|Are New Testament believers of a higher class than those of the OT?|
OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS
Is not the claim altogether unreasonable, that we of the Present dispensation, though so inferior to faithful Abraham, and not worthy of a quarter of his reward, are a different class of saint?
It is a very serious thing to let go dispensational differences. God is sovereign, and works all things after the counsel of His own will. Supposing we admit the above estimate of Abraham’s merits, as is certainly correct in the case of many Christians, even then our questioner’s conclusion is based on a fallacy. It involves a confusion between individual rewards for faithfulness, and the place in the kingdom will depend on that, and the calling of God, which is entirely of grace. Grace is free to bestow positions of privilege, quite apart from personal merit. The character of collective blessing depends on the character of the dispensation. Thus the blessings of Israel were in one sense material blessings in earthly places, those of the Church are spiritual blessings in heavenly places. One day Israel will be the head of the nations, and instruments of blessing to the whole world, but they were never in the Church.
For the differences between Jew and Gentile were very definite in Old Testament times. The building of the Church was future even in our Lord’s time:—”I will build my church.” But this does not say that individual saints of the Old Testament: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, etc., will not have a far higher individual reward, than many of the Church. An illustration may serve. At the opening of Parliament, the King on his throne, is surrounded by Peers of the Realm, Statesmen, High Officials, and Dignitaries of State, many of whom owe their position to personal merit, for having served well their King and country. But by his side is one seated nearer than any other, accorded that place, not by personal merit exactly, but by the choice of the King, to whom she occupies a relationship nearer than the Prime Minister. On the steps of the throne are the Royal Princes and Princesses, including the little grandchildren, who certainly have done nothing to deserve that honour, but they were born to it. How foolish it would then be to raise the question of their merit! Some present may have made their mark by leadership or statecraft, but that is something over and above their birthright. We must distinguish them. The Kingdom will be a sphere of rewards as well as of blessings. All believers will be in it, that is, in the earthly or heavenly side of it, but all will not enjoy the same reward. Relationships, then, depends upon grace. We do not become members of the Church by merit, but by God’s own purpose and grace, and by the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The rewards of faithfulness will be crowns and positions in the kingdom.
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