1. Christian believers before Pentecost had the gospel (Matt. 4:23; Mark 1:1; Matt. 9:35; 11:5; 24:14; 26:13; Mark 1:14, 15; 8:35; 10:29; 13:10; 16:9, 15; Luke 4:18; 9:6; 20:1, etc.).
I have to tell you that this proof, and all its attendant implications make me shudder. Why? In the context in which it is used, it actually disproves the point he is trying to make. To show what I mean, let me pose the following questions:
- Has the gospel always been the same?
- Were people in the Old Testament saved the very same way as we are, which is by grace through faith in Christ?
- Is the following verse of Scripture incorrect:
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. (Hebrews 4:2)
Now, we should know by the context of this verse, which is set by the preceding chapter, that the “them” who are mentioned are the children of Israel in the Wilderness, which is very much Old Testament. Which, if we combine it with another verse of Scripture that applies to the 40 years in the wilderness, we find something very interesting:
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (I Corinthians 10:1-4)
And again it is spoken of Moses:
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)
Now, by the above proof, Moses was a member of a New Testament church! Why? Because he believed in Christ to come, as it states in Hebrews, chapter 11 “Esteeming the reproach of Christ . . .” in plain reference to what Moses held to be of value in this world. In short, Moses believed in the same Christ that preached in the four Gospels. Thus, by this first proof, all Old Testament believers were members of the New Testament church. Of course, we could take another implication from point 1:
That the gospel was not preached prior to Christ’s earthly ministry, and the Old Testament saints were held to a different standard for their salvation.
This would mean that S. E. Anderson believed that salvation in the Old Testament was by works. However, the Old Testament demonstrates that this is manifestly not so:
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:8)
Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:20-22)
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! (Isaiah 52:7)
The above three passages of Scripture demonstrate something very plain, which is repeated in the New Testament:
Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 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. (Romans 11:5-6)
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Romans 10:12-15)
There is one final implication of point 1:
That S. E. Anderson was not careful in his standard for proof, and either did not know, or did not care that he did violence to the Scripture to prove his point.
In any case, it should now be plain that the very first point is no proof at all of the existence of a New Testament church, whether we take it in conjunction with Christ’s earthly ministry, or not. In fact, plainly, to declare that this is a proof of the existence of the New Testament church is to contradict the very doctrine S. E. Anderson says he wants to prove, as it makes every believer in the Old Testament a member of a New Testament church. Now, I have attempted to understand where S. E. Anderson would get the idea that it would be proof of the existence of the New Testament church to say that believers before Pentecost had the gospel. In skimming through the rest of the book, I found the following paragraph that contains a most interesting statement.
John the Baptist̓s new gospel and baptism were completely accepted and approved by the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 3:13.17; 4:17; 11:11; 21:23-27). John̓s baptism was new (Luke 20:1-8). The ministry of the Baptist overlapped that of Christ, thus placing both squarely in the New Testament dispensation. If John was not in the New Testament, then neither was Christ. But both were. And since John began preaching before Christ did, then John was the first Christian preacher. John was the forerunner of Christ and of all other true New Testament preachers. (S. E. Anderson, The First Church, chapter 2, page 20.)
While the baptism administered by John the Baptist was indeed new, there is only one way that anyone can consider John’s gospel as “new”: that is that their own doctrine does not accept or support the Scriptural proof that salvation has always been, is now, and will always be the same. If nothing else, logically speaking, since God has never changed and will not change, and man has not changed since the fall (and will not change); man’s problem has not changed, and God’s solution to man’s problem has not and will not change, then salvation has always been and will always be — THE SAME! I have searched to find a definitive statement by S. E. Anderson that clearly shows that he believed that salvation has always been by grace through faith in Christ, and I cannot find it. Instead I find continual hints and statements that always imply that salvation was different in the Old Testament. Thus, by the glaring statement above, the evidence strongly indicates that S. E. Anderson was an ultra-dispensationalist.