Christ’s death nearly two thousand years ago save me today? The death of Christ is effectual to save today because God sees Christ dying right now. To Him, Christ’s death is present. Or to put it into other words, the effects of Christ death continue on throughout the ages. God applies today what Christ accomplished long ago because God is transcendent.

In the same way, Christ is said to have been “slaughtered from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).

The verb “slaughtered” is in the perfect passive tense and thus means that His death is viewed as an incident in the past, the results of which are continuing unto the present.

Since the death of Christ is a fact from all eternity because it is a fact of time, the redemptive effects of Christ’s work are applied to sinners before Christ came as well as after He came. It is just as easy for God to save an Old Testament saint two thousand years before Christ came as it is to save you or me two thousand years after He came. Perhaps the following diagram will help to illustrate this truth.

The benefits of Christ’s death are equally applied before and after it was historically accomplished. The Old Testament saints experienced the same salvation as we do today, i.e. the salvation which flowed from the work of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament saints were not saved by their works but by the work of Another. If salvation were possible through obedience to the Law, “Christ died in vain” according to the Apostle Paul in Gal. 2:21. The eternity of the cross guarantees the same salvation in all ages.

Foundational Principle 3: The Depravity of ManBack to top.

It is Biblically accurate to say, “Man has not changed.” He is the same as he has always been. His needs are just the same as they were thousands of years ago. This is particularly true of man’s sinful nature and needs.

When you consider the Biblical material on total depravity (ex. Rom. 1‑3), it is not long before you realize that salvation is constituted in such a way to meet the needs of sinners. Salvation answers the question, “How can a man be just before God” (Job 9:2)?

To say that salvation is not the same in all ages is to say that man’s nature and needs have changed from age to age. This is impossible.

Some dispensationalists have said that Old Testament saints were not regenerated or indwelled by the Holy Spirit. But we must say, did not man’s fallen nature require such works of grace? Could it be that they were not as depraved as we are? That they had inward power to live a godly life by the flesh which we know nothing of, seeing we are dependent upon the Spirit?

Stop and ask yourself, “What do I need to be saved and to live a godly life?” Whatever you need, the Old Testament saints needed as well. If you need the new birth, so did they. If you need the indwelling of the Spirit, so did they. The oneness of man’s fallen nature guarantees the oneness of salvation in all ages.

Foundation Principle 4: The Unity of the TestamentsBack to top.

We have already shown elsewhere that the Old Testament prefigured the coming of the New Testament. Given just the Old Testament, we are left with unexplained ceremonies, unfulfilled prophecies, unsatisfied longings and unfinished destiny. In the New Testament, the ceremonies are explained, the prophecies fulfilled, the longing satisfied and the destiny of God’s people completed.

The people of God are basically one throughout all the ages. Did not the Apostle Paul compare them to one tree in Rom. 11:17? Did he not call Abraham “the father of all them that believe” in Rom. 4:11? Are we not all “children of Abraham” by faith (Gal. 3:39)? Is it not the case the Christians are said to be the true “Jews” (Rom. 2:29), the real “circumcision” (Phil. 3:3) and “Israel” (Gal. 6:16)? Do we not constantly find the Church described by Old Testament terminology which was originally applied to Israel (Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:9, etc.)? Is it not true that the New Covenant was originally given to Israel in Jer. 31:31 but, in the New Testament, it is applied directly to the Church by our Lord (Matt. 26:28) and the Apostles (1 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 8:8‑13; 10:15‑25)? Are not Old Testament “Israel” passages applied to the church (Acts 2:16‑36; 15:15‑22)?

There is no way to dissolve the unity, continuity and harmony of the Old New Testaments. This unity guarantees the same salvation in all ages because it is always covenantal salvation from our covenant God.

Foundation Principles Salvation Arguments Answering Questions Knowing You Are Saved


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