iBelieve
What Every Christian Should Know
Copyright © 2015
By HAROLD RAWLINGS, Ph.D.
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Contents
Introduction ....................................................................................... 5
THE SCRIPTURES
1. iBelieve the Bible is the Inspired Word of God ........................... 7
THE TRUE GOD: GOD THE FATHER
2. iBelieve there is One God in Three Persons ............................... 13
3. iBelieve in God the Father ......................................................... 19
THE TRUE GOD: JESUS CHRIST
4. iBelieve in Jesus Christ ..............................................................25
THE TRUE GOD: THE HOLY SPIRIT
5. iBelieve in the Holy Spirit ........................................................ 31
THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS
6. IBelieve there is a Devil to Overcome ........................................ 37
THE FALL
7. iBelieve all Have Sinned ............................................................ 45
SALVATION
8. iBelieve Jesus Died for my Sins .................................................. 53
9. iBelieve in Salvation by Grace through faith .............................. 59
THE CHURCH
10. iBelieve That Jesus Christ Founded the Church .........................65
11. iBelieve in The Great Commission ............................................ 75
THE FINAL STATE
12. iBelieve in the Second Coming of Christ ................................... 81
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5
Introduction
W
e live in a culture in which people increasingly base some of
the most important life decisions on experience—how they feel
about a certain situation or idea. “If it feels good, do it,” is a commonly
heard maxim. Even in the Christian realm, feelings and emotions are
often elevated above doctrine in importance. Although emotions can
play a powerful and positive role in the Christians journey through life,
they are far too unreliable and fluctuating to become the basis for ones
belief system. The Bible does not say, “The just will live by emotions,”
rather, “The just will live by faith”—faith in what God has revealed in
His Word. Indeed, without such faith it is impossible to please God
(Heb. 11:6).
Some allege that people will no longer listen to doctrine. “Its
too divisive,” they complain. However, it is my contention that this
is entirely false. Not only can theology be a captivating study (“the
queen of the sciences,” as it was once called), it is essential for Christians
to know what they believe. The Apostle Peter confirmed this when he
urged his readers to be prepared to give an answer (Greek apologia, “a
defense”) to anyone who might raise questions about their Christian
beliefs (1 Pet. 3:15). Twice in his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul
speaks of his yearning to defend (apologia) the gospel (Phil. 1:7, 16).
We are not to be silent when challenged to defend the Faith, regardless
of the risks (for Paul it meant imprisonment and torture); but if we are
not acquainted with the basic tenets of Christianity, we are likely to
remain speechless when confronted by skeptics, either those who have
a genuine interest in Christianity, or those seeking to lead us down the
slippery slope of false doctrine. Furthermore, not being acquainted with
the teachings of the Bible, Christians are likely to be “blown about by
every wind of doctrine,” frequently changing their minds about what
they believe, easily duped by some clever religious charlatan who makes
a lie sound like the truth (Eph. 4:13, 14).
In one sense, every Christian “does theology” regardless of whether
or not they consider themselves a theologian. They may not be experts
in theology; in fact, they may be very poor theologians, but they are
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theologians nonetheless. The word theology comes from two Greek
words, theos, “God,” and logos, “word.” Hence, theology may be defined
as a word or study about God—His being, attributes, purposes, and
works. Every true Christian has some knowledge of and interest in these
matters and can discuss them with some degree of skill, making them
theologians. However, all of us should endeavor to be more competent
theologians; in other words, to be able to confidently set forth our case
about key doctrinal matters with conviction and clarity.
The purpose of this study is to meet a widely felt need for an up-to-
date and concise source book on the principal teachings of the Bible. It
is not intended for scholars; rather it is to serve as a handy guidebook
for laymen as well as beginning theology students, assisting them in
grasping some of the foundational beliefs that distinguish Christians.
These lessons are designed so that ones Bible becomes a necessary
tool to fully understand them. After all, what the Bible says about a
matter is much more important than what any human says about it.
Most of the Scripture references are not quoted, the rationale being
that I felt it would be more beneficial for the reader to look up and
read the references from the Bible itself. Like the Bereans in Acts 17, it
should be the desire of all Bible students, when some doctrinal matter is
discussed, to search the Scriptures to see if what they have been exposed
to corresponds with what is revealed in the Bible.
Some churches may want to spend three months in their Bible study
classes going through these chapters. Pastors may desire to utilize them
for a sermon series. Small group Bible studies and discipleship classes
can profit from them. My fondest hope is that the information presented
in these reflections will prove to be useful to individuals, churches, and
institutions, the end result being the enabling of many to witness more
effectively for Christ, the building up of believers in the faith, and the
equipping of Christians to live out their convictions in an increasingly
hostile world.
7
chapter 1
iBelieve the Bible is the
Inspired Word of God
T
he most crucial matter in reference to the Bible is its origin. In other
words, did God produce the Bible, and if so, how did He do it? Paul
affirmed that all of Scripture was given to us by God (2 Tim. 3:16). The
distinguishing characteristic of the Bible is its divine inspiration. Acting as
the principal Author, God moved (“inspired”) the human authors of the
Scriptures to understand and write precisely what He wished them to write.
The Greek word theopneustos, translated as “inspiration,” literally means
“God-breathed.” God “breathed” truth into mens minds. They, in turn,
expressed this truth in the words found in the Bible. Inspiration, therefore,
can be defined as the mysterious process by which God communicated His
eternal truth through human writers without sacrificing their individuality,
personality, or style. The result of this divine-human partnership is that
God’s truth was recorded without error in the original manuscripts.
The word “inspiration,” however, means different things to
different people. Some will acknowledge that the Bible is inspired,
but their concept of inspiration is altogether different from that of the
Apostle Paul. Some define the Bible as a human production which may
at certain times and under certain circumstances become the Word of
God to the reader. By that definition they would agree that the Bible is
inspired. Others insist the Bible is inspired in the same way the works
of Shakespeare were inspired. They use the word “inspired” in a general
sense. For example, someone might say, “That songwriter was certainly
inspired.” Given that meaning, even the liberal theologian will admit
the Bible is inspired. But that is not what Paul meant. He meant that
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the writers of Scripture were so influenced by God, and their thought
processes so illuminated by His Spirit that what they wrote were the very
words of God.
THE PROCESS OF INSPIRATION
It is perhaps needless to say that the Bible was not actually written
by the hand of God (although there is one instance of God writing
His exact words—the Ten Commandments, Ex. 31:18; Deut. 10:4-5).
However, abundant evidence exists that what is found in the sixty-six
books of the Bible are the exact words God meant to be there. The
inspiration came from God to human personalities to give to us the
Bible. Forty different individuals wrote over a period of some 1,500
years as God inspired them.
The process of inspiration is disclosed in two significant New
Testament passages. The first one we have already considered: 2 Timothy
3:16. If Paul had said, “Certain portions of Scripture are inspired by God,”
it would have been left to each individual or church to determine which
parts were inspired. This would make human reason the test and judge
of what is inspired and what is not.
We must assume that those who insist that the Bible is inspired only
in spots are themselves inspired to “spot the spots” that are inspired. But
as we know all too well, human reason is not always a reliable standard for
determining what is truth and what is falsehood. Paul clearly intended
to convey the message that God inspired all of Scripture, not just certain
parts here and there.
The second passage is 2 Peter 1:21. According to the Apostle Peter’s
words, divine revelation was given by inspiration of God to holy men
who where then “moved” by the Holy Spirit to write the very words of
God. The word “moved” implies that these men were carried along as if
by a strong current or mighty influence.
This distinctly teaches that the Bible was not written at the initiative
or whim of human beings, but by those who were moved upon, yes,
even driven along, by the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They wrote in
obedience to the divine command and were kept from all error, whether
they revealed truths previously unknown or recorded truths already
familiar.
Inspiration is not dictation.
In some instances writers were commanded to express the exact
words of God, but in most cases the Holy Spirit controlled the authors
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thoughts and judgments, permitting them to express themselves in terms
reflecting their own language patterns and style. The Old Testament
was written in Hebrew, except for brief sections in Aramaic, and the
New Testament was written in Greek. By allowing the authors (most of
whom were not among the literary elite) to use a vocabulary familiar to
them, suggests that God set the pattern that His Word should be in the
common idiom of the day.
The Bible, then, is divine truth expressed in human language.
A parallel exists between the incarnation of Jesus and the Bible: Jesus
was God in human flesh—God and man combined, deity and humanity
in one (John 1:14). Even so the Bible is the divine and human combined
(2 Peter 1:21). This divine-human combination makes the Bible unique
among literary works.
THE EXTENT OF INSPIRATION
Does the Bible only contain the Word of God, or is it appropriate
to say the Bible is the Word of God? Is inspiration confined only to the
Bibles important doctrines and spiritual lessons, or is all of Scripture
(even the historical parts) the Word of God?
The Bible is the Word of God in its entirety and all the words of
Scripture are inspired.
This is called plenary as well as verbal inspiration. These two words
imply that the biblical authors were not simply inspired in their general
ideas, but in the very words they used (verbal inspiration); and inspiration
extends to the whole Bible (plenary inspiration), not merely to certain
parts. This is not to say that all parts of the Bible are equally useful or
significant, anymore than a finger is as important as the heart. But just
as all parts of the body are useful, so all parts of the Bible make an essential
contribution to the total message.
Inspiration does not extend to translations of Scripture.
No translation is inspired in the same sense as the originals. However,
God has preserved His Word and will continue to do so, which means we
can rest confidently in the promise that Gods Word will endure forever (1
Pet. 1:23-25).
TRADITIONS AND NEW REVELATIONS
We do not believe that God has added or ever will add anything to
His revelation in His Word (See Rev. 22:18,19). Tradition may have its
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place and can be a valuable tool at times in enhancing ones understanding
of the Scriptures, but it should never be deemed equivalent to inspired
Scripture or used as the basis for the formulation of doctrine.
Those who claim to be recipients of special revelations are on dangerous
ground as well. If what they claim is true and the prophecy they receive is
directly from God, their message should receive the same credibility as the
writings of the Apostles. Our answer to this is that the Bible is complete and
entirely sufficient as is. All that we presently need to know about God and
the salvation He offers us is revealed in the sixty-six books of the Bible. To
believe otherwise is to open a Pandoras box and advance the cause of false
religions.
THE MESSAGE OF THE BIBLE
Since the Bible is our infallible guidebook, and because our belief and
conduct are to be governed by what it teaches, let us see what those things
are to which we should give attention above everything else:
The Bible reveals Gods plan of salvation.
The Scriptures teach what God has done and is doing for the
salvation of mankind. Many people are confused and have been mislead
about how to rightly connect with God. They believe that salvation is
attained by performing some type of meritorious work—giving money
to worthy causes, living an upright life, keeping the commandments,
etc. The Bible clearly teaches that salvation only comes to the one who
has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:15).
The Bible reveals our need to accept Gods salvation.
Knowing the right way is not enough. The Bible is explicit about
what one must do in order to be saved (Acts 16:25-34; John 1:11-12;
Rom. 10:13).
The Bible reveals our condition in the life to come.
Some frantically search for answers to what will transpire in the
future. Sadly, they search in all the wrong places. They consult fortune
tellers, the paranormal, and religious cults, but Scripture explains the
foolishness of such practices (Isaiah 8:19; Luke 16:29-31).
In contrast to the doubts, uncertainty, and despair of human
speculation, the Bible gives a true and trustworthy message about the
life to come. To escape the judgment of God and enjoy an eternal home
in Heaven, a person must accept Jesus Christ as the one who paid for his
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or her sins on the cross (Matt. 7:13-14 & John 14:1-6).
REVIEW
How the Bible came to us is a subject of immense importance. If
the Bible is no different or no better than any other religious holy book,
as unbelievers suggest, it should be treated as such. On the other hand,
if it came from God, was miraculously inspired and preserved by Him,
as Christians through the centuries have believed, it deserves our
utmost attention and respect. The Bible is the only source of the true
knowledge of God and of the way of salvation. Neither reason nor
tradition nor creeds are in any true and real sense the source of that
knowledge. The Holy Scriptures are the only rule and standard of faith
and practice. No book in the history of the world has influenced more
people for good, inspired more to noble action, soothed more aching
hearts than the Bible. However, its influence and authority cannot be
explained apart from its divine origin.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. What does the word “inspiration” mean?
2. God wrote the first words of our Bible on stone tablets. In fact, He
wrote the same words twice (Ex. 31:18; Deut. 10:1-5). Explain
why.
3. Write out 2 Peter 1:21.
4. How many individuals did it take to produce the Bible?
5. How many years were involved in producing it?
6. The Old Testament was written in which languages?
7. The New Testament was written in which language?
8. What is the significance of the Holy Spirit allowing human authors
of the Bible to use a vocabulary familiar to them?
9. What does “verbal inspiration” mean?
10. What does “plenary inspiration” mean?
11. Does inspiration extend to translations of Scripture?
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a) The message of the Bible reveals:
b) God’s plan of salvation. Explain.
c) our need to accept God’s salvation. Explain.
d) our condition in the life to come. Explain.
12. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
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chapter 2
iBelieve there is One God in ree Persons
A
ccording to the Bible there is only one true God. The Shema is recited
every Sabbath in Jewish synagogues around the world: “Hear,
O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). This is a strong
declaration of the oneness and uniqueness of God. The Bible teaches a
strict monotheism, and definitely excludes every form of dualism and
polytheism. Dualism teaches the existence of two mutually hostile divine
beings, one representing everything good and beneficial to mankind, the
other representing everything that is sinful and evil. Polytheism is the
belief in more gods than one. The true God is not one among many, or
even the best among many; He is absolutely unique, the only God.
Consider the mystery of the Trinity and what it means to believe
there are three Persons equal in majesty and power, undivided in
splendor, yet one Lord, one God, ever to receive our undivided loyalty
and praise. To believe in the Trinity is to believe that there is only one
God, and yet there are three distinct Persons, the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit who possess eternally the same divine nature.
Because Christians believe in the Trinity, that God is one, yet in
that one being are three distinct persons, many accuse them of believing
in three Gods. Explaining the Trinity is not easy, but there can be no
question that an unbiased study of Scripture reveals that there is a
plurality of beings within the Trinity.
To say that something is mysterious or difficult is not the same as to
say that it is not true. It is wrong to say the Trinity does not exist simply
because it is beyond our comprehension. Very few people understand
quantum physics. The theories and concepts of quantum physics are too
complex for most people. In fact, some of the theories seem ridiculous
or totally illogical to the untrained eye. Yet, quantum physics is used
every day to make our lives better. We must be careful not to discredit
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something simply because we do not understand it.
Although the word Trinity is not found in the Bible, the concept is
plainly taught.
THE TRINITY IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
There are occasions where God refers to Himself in plural terms
(Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8). The Apostle John affirms the Isaiah
passage refers to Jesus (John 12:41).
There are references to the Angel of the Lord who is identified with,
yet distinct from, God (Gen. 16:7-13; Ex. 3:2-6; Judges 13:2-22).
The Old Testament refers to the Spirit of God as God’s personal
agent (Gen. 1:2; Neh. 9:20; Ps. 139:7).
There are prophecies that identify the long-awaited Messiah with
God (Ps. 2; Isa. 9:6f.).
THE TRINITY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Several New Testament passages imply or state that God is a trinity
(Matt. 3:13-17; 28:19; John 14:15-23; Acts 2:32, 33; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph.
1:1-14; 3:16-19). Each person of the Trinity is asserted to be divine.
The Father is God.
Of the Father, Jesus says that He is “the only true God (John 17:1-
3). Paul affirms that there is but one God, the Father (1 Cor. 8:6). He is
a person distinct from the Son (John 3:16; Gal. 4:4). In Galatians 4:6,
He is distinguished from the Son and the Spirit.
The Son is God.
If Jesus of Nazareth is anything like the Gospel writers say He was
like, then He was more than an ordinary man. Here was a man who,
though He ate, drank, slept, and became tired as ordinary mortals do,
also multiplied wine and food, gave sight to the blind, healed incurable
diseases, stilled storms, cast out demons, and even raised people from
the dead. Either those writers were deluded or deliberately deceptive,
or they described someone who was unlike any person who has ever
lived. The answer is, He is God. He claimed to be God and His disciples
were convinced of His claims, not merely because of what He taught or
ascribed to Himself, but because of His miracle-working powers.
The New Testament establishes the truth that Jesus is God: first,
by direct statements; second, by statements that imply His deity; and
ibelieve there is one god in three Persons 15
third, by use of quotations that, in the Old Testament, refer to Jehovah
(Yahweh).
Jesus is called Immanuel, which means, “God with us (Matt. 1:23).
