Q&A: Did Old Testament Gentile believers have to become Jews in order to be saved?

Did Old Testament Gentile believers have to become Jews in order to be saved?

Question

How were Gentile followers of God saved in the Old Testament? Did they have to become Jewish in order to be saved?

Answer

In the Old Testament, the Gentile followers of God did not have to become Jewish in order to be saved, that is, they did not have to join the nation of Israel. There were saved people in the world before Abraham, during Abraham's days, and even after Abraham, who were not part of the nation of Israel (e.g., Melchizedek in Gen. 14:18; and probably Jethro in Exodus 3:1). Once God made his covenant with Israel, however, Gentiles did have to join the nation in order to gain the greatest earthly covenant blessings. And God commanded them to be circumcised since that was the sign of his covenant (cf. Exod. 12:48-49). He also commanded them to keep the rest of the covenant stipulations, namely the Law.

Still, salvation has always been through Christ, and national membership has never been a means of receiving Christ. So, Gentile believers could be saved without joining the nation. But they could not be saved without being part of God's covenant people (salvation brought them into covenant with God).

In the same way, a modern person might come to faith and not join a local congregation of the visible church. This person would be in covenant with God, and technically would be part of the visible church, though without participating in its ongoing corporate activities. This is less than ideal, but it is possible (cf. Heb. 10:24-25).

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.