Pastor James S. Morrison /Greater Grace /Marlborough /MA/2011
- What is God like?
- What is the Trinity?
- Why is Jesus the most unique Individual of all time?
- What is the work of the Holy Spirit?
- How do I begin studying the Bible?
- How can we trust that the Bible is true?
- What are the rules for interpreting the Bible?
- Is the Genesis record of creation to be taken as allegorical or factual?
- What is unique about man and his creation?
- What is worship?
- What is free volition?
- What is sin and why is it universal?
- Is the devil real and where did he come from?
- Are demons and angels real? What is spiritual warfare?
- What is salvation and why is it necessary?
- How did God make salvation available to mankind?
- What is the finished work?
- How does a person get saved?
- Can a Christian ever lose his salvation?
- What do other religions teach about salvation?
- What is the filling of the Holy Spirit?
- What is the importance of water baptism & communion?
- What are the most important disciplines in a Christian’s life?
- What are the Christian’s three enemies?
- What can a Christian do if he sins? What happens if he keeps on sinning?
- How does a Christian grow?
- What does it mean to take up the Cross?
- How do I find God’s calling & will for my life?
- How can a believer handle difficulties in his life?
- How can I lead another person to Jesus Christ?
- What is the church? Is there only one church?
- How is a local church to be governed?
- What is church membership? What are its responsibilities?
- What are tithes and offerings?
- What happens to those who have never heard the Gospel?
- How can I be involved in world missions?
- How can I learn to pray? What should I pray for?
- What is the future of our planet?
- What are the two future judgments?
- What is Heaven and what is Hell?
- Read the following verses. (All Scripture verses quoted in these forty lessons are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted. All Bible quotations are italicized.)
- Take time to think about each verse. Let God touch your heart and reveal Himself more deeply to you. Dwell upon the wonder of who He is.
- Write down some of the things you learn about God’s nature. Write down your personal thoughts about Him.
- Think about the following questions:
- How may my personal life be affected by thinking about, and learning about, who God is?
How does knowing God’s character more precisely help me to better know my own being and purpose?
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1).
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Gen. 1:27).
Is anything too hard for the Lord (Gen. 18:14)?
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Ex. 3:14).
Therefore say to the children of Israel, “I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage; I am the Lord” (Ex.6:6-8).
Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders (Ex. 15:11)?
The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin (Ex. 34:6-7a).
For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy (Lev. 11:44a).
The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression (Num. 14:18a).
God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good (Num. 23:19)?
Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deut. 6:4).
Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments (Deut. 7:9).He is the Rock, His work is perfect;for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He (Deut. 32:4).
Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand (Deut. 32:39).
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut. 33:27a).
The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s and He has set the world upon them (1 Sam. 2:6-8).
For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few (1 Sam. 14:6b).
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, Heaven and the Heaven of heavens cannot contain You (1 Kings 8:27a).
Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses (1 Kings 8:56).
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in Heaven and in earth is Yours; Your is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all (1 Chron. 29:11-12).
O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in Heaven and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You (2 Chron. 20:6)?
But You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them (Neh. 9:17b).
I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You (Job 42:2).
For the word of the Lord is right, and all His work is done in truth. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the water of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations (Psa. 33:4-11).
Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O Lord, You preserve man and beast (Psa. 36:5-6).
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me (Psa. 42:8).
For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine (Psa. 50:10-11).
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You (Psa. 63:3).
For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God (Psa. 86:10).
But You, Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth (Psa. 86:15).
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; with my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations (Psa. 89:1).
O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty like You, O Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You (Psa. 89:8).
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; mercy and truth go before Your face (Psa. 89:14).
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God (Psa. 90:2).
For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations (Psa. 100:5).
But You are the same, and Your years will have no end (Psa. 102:27).
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy (Psa. 103:8).
But our God is in Heaven; He does whatever He pleases (Psa. 115:3).
You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth. Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever (Psa. 119:151-152).
The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever (Psa. 119:160).
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into Heaven, You are there. If I make my bed in Hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me (Psa. 139:7-10).
The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works (Psa. 145:8-9).
Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite (Psa. 147:5).
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory (Isa. 6:3)!
Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, and as I have purposed, so it shall stand (Isa. 14:24).
For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back (Isa. 14:27)?
Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has taught Him? With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding (Isa. 40:13-14)?
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable (Isa. 40:28).
Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior… Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it (Isa. 43:10b-11, 13)?
I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God…Do not fear, nor be afraid; have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one (Isa. 44:6b, 8).
I am the Lord, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by Myself (Isa. 44:24b)I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me… I am the Lord, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things (Isa. 45:5a, 6b-7).
For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who has established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited,
“ I am the Lord, and there is no other” (Isa. 45:18).
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done; saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa. 46:10).
For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit” (Isa. 57:15a).
But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation…He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens at His discretion…For He is the Maker of all things, and Israel is the tribe of His inheritance; the Lord of hosts is His name (Jer. 10:10, 12, 16b).
Am I a God near at hand…and not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places so I shall not see him?…Do I not fill Heaven and earth (Jer. 23:23-24)?
Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you (Jer. 31:3).
Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the Heaven and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers,…the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts. You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for Your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men (Jer. 32:17-19a).
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness (Lam. 3:22-23).
All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of Heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done” (Dan. 4:35)?
Return to your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm (Joel 2:13b).
Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy (Mic. 7:18).
For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob (Mal. 3:6).
That you may be sons of your Father in Heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt. 5:45).
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him (Matt. 7:11)!
With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26).
All authority has been given to Me in Heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18b).
With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27).
The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one (Mark 12:29).
For with God nothing will be impossible (Luke 1:37).
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24).
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).
Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from Heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17).
Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things (Acts 17:25).
He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:31).
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance (Rom. 2:4)?
Let God be true but every man a liar (Rom. 3:4b).
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him (Rom. 11:33-35)?
We know that there is no other God but one (1 Cor. 8:4b).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23a).
But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:4a).
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (Eph. 4:6).
For by Him all things were created that are in Heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all thing consist (Col. 1:16-17).
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen (1 Tim. 1:17).
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5).
He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen (1 Tim. 5:15-16).
If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13).
In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began (Titus 1:2).
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Heb. 4:13).
Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us (Heb. 6:17-18).
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23).
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17).
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things (1 John 3:20).
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:8).
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come (Rev. 4:8)!
You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You have created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created (Rev. 4:11).
1. There is only one God.
Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deut. 6:4)!
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts, “I am the First and I am the Last. Besides Me there is no God” (Isa. 44:6).
There is no other God but one (1 Cor. 8:4b)
2. One of God’s names: The name [singular] of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19).
3. There is One God, yet He is three distinct Persons.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen (2 Cor. 13:14).
4. The Father is God.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:7b).
5. The Son is God
Of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen (Rom. 9:5).
6. The Holy Spirit is God.
Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?…You have not lied to men but to God (Acts 5:3-4).
7. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Father. The Spirit is not the Father or the Son.
When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from Heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17).
And I [Jesus] will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth (John 14:16-17a).
Can anyone on earth fully understand or explain the Trinity?
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor (Rom. 11:33-34)?
- Can I believe a teaching from the Bible if I can’t fully comprehend it? How is that possible?
- In what way is our inability to fully understand God’s nature actually a blessing?
- How is it a blessing to know that God, though one in His being, is three Persons?
- What characteristics of God can be more fully revealed because He is a Trinity?
1. He is Fully God: His Deity
Isaiah 9:6, Micah 5:2, John 1:1-3, John 6:38, John 8:56-58, John 17:4-5, Philippians 2:5-7, Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-38, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5
2. He is Fully Man: His Humanity
Luke 2:52, John 1:14, Matthew 4:1-2, Matthew 8:23-24, Luke 24:39, John 4:5-6, John 19:28, Romans 1:2-3, Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 4:15
3. His Virgin-birth
Born of a fully human mother, with no human father.
Conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-38
4. His Titles (Showing His deity):
Mighty God: Isaiah 9:6
Lord: Mark 1:2-3, Luke 1:17
Son of God: Matthew 26:63-65
Immanuel (“God with us”): Isaiah 7:14
5. His Attributes & Actions (Showing His deity):
Eternity, pre-existence: John 1:1, Revelation 22:13
Not limited by space: Matthew 28:20
Universal authority: Matthew 28:18, Ephesians 1:22
Having life in Himself (independence): John 1:4, 5:26
Active in the creation of the universe: John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:2
Sustains the universe: Colossians 1:17
Authority to forgive sins: Mark 2:5-7
The Object of prayer: Acts 7:59
The Object of worship: Matthew 28:16-17, John 20:28
Judge of mankind: Matthew 25:31-32, John 5:22, 27
Possessing all-knowledge: Luke 6:8, John 1:48
Possessing all-power: Matthew 8:27, Mark 1:27
Unchangeable: Hebrews 13:8
6. Jesus’ Equality with God & Identity as God:
John 10:29-31, John 14:8-9, Philippians 2:5-6, John 1:1, John 20:28, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8, 2 Peter 1:1, Romans 9:5
- How does Jesus’ humanity qualify Him to be our Savior?
- How does Jesus’ deity qualify Him to be our Savior?
- How does Jesus’ humanity qualify Him to understand us?
- How does Jesus’ deity qualify Him to understand us?
1. Creation (Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4) – The making of the universe out of nothing.
2. Restraining Evil (Gen. 6:3) – Protecting mankind from its own destruction.
3. Causing Jesus to be Conceived in Mary’s Womb (Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35).
4. Empowering Believers to Testify of Christ (Matt. 10:20; Acts 1:8, 4:31).
5. Regenerating (John 3:5-6, 8; Titus 3:5) – Creating a spiritual new birth.
6. Imparting Life (John 6:63; Rom. 8:11) – Reviving the believer.
7. Teaching (John 14:26) – Helping the believer to understand God’s thoughts.
8. Comforting (John 14:26) – Coming alongside to help the believer.
9. Showing Future Things (John 16:13) – Bible prophecies of future events.
10. Speaking to the Believer (Acts 8:29, 10:19) – Personal communication.
11. Calling into Service of Christ (Acts 13:2) – Divine summons.
12. Sending Out to Reach the Lost (Acts 13:4) – Divine commissioning.
13. Denying Permission to Go to Certain Places (Acts 16:6-7) – God’s “red light.”
14. Appointing Leaders in the Church (Acts 20:28) – Making some overseers.
15. Loving (Rom. 5:5, 15:30) – Ministering love to and through the believer.
16. Enabling the Believer to Experience the Death of the Old Man (Rom. 8:13).
17. Making Divine Adoption a Personal Reality (Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:6).
18. Leading (Rom. 8:16, John 16:13) – Guiding the believer into God’s will.
19. Giving the Believer Assurance of His Salvation (Rom. 8:16, 1 John 3:24).
20. Helping the Believer to Pray (Rom. 8:26-27, Eph. 6:18).
21. Revealing God’s Word (1 Cor. 2:10-16) – Spiritual understanding.
23. Indwelling the Believer as His Temple (1 Cor. 3:16, Rom. 8:9, 1 Cor. 6:19)
24. Giving Spiritual Gifts (1 Cor 12:11) – Equipping for service in the church.
25. Baptizing into the Body (1 Cor. 12:13) – Making us living members of His body.
26. Writing the Word of God on the Heart (2 Cor. 3:3) – Obedience from the heart.
27. Giving Freedom (2 Cor. 3:17, 1 Pet. 1:22) – Setting us free to obey God.
28. Enabling a Victorious Walk over Sin (Gal. 5:16).
29. Producing Spiritual Fruit (Gal. 5:22-23) – Developing Christ’s character in us.
30. Sealing (Eph. 1:13, 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22) – Guaranteeing our eternal security.
31. Giving Us Continual Access to the Father (Eph. 2:18).
32. Strengthening the Believer in the Inner Man (Eph. 3:16).
33. Unifying the Church (Eph. 2:22, 4:3-4) – Building Christ’s body together as one.
34. Filling (Eph. 5:18) – As the believer yields to God, the Spirit empowers his walk.
35. Inspiration (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21) – Guiding men in the writing of the Bible.
36. Renewing the Believer’s Mind (Titus 3:5) – Enabling us to think with God.
37. Anointing (1 John 2:27, 2 Cor. 1:21) – Enabling believers to know & to speak the Word in power.
- How can I become more conscious of the Holy Spirit in my life?
- What are the implications of my body being God’s holy templ
- Which of the works of the Holy Spirit have you personally experienced in your life?
- Which of the works of the Holy Spirit do you not understand?
- Which ones do you desire to experience more fully?
Quotes concerning Studying the Bible:
“Therefore (I say) when thou readest scripture, be wise and circumspect: and when thou comest to such strange manners of speaking and dark sentences, to such parables and similitudes, to such dreams or visions as are hid from thy understanding, commit them unto God or to the gift of His Holy Spirit in them that are better learned than thou” (Miles Coverdale – 1535).
“A readiness to believe every promise implicitly, to obey every command unhesitatingly, to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God, is the only true spirit of Bible study” (Andrew Murray).
“[The Bible] contains light to direct you, food to support you and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword and the Christian’s charter. … It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened in the judgment, and will be remembered forever” (Anonymous).
“[One] cannot come to the New Testament as the disputer, the wise man, the judge over the Word of God. He can come only as the child who needs to be made wise by the wisdom of God” (Glenn W. Barker).
Be diligent to present yourself approved by God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
Where to Begin:
- Continue to follow a systematic study of Bible doctrines, such as the lessons you are currently working on. Ask a mature Christian in the church to help you on a regular basis with your studies.
- Sign up for a Bible college class. Let your capacity grow by being “stretched” in the classroom. Don’t be afraid.
- Purchase some tools for Bible study: A study Bible, a concordance, a Bible handbook, and a single-volume commentary. But don’t wait to study the Bible until you have all these items!
- Read the Bible every day in your private times with God.
- As you’re reading the Bible, jot down your questions. Meet with a mature Christian in the church who can help you find the answers to your questions.
- Attend the church as often as you can. Take notes during the messages. Pick up a copy of the sermon notes offered on the back table. Study your notes at home during the week, looking up all the verses.
- Read the doctrine booklets available from GGWO. There are hundreds available.
- Find and write down at least five principles of Bible study from the five quotes in the beginning of this lesson.
- Which of these five principles have you practiced in your personal Bible study?
1. The Example of Jesus Christ: His Stamp of Approval on the Bible
(Matt. 4:4, 5:17; Luke 16:31, Luke 24:44; John 5:46-47) Jesus quoted from 24 different Old Testament books. He referred to some of the events that unbelievers are most skeptical about: The first man and woman (Matt. 19:4-5), Noah and the worldwide flood (Matt. 24:37-39), and Jonah and the great fish (Matt. 12:40-41). Almost 10% of Jesus’ recorded words were from the Old Testament writings. 18 times He used the phrase, “It is written” – showing His total respect for the authority of the Old Testament. He said that people should search the Scriptures (John 5:39). He said that not knowing the Scriptures (Matt. 22:29) was the major reason that some were in error. He expressed His complete confidence in Bible prophecies when He said, “The Scripture must be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49). He answered all of the devil’s temptations by relying on specific verses from the Old Testament (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10; Luke 4:4, 8, 12).
- Fulfilled Prophecies
Jesus Christ fulfilled at least 60 specific Old Testament prophecies in His first coming. At least 50 specific prophecies concerning cities and nations have been fulfilled in history, from Bible times to the present era.
- Archaeological Evidence
Dr. Nelson Glueck, probably the greatest modern authority on Israeli archeology, has said: “No archeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries.”
The back of the Thompson Chain Reference Bible has a great section on archaeological findings that confirm the Biblical records.
- Scientific Accuracy
When the Bible speaks concerning matters of science, it is accurate – despite the fact that many scientific discoveries came centuries after the Bible was completed. Here are some examples: the hydrologic cycle (Eccl. 1:7), the earth as a sphere (Isa. 40:22), the earth suspended in space (Job 26:7), the stars being innumerable (Jer. 33:22), the atmosphere having weight (Job 28:25), the stars traveling in certain paths (Judg. 5:20), the “running-down” of the universe (Psa. 102:25-26), the stars differing in magnitude (1 Cor. 15:41), the law of conservation of mass and energy (2 Pet. 3:7), life sustained by the blood (Lev. 17:11), chemical composition of man and the earth being identical (Psa. 103:14) and the existence of specific ocean currents (Psa. 8:8). There is no comparison between the Bible and other ancient religious writings, which appear fanciful and mythological
Parts of the Bible were written over 3,000 years ago, long before the invention of printing. The 66 books consisted of handwritten manuscripts, copied over and over again. The finding of the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947 showed that there have been no major errors or deletions in the Scriptures through these many centuries. In 303 A.D. Roman emperor, Diocletian, tried to destroy every existing Bible. Many others tyrants and godless philosophies have also tried. Yet today there are over 2,400 languages into which at least one book of the Bible has been translated. 98% of the world can read the Bible, in whole or in part, in a language in which they are fluent. No other book comes close!
Most of the heroes of the Bible are revealed to have had major character flaws. We can easily relate to them though they lived in a much different world. We can understand their lives, and see ourselves in their actions and attitudes. There’s no glossing over their difficulties. The problems of violence, deceit, lust, pride, anger, theft, war, jealousy and promiscuity – all of man’s problems are addressed in the Bible.
Unique Structure and Consistency
The 66 books of the Bible were written over a span of approximately 2,000 years by at least 40 authors. Yet throughout the Bible there is an amazing consistency and unity. These authors were not contemporaries, yet their writings all fit together. There is one consistent theme: God’s work of redeeming Adam’s race from his sin through God’s chosen Substitute and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Its Effect on People’s Lives
This is evidence that we have personally experienced. Our lives have been changed by God’s truth. The stories of transformation, deliverance and healing are unending. If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32).
- Why do you think there are so many attacks on the Bible in the media and in secular education?
- What do you think the average American thinks about the Bible?
- What percentage would be aware of the facts mentioned in this lesson?
- What was the most surprising thing you learned about the Bible from this lesson?
- How has the Bible changed your life?
The Bible should be interpreted literally, according to the normal rules of grammar, as one would interpret any literature.
The Bible sometimes uses figurative language, but it is clear when such is the case.