According to John 1, Jesus is referred to as the Word, and is said to have
been with God from all eternity; in fact, He was not only with God, He
was God (John 1:1). He claimed that whoever had seen Him had seen
the Father (John 14:9).
Jesus said that He and the Father were one (John 10:30). His enemies
knew exactly what He meant because they took up stones to stone Him
for blasphemy. They insisted in their blindness that, though He was a
mere man, He was making Himself God (John 10:33).
Jesus repeatedly called Himself by the name or designation reserved
for God. He affirmed to His enemies that before Abraham was born, “I
AM” (John 8:58; cf. Exo. 3:13,14). In Isaiah, Jehovah is the First and
the Last, a title that, in the book of Revelation, is given to Christ (Isa.
44:6; Rev. 1:17).
Jesus said He was God, and that is what the disciples who wrote
the New Testament proclaimed Him to be. Jesus was not just a great
and good man sent from God, nor a prophet, nor an angel. When we
encounter this Man, we meet God. If we want to know who God is and
what God does, we have to look at Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit is God.
Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit in terms that cannot be misunderstood.
He told His disciples that He would ask the Father to send someone to
replace Him who would do for them exactly what He had done for them
while on earth (John 14:16). Jesus used the Greek word “Paracletos
(“one called alongside to help”) to describe the Holy Spirit’s mission.
Paracletos” is also used of Christ Himself in Johns first epistle. Christ
is described as our “advocate,” the one who speaks to the Father in our
defense (1 John 2:1). Jesus called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth
(John 14:17), while referring to Himself as “the truth” (14:6).
Ananias and Sapphira were rebuked for endeavoring to deceive
the Apostle Peter about their gift to the church. Peter asked them why
they had lied to the Holy Spirit. He then explained the gravity of the
attempted deceit, warning them that they had not lied to men but to
God (Acts 5:3, 4, 9). The Holy Spirit in this passage is equated with
God.
Once we acknowledge God the Father and God the Son to be fully
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God, the Trinitarian expressions in verses such as Matt. 28:19 (“baptizing
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit)
assume significance, because they show that the Holy Spirit is regarded
as being equal with the Father and the Son. The unity of the Trinity is
underscored by the use of the singular word name rather than names.
REVIEW
God is said to be one in the absolute sense that there cannot
be another, and in the relative sense that there are not many gods
(polytheism). Yet God exists in a relationship of three persons: Father,
Son and Holy Spirit. There are not three separate Gods. God is one, a
community in unity. The Bible does not explicitly mention the word
“Trinity,” but the view that God is one and that three persons are God
clearly commend this view. The doctrine of the Trinity is crucial for our
faith. It is concerned with who God is, what He is like, how He works,
and how He is to be approached. The question of the deity of Jesus
Christ is very much connected with the Trinity. The position we take
on the Trinity will profoundly affect our understanding of Christs deity.
Paul expressed this early Trinitarian belief when he ended a letter to the
Corinthians with a blessing from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
(2 Cor. 13:14).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. Give the references where God refers to Himself in plural terms in
the Old Testament.
2. Give two examples from the Old Testament that refer to the Father,
Son or Holy Spirit.
3. What does Jesus say about the Father in John 17:1-3?
4. What does Paul say about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in
Galatians 4:4-7?
5. Write out John 1:1.
6. What does the name “Immanuel” mean (Matt. 1:23)?
7. Why did Jesus’ enemies take up stones to kill Him (Jn. 10:29-33)?
8. What is one convincing name Jesus used to proclaim His deity (Jn.
8:58)?
ibelieve there is one god in three Persons 17
9. What Greek word did Jesus use to describe the Holy Spirit’s mission?
10. Why is the singular word “name” in the baptismal formula significant
(Matt. 28:19)?
11. How does the marriage relationship help to explain the Trinity?
12. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
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19
chapter 3
iBelieve in God the Father
W
e have seen that belief in God is a reasonable belief, so reasonable
in fact that only a fool denies God’s existence (Ps. 14:1). With the
Hebrews, however, the problem was not atheism but polytheism; not,
does God exist, but which God exists? And so it is in our time. Because
nearly everyone believes in a god of some kind, we need to consider not
only the existence of God (“Is there a God?”), but the character of God
(“What is God like?”).
Just as the Bible nowhere attempts to establish the existence of
God, so it proposes no definition of His person. The Hebrews were
prohibited from making any graven image of God, and they made no
effort to restrict God to a definition. However, we do have a significant
description of Him in the conversation between Moses and the Lord at
the burning bush in the Sinai desert. Moses inquired of the Lord what
he should tell the children of Israel when they ask him who sent him on
his mission. The Lord instructed Moses to tell them that I AM had sent
him (Exod. 3:13-14).
This mysterious description of God demonstrates that a complete
definition of Him is fundamentally impossible. Just as a graven image
of God cannot depict Him, so a definition of God cannot explain Him.
After we have said all we can about God, there remains a great element
of mystery (Isa. 55:8, 9).
Nevertheless, God has made a true disclosure of Himself. He has
revealed Himself in such a way that we may truly know Him, even
though we may not comprehend Him fully.
THE ESSENCE OF GOD
He is spirit (John 4:24).
If God is spirit, He is incorporeal; that is, He has no physical body,
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one that is visible to the human eye. But what about the expressions
that represent God as having bodily parts (Heb. 1:10; 1 Kings 8:29;
Neh. 1:6)? They are symbolic representations which serve to make
God real and to express His various activities, powers, and interests.
John said that no human has seen God at any time (John 1:18).
Paul calls Him “the invisible God” (Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17). However,
spirit beings can manifest themselves in visible form. Jacob said, after
wrestling with the angel of the Lord at Peniel, “I have seen God face to
face(Gen. 32:30). “The angel of the Lord was a visible manifestation of
deity (Gen. 16:7-14; Ex. 3:2-6; Judg. 6:11-23). Jesus said that anyone
who had seen Him had seen the Father (John 14:9).
Scripture teaches that the redeemed will one day see God (Ps. 17:15;
Matt. 5:8; Heb. 12:14; Rev. 22:3, 4). In our glorified bodies, our power
of sight will be totally altered and enhanced, and we will be able at last
to actually see God, seated on a throne, high and lifted up.
He is the living God.
One of the noteworthy Biblical descriptions of God is that He
is living. He is not some impersonal force or cosmic energy. At least
twenty-eight times in the Bible God is said to be the “living God.” For
example, one of the reasons David was so outraged over Goliath was that
this Philistine had defied “the armies of the living God (I Sam. 17:26,
36).
The Psalmist expressed his great spiritual desire with such words
as, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:2). In numerous
places throughout the New Testament the same truth is repeated (Matt.
16:16; Acts 14:15; Rom. 9:26; Heb. 3:12; Rev. 7:2).
He is a person.
Scripture represents God as possessing the characteristics of
personality: self-consciousness (Ex. 3:14; 1 Cor. 2:10); intellect (Gen.
18:19; Acts 15:18); volition (Gen. 3:15; John 6:38). He is described
as speaking (Gen. 1:3); seeing (Gen. 11:5); hearing (Ps. 94:9), grieving
(Gen. 6:6); repenting (Gen. 6:6); being angry (Deut. 1:37); jealous (Ex.
20:5); and compassionate (Ps. 111:4).
He is the eternal, self-existing one.
Like a circle, God has no beginning and no end. He is called “the
ibelieve in god the Father 21
Eternal God” (Gen. 21:33). He is not limited by time. In fact, He was
before time began and is the cause of time. He was, He is, He will be.
The Psalmist addresses God in personal terms and affirms His eternal
existence and infinite power (Ps. 90:2).
THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
Implicit in the Christians understanding of God is the confidence
that He is all sufficient and altogether adequate to meet the needs of His
creation.
He is Omnipotent.
He is all-powerful and capable of doing whatever is consistent with
His character (Gen. 18:14). It was described in the Old Testament by
the sacred name El, especially in the composition of El Shaddai (God
Almighty), and says that nothing is impossible with God. However,
omnipotence does not imply that God can do everything conceivable.
For example, He cannot lie, He cannot change, He cannot be unfaithful,
He cannot do something irrational, such as creating a rock bigger than
He can lift. He is only capable of doing what is consistent with His own
character and necessary to His government of the universe (Dan. 4:17,
25, 35; Matt. 19:26; Rev. 19:6).
The discovery of the incredible immensity of our universe, where
distances are measured in light-years, has given us a new understanding
of the omnipotence of God.
He is sovereign. The Biblical term “Lord,” used by the Jews in place of
the unutterable name for God, YHWH (translated Jehovah or Yahweh),
implies particularly the sovereignty of God. It might even be said that
the sovereignty of God is the principal doctrine of the whole Bible.
This idea of God as king assumes that He is the ruler over the whole
universe, material and spiritual, and has a moral claim on the lives of all
His creatures (Mark 12:28-30). If there is but one God, then He must be
the God of all the earth. All other so-called gods are false and are to be
repudiated (Ex. 20:1-3; Matt. 4:10).
He is the creator and sustainer of all. He is the One who made the
universe and keeps it going (Gen. 1:1; John 1:3; Heb. 1:1-3). If we ask
how God created all things, we learn that it was by the power of His
word (Ps. 33:6, 9). God spoke and it was done. If we ask how God
sustains all things, we learn that all things hold together and are kept
intact by His powerful Word (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3).
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He is Omniscient.
Because He is all-knowing, His wisdom and knowledge are infinite
(Ps. 139:2-4; 147:5; 1 John 3:20). His knowledge of the future is
limitless (Isa. 46:9-10). He is even aware of the minute details of our
lives (Matt. 6:8; 10:30).
A contemporary movement involving a small but influential group
of theologians proclaims that God has imposed upon Himself certain
limitations that restrict His ability to know all things. In other words,
God is unable to always predict the future and sometimes changes
His mind. It is called “Openness Theology.” Thankfully, most such
theological aberrations, like passing fads, come and go rather quickly.
How God can comprehend so vast an amount of knowledge is
beyond the reach of mans intellectual capacity. One can only stand
amazed in the presence of such matchless wisdom (Rom. 11:33).
He is Omnipresent.
He is everywhere present in creation at the same time. Because
God is spirit (John 4:24) and not constrained by a physical body, he
is unrestricted with respect to space. If God has brought all things into
existence by His creative power and sustains the entire universe through
His wisdom and might, it follows that wherever His creatures are, there
He is also (Acts 17:28).
No matter how far humans may range in the universe, either on this
planet or in space, they will find the presence of God (Ps. 139:7-10).
THE MORAL ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
He is holy.
The Lord is called “the Holy Onesome thirty times in Isaiah alone.
It is the attribute by which He is especially known in the Old Testament
(Lev. 11:44ff; Josh 24:19; Ps. 22:3). Because of God’s holiness and mans
sinfulness, humans must approach Him through the merits of another,
else they cannot approach Him at all. But Christ has made such access
possible (Rom. 5:2; Heb. 10:19ff).
He is love (1 John 4:8, 16).
He created the world in order to show forth His glory and to share
His love with the beings He created. The Apostle John gives us a brief
but vivid description of the extent of God’s love in John 3:16.
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He is just.
God is impartial and equitable in all His dealings with His creatures
(Deut. 32:4; Rev. 15:3). We have to balance out God’s justice with His
other attributes. Because of His justice, God is obligated to punish
evildoers. Because of His love, patience, and goodness, He wants no one
to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).
REVIEW
We have seen that belief in God is a reasonable belief. In fact, God is
the principal focus of revelation. His divine attributes are the main object
of mans recognition and worship. The question of God’s nature—what
He is like—is the central point of our faith. Ones view of God supplies
the framework within which ones theology is constructed and life is
lived. Without a correct understanding of God, ones world-view will be
skewed. Christians believe and profess that there is one true and living
God, the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth. Although a complete
description of Him is fundamentally impossible, God has made a true
disclosure of Himself. He has revealed Himself in such a way that we
may truly know what He is like, even though we may not comprehend
Him fully.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. What is meant by the expression, “God is spirit” (Jn. 4:24)?
2. Is it proper to say that God is an impersonal force or cosmic energy?
Explain.
3. How many times in the Bible is God said to be the “living God?”
4. Give three characteristics of personality that God possesses.
5. What is God called in Genesis 21:33?
6. What is meant by the word “omnipotent?”
7. When we say that God is “all-knowing,” what word do we use?
8. When we say God is present everywhere simultaneously, what word
do we use?
9. Explain the three moral attributes of God.
10. Write out Deuteronomy 32:4.
11. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
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chapter 4
iBelieve in Jesus Christ
S
ome two thousand years ago there lived a man whose influence on
the world is unique in history. He was born in an obscure Middle
Eastern village with none of the material advantages that wealth and
social position can give. His brief career spanned only thirty-three years
and was confined to an area of a few hundred miles. None of His activity
occurred in one of the great centers of civilization. His life did not end
on a note of triumph; He suffered the shameful death of crucifixion.
Yet today, over twenty centuries later, this man is worshipped by two
billion people in every country of the world as the Savior of mankind.
Through the centuries since His death, millions have died as martyrs to
His cause, and millions more have gladly renounced all that the human
heart holds dear, home, family, riches, and friends, to carry His name
to the far reaches of the earth. He is loved throughout the world as
no other man has been loved. His teachings have enriched, changed
and comforted the lives of men and women wherever those words have
circulated. Yet there is no person who is held in greater contempt.
What is it that makes Jesus Christ unique among all the people of
history? What accounts for the influence He has had and still has on the
world? The answer, of course, is that Jesus Christ was not merely a great
teacher and religious leader. He is the Son of God. He is the Redeemer
promised by God who brought the hope of salvation to the human race;
and, by His death on the cross, ransoms all who put their trust in Him.
God’s plan to rescue fallen humanity is made plain in the Bible.
Long before the world began, His Son was chosen as the sacrifice for sin
to be the hope of the human race (1 Pet. 1:18-20). He was to bring us
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back to God and provide deliverance from sin through the destruction
of the works of the Devil (1 Pet. 3:18; Matt. 1:21; 1 John 3:8).
Sin severed Adam and Eve from the source of life, resulting in their
spiritual death and assuring their physical death as well (Rom. 5:12).
Their act of disobedience resulted in a posterity that was contaminated
with a sin nature and shackled with the sentence of death. In order
to restore us as children of God, the Son of God had to become a
man. Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned, God gave them hope
by promising that there would be enmity between the serpent and the
woman, between his seed and hers. In the cryptic prophecy of Genesis
3:15, the serpent and its offspring represent Satan and his followers. The
woman and her seed symbolize the Savior of the world and His followers.
This statement was the first assurance that a Savior would come and the
conflict between Gods Son and Satan would end in victory for the Son
of God.
A SYMBOLICAL REPRESENTATION OF SALVATION
After sin entered, God instituted animal sacrifices to illustrate
the mission of the Savior to come (Gen. 4:4). This symbolic system
dramatized the manner in which God the Son would pay the penalty
for human sin.
After Israels exodus from Egypt, the sacrificial offerings were conducted
in a tabernacle as part of a covenant relationship between God and His
people. Built by Moses according to specifications given to him by the
Lord Himself, the sanctuary and its services were instituted to illustrate
the plan of salvation (Ex. 25:8, 9, 40; Heb. 8:1-5).
To obtain forgiveness, a repentant sinner brought an animal that
had no blemishes—a picture of the sinless Savior. The sinner would then
place his hand on the innocent animal and confess his sins (Lev. 1:3, 4).
This act symbolized the transfer of the sin from the guilty sinner to the
innocent victim, depicting the substitutionary nature of the sacrifice.
Because there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood (Heb.
9:22), the sinner then killed the animal, making the deadly nature of
sin obvious.
The New Testament recognizes Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the
Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Through
the shedding of His blood, He obtained for the human race redemption
from the penalty of sin (1 Pet. 1:19).
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PREDICTIONS ABOUT A SAVIOR
God promised that the Savior would come through Abrahams line
(Gen. 22:18; cf. 12:3). The prophet Isaiah said He would come as a
male child, and would be both human and divine (Isa. 9:6). Bethlehem
would be His birthplace (Micah 5:2). The birth of this divine-human
person would be supernatural (Isa. 7:14; cf. Matt. 1:23). This Redeemer
would ascend the throne of His father David and one day establish an
everlasting government of peace (Isa. 9:7).
Before Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem almost 2,000 years ago, He was
in the form of God,” that is, the divine nature was His from all eternity
(John 1:1; Phil. 2:6, 7). In taking the form of a slave, He laid aside divine
prerogatives. He became a human in order to carry out the Fathers will
(John 6:38; Matt. 26:39).
