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iBelieveWhat Every Christian Should KnowCopyright © 2015 By HAROLD RAWLINGS, Ph.D.THE RAWLINGS FOUNDATIONP.O. Box 908Florence Kentucky 41022To order books call toll free 866-365-1051www.haroldrawlings.comPublished by 21st Century Press Springfield, MO 65807in PartnershiP with the rawlings FoundationFlorenCe, KentuCKyAll rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever or stored in any database or retrieval system without written permission except in the case of brief quotations used in critical articles and reviews. Requests for permissions should be addressed to:21st Century Press2131 W. Republic Rd.PMB 211Springfield, MO 65807Email address: Lee@21stcenturypress.comCover Design: Lee FredricksonBook Design: Lee FredricksonisbnVisit our website at: www.21stcenturypress.comPrinted in the united states oF ameriCa
ContentsIntroduction ....................................................................................... 5THE SCRIPTURES1. iBelieve the Bible is the Inspired Word of God ........................... 7THE TRUE GOD: GOD THE FATHER2. iBelieve there is One God in Three Persons ............................... 13 3. iBelieve in God the Father ......................................................... 19THE TRUE GOD: JESUS CHRIST4. iBelieve in Jesus Christ ..............................................................25THE TRUE GOD: THE HOLY SPIRIT5. iBelieve in the Holy Spirit ........................................................ 31THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS6. IBelieve there is a Devil to Overcome ........................................ 37THE FALL7. iBelieve all Have Sinned ............................................................ 45SALVATION8. iBelieve Jesus Died for my Sins .................................................. 539. iBelieve in Salvation by Grace through faith .............................. 59THE CHURCH10. iBelieve That Jesus Christ Founded the Church .........................6511. iBelieve in The Great Commission ............................................ 75THE FINAL STATE12. iBelieve in the Second Coming of Christ ................................... 81
5IntroductionWe live in a culture in which people increasingly base some of the most important life decisions on experience—how they feel about a certain situation or idea. “If it feels good, do it,” is a commonly heard maxim. Even in the Christian realm, feelings and emotions are often elevated above doctrine in importance. Although emotions can play a powerful and positive role in the Christian’s journey through life, they are far too unreliable and ﬂuctuating to become the basis for one’s belief system. The Bible does not say, “The just will live by emotions,” rather, “The just will live by faith”—faith in what God has revealed in His Word. Indeed, without such faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Some allege that people will no longer listen to doctrine. “It’s too divisive,” they complain. However, it is my contention that this is entirely false. Not only can theology be a captivating study (“the queen of the sciences,” as it was once called), it is essential for Christians to know what they believe. The Apostle Peter conﬁrmed this when he urged his readers to be prepared to give an answer (Greek apologia, “a defense”) to anyone who might raise questions about their Christian beliefs (1 Pet. 3:15). Twice in his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul speaks of his yearning to defend (apologia) the gospel (Phil. 1:7, 16). We are not to be silent when challenged to defend the Faith, regardless of the risks (for Paul it meant imprisonment and torture); but if we are not acquainted with the basic tenets of Christianity, we are likely to remain speechless when confronted by skeptics, either those who have a genuine interest in Christianity, or those seeking to lead us down the slippery slope of false doctrine. Furthermore, not being acquainted with the teachings of the Bible, Christians are likely to be “blown about by every wind of doctrine,” frequently changing their minds about what they believe, easily duped by some clever religious charlatan who makes a lie sound like the truth (Eph. 4:13, 14). In one sense, every Christian “does theology” regardless of whether or not they consider themselves a theologian. They may not be experts in theology; in fact, they may be very poor theologians, but they are
iBelieve6theologians nonetheless. The word theology comes from two Greek words, theos, “God,” and logos, “word.” Hence, theology may be deﬁned as a word or study about God—His being, attributes, purposes, and works. Every true Christian has some knowledge of and interest in these matters and can discuss them with some degree of skill, making them theologians. However, all of us should endeavor to be more competent theologians; in other words, to be able to conﬁdently set forth our case about key doctrinal matters with conviction and clarity. The purpose of this study is to meet a widely felt need for an up-to-date and concise source book on the principal teachings of the Bible. It is not intended for scholars; rather it is to serve as a handy guidebook for laymen as well as beginning theology students, assisting them in grasping some of the foundational beliefs that distinguish Christians. These lessons are designed so that one’s Bible becomes a necessary tool to fully understand them. After all, what the Bible says about a matter is much more important than what any human says about it. Most of the Scripture references are not quoted, the rationale being that I felt it would be more beneﬁcial for the reader to look up and read the references from the Bible itself. Like the Bereans in Acts 17, it should be the desire of all Bible students, when some doctrinal matter is discussed, to search the Scriptures to see if what they have been exposed to corresponds with what is revealed in the Bible. Some churches may want to spend three months in their Bible study classes going through these chapters. Pastors may desire to utilize them for a sermon series. Small group Bible studies and discipleship classes can proﬁt from them. My fondest hope is that the information presented in these reﬂections will prove to be useful to individuals, churches, and institutions, the end result being the enabling of many to witness more effectively for Christ, the building up of believers in the faith, and the equipping of Christians to live out their convictions in an increasingly hostile world.