When symbolism is used, the Bible usually explains the meaning of the symbolism in a nearby verse.
We should interpret a passage of the Bible with an understanding of its cultural and historical setting.
It is important to consider the context of a verse. That context includes: The Testament
(Old or New), the book, the chapter and the verses preceding and following.
Some verses in the Bible are more accurately interpreted by knowing the meaning of the
particular words in the original language in which they were written. It also helps to
know the tense of the verbs in the original language.
Some verses are not as easily understood as others. Difficult verses should be understood by comparing them with other, more easily understood, verses on the same subject.
Understanding the Bible properly requires the help of the Holy Spirit, and personal surrender to God. The disciple must be willing to hear and obey what the Lord is speaking to his heart. He should pray that God would give him understanding of what he is studying, and wisdom to apply the truth to his heart.
There will be verses that you won’t fully understand. Don’t be frustrated or discouraged
by that. Some things in the Bible will remain hidden from people’s hearts, only to be
revealed at some future time. Finally, read your Bible as God’s love letter to you. Your relationship with Him is the
main purpose of your Bible study.
Here are some books that can help you to interpret the Bible properly:
How to Enjoy the Bible by E.W. Bullinger
Figures of Speech in the Bible by E.W. Bullinger
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merrill Unger and William White
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance by James Strong
The Blue Letter Bible (www.blueletterbible.org – a free online study Bible): This site can be used to study Bible words in their original meaning and tenses.
Here are some important Bible verses to read and consider concerning the study and interpretation of God’s Word:
2 Tim. 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
1 Cor. 2:12-14 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Sprit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Acts 17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
1 Tim. 4:13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
2 Pet. 1:19-21 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
2 Tim. 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work
- Why do you desire to study and understand God’s Word?
- What reasons have you given yourself in the past for not studying the Bible?
- What do you think now about those reasons
- What steps have you taken, or will you be taking, to improve your times of Bible study?
- Do you think that you have any pre-conceived ideas, or teachings that you have received in the past, that inhibit your understanding of the Bible?
#8 – Equipped to Know: IS THE GENESIS RECORD OF CREATION TO BE UNDERSTOOD AS ALLEGORICAL OR FACTUAL?
From two previous lessons we have learned several important answers to this question:
In the 6th Lesson (How Can We Trust that the Bible is True?) we discovered eight important reasons to have confidence in the Bible’s historical record.
In the 7th Lesson (What are the Rules for Interpreting the Bible?) we discovered that the Bible should be interpreted literally, unless the context makes clear that the language is figurative or allegorical.
Humanistic secular scientists have ruled out the supernatural in their mindset. They assume that there is no God; or else, if He exists, He has nothing to do directly with the laws of science in the material universe.
There are seven basic problems that secular humanists have with the Genesis record:
- The Book of Genesis teaches that the earth is young, approximately 6,000 years old.
- The Book of Genesis teaches that God created the universe, complete with its stars and planets, largely as it remains to this day.
- The Book of Genesis teaches that God created the universe in six 24-hour days.
- The Book of Genesis teaches that God created plants, animals and humans to reproduce according to their kind.
- The Book of Genesis teaches that the human race began with one man and one woman.
- The Bible teaches that there was a worldwide flood, destroying all humanity but one family. Animal life was spared because that family brought a pair of every kind of animal into a huge ark.
- The Bible teaches that the earth had one language, but that God brought confusion among the people at the tower of Babel. Every nation then began to speak their own language, and nations began to separate from each other.
Having been raised with secular education and media, we may find it hard to accept the Genesis record as fact. It’s tempting to allegorize these events. But, that creates another problem. If we allegorize part of the Bible, why not allegorize all of it? How do we know that Christ’s death for our sins and His resurrection from the dead are not also allegorical? Or maybe the promise of eternal life in Heaven is allegorical, or the forgiveness of our sins, or the promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The truth is this: The Genesis record is true, and it is to be believed in a literal sense. In this discipleship course we do not have time to explore all the scientific evidence for the seven teachings of Genesis mentioned above. We do, however, strongly recommend the three books called Answers Book 1 (2, 3) edited by Ken Ham, and published by Master Books. Each book answers 35 questions concerning evolution and creation.
Here is a sampling of the questions answered by knowledgeable scientists who believe in the Genesis record:
Why Shouldn’t Christians Accept Millions of Years?
Couldn’t God Have Used Evolution?
Doesn’t Carbon-14 Dating Disprove the Bible?
Could God Really Have Created Everything in Six Days?
Was There Really a Noah’s Ark and Flood?
Are There Really Different Races?
Where Does the Ice Age Fit?
Does Distant Starlight Prove the Universe is Old?
Hasn’t Evolution Been Proven True?
Did Jesus Say He Created in Six Literal Days?
How Old is the Earth?
Are Mutations Part of the “Engine” of Evolution?
Does the Big Bang Fit with the Bible?
Can Creationists Be “Real” Scientists?
Did People Like Adam and Noah Really Live Over 900 Years?
Aren’t Millions of Years Required for Geological Processes?
Was the Dispersion at Babel a Real Event?
Doesn’t the Order of Fossils in the Rock Record Favor Long Ages?
What are the “Kinds” in Genesis?
How Could Noah Fit the Animals on the Ark?
Was the Flood of Noah Global or Local in Extent?
How Old Does the Earth Look?
Does Evolution Have a…Chance?
When and How Did the Grand Canyon Form?
Does Astronomy Confirm a Young Universe?
What are Some of the Best Flood Evidences?
How Could Fish Survive the Genesis Flood?
- Do you think that it is important to believe all 66 Books of the Bible in a literal sense (unless the author is clearly using symbolic or allegorical language)? Why?
- Why do you think that the first book of the Bible is attacked more than any other book in the Bible?
- Are you surprised that there are many well-educated scientists who believe in the Genesis record? What difficulties do you think they face?
- Some say, “The Bible is not a science book.” In what ways do you agree or disagree with this statement?
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:26-28).
Then [after creating human beings] God saw everything He had made, and indeed it was very good (Gen. 1:31).
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Gen. 2:7).
Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it (Gen. 2:15).
Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field (Gen. 2:19-20).
And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”… And the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man” (Gen. 2:18, 21).
In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created (Gen. 5:1b-2).
Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man (Gen. 9:6).
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than angels [Hebrew, Elohim, God], and You have crowned him with glory and honor (Psalm 8:3-6).
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are You works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:13-16).
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you (Jer.1:5a).
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matt. 10:30-31).
Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep (Matt. 12:12a)?
Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female; and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (Matt. 19:4b-5)?
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (Mark 8:36-37)?
But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.” So they brought it. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:15b-17).
And [God] has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:26-28a).
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thes. 5:23).
God Became a Man!
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
And the angel answered and said to [Mary], “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from Heaven (1 Cor. 15:47).
[He] made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:7).
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. …Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:9, 14).
- What can we learn about man’s uniqueness from the creation of the first man and woman?
- What does it mean that man was made “in the image” of God?
- How do the words of Jesus in Mark 12 (concerning the coin with Caesar’s image) relate to this question?
- For what purpose did God make man?
- The Lord said that man is more valuable than the sparrows and the sheep. In what ways do we see the truth of this statement?
- What does the Bible teach about the value of man in God’s eyes?
- What does Christ’s incarnation (God becoming a Man) teach us about God’s view of humanity?
For you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Ex. 34:14).
Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, lest the Lord’s anger be aroused against you (Deut. 11:16-17a).
Give to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness (1 Chron. 16:29)!
When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying, “ For He is good, for His mercy endures forever” (2 Chron. 7:3).
And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground (Neh. 8:6).
All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises to Your name (Psa. 66:4).
Oh come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker (Psa. 95:6).
And when they [the magi] had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2:11).
Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matt. 4:10).
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).
Who shall not fear you, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested (Rev. 15:4).
Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Rev. 22:8-9).
HOW IMPORTANT IS WORSHIP? The word “worship” is found 181 times in Bible. It is a major doctrine in God’s Word.
WHO IS TO BE WORSHIPED? The Bible teaches that only God is to be worshiped. God disciplined His chosen nation of Israel, allowing them to go into captivity, because they were worshiping false gods.
WORSHIP RECEIVED BY JESUS: The fact that Jesus never rebuked the many who worshiped Him indicates that He is God. In the Bible, whenever angels or godly men were worshiped, they always stopped the people from continuing (Acts 14:11-18 and Rev. 22:8-9).
WHY IS IDOL WORSHIP SO DANGEROUS? People become servants to the “gods” they worship, with tragic consequences. Satan wants to be worshiped (Matthew 4:8-9). He is called the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). He wants to take away the praise that God alone deserves. Whenever people worship idols, they are actually worshiping Satan. In this way he tries to destroy any godly influence in entire nations.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE WORSHIP THE TRUE GOD? God made man for the purpose of bringing glory to Him. Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him (Isaiah 43:7). Mankind was created to worship God. We are most fulfilled by His life, His joy, His peace, and His love when we are worshiping Him.
HOW DO I WORSHIP GOD? Jesus said that we must “worship Him in spirit and truth.” He spoke of the human spirit, the capacity inside a believer to be conscious of God. The truth is the Word of God. We must worship God with personal consciousness of His Being, and with the revealed truth concerning Who He is.
Here are two examples of worship in the New Testament:
1. And, behold, a woman in the city, who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil (Luke 7:37-38). This woman’s spirit was fully conscious of who Jesus was, and therefore she worshiped Him without reservation.
2. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also (Acts 10:44-45). This group of people, by concentrating on Peter’s message, was worshiping God for the truth of the Gospel.
In the first example we see a forgiven sinner’s worship expressed with intense love, devotion, gratitude, sacrifice, and adoration. In the second example we see a group of people who are hearing the Word of God preached in the power of the Spirit. As they are concentrating on the Word, the Holy Spirit is giving them understanding. They are in communion with God’s thoughts. This is another form of worship.
“Without worship, we go about miserable.” (A. W. Tozer)
“If there is one characteristic more than others that contemporary public worship needs to recapture it is this awe before the surpassingly great and gracious God” (Henry Sloane Coffin).
“No one ever truly comes to know, honor, or worship God without being changed in the process” (James M. Boice).
“Worship is not an optional extra, but is of the very life and essence of the Church. …Man is never more truly man than when he worships God. He rises to all the heights of human dignity when he worships God, and all God’s purpose in Creation and in Redemption are fulfilled in us as together in worship we are renewed in and through Christ, and in the name of Christ we glorify God” (James B. Torrance).
“God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him” (John Piper).
“We ought to see the face of God every morning before we see the face of man” (Dwight L. Moody).
“Worship is concentrating on the Only Exalted One. It is to receive categories of Bible doctrine with concentration. The Holy Spirit imparts the Word to my memory as I listen with concen-tration. I’m worshiping God with His thoughts functioning in my soul. Man was created to worship God for who He is” (Pastor Carl H. Stevens).
- What have been some of the idols in your life?
- What would indicate that those things had become idols to you?
- What has been your experience of worshiping God?
- Do you think that your experience of worship may change after this study? How?
- How can concentration on the Lord while hearing His Word transform my life?
Free volition (or free will) = the ability or discretion to choose; free choice. The power of making free choices unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will. “God’s first utterance to man in the Bible is a command which he disobeys and for which he is punished. This implies that man is a responsible being, possessing freedom of choice to obey or disobey. Man’s actions, emanating from his will, are his own, for which he is, therefore, accountable” (The Encyclopedia of Judaism). Opposite the doctrine of free volition is the error of determinism. Determinism = the philosophical doctrine that every state of affairs, including every human event, act, and decision is the inevitable consequence of antecedent [preceding] states of affairs.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17).
If man does not have free volition then the commands of the Lord are meaningless. The fact that God gives genuine commands to man proves that man has freedom of choice.
The Lord commands His people to make right choices. I call Heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live (Deut. 30:19). And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).
God warned of the consequences of making choices against His will. Because they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD, they would have none of My counsel and despised My every rebuke (Prov. 1:29-30). When I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear; but they did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight (Isa. 66:4b).
He commended those who made godly choices, such as Moses. Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25).
Some might ask, “If God knew everything in advance, how can man truly have freedom of choice?” God sees everything in time from His realm of eternity. He sees all of time in a moment. For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy (Isa. 57:15a).
God’s knowledge of all things in time does not nullify man’s freedom of choice. Even when God intervenes in human history, He does not interfere with man’s free volition. He holds people accountable for their free choices, even when those choices work to further God’s plan. Consider God’s words concerning those who crucified His Son. [Jesus Christ], being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death (Acts 2:23). The death of Christ was in God’s “determined” plan, in God’s “foreknowledge.” He foreknew that event. Yet He held accountable the ones who engineered the crucifixion.
God is just and righteous. He does not hold people accountable for decisions that were forced upon them.
Man Made in the Image of God
Of all creatures, only man and angels possess this freedom to originate changes with their volition. God made man in His image (Gen. 1:26). Part of that “image” is man’s ability to make free volitional choices.
Love Must Be Volitional
God’s greatest command is: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. This command is repeated nine times in the Bible: Deut. 6:5, Deut. 10:12, Deut. 11:13, Deut. 13:3, Deut. 30:6, Josh. 22:5, Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27. Jesus said, “This is the first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:38). Love has no meaning if it is not volitional.
Pastor Tom Schaller said, “God gave us freedom to decide. Because of this we can trust Him. He wants us to be free. Without freedom there is no love. Without choices this would be a world without life or love or real people. Love gives us the freedom not to love.” How satisfied would a person be to read “I love you” on his own computer screen, if he himself had programmed the computer with that message? There would be no satisfaction in that “love” because the computer has no free volition. God wants us to love Him with a genuine love, a love that we have chosen to have for Him.
Verses that Illustrate Man’s Free Volition:
Therefore I will number you for the sword, and you shall all bow down to the slaughter; because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not hear, but did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight (Isa. 65:12).
Just as they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations (Isa. 66:3b).
I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me (Psalm 119:30).
But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:42).
Then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the LORD’s side – come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him (Ex. 32:26).
And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away” (John 6:66-67)?
- Can you think of any life-changing decisions that you have made, or someone close to you has made?
- What were the consequences of those decisions?
- In understanding that God gave man a free volition, what do we learn about the character of God?
- How would you answer this seeker’s question: “If God already knows everything that’s going to happen in the future, how can man really possess a free volition?”
The Bible Defines “Sin”
All unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17a). God is righteous. Sin is unrighteousness, the opposite of God’s nature.
Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). Sin is the violation of God’s law.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord (1 Sam. 15:23a). Sin is willful rebellion against God and His revealed will.
Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17). Sin includes both sins of commission (doing that which is against God’s commands) as well as sins of omission (not doing that which God has commanded).
For whatever is not from faith is sin (Rom. 14:23b). The nature of sin is unbelief, not putting one’s personal trust in God. (See also John 16:8-9.)
The devising of foolishness is sin (Prov. 24:9). Sin originates in the thought-life, thinking in one’s heart without any regard for God. (See also Psalm 14:1.)
A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin (Prov. 21:4). Sin is characterized by pride.
Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold (Ex. 32:31)! Sin is idolatry, putting other gods before the one true God. Idolatry includes making “self” a god.
If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally by doing something against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not to be done, and is guilty (Lev. 4:27). Sin can be unintentional. These are called sins of ignorance.
Sin: In the Old Testament = “to miss, to lack, to forfeit.”
In the New Testament = “to miss the mark, to err.”
Trespass: In the Old Testament = “to cover up, to act secretly & treacherously.”
In the New Testament = “to slip, to fall, to lapse, to stumble.”
Iniquity: In the Old Testament = “perversity, emotional rebellion.”
In the New Testament = “unrighteousness, moral wrong.”
Evil: In the Old Testament = “harmful, wrong, bad.
Grk. kakos: In the New Testament = “evil in nature.”
Grk. poneros: In the New Testament = “evil in effect, malignant evil.”
Wickedness: In the Old Testament = “ungodliness, moral evil.”
In the New Testament = “lawlessness.”
The Universality of Man’s Sin
There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none who understands. There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside. They have all become unprofitable. There is none who does good, no, not one…Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God…For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:10-12, 19, 23).
Why is Sin Universal to Mankind?
- Because of Divine Imputation
- Because of Adam’s Nature
- Because of Personal Choice
Imputation is a legal term that means “a counting, a reckoning.” God mercifully counted Adam’s sin against all humans. In so doing, he rejected all forms of comparative human righteousness. Instead, all would be counted equally guilty. The Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (Gal. 3:22). By imputing Adam’s sin to us before we had ever personally sinned, God was opening the door to imputing Christ’s righteousness to us before we could ever be righteous. He removed the possibility of obtaining righteousness by any means other than faith.
The New Testament often uses the word “flesh” to refer to the nature passed down to us genetically from the first man and woman. That which is born of flesh is flesh (John 3:6a). We inherited the nature of sin, the nature of Adam. Sin entered the world through the free volitional decision of Adam in the Garden of Eden. Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (Rom. 5:12a). Each human being has been born of that same natural parentage. Therefore every human being (with the exception of Jesus Christ) has been born with a sinful nature. Jesus had a human mother, but no human father (Joseph being His stepfather). Jesus was the only sinless Man. It is reasonable to assume that the sinful nature of Adam is passed down from generation to generation through the father’s seed, not the mother’s.
Because of Adam’s sin we all have a fallen nature. We were born with this nature. They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies (Psalm 58:3b). It is natural for us to sin. No one had to teach us to sin. Every person inevitably will sin. However, God holds us accountable for our sins. Why? Because every time we sinned we used our own free volition to do it. Each time there was the possibility that we could have chosen not to sin. So He will not simply excuse us because of sin’s inevitability and universality. He will not just “look the other way.” This is the third reason we are all sinners – because all have sinned by their own personal choosing.
- How would you define the word “sin”?
- Is God unfair to hold us accountable for our sins if it’s inevitable that every man will sin? Why or why not?
- In what ways was it merciful and gracious for God to count Adam’s sin against us before we had ever sinned?
- Have you ever met a non-Christian who seems to have no faults? How can we consider him/her a “sinner”?