JESUS CHRIST WAS TRULY HUMAN
The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ had a human nature. The
acceptance of this teaching is crucial (1 John 4:2, 3). Christ’s human
birth, development, characteristics, and personal testimony provide
evidence of His humanity.
His human birth.
The Bible declares that the Word became flesh and lived among us
(John 1:14). The word “flesh means “human nature.” Because the Holy
Spirit conceived Him, He was fully God. Because He was born of a
human mother, He was fully man. This manifestation of God in human
form is called “the mystery of godliness(1 Tim. 3:16).
Christ’s genealogy refers to Him as the son of David and the son of
Abraham (Matt. 1:1). As evidence of His human nature, He was born
of the seed of David (Rom. 1:3; 9:5), and was the son of Mary (Mark
6:3). He could claim true humanity through His mother. (Chapter 12
describes the significance of His virgin birth.)
He was called a man.
John the Baptist and Peter refer to Him as a man (John 1:30; Acts
2:22). Paul speaks of Christ as a man (Rom 5:15). The one mediator
between God and men, is the “man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). In
addressing His enemies, Christ refers to Himself as a man (John 8:40).
Jesus’ favorite designation for Himself, one He used 77 times, was
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Son of man (Matt. 8:20; 26:2). The title “Son of God” focuses attention
on His relationship within the Trinity. “Son of man emphasizes His
solidarity with the human race through His incarnation.
His human characteristics.
In all things Christ was made like His fellow human beings (Heb.
2:17). His human nature possessed the same mental and physical
susceptibilities as the rest of humanity: hunger, thirst, weariness, and
anxiety (Matt. 4:2; John 19:28; 4:6; cf. Matt. 26:21; 8:24).
In His ministry to others He revealed compassion, righteous anger,
and grief (Matt. 9:36; Mark 3:5), all human emotions. At times He felt
troubled and sorrowful, and even wept (Matt. 26:38; John 12:27; 11:33,
35; Luke 19:41). His life of prayer expressed His complete dependence
on God (Matt. 26:39-44; Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 5:16; 6:12). And Jesus
experienced death (John 19:30, 34).
Nevertheless, when the Bible reports that the Son of God became a
human being (Phil. 2:7), in no way is this meant to imply that He was
sinful or participated in sinful acts or thoughts as ordinary humans do
(see Heb. 4:15).
THE NECESSITY OF CHRIST’S TAKING HUMAN NATURE
To be the high priest for the human race.
As Messiah, Jesus had to occupy the position of high priest or
mediator between God and humans (Zech. 6:13; Heb. 4:14-16). This
function required human nature. Christ met the qualifications: (1) He
could have compassion on those who were weak because He was subject
to weakness (Heb. 5:2). (2) He is able to help those who are tempted
because He was tempted (Heb. 2:18; 4:15).
To give His life for the sins of the world.
Christ’s divine nature cannot die. In order to die, Christ had to have
a human nature. He became man and paid the penalty for sin, which is
death (Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:3).
To be our example.
To set the example as to how people should live, Christ lived a sinless
life as a human being. As the second Adam, He dispelled the myth that
humans cannot obey God’s Word and have victory over sin. Where the
first Adam fell, the second Adam gained the victory over sin and Satan
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and became both our Savior and our perfect example. In His strength, His
victory can be ours (John 16:33; Phil. 4:13).
Though believers can never be perfect in the same sense Jesus was
perfect, through His example and the power of the Holy Spirit who lives
within us, no temptation is irresistible. We can trust God to give us the
strength to endure and overcome it (1 Cor. 10:13).
REVIEW
The greatest event in human history was inaugurated with the birth
of the Son of God into our human condition. God Himself became
man. This event is known as the incarnation—God becoming incarnate
in Jesus—the merger of the divine and the human. The Apostle John
explained how the Word (Jesus Christ) became a human and lived
among us (John 1:14). Paul declared that God sent His Son at exactly
the right time in history, and He was subject to the law (Gal. 4:4). The
incarnation distinguishes Christianity from Judaism and Islam, the
other two monotheistic religions. Only Christianity believes the eternal,
transcendent God of the universe became incarnate in a human being,
namely Jesus of Nazareth. Why did the Son of God become a man,
taking on the limitations of our human condition? It was the key to
God’s plan to redeem the human race from sin and rebellion against
Him.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. Explain when and why God first planned to send His Son to earth
to redeem humans (1 Pet. 1:18-21).
2. Why did God institute animal sacrifices (Gen. 4:4)?
3. Why is Jesus called “the Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:29)?
4. God promised that the Savior would be born through what family
line (Gen. 22:18)?
5. Did the Son of God exist before His birth in Bethlehem?
6. Write out 1 Timothy 3:16.
7. What was Jesus’ favorite designation of Himself (Matt. 8:20; Lk.
19:10)?
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8. What does the term “Son of man” emphasize?
9. Name some of the human characteristics Jesus possessed while here
on earth.
10. Give the three basic reasons why it was necessary for Jesus to
assume our human nature.
11. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
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chapter 5
iBelieve in the Holy Spirit
W
e have drawn attention in our study of theology to the Father’s work
in creation and providence, and how the Son, through His sacrificial
death and resurrection, has guaranteed redemption to every sinner who
believes on Him. We have seen how the Father and the Son are equally
God. Now we will consider who the Holy Spirit is, how He relates to the
Father and the Son, and how He applies the redemptive work of Christ to
mankind, thus making salvation a reality.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE
OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
There are several reasons why the study of the Holy Spirit is of
special significance for Christians:
The Holy Spirit is fully God.
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the divine Trinity, equal
in every respect with the Father and the Son. One of the best-known
Biblical evidences of this equality is the baptismal formula given in
the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19). The benediction of Paul in 2
Corinthians 13:14 is another evidence. Peter likewise, in the salutation
of his first epistle, links the three together (1 Pet. 1:2).
The Holy Spirit makes the Trinity more personal.
Without the presence of the Holy Spirit in ones life, the tendency
is to think of God as being far away in Heaven; so far, in fact, as to be
indifferent to the plight of humans. In like manner, the Son lived on
the earth 2,000 years ago and may seem to some a distant figure. But
the Holy Spirit is resident within the life and body of each individual
believer, encouraging, assuring, guiding, and consoling. Hence, the
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Holy Spirit is the one member of the Trinity through whom the entire
Triune God works in and through us.
We live in, “the Age of the Holy Spirit.”
The Father’s work was the most prominent in the Old Testament
era, as was the Sons in the period covered by the four Gospels. The
ministry of the Holy Spirit has been in the forefront from the Day of
Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4, 33) to the modern era.
The current culture stresses experience over dogmatic assertions.
Because it is primarily through the Holy Spirit that we feel Gods
presence within and experience the wonder of His various attributes,
it is vital that we understand who the Holy Spirit is and what He does.
In addition, living the Christian life and witnessing effectively for the
Savior are made possible only through the Spirit’s guidance and power
(Acts 1:8).
THE HOLY SPIRIT’S MISSION TO THE WORLD
The evening before His death, Christs words about His impending
departure greatly troubled the disciples. He immediately assured them
that they would not be left as orphans (John 14:18), but would receive
the Holy Spirit as His personal representative. The Holy Spirit would be
to them and do for them what Christ was to them and what He did for
them while on earth.
The Holy Spirit has been active in the world since the dawn of
creation (Gen. 1:2). Throughout the Old Testament His activity is
frequently portrayed. When Jesus was here on the earth, the Spirit was
present in great power. But it was at Pentecost that the principal work of
the Holy Spirit was inaugurated.
He exalts Christ.
The Lordship of Christ can only be acknowledged through the
influence of the Holy Spirit. Paul affirmed that no one can say that Jesus
is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3).
Jesus declared that the main thrust of the Spirit’s mission was to
glorify Him (John 16:13, 14). Some make the mistake of conceding
more glory to the Holy Spirit than they do to Christ. This is a direct
contradiction of what Jesus says in these verses.
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He convicts.
Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit’s mission is to convict the world
of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). First, the Holy Spirit
brings to us a deep conviction of sin, especially the sin of failing to
believe on Christ (16:9). Second, the Spirit urges all to accept the
righteousness of Christ. Jesus lived a sinless life, but men said He had
a demon. The Spirit contradicts those misguided men and witnesses
to the righteousness of Christ and our need to have His righteousness
imputed (credited) to us. Third, the Spirit warns us of a coming
judgment, a powerful tool in stirring up sin-darkened minds to the need
of repentance and conversion.
Having exalted Christ and convicted the sinner, the Spirit enables
him/her to be born again (John 3:3-16). A new life results, for the
believer has become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
THE HOLY SPIRIT’S MISSION TO BELIEVERS
The majority of texts concerning the Holy Spirit pertain to His
relationship with Gods people. His sanctifying influence leads to
obedience (1 Pet. 1:2). But no one continues to experience the full power
available from the Holy Spirit without meeting certain conditions.
Believers are warned about resisting, grieving, and quenching the Spirit
(Acts 7:51; Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19). Here are some of the noteworthy
things the Holy Spirit does for believers:
He baptizes believers.
This important topic will be considered more fully in the next
chapter, but suffice it to say that this remarkable event, referred to in
Scripture as “the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” transpires at the moment
of conversion. It is not an after-conversion experience, as some claim.
The Bible makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 12:13. Writing to the
Christians at Corinth, Paul states, “we are all baptized by one Spirit into
one body.” By his use of the word “all,” Paul excluded no believer in that
Corinthian church. To lend further proof to this assertion, Paul tells the
Roman Christians that if any one does not have the Holy Spirit, he does
not belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9). We conclude, then, that every true
Christian—those who belong to Christ—have been baptized (immersed)
with the Holy Spirit; and once that event transpires, the believers body
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becomes the “temple,” or dwelling place, of the Spirit of God (1 Cor.
3:16, 17).
He assists believers.
When introducing the Holy Spirit, Christ called Him another
Parakletos (John 14:16), a Greek word that can be translated “Helper,”
“Counselor,” “Comforter,” “Intercessor,” “Mediator,” or “Advocate.”
As we have noted, the only other Parakletos mentioned in Scripture is
Christ Himself. He is our “Advocate” or “Intercessor” before the Father
(1 John 2:1). As Intercessor, Mediator, and Helper, Christ presents us to
God and reveals God to us. Similarly, the Spirit guides us to Christ and
manifests Christ’s grace to us. This explains why the Spirit is called the
Spirit of Grace (Heb. 10:29).
He highlights the truth of Christ.
Jesus called the Holy Spirit the “Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 15:26;
16:13). His functions include bringing to our remembrance what Jesus
has said (John 14:26), and guiding believers into the truth (16:13). One
of His major functions is to exalt Jesus Christ (John 15:26; 16:13,14).
He makes possible the presence of Christ.
Through the Holy Spirit, it is possible for Jesus to be anywhere in
the world at any given moment (John 14:17,18). The Holy Spirit is
Christ’s representative.
He seals believers.
The three phases of salvation are given in Eph. 1:13, 14. First, one must
hear the word of truth, the gospel. Second, one must believe the gospel.
Third, at the point of conversion, the Holy Spirit seals the believer. In the
ancient world the seal was a guarantee. Sealing was used to authenticate
contracts, laws, invoices, military orders, etc. A seal indicates ownership.
God owns the believer, having purchased him or her from the slave market
of sin (Eph. 1:7; 1 Cor. 6:20). The Holy Spirits seal is a guarantee of the
believers eternal security (Eph. 4:30).
He guides the operation of the church.
Since the Holy Spirit brings the very presence of Christ, He is the
true Vicar of Christ on earth, not the pope of Rome. As the center of
authority in matters of faith and practice, the ways in which He leads the
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church accord fully with the Bible.
The Holy Spirit was intimately involved in administrating the
apostolic churches. In selecting missionaries, the churches obtained His
guidance through prayer and fasting (Acts 13:1-4). Paul reminded the
church leaders at Ephesus that they had been placed in their position by
the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28).
The Holy Spirit played an important role in resolving serious
difficulties that threatened the unity of the churches. Indeed,
Scripture introduces the decisions of the first church council with
an acknowledgment of the importance of the Holy Spirit in those
deliberations (Acts 15:1-29).
REVIEW
The Holy Spirit is an eternal and essential part of the Godhead or
Trinity. He exists eternally in perfect union with the Father and the Son.
He is commonly referred to as the “third person of the Trinity.” This
description arises out of a human attempt to logically understand the
mystery of the Trinity. It is an acceptable term so long as we remember that
is does not infer inferiority or subordination. The Holy Spirit is a divine
person. He is not a mere influence, as some contend. His relationship
to believers is a personal one: He bears witness with our spirit, He helps
our infirmities, He speaks, He fills, He equips, He seals, and He can be
grieved. In this sense, then, He must be equated with and equal to the
Father and the Son.
The Spirit of God is active in the Old Testament, but in the New
Testament His activity, His personality, and His deity come more
clearly into focus. There He appears as a person distinct from the
Father and the Son, with a ministry of His own. Like the Father and
the Son, the Spirit acts as only a person can act. He knows (1 Cor.
2:11); He feels (Rom. 15:30); He wills (1 Cor. 12:11). He is given to
the church as “another (i.e. a second) Paraclete” (Jn. 14:16), taking over
Jesus’ role in the church as counselor, helper, strengthener, supporter,
advisor, advocate. The church is essentially not an organization but an
organism, the Spirit-baptized body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). In each
local gathering, the Holy Spirit, as Christs agent, acts as Lord in it,
designating and equipping particular individuals for particular stated
ministries, and enabling every member of the body to render service that
enhances corporate growth and Christ-like maturity.
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QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. List one of the best-known Biblical evidences of the equality of the
Spirit with the Father and the Son.
2. Write out Matthew 28:19.
3. The Lordship of Christ can only be acknowledged through what
means?
4. What is the main thrust of the Spirits mission (Jn. 16:13-14)?
5. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of what three things (Jn. 16:8)?
6. How is the new birth described in John 3:8?
7. When does “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” transpire (1 Cor. 12:13)?
8. What is the function of the Holy Spirit as mentioned by Jesus in
John 14:26?
9. What does the Holy Spirit do once you hear the gospel and believe
in Christ (Eph. 1:13)?
10. Give the three passages where Spirit-endowed gifts are mentioned.
11. Explain the gift of tongues in Acts 2.
12. The signs and miracles were given to confirm the truth of what
message?
13. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
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chapter 6
iBelieve there is a Devil to Overcome
W
hen God created the world, He made everything “very good” (Gen.
1:31). Even the angelic world did not have evil angels or demons
in it at the time. But sometime between the events of Gen. 1:31, when
God saw that everything was good, and the appearance of the serpent (the
Devil, also called Satan) in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1), there must have
been a rebellion in the angelic world with many angels turning against
God and becoming evil. The Bible speaks of “the angels who sinned” (2
Pet. 2:4). Jude 6 describes certain angels who failed to keep the authority
they were given by God, thereby abandoning their lofty position. The
result is that God is keeping them in prisons of darkness awaiting the Day
of Judgment.
Of the fallen angels, Satan alone is given particular mention in the
Scriptures. It is possible that when Satan fell he drew after him a multitude
of lesser angelic beings. Of these, some are confined until the judgment,
as we have seen, while others are free and are the demons or devils to
whom reference is constantly made throughout the New Testament. They
are Satans emissaries in all his undertakings and share his doom (Matt.
25:41). Since his dramatic fall, Satan has been the persistent foe of God
and the greatest enemy of Gods people. One must know the teaching of
the Bible concerning this archenemy if one is to understand something of
the conditions around him and how to cope with and be victorious over
the adversary’s attacks.
THE ORIGIN OF SATAN
Among the heavenly host, Satans creation alone is mentioned
in particular. This fact suggests the supreme place that Satan holds in
relation to all the invisible creatures of God. In Ezekiel 28:11-18, there
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is a description of the King of Tyre, and while this may have had a
secondary application to an earthly king by that name, it is evident that
the primary application is to the supreme one among all the creatures of
God. The description given could apply to none other than Satan as he
existed before the sin that resulted in his fall.
The fall of Lucifer (another name for Satan) is described in Isaiah
14:12-15. Five times Lucifer uses the expression “I will” in verses 13
and 14. The cherub lifted up his heart in self-will against God and was
punished for his rebellion (compare 1 Tim. 3:6).
THE VARIOUS DESIGNATIONS OF SATAN
He is “a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).
In contrast to Satan, Jesus speaks of Himself as “the truth (14:6).
To fail to acknowledge this is to give unmistakable evidence of spiritual
descent from him whose very nature is falsehood, and whose entire
object is to deceive the human heart—Satan himself. When Satan tells a
lie, Jesus says in John 8:44, he is speaking his native language, for he is a
liar and the father of lies.