7chapter 1 iBelieve the Bible is the Inspired Word of GodThe most crucial matter in reference to the Bible is its origin. In other words, did God produce the Bible, and if so, how did He do it? Paul afﬁrmed that all of Scripture was given to us by God (2 Tim. 3:16). The distinguishing characteristic of the Bible is its divine inspiration. Acting as the principal Author, God moved (“inspired”) the human authors of the Scriptures to understand and write precisely what He wished them to write. The Greek word theopneustos, translated as “inspiration,” literally means “God-breathed.” God “breathed” truth into men’s minds. They, in turn, expressed this truth in the words found in the Bible. Inspiration, therefore, can be deﬁned as the mysterious process by which God communicated His eternal truth through human writers without sacriﬁcing their individuality, personality, or style. The result of this divine-human partnership is that God’s truth was recorded without error in the original manuscripts.The word “inspiration,” however, means different things to different people. Some will acknowledge that the Bible is inspired, but their concept of inspiration is altogether different from that of the Apostle Paul. Some deﬁne the Bible as a human production which may at certain times and under certain circumstances become the Word of God to the reader. By that deﬁnition they would agree that the Bible is inspired. Others insist the Bible is inspired in the same way the works of Shakespeare were inspired. They use the word “inspired” in a general sense. For example, someone might say, “That songwriter was certainly inspired.” Given that meaning, even the liberal theologian will admit the Bible is inspired. But that is not what Paul meant. He meant that
iBelieve8the writers of Scripture were so inﬂuenced by God, and their thought processes so illuminated by His Spirit that what they wrote were the very words of God. THE PROCESS OF INSPIRATIONIt is perhaps needless to say that the Bible was not actually written by the hand of God (although there is one instance of God writing His exact words—the Ten Commandments, Ex. 31:18; Deut. 10:4-5). However, abundant evidence exists that what is found in the sixty-six books of the Bible are the exact words God meant to be there. The inspiration came from God to human personalities to give to us the Bible. Forty different individuals wrote over a period of some 1,500 years as God inspired them.The process of inspiration is disclosed in two signiﬁcant New Testament passages. The ﬁrst one we have already considered: 2 Timothy 3:16. If Paul had said, “Certain portions of Scripture are inspired by God,” it would have been left to each individual or church to determine which parts were inspired. This would make human reason the test and judge of what is inspired and what is not. We must assume that those who insist that the Bible is inspired only in spots are themselves inspired to “spot the spots” that are inspired. But as we know all too well, human reason is not always a reliable standard for determining what is truth and what is falsehood. Paul clearly intended to convey the message that God inspired all of Scripture, not just certain parts here and there. The second passage is 2 Peter 1:21. According to the Apostle Peter’s words, divine revelation was given by inspiration of God to holy men who where then “moved” by the Holy Spirit to write the very words of God. The word “moved” implies that these men were carried along as if by a strong current or mighty inﬂuence. This distinctly teaches that the Bible was not written at the initiative or whim of human beings, but by those who were moved upon, yes, even driven along, by the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They wrote in obedience to the divine command and were kept from all error, whether they revealed truths previously unknown or recorded truths already familiar.Inspiration is not dictation. In some instances writers were commanded to express the exact words of God, but in most cases the Holy Spirit controlled the authors’
ibelieve the bible is the insPired word oF god 9thoughts and judgments, permitting them to express themselves in terms reﬂecting their own language patterns and style. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, except for brief sections in Aramaic, and the New Testament was written in Greek. By allowing the authors (most of whom were not among the literary elite) to use a vocabulary familiar to them, suggests that God set the pattern that His Word should be in the common idiom of the day.The Bible, then, is divine truth expressed in human language. A parallel exists between the incarnation of Jesus and the Bible: Jesus was God in human ﬂesh—God and man combined, deity and humanity in one (John 1:14). Even so the Bible is the divine and human combined (2 Peter 1:21). This divine-human combination makes the Bible unique among literary works. THE EXTENT OF INSPIRATIONDoes the Bible only contain the Word of God, or is it appropriate to say the Bible is the Word of God? Is inspiration conﬁned only to the Bible’s important doctrines and spiritual lessons, or is all of Scripture (even the historical parts) the Word of God?The Bible is the Word of God in its entirety and all the words of Scripture are inspired. This is called plenary as well as verbal inspiration. These two words imply that the biblical authors were not simply inspired in their general ideas, but in the very words they used (verbal inspiration); and inspiration extends to the whole Bible (plenary inspiration), not merely to certain parts. This is not to say that all parts of the Bible are equally useful or signiﬁcant, anymore than a ﬁnger is as important as the heart. But just as all parts of the body are useful, so all parts of the Bible make an essential contribution to the total message.Inspiration does not extend to translations of Scripture. No translation is inspired in the same sense as the originals. However, God has preserved His Word and will continue to do so, which means we can rest conﬁdently in the promise that God’s Word will endure forever (1 Pet. 1:23-25).TRADITIONS AND NEW REVELATIONSWe do not believe that God has added or ever will add anything to His revelation in His Word (See Rev. 22:18,19). Tradition may have its
iBelieve10place and can be a valuable tool at times in enhancing one’s understanding of the Scriptures, but it should never be deemed equivalent to inspired Scripture or used as the basis for the formulation of doctrine.Those who claim to be recipients of special revelations are on dangerous ground as well. If what they claim is true and the prophecy they receive is directly from God, their message should receive the same credibility as the writings of the Apostles. Our answer to this is that the Bible is complete and entirely sufﬁcient as is. All that we presently need to know about God and the salvation He offers us is revealed in the sixty-six books of the Bible. To believe otherwise is to open a Pandora’s box and advance the cause of false religions.THE MESSAGE OF THE BIBLESince the Bible is our infallible guidebook, and because our belief and conduct are to be governed by what it teaches, let us see what those things are to which we should give attention above everything else:The Bible reveals God’s plan of salvation. The Scriptures teach what God has done and is doing for the salvation of mankind. Many people are confused and have been mislead about how to rightly connect with God. They believe that salvation is attained by performing some type of meritorious work—giving money to worthy causes, living an upright life, keeping the commandments, etc. The Bible clearly teaches that salvation only comes to the one who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:15).The Bible reveals our need to accept God’s salvation. Knowing the right way is not enough. The Bible is explicit about what one must do in order to be saved (Acts 16:25-34; John 1:11-12; Rom. 10:13).The Bible reveals our condition in the life to come. Some frantically search for answers to what will transpire in the future. Sadly, they search in all the wrong places. They consult fortune tellers, the paranormal, and religious cults, but Scripture explains the foolishness of such practices (Isaiah 8:19; Luke 16:29-31). In contrast to the doubts, uncertainty, and despair of human speculation, the Bible gives a true and trustworthy message about the life to come. To escape the judgment of God and enjoy an eternal home in Heaven, a person must accept Jesus Christ as the one who paid for his
ibelieve the bible is the insPired word oF god 11or her sins on the cross (Matt. 7:13-14 & John 14:1-6).REVIEWHow the Bible came to us is a subject of immense importance. If the Bible is no different or no better than any other religious holy book, as unbelievers suggest, it should be treated as such. On the other hand, if it came from God, was miraculously inspired and preserved by Him, as Christians through the centuries have believed, it deserves our utmost attention and respect. The Bible is the only source of the true knowledge of God and of the way of salvation. Neither reason nor tradition nor creeds are in any true and real sense the source of that knowledge. The Holy Scriptures are the only rule and standard of faith and practice. No book in the history of the world has influenced more people for good, inspired more to noble action, soothed more aching hearts than the Bible. However, its influence and authority cannot be explained apart from its divine origin.QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION1. What does the word “inspiration” mean? 2. God wrote the first words of our Bible on stone tablets. In fact, He wrote the same words twice (Ex. 31:18; Deut. 10:1-5). Explain why.3. Write out 2 Peter 1:21.4. How many individuals did it take to produce the Bible?5. How many years were involved in producing it?6. The Old Testament was written in which languages?7. The New Testament was written in which language?8. What is the significance of the Holy Spirit allowing human authors of the Bible to use a vocabulary familiar to them?9. What does “verbal inspiration” mean?10. What does “plenary inspiration” mean?11. Does inspiration extend to translations of Scripture?