The Devil’s Names
The devil = false accuser (34 times)
Satan = adversary, attacker (55 times)
Lucifer = shining star (1 time)
The serpent (10 times)
The dragon (13 times)
The tempter = one who tempts and tests (2 times)
Beelzebub = dung-god (7 times)
The wicked one = the infectiously evil one (5 times)
The accuser = one who charges another with an offense (1 time)
The Testimony of Scripture
The Bible speaks of the devil from the 3rd chapter of the first book (Gen. 3) to the 3rd to the last chapter of the last book (Rev. 20). In every place the Scripture speaks of the devil as a real being. Jesus spoke of the devil as a real being (Matt. 4:10, 10:25, 12:26-27, 13:39, 16:23, 25:41; Mark 3:23, 3:26, 4:15, 8:33; Luke 4:8, 8:12, 10:18, 11:18-19, 13:16, 22:31; John 8:44). Scripture also testifies that Jesus spoke to the devil (Matt. 4:3-10, Matt. 16:23, Luke 4:3-12). In no place does the Bible speak of the devil as a symbolic or mythical being.
The Devil’s Origin
God created Lucifer as an angel without sin, but with a free volition. He was God’s highest-ranking angel. He rebelled against God with the sin of pride. God expelled him from Heaven along with one-third of the angels who joined his rebellion. Lucifer became known as the devil and Satan. After his fall he entered Eden in the form of a serpent in order to tempt the first man and woman. He now dwells in “the air” – the atmosphere around the earth
What the Scriptures Say about Lucifer’s Fall
Isa. 14:12-15 How you are fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart, “I will ascend into Heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.” Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.
Eze. 28:12b-19a Thus says the Lord GOD, “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God. …You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned. Therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I laid you before kings that they might gaze at you. You defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your trading.”
Luke 10:18 And [Jesus] said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven.”
Rev. 12:3-4a, 7-9 And another sign appeared in Heaven: Behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of Heaven and threw them to the earth. …And war broke out in Heaven. Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in Heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
The Devil’s Work
During this age the devil acts as the god of this world and the prince of the power of the air (2 Cor. 4:4, Eph. 2:2). He is the prince of the demons, the other fallen angels. He acts as their highest commander, organizing them into ranks, and delegating authority to them (Eph. 6:11-12, Matt. 12:24-26, Dan. 10:11-21). Satan is the enemy of God, of God’s angels, and of mankind – especially those humans who are the redeemed children of God. Throughout history, and to the present day, the devil has shown an intense level of hatred toward the nation of Israel and the church of Jesus Christ.
Satan tempts (Gen. 3:1-6; Matt. 4:1-11, 1 Cor. 7:5, 1 Thes. 3:5), provokes (1 Chron. 21:1), questions the motives of the godly (Job 1:9-11), asks permission to afflict (Job 2:4-7), opposes God’s people (Zech. 3:1-2), tries to indwell unsaved humans (Matt. 12:43-45, Luke 22:3), snatches the Word of God out of the heart (Matt. 13:19), keeps people bound with physical afflictions (Luke 13:16), asks permission to “sift” God’s people (Luke 22:31), lies and murders (John 8:44), steals and kills and destroys (John 10:10), puts evil into available hearts (Acts 5:3), exercises authority over the lost (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13), tries to get an advantage over believers (2 Cor. 2:11), blinds the minds of the unsaved from believing the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:3-4), masquerades as an angel of light and a minister of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14), shoots “fiery darts” at believers (Eph. 6:16), hinders the work of the church (1 Thes. 2:18), gives supernatural abilities to his own human representatives (2 Thes. 2:9), deceives (1 Tim. 2:14), takes people captive to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26), seeks to find those that he can “devour” (1 Pet. 5:8), keeps the whole world-system (the “kosmos”) under his sway (1 John 5:19), tries to establish a “throne” of authority in certain cities (Rev. 2:13), accuses God’s people day and night (Rev. 12:10), and persecutes the church (Rev. 12:13).
The Devil’s Future
At Christ’s Glorious Return (the end of the Tribulation Period): Then I saw an angel coming down from Heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while (Rev.20:1-3).
At the End of the Millennial Reign of Christ on Earth: Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison, and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number [is] as the sand of the sea (Rev. 20:7-8).
At the End of Time: The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet [are]. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev. 20:10).
For Eternity: …into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41b).
- Why do you think that God created Lucifer, knowing beforehand that he would rebel?
- Why does Satan have such hatred toward mankind?
- What do you think are the main strategies that Satan uses against unsaved mankind?
- What are his main strategies against the church of Jesus Christ?
Demons are mentioned at least 85 times in the Bible. 55 times they are referred to as “devils” (King James Bible) or “demons” (most other versions). 30 times they are called “spirits,” often combined with various adjectives: familiar spirits, unclean spirits, evil spirits, seducing spirits, etc. Once they are called “evil angels” (Psa. 78:49).
The demons try to control geographical areas and nations. Certain high-ranking demons were called “prince of Persia” and “prince of Greece” (Daniel 10:13, 20). These supernatural beings were resisting Daniel’s prayers on behalf of his people, Israel.
All demons are angels who fell with Satan when they followed him in rebellion against God. They continue to wage spiritual war against God’s people – against the church of Jesus Christ and against the nation of Israel.
The worship of demons is mentioned at least nine times in the Bible. Satan, their leader, wanted Jesus to worship him (Matt. 4:9; Luke 4:7). Demons seek to actually enter the bodies of unbelievers. That’s called demon possession. They are not able to possess a genuine Christian because God has already made the believer’s body a temple of the Holy Spirit – having purchased the right to possess his body through the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
However, demons are capable of oppressing a believer who is not walking in the Holy Spirit and not hiding God’s Word in his heart. The demons study the believer, seeking information about his moods, attitudes and weaknesses – in order to gain an advantage over him (2 Cor. 2:11). They carry on this spiritual warfare against the Christian without entering his body. They use suggestion, temptation and projections from the atmosphere in which they dwell (Eph. 2:2).
The Four Gospels record at least nine instances in which Jesus confronted demons, delivering those who were possessed by these spirits. Jesus’ disciples also cast out demons through His authority (Luke 10:17). In the Book of Acts the disciples continued to confront and cast out demons.
Demons dread having to face the Son of God. They know that there is coming a time, a time already appointed for them, to be tormented in Hell forever (Matt. 8:29). They personally know and fear believers who have God’s power in their lives through the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:15). They know that God is real, and they tremble at the thought of Him (James 2:19).
Angels are mentioned over 200 times in the Bible. We only know two by name, Michael (Dan. 10:13, 21; Dan. 12:1; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7) and Gabriel (Dan. 8:16, 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26). God created angels in the beginning (Psalm 148:2-5; Col. 1:16). The angels resisted Lucifer’s rebellion, staying loyal to God.
The Greek word, “angelos” – means “messenger.” Angels are greater in power and might than men (2 Pet. 2:11). They are curious about God’s plan of redemption for mankind (1 Pet. 1:12). During the present age the angels are learning about this redemption through the manifold wisdom of God as they observe the church of Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:10).
Their primary purpose is to invisibly serve God’s people by strengthening and guarding them. Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14)?
The angels also take great interest in the salvation of the lost souls of men and women. Jesus said, Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).
Angels also have a special ministry to little children. Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in Heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in Heaven (Matt. 18:10).
The angels are present at a believer’s death to escort his soul into God’s presence in Heaven. And so it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).
Spiritual warfare is the ongoing battle between God’s angels and Satan’s demons. The angels carry out the commands of the Lord, and the demons constantly oppose the completion of those commands. Demons work under the command of Satan, their prince (Matt. 9:34, 12:24; Mark 3:22). The angels are submitted to the will of God. Bless the LORD, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word (Psalm 103:20).
Many of the things we experience in this life are related directly to spiritual warfare. Sometimes we get into disputes with people, and we are quick to blame people. We look for natural solutions to our conflicts. However, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).
- Paul wrote that we should not be ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11). What might be some of the consequences for a Christian living his life without an awareness of spiritual warfare?
- In thinking of natural warfare between nations, what is the importance of understanding the enemy’s strategies and tactics?
- How do the angels carry out their ministry to the church?
- How does the church carry out its ministry to the angels?
In the 12th Lesson we learned what sin is, and why sin is found in the heart of every human being. Without God’s salvation, man is lost in his sins. He cannot know God, and he cannot go to Heaven.
God is holy, righteous, just and pure (the 1st Lesson). Therefore He cannot allow sin into His presence. He can have no fellowship with sin. Sin excludes man from any relationship with God. [God is] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness (Hab. 1:13). You… once were alienated [from God] and enemies in your mind by wicked works (Col. 1:21). But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear (Isa. 59:2).
Salvation must be the work of God. Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9b). Norman Geisler wrote, “The origin of salvation is the will of God, who decreed from all eternity to provide salvation for those who would believe.”
Man is completely unable to save himself from his sin and his lost condition. Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil (Jer. 13:23). Paul said, “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good” (Rom. 7:21).
Because of man’s inability to save himself, our part is only to believe – to believe on the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the only Savior. [The jailer] brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So [Paul and Silas] said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31a). For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:8-9). We are saved by grace (God’s undeserved, unearned, unmerited favor) and through faith (our trust and reliance) in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. God provides salvation from His heart of grace. Faith is our response to that grace. Faith is the only condition for receiving God’s salvation.
Through religion man has invented many other conditions, teaching that various works are necessary for receiving salvation. These works include: Living a good life, being a member of a church, attending church, being baptized, confession of sin, praying, being good to one’s fellow man, caring about the poor, etc. These are all good things, but they can never save a person from his sin. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).
Jesus was clear about the Way of salvation. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Peter declared, “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole…Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under Heaven, given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10, 12). And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). John said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!
Without Christ in our lives we are unbelievers. It is our natural state – relying on ourselves, and not on God. The Bible describes this problem: All are under sin. …There is none righteous, no, not one. There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God…There is none who does good, no, not one (Rom. 3:9b-12). Because of the spiritual blindness in us, caused by our sin nature, we think we are good enough to be accepted by God. We naturally think that we do not need God’s salvation. We are lost, separated from God, on the road to Hell, and we don’t even know it!
However, when we hear the Gospel (the Good News of God’s salvation by grace), the Holy Spirit goes to work to convince (convict) us:
1. That we are sinners;
2. That our own goodness (righteousness) is not acceptable to Him; and
3. That we will face God’s judgment in the future.
Jesus said, “When [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11). Through this work of conviction, and the hearing of the Gospel, we make a choice to believe on Jesus Christ. We experience repentance, meaning “a change of mind” or “a turning around.” The Holy Spirit has turned us from unbelief to faith.
The Holy Spirit uses the Gospel of Christ to accomplish this miraculous work. The Gospel is the Good News, declaring that we can be forgiven of our sins, and that we can be personally brought into a relationship with God. We are guaranteed eternal life in Heaven – by believing in the saving work of Christ on the cross when He died for our sins. The Gospel is the declaration of His death, burial and resurrection. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16a).
Salvation in our lives can be viewed in three parts. God saves us from:
- The penalty of sin;
- The power of sin;
- The presence of sin.
First, we’re set free from the penalty of our sins. This happens the moment a person believes. He is justified, made righteous before the eyes of God, never to come under any penalty from God!
Second, we are progressively delivered from the power of sin. We are being sanctified, set apart for God’s purposes, becoming less and less a servant of our own desires, or the desires of the world. This process is carried out through the personal study of God’s Word (John 17:17) and by the active work of the Holy Spirit inside us (1 Pet. 1:2).
The third part occurs in the future, when the believer sees Jesus face to face. He is glorified at that moment, totally removed from sin’s presence. He loses his nature of sin. He can no longer be tempted by sin. He has become like Jesus (1 John 3:2).
- Some say, “It’s too good to be true.” They reject salvation because they feel that nothing that good could be that easy. How would you answer them?
- Why do you think that so many reject the simple way of salvation (by grace, through faith)? Why do they try to create their own system of salvation?
- What are some of the differences between religions and true Christianity?
- Why is Jesus the only Way to God the Father?
In the 15th Lesson we learned that salvation must be from God, not from man (Jonah 2:9). Jesus Christ is the One who accomplished this work. The specific work that He accomplished was His death on behalf of all mankind. It is His death that made salvation available to mankind.
[Jesus] appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Jesus said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished” (Luke 12:50). We are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished (Luke 18:31). For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: “And He was numbered with the transgressors.” For the things concerning Me have an end [= a definite goal to be aimed at] (Luke 22:37). After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!”…Now when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit (John 19:28, 30). With His death Christ accomplished the great redemptive work.
William Evans wrote, “The elimination of the doctrine of the death of Christ…would mean the surrender of [Christianity’s] uniqueness and claim to be…the supreme and final revelation from God to the sons of men. It is its redemption feature that distinguishes Christianity from any and all other religions. …Christianity is not merely a system of ethics; it is the history of redemption through Jesus Christ, the personal Redeemer. … Other men have said, ‘If I could only live, I would establish and perpetuate an empire.’ The Christ of Galilee said: ‘My death shall do it.’” The theme of the song of the redeemed in Heaven will forever be Christ’s death (Rev. 5:8-12).
The Bible presents the death of Jesus as:
- A ransom (the paying of a price for someone held captive). By His death Jesus purchased our souls from the slave market of sin, delivering us from the sentence of death. The ransom was not paid to the devil, but to God the Father – to satisfy the perfect justice of His nature and law. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (Gal. 3:13a).
- A propitiation (a mercy-seat, a covering). By His death Christ upheld God’s righteousness, providing the basis upon which God could forgive guilty people without compromising His own perfect, sinless nature. [Jesus Christ] Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (1 John 2:2).
- A reconciliation (the making of peace between two hostile parties). Christ’s death removed the barrier to fellowship between God and man. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Rom. 5:10).
- A substitution (one life given in the place of another). In Genesis 22 Isaac’s life was spared because God provided a ram whose horns were caught in a bush. The ram’s life was sacrificed in the place of Isaac’s life. The Passover lamb in Exodus 12 shows the same principle. The firstborn sons were rescued from death in every home in which a lamb was sacrificed. For [God] made [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).
The phrase “for us” means “instead of us” or “in our place.” Notice the same phrase in the following verses:
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
1 Corinthians 5:7b For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
Galatians 3:13a Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.
Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
1 Thessalonians 5:10 [Our Lord Jesus Christ] died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
Titus 2:14 [Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
1 Peter 2:21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.
1 Peter 4:1a Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind.
1 John 3:16a By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.
- What would Christianity be without the teaching of Christ’s redemptive death?
- How does understanding the work of Christ on the cross affect:
- The way we think of God?
- The way we think of our relationship with God?
- The way we think of ourselves?
- The way we think of the world?
The finished work of Christ can be thought of in two ways:
- It is the work that Christ accomplished on the cross when He willingly gave up His life as the redemptive sacrifice on behalf of all mankind. This work was finished for us.
- The work that the Holy Spirit accomplishes inside the soul of a person the moment he or she trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ for personal salvation. This work was finished in us.
The 16th Lesson explained that God has provided for man’s salvation through the death of His Son. The work of providing salvation was the work Jesus finished when He died. Just before He died He shouted with a loud voice, “It is finished!” Why would He shout out as a man winning a victory when the Roman authorities were cruelly executing him? The Greek word (teleo) used in John 19:30 means “to end, to complete, to execute, to conclude, to discharge a debt.” Scholars say that this word was used to indicate that a debt had been “paid in full.” Christ was shouting in victory just before He died because He knew that God had placed upon Him the entire debt owed to God by all mankind. He knew that He was bearing the judgment due the human race for all their sins for all time. And He Himself is the propitiation [the atoning sacrifice] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (1 John 2:2).
Jesus knew that He had come into the world to finish this work. Just hours before He was arrested He prayed, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name” (John 12:27-28a). In His humanity He would naturally want to preserve His own life, but He knew that the Father’s will for Him was the cross. Jesus was determined to go to the cross and sacrifice His life for us. Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). His disciples warned Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there [Jerusalem] again” (John 11:8)? But Jesus had His eyes on something great – “the joy” of finishing the work for us! Who for the joy that was set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2b).
His death was our victory! He Himself likewise shared in the same [flesh and blood, humanity], that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:14b). [He has] wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and power, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it (Col. 2:14-15). His death was Satan’s defeat! None of the rulers of this age knew [the wisdom of God]; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8). The finished work is a finished victory for every person who believes in Christ.
The second part of the finished work is the work that the Holy Spirit completes inside the believer at the moment of salvation. Pastor Carl Stevens wrote a booklet entitled What Happened When You Received Christ? He listed a great number of things that happen instantaneously when a person receives Jesus. He wrote, “These are called positional truths, because regardless of your experience, they remain in you and toward you as a completed work, irrevocable from the viewpoint of eternity.”Here is a modified list from that booklet:
Here is a modified list from that booklet: 1. The Lord saved you from sin, death, Hell, and judgment. 2. He forgave you. 3. He gave you eternal life. 4. He reconciled you to God. 5. He redeemed you. 6. He regenerated you. 7. He made you righteous with His own righteousness. 8. He justified you. 9. He wiped out the charges against you. 10. He cleansed you with His blood. 11. He renewed your mind. 12. He gave you understanding of His Word. 13. He glorified you. 14. He adopted you. 15. He sealed you with His Spirit. 16. He made you complete in Him. 17. He sanctified you. 18. He made you alive with His life. 19. He perfected you forever. 20. He accepted you. 21. He qualified you. 22. He crucified your old nature with Christ. 23. He buried you with Christ. 24. He raised you with Christ. 25. He seated you with Christ in heavenly places. 26. He baptized you with His Spirit. 27. He wrote your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life in Heaven. 28. The Spirit made His permanent home inside you. 29. He placed you forever in God, in Christ and in the Spirit. 29. He delivered you from the Law. 31. He gave you spiritual circumcision. 32. He brought you near to God through His blood. 33. He delivered you from the power of darkness. 34. He transferred you into the kingdom of the Son. 35. He delivered you from the world-system. 36. The Father gave you as a gift to the Son. 37. Christ became your spiritual Husband. 38. Christ became your Advocate in Heaven. 39. Christ became your Brother. 40. Christ became your Friend. 41. Christ became your Shepherd. 42. Christ became your High Priest. 43. He made you a son of God. 44. He made you a new creation. 45. He made you a member of His body, the church. 46. He made you part of His bride. 47. He made you a saint. 48. He made you part of His royal priesthood. 49. He made you part of His own holy nation. 50. He made you His inheritance. 51. He made you His temple, His dwelling-place. 52. He made you a citizen of Heaven. 53. He made you His co-laborer. 54. He made you an ambassador for Christ. 55. He made you His servant. 56. He made you part of His family. 57. He made you His beloved. 58. He removed all condemnation from you. 59. He caused you to reign as a conqueror. 60. He gave you free access to Himself. 61. He made you the object of His love. 62. He gave you His grace. 63. He gave you His power. 64. He gave you His peace. 65. He gave you hope. 66. He gave you every spiritual blessing in Christ. 67. He gave you rest. 68. He gave you joy. 69. He gave you comfort. 70. He began to intercede for you. 71. He began to give you special protection. 72. He began to teach you. 73. He began to fellowship personally with you. 74. He caused His Word to work inside you to transform you into His image. 75. He delivered you from shame. 76. He gave you victory over the world.