He is “the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), “the prince of this world
(Jn. 14:30), and “the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2).
He is so designated because of the special interest he has in this
world, the homage that is paid to him by multitudes in the world, the
great sway that, by divine permission, he wields in the world and in the
hearts of his subjects.
The “Devil” (Matt. 4:1).
The most common Greek word for Satan in Scripture is diabolos
(devil, adversary, accuser). How apt a description this is of our number
one enemy. He does his utmost to malign and impugn Gods children,
just as he did to Job (Job 1:6-12).
The “dragon” and a “serpent (Rev. 20:2).
This is no doubt a reference to Satans capacity to menace, as well as
to the subtle tactics he employed when tempting Adam and Eve in the
Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1ff).
All of the many names given to Satan in the Bible convey something
of his character and activity.
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THE CHARACTER OF SATAN
He is the enemy of God and man.
The word Satan means adversary. As the adversary, he is motivated
by a disposition hostile to all attempts on the part of humans to worship
and glorify God. The apostle Paul states that flesh and blood foes are
merely Satans tools. The real foe lurking behind them is Satan himself
(Eph. 6:12). This passage also teaches that Satan has unseen assistants.
The innumerable host of demons who do his bidding increases his power
immeasurably. As Beelzebub, he is chief of the devils or demons (Luke
11:15). Unlike God, he is not omnipresent, but through the demonic
hosts, he is in touch with the whole earth.
He is shrewd and cunning.
Paul warned of his treachery in 2 Corinthians 11:3. He is such a
master of disguise that, though he is the “prince of darkness,” he is able
to transform himself into an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). It should
come as no great surprise that hypocrisy is so prevalent in the world,
when we recall that Satan—the master hypocrite—is able to transform
himself into almost any form and appear even as an angel of light in
order to promote his kingdom of darkness.
He is extremely wicked.
He has sinned from the beginning, and still goes on sinning (1 John
3:8). He is the author and patron of sin, and has been a practitioner of it and
an instigator to it even from the beginning of the world.
He is powerful.
Although not all-powerful (omnipotent) as God is, Satans power is
far beyond that of humans (Luke 4:5, 6).
THE WORKS OF SATAN
In His divine wisdom and providence, God sometimes allows Satan
to do harmful things to humans.
He seeks to undermine and distort the Word of God (Mark 4:13-
15; Gen. 3:4-5).
The Devil is determined that the Word will exert no influence in
the lives of people who are exposed to it. He “snatches” the Word away
before it can take root in a persons heart. If someone is exposed to the
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Word, the Devil is certain to distort its true meaning. He successfully
used this ruse on Adam and Eve.
He blinds humans to their need of the Gospel of Christ
(2 Cor. 4:3, 4).
Because Satan is the prince of darkness and the ruler of the darkness
of this world, he deliberately and maliciously keeps people in the dark,
blinding their minds with ignorance, superstition, prejudices, and error,
so that they may not believe “the glorious gospel of Christ.
He is “the tempter (1 Thess. 3:5).
As he tempted our Lord, so he levels his attack at the Lord’s followers.
Satan is a subtle enemy and uses many stratagems to deceive us. For that
reason we should not be ignorant of his devices (2 Cor. 2:11).
He attempts to hinder and devour the children of God.
(1 Thess. 2:18; 1 Pet. 5:8).
Satan is a constant enemy to the work of God and does all he can to
obstruct it. He is no common adversary. He is more cruel and vigilant
than the worst human antagonist. Like a “roaring lion,” he is hungry,
restless, fierce, strong, and cruel, the determined and greedy pursuer of
souls. His whole design is to devour and destroy the lives and reputations
of those who align themselves with God.
He sometimes enters into humans and uses them as pawns in his
schemes (John 13:27).
The Devil is in every wicked person that does his bidding (Eph. 2:2),
yet sometimes he enters more powerfully than at other times, especially
when he arouses them to accomplish some monstrous evil.
HOW TO HAVE VICTORY OVER SATAN
iBelieve that victory is possible, although it cannot be achieved
through human strength alone (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
The weapons of our warfare are powerful because we wage war, not
by force of arms, not in our own strength, but in the power of Almighty
God (Zech. 4:6). As the hymn writer states it:
The arm of flesh will fail you,
You dare not trust your own.
ibelieve there is a devil to overCome 41
Whatever Satan uses as strongholds to oppose us or to thwart the
advancement of the gospel, whether vain imaginations, fleshly reasoning,
or proud conceits, these strongholds are pulled down by the power of
God. No stronghold, not even Satan himself, is able to withstand the
mighty force of a spiritual weapon wielded in the name of Jesus Christ.
iBelieve that God has made provision for my victory over the Devil.
He has supplied you with all the spiritual armor you need (Eph.
6:10-17). We have an enemy to fight against (the Devil), a captain to
fight for (the Lord Jesus Christ), a banner to fight under (the gospel), and
certain rules of warfare by which we are to govern ourselves (the Word
of God).
In the battle in which we are engaged, no one can be victorious unless
well armed. Paul admonishes us to “put on the whole armor of God,”
and make use of all the proper weapons for repelling the temptations
and stratagems of Satan (vs. 11). The whole armor must be put on,
not leaving any part of the body exposed to the enemy. It is even more
urgent, considering that our enemies are principalities, powers, rulers,
and wicked spirits in high places.
It is the armor of God. We are not free to choose our own weapons. God
has set limitations on the types of armor and weapons we are to employ.
The purpose for putting on the armor is plainly stated: that we may be able
to stand against the wiles of the Devil (vs. 11).
Paul specifies each piece of the armor that is to be put on. The order
in which the pieces of armor are described is the order in which a soldier
in ancient times would put them on. First, the Christian soldier is to be
girded with truth(v. 14). Before the armor can be put on, the garments
underneath must be bound together. God desires truth in the inward
parts. Truth is the Christian soldier’s belt. Girded with this, he is not
susceptible to Satans absurd and persistent lies.
The next weapon to put on is “the breastplate of righteousness(vs.
14). Uprightness of character, loyalty to the Word of God, is the thought
here. To neglect what we know to be righteous action is to leave a gaping
hole in our armor.
The next piece of armor is proper footwear: “the preparation of the
gospel of peace (vs. 15). It is the gospel that gives one firm footing in the
ongoing conflict with the Devil.
Next comes “the shield of faith (vs. 16), which covers all the rest of
the body. By faith, Paul means total reliance on God, which is the essence
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of faith. This part of the soldier’s weaponry, according to Paul, is the
most important of all. “Above all,” he says, “take the shield of faith.” The
flaming darts the shield repels, signify peoples sharp tongues, impurity,
selfishness, doubt, fear, disappointment, all of which are planned by the
Devil and his cohorts to burn and destroy. Paul knew that only faiths
reliance on God could quench and deflect such destructive “darts.”
The next weapon, “the helmet of salvation(v. 17), refers not only to
God’s gift of salvation from the penalty of sin, but even more of His saving
help to protect from the power of sin. Without that hope to fortify, and the
confidence of rescue from the bondage of the past, the Christian may easily
be wounded in the conflict (see Ps. 140:7). The Devil would tempt us to
despair, but the hope of present and future deliverance keeps us trusting in
God and rejoicing in Him.
The last, but certainly not least, part of the Christians armor is “the
sword of the Spirit(v. 17). At the time Paul wrote these words, a sword was a
very necessary and useful part of the soldier’s weaponry. The Word of God,
like Goliaths sword, is unlike any other. Jesus resisted Satans temptations
in the wilderness with a word from Scripture (“It is written,” Matt. 4:1-
11). May that be an incentive and example for us to fortify ourselves with
the knowledge and understanding of the Word that we may be able to
stand in the day of temptation. Scripture arguments are the most powerful
arguments to repel temptation. About to sin? Think Scripture. By faith,
put on this armor every day without fail, but especially when facing some
critical event in your life. A soldier preparing for battle does not forget
to put on his armor and take up his weapons. His life depends on being
properly equipped for the conflict. So it is in the experience of the believer.
One must always be prepared, for every day offers its challenges and its
temptations. The warfare in which we are engaged will not end until death
snatches us away or until Christ comes to receive us to Himself.
When you resist the Devil, he will flee from you (James 4:7). It is
when you give a foothold to the Devil that trouble looms (Eph. 4:27).
You may also take comfort in the truth that God has given to all believers
the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is said to be greater than any foe you
might come up against in this world, and greater than the Devil himself
(1 John 4:4).
REVIEW
Satan is a finite creature, created by God before humans existed, and
the recognized head of the fallen angels of whom we read in 2 Peter 2:4
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and Jude 6. It is generally believed that the language of Isaiah 14:12-14
and Ezekiel 28:13-17 has its deepest and truest meaning in reference to
Satan, one of the highest of the angelic creatures. Lucifer (Isa. 14:12)
means “light bearer” indicating that Satan was of a high rank among
the angels. This may explain how he can so easily transform himself
into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). Pride and desire for worship led
to his fall (Matt. 4:8-9). It is no exaggeration to say that he desired to
usurp the very place of God Himself. His mission in the world is to
afflict and tempt God’s people (Job 1:6-12; Gen. 3:4), as he did Jesus
in the wilderness (Lk. 4:1-13), and to blind the minds of unbelievers (2
Cor. 4:4). Demons are Satans agents—evil spirit beings that are hostile
to God and to the people of God. In some translations they are often
referred to in the New Testament as “unclean spirits” (Mk. 1:23-27).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. What personal pronoun does Lucifer use five times in Isaiah 14:13-
14?
2. Write out John 8:44.
3. What is Satan called in 2 Corinthians 4:4? Why is he called this?
4. Give the meaning of the word “devil.”
5. What do the names given to Satan in the Bible convey?
6. What is the name of the chief of devils or demons (Lk. 11:15)?
7. What does the word “Satan” mean?
8. What tactic did Satan use to deceive Eve (2 Cor. 11:3)? Explain.
9. Why is Satan called an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:13-15)?
10. Give at least three things Satan does that are harmful to humans.
11. Write out 2 Corinthians 10:4.
12. Give the six pieces of armor we are to “put on” to fight the Devil
(Eph. 6:10-17).
13. Give one important lesson you have learned from this chapter.
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45
chapter 7
iBelieve All Have Sinned
T
hough created in Gods image and placed in a perfect environment—
the Garden of Eden—Adam and Eve disobeyed the explicit
command of God, ate the forbidden fruit, and plunged themselves
and their posterity into a fallen, sinful state. After the passing of many
centuries, and in spite of remarkable scientific and technological
progress in many areas of life, sin remains a stubborn, hideous reality.
Furthermore, the world has never been totally free of wars, rumors of
wars, disease, crimes of violence, and death. What human, however
good he or she may appear to be, can rightfully claim to be totally free
from envy, pride, lust, deceit, greed, malice, or hate? But how did such
a radical and terrible transformation come about? How did our first
parents, in such an idyllic setting, agree among themselves to violate
the clear command of their Creator? Moreover, if God created a perfect
world, how could sin develop?
GOD AND THE ORIGIN OF SIN
Is it possible that God is the author of sin? This is a question that
has perplexed humans since time immemorial. The Scriptures make it
abundantly clear, however, that by nature God is holy (Isa. 6:3). There
is no unrighteousness in Him (Deut. 32:4). Scripture states that God
cannot do wickedness nor commit iniquity (Job 34:10).
Furthermore, God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself
tempt anyone (James 1:13). The psalmist affirms that God hates sin (Ps.
5:4; 11:5).
God’s original Creation was very good (Gen. 1:31). Far from being
the author of sin, He is the author of salvation to all who obey Him
(Heb. 5:9).
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THE BEGINNING OF SIN
God could have prevented sin by creating a universe of robots
that would do only what they were programmed to do. But God’s love
demanded that He create beings who could respond freely to His love,
and such a response is possible only from beings who have the power
of choice.
Providing His creation with this kind of freedom, however, meant
that God must take the risk that some created beings would turn from
Him.
Angels, beings of a higher order than humans, were created to enjoy
intimate fellowship with God (Rev. 1:1; 3:5; 5:11). Of superior strength
and obedient to God’s Word (Ps. 103:20), they function as servants
or “ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14). Though generally invisible to the
human eye, at times they appear in human form (Gen. 18, 19; Heb.
13:2). It was through one of these angelic beings that sin was introduced
to the universe.
Although sins rise is mysterious and unjustifiable, its roots can be
traced to Lucifer. As a high-ranking being in the angelic world, he became
defiantly proud (Eze. 28:17; cf. 1 Tim. 3:6). Dissatisfied with the exalted
position the Creator had given him, he selfishly began to covet God’s
own place of authority (Isa. 14:12-14; cf. Jude 6). Lucifer’s rebellion
against God’s government was the first step in his transformation into
Satan, the adversary.
In an attempt to take control of the universe, this fallen angel sowed
seeds of discontent among his fellow angels, and won the allegiance of
many. The resulting conflict ended when Lucifer, now known as Satan,
or the Devil ( the adversary), and his angels were expelled from Heaven
(Rev. 12:4, 7-9).
THE ORIGIN OF SIN IN THE HUMAN RACE
Undeterred by his expulsion from Heaven, Satan determined
to entice others to join his rebellion against Gods government. His
attention was drawn to the newly created human race. How could he
lead Adam and Eve to rebel? They lived in a perfect world, with all
their needs provided for by their Creator. How could they ever become
discontented and distrust the One who was the source of their happiness?
The account of the first sin gives the answer.
When God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden
of Eden, He only imposed one prohibition on them. The tree in the
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middle of the garden, “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” was off
limits. To eat of this tree would be an act of deliberate disobedience and
would result in estrangement from God as well as death (Gen. 2:16-17).
In his assault on the first human beings, Satan decided to catch them
off guard. Approaching Eve when she was near the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil, Satan, in the guise of a serpent—the most subtle of all
the creatures God had made—questioned her about God’s prohibition
against eating fruit from the tree (Gen. 3:1-2).
When Eve replied that God said they would die by eating the fruit
of the tree, Satan challenged the divine prohibition, insisting that she
would not die as God had warned. He aroused her curiosity by suggesting
that God was trying to keep her from a wonderful new experience: that
of being like God (3:4, 5).
Immediately, doubt about God’s Word took root. Eve became
infatuated with the grand possibilities the fruit was said to offer. The
temptation began to play havoc with her mind. Belief in Gods Word
now changed to belief in Satans word. Suddenly she imagined that the
tree was not something to be shunned, but that its fruit was nourishing,
it was pleasant to look upon, and it would make her much wiser than
before (3:6a).
Dissatisfied with her position, Eve yielded to the temptation of
becoming like God. She took the fruit and ate it. Adam is said to have
been with Eve at the time of the temptation and should have been her
protector. Instead, he foolishly allowed her to eat without expressing his
disapproval, and then ate the fruit himself (3:6b).
In trusting their senses rather than Gods Word, Adam and Eve
severed their dependence upon God, fell from their high position,
and plunged into sin. The fall of the human race, therefore, first and
foremost was characterized by a breakdown in faith—faith in God and
His Word. This unbelief led to disobedience, which in turn, resulted in
a broken relationship and finally a separation between God and man.
Though the term is not used in Scripture, the word fall is appropriate,
because it echoes the language and teaching of Scripture. The New
Testament consistently treats sin as a fall, a descent.
When Adam and Eve deliberately chose to disregard God’s
prohibition, immediate and long-term consequences were imposed
on them because of their sin. The dire repercussions that resulted
reveal the seriousness of their transgression.
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THE IMMEDIATE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN
Sin brought about a change in human nature.
This affected interpersonal relationships, as well as their relationship
with God. The initial exhilarating, eye- opening experience in due course
brought Adam and Eve only feelings of shame (Gen. 3:7). Instead of
becoming God’s equals, as Satan had promised, they became afraid of
God and attempted to hide from Him (3:8-10).
When God interrogated Adam and Eve about their sin, instead of
admitting their fault, they tried to pass the blame along. Adam faulted
Eve (3:12). His words imply that both Eve and, indirectly God, were
responsible for his sin, clearly showing how sin had broken his relationship
with his wife and his Creator. Eve, in turn, sought to absolve herself from
blame by pointing the finger at the serpent (3:13).
A curse was placed on Satans instrument, the serpent.
Condemned to move on its belly, the serpent would be a perpetual
reminder of the fall (3:14). The serpent had been the most cunning of
animals (3:1); now it was the most cursed. It is possible the serpent had
legs up until the moment of the curse.
The womans pain would be greatly increased in childbirth.