iBelieve12a) The message of the Bible reveals:b) God’s plan of salvation. Explain.c) our need to accept God’s salvation. Explain.d) our condition in the life to come. Explain.12. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
13chapter 2iBelieve there is One God in ree PersonsAccording to the Bible there is only one true God. The Shema is recited every Sabbath in Jewish synagogues around the world: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). This is a strong declaration of the oneness and uniqueness of God. The Bible teaches a strict monotheism, and deﬁnitely excludes every form of dualism and polytheism. Dualism teaches the existence of two mutually hostile divine beings, one representing everything good and beneﬁcial to mankind, the other representing everything that is sinful and evil. Polytheism is the belief in more gods than one. The true God is not one among many, or even the best among many; He is absolutely unique, the only God.Consider the mystery of the Trinity and what it means to believe there are three Persons equal in majesty and power, undivided in splendor, yet one Lord, one God, ever to receive our undivided loyalty and praise. To believe in the Trinity is to believe that there is only one God, and yet there are three distinct Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who possess eternally the same divine nature. Because Christians believe in the Trinity, that God is one, yet in that one being are three distinct persons, many accuse them of believing in three Gods. Explaining the Trinity is not easy, but there can be no question that an unbiased study of Scripture reveals that there is a plurality of beings within the Trinity. To say that something is mysterious or difﬁcult is not the same as to say that it is not true. It is wrong to say the Trinity does not exist simply because it is beyond our comprehension. Very few people understand quantum physics. The theories and concepts of quantum physics are too complex for most people. In fact, some of the theories seem ridiculous or totally illogical to the untrained eye. Yet, quantum physics is used every day to make our lives better. We must be careful not to discredit
iBelieve14something simply because we do not understand it. Although the word Trinity is not found in the Bible, the concept is plainly taught.THE TRINITY IN THE OLD TESTAMENTThere are occasions where God refers to Himself in plural terms (Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8). The Apostle John afﬁrms the Isaiah passage refers to Jesus (John 12:41).There are references to the Angel of the Lord who is identiﬁed with, yet distinct from, God (Gen. 16:7-13; Ex. 3:2-6; Judges 13:2-22).The Old Testament refers to the Spirit of God as God’s personal agent (Gen. 1:2; Neh. 9:20; Ps. 139:7).There are prophecies that identify the long-awaited Messiah with God (Ps. 2; Isa. 9:6f.).THE TRINITY IN THE NEW TESTAMENTSeveral New Testament passages imply or state that God is a trinity (Matt. 3:13-17; 28:19; John 14:15-23; Acts 2:32, 33; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 1:1-14; 3:16-19). Each person of the Trinity is asserted to be divine.The Father is God. Of the Father, Jesus says that He is “the only true God” (John 17:1-3). Paul afﬁrms that there is but one God, the Father (1 Cor. 8:6). He is a person distinct from the Son (John 3:16; Gal. 4:4). In Galatians 4:6, He is distinguished from the Son and the Spirit.The Son is God. If Jesus of Nazareth is anything like the Gospel writers say He was like, then He was more than an ordinary man. Here was a man who, though He ate, drank, slept, and became tired as ordinary mortals do, also multiplied wine and food, gave sight to the blind, healed incurable diseases, stilled storms, cast out demons, and even raised people from the dead. Either those writers were deluded or deliberately deceptive, or they described someone who was unlike any person who has ever lived. The answer is, He is God. He claimed to be God and His disciples were convinced of His claims, not merely because of what He taught or ascribed to Himself, but because of His miracle-working powers.The New Testament establishes the truth that Jesus is God: ﬁrst, by direct statements; second, by statements that imply His deity; and
ibelieve there is one god in three Persons 15third, by use of quotations that, in the Old Testament, refer to Jehovah (Yahweh).Jesus is called Immanuel, which means, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). According to John 1, Jesus is referred to as the Word, and is said to have been with God from all eternity; in fact, He was not only with God, He was God (John 1:1). He claimed that whoever had seen Him had seen the Father (John 14:9). Jesus said that He and the Father were one (John 10:30). His enemies knew exactly what He meant because they took up stones to stone Him for blasphemy. They insisted in their blindness that, though He was a mere man, He was making Himself God (John 10:33).Jesus repeatedly called Himself by the name or designation reserved for God. He afﬁrmed to His enemies that before Abraham was born, “I AM” (John 8:58; cf. Exo. 3:13,14). In Isaiah, Jehovah is the First and the Last, a title that, in the book of Revelation, is given to Christ (Isa. 44:6; Rev. 1:17).Jesus said He was God, and that is what the disciples who wrote the New Testament proclaimed Him to be. Jesus was not just a great and good man sent from God, nor a prophet, nor an angel. When we encounter this Man, we meet God. If we want to know who God is and what God does, we have to look at Jesus Christ.The Holy Spirit is God. Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit in terms that cannot be misunderstood. He told His disciples that He would ask the Father to send someone to replace Him who would do for them exactly what He had done for them while on earth (John 14:16). Jesus used the Greek word “Paracletos” (“one called alongside to help”) to describe the Holy Spirit’s mission. “Paracletos” is also used of Christ Himself in John’s ﬁrst epistle. Christ is described as our “advocate,” the one who speaks to the Father in our defense (1 John 2:1). Jesus called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), while referring to Himself as “the truth” (14:6).Ananias and Sapphira were rebuked for endeavoring to deceive the Apostle Peter about their gift to the church. Peter asked them why they had lied to the Holy Spirit. He then explained the gravity of the attempted deceit, warning them that they had not lied to men but to God (Acts 5:3, 4, 9). The Holy Spirit in this passage is equated with God.Once we acknowledge God the Father and God the Son to be fully
iBelieve16God, the Trinitarian expressions in verses such as Matt. 28:19 (“baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”) assume signiﬁcance, because they show that the Holy Spirit is regarded as being equal with the Father and the Son. The unity of the Trinity is underscored by the use of the singular word name rather than names.REVIEWGod is said to be one in the absolute sense that there cannot be another, and in the relative sense that there are not many gods (polytheism). Yet God exists in a relationship of three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are not three separate Gods. God is one, a community in unity. The Bible does not explicitly mention the word “Trinity,” but the view that God is one and that three persons are God clearly commend this view. The doctrine of the Trinity is crucial for our faith. It is concerned with who God is, what He is like, how He works, and how He is to be approached. The question of the deity of Jesus Christ is very much connected with the Trinity. The position we take on the Trinity will profoundly affect our understanding of Christ’s deity. Paul expressed this early Trinitarian belief when he ended a letter to the Corinthians with a blessing from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14).QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION1. Give the references where God refers to Himself in plural terms in the Old Testament.2. Give two examples from the Old Testament that refer to the Father, Son or Holy Spirit.3. What does Jesus say about the Father in John 17:1-3?4. What does Paul say about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Galatians 4:4-7? 5. Write out John 1:1. 6. What does the name “Immanuel” mean (Matt. 1:23)?7. Why did Jesus’ enemies take up stones to kill Him (Jn. 10:29-33)?8. What is one convincing name Jesus used to proclaim His deity (Jn. 8:58)?