- If God has done all this for us by His grace, before we could do anything for Him, what should our response be?
- How would you describe the life of a believer who doesn’t understand the finished work?
- What does the finished work teach us about the character of God? What does it teach us about the purpose of man?
Throughout all the New Testament the Lord teaches us that there is only one condition for salvation: Faith in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ: Trusting in Who He is, and in what He has accomplished by His death and resurrection.
The following verses teach that faith in Jesus Christ is the only condition for receiving the free gift of eternal life: Luke 8:12, John 1:12-13, John 3:14-18, John 3:36, John 5:24, John 6:35, John 6:40, John 6:47, John 7:38-39, John 8:24, John 11:25-26, John 12:36, John 12:46, John 20:31, Acts 10:43, Acts 13:39, Acts 16:31, Romans 1:16-17, Romans 3:22, Romans 3:26, Romans 3:28, Romans 4:5, Romans 5:1-2, Romans 9:33, Romans 10:4, Romans 10:9-11, 1 Corinthians 1:21, Galatians 2:16, Galatians 3:22, Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 Timothy 1:16, 2 Timothy 3:15, 1 John 5:1, 1 John 5:13. (Please take the time to look up each of these verses. Think about the importance of what God is saying.)
Salvation is not received by:
- Faith plus works
- Faith plus water baptism
- Faith plus having a special gift of the Spirit
- Faith plus prayer
- Faith plus repentance
- Faith plus church membership
- Faith plus church attendance
- Faith plus testifying to others
- Faith plus confession
- Faith plus perseverance, or holding onto my salvation
- Faith plus holiness
- Faith plus last rites or communion
Good works are part of the fruit – the results of my salvation. The Lord will show His good and holy nature through us after we are saved.
The Bible commands water baptism for every believer. Being baptized publicly, after salvation, is a way of demonstrating our faith in Jesus. But baptism itself has no power to save.God gives spiritual gifts to each believer after he is saved by faith. There is no one gift that gives evidence of a person’s salvation. Love, a fruit of the Spirit, is the most important evidence of salvation (John 13:35, 1 Corinthians 13).
Prayer does not save a person. It is faith in Jesus that saves. However, we usually express that faith by calling upon the name of Jesus. Faith is internal, with the heart. Calling on His name is external, with the mouth.
Repentance takes place simultaneously with faith in Jesus Christ. Repentance is simply a change of mind. When we believe we are repenting of our unbelief. Before we are saved we do not have the Holy Spirit. If turning from sin were a condition for salvation, no one could ever be saved. We cannot turn ourselves. God turns us and delivers us from the power of sin progressively, after we receive Him.It’s important to be part of a local assembly, and to attend regularly (Hebrews 10:25), but church membership and attendance do not save us.
Believers have a testimony to others once they are saved. It’s important to share what Christ has done in your life with others. But that is not a condition for salvation.
Confession of sin is implied in asking the Savior to come into your life. You’re recognizing that you are a sinner and that you need the Savior. But many confess their sins without faith in Jesus.
Persevering, continuing to hold onto one’s salvation, makes a person his own “savior.” Salvation is the work of God. At the moment of salvation God seals the believer with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13, 4:30). He keeps us by His power (1 Peter 1:5). He will never allow us to be taken out of His hands (John 10:28-29). He holds onto us eternally – even when we fail!
Holiness is the result of the Holy Spirit’s work inside our hearts, setting us apart more and more to the Lord’s will. We cannot begin to be holy without His Spirit. Believers are not always obedient, and God will discipline us if we continue to disobey Him (Hebrews 12). But even in our times of rebellion we will never cease to be His child.
Ceremonies such as last rites and communion will never save a person. They are outward expressions that have no power in themselves. It’s important to observe the Lord’s Supper with my local assembly on a regular basis as the Lord taught us to do. Having a pastor pray with you on your deathbed can bring great comfort and assurance, but it has no saving power by itself.
Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. If I had done one work to be saved, I could boast. But all I did was believe.
William Evans writes, “When a man, believing in the claims of Jesus Christ receives Him to be all that He claimed to be – that man is born again. Regeneration takes place in the heart of man when he reads or hears…the Gospel message…and, because of the Spirit working…in the heart of man, the man opens his heart and receives that message as the Word of life to his soul.” (See John 1:10-13.)
The faith that the Bible talks about is not mere intellectual belief, or impersonal faith. James 2:19 refers to this kind of impersonal faith: You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble. The faith of the demons is not a faith that can save them. Their faith is impersonal. They do not trust in the Lord. There are many religious people who might call themselves Christians, but they have not truly believed in Jesus Christ as their Savior with personal faith. In Matthew 7:23 the Lord will say to such people, “I never knew you. Depart from Me.”
- How would you describe the “Christian life” of someone who believes he must do some kind of work to be saved; or of someone whose faith is like the demons’ faith?
- Do you ever find yourself thinking outside of grace in your relationship with God?
- How would you describe the personal results of that kind of thinking?
1. The Lord completes what He begins.
The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever (Psa. 13:8a).
Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).
2. The Lord makes sure to “seal” His possession (the believer) because He has paid such a high price to purchase the believer’s soul (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18-19).And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30).In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:13-14).
3. Since we did nothing to earn salvation, there is nothing we can do to lose it.For by grace you have been saved [perfect tense] through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:8-9).Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).
4. Our salvation is not dependent on us, but on God’s character of faithfulness.For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5b).Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20b).That by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us (Heb. 6:18).Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into Heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me (Psa. 139:7-10).If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13).Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17).
5. There are many promises in the New Testament of “eternal life” (John 3:15-16; 3:36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:40, 47, 54). The believer is promised life that is eternal. It cannot die. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand (John 10:28-29).And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:11-13).
6. God, with all power and authority, is more than able to keep the believer from being lost. The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down (Psa. 145:14).Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand (Psa. 37:24).The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut. 33:27a).Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand (Rom. 14:4).You enlarged my path under me, so my feet did not slip (Psa. 18:36).I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day (2 Tim. 1:12b).Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24).For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39).All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from Heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day (John 6:37-39).Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Heb.7:25).
7. According to Greek scholar, Spiros Zodhiates, “the perfect tense looks at an action as having been completed in the past but as having existing results.” Through whom also we have [perfect tense] access by faith into this grace in which we stand [perfect tense], and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:2).Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved [perfect tense] in Heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet. 1:3-5).
8. Eternal life is from an “incorruptible seed” and that seed gives the believer “an incorruptible inheritance.” “Incorruptible” means “not liable to corruption or decay.” The same word is used to describe God Himself in Romans 1:23.[You] having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Pet. 1:23).Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet. 1:3-5).
9. God’s plan is from eternity to eternity. He “knows the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10). He has always known us in His eternal foreknowledge.In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11).I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him (Eccl. 3:14).
10. A person’s salvation is settled forever the moment he truly puts his faith in Christ.Jesus said to [Peter], He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean (John 13:10a).
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1a).
Many people have anecdotal “evidence” of someone who has “lost” his salvation. I know a former pastor and Bible college teacher who now doubts the existence of God. Judas appeared to be a faithful disciple, but he never truly believed in Jesus as his Lord. In Luke 8:18b Jesus said, “Whosoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.”
- Why does Satan attack the doctrine of eternal security so much?
- What are the effects of believing that you can lose your salvation?
- What should a Christian do if he doubts his own salvation?
- What’s the problem with anecdotal “evidence” concerning eternal security?
Hinduism teaches that salvation is the liberation of the soul from the chain of reincarnation by an impersonal fusion of the soul with Brahman, like the fusion of a drop of rain with the ocean. Any element of personhood is annihilated and the process of reincarnation ceases. To break the cycle there are two important meditation formulas (mantras) and the sacred syllable OM, which is said to exert a powerful influence on the one who knows how to use it and understands its metaphysical importance.
There are four requirements: 1) Discrimination of the eternal from the non-eternal; 2) No attachment to the things belonging to this or any other world; 3) Possession of six virtues: calmness, equanimity, turning away from sense-objects, forbearance, concentration and faith in the doctrine; and 4) longing for release. Liberation is the return of the self to the impersonal Ultimate Reality.
II. Buddhism According to the Buddha, escaping from suffering is possible for the one who accepts and follows the four noble truths: 1) The nature of existence is suffering; 2) Suffering is caused by desire;3) The complete cessation of desire leads to the cessation of suffering; 4) In order to escape suffering and attain enlightenment, one has to follow the Noble Eightfold Path. This “path” can be classified in three categories: morality, meditation, and wisdom. Morality means right speech, action and livelihood that will generate a perfect state of self-control and contentment. Meditation requires concentration (introversion and cessation of empirical consciousness). Wisdom requires understanding the impermanent nature of the world, and cultivating desirelessness. One who engages in this path has to rely exclusively on his own inner strength. There is no grace available from a personal god, because personal existence belongs to the domain of illusion. Nirvana is an annihilation of the illusion of an existing self.
III. TaoismTaoism teaches that the solution for attaining perfection is controlling the inner universe by practicing the principle of non-acting. It does not mean to literally do nothing, but to follow the natural order of things, to be spontaneous in all actions, understand them and not strive against nature. In order to attain harmony with Tao one can use a combination of the following things: physical and spiritual exercises (Thai Chi), diet, breath control, sexual techniques, psychedelic drugs, meditation, etc. These methods are considered to revitalize the vital fluid of the body and assure long life. However, the seeking of physical immortality is foreign to the initial spirit of Taoism, which taught indifference to life and death as a condition for one’s integration in the flow of nature. The only true spiritual knowledge is the mystical one, attained when the disciple understands that life and death are only two aspects of the same Ultimate Reality. The great awakening is a return to the primordial state of non-being, where all transformations cease and personal existence is annihilated.
IV. IslamIslam teaches that all people are sinners and that salvation can be attained through observing the Five Pillars of Islamic practice: 1) the belief that Allah is the only god and that Muhammad is his messenger; 2) performing the five daily prayers; 3) fasting throughout the month of Ramadan; 4) charity, giving to the poor; 5) the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime, if one can afford it. By performing these works, a Muslim hopes that at the judgment day the recorded good deeds will exceed the bad ones, and so he or she will reach the paradise of material and sensual delights. Faith in Allah and belief that salvation is by his grace and mercy is also encouraged. Yet, despite all one’s deeds, Allah reserves the absolute right to send the deceased to wherever he pleases, Paradise or Hell. Those who do not conform their lives to the demands of Islam will surely be thrown into Hell, a place of extreme physical pain. Islam states: “Whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted from him and in the hereafter he will be one of the losers.”
V. MormonismThe Mormon church teaches two kinds of salvation. One is an unconditional or general salvation which comes by grace alone without any obedience to gospel law, and consists in the mere fact of being resurrected after death. The Latter Day Saint believes that all people will automatically be resurrected from the grave. They choose to believe in different levels of Heaven or glory rather than in the existence of Hell. The second kind of salvation is a conditional or individual salvation. This salvation also comes by grace, but requires gospel obedience. It is based on works and consists of reaching a higher level of Heaven, the highest being the Celestial Kingdom of God. The Mormon Church believes that faith alone will result in spending an eternity in a lower level of Heaven, while works will take you to the highest level and to godhood. It is believed that Christ’s death was only an atonement for Adam’s sins. Our works are needed to be truly saved.
VI. Jehovah’s WitnessesJehovah’s Witnesses teach that there are four requirements for salvation. To them salvation is to live forever on earth in the Kingdom, with Jesus Christ as Ruler, in a beautiful Paradise. The four requirements are:1) Having knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, including the knowledge of God’s purposes regarding the earth, and of Christ’s role as earth’s new King by studying the Bible;2) Obeying God’s laws, conforming one’s life to the moral requirements set out in the Bible;3) To be associated with “God’s channel, His organization.” They state that “Jehovah is using only one organization today to accomplish His will. To receive everlasting life in the earthly Paradise we must identify that organization and serve God as part of it.”4) To be loyal by “advocating His Kingdom rule to others.” This requirement is to tell others about God’s Kingdom.
- How does the grace-gospel of salvation differ from all these religions?
- What do all these religions have in common?
- What were the differences between the offerings of Cain and Abel? How does that story relate to this week’s question?
- What would you say to someone that says that all religions lead to God and that they are all basically the same?
- Is there a danger in practicing yoga, tai chi, or transcendental meditation? Why or why not?
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. …Everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?… We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:4, 6b-8, 11b).
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel” (Acts 4:8).
And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52).
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13).
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God (Eph. 5:18-21).
The Holy Spirit has a multi-faceted ministry to the believer. (See the 4th Lesson.) It begins before salvation when the Spirit convicts the unsaved person (John 16:8-11), convincing him of the truth of the Gospel, bringing him into an understanding of his own sin, of God’s judgment and of the righteous accomplishments of Jesus Christ.
The moment the person believes in Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, the Holy Spirit:
1) Regenerates him (causing a spiritual birth from God);
2) Seals him permanently so he can never be lost;
3) Indwells his body to make him God’s temple;
4) Anoints him so he can represent God’s kingdom on earth;
5) Baptizes him into the body of Christ as a living member;
6) Gives him the mind of Christ so he can understand the Bible;
7) Makes his adoption by God real in his heart so that he cries out as God’s personal child. (See Titus 3:5, Eph. 1:13, 1 Cor. 6:19, 2 Cor.1:21, 1 Cor. 12:13, 1 Cor. 2:12-16, Rom. 8:15-16.)
All of these ministries of the Holy Spirit are positional in nature. Each work has been accomplished already through the Spirit. The believer cannot add anything to that which the Spirit has already done. The believer remains regenerated. He remains sealed, anointed, baptized into Christ’s body, set apart from the world, possessing Christ’s mind and a true child of God. A Christian is never commanded to be regenerated again, or sealed again, or indwelt again, or baptized into the body again or adopted by God again.
The one command that the Lord does give to believers concerning the Holy Spirit is found in Eph. 5:18: Be filled with the Spirit. The imperative mood in this verse indicates that it is a divine command. This shows us that it is not a positional filling; it is experiential. It is a command to be put into action. I am commanded to receive the filling of the Spirit. I must utilize my free volition to obey the command. I may choose to be filled, or I may choose to ignore the command, not allowing the Spirit to fill me. I may choose to live my whole Christian life in the energy of my flesh. Such a life would produce no fruit from the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). It would be a life lived without God’s joy, peace, love, patience, or any of His other fruits.
The second truth of Eph. 5:18 is that this divine command is in the present tense. It means that it is a word that we should continually obey. Be continually filled with the Spirit. Unlike salvation, the filling of the Spirit is not a once-and-for-all experience. We are told to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit each and every day. Once a person comes to Christ, this may be the most important divine command in his life.
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? Paul contrasts it with being intoxicated with alcohol. Why? Alcohol intoxication is typical of the celebrations of this world. It is the world’s idea of rejoicing. When the church was first filled with the Holy Spirit the unbelievers assumed that they were drunk (Acts 2:13). They thought, “How could people be having so much fun without alcohol being at the center of it?” Joy is one of the most common results of the Spirit’s filling. The Spirit’s filling is the means by which we can daily celebrate our new life in Christ.
Here are the results of the filling of the Spirit (seen in the verses at the beginning of the lesson):
- Boldness to speak the Gospel
- Songs in the heart to the Lord
- Thankfulness in all circumstances
- Humility in the church toward one another
- Reverence for God.
How does a believer experience the filling of the Holy Spirit? Remember that [God’s] commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3b). He doesn’t make us “jump through hoops” to be filled. Jesus made this promise to us: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13).
- Simply confess any sins that you are conscious of committing, and receive God’s forgiveness by faith (1 John 1:7, 9).
- Ask Him to fill you with His Spirit.
- Confess by faith that He has done it, and thank Him for the awesome Gift!
- Keep walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), allowing Him to lead you (Rom. 8:14).
- Thank Him and praise Him from your heart throughout the day.
- Start each new day by presenting your whole being to Him (Rom. 12:1), asking Him for another fresh filling of His Spirit.
- In what ways have you experienced the Holy Spirit in your life?
- Have there been periods in your life when you did not experience the filling of the Spirit? What were the results?
- Why would I go for a long period of time without relying on the Holy Spirit’s filling?
- What is the main difference between the filling of the Spirit and the other ministries of the Spirit in a believer’s life?
The 18th Lesson (How Does a Person Get Saved?) discussed that the one condition for salvation is faith in Jesus Christ. The ordinances of water baptism and communion (the Lord’s Supper) have no ability to save a person’s soul. What then is their importance?
1. The Lord has commanded us to observe these ordinances.
a) As individuals we are commanded to be baptized in water once after salvation.
b) As a church we are commanded to observe the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis.
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).And [Peter] commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:48a).And now why are you waiting? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16).
The Lord’s Supper:
And [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19).
And when [Jesus] had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:24-25).
2. Jesus Himself observed both of these ordinances, giving us an example.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him (Matt. 3:13).It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan (Mark 1:9).
When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized (Luke 3:21a).
The Lord’s Supper:
Then He said unto them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:15-20).
3. The early church continued to practice both of these ordinances.
Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them (Acts 2:41).
But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized (Acts 8:12).
And [Peter] commanded them [the new believers] to be baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:48).
The Lord’s Supper (written to the church at Corinth):
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16)?For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Cor. 11:26)
4. Both ordinances illustrate and celebrate vital spiritual truths, helping believers to remember and understand the essence of their salvation.