And though her desire would be for her husband, he would be her
master (3:16). The marriage relationship would be adversely affected as
the two struggled to help each other.
The earth was cursed to increase the anxiety and toil of Adams
labors (3:17-19).
No longer would Adam and Eve live in an unspoiled paradise, but
on an earth that is cursed. The good fruits and vegetables it produces
must now be extorted from it by the ingenuity and industry of humans.
This is merely a sample of the actual effects on the creation. Paul states
that all of creation has been affected by the entrance of sin into the
world, and is now in bondage to change and decay (Rom. 8:20-22).
They were expelled from Eden and became subject to death.
In reaffirming the unchangeableness of His law that such a
transgression would lead to certain death, God reminded Adam that
he was made from the dust of the ground and to dust he would return
(3:19). God executed this verdict by expelling the disobedient pair
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from their home in Eden, severing their direct communication with
Him (3:23-24). In addition, God prevented them from reentering the
Garden to eat of the tree of life, the source of eternal life. Thus Adam
and Eve became subject to death (3:22).
THE LONG TERM CONSEQUENCES OF SIN
Many Scripture passages, particularly the account of the Fall in
Genesis, make it abundantly clear that sin is a moral evil, the result of
a free moral agents choosing to violate the revealed will of God (Gen.
3:1-6; Rom. 1:18-22).
Biblical definitions of sin include the following: it is breaking the
law of God (1 John 3:4); it is neglecting to do good when one knows
to do good and fails to do it (James 4:17); it is any act that does
not spring from faith (Rom. 14:23). Sin may also be defined as any
deviation from the known will of God, either neglecting to do what
He has specifically commanded or of doing what he has specifically
forbidden.
Sin knows no neutrality. Jesus said that anyone who was not with Him
was against Him (Matt. 12:30). Failure to believe in Him is sin (John 16:9).
Any sin, great or small, results in the verdict, “guilty.” The Bible makes it
clear that though a person keeps the whole law, yet fails in only one point,
he is still guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10).
Sin involves thoughts as well as actions. Frequently sin is spoken of
only in terms of actual acts of lawbreaking. But Christ said that lustful
desires transgress the command not to commit adultery (Matt. 5:28;
cf. Ex. 20:14). Sin, therefore, involves not only overt disobedience in
actions but also thoughts and desires.
Sin darkens mans reason.
Although naturally attainable, the knowledge of God was obscured
by sin (Rom. 1:18-23). Darkened reason led to irrational urges that
flared up in numerous ways, but notably in lusts of the flesh (Rom. 1:24-
27). Nothing is sacred to the person who wallows in sexual indulgence.
No law is too binding not to be broken (or breakable) by one who is
enslaved by the flesh (Rom. 1:28-32).
Sin produces guilt.
From the Biblical perspective, guilt implies that the one who has
committed sin is liable to punishment. And because all are sinners, the
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whole world is guilty before God (Rom. 3:19). If not attended to properly,
guilt devastates the physical, mental, and spiritual faculties. And ultimately,
it produces death, for the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).
Sin affects all of humanity.
Some may feel that the sentence of death was too severe a penalty for
eating the forbidden fruit. But we can only gauge the seriousness of the
transgression in light of the effect of Adams sin on the human race.
Adam and Eves first son committed murder. Their descendants soon
violated the sacred marriage union by engaging in polygamy, and
it was not long before wickedness and violence filled the earth (Gen.
4:8, 23; 6:1-5, 11-13). God’s appeals for repentance and reformation
went unheeded, and only eight persons were saved from the Flood that
destroyed the unrepentant in Noahs day. The history of the race after
the Flood is, with few exceptions, a sad account of the culmination of
the sinfulness of human nature.
The Bible teaches, and history verifies, that Adams descendants
share the sinfulness of his nature (Ps. 143:2; cf. 14:3; 1 Kings 8:46; Prov.
20:9; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23; 1 John 1:8). Paul said, “In Adam all die
(1 Cor. 15:22). He reaffirms this when he declares that sin entered the
world through Adam, resulting in death; and then death spread to all
mankind, because all have sinned (Rom 5:12).
THE CONTROL CENTER OF SIN
The seat of sin is in what the Bible calls the heart—what we know
as the mind and emotions of a person. Accordingly, the Bible cautions
to guard the heart, for the good or bad decisions we make proceed from
that source (Prov. 4:23). Jesus reveals that it is the persons thoughts that
defile (Matt. 15:19). It is by the heart that the entire person—the intellect,
will, affections, emotions, and body—is influenced. Because the heart is
deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9), human nature can be described
as corrupt, depraved, and thoroughly sinful.
THE REMEDY FOR SIN
Fellowship with God is restored only through the new creation. For
humans, the new creation means the restoration of that which we lost in
Eden. In our fallen condition we stand in desperate need of a new creation.
Only God can rectify the situation. To bring fallen humanity back into
fellowship with Himself, He sent His only Son to be their Savior. Those
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who respond to this gracious message, God creates anew (2 Cor. 5:17;
Eph. 2:10). His regenerating grace brings forth a new world within the
soul. All things are new. As Matthew Henry says, “the renewed person acts
according to new principles, by new rules, with new purposes, and in new
company.”
For the universe, the new creation means “a new heaven and a new
earth.” Since Adam and Eve by transgression fell, the whole creation has
staggered under the load of sin. But one day God will once more act in
creative power. He will create new heavens and a new earth (Isa. 65:17; 2
Peter 3:10, 13). This creation will endure forever.
REVIEW
Nothing is so evident and nothing so important as the reality of sin.
Sin is as old as the human race; in fact, it is older because it originated
in the mind of Satan before the creation of man. We have seen that
Satan was the first sinner. With his heart swelling with pride, he desired
equality with God (Isa. 14:12-14). Through the malignant influence of
Satan, sin entered the world through the first man Adam, and Adams
transgression in turn has corrupted the whole human family. Biblical
faith confesses that sin is now inherent in the human condition. We
are not simply born into a sinful world; we are born with a propensity
toward sin. The Apostle Paul affirmed this when he said that sin came
into the world by one man, Adam. Sin brought death, then death spread
to all humans because all have sinned (Rom. 5:12, 18-19).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. Why is it that God cannot be the author of sin?
2. Although sins rise is mysterious, its roots can be traced to whom
(Ezk. 28:17; 1 Tim. 3:6)? And why did he do this?
3. What was the one prohibition God placed on Adam and Eve in the
Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:16-17)?
4. What were the three promises made by the Devil to Eve (Gen. 3:4-
5)?
5. Was Adam with Eve when she ate the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6)?
6. What was it that caused this “breakdown in faith” on the part of
Adam and Eve?
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7. What kind of feelings resulted when Adam and Eve sinned (Gen.
3:7-10)?
8. How did Adam and Eve respond when confronted with their
disobedience (Gen. 3:11-13)?
9. What was the curse imposed on the serpent (Gen. 3:14-15)?
10. What was the punishment imposed on the woman (Gen. 3:16)?
11. What was the punishment imposed on the man (Gen. 3:17-19)?
12. Did the earth experience the effect of the curse?
13. How did God prevent Adam and Eve from re-entering the Garden of
Eden after being expelled (Gen. 3:24)?
14. In the Bible, the seat of sin is called what (Jer. 17:9; Matt. 15:19)?
15. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
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chapter 8
iBelieve Jesus Died For Our Sins
T
he question, “What must I do to be saved, to experience God’s
favor and be assured of a home in Heaven?” has both perplexed and
fascinated humans since the days of Adam and Eve. Those who remain
perplexed about the matter are the ones who are reluctant to submit to
the authority of God’s Word. A correct answer to the question can only
be discovered in Holy Scripture. For the next several chapters we will
consider the all-important topic of salvation.
The question, “Why did Jesus have to die?” relates to what the Bible
calls the atonement. This first in a series of chapters on salvation stresses
the atonement. When we say that the atonement is the crucial doctrine
of Christianity, we are not only propounding a theory that is generally
accepted among Christian groups, we are also, perhaps unwittingly,
illustrating our belief with the use of a choice word—crucial. Crucial is
from the Latin crux, meaning “a cross.” So, whenever we say, “this the
crucial point” or “the crux of the matter is this,” our language means, “just
as the cross is central to Christianity, so the point I am making is central to
the present discussion.” The centrality of the cross to the Christian faith
has shaped the language we use.
Right at the heart of Christianity is a cross, and on that cross the Son
of God wrought mans salvation. Put simply, the atonement means that
Jesus Christ in His death dealt completely with the problem that mans
sin had brought about. Whatever had to be done He did it, and now
those who come to Him in faith may enter into the blessing of salvation.
The Apostle Paul believed the doctrine of the atonement is essential, and
includes it in his classic definition of the gospel in the first four verses of 1
Corinthians 15. “Gospel” means “good news” and this was the best news
humans ever received.
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THE MEANING OF CHRIST’S ATONEMENT
Three principles underlie the atonement. These are closely related
to, and associated with, the fact of sin.
The principle of “covering.”
The safety of the Israelites on that first Passover night in Egypt
depended solely on the shedding and application of the lambs blood
and their position beneath the covering (Exo. 12:1-13; 1 Cor. 5:7). The
parallel is obvious. The blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross
of Calvary covers the believers sins. To be under the blood is to be in a
place of complete safety.
The principle of “reconciliation through payment of the penalty.
The one time the word atonement is used in the New Testament,
it means reconciliation (Rom 5:11). Sinners are alienated from their
Creator (Eph. 4:18). The death of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, is the
one act which could produce reconciliation between sinful man and
a holy God.
The principle of “substitution.”
Christ did not die as a martyr for some worthy cause. He died “for
our sins.” The concept of substitution is found many times in the New
Testament. We see it in the saying of Jesus when He declared that He
came to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Paul expresses
a similar thought when he states that God made Jesus, who knew no
sin, to be sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). This identifies Christ in His death
with sinners. When Paul wrote that Christ redeemed us from the curse
pronounced by the law, taking upon Himself our curse (Gal. 3:13), he
meant that Christ bore the curse that we should have borne. And this is
substitution. He died in our place. He died the death we deserved (Isa.
53:5).
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHRIST’S ATONEMENT AND
THE OLD TESTAMENT PROTOTYPE
A prototype is an original or model after which anything is copied or
patterned. Though there are similarities between the Day of Atonement
in the Old Testament and the atonement of Christ in the New Testament,
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there are also significant differences. The Old Testament priest shed the
blood of an animal; Christ shed His own blood. The Hebrew priest
made atonement first for his own sins and then for the sin of the nation.
The sinless Christ needed no personal atonement, but offered His own
blood for the sins of the human race. Christ has received a ministry far
superior to that of the ancient priesthood (Heb. 8:6)
THE ADEQUACY OF CHRIST’S ATONEMENT
The Hebrew priest entered into the Holy of Holies once every year.
The sacrifice on the Day of Atonement was an annual celebration. Christ
offered Himself only once. His one offering was adequate to atone for
sin forever (Heb. 9:26).
The final sacrifice has been made.
When our Lord cried out on the cross, “It is finished,He was not
admitting that His death would put an end to what He was trying to
accomplish. Rather, the ultimate and final sacrifice for sin was now
completed.
There is no need to search for or substitute other
plans of salvation.”
Any effort to substitute another medium of salvation is a denial of
the revelation of Holy Scripture and a defiance of God’s eternal purpose
in Christ Jesus (Rev. 1:5).
Calvary, the Christians “Day of Atonement,”
does not need to be repeated.
Any repetition of Calvary, as for instance in the Catholic Mass, is a
refusal to accept Christs atonement as being forever complete.
THE EXTENT OF THE ATONEMENT
That the death of Christ was designed to include all mankind
is the historic view of the church, being held by the vast majority of
theologians, reformers, evangelists, and fathers from the beginning of
the church until the present day. Even John Calvin, who is appealed to
by those who believe in limited atonement or particular redemption,
had this to say regarding Mark 14:24 (“This is my blood . . . which is shed
for many”): “By the word ‘many’ he means not a part of the world only,
but the whole human race.”
When the Bible says, Christ died for all, it means just that. The word
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should be taken in its normal sense unless some compelling reason exists
to take it otherwise. Isaiah 53:6; John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:15; 1 Timothy 2:1-
6; 4:10; 1 John 2:2; and Hebrews 2:4 make no sense if not taken in the
normal way. No one denies that Christ died for the elect. But it is wrong
to claim that he died only for the elect.
APPROPRIATING THE BENEFIT
OF CHRIST’S ATONEMENT
At Calvary God stooped in infinite mercy to the needs of a sinful
race (Eph. 2:4-7). The question arises, “How may I be sure that Christs
offering for sin was for me?” Understanding a general principle is one
thing; making it personal and practical is another. Food on the table
may be appealing, but the sight of food, or even the knowledge of what
food can do for you, will not satisfy hunger. Food must be eaten before
it can be useful for your body.
The wonderful truth of the Atonement, that someone has taken
our place, suffered what we deserved, is appealing. But, unless and until
we acknowledge our sinful condition, open our heart to Jesus Christ,
submit to Him as the Son of God whose blood atones for our sin, accept
Him by faith as our Lord and Savior, we will not receive the benefits of
His atonement (John 1:12; 4:24; Eph. 2:8).
Implicit in the doctrine of the atonement is the inference that Jesus
is the only Savior. Jesus said of Himself that He was “the way, the truth,
and the life,” and that no human being can enjoy a saving relationship
with God unless they come through Him (John 14:6). He is not one way
among other ways or one truth among other truths. Christianity stands
or falls on the answer the church and its people give to a single question.
The question has been unavoidable for almost two thousand years. It is the
question Jesus Himself posed to His disciples at Caesarea Philippi: “Who
do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15).
REVIEW
We have already seen that sin is a virulent malady that affects the whole
human race. And because God the Creator is holy, something must be
done to bridge the gap between sinful humanity and a holy God. That
bridge in Scripture is called “atonement.” The need for atonement arises
from the fact that all humans are sinners. In the Old Testament sin is dealt
with by the offering of a sacrifice. The truth is repeated and enlarged in the
New Testament. There it is made clear that all people are sinners (Rom.
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3:23) and that judgment awaits them (Heb. 9:27). However, it is the will
of God that all humans be saved, and salvation can only be accomplished
by the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross (2 Cor. 5:18-21).
The cross, then, is absolutely essential in Gods scheme of redemption.
Christ took our place and did for us what we could not do for ourselves.
He redeemed us, paying the price that enables us to cross that otherwise
uncrossable bridge and become accepted into Gods family. Moreover,
Christ did not die for only a select few. He died “for all” (2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1
Jn. 2:2). The atonement then, extends to all mankind.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. What is the meaning of “atonement”?
2. Briefly give the significance of the first Passover night in Egypt as it
relates to the death of Jesus Christ.
3. Define the word “prototype.”
4. How often was the Day of Atonement celebrated?
5. What is the meaning of Christ’s words from the cross, “It is finished”?
6. For whom did Christ die (2 Cor. 5:15; 1 Tim. 2:3-4)?
7. Write out 1 Timothy 2:3-4.
8. What does God promise in John 1:12?
9. What important truth about salvation is found in Ephesians 2:8-9?
10. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
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Grace rough Faith
T
he new birth (also referred in the Bible as “regeneration”) is an act of
God by which He imparts spiritual life to the believer in Jesus Christ.
It is the divine side of that change of heart, which, viewed from the human
side, we call conversion. As such it is simultaneous with the other aspects of
this religious experience, such as justification, redemption, adoption, and
sanctification.
It is of the utmost importance that we have a clear understanding of
this vital doctrine. By the new birth we are admitted into the Kingdom
of God (John 3:3-7). There is no other way of becoming a Christian but
by being “born again.” It is the door of entrance into the family of God.
Those who do not enter here do not enter at all.
THE MEANS OF THE NEW BIRTH
If one is to be born again, one must give assent to a message. He
must “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.In his unsaved condition the
sinner cannot impart spiritual life to himself or admit himself to God’s
Kingdom. But by His atoning death for the sins of the world (1 John
2:2), Jesus paved the way for God to forgive those who repent and
believe the gospel, to impart to them eternal life, which is required for
His Kingdom (John 3:16).
Personal faith in Christ as Redeemer is the condition of regeneration
(John 1:12, 13). This is the message of the Word of God, and only by
subscribing to this Word, does one have hope of being “born again (1
Pet. 1:23).
Jesus announced that the Holy Spirit acts as the agent in regeneration
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(John 3:5, 6). It is the Spirit that brings conviction and opens the heart
to receive the message of salvation. The Spirit imparts spiritual life in
place of spiritual death, and turns humans from sin to God.