ibelieve there is one god in three Persons 179. What Greek word did Jesus use to describe the Holy Spirit’s mission?10. Why is the singular word “name” in the baptismal formula signiﬁcant (Matt. 28:19)?11. How does the marriage relationship help to explain the Trinity?12. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
19chapter 3 iBelieve in God the FatherWe have seen that belief in God is a reasonable belief, so reasonable in fact that only a fool denies God’s existence (Ps. 14:1). With the Hebrews, however, the problem was not atheism but polytheism; not, does God exist, but which God exists? And so it is in our time. Because nearly everyone believes in a god of some kind, we need to consider not only the existence of God (“Is there a God?”), but the character of God (“What is God like?”). Just as the Bible nowhere attempts to establish the existence of God, so it proposes no deﬁnition of His person. The Hebrews were prohibited from making any graven image of God, and they made no effort to restrict God to a deﬁnition. However, we do have a signiﬁcant description of Him in the conversation between Moses and the Lord at the burning bush in the Sinai desert. Moses inquired of the Lord what he should tell the children of Israel when they ask him who sent him on his mission. The Lord instructed Moses to tell them that I AM had sent him (Exod. 3:13-14). This mysterious description of God demonstrates that a complete deﬁnition of Him is fundamentally impossible. Just as a graven image of God cannot depict Him, so a deﬁnition of God cannot explain Him. After we have said all we can about God, there remains a great element of mystery (Isa. 55:8, 9).Nevertheless, God has made a true disclosure of Himself. He has revealed Himself in such a way that we may truly know Him, even though we may not comprehend Him fully.THE ESSENCE OF GODHe is spirit (John 4:24). If God is spirit, He is incorporeal; that is, He has no physical body,
iBelieve20one that is visible to the human eye. But what about the expressions that represent God as having bodily parts (Heb. 1:10; 1 Kings 8:29; Neh. 1:6)? They are symbolic representations which serve to make God real and to express His various activities, powers, and interests.John said that no human has seen God at any time (John 1:18). Paul calls Him “the invisible God” (Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17). However, spirit beings can manifest themselves in visible form. Jacob said, after wrestling with the angel of the Lord at Peniel, “I have seen God face to face” (Gen. 32:30). “The angel of the Lord” was a visible manifestation of deity (Gen. 16:7-14; Ex. 3:2-6; Judg. 6:11-23). Jesus said that anyone who had seen Him had seen the Father (John 14:9).Scripture teaches that the redeemed will one day see God (Ps. 17:15; Matt. 5:8; Heb. 12:14; Rev. 22:3, 4). In our gloriﬁed bodies, our power of sight will be totally altered and enhanced, and we will be able at last to actually see God, seated on a throne, high and lifted up.He is the living God. One of the noteworthy Biblical descriptions of God is that He is living. He is not some impersonal force or cosmic energy. At least twenty-eight times in the Bible God is said to be the “living God.” For example, one of the reasons David was so outraged over Goliath was that this Philistine had deﬁed “the armies of the living God” (I Sam. 17:26, 36). The Psalmist expressed his great spiritual desire with such words as, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:2). In numerous places throughout the New Testament the same truth is repeated (Matt. 16:16; Acts 14:15; Rom. 9:26; Heb. 3:12; Rev. 7:2).He is a person. Scripture represents God as possessing the characteristics of personality: self-consciousness (Ex. 3:14; 1 Cor. 2:10); intellect (Gen. 18:19; Acts 15:18); volition (Gen. 3:15; John 6:38). He is described as speaking (Gen. 1:3); seeing (Gen. 11:5); hearing (Ps. 94:9), grieving (Gen. 6:6); repenting (Gen. 6:6); being angry (Deut. 1:37); jealous (Ex. 20:5); and compassionate (Ps. 111:4).He is the eternal, self-existing one. Like a circle, God has no beginning and no end. He is called “the
ibelieve in god the Father 21Eternal God” (Gen. 21:33). He is not limited by time. In fact, He was before time began and is the cause of time. He was, He is, He will be. The Psalmist addresses God in personal terms and afﬁrms His eternal existence and inﬁnite power (Ps. 90:2). THE ATTRIBUTES OF GODImplicit in the Christian’s understanding of God is the conﬁdence that He is all sufﬁcient and altogether adequate to meet the needs of His creation.He is Omnipotent. He is all-powerful and capable of doing whatever is consistent with His character (Gen. 18:14). It was described in the Old Testament by the sacred name El, especially in the composition of El Shaddai (God Almighty), and says that nothing is impossible with God. However, omnipotence does not imply that God can do everything conceivable. For example, He cannot lie, He cannot change, He cannot be unfaithful, He cannot do something irrational, such as creating a rock bigger than He can lift. He is only capable of doing what is consistent with His own character and necessary to His government of the universe (Dan. 4:17, 25, 35; Matt. 19:26; Rev. 19:6).The discovery of the incredible immensity of our universe, where distances are measured in light-years, has given us a new understanding of the omnipotence of God. He is sovereign. The Biblical term “Lord,” used by the Jews in place of the unutterable name for God, YHWH (translated Jehovah or Yahweh), implies particularly the sovereignty of God. It might even be said that the sovereignty of God is the principal doctrine of the whole Bible. This idea of God as king assumes that He is the ruler over the whole universe, material and spiritual, and has a moral claim on the lives of all His creatures (Mark 12:28-30). If there is but one God, then He must be the God of all the earth. All other so-called gods are false and are to be repudiated (Ex. 20:1-3; Matt. 4:10).He is the creator and sustainer of all. He is the One who made the universe and keeps it going (Gen. 1:1; John 1:3; Heb. 1:1-3). If we ask how God created all things, we learn that it was by the power of His word (Ps. 33:6, 9). God spoke and it was done. If we ask how God sustains all things, we learn that all things hold together and are kept intact by His powerful Word (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3).
iBelieve22He is Omniscient. Because He is all-knowing, His wisdom and knowledge are inﬁnite (Ps. 139:2-4; 147:5; 1 John 3:20). His knowledge of the future is limitless (Isa. 46:9-10). He is even aware of the minute details of our lives (Matt. 6:8; 10:30). A contemporary movement involving a small but inﬂuential group of theologians proclaims that God has imposed upon Himself certain limitations that restrict His ability to know all things. In other words, God is unable to always predict the future and sometimes changes His mind. It is called “Openness Theology.” Thankfully, most such theological aberrations, like passing fads, come and go rather quickly.How God can comprehend so vast an amount of knowledge is beyond the reach of man’s intellectual capacity. One can only stand amazed in the presence of such matchless wisdom (Rom. 11:33).He is Omnipresent. He is everywhere present in creation at the same time. Because God is spirit (John 4:24) and not constrained by a physical body, he is unrestricted with respect to space. If God has brought all things into existence by His creative power and sustains the entire universe through His wisdom and might, it follows that wherever His creatures are, there He is also (Acts 17:28). No matter how far humans may range in the universe, either on this planet or in space, they will ﬁnd the presence of God (Ps. 139:7-10).THE MORAL ATTRIBUTES OF GODHe is holy. The Lord is called “the Holy One” some thirty times in Isaiah alone. It is the attribute by which He is especially known in the Old Testament (Lev. 11:44ff; Josh 24:19; Ps. 22:3). Because of God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness, humans must approach Him through the merits of another, else they cannot approach Him at all. But Christ has made such access possible (Rom. 5:2; Heb. 10:19ff).He is love (1 John 4:8, 16). He created the world in order to show forth His glory and to share His love with the beings He created. The Apostle John gives us a brief but vivid description of the extent of God’s love in John 3:16.