Water baptism teaches that:
a) Every believer has died with Christ in His death.
b) Every believer has been buried with Christ in His burial.
c) Every believer has been raised with Christ in His resurrection.
The Lord’s Supper teaches that:
a) We have eternal life only because Christ sacrificed His body and blood for us (1 Pet. 2:24, Heb. 9:22).
b) We now partake of His life by “eating” the True Bread, Christ Himself and His Word (John 6:35, Matt. 4:4).
c) The church partakes of that One Life, giving the body its unity (1 Cor. 10:17).
d) The church partakes of His holiness by “drinking” in the cleansing effects of His finished work on the cross, the shedding of His blood (Heb. 9:14, 1 John 1:7).
Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead (Col. 2:12).
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4).
The Lord’s Supper:
For the bread of God is He who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world.… I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.…I am the living bread which came down from Heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world (John 6:33, 35, 51).
This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you (Luke 22:20). Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. …For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more (Heb. 8:8, 12).
5. Both ordinances serve as a testimony to the world and to other believers.
Baptism testifies of a believer’s personal faith in Christ, and of Christ’s finished work.
The Lord’s Supper testifies of Christ’s death on the cross, the unity of His body (the church), and our dependence on His life and His blood.
- Can we expect to receive fresh light and understanding about the work of Christ each time we participate in water baptism or the Lord’s Supper? If so, how?
- In what ways should we “examine” ourselves when participating in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:28)?
- Why do you think that the Lord gave us these two external ceremonies when the essential things of the Christian life are spiritual, not physical?
- In what ways can I keep myself from becoming overly familiar with these ordinances?
Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come (1 Tim.4:7b-8).
But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Heb. 5:14).
Spiritual discipline and exercise are necessary aspects in the growth of a believer. The apostle Paul is a great example of personal discipline. He wrote, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: Not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: Not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
There was no greater proponent of grace than Paul. His writings are full of the wonderful doctrine of grace. Yet he was a very disciplined Christian. Paul understood that grace had liberated him to be disciplined without bearing the yoke of the Old Testament Law. Some believers see personal discipline as a form of legalism. Some believers approach discipline with a mindset of legalism. They do not live in the liberty of grace that would actually set them free to be disciplined.
The greatest motivation for any believer is the love of Christ. For the love of Christ compels us (2 Cor. 5:14a). Many of us were very undisciplined before we came to know the Lord. His love now motivates us to a better, happier, more fulfilling life. That includes growing in the God-given ability to exercise authority over the desires of our physical body and sin nature, through the power of His cross.
Grace is often misunderstood. Grace is not permissiveness. It is the power of God working on our behalf – first forgiving us of our sins, and then progressively freeing us from the power of the sin nature.
Some quotes from men of God:
“Ours is an undisciplined age. The old disciplines are breaking down. …Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism or is entirely unknown to a generation that is largely illiterate in the Scriptures. We need the rugged strength of Christian character that can come only from discipline” (V. Raymond Edman, former Chancellor of Wheaton College in Illinois).
“The alternative to discipline is disaster” (John MacArthur).
“The present benefit of spiritual discipline is a fulfilled, God-blessed, fruitful, and useful life. If you get involved in spiritual gymnastics, the blessings of godliness will carry on into eternity. Although many people spend more time exercising their bodies than their souls, the excellent servant of Jesus Christ realizes that spiritual discipline is a priority” (Vance Havner, 20th century revival preacher).
“We must face the fact that many today are notoriously careless in their living. This attitude finds its way into the church. We have liberty, we have money, and we live in comparative luxury. As a result discipline practically has disappeared. What would a violin solo sound like if the strings on the musician’s instrument were all hanging loose, not stretched tight, not disciplined” (A.W. Tozer)?
The discipline of grace is seen in Titus 2:11-12: For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. The word Paul used here which is translated “teaching” means “to train, instruct, discipline.” Grace disciplines the believer so that his character would be transformed more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. This is God’s eternal purpose for each of our lives. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).
In the Bible God has given us some wonderful disciplines to practice as grace-liberated believers. These disciplines are not burdensome (1 John 5:3)! As we practice them, in the strength of the Holy Spirit’s filling, we will sense greater and greater personal freedom. We will experience greater and greater liberty from the temptations of our sin nature.
Here are some of the most important disciplines that a Christian can practice:
- Hearing God’s Word (Mark 4:20, 24);
- Reading God’s Word (1 Tim. 4:13; Isa. 34:16);
- Studying God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15; Acts 17:11);
- Meditating on God’s Word (Josh. 1:8; Psa. 1:2; 1 Tim. 4:15);
- Personal, private prayer (Matt. 6:6; Luke 18:1; 1 Thes. 5:17);
- Personal, private worship and praise of God (Psa. 119:164; Psa. 146:2);
- Personal, private confession of sin to God (1 John 1:9; Psa. 51);
- Corporate prayer (Acts 4:24-31; Acts 12:5-17);
- Church attendance (Heb. 10:25; Acts 2:46);
- Corporate worship and praise (Psa. 95:6; Psa. 132:7);
- Serving others (Gal. 5:13; 1 John 3:16);
- Evangelism (Matt. 4:19; Mark 16:15);
- Faithful stewardship of one’s time (Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5);
- Faithful stewardship of one’s money (2 Cor. 9:7; Luke 16:10-13).
There are other disciplines, too, such as fasting, or extended times alone with God. Each of these disciplines, when approached with the motive of God’s love and grace, will exercise our spiritual senses. They will bring greater freedom into our lives.
The illustration has been told of the musician who is free to sit down and flawlessly play a musical score that he’s never seen before. He is able to do so without great effort – all because of his years of disciplined practice. As we practice spiritual disciplines each day, we are preparing ourselves to live graciously and restfully in future, unexpected tests. We will have the freedom to “perform” successfully in the trial because of the spiritual abilities that have been developed in the inner man.
Even greater than that – we are also preparing ourselves to be rewarded by Jesus Christ at His judgment seat – as Paul described in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. There will be no greater honor for the child of God!
- What are the causes of a lack of spiritual discipline in a believer’s life?
- What is the difference between practicing spiritual disciplines and living under legalism?
- Which spiritual disciplines would you most like to see developed in your life? How do you think that that will happen?
- How can I practice spiritual disciplines if I’ve had a history of undisciplined living?
Paul wrote to Timothy, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:3-4).Jesus Christ has enlisted us to be soldiers in the spiritual battle.Military Terms The New Testament writers frequently used military terms to describe the Christian life:
- To bring into captivity (2 Cor. 10:5) = to capture an enemy and lead him into captivity with the point of a spear thrust into his back to force him into submission.
- Adversaries (1 Cor. 16:9) = hostile forces standing all around in opposition and waiting for the opportunity to strike.
- Principalities (Eph. 6:12) = the highest level of forces.
- Fiery darts (Eph. 6:16) = arrows that typically had a clump of fiber near the point that had been dipped in pitch and set on fire.
- To fight (2 Tim. 4:7) = to struggle, to exert oneself greatly; to be in anguish, pain, distress and great conflict.
- To resist or withstand (James 4:7, 1 Pet. 5:9, Eph. 6:13) = to stand in opposition, to be fiercely opposed to, to defy one’s opponent.
- To hinder (1 Thes. 2:18) = to hinder an advancing army by putting obstacles in the road.
- Weapons or armor (Eph. 6:11, 2 Cor. 6:7, 2 Cor. 10:4, Rom. 13:12) = the full weaponry of a Roman soldier.
- More than conquerors (Rom. 8:37) = military forces that conquer in an overwhelming manner.
- To keep (2 Tim. 4:7) = to stand guard, to keep watch; refers to a watch of soldiers positioned to protect something important.
- To enlist (2 Tim. 2:4) = to choose a warrior, to enlist a soldier.
- To war or be engaged in warfare (2 Cor. 10:3, 2 Tim. 2:4) = to serve in a military campaign.
- To guard or keep (Phil. 4:7, 1 Pet. 1:5) = to stand as a military guard at the city gates to control and monitor everything that goes in and out of the city.
- Stronghold (2 Cor. 10:4) = a fortified castle, fortress, citadel; also a prison far inside the fortress.
Spiritual WarfareIt is clear from the Bible that the Christian is in a battle. In the 13th & 14th Lessons we learned about the devil, demons, and spiritual warfare. From the 14th Lesson: “Spiritual warfare is the ongoing battle between God’s angels and Satan’s demons. The angels carry out the commands of the Lord, and the demons constantly oppose the completion of those commands. Demons work under the command of Satan, their prince (Matt. 9:34, 12:24; Mark 3:22). … Many of the things we experience in this life are related directly to spiritual warfare.”
Our Three Enemies
The devil. His name means “false accuser.” The name, Satan, means “adversary.”
The world. The New Testament Greek word is “kosmos.” It speaks of an orderly system. Satan is well organized with a world-system under his control. Luke 4:5-6 describes one of Satan’s temptations of Jesus: Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.” Satan is called the god of this world in 2 Cor. 4:4. He has been temporarily given a degree of authority over the world-system. He uses the things in the world to lure man into sin. Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world (1 John 2:15-16).
The old nature, the sin nature, the flesh. The New Testament Greek word is sarx. Kenneth Wuest defines sarx as “the totally depraved nature as dominating the unsaved individual.” The unbeliever has only this nature in him. The saved person has a new nature, the nature of Christ, in him (2 Cor. 5:17, 2 Pet. 1:4). However, the saved person still has his old nature, too. Paul describes the battle that a believer has with his flesh: For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Sprit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish (Gal. 5:17). He also gave a very personal description of his battle with his flesh in Romans 7:15-24.
Our VictoryOver the devil: When Jesus was tempted by the devil, He relied on the authority of God’s Written Word. Every time He quoted the Bible the devil was defeated. The Bible says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7b). We resist him through God’s Word. He literally “runs away” because he can’t stand in the presence of God’s authoritative Word. And they [the believers] overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death (Rev. 12:11).
Over the world: By His death on the cross Jesus has already set us free from this present world-system. [Jesus] who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (Gal. 1:4). By relying on God’s promises we experience Jesus’ divine nature in us. That nature gives us freedom from the temptations of this world. By which [the glory and virtue of Christ] have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Pet. 1:4). This is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith (1 John 5:4b).
Over the flesh: The Christian’s victory over his flesh comes by the filling of the Holy Spirit. (See the 21st Lesson.) Paul wrote, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
Over all three enemies: Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Rom. 8:37). But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ (2 Cor. 2:14a). For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4). You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
- What are some differences between a soldier and a civilian?
- How often do you consider that you’ve been enlisted by Jesus to participate in spiritual warfare?
- How will it change your life to begin thinking this way about yourself?
- What problems will occur in a believer who has no knowledge of his enemies?
- In what ways will he be at a disadvantage in his battle with each of the three?
- Why does the Lord promise us victory before the battle has even begun?
Satan is called the accuser of our brethren (Rev. 12:10). He accused them before our God day and night. The word used in this verse is a judicial term meaning “to bring a legal accusation against a person before a judge.” This is what Satan does when we fall into sin. But 1 John 2:1-2 says, My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. This means that God throws the case out of court because the blood of Christ has already atoned for all our sins – past, present and future! Satan will never succeed in God’s courtroom with his accusations against a child of God.However, though the Christian’s eternal standing before God does not change, there are two results that do occur when a believer sins:
- The Christian breaks off his experiential fellowship with God. That means that he is no longer filled with the Holy Spirit. He is no longer sensitive to God’s leading in his life. He loses his hunger for God’s Word and for prayer.
- The Christian opens the door to Satan’s accusations against his conscience. Satan goes to the believer to accuse his conscience, and to get him to fall into guilt. If the Christian receives those accusations other results will follow. These may include: frustration, self-condemnation, blame, discouragement, depression, quitting, going back to his old sins and staying away from other believers.
It’s important to understand the difference between our position and our experience. Once we are saved, our position never changes; it is a permanent state. However, our experience does change. We want to grow to become more like Christ. We want our experience on earth to be closer and closer to our position in Heaven.Notice the difference between experience and position in these verses:
Position: Now you are light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8).
Experience: Walk as children of light (Eph. 5:8b).
Position: Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27).
Experience: That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17).
Position: And you are complete in Him (Col. 2:10).
Experience: Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected (Phil. 3:12).
Position: If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
Experience: Be renewed in the spirit of our mind, and…put on the new man (Eph. 4:23-24).
Position: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live (Gal. 2:20).
Experience: Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth (Col.3:5).
Position: All their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more (Heb. 8:12).
Experience: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
This last verse is really the answer to this lesson’s question: What can a Christian do if he sins? This is the wonderful provision God has given us, because He knows that we are not “already perfected.” This is our provision for the times when our experience falls short of who we are in Christ (our position).
When I fall, I can, and I must, get back up! In Micah 7:8 we can say, “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” We rebound. We bounce back. We simply confess our sins to God, and ask Him to fill us anew with His Spirit. To “confess” means to agree with God that what we did was sin and that it is ugly in His sight. Then we receive His forgiveness by faith. We are cleansed by His blood (1 John 1:7), and we stand before Him with a cleansed conscience (Heb. 9:14). He cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
This is an important key to the Christian life. By practicing confession of sin and rebound, our experience becomes more and more like our position. We stop living a double life. We stop living below what God has made us to be.The second question of this lesson is: What happens if a Christian keeps on sinning? The answer is found in Hebrews 12 – the chapter on God disciplining His children. Every wise parent disciplines his children with love. God also disciplines us. If we continue to live with unconfessed sin, turning our hearts away from the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the Word, then God will begin to discipline us.
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening…you are illegi-timate and not sons. …[God chastens us] for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; never-theless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:5b-8, 10b-11).God’s discipline begins with warnings from His Word – through a pastor’s sermon, through another body member, or directly from His Spirit. If we continue to reject the conviction of God then He will increase the discipline by means of circumstances. Eventually we may become ill, or suffer in other ways. God doesn’t want to hurt us, but He wants us to experience the abundant life in Christ that is ours. (Remember! Not all suffering is because of God’s discipline. Job’s friends believed that he was being chastened for his sins, and they were wrong!)
- How does understanding the difference between our experience and our position help us to grow?
- Have you ever experienced what you knew to be God’s discipline? What was it like? How did that discipline change your life?
- Is it possible to confess all our sins? If not, how are we ever able to be free from divine discipline and be filled with His Spirit?
The 23rd Lesson (What are the most Important Disciplines in a Christian’s Life?) showed us the practical ways by which we can grow spiritually. In this lesson we are looking at the characteristics of Christian growth. What does spiritual growth look like? Can we know that we are growing, and how do we know?The Greek New Testament word “to grow” is “auxano.” It is found 22 times. In English we have words like “augment” and “auxiliary” that come from this word. It means “to grow, to enlarge.” In the Bible it is translated “grow” or “increase.”In Matthew 6:28 Jesus presents the lilies as an example. They do not get fatigued with heavy labor, yet they grow. They grow because of the Heavenly Father. We grow by resting by faith in Him. We will never grow by struggling and striving in our own strength.In Matthew 13:32 Jesus spoke of the little mustard seed, and how it grows to be one of the largest of the herb plants. It speaks of the great potential of even a little faith in God. Growth is not accomplished by looking at self, analyzing self, and worrying about the size of our faith. Growth comes by looking unto Jesus – being focused on Him (Heb. 12:2).In Mark 4:8 growth comes because the seed of God’s Word has been received in good soil. The good soil is a heart that is humble and hungry to receive truth. We grow when we keep receiving the Word of God with humility, personally being taught in a local church with other believers.In John 3:30 John the Baptist said, He must increase, but I must decrease. Real growth occurs as my sinful life has less and less of me, and Christ’s life has more and more of me.2 Corinthians 9:10 speaks of increasing in the fruits of your righteousness. We have already learned that we were made righteous before the eyes of God at the moment of our salvation. We have the very nature of Christ in us. Spiritual growth is the maturing of the “fruits” of Christ’s righteous nature in our lives. Gal. 5:22-23 lists those nine fruits: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, humility, and self-control. When we are growing each of these qualities of Christ’s character are developing in our souls. We grow in love. We grow in joy. We grow in peace. We grow in patience. We grow in kindness. We grow in goodness. We grow in faith. We grow in humility. We grow in self-control.2 Corinthians 10:15 also speaks of growing in faith. Colossians 1:10 speaks of growing in our personal knowledge of God. 2 Peter 3:18 speaks of growing in grace, and growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.Paul is very practical in his instruction in Ephesians 4:11-16. He teaches that God has given to the church, from its very beginning, men with spiritual gifts whose purpose is to equip and edify the believers with God’s Word. As that takes place the believers cease to be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine. They stop being led astray by the ideas and opinions of this world. They keep growing in the truth by hearing it and speaking it.The result: They grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ (Eph. 4:15). They are being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). This is the central purpose of spiritual growth: That we would become like Jesus Christ in our thoughts, our words, and our deeds.I think every child wants to grow taller. We probably asked our parents to make pencil marks on the doorposts of our home to measure our growth. That growth seemed very slow sometimes. There might be very little change, the marks being almost on top of each other. It is the same with our spiritual growth. We may be looking at ourselves too much, trying too hard to measure our growth.Here are some suggestions:
- Don’t try to compare your growth with others (2 Cor. 10:12).
- Don’t try to measure your growth by introspection and self-analysis.
- Don’t become discouraged (Deut. 1:21).
- Remember: It is God who works in you (Phil. 2:13). He is the One who causes you to grow. Jesus asked, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature” (Matt. 6:27)?
- Just be planted in the loving environment of a local church where there is spiritual life and vitality, where God’s Word is accurately taught and preached with conviction (Heb. 10:25).
- Be a learner of Bible doctrine, personally studying God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15).
- Stay humble. Agree with God quickly when He shows you the need to change your direction. Accept His correction. Accept His grace and strength to make those necessary changes (Heb. 12:5-6).
- Have you seen spiritual growth in your own life? In what ways?
- What do you think have been the keys to spiritual growth in your life?
- What are some the things that you feel have hindered your growth?
- Why is it unwise to try to measure your growth by comparison with others?