Some Christians know the precise time of their new birth. The
resultant change was dramatic because it came when they were older
and perhaps after a prolonged life of sin. Those who were brought up
in a Christian home and professed faith in Christ at an early age may
not remember the exact time or place of their salvation experience.
The details are somewhat vague. In whichever one of these groups you
may be, if you are trusting solely in Christ as Lord and Savior, you may
rejoice in the inner witness of the Spirit, and know that you are a born
again child of God (Rom. 8:16).
THE NEW BIRTH REQUIRES REPENTANCE
The Greek verb repent (metanoeo) and the noun repentance
(metanoia) are used many times in the New Testament. The common
meaning is a change of mind. Repentance is a change of mind and
attitude toward God and the things of which the gospel speaks (cp. Matt.
21:28, 29). The sinner normally is rebellious toward God, is hostile or
indifferent toward the things of God, and often exalts himself above
God (Rom. 3:11-12, 18; 1 Cor. 2:14).
Also, the sinner seeks to justify his wrongdoing or makes excuses for
it. When he repents, he humbles himself before God and repudiates his
sins. A keen awareness of the holiness of God and the enormity of his
sins causes the sinner sorrow of heart, from which true repentance arises
(2 Cor. 7:10). This change of mind and attitude was initiated by God
Himself (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). Without true repentance there is no
salvation (Luke 13:3).
Repentance involves confession of sin to God.
It involves confession to God and sometimes to fellow humans if
the circumstances require it. The publican implied that he had broken
God’s law (Luke 18:13). The prodigal son confessed that he had sinned
against God as well as his own father (Luke 15:11-21).
Priests, ministers, or other Christians do not have the right or the
power to forgive sins, yet under certain conditions confession to them
may be helpful. Any Christian has the authority to declare to a repentant
sinner that his sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake.
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Repentance involves forsaking sin (John 8:11; Prov. 28:13; Isa.
55:7).
The publican Zacchaeus in Luke 19, immediately after trusting
in Jesus declared his willingness to make restitution for his practice of
embezzlement, implying also that he was giving up his former dishonest
habit.
Repentance involves turning to God.
No human is able to do what God has promised He would do for
the repentant sinner. God alone can offer pardon and give peace. The
apostle Paul stresses this point. The goal of his preaching was to turn
unbelieving, skeptical, lost men and women from darkness to light, and
from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive the forgiveness
of sins and an everlasting inheritance among the saints (Acts 26:18).
Some Christians weaken the concept of repentance by emphasizing
that it is only a change of mind, not necessarily of conduct. However,
if changing ones mind does not alter ones life, what does it do? There
is an inviolable principle that our actions are nothing more than the
flowering of our deepest thoughts.
Jesus told Peter that the things which proceed out of our mouths
spring from the heart, such things as evil thoughts, murder, sexual
immorality, theft, lying, and slander (Matt. 15:18-20). The words must
have had their desired effect on Peter, because after his powerful message
on the day of Pentecost, his audience was convicted in their hearts (Acts
2:37). The heart is the seat of our deepest reflections and thus the source
of all of our actions. So the Jews asked, “What shall we do?” They urgently
wanted to do something to rectify their previous actions. Their change
of mind about Christ and their sins demanded a change of action.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FAITH IN THE NEW BIRTH
Some misrepresent Scripture by separating repentance and faith as
if the former were a condition of receiving the latter. Repentance and
faith are simply two aspects of the same act. Repentance is a moral act
involving the turning of the whole person—spirit, mind and will—to
the will of God. If repentance does not result in a change of behavior,
it is not true repentance. What gas is to your car’s engine, faith is to
Christianity. You cannot understand what Christianity is unless you
understand what faith is. If there is one passage that makes this crystal
clear it is Romans 3:21-30.
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Faith is essential to Christianity. Not only can you not understand
Christianity if you do not understand what faith is, you cannot be a
Christian unless you have faith. So important is faith that we are told
in Romans 3:28 that there is no justification apart from faith. It is only
possible to enter into God’s presence and not be condemned for our sins
if we are justified by faith.
WHAT FAITH IS
Simply stated, faith is taking God at His Word. It is a believing
response to what God has revealed in Scripture. According to Hebrews
11: 1, faith gives substance to our hopes and is proof of things we cannot
see with our physical eyes.
In this chapter, we are particularly interested in the roll faith plays in
our salvation experience. There are three elements of true faith:
Knowledge.
No person can be saved without knowing something. As we have
seen, faith is not closing ones eyes to the facts. Faith is never afraid to
look truth squarely in the face. A person is not saved by knowledge, but
he cannot be saved without it. It is the Word of God that brings right
knowledge (Rom 10:17). If one is not exposed to the gospel message
about Christ, one cannot be saved. To be saved, one must know that
Christ, the Son of God, died to pay the penalty for each humans sins,
was buried, and was raised again for the sinner’s justification (1 Cor.
15:1-4; Rom. 4:25). But the bare knowledge of the historical fact will
not save a soul. Two steps must follow.
Acceptance of the fact.
Acceptance must follow knowledge. A person must give rational
assent to the facts of the gospel, that Jesus has paid the sin debt. Many
people have long been exposed to the truth of the gospel, but they have
not accepted it. To know the truth is not sufficient. Acceptance, or
mental assent, is the next step.
Personal appropriation.
Knowledge is not enough, nor is mental assent. A decision must be
made. This implies action—a movement toward an object. Jesus Christ
is to be the object of ones faith if salvation is to be experienced.
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The Scriptures affirm that Christ, not the church, not religious rituals,
is to be the sole object of our faith. In the final analysis, whether or not we
believe in Him will determine our eternal destiny.
The Bible teaches that faith is essential for the following reasons:
.
We are saved by faith (Rom. 3:28; Eph. 2:8)
.
We live by faith (Gal. 2:20)
.
We are kept by faith (1 Pet. 1:5)
.
We resist the Devil and overcome him by faith (1 Pet. 5:8, 9)
.
We walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7)
God has joined together repentance and faith in the act of salvation;
and what God has joined together, humans must not separate. It is useless
to argue which comes first, repentance or faith. What we do know is that
we cannot have one without the other. Wherever there is true faith,
there will be repentance; and wherever there is true repentance, there
will be faith.
In order to please God, one must exercise faith. In no other way, or
by no other means or method, is it possible to please God (Heb. 11:6).
D. L. Moody once commented that in his earlier days as a Christian,
he often prayed for more faith, but faith did not come. One day he
read in the Bible that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. At once
he saw the light: faith is increased in proportion to our knowledge,
understanding, and acceptance of the Word of God.
REVIEW
The Scriptures are unequivocal in presenting faith as a necessary
condition of salvation. One must believe if one expects to be saved
(Acts 16:29-31). All God asks of sinners is that they believe on the
Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, so that His merit and righteousness
may be credited to their account. Faith is explained in Hebrews 11:1 as
being certain of things we hope for and the conviction that something
is real even though we do not see it. We have not seen the Savior with
our physical eyes, but faith enables us to believe that He is who He
claimed to be. Faith, then, is confidence in Jesus Christ, and confidence
in what the Scriptures say about Him. The Bible is explicit in stating
that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone, not through human
merit (Gal. 2:16).
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QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. Who acts as the agent in regeneration (Jn. 3:5-6)?
2. Briefly summarize your own new birth experience.
3. What comes first before forgiveness of sin (Acts 5:31)?
4. What is the common meaning of the word “repentance”?
5. What is it that causes true repentance (2 Cor. 7:10)?
6. What was Zacchaeus’ response after repentance (Lk. 19:8)?
7. Romans 3:28 says a person is justified by what?
8. Write out Hebrews 11:1.
9. Give a definition of faith in your own words.
10. What are three elements of true faith?
11. Faith comes through what means (Rom. 10:17)?
12. The Bible teaches that faith is essential for what reasons?
13. How did the evangelist, D. L. Moody, increase his faith in God?
14. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
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Founded the Church
T
he all-important subject of salvation has been the theme in recent
chapters. The crucial questions now arise: What are new believers
to do once they have experienced conversion? Where do they go for
spiritual nourishment and fellowship? Where can they find people like
themselves? This is where the local church plays a vitally important role.
New believers are not left to their own resources or to grope in the dark;
nor are they to be an island to themselves.
The church is to become the focal point of the Christians spiritual
life, providing inspiration, fellowship, instruction, opportunity for
corporate worship, and a means whereby they can put to use their
spiritual gifts. Committed participation in a local congregation is
essential to becoming what God wants us to be (Heb. 10:24, 25). For
these reasons, it is essential that we know something of the churchs
founding and its true head.
IT WAS FOUNDED BY CHRIST
In the Scriptures the word “church” is a translation of the Greek
ekklesia which means “a called out assembly.” The Septuagint, the Greek
version of the Hebrew Old Testament popular in Jesus’ time, used
ekklesia to translate the Hebrew qahal, which stood for “gathering,”
assembly,” or “congregation (Deut. 9:10; 18:16; 1 Sam. 17:47; 1 Kings
8:14; 1 Chron. 13:2). Among the Greeks an ekklesia was an assembly
of free citizens called out from their homes and places of business to
give consideration to matters of public interest (Acts 19:32, 39, 41).
As the word is used in the New Testament, it denotes the institution
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founded by our Lord Jesus Christ.
The word church or churches is found in the New Testament over
100 times, and always it retains its primary and simple meaning—a
public assembly or congregation. The majority of times the word
church is used, its reference is unmistakably to a local congregation or
assembly, in keeping with the primary and simple meaning of the term.
The remaining instances refer to churches in general (Matt. 16:18; Eph.
1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23,24, 25, 27, 29, 32; Col. 1:18, 24; Heb. 12:23). For
example, if a pastor announces that he will begin a series of messages on
“The Home,” he is not referring to a particular home but to all homes
in general. When Paul announced that “Christ loved the church and gave
himself for it,” (Eph. 5:25), he meant not only the church at Ephesus, but
all true, Bible-based churches that have ever existed or would ever exist.
IT IS A DIVINE INSTITUTION
It was born in the heart of God, not in the mind of man (2 Cor.
1:1; 1 Tim. 3:15). Scripture writers refer to “the churches of God” or
the “churches of Christ” (1 Thess. 2:14; Rom. 16:16). Such expressions
denote not only the divine origin of the church, but that every Bible-
based church looks to God as its source of authority.
The church is first mentioned by our Lord in Matthew 16:18. In
response to Peter’s confession that Christ was “the Son of the living God,”
Jesus stated that it would be on “this rock” He would build His church.
This revelation had been hidden from previous generations, but was
now made known to Peter and the rest of the disciples.
The statement was not meant to imply that Peter would be the rock
on which the church would be built, as Roman Catholic’s contend.
When Jesus addressed Peter, He used the Greek word Petros for Peter’s
name. It means a specific stone or rock. When Jesus added, “On this
rock I will build my church,” He used another Greek word for rock—
petra, which mean a rocky crag or bedrock. Jesus did not say, “On you,
Peter (Petros), and on your successors, I will build my church.” Instead,
it would be built “on this rock (petra)”—the divine revelation given to
Peter, his confession that Jesus Christ was the Son of the living God
(16:16). In other words, every Bible-based church would be built on
Jesus Christ, not on any human being. The apostle Paul declared that no
one can ever lay any other foundation than the one already laid, which is
Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).
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TWO ORDINANCES GIVEN TO THE CHURCH
Only two symbolic rites are to be carried out by the church: baptism
and the Lord’s Supper, both of which were especially ordained by Jesus
Christ Himself, thus called ordinances. An ordinance is a decree or
command. Although the word “ordinance” is never used in the Bible
in specific reference to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, it best expresses
the truth about these two rites (the Greek paradosis in 1 Cor. 11:2 can
be translated “ordinance,” “precept,” or “tradition,” and may indirectly
refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper). Both baptism and the Lords
Supper are rites Jesus commanded believers to observe (Matt. 28:19;
Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:23-26). Each richly illustrates the saving work of
Christ and the new spiritual relationship between Him and His people.
In the New Testament an inseparable link exists between salvation
and baptism; yet they are not to be confused as being one and the same.
Salvation or conversion is a new birth imparted from above. Baptism
is an outward picture or symbol of salvation; it does not save or even
contribute to the salvation experience (1 Pet. 3:21; 1 Cor. 1:17).
Nevertheless, when there is a conversion in the New Testament, baptism
soon follows (Acts 8:36-38). Baptism was considered a matter of extreme
importance in the early churches. It symbolized a clean break with the
past, which involved giving up the habits of the old life, and often family
and friends as well.
Churches differ on the mode of baptism. Some sprinkle or pour
while others baptize by immersion. It is the authors contention that
immersion is a primitive mode of baptism practiced in the New
Testament. The word baptize is an English spelling of the Greek baptizo,
which means to dip in or under water; to immerse. Few will dispute the
basic dictionary definition of the term. Baptism is for believers only.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BAPTISM
What makes baptism so important, considering it is not essential to
the salvation of the one who has already believed on Jesus Christ?
It inspires churches.
It gives a clear declaration to that local church and to the world
around that this new believer is ready to obey and serve his Lord and
Master. If baptism is neglected, the Lord’s command is disregarded and
obstructed by the very people who should be His loyal followers.
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It helps believers to solidify and express their own testimony.
It impresses their conversion experience upon their minds in such
a way that their gratitude increases and their assurance is strengthened.
Furthermore, they realize that whereas their conversion has been an
inward, unseen transaction between themselves and the Lord, it must
now be expressed and lived out before the eyes of the world and fellow
believers.
It reminds believers of the importance of conversion.
Just as the Lord’s Supper keeps the crucifixion in view, the act of
baptism reminds us of the great importance of conversion, that we are
a royal priesthood” whose chief objective is to declare to the world the
praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous
light (1 Pet. 2:9). Every baptismal experience profoundly moves the
people of God, lifts their morale, and encourages them to become
involved in the great task of reaching others with the gospel. Baptism
places the necessity and glory of evangelism at the forefront of the life
of the church.
THE MEANING OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
The Lords Supper is the only other ordinance committed to churches
by Christ. As Jesus observed His last Passover with the disciples, He
instituted this ordinance in place of the Passover to memorialize His
great sacrifice. Taking the unleavened bread, He blessed it, broke it and
gave it to the disciples, revealing to them that it was His body that was
broken for them. He then admonished them to observe this ritual in
remembrance of Him. Next, He took the cup and after giving thanks,
gave it to them, reminding them to drink all of it, for it was His blood
of the new covenant which would be shed for many for the remission of
sins (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:9-20). The Apostle Paul
tells us that when we observe the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim the Lord’s
death until He returns (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
The Lords Supper is to be a joyful season, not a time of sorrow. Of
course, the time preceding the Lord’s Table should be a time of reflection
and self-examination. Being assured that through the blood of Christ
they are cleansed and forgiven, believers are ready to enter confidently
into special communion with their Lord. They turn to His table with joy
and thanksgiving, ready to celebrate the redemptive victory of Christ.
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It emphasizes the substitutionary dimension
of Christ’s atonement.
This is my body,” Jesus said, which is broken for you (1 Cor. 11:24;
cf. Isa. 53:4-12). The expression for you is significant. At the cross the
innocent was substituted for the guilty, the righteous for the unrighteous.
The cross removed the repentant sinners condemnation, providing him
with the robe of Christs righteousness, and assuring him of forgiveness,
peace, and eternal life.
Jesus used many metaphors to teach different truths about Himself.
He said, “I am the door(John 10:7), “I am the way (John 14:6), “I am
the true vine (John 15:1), and “I am the bread of life (John 6:35). These
expressions are not to be taken literally, for He was not an actual door, or
vine, or bread. Instead, these metaphors illustrate deeper truths.
It emphasizes the duty of holiness.
The Lords Supper is a time for honest appraisal before God (1 Cor.
11:27). Earlier in chapter eleven Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their
careless living and attitude towards the Lord’s Supper (11:17-22). They
had forgotten their calling to live as members of Gods holy family and
to show love and compassion to one another. They had divided into
exclusive cliques, and had lost all sense of mutual obligation. Above all,
they had become indifferent to the price paid by Christ to redeem them
and make them a holy people, an attitude that displayed its ugly self in
their observance of the Lord’s Supper.
Paul warns them of eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper in an
unworthy manner (1 Cor. 11:29). This refers to the cavalier manner
in which they were observing the Supper. They were making it more
of a “party time” than a time of remembering what Jesus did for their
salvation.
Some Christians refrain from participating in the Lord’s Supper
because they consider themselves to be unworthy. This attitude results
from a misreading of verses 27 and 29. In one sense, no Christian
is worthy of participating in this ordinance. We are flawed, sinful
creatures. But Paul did not imply that we had to be worthy to partake
of the Supper, only that we should partake of it in a worthy manner. It
is no light matter to approach the Lords Table with a careless attitude.