ibelieve in god the Father 23He is just. God is impartial and equitable in all His dealings with His creatures (Deut. 32:4; Rev. 15:3). We have to balance out God’s justice with His other attributes. Because of His justice, God is obligated to punish evildoers. Because of His love, patience, and goodness, He wants no one to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).REVIEWWe have seen that belief in God is a reasonable belief. In fact, God is the principal focus of revelation. His divine attributes are the main object of man’s recognition and worship. The question of God’s nature—what He is like—is the central point of our faith. One’s view of God supplies the framework within which one’s theology is constructed and life is lived. Without a correct understanding of God, one’s world-view will be skewed. Christians believe and profess that there is one true and living God, the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth. Although a complete description of Him is fundamentally impossible, God has made a true disclosure of Himself. He has revealed Himself in such a way that we may truly know what He is like, even though we may not comprehend Him fully.QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION1. What is meant by the expression, “God is spirit” (Jn. 4:24)?2. Is it proper to say that God is an impersonal force or cosmic energy? Explain.3. How many times in the Bible is God said to be the “living God?”4. Give three characteristics of personality that God possesses.5. What is God called in Genesis 21:33?6. What is meant by the word “omnipotent?”7. When we say that God is “all-knowing,” what word do we use?8. When we say God is present everywhere simultaneously, what word do we use?9. Explain the three moral attributes of God.10. Write out Deuteronomy 32:4.11. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
25chapter 4 iBelieve in Jesus ChristSome two thousand years ago there lived a man whose inﬂuence on the world is unique in history. He was born in an obscure Middle Eastern village with none of the material advantages that wealth and social position can give. His brief career spanned only thirty-three years and was conﬁned to an area of a few hundred miles. None of His activity occurred in one of the great centers of civilization. His life did not end on a note of triumph; He suffered the shameful death of cruciﬁxion.Yet today, over twenty centuries later, this man is worshipped by two billion people in every country of the world as the Savior of mankind. Through the centuries since His death, millions have died as martyrs to His cause, and millions more have gladly renounced all that the human heart holds dear, home, family, riches, and friends, to carry His name to the far reaches of the earth. He is loved throughout the world as no other man has been loved. His teachings have enriched, changed and comforted the lives of men and women wherever those words have circulated. Yet there is no person who is held in greater contempt.What is it that makes Jesus Christ unique among all the people of history? What accounts for the inﬂuence He has had and still has on the world? The answer, of course, is that Jesus Christ was not merely a great teacher and religious leader. He is the Son of God. He is the Redeemer promised by God who brought the hope of salvation to the human race; and, by His death on the cross, ransoms all who put their trust in Him.God’s plan to rescue fallen humanity is made plain in the Bible. Long before the world began, His Son was chosen as the sacriﬁce for sin to be the hope of the human race (1 Pet. 1:18-20). He was to bring us
iBelieve26back to God and provide deliverance from sin through the destruction of the works of the Devil (1 Pet. 3:18; Matt. 1:21; 1 John 3:8).Sin severed Adam and Eve from the source of life, resulting in their spiritual death and assuring their physical death as well (Rom. 5:12). Their act of disobedience resulted in a posterity that was contaminated with a sin nature and shackled with the sentence of death. In order to restore us as children of God, the Son of God had to become a man. Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned, God gave them hope by promising that there would be enmity between the serpent and the woman, between his seed and hers. In the cryptic prophecy of Genesis 3:15, the serpent and its offspring represent Satan and his followers. The woman and her seed symbolize the Savior of the world and His followers. This statement was the ﬁrst assurance that a Savior would come and the conﬂict between God’s Son and Satan would end in victory for the Son of God.A SYMBOLICAL REPRESENTATION OF SALVATIONAfter sin entered, God instituted animal sacriﬁces to illustrate the mission of the Savior to come (Gen. 4:4). This symbolic system dramatized the manner in which God the Son would pay the penalty for human sin.After Israel’s exodus from Egypt, the sacriﬁcial offerings were conducted in a tabernacle as part of a covenant relationship between God and His people. Built by Moses according to speciﬁcations given to him by the Lord Himself, the sanctuary and its services were instituted to illustrate the plan of salvation (Ex. 25:8, 9, 40; Heb. 8:1-5).To obtain forgiveness, a repentant sinner brought an animal that had no blemishes—a picture of the sinless Savior. The sinner would then place his hand on the innocent animal and confess his sins (Lev. 1:3, 4). This act symbolized the transfer of the sin from the guilty sinner to the innocent victim, depicting the substitutionary nature of the sacriﬁce. Because there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22), the sinner then killed the animal, making the deadly nature of sin obvious.The New Testament recognizes Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Through the shedding of His blood, He obtained for the human race redemption from the penalty of sin (1 Pet. 1:19).
ibelieve in Jesus Christ 27PREDICTIONS ABOUT A SAVIORGod promised that the Savior would come through Abraham’s line (Gen. 22:18; cf. 12:3). The prophet Isaiah said He would come as a male child, and would be both human and divine (Isa. 9:6). Bethlehem would be His birthplace (Micah 5:2). The birth of this divine-human person would be supernatural (Isa. 7:14; cf. Matt. 1:23). This Redeemer would ascend the throne of His father David and one day establish an everlasting government of peace (Isa. 9:7).Before Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem almost 2,000 years ago, He was “in the form of God,” that is, the divine nature was His from all eternity (John 1:1; Phil. 2:6, 7). In taking the form of a slave, He laid aside divine prerogatives. He became a human in order to carry out the Father’s will (John 6:38; Matt. 26:39). JESUS CHRIST WAS TRULY HUMANThe Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ had a human nature. The acceptance of this teaching is crucial (1 John 4:2, 3). Christ’s human birth, development, characteristics, and personal testimony provide evidence of His humanity.His human birth. The Bible declares that the Word became ﬂesh and lived among us (John 1:14). The word “ﬂesh” means “human nature.” Because the Holy Spirit conceived Him, He was fully God. Because He was born of a human mother, He was fully man. This manifestation of God in human form is called “the mystery of godliness” (1 Tim. 3:16).Christ’s genealogy refers to Him as the son of David and the son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1). As evidence of His human nature, He was born of the seed of David (Rom. 1:3; 9:5), and was the son of Mary (Mark 6:3). He could claim true humanity through His mother. (Chapter 12 describes the signiﬁcance of His virgin birth.) He was called a man. John the Baptist and Peter refer to Him as a man (John 1:30; Acts 2:22). Paul speaks of Christ as a man (Rom 5:15). The one mediator between God and men, is the “man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). In addressing His enemies, Christ refers to Himself as a man (John 8:40).Jesus’ favorite designation for Himself, one He used 77 times, was
iBelieve28“Son of man” (Matt. 8:20; 26:2). The title “Son of God” focuses attention on His relationship within the Trinity. “Son of man” emphasizes His solidarity with the human race through His incarnation.His human characteristics. In all things Christ was made like His fellow human beings (Heb. 2:17). His human nature possessed the same mental and physical susceptibilities as the rest of humanity: hunger, thirst, weariness, and anxiety (Matt. 4:2; John 19:28; 4:6; cf. Matt. 26:21; 8:24).In His ministry to others He revealed compassion, righteous anger, and grief (Matt. 9:36; Mark 3:5), all human emotions. At times He felt troubled and sorrowful, and even wept (Matt. 26:38; John 12:27; 11:33, 35; Luke 19:41). His life of prayer expressed His complete dependence on God (Matt. 26:39-44; Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 5:16; 6:12). And Jesus experienced death (John 19:30, 34).Nevertheless, when the Bible reports that the Son of God became a human being (Phil. 2:7), in no way is this meant to imply that He was sinful or participated in sinful acts or thoughts as ordinary humans do (see Heb. 4:15).THE NECESSITY OF CHRIST’S TAKING HUMAN NATURETo be the high priest for the human race. As Messiah, Jesus had to occupy the position of high priest or mediator between God and humans (Zech. 6:13; Heb. 4:14-16). This function required human nature. Christ met the qualiﬁcations: (1) He could have compassion on those who were weak because He was subject to weakness (Heb. 5:2). (2) He is able to help those who are tempted because He was tempted (Heb. 2:18; 4:15).To give His life for the sins of the world. Christ’s divine nature cannot die. In order to die, Christ had to have a human nature. He became man and paid the penalty for sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:3).To be our example. To set the example as to how people should live, Christ lived a sinless life as a human being. As the second Adam, He dispelled the myth that humans cannot obey God’s Word and have victory over sin. Where the ﬁrst Adam fell, the second Adam gained the victory over sin and Satan
ibelieve in Jesus Christ 29and became both our Savior and our perfect example. In His strength, His victory can be ours (John 16:33; Phil. 4:13).Though believers can never be perfect in the same sense Jesus was perfect, through His example and the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, no temptation is irresistible. We can trust God to give us the strength to endure and overcome it (1 Cor. 10:13).REVIEWThe greatest event in human history was inaugurated with the birth of the Son of God into our human condition. God Himself became man. This event is known as the incarnation—God becoming incarnate in Jesus—the merger of the divine and the human. The Apostle John explained how the Word (Jesus Christ) became a human and lived among us (John 1:14). Paul declared that God sent His Son at exactly the right time in history, and He was subject to the law (Gal. 4:4). The incarnation distinguishes Christianity from Judaism and Islam, the other two monotheistic religions. Only Christianity believes the eternal, transcendent God of the universe became incarnate in a human being, namely Jesus of Nazareth. Why did the Son of God become a man, taking on the limitations of our human condition? It was the key to God’s plan to redeem the human race from sin and rebellion against Him.QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION1. Explain when and why God ﬁrst planned to send His Son to earth to redeem humans (1 Pet. 1:18-21).2. Why did God institute animal sacriﬁces (Gen. 4:4)? 3. Why is Jesus called “the Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:29)? 4. God promised that the Savior would be born through what family line (Gen. 22:18)?5. Did the Son of God exist before His birth in Bethlehem?6. Write out 1 Timothy 3:16. 7. What was Jesus’ favorite designation of Himself (Matt. 8:20; Lk. 19:10)?