Jesus spoke of taking up the cross as a condition for being one of His disciples. There are at least seven Scripture passages in which Jesus spoke to people about having the cross in their lives. They are: Matt. 10:38-39, Matt. 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-35, Mark 10:21, Luke 9:23, Luke 14:27, and John 12:24-25.To summarize these verses, Jesus equated taking up the cross with:
- Following after Him;
- Losing one’s self-life for His sake;
- Losing one’s self-life for the Gospel;
- Denying one’s self-life;
- Hating one’s self-life;
- Falling into the ground – like a seed that dies to bring forth fruit.
After Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, these sayings became clearer to the disciples. With the help of the Holy Spirit, they (and especially Paul) understood that Christ had carried each believer with Him into His crucifixion, into His death, into His burial, into His resurrection and into His ascension.In this current age when a person receives Christ he can immediately begin walking by faith in a perfect union with Jesus Christ! He can reckon (count on, rely on, consider) that Christ’s death was also his death – the death of his old man (his sin nature). He can reckon that Christ’s life is now his life. He no longer has to live under the authority of his old sinful nature. There’s “a new sheriff” in town! The very nature of Christ is in him (2 Pet. 1:4), the divine nature that cannot sin (1 John 3:9).Though the believer still has a sin nature (1 John 1:8, 10) his sin nature no longer has him! He is dead to the old life. He is dead to this world and its lusts.Without using the exact phrase, Paul wrote about the principle of “taking up the cross.” He equated taking up the cross with:
- Believing that I’ve been made one (baptized) with Christ’s death (Rom. 6:3);
- Believing that my old man has been crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6, Gal. 2:20);
- Believing that the world has been crucified unto me (Gal. 6:14);
- No longer living as a slave to sin, but believing that His death has freed me from sin (Rom. 6:6-7);
- Believing that I’ve been made one with Christ’s resurrection in order to walk in the newness of His life (Rom. 6:4);
- Counting myself to be alive to God (Rom. 6:11);
- Living as one who has been raised from the dead (Col. 3:1);
- Setting my mind on heavenly things because that’s where my life has been placed by God (Col. 3:2-3);
- Trusting in my death with Christ to put to death the desires of my sin nature (Col. 3:5) and to put off the old man (Col. 3:9).
- Trusting in my resurrection with Christ to put on the new man (Col. 3:10).
- Believing that I’m dead, and therefore that I have no more need to live for myself. I can now live for Him (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
- Believing that the true life in me is Christ living in me (Gal. 2:20).
To summarize Paul’s teaching, taking up my cross daily is to be renewed every day in my faith in the finished-work of Christ. I say:Because Christ was crucified, I have been crucified with Him.Because He died, I have died with Him.Because He was made alive, I’ve been made alive with Him.Because He rose from the dead, I’ve risen from the dead with Him.Because He ascended to Heaven, I’ve ascended to Heaven with Him.Now the life that I live is truly Christ living in me!Here are some quotes on this subject from several men of God:“We rest our souls on a finished work if we rest them on the work of Jesus Christ the Lord. We need not fear that either sin, or Satan, or law shall condemn us at the last day. We may lean back on the thought, that we have a Savior who has done all, paid all, accomplished all, performed all that is necessary for our salvation” (J.C. Ryle).“We are not called upon to die daily just in order to be dead; we are called upon to die daily in order that we might experience the reality of being alive with Christ. Jesus has risen from the dead in space and time and history and now we, on the basis of this, having been baptized into His death, may walk in newness of life in space and time and history. This is the key to the Christian life” (Francis Schaeffer).“Jesus gave us the vine and branches illustration. Through this our eyes are opened to the secret of the universe: union. The mystery of the universe: How two can be one and yet remain two? The living God, the living Christ, and I actually become one person and function as one person. Separation is impossible. It has disappeared. We function entirely and forever and naturally as one person. And yet we remain two” (Norman Grubb)!“Come then, let us labor to enter into this rest. Let us quit the weary toil of sin and self. Let us cease from all confidence, even in those works of which it might be said, ‘They are very good.’ Have we any such? Still, let us cease from our own works, as God did from His. Now let us find solace in the finished work of our Lord Jesus. Everything is fully done: justice demands no more. Great peace is our portion in Christ Jesus” (Charles Spurgeon).QUESTIONS: What does taking up the cross mean to you?Has your idea of taking up the cross changed as a result of this study? If so, how?What is the connection between personally taking up the cross today, and Christ dying on the cross 2,000 years ago? How is it possible that the two are connected?Asceticism is the practice of extreme self-denial and self-mortification. Is that the same as taking up the cross of Christ? If not, what are the differences?
In Genesis 24 we find the story of Abraham sending his oldest and most trusted servant to seek a wife for his son, Isaac. This story can help us understand the subject of God’s calling and will for our lives. Let’s think of Abraham as a type (symbol) of God the Father. Then think of Isaac as a type of Jesus Christ, God the Son. Like Abraham, the Father had in His mind a perfect plan for His Son. We do not see the son (Isaac) until the end of the story. Let’s think of the unnamed servant as a type of the individual Christian, each one of us. Every believer is a servant of the Father and of the Son. The Father gives us all a part in His perfect plan for His Son.Abraham decided to entrust the choosing of a bride for Isaac to his servant. God has entrusted a great many important things to every Christian. He has a perfect will for our lives.The servant in Genesis 24 is a great example for us. He shows us: 1. How to discover our Father’s will; and 2. How to respond to our Father’s will.How did the servant discover Abraham’s will in the task of finding a bride for Isaac? Abraham gave him specific directions. He told the servant:
- That the bride for Isaac must not be a daughter of a Canaanite (Gen. 24:3);
- That the bride for Isaac must be a woman from Abraham’s country (24:4);
- That the bride for Isaac must be of the family of Abraham (24:4);
- That Isaac must not be brought to the land of his family (24:6);
- That if the woman were unwilling to return and become the wife of Isaac, then the servant would be released from his oath. He was not to force her to come (24:8);
- That the angel of God would go before him to guide him in this mission (24:7).
Like the servant, we also have been given specific instructions from our Father concerning His will for our lives. Those instructions are in the Bible! The Bible is full of information concerning God’s will. Some believers seem to continually struggle in finding God’s will for their lives. They say, “Why doesn’t God make it clear?” Often those believers do not know, or have not obeyed, the clear revelation of His will that God has already given in His Book!Imagine Abraham’s servant starting out on his trip to find the bride, and immediately forgetting, or ignoring, the six clear instructions that Abraham had given him. After going about a mile he might say to God, “Lord, where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do? I’m so confused! Why don’t You speak to me? Why don’t You make the way clear for me?” This is how it is for some Christians.The Bible makes the will of God clear in so many areas. He teaches you to:
- Trust in the Lord with all your heart (Prov. 3:5);
- Not rely on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5);
- Recognize God’s authority over you in everything (Prov. 3:6);
- Present your body to Him every day (Rom. 12:1);
- Take up the cross and follow Him daily (Luke 9:23);
- Count yourself to be dead to sin and alive to God (Rom. 6:11);
- Confess your sins to God if you fail, and receive His cleansing (1 John 1:9);
- Be spiritually accountable to a godly pastor (Heb. 13:17);
- Be faithful to attend your local assembly of believers (Heb. 10:25);
- Pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17);
- Always have an attitude of praise to God (Psa. 34:1);
- In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ for you (1 Thes. 5:18);
- Evangelize the unsaved (Rom. 1:14-16);
- Study the Bible (Col. 3:16, 2 Tim. 2:15);
- Meditate on God’s Word day and night (Josh. 1:8, Psa. 1:2);
- Be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18);
- Love God’s people and lay down your life for them (1 John 3:16, John 13:34);
- Give cheerfully for God’s work in the church (2 Cor. 9:7-11);
- Honor your marriage with faithfulness (Heb. 13:4, Matt. 19:6);
- Love even your enemies with God’s love (Matt. 5:44);
- Forgive others (Col. 3:13);
- Guard your heart (Prov. 4:23);
- Not love the world-system (1 John 2:15);
- Not give a place to the devil (Eph. 4:27);
- Not make a provision for your old nature (Rom. 13:34);
- Let Christ’s mind operate in you (1 Cor. 2:16, Phil. 2:5);
- Build yourself up in faith (Jude 20);
- Keep receiving God’s love (Jude 21);
- Speak edifying words to others (Eph. 4:29);
- Always live in expectation of the Lord’s return (Phil. 3:20, Titus 2:13).
Isn’t it amazing how much definition the Lord has already given us? He desires that we be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (Col. 1:9b). God has kept back nothing that was helpful for us (Acts 20:20). Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). The Lord does not keep His will a mystery! We have the revealed will of God and it is immense!Now back to the Genesis 24 story. The servant obeyed the revealed will of God as shown to him by his master, Abraham. He went to the right place with the right criteria for his search. Then he approached the unknown will of God: Who is the specific woman? At this point the servant prayed for God to show him His perfect will (Gen. 24:12-14). God immediately brought Rebekah into his view.I believe that if we are faithful to live in God’s revealed will then He will certainly make clear His “unrevealed will” for our lives – that is, those directions that we cannot find specifically in the Bible. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). He’s the same God who led Abraham’s servant. Won’t He do the same for us?
- Think about how God has led you in your life.
- How did He lead you? What things did He use?
- How much was the Bible a part of His leading?
- Why do you think the Lord doesn’t always show us His will immediately?
Every believer will face difficulties, but God has all the answers for us in His promises. There are thousands of promises, and none of them will ever fail. Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised (1 Kings 8:56a). [There] have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may by partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Pet. 1:4). In this lesson we list some of the difficulties that we will face. Don’t be surprised when you go through these situations. But please notice that there’s always a promise from God to meet every difficulty!Trials: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (James 1:2-3). The word for trials could also be translated “tests.” Various means “many different kinds.” The word count means to make a decision by faith, based on what you know from God’s Word. In other words, don’t rely on your feelings. Rely on the truth of God’s Book! Count the trial to be joy because God is working in your life to produce patience (endurance) in your character.Failures: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Confess means to agree with God by acknowledging the sin you have committed. Name the sin to God in prayer. He has already forgiven you all your sins the moment you were saved, but you won’t experience the peace and joy of that forgiveness until you acknowledge your specific sins before the Lord. Forgive means that the Lord sends the sin away from you. He also will cleanse you, meaning that He thoroughly purifies your soul.Anxiety: Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Casting means that you throw all your care upon the Lord. Care is a word that means distraction – all the things that pull you in different directions and cause restless anxiety. The Lord wants you to throw those cares upon Him, because He is concerned for you. He has a great interest in your well-being.Decisions: Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established (Prov. 16:3). Commit means to “roll upon.” Learn to roll your works upon the Lord. Works refer to any actions or transactions in your life. When you give those decisions over to Him, then He will cause your thoughts to “stand upright.” You will not waver in your emotions.Discouragement: For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls (Hebrews 12:3). Consider means to make an estimation of Christ in your mind, seeing the awesome value of His character. Contemplate what He is like. This will strengthen you as you go through seasons of hostility from people or from the demonic atmosphere of this world.Oppression: Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30). Labor means to be fatigued. Heavy laden means to be overburdened. The word rest means both rest and refreshment. Learning from Jesus means to follow Him as a disciple, a disciplined learner of His thoughts. Personally learning from Jesus is the key to freedom from all kinds of oppression in our lives.Sickness: Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up (James 14-15a). To call means to summon or invite. What a great promise! Invite church leaders to pray for you and anoint you. There is great power in the prayers of God’s people.Legalism: For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His (Hebrews 4:10). The word rest refers to an abode of rest. God abides in His rest, and you can, too. The key is to cease – to stop doing your own works, and start relying on His finished work of the cross. You cannot add one thing to what Jesus has accomplished (John 19:30)!Guilt: When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer. Your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2). To be of good cheer means to receive courage and comfort. You’re already forgiven! Now stand up and walk in that forgiveness by faith, receiving God’s comfort and courage! Stop condemning yourself! God doesn’t condemn you (Romans 8:1).Depression: I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live (Deut. 30:19). Choose means to make a selection. God has made the choice very clear – spiritual life from Him, or spiritual death from self. He gave you a free volition, and you have the privilege of exercising that volition through the Holy Spirit. You won’t be perfect, and your emotions may still feel terrible. But you can glorify God by daily putting yourself in a place to receive His life through hearing His Word (Rom. 10:17). Make choices to stay built up in your new life in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).Losses: If you continue in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32). To continue means to stay in a given place. That place is God’s Word. You may suffer great losses in your life, but there will always be a place for you that cannot be taken away! Live in the truth of God’s Word daily, and experience true liberation from Him.Trouble: In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord. …I call to remembrance my song in the night; I commune with mine own heart and my spirit made diligent search (Psalm 77:2a, 6 KJV). Trouble means a narrow place. You may feel hemmed in, or squeezed, by circumstances. You feel no freedom to escape. But you can commune (or meditate) in your heart with God. This communion with God will release you from the sense of being imprisoned by life’s situations.
- What difficult situations have you faced as a believer? How did you receive God’s help?
- Think about the difficulties on this list.
- Which ones seem to trouble you the most?
- Have you received any fresh thoughts from God on how to have victory in those difficulties?
One of the hallmarks of the Greater Grace churches is the emphasis on personal evangelism, presenting the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ to as many people as possible. Pastor Carl H. Stevens, the founder of Greater Grace, went to be with the Lord in June, 2008. In his five decades of ministry he always emphasized that Christians should be actively sharing their faith with others. He always closed his messages with a personal invitation to receive Christ. He went weekly on Saturday mornings to knock on doors, to witness on the street – wherever he was, at home or abroad. It was in his heart to bring the Gospel to lost souls, and to personally lead them to the Savior.Less than a month before Pastor Stevens went home to be with the Lord, he called the radio program he had founded, The Grace Hour. Pastor John Love was hosting the program that day. Here is a transcript of what he said. After having preached tens of thousands of public sermons on a multitude of topics, here are his last public words:Pastor Stevens: Good Morning. I really was blessed by the introduction by Pastor Love this morning, friends. If that’s what you got out of today’s hour, that was amazing. Would you pray about what he said? Souls, souls, souls. Stir up yourselves. Stir up your best friend. And stir up your family. Teach your family that soulwinning is the way you want to face God. I learned a long time ago that my call was to win souls in all the world. I’ve done my best to do it. I’m an older man now. It’s not like it used to be, but still it’s important to me. While we’re on this broadcast, Pastor Love, we’re in a soulwinning ministry, aren’t we?Pastor Love: Yes, we are. That’s always been your heart, and that’s what you imparted to all of us. And we’re going to continue that great legacy in our hearts. We’ll just keep burning for souls, souls, and more souls.Pastor Stevens: Pastor Love, thanks for the introduction.Why is it so important to present the Gospel to others?
- Because every soul will live forever – in either one of two places, Heaven or Hell.
- Because there’s no other way to Heaven except by believing on Jesus Christ personally.
- Because Hell is a real and eternal place, and a person will go to Hell unless he comes to believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
- Because Jesus commanded us, more than once, to go to the lost souls of this world and share the Gospel with them.
- Because we have only this lifetime to make the decision to accept Christ. Once a person dies he will face the judgment of God.
- Because no one knows how long his life will be. This day could be his last day.
- Because it’s a joy to speak publicly about our dear Savior. We sense His presence as we go to reach others. We become surprised at how God is able to use us.
- Like the Scriptures say: Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him (Psalm 126:5-6). There will be results, whether we are allowed to see them or not. We believe this promise and we come again with rejoicing.
What does God promise to the person who shares the Gospel with others?Just before the Lord left to return to Heaven, He gave His disciples (including us) distinct instructions to share the Good News with others. He stated these instructions in the form of five specific commands that together make up what is known as “The Great Commission.” With each command there was a specific promise:
1. The Promise of His Presence. And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, “All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth. Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20).
2. The Promise of His Purview (the range of His authority). And He said unto them, “Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
3. The Promise of His Purpose. And [He] said unto them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was fit for Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:47-48).
4. The Promise of His Peace. Then said Jesus to them again, “Peace be unto you: as my Father has sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).
5. The Promise of His Power “But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
How can I present the Gospel to others?
Here is one of the greatest questions you could ever ask! It’s such an important skill to learn. It’s a subject worthy of time spent in study, preparation, and prayer. There are many good books on this subject. Here are some that I have enjoyed: Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay; The Way of the Master by Ray Comfort; One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill; How to Share Your Faith by Greg Laurie; and How to Give Away Your Faith by Paul Little. These are all available in our bookstore.
A Few Words of EncouragementThe first chapter of William Fay’s book is entitled, You Can’t Fail. Here’s a passage from that chapter: “Through the years, many people came into my life to share their faith, but I would not receive it. I sent these people away, discouraged, because I either insulted them, antagonized them, or persecuted them. And if they walked away from me believing they had failed, they believed a lie. For I never forgot the name, the face, the person, or the words of anyone who ever told me about Jesus. God is sovereign! If He can take somebody like me and change him, he can take anybody in our life and change him as well. But be aware, you are not responsible for causing a person’s heart to turn toward God. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). It is God who draws people to Himself, not you. But even so, you do not want to miss God-ordained opportunities to experience the good things God had planned for you….You see, success is sharing your faith and living your life for Jesus Christ. It has nothing whatsoever to do with bringing anyone to the Lord. It has everything to do with obedience. Even if you do not have the privilege to see someone respond the first time you share your faith, you have not failed, because you were obedient.”
- Am I willing to ask the Lord to change my attitude toward evangelism, and to give me the grace to share the Gospel with others on a regular basis?
- Am I willing to spend time learning how to present the Gospel by reading a book on the subject, and by accompanying someone who is already active in evangelism?
There is only one thing that Jesus said He would build, and that is His church. On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18b). The church began on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit from Heaven to fill all those who believed in Him. That’s why the words “church” and “churches” are never found in the Old Testament, yet are found 114 times in the New Testament.
The word “church” is ekklesia in the original Greek New Testament. This word has a prefix (ek) meaning, “out.” The main part of the word means, “to call.” The church is the body of individuals called by God to come out from the rest of mankind, being made one with Jesus Christ through faith in His death and resurrection. Since the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has made every person a member of God’s church who has trusted in Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. At the moment of a person’s salvation the Holy Spirit baptizes the new Christian into the church, called “the body.” For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free (1 Cor. 12:13a). Paul said to the Christians in Corinth, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Cor. 12:27).