Before approaching this important event we are to examine our hearts
and repent of our sins. To fail to do this could result in experiencing the
Lords discipline (11:30).
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It is a reminder of Christs Second Coming (1 Cor. 11:26b).
The Lords Supper spans the interim between Calvary and the
Second Advent. Each time we participate in this Supper, it is a reminder
that Christ is coming back. The phrase, “until He comes,” is an integral
part of the observance. Our memory needs to be continually refreshed
so that we may recall that the day is coming when Christ shall appear
and we shall be caught up together to be forever with Him. The Lord’s
Supper serves as that necessary reminder.
REVIEW
That Jesus is the Founder and Head of the church is made explicit
from His declaration in Matthew 16:18, “I will build My church.” The
statement was directed in particular to Peter: “On this rock I will build
My church.” The play on words here between the Greek word, “petros,”
a stone, designating Peter, and the Greek word, “petra,” a large bedrock,
designating Jesus, suggests that Jesus will build His church on a foundation
much more stable than Peter as a person. The foundation on which the
church would be built was the great truth of Peter’s confession that Jesus
Christ was indeed the Son of the living God (vs. 16). The churchs very
existence is tied to the person and deity of Christ. The church, then, is a
divine institution, founded by Christ and composed of baptized believers.
Its internal function is to include a blending of worship, nurture, fellowship,
and service. Its external mission is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to
every person in the world (Matt. 28:18-20).
Almost all Christian churches practice some form of baptism. They
do so because Jesus in His Great Commission commanded the church
to baptize converts in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spirit (Matt. 28:19).
Like baptism, the Lords Supper is symbolic. The unleavened bread
and fruit of the vine are but symbols of the broken body and shed blood
of the Lord Jesus. The Lords Supper is a repetitive ordinance. It is to
be observed as a remembrance of what Jesus Christ did for our salvation
until He comes again (1 Cor. 11:23-26). No command in Scripture
specifies how often the Lord’s Supper is to be observed. Jesus simply
said, “As often as you [do this]” (1 Cor. 11:26).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. What is to be the level of our participation in a local church (Heb.
10:24-25)?
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2. What does the word “church” (Gr. ekklesia) mean?
3. When Paul wrote, “Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25-26), what
did he mean?
4. Is the church built on the Apostle Peter? Explain.
5. What are the two symbolic ordinances of the church?
6. Is it left to the individual to decide whether or not to participate in
the ordinance of baptism?
7. Jesus instituted the Lords Supper at what feast (Lk. 22:15)?
8. What is meant by eating and drinking the Lords Supper in an
unworthy manner” (1 Cor. 11:27-34)?
9. According to 1 Corinthians 11:28, what must precede participation
in the Lords Supper?
10. How often is the Lord’s Supper to be observed?
11. To participate in the Lord’s table, your heart should lead you to
what action?
12. Give one important lesson you have learned from this chapter.
FURTHER STUDY
More than anything else, living a Christian life means surrender—a
giving up of oneself completely to Christ. When we surrender all that
we are and have to God—to whom it all belongs anyway (1 Cor. 3:21-
4:2)—He accepts it, but then puts us back in charge of it, making us
stewards, or caretakers of everything He has entrusted to us.
A very important part of the Christian life has to do with our use of
money: how we make it, how we spend it, and how we invest it. A clear
recognition that we are stewards of the possessions God has entrusted to
us enables us to have a right attitude about money. Additionally, God
promised He would open the windows of Heaven and pour out an
abundant blessing on those who bring their tithes and offerings to Him,
as faithful stewards are expected to do (Mal. 3:10).
THE MEANING OF STEWARDSHIP
The Bible teaches that we were purchased or redeemed at a high cost
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(1 Cor. 6:19, 20). We now belong to God. In one sense we belonged to
Him from the beginning, for He created us and placed us on this earth
that is rightfully His (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 24:1).
Now, in a special way, He has appointed His people, those who have
received the gift of eternal life through His Son, to serve as stewards of
His possessions. A steward is a person entrusted with the management
of the household or estate of another.
To the Christian, stewardship means a persons responsibility for,
and use of, everything entrusted to him by God—life, time, talents and
abilities, material possessions, opportunities to be of service to others,
and his knowledge of truth.
WAYS TO ACKNOWLEDGE GOD’S OWNERSHIP
Life can be divided into three basic areas, each a gift from God:
abilities, time, and material possessions. We will consider each of these
three gifts, but concentrate primarily on the stewardship of material
possessions.
The stewardship of abilities.
Each person has special gifts or abilities. One may be talented in
the musical realm, another in manual trades such as sewing or auto
mechanics. Some may make friends easily and mingle well with others,
while others may naturally tend toward more solitary pursuits. Every
talent can be used to glorify either the one who possesses it or its original
Bestower. A person can diligently perfect talent for God’s glory or for
personal selfishness. By cultivating the gifts the Holy Spirit gives each
of us, we are enabled to multiply those gifts (Matt. 25:14-30). Good
stewards use their gifts wisely and liberally in order to bless others and
bring glory to their Master.
The stewardship of time.
As faithful stewards, we glorify God by a wise use of time (Col. 3:23,
24). The Bible admonishes us not to behave like fools, always wasting
time, but to make the best possible use of time because these are evil
days in which we live (Eph. 5:15, 16). Like Jesus, we must be about our
Father’s business (Luke 2:49). Because time is God’s gift, each moment
is precious. Faithful stewardship of time means using it to get to know
our Lord better, to serve our fellowmen, and to share the gospel with
others. The Psalmist prayed, and so should we, that the Lord would
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teach him to make the most of his time so that he might obtain a heart
of wisdom (Ps. 90:12).
The stewardship of material possessions.
Because humanity needed a constant reminder that God is the
source of every blessing in life (James 1:17), and that it is He who
provides us with the power to get wealth (Deut. 8:18), He instituted
a system of tithes and offerings. The system eventually provided the
financial means for supporting the priesthood of the Israelite temple.
God has ordained that sharing the good news is to be dependent
on the tithes and offerings of His people. He calls them to be unselfish
co-laborers with Him by giving tithes and offerings to Him.
The word tithe means tenth. Scripture tells us that the tithe is
“holy to the Lord, symbolizing God’s ownership of everything (Lev.
27:30, 32). It is to be faithfully returned to Him. The tithing system is
beautiful in its simplicity. Its equity is revealed in its proportional claim
on the rich and on the poor. In proportion as God has enabled us to
make money, so we are to return to Him a tithe or tenth.
When God calls for the tithe (Mal. 3:10), He makes no appeal to
gratitude or generosity. Although gratitude should be a part of all our
expressions to God, we tithe because God has commanded it. The tithe
belongs to the Lord, and He asks that we return it to Him.
Tithing is an accepted practice throughout Scripture. Abraham gave
Melchizedek, the priest of God Most High, a tenth of everything (Gen.
14:20). By doing so he demonstrated that he was well acquainted with
this sacred institution. Apparently it was already an established custom
at that early date. Jacob also understood the tithing requirement (Gen.
28:22).
Far from repealing this institution, the New Testament assumes its
validity. Jesus approved of tithing and condemned those who refused to
practice the custom (Matt. 23:23). The ceremonial laws regulating the
sacrificial offerings symbolizing Christ’s atoning sacrifice ended at His
death, but the tithing requirement did not.
After the Crucifixion, when the divinely appointed role of the
Levitical priesthood ended, tithes were still to be used to support the
ministry of the church. Paul illustrated the principle underlying this by
drawing a parallel between the Levitical service and the newly established
gospel ministry (1 Cor. 9:11-14).
Church members, then, are to willingly bring their tithes to the
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church that all the needs of the congregation would be met (Mal.
3:10)—in other words, so that there are enough funds in the churchs
treasury to provide a living for its ministry and to carry forward the
outreach of the gospel.
Offerings are also to be given in addition to the tithe. Grateful
Christians cannot limit their contributions to the church to their tithes.
In Israel, the tabernacle, and later the temple, were built from freewill
offerings (Ex. 36:2-7; 1 Chron. 29:14). Special offerings also covered
the maintenance expenses of these places of worship (Ex. 30:12-16; 2
Kings 12:4, 5; 2 Chron. 24:4-14; Neh. 10:32, 33).
Today, the Lord calls for liberal giving. Offerings are needed to
build, maintain, and operate churches, and to support missionary
personnel and projects around the world. In the New Testament, Christ
laid down the principle of true stewardship—that our gifts to God should
be in proportion to the light and privileges we have enjoyed (Luke 12:48).
Nowhere does the New Testament repeal or relax this system. When
Jesus sent His disciples on a mission He said, “Freely you have received,
freely give(Matt. 10:8).
THE BLESSINGS OF LIBERAL GIVING
It results in a personal blessing.
One reason God asks us to tithe and give offerings is to encourage
our own spiritual growth and character development. Also, it assists us in
gaining victory over covetousness and selfishness. Covetousness, one of
our greatest enemies, is condemned numerous times in Scripture (Exo.
20:17; Mark 7:22; Luke 12:15; Rom. 13:9). Our giving on a regular
basis helps to root out covetousness and self-centeredness from our lives.
It leads to the development of habits of economy and efficiency. A deep
satisfaction and joy comes from the assurance that our investment is
resulting in the salvation of the lost.
It results in a blessing to the church and to the world.
Tithes and offerings are indispensable for the ongoing ministry of
the church. Only then will the church have adequate funds to support
the ministry, to expand God’s kingdom in its immediate vicinity, and to
extend it to the remote places of the earth. Think of the millions around
the world who are followers of Christ as a result of effective missionary
outreach. None of this would have been possible without the tithes and
generous offerings of Gods people.
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chapter 11
iBelieve in the Great Commission
J
esus Christ gave the “Great Commission” to His disciples after His
resurrection and immediately prior to His ascension to Heaven. It
was a summary statement of the churchs mission. The first believers
in the Lord Jesus, the exploits of whom are recorded in the New
Testament, not only linked themselves together for praise and worship,
they voluntarily united together to carry out this solemn mandate. Just
as all great businesses have a charter stating their purpose and scope, so
the churches of Jesus Christ have a charter clearly stating their mission
or function.
The Great Commission is recorded in five different places in the
New Testament, and each has a slightly different emphasis (Matt. 28:18-
20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:45-48; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). In all five
of these accounts Jesus urges His followers to carry the gospel message
to every corner of the globe, and He gives the formula for a successful
implementation of His missionary enterprise.
SUBMIT TO THE RIGHT AUTHORITY
Jesus proclaimed to His disciples that He had been given total
authority in Heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). The Commission He
gave was based on this authority (John 20:21). When someone makes a
demand of us, our obedience or lack thereof is based on the authority
of the one who gives the order. When parents tell a young child what to
do, the child will most often obey, because parents are invested with the
necessary authority to make demands of their children. Teachers make
certain requirements of their students, and those who comply do so
because of the teacher’s authority. If a man works for a company not
his own, the boss has the authority to tell him what to do. Policemen
are endowed with authority to arrest someone who is breaking the law.
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Referees have the right to penalize a team member that breaks the rules
of the game. Authority is an important element in life.
The all-important point that Jesus emphasizes here is that He is in
control of all things. He now has and wields authority over the entire order
of creation both in Heaven and on earth. All creatures, nature, angels,
and man, are at His disposal and under His authority. He is the One who
has given us life and by the shedding of His blood, redeemed us from
destruction (Ps. 103:4). What more is needed to qualify Him with the
authority necessary to make whatever demands of us He chooses? We
would not, nor should we, obey the command of a person who is not
endowed with legitimate authority. Not only does Jesus have the right to
tell us what to do, He has the power to enable us to successfully fulfill all
aspects of the command.
GO WITH THE RIGHT MESSAGE
In the Matthew Commission (Matt. 28:19) Jesus commands His
disciples to go and teach all nations (literally, make disciples of all nations).
The Mark Commission gives a slightly different slant. Jesus states that
His disciples are to go and preach the Good News of Christ’s death,
burial, and resurrection to all people everywhere (Mk. 16:15). The word
preach means to “herald the message.” It is the same word found in 2
Timothy 4:2, where Paul urges his young protégé Timothy to “preach
the word.”
In ancient times a herald communicated momentous events. This
was the king’s personal messenger who would cry out the king’s message
as the people in the town eagerly assembled together to hear the latest
news. The herald would not give his own message, nor would he add
his own interpretation to the kings message. He would simply give the
message word for word. It made no difference whether the herald liked
the message or not. He was obligated to faithfully deliver it. Paul declared
that he was compelled to preach the gospel, but if he failed to do so, or if
he substituted another message, a “woe” would be on him (1 Cor. 9:16).
It is a serious matter to fail to accurately announce the King’s message
of good news.
We are not to substitute our programs for Christ’s Commission.
Our primary calling is not to feed the hungry, clothe the destitute, or
cure bodily illnesses. These humanitarian activities may be useful as door
openers, permitting us to preach the gospel where otherwise it might
not be possible, but they should not be considered an end in themselves.
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Our foremost calling is to preach the gospel.”
William Booth, the first general of the Salvation Army, said that the
real objective of his organization “was not just the amelioration of social
conditions, but first and foremost the bringing of men and women to
repentance that their souls might be saved.” J. W. Hyde declared, “If
every person in the world had adequate food, housing, income; if all
people were equal; if every possible social evil and injustice were done
away with, people would still need one thing—Jesus Christ.”
The Commission entrusted to us includes an element often
overlooked by parachurch organizations: the importance of baptism.
Baptism is one of the two ordinances of the local church, the other being
the Lords Supper. Converts are to be baptized in the name of the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). Baptism follows conversion
but is not a part of the salvation decision. It is the immersion in water
of one who has already trusted in Christ, and symbolizes the believers
death to the old life and resurrection to a new life (Rom. 6:1-11). It is
an act of obedience, signifying to the church and to the world that he or
she is now identifying with Jesus Christ and His people.
The message, however, is not to be exclusive. It is to be preached to
every person in the world. Being a Jew, Paul felt compelled to take the
gospel first to that ethnic group (Rom. 1:16); however, he confessed that
the message was not for Jews alone. No one is excluded and no part of
the world is to be neglected (Luke 24:47).
TEACH WITH RIGHT DOCTRINE
Baptized converts are to be taught whatever Jesus has commanded
(Matt. 28:20a). Every church is a teaching center, not just an evangelistic
center. Evangelism is to be done chiefly beyond the walls of the church
building; obviously, this is where most lost people are to be found. In
the world we should be reaching the unconverted; in the congregation
we should be primarily teaching the converted. The saints need to be
indoctrinated in the local church; the indoctrinated saints need to be
evangelizing the world.
Jesus commanded His followers to go into the world. He did not
command sinners to come into the church. He urged His disciples to
go out into the highways and byways of the world and compel” people
to come in (i.e., evangelize them) that His house might be filled (Luke
14:23). Once in the congregation, they were to be taught all the things
that Christ commanded.
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In saying this, it is in no way meant to discourage Gods children
from inviting lost people to the services of the church. That is one way
to fulfill the Great Commission. We rejoice for every sinner who hears a
gospel message in church and receives Christ as personal Savior. When
the gospel is faithfully taught and preached, people will respond and be
saved.
At the same time, we must not disregard the words of the Lord
Jesus. A vital part of the Great Commission is to instruct members of the
church so that they may be built up in the faith and be prepared to give
an answer to unbelievers who may question them about their Christian
beliefs (Jude 20a; 1 Pet. 3:15).
RELY ON THE RIGHT PROMISE
Jesus promised to be with us, not part of the time, but always
until the end of this present age—as we carry out His Great Commission
(Matt. 28:20b). Paul reminded the Corinthians that a great door for
effective work for Christ had been opened to him, but he added, there
are many adversaries (1 Cor. 16:9).
No one has ever attempted to carry out the Commission of Christ
without encountering opposition; but we are not asked to enter this
mission in our own strength, armed with our own weapons (2 Cor. 10:3-
5; Acts 1:8). In addition, the great Captain of our salvation has promised
His abiding presence. Furthermore, Paul reminds us that we can do all
things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).
David Livingstone, the great missionary pioneer in Africa, was once
asked how he could keep going, considering he had encountered so many
obstacles in his attempt to get the gospel to the people of Africa. He
replied, “The answer is simple. It is the promise of the Lord Jesus: “Lo, I
am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
Implicit in the Great Commission is the necessity of church
involvement. Because baptism, an important element in the Great
Commission, is the prerequisite to the privileges of church membership,
and the church is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (Note: Paul, 1
Timothy 3:15, does not intend to convey the thought that the church
is the source of truth, as Catholics teach; he is simply affirming the
crucial role of the church as the support and bulwark of God’s truth),
we may correctly assume that in order to fulfill Christ’s Commission,
churches must plant other churches if we are to reach a burgeoning
world population.