iBelieve308. What does the term “Son of man” emphasize? 9. Name some of the human characteristics Jesus possessed while here on earth.10. Give the three basic reasons why it was necessary for Jesus to assume our human nature.11. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
31chapter 5 iBelieve in the Holy SpiritWe have drawn attention in our study of theology to the Father’s work in creation and providence, and how the Son, through His sacriﬁcial death and resurrection, has guaranteed redemption to every sinner who believes on Him. We have seen how the Father and the Son are equally God. Now we will consider who the Holy Spirit is, how He relates to the Father and the Son, and how He applies the redemptive work of Christ to mankind, thus making salvation a reality. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE HOLY SPIRITThere are several reasons why the study of the Holy Spirit is of special signiﬁcance for Christians: The Holy Spirit is fully God. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the divine Trinity, equal in every respect with the Father and the Son. One of the best-known Biblical evidences of this equality is the baptismal formula given in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19). The benediction of Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:14 is another evidence. Peter likewise, in the salutation of his ﬁrst epistle, links the three together (1 Pet. 1:2).The Holy Spirit makes the Trinity more personal. Without the presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life, the tendency is to think of God as being far away in Heaven; so far, in fact, as to be indifferent to the plight of humans. In like manner, the Son lived on the earth 2,000 years ago and may seem to some a distant ﬁgure. But the Holy Spirit is resident within the life and body of each individual believer, encouraging, assuring, guiding, and consoling. Hence, the
iBelieve32Holy Spirit is the one member of the Trinity through whom the entire Triune God works in and through us.We live in, “the Age of the Holy Spirit.” The Father’s work was the most prominent in the Old Testament era, as was the Son’s in the period covered by the four Gospels. The ministry of the Holy Spirit has been in the forefront from the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4, 33) to the modern era. The current culture stresses experience over dogmatic assertions. Because it is primarily through the Holy Spirit that we feel God’s presence within and experience the wonder of His various attributes, it is vital that we understand who the Holy Spirit is and what He does. In addition, living the Christian life and witnessing effectively for the Savior are made possible only through the Spirit’s guidance and power (Acts 1:8). THE HOLY SPIRIT’S MISSION TO THE WORLDThe evening before His death, Christ’s words about His impending departure greatly troubled the disciples. He immediately assured them that they would not be left as orphans (John 14:18), but would receive the Holy Spirit as His personal representative. The Holy Spirit would be to them and do for them what Christ was to them and what He did for them while on earth.The Holy Spirit has been active in the world since the dawn of creation (Gen. 1:2). Throughout the Old Testament His activity is frequently portrayed. When Jesus was here on the earth, the Spirit was present in great power. But it was at Pentecost that the principal work of the Holy Spirit was inaugurated. He exalts Christ. The Lordship of Christ can only be acknowledged through the inﬂuence of the Holy Spirit. Paul afﬁrmed that no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). Jesus declared that the main thrust of the Spirit’s mission was to glorify Him (John 16:13, 14). Some make the mistake of conceding more glory to the Holy Spirit than they do to Christ. This is a direct contradiction of what Jesus says in these verses.
ibelieve in the holy sPirit 33He convicts. Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit’s mission is to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). First, the Holy Spirit brings to us a deep conviction of sin, especially the sin of failing to believe on Christ (16:9). Second, the Spirit urges all to accept the righteousness of Christ. Jesus lived a sinless life, but men said He had a demon. The Spirit contradicts those misguided men and witnesses to the righteousness of Christ and our need to have His righteousness imputed (credited) to us. Third, the Spirit warns us of a coming judgment, a powerful tool in stirring up sin-darkened minds to the need of repentance and conversion. Having exalted Christ and convicted the sinner, the Spirit enables him/her to be born again (John 3:3-16). A new life results, for the believer has become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.THE HOLY SPIRIT’S MISSION TO BELIEVERSThe majority of texts concerning the Holy Spirit pertain to His relationship with God’s people. His sanctifying inﬂuence leads to obedience (1 Pet. 1:2). But no one continues to experience the full power available from the Holy Spirit without meeting certain conditions. Believers are warned about resisting, grieving, and quenching the Spirit (Acts 7:51; Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19). Here are some of the noteworthy things the Holy Spirit does for believers:He baptizes believers. This important topic will be considered more fully in the next chapter, but sufﬁce it to say that this remarkable event, referred to in Scripture as “the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” transpires at the moment of conversion. It is not an after-conversion experience, as some claim. The Bible makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 12:13. Writing to the Christians at Corinth, Paul states, “we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body.” By his use of the word “all,” Paul excluded no believer in that Corinthian church. To lend further proof to this assertion, Paul tells the Roman Christians that if any one does not have the Holy Spirit, he does not belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9). We conclude, then, that every true Christian—those who belong to Christ—have been baptized (immersed) with the Holy Spirit; and once that event transpires, the believer’s body
iBelieve34becomes the “temple,” or dwelling place, of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 3:16, 17). He assists believers. When introducing the Holy Spirit, Christ called Him another Parakletos (John 14:16), a Greek word that can be translated “Helper,” “Counselor,” “Comforter,” “Intercessor,” “Mediator,” or “Advocate.” As we have noted, the only other Parakletos mentioned in Scripture is Christ Himself. He is our “Advocate” or “Intercessor” before the Father (1 John 2:1). As Intercessor, Mediator, and Helper, Christ presents us to God and reveals God to us. Similarly, the Spirit guides us to Christ and manifests Christ’s grace to us. This explains why the Spirit is called the “Spirit of Grace” (Heb. 10:29).He highlights the truth of Christ. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). His functions include bringing to our remembrance what Jesus has said (John 14:26), and guiding believers into the truth (16:13). One of His major functions is to exalt Jesus Christ (John 15:26; 16:13,14).He makes possible the presence of Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, it is possible for Jesus to be anywhere in the world at any given moment (John 14:17,18). The Holy Spirit is Christ’s representative.He seals believers. The three phases of salvation are given in Eph. 1:13, 14. First, one must hear the word of truth, the gospel. Second, one must believe the gospel. Third, at the point of conversion, the Holy Spirit seals the believer. In the ancient world the seal was a guarantee. Sealing was used to authenticate contracts, laws, invoices, military orders, etc. A seal indicates ownership. God owns the believer, having purchased him or her from the slave market of sin (Eph. 1:7; 1 Cor. 6:20). The Holy Spirit’s seal is a guarantee of the believer’s eternal security (Eph. 4:30).He guides the operation of the church. Since the Holy Spirit brings the very presence of Christ, He is the true Vicar of Christ on earth, not the pope of Rome. As the center of authority in matters of faith and practice, the ways in which He leads the
