Was Salvation Conditional in the Old Testament Based on Obedience to the Commands of the Mosaic Law?


  • Author James Rondinone
  • Published June 29, 2023
  • Word count 2,044

PART 2 - I AM - Do you know who you are in Christ?

Was Salvation Conditional in the Old Testament Based on Obedience to the Commands of the Mosaic Law?

Before we take a closer look at salvation for the New Testament saint, we should define it. Salvation is the bundle of benefits received by the person who believes the gospel and entrusts [their] life to Christ.7 Some of these privileges are receiving the indwelling Spirit, becoming a new creation in Christ, being declared holy and beloved, and many more. However, does this have the same meaning for an Old Testament saint? Let’s find out.

In the Old Testament, during the dispensation of the Age of the Jews, they were supposed to obey God (Yahweh) by obedience to the commands of the Mosaic Law. What is the Mosaic Law, you ask? The Mosaic Law was an institution conveyed to Moses by God. The various aspects of this Law could be described by using four words.

●Statutes - the Spiritual Code or the ordinances of the Law (e.g., the Tabernacle, the Holy Days, the Sin Offerings, the High Priest, the Meat Offering, the Trespass Offering, the Levites, etc. - Exodus 26-31; 35-40; Leviticus 1-24; Deuteronomy 16).

●Commandments - the Moral Code, which included not only the ten commandments called the Decalogue (e.g., honor thy father and thy mother…Exodus 20:12-17) but six hundred thirteen other commandments (e.g., thou shalt have no other gods before me; the Sabbath, … thou shalt not do any work … Exodus 20:12-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Deuteronomy chapter 12).

●Judgments - the Social Code, which are the laws belonging to civil government, e.g., dietary, marriage, military, conservation, etc., along with the related punishments (Deuteronomy chapters 14-28).

●Testimonies - the laws directing the commemoration of certain events (e.g., the Seventh year Sabbath rest, the fiftieth year of Jubilee, the ordinance of the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, etc. - Exodus 12:43-50; Numbers 28:16-25; Deuteronomy chapters 25-26).

It’s true that under this institution, various commands were clearly delineated. And disobedience to any one of them would result in various degrees of ramifications. Did you know that there are many Christian churches that choose not only to ask the congregation to obey some of the tenets of the Mosaic Law, such as observing the seventh day Sabbath, obeying the ten commandments, and tithing, but they also believe that obedience to whatever else they ask of them forms the ground for maintaining or securing one’s salvation? Some of the avenues that believers are expected to participate in are corporate prayer, Bible studies, volunteering, faithfully attending worship services, etc. While there’s nothing wrong with being involved in any of these, does the decision of any believer to not be engaged in any of such endanger their salvation?

Before we attempt to answer this question, let’s find out the answer to the following one. What caused someone in the Old Testament to be saved? Please turn to the book of Romans.

Romans 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

This tells us that Abraham believed God in His promise that his posterity should be like the stars of heaven.8 And because of which it (believing His Word) was counted unto him (put to his account) for righteousness (as one who was admitted to the favor and friendship of God9). So, believing in God’s Word is synonymous with believing in God (Yahweh) was the basis for salvation. However, salvation in this dispensation meant going to a compartment (Abraham’s bosom) in hell at physical death (Luke 16:19-31).

With that said, any idea what was the protocol for walking with Yahweh for the ancestors of Abraham who believed in Him? The obligation was for them to serve the Lord by means of obeying the tenets of the Law that He conveyed to Moses. Well, what if some of them continually chose not to obey the Law? Did they lose their salvation? Some would say most certainly, as evidenced by the life of one of the kings of Israel named Saul. Who is Saul?

He was Israel’s first king. His reign was marked by military victories over Israel’s enemies, but unfortunately, at times, he exhibited character traits that weren’t of divine orientation. While no one is perfect, he didn’t seem to learn from his decisions that emanated from human viewpoint. One might assume that he neglected to spend time in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), learning and appropriating God’s commands, judgments, testimonies, and statutes.

This was evident in so many instances. In one example, when the Israelite army was engaged in a battle with the Amalekites, he was instructed by the prophet/judge Samuel to kill all the people, their King Agag, along with all of their livestock. Saul, to his own detriment, obeyed this admonition as he saw fit. He spared the king and the choice of livestock. Was he disciplined for his disobedience? And if he was, by whom?

1 Samuel 16:1 And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.

After this incident, the Lord told Samuel that He had rejected Saul from reigning as king and that one of the sons, i.e., the youngest named David of a man named Jesse, would succeed him.

1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.

Not only would another take over the kingship, but God caused the Spirit (who works upon men as the spirit of strength, wisdom, and knowledge, and generates and fosters the spiritual or divine life10) to depart (the on-resting Spirit, not an indwelling Spirit) and instead an evil spirit (a supernatural evil spirit) troubled (influenced) him. This poison spirit not only deprived him of his peace of mind, but stirred up the feelings, ideas, [imaginations], and thoughts of his soul to such an extent that, at times it drove him even into madness.11

If we were to leave this story as is, then we might conclude that an Old Testament saint could lose salvation based on habitual disobedience to God’s commands. But wait, the rest of the story is yet to be told. As time went on, King Saul’s behavior continued to deteriorate until it caught up with him at his most desperate hour. Please turn to the book of 1 Samuel, and we’ll find out what this was all about.

1 Samuel 28:1a, 4-6 And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel… And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams nor by Urim, nor by prophets.

Unfortunately for King Saul, his day of reckoning has now arrived. And he’s in a predicament. A battle between Israel and one of their chief enemies, the Philistines, was about to take place. So, he decided to go up to a high place to get a better view of their company and realized that this wasn’t going to end well.

Even though his relationship with God had been nonexistent for a long while, he sought to inquire counsel from Him through various means (e.g., dreams, prophets, and Urim, i.e., the Urim and Thummim which were two stones that were kept within the folded breastplate of the high priest that somehow were used to determine the will of God for the nation) probably figuring that he had nothing to lose. However, God chose not to provide him with any direction.

1 Samuel 28:7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.

Being desperate, he resorted to seeking out a woman who had a familiar spirit. She was otherwise known as a medium, one who was possessed by an evil spirit. The phrase familiar spirit indicate that she could call up departed spirits to give answers to those who consulted them.12

Even today, there are apparently people who claim that they can confer with the dead. This begs the question. Just who are these departed spirits that are being referred to here? Some say they’re the spirits of people who did or didn’t believe in God when they lived on the earth and subsequently, after they died, went to one of two places in hell. For believers in Yahweh, they went to a place called Abraham’s bosom. For unbelievers, they went to a place called torments (Luke 16:19-31). Others believe that these aren’t the spirits of the dead at all but are demons (fallen angels) who are impersonating the dead. Well, the following verses tell us who these spirits were, at least in this particular instance.

1 Samuel 28:16, 19 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the Lord also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.

The medium proceeded to ask King Saul who he’d like to hear from. And he replied Samuel. When she saw him appear, she cried out as if in shock, possibly because Scripture told us that she recognized the person who was asking her to get in touch with him, who was actually Saul, the king of Israel. Samuel proceeded to ask the king why he summoned him. Saul replied because he’d attempted to receive direction from the Lord as to the state of affairs relating to the upcoming battle with the Philistines, and He chose not to reply.

Samuel said that the reason God had chosen not to confer with him was because of his continual disobedience to His directives. However, God did allow Samuel to give him the bad news, i.e., Israel wouldn’t only be defeated, but both himself and his sons would be killed. And besides conveying this, he made a startling statement. And that was that all of them would be with him where his spirit resided, which was at the place called Abraham’s bosom.

What we can conclude is that a believer’s walk with the Lord in the Old Testament consisted in not only obeying the tenets of the Mosaic Law but also obeying leadership when they received verbal instructions from the Lord. This begs the question. If an Old Testament saint chose to live in continual disobedience to God’s commands, would they lose their salvation? As evidenced in the story just presented, the answer is no.

So, where do we go from here?

What we’ll take a look at next is known as the new covenant, the covenant of grace and truth, which was unveiled in the dispensation known as the Church Age, the age in which we currently live. What we’ll find out are the answers to some of the following questions.

What is the basis for someone becoming saved?

Is disobedience to the commands of the Law or the commands of those in church leadership the basis for a New Testamentbeliever losing their salvation?

Let’s find out by turning to the next chapter.


7“What is salvation?” 18 September 2022


8Weust’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005.

9Barnes’ Notes.

10Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005.

11Keil and Delitzsch Commentary.

12Barnes’ Notes.

My name is James Rondinone. I am a husband, father, and spiritual leader.

I grew up in Massachusetts and began my own spiritual journey early on in life.

I attended Bible college, having completed a two-year Christian Leadership Course of Study and graduated as valedictorian (Summa Cum Laude).

Studying and teaching the Word of God has been a passion of mine for over 20 years.

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