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Paul reminds us that no one can believe on someone about whom
they have never heard, and they can never hear unless a preacher comes
to them with the message; but how can anyone preach the message
unless they are sent (Rom. 10:14, 15)? The New Testament pattern is
that churches send messengers to those on mission fields who have never
heard the gospel. The sober implication is, if there are no churches, no
one will be sent. Few churches mean few will be sent. If there are many
churches, many will be sent—a compelling reason why churches must
reproduce themselves.
Churches are to be teaching centers so believers can be grounded in
the truth, well equipped to articulate that truth to nonbelievers. Making
disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them replicates the whole process.
An important by-product is that churches will be birthing centers; new
churches will spring up under their influence. Then and only then can
the Great Commission be fulfilled.
REVIEW
The purpose statement of the church is found in Matthew 28:18-20.
The risen Christ stands before His disciples on a mountain in Galilee and
delivers one of the most daring statements ever uttered: “All authority
in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” Christ possessed—and
still does—all the power that rules the heavens and all the power that
rules the earth. This includes, among other things, absolute power to
command, and unrestricted use of personnel, resources, and finances.
Hence He immediately commands, “Go therefore….” In what is known
as “The Great Commission,” the mandate to the church is clear—we
are to take the gospel to the whole world, baptize converts in the name
of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and then instruct them in
everything Jesus commanded us to teach. We are to be supported by His
immutable, unbreakable promise that He would always be with us, even
to the very end of the age (Matt. 28:20).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. The Great Commission is recorded in how many different places in
the New Testament? List these verses.
2. On what basis does Jesus have the right to make demands of us
(Matt. 28:18)?
3. The gospel message we have been commissioned to preach to the
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whole world consists of what (1 Cor. 15:1-8)?
4. Is it possible that humanitarian activities may be substituted for The
Great Commission?
5. What is the promise of Jesus that undergirds us as we attempt to
fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:20)?
6. What must churches do if we are to reach a burgeoning world
population?
7. What are some of the means your church is using to reach the world
with the gospel?
8. Write out 1 Timothy 3:15.
9. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
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chapter 12
iBelieve in the Second Coming of Christ
O
ne of the most prominent and foundational doctrines taught in
the Word of God is the Second Coming of Christ to the earth.
The Apostles held out the possibility of His returning in their day, and
the next generation kept alive the “blessed hope as an event that was
imminent. In time, however, this truth began to be neglected and even
rejected on the part of many. Centuries passed before this great truth was
to be revived. In the past 150 years, we have witnessed renewed emphasis
on it, even though there is still much indifference and opposition. The
Apostle Peter predicted that in the last days scoffers would emerge
asking why Christ had not returned as He promised (2 Pet. 3:4).
However, Christians are to love the appearing of their Lord (2 Tim.
4:8). They have spoken about Him, prayed to the Father in His name,
and longed to see Him. And one day, perhaps sooner that many think,
He will appear. We will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SECOND COMING
Its prominence in the Scriptures.
While this truth is alluded to a number of times in the Old
Testament, in the New Testament it is specifically mentioned more than
three hundred times, or once in every twenty-five verses. Jesus’ discourse
on the Mount of Olives treats this theme exclusively and takes up two
whole chapters in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 24, 25). Other books
deal primarily with this subject, such as First and Second Thessalonians
and the Book of Revelation.
It is the hope of believers (Titus 2:13).
Throughout the ages of church history, true believers have found
comfort in this great truth. Paul called the anticipation of the Lord’s
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return the blessed hope.” While some aspects of the coming of the Lord
should create a sober attitude about the issues of life today, yet this hope
can lift Christians above the sorrows, disappointments, and uncertainties
of this life. It creates within us the sense that a day of victory is coming
when all wrongs and injustices will be made right, and Jesus Christ will
be recognized for who He really is.
It is an incentive to Biblical Christianity.
Those who entertain a sincere belief in this doctrine seldom dispute
the infallibility of the Bible or depart from the faith. The acceptance of
this truth leads to holiness of life (1 John 3:3; 2 Pet. 3:10, 11). It inspires
watchfulness and perseverance (1 Thess. 5:2-11; 1 John 2:28). It fosters
patience and comfort in times of adversity (James 5:7; Heb. 10:35-37; 1
Thess. 4:16-18).
It results in more faithful service to Christ.
Those who hold to this truth are the ones most likely known for their
personal faithfulness, generous giving, missionary zeal, and evangelistic
endeavors. There is no greater stimulus to service than to believe that
Christ may come at any moment.
THE TWO PHASES OF CHRIST’S COMING
The Second Coming of Christ is one event, but it develops in two
stages. The first stage: He comes for believers; the second stage: He comes
with believers.
His coming for believers.
Christ will return to meet the saints in the air (1 Thess. 4:16, 17).
This is sometimes labeled the rapture, which means “to snatch away
or “to transport.” Christians will be caught up to meet the Lord. This
stage of Christ’s coming may take place at any moment. When the
Lord returns, only believers will be caught up to meet Him. Those who
are alive and have rejected Him will be left on earth to experience the
sorrows of the great tribulation.
His coming with believers.
After the Tribulation period, our Lord will return triumphantly to
the earth to defeat the Antichrist and establish His kingdom. When He
returns, His saints will be with Him (Jude 14, 15; Col. 3:4).
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THE TIME OF CHRIST’S COMING
No one knows the exact time of Jesus’ return (Matt. 24:36, 42).
Informed Christians always maintain an attitude of anticipation,
eagerly awaiting His return, and will not be caught by surprise when
Jesus returns (1 Thess. 5:4). No doubt as the first phase of His coming
approaches, God will give His people an awareness of the imminence of
that great event.
As we study prophecy and relate that to current events, we cannot
but conclude that the Lords return may be near. We see that the nations
of Europe are uniting for economic and military protection, Israel is
back in her land, and that little slice of geography is the focal point of
many of todays headlines. Militant Islam is on the march. They would
like nothing better than for Israel to be driven into the sea, and much
of Islamic terrorism today is linked to that issue. Furthermore, at the
precise moment in history when the wealthy nations, and even the
developing nations, need fuel for the burgeoning automobile, airplane,
and manufacturing market, Arab (or Islamic) nations control a good
portion of the oil supply of the world. All of these foreboding issues are
signs of times.”
THE MANNER OF CHRIST’S COMING AT THE RAPTURE
He will return personally.
There is no need to look for another Messiah or prophet. “This same
Jesus will return in person as was prophesied by the angels and by our
Lord Jesus Christ Himself (John 14:3; Acts 1:11).
He will return with a mighty shout (1 Thess. 4:16).
The Greek word for shout (keleuma) signifies a “war-shout.” Jesus
is represented as a victorious King who will deliver His people and defeat
His enemies.
He will be accompanied by the voice of the archangel (1 Thess. 4:16).
As angels came and ministered to Jesus at the time of His temptation
(Matt. 4:11), they will accompany Him at the time of His future
triumph.
He will return with the sound of the trumpet (1 Thess. 4:16b).
The trumpet was used to convene God’s people to their solemn
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convocations (Num. 10:2, 10); here it is used to summon God’s people
together in preparation for their glorification with Christ (1 Cor. 15:52).
The above events depict the first phase of His coming, when both
dead and living believers will be “caught up” or “raptured” to meet the
Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:16, 17), and be taken to Heaven.
The second phase of His coming is when He returns to earth with the
angels and saints from Heaven to reign over the earth in His thousand-
year kingdom. These entirely different events should not be confused.
Because the Lords coming may be at any moment, it is vitally
important that proper preparation be made. First, those who are lost
should speedily make their calling and election sure. Today is the day
of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Second, those who are saved should live in the
light of that great expectation. No one is more likely to live an exemplary
life than those who cherish this hope (1 John 3:2, 3).
In the meantime, Jesus said we are to be occupied in His service,
doing His bidding, until He returns (Luke 19:13). The lesson Jesus is
teaching in this parable is this: “Put your talents (minas) to good use
while I am away (the minas or talents represent the different gifts the
Lord gives to each individual). Do not sit back and complain that the
world is getting worse and worse and do nothing. Get busy and invest
what you have—your time, talents, and treasure—in my enterprise, for
the night is coming when no one can work. At a time when most people
least expect it, I will return; and after that will come a day of reckoning
(Luke 19:11-26).
REVIEW
Among the most important events of the future are the Second
Coming of Christ and its ensuing events. The one doctrine on which
most Bible believers agree is the Second Coming. Although disagreements
may arise regarding the timing of events surrounding our Lord’s return,
almost all are agreed that He will come again to the earth. This is the basis
of the Christians hope, the one event which will mark the beginning
of the completion of God’s plan. Many Scriptures indicate clearly that
Christ is to return. If we had nothing but the promise of Jesus Himself,
that would be sufficient reason to cling to this belief. Jesus assured His
disciples shortly before His crucifixion that He would go and prepare a
place for them, and afterwards come again and receive them to Himself,
that they would eternally be where He was (Jn. 14:2-3). In addition to
Jesus’ own words, numerous other direct statements are to be found in
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the New Testament regarding His return. It is one of the most widely
taught doctrines in the New Testament.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. In the New Testament the Second Coming of Christ is mentioned
how many times?
2. What did Paul call the anticipation of the Lord’s return (Titus 2:13)?
3. The acceptance of this truth leads to what action (1 Jn. 3:2-3; 2 Pet.
3:10-14)?
4. Does the Second Coming of Christ refer to His coming for us at the
time of our death?
5. Give the two phases of His Second Coming.
6. Is it possible to determine the exact date of His return?
7. What are the four events that occur when Christ returns according
to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17?
8. According to Jesus’ words in Luke 19:13, what are we to be doing
until He returns?
9. Write out Acts 1:11.
10. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
FURTHER STUDY
WHAT IS THIS PLACE CALLED HELL?
In most instances the word “hell” in Scripture is used to refer to a
place of future punishment for the wicked. At times the word is used to
refer to the grave or the place of the dead. According to Paul’s testimony,
those who die in the faith of Christ go immediately into the presence of
the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Those who die without Christ go immediately to
Hell (Gr. hades), a place of torment (Lk. 16:19-31). They will later be
brought from Hell to appear before the Great White Throne Judgment,
after which they will be cast into the lake of fire and experience eternal
damnation. The lake of fire (Gr. gehenna), or “the second death,” is the
eternal abode of the wicked.
Hell is often seen in the New Testament as “unquenchable fire
(Matt. 3:12; 5:22; 18:9), “damnation” (Matt. 23:33), “furnace of fire
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(Matt. 13:42, 50), “blackness and darkness” (Jude 13), “a lake which
burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8). Hell is a “place prepared
for the Devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41), and if people go there it is
because they have rejected their true destiny.
WHAT IS HEAVEN LIKE AND WHO WILL GO THERE?
The longing for a place of rest and joy after this life is almost
universal in the human heart. The fact that humans could even conceive
of such a place and long for it is not without significance. Jesus gave
voice to our deepest longings in John 14:2, 3 when He told His disciples
that He was soon to leave them, but He would prepare a place for them
in His Father’s House. He assuaged their fears by assuring them He will
come again one day and take them to live with Him in that place. Many
deny that Heaven is an actual place, insisting, rather, that it is nothing
more than a state of mind. To deny that Heaven is an actual place is to
contradict the emphatic words of Jesus in John 14:2, as well as other
passages in the New Testament.
Heaven is a place of indescribable beauty
The first two chapters of the Bible tell of Gods creation of a perfect
world as a home for the human beings He created. The original home
of the first two humans was called “the Garden of Eden,” or “Paradise.
As we have noted, the third Heaven is also portrayed as “Paradise.
When humans use the term paradise, it usually suggests a place of
extraordinary beauty.
The last two chapters of the Bible speak of Gods creating a perfect
world for redeemed humanity (Rev. 21-22). The apostle John gives a
brief but vivid glimpse of the holy city, New Jerusalem, in these chapters.
He observed it coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a
bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2). His portrayal of that city
defies description and staggers the imagination. Unlike all earthly cities,
it is filled with the glory of God. When Christians think of Heaven they
often think of glory and sometimes call it “glory land” (as in “I’ve got a
home in glory land that outshines the sun”).
The brilliance of the city is like that of a precious jewel, clear as
crystal. The wall is made of jasper; the city is pure gold, clear as glass; the
foundations of the walls are decorated with all manner of precious stones.
The twelve gates are twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The
street of the city is pure gold, like transparent glass. It is a city of immense
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size. Its length, breadth, and height are equal, measuring approximately
1400 miles (2,250 kilometers) each. The river of the water of life, clear
as crystal, flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. On each side
of the river is the tree of life, the leaves of which are for the healing of
the nations. The city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God
provides illumination. There will be no night there. It will be a world of
unsurpassing splendor. Its citizens will live forever and enjoy the highest
conceivable happiness.
Scripture locates the Father’s throne and heavenly headquarters in
the New Jerusalem, which will descend to the renovated earth (21:2, 3).
The New Jerusalem is the capitol city of this new earth. In the Hebrew
language, Jerusalem means “city of peace.” How different the New
Jerusalem will be from the earthly Jerusalem, which seldom has lived up
to its name. The New Jerusalem is the city for which Abraham looked
(Heb. 11:10). Within that vast city Christ is preparing a dwelling place
for each believer (John 14:2).
Heaven is a place of happy association
The redeemed of all the ages will be there (Rev. 21:24). In Heaven
we will fellowship with the truly important people who have graced our
planet. Imagine seeing Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, David,
Peter, Mary, Lydia and Paul face to face. How long will it take to hear
their story? No matter, we have eternity.
Our loved ones will be there and will be recognized as such. On
the Mount of Transfiguration Moses and Elijah were identified and
even had their same names. After Christs resurrection His disciples
had no trouble recognizing Him. Mary knew His voice (John 20:11-
16). Thomas recognized His physical appearance (John 20:27, 28).
We may safely assume that in the heavenly world we will continue our
relationships with those we know and love.
Will there be marriage in Heaven? Jesus plainly said that in the
resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage. We will
be like the angels in Heaven (Matt. 22:29, 30). The question arises: will
the redeemed be deprived of the benefits now associated with marriage?
In Heaven, the redeemed will not be deprived of any good thing. The
quintessence of marriage is love. The epitome of joy is in the expression
of love. We may be confident that in the heavenly world no one there
will lack for either love or joy or pleasure. No one there will feel lonely,
empty, or unloved. We can trust that the loving Creator who designed
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marriage to bring joy in this present world will have something far better
in the next.
Heaven is a place of blessed emancipation
Some of the most striking aspects of the heavenly city have to do
with what is not there. In the Book of Revelation are a number of “no
mores:” no more pain (21:4); no more sorrow (21:4); no more tears
(7:17); no more death”(21:4). Death, mans last and most feared enemy,
will no longer strike terror into hearts as it has for thousands of years of
human history. It will be cast into the Lake of Fire, and we will be in a
world beyond its reach (Rev. 20:14).
Only the righteous, those whose names are written in the Lambs
Book of Life, will enter into that holy city (Rev. 21:27). Only the names
of those who have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb will be
inscribed in the Lambs Book of Life. The door will be closed to all the
unrighteous who refuse to enter through the one and only door—Jesus
Christ.
More important than the physical beauty of the heavenly city, more
important than the fellowship we will enjoy with the saints of all the
ages, more important than the freedom we will experience from pain,
sorrow, and death, will be the fact that we will be in the very presence of
God enjoying the beatific vision (seeing God face to face). The blessed
Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—will be there to welcome us.
Each will be the object of our adoration, and we will enjoy unbroken
fellowship with them throughout eternity (21:3, 4; 22:3, 4).
REVIEW
Heaven is the abode of God (Matt. 6:9), a place of indescribable
beauty (Rev. 21:1-22:5), the eternal abiding place of all believers in the
Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 21:27). According to Paul, the whole person
survives in Heaven. Even the body is raised again. Although the body
is no longer composed of flesh and blood (1 Cor. 15:50), there is
continuity with the present body—a heavenly body in form similar to
its earthly form (1 Cor. 15:51-53). In Heaven the redeemed will be in
the immediate presence of God. In this present life “we see through a
glass darkly; but then [we will see] face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). The
redeemed will see Christ “as He is” (1 Jn. 3:2). Heaven is a place of rest
(Rev. 14:13) but activities will be a vital part of the heavenly experience.