ibelieve in the holy sPirit 35church accord fully with the Bible. The Holy Spirit was intimately involved in administrating the apostolic churches. In selecting missionaries, the churches obtained His guidance through prayer and fasting (Acts 13:1-4). Paul reminded the church leaders at Ephesus that they had been placed in their position by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28).The Holy Spirit played an important role in resolving serious difﬁculties that threatened the unity of the churches. Indeed, Scripture introduces the decisions of the ﬁrst church council with an acknowledgment of the importance of the Holy Spirit in those deliberations (Acts 15:1-29).REVIEWThe Holy Spirit is an eternal and essential part of the Godhead or Trinity. He exists eternally in perfect union with the Father and the Son. He is commonly referred to as the “third person of the Trinity.” This description arises out of a human attempt to logically understand the mystery of the Trinity. It is an acceptable term so long as we remember that is does not infer inferiority or subordination. The Holy Spirit is a divine person. He is not a mere inﬂuence, as some contend. His relationship to believers is a personal one: He bears witness with our spirit, He helps our inﬁrmities, He speaks, He ﬁlls, He equips, He seals, and He can be grieved. In this sense, then, He must be equated with and equal to the Father and the Son.The Spirit of God is active in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament His activity, His personality, and His deity come more clearly into focus. There He appears as a person distinct from the Father and the Son, with a ministry of His own. Like the Father and the Son, the Spirit acts as only a person can act. He knows (1 Cor. 2:11); He feels (Rom. 15:30); He wills (1 Cor. 12:11). He is given to the church as “another (i.e. a second) Paraclete” (Jn. 14:16), taking over Jesus’ role in the church as counselor, helper, strengthener, supporter, advisor, advocate. The church is essentially not an organization but an organism, the Spirit-baptized body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). In each local gathering, the Holy Spirit, as Christ’s agent, acts as Lord in it, designating and equipping particular individuals for particular stated ministries, and enabling every member of the body to render service that enhances corporate growth and Christ-like maturity.
iBelieve36QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION1. List one of the best-known Biblical evidences of the equality of the Spirit with the Father and the Son.2. Write out Matthew 28:19. 3. The Lordship of Christ can only be acknowledged through what means?4. What is the main thrust of the Spirit’s mission (Jn. 16:13-14)?5. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of what three things (Jn. 16:8)?6. How is the new birth described in John 3:8?7. When does “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” transpire (1 Cor. 12:13)?8. What is the function of the Holy Spirit as mentioned by Jesus in John 14:26?9. What does the Holy Spirit do once you hear the gospel and believe in Christ (Eph. 1:13)?10. Give the three passages where Spirit-endowed gifts are mentioned.11. Explain the gift of tongues in Acts 2.12. The signs and miracles were given to conﬁrm the truth of what message?13. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
37chapter 6 iBelieve there is a Devil to OvercomeWhen God created the world, He made everything “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Even the angelic world did not have evil angels or demons in it at the time. But sometime between the events of Gen. 1:31, when God saw that everything was good, and the appearance of the serpent (the Devil, also called Satan) in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1), there must have been a rebellion in the angelic world with many angels turning against God and becoming evil. The Bible speaks of “the angels who sinned” (2 Pet. 2:4). Jude 6 describes certain angels who failed to keep the authority they were given by God, thereby abandoning their lofty position. The result is that God is keeping them in prisons of darkness awaiting the Day of Judgment.Of the fallen angels, Satan alone is given particular mention in the Scriptures. It is possible that when Satan fell he drew after him a multitude of lesser angelic beings. Of these, some are conﬁned until the judgment, as we have seen, while others are free and are the demons or devils to whom reference is constantly made throughout the New Testament. They are Satan’s emissaries in all his undertakings and share his doom (Matt. 25:41). Since his dramatic fall, Satan has been the persistent foe of God and the greatest enemy of God’s people. One must know the teaching of the Bible concerning this archenemy if one is to understand something of the conditions around him and how to cope with and be victorious over the adversary’s attacks.THE ORIGIN OF SATANAmong the heavenly host, Satan’s creation alone is mentioned in particular. This fact suggests the supreme place that Satan holds in relation to all the invisible creatures of God. In Ezekiel 28:11-18, there
iBelieve38is a description of the King of Tyre, and while this may have had a secondary application to an earthly king by that name, it is evident that the primary application is to the supreme one among all the creatures of God. The description given could apply to none other than Satan as he existed before the sin that resulted in his fall.The fall of Lucifer (another name for Satan) is described in Isaiah 14:12-15. Five times Lucifer uses the expression “I will” in verses 13 and 14. The cherub lifted up his heart in self-will against God and was punished for his rebellion (compare 1 Tim. 3:6).THE VARIOUS DESIGNATIONS OF SATANHe is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). In contrast to Satan, Jesus speaks of Himself as “the truth” (14:6). To fail to acknowledge this is to give unmistakable evidence of spiritual descent from him whose very nature is falsehood, and whose entire object is to deceive the human heart—Satan himself. When Satan tells a lie, Jesus says in John 8:44, he is speaking his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.He is “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), “the prince of this world” (Jn. 14:30), and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). He is so designated because of the special interest he has in this world, the homage that is paid to him by multitudes in the world, the great sway that, by divine permission, he wields in the world and in the hearts of his subjects.The “Devil” (Matt. 4:1). The most common Greek word for Satan in Scripture is diabolos (devil, adversary, accuser). How apt a description this is of our number one enemy. He does his utmost to malign and impugn God’s children, just as he did to Job (Job 1:6-12).The “dragon” and a “serpent” (Rev. 20:2). This is no doubt a reference to Satan’s capacity to menace, as well as to the subtle tactics he employed when tempting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1ff). All of the many names given to Satan in the Bible convey something of his character and activity.
