Author: Ron Graham
Grace and the Passover
—Firstborn saved by grace from death
In the tenth and most severe plague that God brought on Egypt, “God struck dead at midnight all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne, to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock.” (Exodus 12:29).
The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, but God prepared them for that night so that their firstborn would not be killed. God instituted the Passover in advance as a memorial of this salvation for the Israelites.
After giving instructions for the Passover observance, God decreed, “This day shall be to you a memorial, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations...” (Exodus 12:14).
1 The Blood of the Lamb
As a most important part of preparing the Passover, each household had to kill an unblemished lamb to eat, and put its blood on the doorway of the house.
“Every man shall take ...a lamb for each household... Your lamb shall be without blemish... Keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then ...kill it at twilight.” (Exodus 12:3-6).
“Take of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and lintel of the houses where they eat [the slain lamb]. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night, roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs” (Exodus 12:7-8).
After further instructions about the meal, God said, “I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and I will strike all the firstborn of the land... Now the blood on your houses shall be a sign. When I see the blood, I will pass over you and the plague shall not be on you” (Exodus 12:12-13).
Saved by blood
People are saying today that salvation is “by grace and grace alone, and nothing else”. This was not true for the Israelites on Passover night. They were saved by grace and blood. We too are saved by grace and blood.
Peter says that we are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1Peter 1:18-19).
When people say, “by grace and grace alone” they are leaving no room for the requirement that a sacrifice must be offered. God’s Son was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
God shows grace and mercy, but he does so conditionally. He does so if a suitable sacrifice is offered. When people speak of God’s “unconditional” love and grace, they forget that a sacrifice is required. Blood must be shed.
If the Israelites had not slain their lambs and painted the blood on their doorways, God would have visited on them the same punishment as he visited on the Egyptians. His grace, by his own decree, was conditional upon his seeing the blood.
2 The Covenant of Promise
Why were the Israelite slaves saved from the death plague in Egypt? The answer is that a covenant was in force. Four centuries earlier, God had made a covenant with the ancestors of the Israelites: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God was obligated to remember and honour that covenant.
“God heard their groaning, and remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them” (Exodus 2:24-25).
Although centuries passed, God never forgot the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
God’s promise to Abraham
“By myself I have sworn... I will multiply your descendants as the stars of Heaven... in your seed all the nations of earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:15-18).
Notice that this was not just a promise, but an oath. “By myself I have sworn...” This certainly obligated God to keep this promise. The grace he showed in keeping this sworn promise was not “free grace.” God was bound to it —he bound himself, it's true, but he was bound nevertheless.
That promise was made after Abram obeyed God’s directive to kill his son Isaac as a sacrifice. (God stopped the killing as the knife was raised, satisfied that Abram had obeyed.) Before Isaac was born, God had made a covenant with Abram.
“I am Almighty God. Walk before me and be blameless and I will make my covenant between you and me... Behold my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:1-4).
“And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you in their generations... Also I give... all the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:7-8).
So, on the night the death plague passed through all Egypt, the homes of the Israelites were passed over, untouched. Then Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt towards the promised land.
Saved by a covenant
People are saying today that salvation is “by grace and grace alone, and nothing else”. This was not true for the Israelites on Passover night. They were saved by grace and a covenant. We too are saved by grace and a covenant.
God has given the world a “new covenant in [Christ’s] blood” (Luke 22:20). Jesus Christ is “the mediator of the new covenant...” (Hebrews 12:24).
Shall we say that God’s grace is independent of God’s covenant? Are they disconnected? Are they perhaps even in opposition? No, we are saved by grace through the covenant Christ mediated. The Israelites on Passover night were saved by grace because a covenant existed. Likewise, we are not saved by grace alone, but by grace and the new covenant.
3 The Obedience of Faith
The Israelites are characterized in the Bible as disobedient and rebellious. For example Steven said, “You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51). However on that Passover night in Egypt, the Israelites were an obedient people.
God gave those Israelites several commandments about preparing and eating the Passover on the night that death struck Egypt. As we noted earlier, this included the commandment concerning the blood:
“Take of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and lintel of the houses [where the people eat the slain lamb]. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night, roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs” (Exodus 12:7-8).
God required these commandments to be obeyed from the heart by faith, and to be obeyed exactly as he commanded. God also required that, after the night of salvation, such obedience must continue “throughout their generations” (Exodus 12:42).
What if they hadn't obeyed? What if they had been rebellious or even just neglectful on that night? What if they had failed to put blood on their houses for God to see? The plague would have been on them certainly. So their salvation from the plague, although by grace, was conditional upon their obedience.
Saved by an obedient faith
People are saying today that salvation is “by grace and grace alone, and nothing else”. This was not true for the Israelites on Passover night. They were saved by grace and obedience of faith. We too are saved by grace and obedience of faith.
I repeat: The Israelites were saved by grace, but not by grace and nothing else. Had they not believed Moses and obeyed his word from God, death would have entered their houses as it entered the houses of the Egyptians.
Paul said, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Paul preached salvation as a gift. He preached salvation by grace. Yet the goal of his preaching was “obedience of faith among all nations for God’s name” (Romans 1:5).
People who refuse to believe in Christ and obey him cannot be saved by grace. Life is a gift from God by grace. But that grace requires faith and obedience. That is the demand of God’s revealed will by which grace is granted.
People are saying today that salvation is “by grace and grace alone, and nothing else”. This was not true for the Israelites on Passover night. They were saved by grace, and blood, and a covenant, and the obedience of faith.
So we too are saved by “Christ our Passover” (1Corinthians 5:7). We are saved by grace, and his blood, and his covenant, and the obedience of faith in him.