God’s church is not of any particular denomination. The names of its members cannot be fully or correctly inscribed in any membership book on earth. Instead, their names are written in Heaven (Luke 10:20) in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27). The Lord knows those who are His (2 Tim. 2:19).
The church can never be fully gathered in one place on earth, but there is coming a day when all the members of the church will be gathered to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thes. 4:13-18). That will include those who have already died. This will happen when Jesus returns from Heaven to receive His bride, the church (Eph. 5:23-32; Rev. 19:7, 21:9) and take her back to Heaven with Him.
Sometimes the Bible uses the word “church” to refer to the universal church – the entire body of believers from Pentecost (Acts 2) to the rapture (1 Thes. 4:13-18). The following verses speak of the universal church: Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 10:32, 12:28; Eph. 1:22, 3:10, 3:21, 5:23-25, 27, 29, 32; Col. 1:18, 24; 1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 2:12, 12:23. It is with this meaning of the church that we understand Eph. 1:22-23 and Eph. 4:4a: And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. There is one body.
Throughout church history various groups have erroneously claimed to be the only true church. But the church is always larger than anything people can ever organize, number or contain.
The Bible more commonly uses the word “church” (nearly 100 times) to refer to the local assemblies of Christians who meet regularly to worship the Lord Jesus. The Bible mentions churches being established in a variety of cities and regions. Some of those were large, while others were small enough to meet in homes (Rom. 16:5, 1 Cor. 16:19, Col. 4:15, Phm. 1:2).
In the Bible the church is given a number of different titles:
The Body of Christ Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:24
The Bride of Christ Rev. 21:9
The Chosen Generation 1 Pet. 2:9
The Church of God Acts 20:28
The Church of the Living God 1 Tim. 3:15
The Elect of God Col. 3:12; Titus 1:1
The Family of God in Heaven and Earth Eph. 3:15
The Flock of God 1 Pet. 5:2
The Habitation of God Eph. 2:22
The Heirs of Salvation Heb. 1:14
His Own Special People 1 Pet. 2:9, Titus 2:14
The Holy City Rev. 21:2
The Holy Nation 1 Pet. 2:9
The Holy Priesthood 1 Pet. 2:5
The House of Christ Heb. 3:6
The House of God 1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 10:21
The Household of God Eph. 2:19
The Lamb’s Wife Rev. 19:7; 21:9
The Living Stones 1 Pet. 2:5
The Members of Christ 1 Cor. 6:15; Eph. 5:30
The One New Man Eph. 2:15
The People of God Heb. 4:9; 1 Pet. 2:10
The Pillar and Ground of the Truth 1 Tim. 3:15
The Royal Priesthood 1 Pet. 2:9
The Saints Eph. 2:19
The Spiritual House 1 Pet. 2:5
The Temple of God 1 Cor. 3:16-17
The Temple of the Living God 2 Cor. 6:16
These titles convey the following truths concerning the church:
- Jesus has chosen to manifest Himself on the earth today through His people, the church.
- Jesus dwells permanently inside His people, making them His dwelling place on the earth.
- Jesus is the Head of His body, and the Bridegroom of His bride. There is an eternal union between Jesus and His church.
- Jesus died in order to purchase His people, the church, and possess them as His own forever.
- Jesus sees the church as holy, spotless, without blemish, harmless, above reproach, and without fault – because of His finished work on the cross on her behalf (Eph. 5:27; Col. 1:22; Phil. 2:15; Jude 1:24).
- When you heard the term “church” in the past, what did you think of?
- How has your view of the church changed?
- What is the value of church life to a believer?
- What does a believer lose when he doesn’t have a vital connection and involvement with a local church?
Throughout church history there have been a number of different types of church government. Here are the major types:
- Apostolic: The early church under the twelve apostles, who then appointed local church elders.
- Papal: The pope as the visible “head of the church.”
- Episcopal: Area-wide bishops having authority over the local elders & congregations.
- Presbyterian: a local board of elders holding the final authority.
- Congregational: the final authority resting with the entire membership of the local church.
In Greater Grace we believe in the presbyterian model of church government. We base this, in part, on the following verses: Acts 11:29-30; 14:23; 15:2-4, 6, 22-23; 20:17; 21:18-20; 1 Tim. 5:17-19, Titus 1:5, James 5:14, 1 Peter 5:1-4.
The word “elder” in the New Testament means “one who is older.” We believe that this refers to a man’s spiritual maturity more than it does his chronological age.
Another word used in the Bible for this position is “bishop” which means “overseer.” It’s clear from Titus 1:5-7 that “elder” and “bishop” (overseer) are interchangeable: For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you. If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money. In 1 Peter 5:1, Peter speaks to the elders and in 5:2 he instructs these men to oversee the flock (using a form of the same word as bishop). In Acts 20:17, Paul calls the elders of Ephesus together. In Acts 20:28, speaking to the same group of men, he says that the Holy Spirit has made them bishops (overseers).
The Biblical qualifications for elders/bishops are given in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. In both of these passages Paul was writing to the senior pastor of the church, giving him the guidelines for choosing the elders. Nowhere in the New Testament do we see the congregation choosing the elders.
We do see the members of the congregation choosing deacons in Acts 6:1-6. The word “deacon” means “servant.” The government of a local church consists of both elders and deacons (Phil. 1:1). The qualifications for deacons are given in Acts 6:3 and 1 Timothy 3:8-13. These are the men who are appointed to take care of the business matters of the church, leaving the elders free to spend more of their time in taking care of the spiritual health of the church. This doesn’t mean that deacons can’t preach and care for people’s spiritual life. (Stephen, a deacon, preached with great power in Acts 7.) Nor does it mean that elders can’t be involved in the business matters of the church.
Our local church bylaws present a balance between the authority of the Church Governing Board (consisting of elders and deacons), and the authority of the congregation. This balance can be seen in two areas: The approval of the annual church budget, and the selection of a senior pastor. The congregation also nominates the deacons. The elders choose new deacons from among those nominated.
Our bylaws also state that our local church is committed to a voluntary affiliation with Greater Grace World Outreach in Baltimore, Maryland. Though GGWO exercises no authority over the church in Marlborough, our bylaws specify that we will seek the advice and counsel of the GGWO leaders when it comes to major decisions (especially, the selection of a senior pastor).
In short, we believe in the following principles of church government:
- Local church autonomy.
- Christ as the Head of each local church.
- No visible head of the church on earth.
- The wisdom of local church autonomy:
Because it recognizes Christ as the Head;
Because it protects against widespread error;
Because it guards against one man having preeminence;
Because it develops local leaders;
Because it gives local members a greater incentive to preserve & build up their church.
- Plurality of leadership in the local church (serving as “checks and balances”).
- One senior pastor who is ultimately responsible to God for the spiritual health of the local church. He is also one of the elders, and is called the chief elder.
- Voluntary affiliation with like-minded churches for the purpose of world evangelism, Bible college training, the joy of co-laboring, and many other benefits.
- Purpose of the elders: To work with the chief elder (senior pastor) to oversee the spiritual health of the congregation.
- Purpose of the deacons: Working with the elders to serve the practical needs of the congregation.
- The spiritual gift called “pastor-teacher” (Eph. 4:11) that a pastor must possess. The term elder refers to an office, not a gift. Not every elder necessarily has the gift of pastor-teacher, though every elder should be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2).
- The overall principle of church government: God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Let all things be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:33, 40).
- What do you see as the purposes of church government?
- How can church government be misused?
- What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the five types of church government mentioned?
- What are the “checks and balances” you see in the government we practice at GGCF?
What is church membership? In an earlier lesson (the 17th Lesson) we learned that at least 76 things happen to every Christian at the moment of salvation. # 45 on the list is, “He made you a member of His body, the church.” That promise is found in 1 Cor. 12:13: For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. The Spirit permanently placed us into the church at salvation. Acts 2:47b says, And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. The Lord did the adding, not man. The Spirit regenerates the new believer (Titus 3:5), and immerses (buries, hides, baptizes) the believer into the body of Christ, the church (1 Cor. 12:13, Eph. 1:22-23).
This is true church membership! It’s not accomplished by the vote of a church board, or by passing an exam, or by presenting one’s qualifications. It’s not accomplished by water baptism. The Lord keeps the membership role. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27). And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life (Phil. 4:3).
Every believer is joined to the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17) at salvation. He becomes a member of the universal church, the body of Christ, at the moment he truly believes on Christ as his personal Savior and Lord. Then the Lord will lead him to join the fellowship of a local church that teaches God’s Word accurately.
In Greater Grace Christian Fellowship we do not require that a person do anything to become a member. If a born again Christian believes that this is their local church, and that God has led them to be a part of this local assembly, they are accepted (Eph. 1:6). There is no official membership role. Since the Lord has already added the believer to His church, why should we require any greater burden (Acts 15:28)? (In a legal sense, only the Elders and Deacons are actually corporation members. They are responsible before the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as to the corporate responsibilities – in financial and legal matters.)
The word for “member” in the Greek New Testament is melos. It is defined as “a limb or part of the body.” It is a living part of a living organism. It is not a name on a list. See the following uses of this word:
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another (Rom. 12:4-5).
For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many (1 Cor. 12:12-14).
But now has God set the members every one of them in the body, as it has pleased Him (1 Cor. 12:18).
Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular (1 Cor. 12:27).
Therefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another (Eph. 4:25).
For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones (Eph. 5:30).
In every one of these verses the word member speaks of being a living part of Jesus Christ Himself, joined in Spirit to Him forever. The church is Christ’s body. Our oneness with Him is our church membership. And [God] has put all things under His [Christ’s] feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all (Eph. 1:22-23).
What are the responsibilities of church membership? In the verses quoted above we twice see the phrase, members of one another. We treat our own physical members (arms, hands, legs, etc.) with tender care. And so should we treat our spiritual members – the believers in our local assembly.
The primary responsibility is love. We are told to love one another twelve times in the New Testament (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; Rom. 13:8; 1 Thes. 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5). Paul defines this love precisely and beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13. Love forbids any form of evil speaking, gossip, judging, maligning, causing division between members, unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness, showing partiality, or the creating of exclusive cliques.
Other responsibilities include:
- Faithful attendance in the regular church meetings.
- Regular voluntary giving to support the work and vision of the church.
- Praying for the needs of the church leaders and members.
- Seeking to preserve the unity of the members of the local church.
- Seeking to share the Gospel with unbelievers.
- Inviting others to attend the church services and special events.
- Participating in as many of the special events and outreaches as possible.
- Listening carefully to the pastors’ messages, and applying the Biblical principles to one’s personal life.
- Maintaining a close relationship with the Lord.
- Seeking to live a pure and holy life by God’s grace.
- Has this lesson changed your thoughts about church membership in any way?
- How does understanding the original meaning of “member” help you in seeing its deeper significance?
- Concerning your part in the local church, are there other responsibilities that you feel the Lord has put on your heart?
- Are there any responsibilities on the list above that you had not thought of before?
Financial Support: The New Testament teaches that Christian workers (pastors, church planters, evangelists, missionaries, etc.) should be financially supported whenever possible. Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard, and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?… Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel (1 Cor. 9:7, 14).
Voluntary Giving: The financial support for Christian workers should come from the members of a local church, but not by the methods of this world. There should be no annual dues for membership, or fees for participation in the regular events of the church. The church should not use methods to raise money that involve gambling. The Bible teaches that the voluntary giving of those in a local church should constitute the support for Christian workers. On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper (1 Cor. 16:2a).
Tithes: This word is found 40 times in the Bible – 32 times in the Old Testament, and 8 times in the New. Tithing means “to give a tenth.”
Offerings: The Greek word, prosphora, refers to voluntary offerings to God of any kind. The New Testament writers used this word to refer to Christ’s offering of Himself on the cross (Eph. 5:2, Heb. 10:10, 10:14). The verb-form of this word (prosphero) means “to bring, to present.” It is used of the Magi when they presented their gifts to Jesus after His birth (Matt. 2:11), and of the bringing of gifts to the altar in the Temple (Matt. 5:23-24; 8:4; Luke 5:14; Acts 7:42; Heb. 5:1).
Collections: The New Testament church had regular collections (1 Cor. 16:2). The gifts were given voluntarily. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). The believers collected money to give to the poor churches of Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25-26; 1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 8:9) who were suffering great persecution (Heb. 10:32-34). The churches also collected money for the support of pastors and missionaries (1 Cor. 9:7, 14).
Tithing in the Age of Grace: Tithing means to voluntarily give one-tenth of what I have received from God back to Him. The believer does this as an acknowledgment that all that he has belongs to God. Tithing is first mentioned when Abraham, the father of our faith, gave tithes to the priest, Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20). That occurred more than 400 years before the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:17). This signifies that tithing is not a principle of law, but of grace. That is why we believe that tithing should still be a part of the New Testament believer’s life of obedience.
Abraham commenced tithing (Gen. 14:20).
Jacob continued tithing (Gen. 28:22).
Malachi commanded tithing (Mal. 3:8-11).
Jesus commended tithing (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42).
Jesus said that the Pharisees gave tithes to be seen by others. Self-righteousness was their motive. Jesus said that they lacked the weightier matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faith. Though tithing may be a less weighty matter, Jesus stated that tithing should not be left undone.
Privacy: In Greater Grace Christian Fellowship we believe that body members should give according to God’s leading, in the privacy of their personal relationship with God. That is why we don’t ask for pledges, nor do we inspect how much any member is giving. For those who give by check, the treasurer keeps records for individuals’ income tax purposes. Only the treasurer is allowed to see those records.
- What are the godly motives that would cause a Christian to be a faithful giver?
- What is the importance of privacy when it comes to a believer’s giving?
- Two examples of giving in the Bible:
- The widow mentioned by Jesus (Mark 12:41-44) and
- the Macedonian churches mentioned by Paul (2 Cor. 8:1-5).
- What characteristics did they have in common
In the 15th Lesson it says: Jesus was clear about the Way of salvation. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6). Peter declared, “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole…Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under Heaven, given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10, 12). And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). [John] said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!
It is clear that the Bible teaches that there is no other way to God but through Jesus. What happens to the people who have never heard the name of Jesus? Are they eternally lost?
A wonderful book, Eternity in Their Hearts, has been written by Don Richardson. (This book is available in our bookstore.) It sheds light on this lesson’s question. Here is a quote from a review of the book: The author gives fascinating, real-life examples of ways people have exhibited in their histories terms and concepts that have prepared them for the Gospel. [He writes] how Pachacuti, the Inca king who founded Machu Picchu, the majestic fortress in Peru, accomplished something far more significant than merely building fortresses, temples or monuments. He sought, reached out and found a God far greater than any popular god of his own culture. And there have been others throughout the world like him, who lived to receive the blessing of the Gospel. [There are many such] intriguing examples of how God uses redemptive analogies to bring all men to Himself, bearing out the truth from Ecclesiastes that God has also set eternity in the hearts of men.
One of God’s attributes is love and another is justice. He is eternally more loving and fair than we are. We can trust that He does all things well (Mark 7:37). The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). The Lord doesn’t want anyone to perish eternally in Hell, but neither will He violate the principle of free volition that He gave man from the beginning (the 11th Lesson).
Consider the following verses in relationship to this week’s question:
Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44a).
Paul said to the people of Athens, “As I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of Heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’” (Acts 17:23-28).
For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteous-ness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Rom. 1:18-21).
John writes concerning Jesus, “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9).
Paul writes, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel” (Romans 2:14-16).
Peter said to the Gentiles, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35).
These verses teach us that man is accountable to know God because His attributes are clearly seen in the creation. Man is without excuse. Jesus gives light to every man coming into the world. That light is the conscience which also [is] bearing witness of God’s nature. God will judge the secrets of men and will be absolutely just in all His decisions. He knows how to reveal Himself to all sinners. God shows no partiality. His message is the Gospel, and He wants us to bring that Gospel to every people-group on earth. But He also will use the testimony of creation, and the testimony of conscience. He will speak to people in their hearts. He will draw them to His Son. In every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. He will connect the missionary with the lost tribe. In recent years there have been many testimonies of the Lord Jesus appearing in dreams to Muslims (one which we heard personally in our church). He so loves the world (John 3:16).
This does not take away our responsibility to do what we can, in prayer and missionary work, to bring the Gospel to all the unsaved millions on this planet. This is the Lord’s command: Matt. 4:19; 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-48; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; and Romans 1:14-16.
- Will anyone on earth who dies without Christ have an excuse for not believing? Why or why not?
- How important is each Christian’s part in world evangelism? Explain.
- Can you think of any examples in your own life where you now know that God was drawing you to Himself? How about an example in another person’s life?
- What attributes of God should we could consider in answering this lesson’s question?
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands (Rev. 7:9). God’s heart is for all nations. At least a portion of the Bible has been translated into over 2,936 languages. No other book even comes close! The Son of God’s blood was shed for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). God does not show partiality toward any people-group.
The greatest Gospel verse contains the word “whoever” – meaning “any person who.” For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever [any person who] believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever [any person who] desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). God accepts all who believe in His Son as Lord and Savior. For there is no partiality with God (Rom. 2:11).
The Gospel is universal: Make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:19b). “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15b). “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). “You shall be witnesses to Me…to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
As God transforms our lives, making us more like His Son, we will grow to have God’s heart for all nations. Our involvement in world missions must begin in our hearts with the love of God for others. God’s heart of love will lead every believer into world missions.
SUGGESTIONS FOR GETTING INVOLVED
What are some of the ways I can be involved in my heart with world missions?
- Read missionary biographies. Look for the stories of: Hudson Taylor, William Carey, David Livingstone, David Brainerd, Mary Slessor, Adoniram Judson, Robert Moffett, John Eliot, Jonathan Goforth, William Borden, C.T. Studd, Gladys Aylward, the Scudder family (4 generations of missionaries, 42 in all!).
- Learn about the history of world missions.
- Learn about current missionary work around the world.
- Start corresponding with missionaries.
- Read missionary newsletters.
- Start (or join) a missions prayer group.
- Attend conferences on world missions.
- Attend the GGWO International Convention. Visit the booths from various countries. Meet missionaries and Greater Grace members from other countries.