ibelieve there is a devil to overCome 39THE CHARACTER OF SATANHe is the enemy of God and man. The word Satan means adversary. As the adversary, he is motivated by a disposition hostile to all attempts on the part of humans to worship and glorify God. The apostle Paul states that ﬂesh and blood foes are merely Satan’s tools. The real foe lurking behind them is Satan himself (Eph. 6:12). This passage also teaches that Satan has unseen assistants. The innumerable host of demons who do his bidding increases his power immeasurably. As Beelzebub, he is chief of the devils or demons (Luke 11:15). Unlike God, he is not omnipresent, but through the demonic hosts, he is in touch with the whole earth.He is shrewd and cunning. Paul warned of his treachery in 2 Corinthians 11:3. He is such a master of disguise that, though he is the “prince of darkness,” he is able to transform himself into an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). It should come as no great surprise that hypocrisy is so prevalent in the world, when we recall that Satan—the master hypocrite—is able to transform himself into almost any form and appear even as an angel of light in order to promote his kingdom of darkness.He is extremely wicked. He has sinned from the beginning, and still goes on sinning (1 John 3:8). He is the author and patron of sin, and has been a practitioner of it and an instigator to it even from the beginning of the world.He is powerful. Although not all-powerful (omnipotent) as God is, Satan’s power is far beyond that of humans (Luke 4:5, 6).THE WORKS OF SATANIn His divine wisdom and providence, God sometimes allows Satan to do harmful things to humans.He seeks to undermine and distort the Word of God (Mark 4:13-15; Gen. 3:4-5). The Devil is determined that the Word will exert no inﬂuence in the lives of people who are exposed to it. He “snatches” the Word away before it can take root in a person’s heart. If someone is exposed to the
iBelieve40Word, the Devil is certain to distort its true meaning. He successfully used this ruse on Adam and Eve.He blinds humans to their need of the Gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:3, 4). Because Satan is the prince of darkness and the ruler of the darkness of this world, he deliberately and maliciously keeps people in the dark, blinding their minds with ignorance, superstition, prejudices, and error, so that they may not believe “the glorious gospel of Christ.”He is “the tempter” (1 Thess. 3:5). As he tempted our Lord, so he levels his attack at the Lord’s followers. Satan is a subtle enemy and uses many stratagems to deceive us. For that reason we should not be ignorant of his devices (2 Cor. 2:11).He attempts to hinder and devour the children of God. (1 Thess. 2:18; 1 Pet. 5:8). Satan is a constant enemy to the work of God and does all he can to obstruct it. He is no common adversary. He is more cruel and vigilant than the worst human antagonist. Like a “roaring lion,” he is hungry, restless, ﬁerce, strong, and cruel, the determined and greedy pursuer of souls. His whole design is to devour and destroy the lives and reputations of those who align themselves with God.He sometimes enters into humans and uses them as pawns in his schemes (John 13:27). The Devil is in every wicked person that does his bidding (Eph. 2:2), yet sometimes he enters more powerfully than at other times, especially when he arouses them to accomplish some monstrous evil.HOW TO HAVE VICTORY OVER SATANiBelieve that victory is possible, although it cannot be achieved through human strength alone (2 Cor. 10:3-5). The weapons of our warfare are powerful because we wage war, not by force of arms, not in our own strength, but in the power of Almighty God (Zech. 4:6). As the hymn writer states it: The arm of ﬂesh will fail you, You dare not trust your own.
ibelieve there is a devil to overCome 41Whatever Satan uses as strongholds to oppose us or to thwart the advancement of the gospel, whether vain imaginations, ﬂeshly reasoning, or proud conceits, these strongholds are pulled down by the power of God. No stronghold, not even Satan himself, is able to withstand the mighty force of a spiritual weapon wielded in the name of Jesus Christ.iBelieve that God has made provision for my victory over the Devil. He has supplied you with all the spiritual armor you need (Eph. 6:10-17). We have an enemy to ﬁght against (the Devil), a captain to ﬁght for (the Lord Jesus Christ), a banner to ﬁght under (the gospel), and certain rules of warfare by which we are to govern ourselves (the Word of God). In the battle in which we are engaged, no one can be victorious unless well armed. Paul admonishes us to “put on the whole armor of God,” and make use of all the proper weapons for repelling the temptations and stratagems of Satan (vs. 11). The whole armor must be put on, not leaving any part of the body exposed to the enemy. It is even more urgent, considering that our enemies are principalities, powers, rulers, and wicked spirits in high places. It is the armor of God. We are not free to choose our own weapons. God has set limitations on the types of armor and weapons we are to employ. The purpose for putting on the armor is plainly stated: that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil (vs. 11).Paul speciﬁes each piece of the armor that is to be put on. The order in which the pieces of armor are described is the order in which a soldier in ancient times would put them on. First, the Christian soldier is to be “girded with truth” (v. 14). Before the armor can be put on, the garments underneath must be bound together. God desires truth in the inward parts. Truth is the Christian soldier’s belt. Girded with this, he is not susceptible to Satan’s absurd and persistent lies. The next weapon to put on is “the breastplate of righteousness” (vs. 14). Uprightness of character, loyalty to the Word of God, is the thought here. To neglect what we know to be righteous action is to leave a gaping hole in our armor. The next piece of armor is proper footwear: “the preparation of the gospel of peace” (vs. 15). It is the gospel that gives one ﬁrm footing in the ongoing conﬂict with the Devil.Next comes “the shield of faith” (vs. 16), which covers all the rest of the body. By faith, Paul means total reliance on God, which is the essence
iBelieve42of faith. This part of the soldier’s weaponry, according to Paul, is the most important of all. “Above all,” he says, “take the shield of faith.” The ﬂaming darts the shield repels, signify people’s sharp tongues, impurity, selﬁshness, doubt, fear, disappointment, all of which are planned by the Devil and his cohorts to burn and destroy. Paul knew that only faith’s reliance on God could quench and deﬂect such destructive “darts.” The next weapon, “the helmet of salvation” (v. 17), refers not only to God’s gift of salvation from the penalty of sin, but even more of His saving help to protect from the power of sin. Without that hope to fortify, and the conﬁdence of rescue from the bondage of the past, the Christian may easily be wounded in the conﬂict (see Ps. 140:7). The Devil would tempt us to despair, but the hope of present and future deliverance keeps us trusting in God and rejoicing in Him.The last, but certainly not least, part of the Christian’s armor is “the sword of the Spirit” (v. 17). At the time Paul wrote these words, a sword was a very necessary and useful part of the soldier’s weaponry. The Word of God, like Goliath’s sword, is unlike any other. Jesus resisted Satan’s temptations in the wilderness with a word from Scripture (“It is written,” Matt. 4:1-11). May that be an incentive and example for us to fortify ourselves with the knowledge and understanding of the Word that we may be able to stand in the day of temptation. Scripture arguments are the most powerful arguments to repel temptation. About to sin? Think Scripture. By faith, put on this armor every day without fail, but especially when facing some critical event in your life. A soldier preparing for battle does not forget to put on his armor and take up his weapons. His life depends on being properly equipped for the conﬂict. So it is in the experience of the believer. One must always be prepared, for every day offers its challenges and its temptations. The warfare in which we are engaged will not end until death snatches us away or until Christ comes to receive us to Himself.When you resist the Devil, he will ﬂee from you (James 4:7). It is when you give a foothold to the Devil that trouble looms (Eph. 4:27). You may also take comfort in the truth that God has given to all believers the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is said to be greater than any foe you might come up against in this world, and greater than the Devil himself (1 John 4:4).REVIEWSatan is a ﬁnite creature, created by God before humans existed, and the recognized head of the fallen angels of whom we read in 2 Peter 2:4
ibelieve there is a devil to overCome 43and Jude 6. It is generally believed that the language of Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:13-17 has its deepest and truest meaning in reference to Satan, one of the highest of the angelic creatures. