We have no trouble answering this question if we will line up our thinking with the Bible and what it states concerning real salvation. Our biggest problem in this Laodicean church age is that we have a tendency to twist the Bible to line up with our traditional thinking. This is not wise!
Many say Jacob was saved in Genesis chapter 28 when he had an encounter with God through a dream. When he awoke he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place and knew it not." (Gen. 28:16) It is true that God made a promise to him in Gen. 28:13-15, "I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." Jacob also made a vow in Gen. 28:20-22, "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee."
You may say that sounds like he was saved to me. But let me ask you some questions to see if this experience Jacob had lines up with what the Bible has to say concerning real salvation.
First, does one get saved by making a bargain with the Lord? Notice Jacob said, "If God will be with me and etc., then shall the Lord be my God." Does the Lord save man on your terms or His? Salvation is of the Lord and He will never save anyone on their terms. One must come to the end of himself and make a whole hearted surrender to Jesus as Lord before He will save that individual. No one can do that himself. It takes a work of the Holy Ghost to reprove (convict and convince) a man of sin, righteousness, and judgement. (John 16:8-11) We see a New Testament example of this in John 6 where a multitude of people were following Jesus desiring to make Him King. They would have gladly made a bargain with Jesus similar to what Jacob did in Genesis, but Jesus placed upon them the demand of whole-hearted reception of Himself as their Lord in John 6:53, when He said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." And they were not willing to make such a commitment. They said it was too hard for them (verse 60) and turned away from Him and walked no more with Him. (verse 66) Our Lord did not save them on their terms and neither did He save Jacob on his terms in Genesis 28.
Second, did Jacob's life change after Genesis 28? The Bible says a man's life changes. II Cor. 5:17 states, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Jesus said in Mat. 23:25-26, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." There will be a change in one's life when he is saved. We do not see a change in Jacob's life after Genesis 28. He is still the same old conniver and deceiver that he was before, just as his name implies. The name Jacob means supplanter which implies being a conniver and deceiver. (Gen. 27:36)
Therefore, we conclude Jacob did not get saved in Genesis 28. Many would object by saying, "But he had an encounter with God!" There are many others in the Bible who had an encounter with God and were not saved. Samuel is one example in I Sam. 3:4-14 where verse 7 states plainly, "Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord." Another was the rich young ruler in Mark 10. Yet again there is the multitude in John 6 which we have already discussed. I could give you more, but if you will not believe these mentioned you sure would not believe some of the others. Tradition denies the Lord showing anything to a lost person, yet the scripture declares plainly in Psa. 25:8 that the Lord "will teach sinners in the way." This states plainly that He will teach a lost person as he travels the narrow way to the strait gate. Theologically the Bible always refers to the "lost" as sinners and the "believers" as being saints. The Lord always has an encounter with the lost in some form or fashion. (John 6:45) If He did not reveal Himself to a person how could he ever believe God is (exists) and seek Him? (Heb. 11:6)
Since Jacob did not get saved in Genesis 28, where did he get saved? In Genesis 32, where we see him coming to the end of self and relying totally upon the Lord. This occurred 20 years after Gen. 28 when he was returning from Laban's house with his wives and children where he is about to meet Esau who had vowed to kill Jacob the next time he saw him.
Jacob divides the people that was with him and the flocks, herds, and the camels into bands and sends them ahead with a distance between each one to meet Esau. Then for the first time (recorded) he prays (Gen. 32:9-12) unto the God of his fathers but never mentions Him being his God. When he was left alone, God began to deal with him. He wrestled with him in the form of a man. God had to wrestle with Jacob because Jacob still wanted things his way. He was trying to get God to leave him alone. This is just what every man does when the Holy Ghost begins to bring man to the end of self.
I believe Jacob had a backup plan if the plan to appease Esau with the bands of people and cattle did not work. I cannot prove this, but I believe he thought if all else failed he would outrun Esau to spare his life. At some point in time while wrestling Jacob, God touched the hollow of his thigh (the strength of his leg) and then Jacob took hold of God. At which point, God said, "Let me go." But Jacob knowing all hope in self was gone said, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." In essence, he was saying, "There is no one else to turn to. You're all the hope I have. I don't want to bargain any longer. I just need you."
At that point, Jacob was saved. God changed his name from Jacob (supplanter) to Israel which means "prince of God" or "prince with God." This occurred 20 years after his first encounter with God at the place he named Peniel which means "the face of God." You can read this in Gen. 32:24-30.
After Gen. 32 we see Jacob a changed man. He shows compassion for those with him where before he was willing to sacrifice them for his own hide. (Gen. 33:12-14) He built his first altar (first recorded) at Shechem. (Gen. 33:18-20) He had his family put away their idols, a sure sign of a changed life--a new creature. (Gen. 35:2)
We conclude that Jacob was saved at Peniel in Gen. 32, twenty years after his first encounter with God at Bethel in Gen. 28. This may not be acceptable to traditional thinking, but it lines up with the Bible and its teaching concerning real salvation. I think I will believe the Bible, God's Holy Word instead of man's traditional teaching.
THE PERSUADER - Aug.-Sept., 1995