- Get to know missionaries by talking with them when they visit our church. Invite them to your home. Get their email addresses. Put your name on their newsletter distribution lists.
- Travel to visit missionaries to see their work, and to meet the people to whom they minister.
- Be involved in the evangelistic outreaches in your own local church. (World missions includes bringing the Gospel to our own country, state, region, and city.)
- Get to know immigrants who live in your city whenever the Lord gives you the opportunity. Find out about their country and culture. Invite them to church.
- Study a foreign language. Learn to present the Gospel in that language, and look for opportunities.
- Start a Conversational English class for immigrants. Get to know them, and then introduce them to the Lord.
- Give financial support, and/or help raise financial support, for missionaries.
- Pray for missionaries.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Greater Grace World Outreach website (www.ggwo.org) contains a lot of good information. You can read missionaries’ newsletters. You can obtain missionaries’ email addresses. You can visit their websites and look at their photos. You can print a monthly prayer calendar with the missionaries’ latest prayer requests.
For news from other mission organizations, visit the Mission Network News website: (www.mnnonline.org).
For statistics on the growth of Christianity around the world go to: www.operationworld.com.
Books on Christian missions (all available in our bookstore):
From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions by Ruth Tucker.
Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation by Jason Mandryk
Peace Child by Don Richardson
Bruchko by Bruce Olson
Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot
- What ideas about missions were presented in this lesson that you had not thought about before?
- Which suggestions on our list for getting more involved in world missions do you intend to pursue?
- What is the first, and most important, step to becoming involved in world missions?
The 19th-century bishop, John C. Ryle, wrote, “I find it mentioned as a characteristic of the godly that they call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1:2). I find it recorded as a characteristic of the wicked that they do not call on the Lord (Psa. 14:4).” Calling on Him is like spiritual “breathing” to the believer. Without enough oxygen a person will faint. Without regular prayer, the believer will live in spiritual death. Paul wrote to the church, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). Jesus said, “Men always ought to pray, and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
Jesus is our Example (1 Peter 2:21). The Gospels record Jesus’ continual practice of prayer: Matt. 14:23, 19:13, 26:36-44; Mark 1:35, 6:46, 14:32-39; Luke 3:21, 5:16, 6:12, 9:18, 9:28-29, 11:1, 22:32, 22:41-44; John 17:1-26.
The Bible is filled with God’s promises to answer our prayers. Here are some of those promises: Psalm 10:17, 34:17, 37:4, 102:17, 145:18-19; Prov. 15:29; Isa. 65:24; Jer. 33:3; Matt. 6:6, 7:7-8, 18:19, 21:22; Mark 11:24; Luke 18:7-8; John 14:13-14, 15:7, 15:16, 16:24; Phil. 4:6-7; James 1:5; 1 John 5:14-15.
The Bible is also filled with examples of God answering prayer. Here are some of those examples: Gen. 17:20, 19:19-21, 24:15-27, 32:24-30; Ex. 2:23-24, 17:4-13, 32:11-14; Judg. 15:18-19; 1 Sam. 1:27, 7:9; 1 Kings 3:9-12, 13:6, 18:36-38; 2 Kings 4:33-35, 13:4, 19:20; 1 Chron. 4:10; 2 Chron. 14:11-12, 20:6-17, 33:13-19; Ezra 8:21-23; Neh. 4:9, 4:15; Job 42:10; Psa. 18:6; Lam. 3:55-56; Dan. 9:20-23; Jonah 2:2-10; Luke 1:13, 18:38-43, Luke 23:42-43; Acts 4:29-31, 10:4, 10:31, 12:5-7; 16:25-26, 28:8.
How can I learn to pray? In Luke 11:1 the disciples saw Jesus praying. So they asked Him, “Teach us to pray.” In answer to their request He said, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’” (Luke 11:2-4).
This is a very short and simple prayer. I believe that the Lord gave this prayer as an example of the essentials of prayer. In the prayer there are three great priorities:
1. His name (His nature)
2. His kingdom (His reign)
3. His will (His plan)
Our prayer-life should have as its primary purpose to glorify His name, to seek theadvancement of His kingdom, and to bring our hearts into the center of His will.
There are also three great petitions:
- For the provision of our physical needs (“our daily bread”)
- For the forgiveness of our sins (“forgive us our sins”)
- For the protection of our souls from temptation and evil (“lead us not into temptation” and “deliver us from evil”).
Our prayers should include these priorities and petitions, expressed in our own heart-felt words. In learning to pray we should start here, for this is what Jesus taught them when they asked, “Teach us to pray.”
How do I begin to pray? Andrew Murray wrote, “The Lord Jesus in His tender love is looking down on you and saying, ‘You cannot pray. You feel that all is cold and dark. Why not give yourself into My hands? Only believe that I am ready to help you in prayer. I long greatly to pour My love into your heart, so that you, in the consciousness of weakness, may confidently rely on Me to bestow the grace of prayer. Just as I will cleanse you from all other sins, so also will I deliver you from the sin of prayerlessness. Only do not seek the victory in your own strength. Bow before Me as one who expects everything from his Savior. Let your soul keep silence before Me, however sad you feel your state to be. Be assured of this – I will teach you to pray.’”
Andrew Murray’s words teach us that prayer cannot be just learned from a book, or from another Christian. Being before the Lord, with our Bible open, quietly waiting on Him – this is how we learn to pray. Start by presenting your body to Him as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2). Ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). Confess your sins to Him – those that you haven’t already confessed (1 John 1:9). Include the sin of prayerlessness in your confession. Then thank Him, praise Him, and worship Him from your heart for all of His grace to you.
Ask the Lord to show you the best time of the day to spend with Him, a time when you are not apt to be interrupted. Ask Him to help you keep that time set apart for Him as a divine appointment.
Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. If you have trouble staying awake, walk around and praise Him with your voice. Have some godly music playing. That will also help keep you alert and motivated.
You may find that keeping a prayer journal is helpful. You won’t want to have any “empty days” in it. Write down a few thoughts each day after you have finished talking to the Lord. Keep a record of how He blesses you, and what He shows you. Even write down your thoughts on those difficult days when you find it a struggle to concentrate or to sense His presence.
What should I pray for? Charles H. Spurgeon said, “You can never be short of themes for prayer, even if no one suggests them to you. Look at your congregation. There are always sick folk among them, and many more are soul-sick. …There are widows’ tears and orphans’ sighs to be put into our bottle, and poured out before the Lord.”
Jesus calls us to pray for our family members, our church-body members, our foreign missionaries, our neighbors, our friends, our leaders, our nation and other nations.
Here’s a suggestion: Obtain the following lists to use in your personal prayer-life:
- Greater Grace missionaries from the monthly GGWO Prayer Calendar;
- Our local church members from Dawn Morrison;
- All the countries & leaders in the world from the brochure on the back table (near the bookstore).
In answering this week’s question, I have relied largely upon the information taught in Pastor Van Doren’s Revelation Class. Thank you, Pastor Van Doren, for all the hard work!
The future of our planet is clearly spelled out in the Bible. The Biblical study of “the last things” that will happen on earth is called eschatology.
In the Bible we read that Jesus Christ “came to His own” (John 1:11), to the nation of Israel. He was born as a baby in Bethlehem, gave up His life on the cross, rose from the dead on the third day and ascended back to His Father in Heaven.
Before He left the earth Jesus said that He would come again for His own, His bride, the church (John 14:2-3; 1 Thes. 4:13-18). He will come in a different manner than He came the first time. For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thes. 4:16-17). That event will occur with no warning. No one can accurately predict the time of that event. Just before ascending back to Heaven, Jesus said to His disciples, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7).
This amazing event is called “the rapture.” “Rapture” comes from a Latin word “raptura.” It meant “the act of carrying off.” The Biblical Greek word is “harpazo” (from which we have the English word “harpoon”). Found in 1 Thes. 4:17, this word is translated “caught up” in most English versions. It means “snatched away.” All true believers in Christ will be suddenly and inexplicably (to the unbelieving world) snatched away to Heaven to be with the Lord forever. That’s the next event in the prophetic timetable! His coming is imminent, meaning “likely to occur at any moment.” No other event need occur before the rapture. This is what every Christian should be expecting! He is coming for His own!
Then, at least seven years later, Jesus will return in awesome glory with His own, the church. Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints (Jude 14). When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). Now I saw Heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteous-ness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in Heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God (Rev. 19:11-15). This event is called “the revelation.”
Believers will return in glorified bodies, with sinless natures, to reign with Christ in His Millennial Kingdom – 1,000 years of amazing peace and joy. It will be human history’s greatest period.
The rapture, the revelation, and the Millennial Kingdom are the three great events that will occur on the earth before time comes to an end, and the eternal ages begin (Eph. 2:7).
Here is a list of the end time events in chronological order:
- The rapture of the church
- The formation of the New Roman Empire on earth
- The evolution of the apostate church
- The beginning of the rebuilding of the city of Babylon
- The battle described in Ezekiel 38-39
- The beginning of the 7-year Tribulation Period (the 70th week of Daniel)
- The signing of a 7-year peace treaty between Israel and the antichrist
- The rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem
- The re-instituting of the Old Testament sacrifices
- The appearance of the 144,000 Jewish prophets who will testify of Jesus
- The first three “seal judgments” (Rev. 6:1-6)
- The two witnesses appear to testify of Jesus & perform miraculous signs
- The middle of the 7 years: The “Great Tribulation” begins
- The antichrist turns against the Jews
- The Temple is desecrated
- The apostate church is destroyed
- The antichrist is killed and resurrected
- The false prophet emerges
- The “mark of the beast” is instituted
- The two witnesses are killed and resurrected
- Satan is cast down from the 2nd heaven
- The 4th–7th seal judgments (Rev. 6:7-17; 8:1- 9:21)
- The seven bowl judgments (Rev. 16:1-12, 17-21)
- The armies of the world gather
- The Battle of Armageddon
- The political Babylon is destroyed
- Jesus Christ returns in His glorious Revelation
- The armies of the world are destroyed
- Satan is cast into the abyss with his demons
- The Old Testament saints are resurrected
- The judgment of “the sheep and goats” (the saved & unsaved Gentiles from the tribulation period)
- The antichrist and the false prophet cast into the lake of fire
- The Millennial Reign of Christ on earth (1,000 years)
- Satan and his demons released for a short period
- The Great White Throne Judgment of all unbelievers
- Satan and unbelievers cast into the lake of fire
- The New Heaven and New Earth are formed
- The New Jerusalem descends
- Eternity begins!
- Why is it important to study what the Bible has to say about the future events?
- Do you think that the study of eschatology can affect a believer’s life, thinking and activity? If so, how?
- What are the problems with trying to predict the dates at which end time events will occur?
- What do you think are the main reasons some Bible teachers have so misinterpreted the Scriptures when it comes to last time events?
There are at least seven judgments mentioned in the Bible, but there are two that are particularly important for believers in this age to understand. They are “The Judgment Seat of Christ” and “The White Throne Judgment.”
The Judgment Seat of Christ
Bema is a Greek word in the New Testament, translated “throne” once, and “judgment seat” 11 times. Bema describes a judgment at which only Christians will be present. This judgment occurs in Heaven after the rapture of the church. Every Christian will stand before the Lord to be evaluated for the life he or she has lived – from the point of salvation to the end of their life on earth. This judgment does not focus on the believer’s sins, for all the believer’s sins have been forgiven and forgotten. The focus will be on “the fruit” of the believer’s life, the spiritual production of his life.
Verses on the Judgment Seat of Christ – The Judgment of Believers
But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10). For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10). According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Cor. 3:10-15).
Kenneth Wuest writes about the Judgment Seat of Christ: “At the Judgment Seat of Christ, the believer’s service will be tested, not for the purpose of finding out what good or evil there was in it, but to put God’s approval upon that part of it which was the work of the Holy Spirit. A ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matt. 25:23), and a reward in addition to those blessed words, are awaiting every believer in the Lord Jesus, for God will put His approval upon the Spirit-wrought works of the saints and reward them. The believer’s works are not up for judgment with a penalty attached for those works not done in the power of the Holy Spirit. These latter works will be burned up, and the believer will lose the reward he would have received had they been done in the power of the Spirit. The Judgment Seat of Christ is not for the judgment of the believer himself, and certainly not for his retention or loss of salvation. It is…to examine in order to approve. God expects to find that in the service of the saint upon which He can put His approval, for the Holy Spirit produces good works in all the saints (Eph. 2:10), more in those who are definitely subjected to His control.”
The New Testament speaks about “crowns” that believers will receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Greek word for crown is stephanos. It means, “badge of royalty, a prize in the public games, a symbol of honor.”
Five specific crowns are mentioned:
- The incorruptible crown (1 Cor. 9:25) – for those who learn to be disciplined and temperate in their walk;
- The crown of rejoicing (1 Thes. 2:19) – for those who lead others to Christ and help them to grow in the faith;
- The crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8) – for those who long for the coming of Christ with joyful expectation;
- The crown of life (James 1:12) – for those who faithfully endure trials and adversity;
- The crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:4) – for overseers in the church who faithfully feed the church with spiritual food, caring for “God’s flock” with joy, not doing it for material gain, not controlling people, but setting an example of Christ-likeness.
The White Throne Judgment
This is the second judgment that we should consider. This judgment will take place at the end of time, just before the eternal ages begin. God’s redeemed children will not appear in this judgment. It is only for unbelievers. However, it is important for us to think about this judgment, for there are people around us who will have to stand before God someday at The White Throne. Everyone on earth who continues to reject the Gospel of grace must stand before the Lord at this judgment.
Verses on the White Throne Judgment – The Judgment of Unbelievers
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the Heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).
These may be the saddest words in the entire Bible. The saddest thought is that Jesus has already shed His blood for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). It is not necessary for anyone to go into the lake of fire! Jesus stands before each soul with nail-scarred hands and freely offers eternal salvation. Jesus says, “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isa. 45:22). Yet many reject the free gift of salvation. To them He will say at the White Throne Judgment, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23)! “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).
Joel wrote, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14)! There are multitudes in our area, and all over the earth, who are in this valley of decision. Let’s pray for the lost. Go for the lost. Send others to reach the lost. Let’s speak to the lost. Love the lost. Live to win the lost. Let’s make it hard for people to go to Hell! (Please review the 30th Lesson.)
- What are the major differences between the two judgments?
- Why is it important to think often about these two judgments?
- What things can best prepare me for my own judgment at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
Randy Alcorn writes, “For every American who believes he’s going to Hell, there are 120 who believe they’re going to Heaven. This optimism stands in stark contrast to Christ’s words in Matthew 7:13-14: Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. What would keep us out of Heaven is universal: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Sin separates us from a relationship with God (Isaiah 59:2). …Because we are sinners, we are not entitled to enter God’s presence. We cannot enter Heaven as we are. So Heaven is not our default destination. No one goes there automatically. Unless our sin problem is resolved, the only place we will go to is our true default destination…Hell. …Hell will be inhabited by people who haven’t received God’s gift of redemption in Christ (Revelation 20:12-15).”
Heaven and Hell share these similarities:
- Both are real places – not mythical, allegorical, or imaginary.
- Both are places that contain material and immaterial elements, both with physical and spiritual characteristics.
- Both are final destinations. People will not leave either place.
- Both are eternal places. They will never cease to be
There are no other similarities, only exact opposites. Heaven is a place of complete joyful bliss, while Hell is a place of utter misery. Heaven is a place where God’s presence is fully manifested, while Hell is void of any manifestation of His presence. Heaven is a place where there will be friendships, communication, and personal interaction. Hell is a place where there is no inter-action, where each soul dwells alone in his own torments without friends, comfort, or relief.
We have only the Bible to rely on for our understanding of these two places. Here are some of the verses God has written so that we would fully comprehend these eternal realities.
The Bible’s Description of Hell
Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from Heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit (Rev. 9:1-2).
[These are] raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever (Jude 13).
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to Hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched – where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:43-44).
And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night (Revelation 14:11a).
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (Mark 8:36-37)?
The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God (Psalm 9:17)
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 21:8).
So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:49-50).
The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” But Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.” Then he said, “I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:22b-28).
These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10a).
The Bible’s Description of Heaven
In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3).
Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:20).
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. … They desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13, 16).
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from Heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:2-4).
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of Heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. … The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones (Revelation 21:10-11, 18-19a).
The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. … The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light (Revelation 21:21, 23).
- Why do you think so many assume that they are going to Heaven?
- Why did Jesus speak about Hell more than He spoke of Heaven?
- Was He unloving to speak of such a horrible place? Why or why not?
- What do you think of when you think of Heaven?
The Thompson Chain Reference Bible, Frank Charles Thompson, B.B. Kirkbride
The Great Doctrines of the Bible, William Evans, Moody Press, 1974.
Handbook of Basic Bible Texts, John Jefferson Davis, Zondervan, 1984.
Bible Doctrines for Today, Michael C. Bere, A Beka Book, 1992.
Systematic Theology (Vols. 1-4), Lewis Sperry Chafer, Kregel Publications, 1993.
The New Answers Book (Vols. 1-3), Ken Ham, Master Books, 2009.
www.christiananwers.net (Article: How Do We Know the Bible is True?),
Eden Communications, adapted from The Bible Has the Answer, by Henry Morris & Martin Clark, Master Books,1987.
The Encyclopedia of Judaism, Jacob Neusner, William Scott Green, Alan Avery-
Peck, Brill Academic Publishers, 2004.
The Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible, Spiros Zodhiates, Baker Book House, 1984.
www.comparativereligion.com by Ernest Valea.
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney, NavPress, 1997.
Share Jesus Without Fear, William Fay, B&H Books, 1999.
Eternity in Their Hearts, Don Richardson, Regal, 2006.
Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament (Vols.1-4), Kenneth S.
Wuest, Eerdmans Publishing, 1973.
Heaven, Randy Alcorn, Tyndale House, 2004.
What Happened When You Received Christ? by Carl H. Stevens.
In addition to the above-mentioned booklet, I have received wonderful teaching from the pulpit ministries of Pastor Carl Stevens and Pastor Thomas Schaller since 1973. I continue to enjoy some of the 7,000 recorded sermons from the Greater Grace World Outreach website: www.ggwo.org. Much of the content in these lessons is from the sermons and classes of these two dear men.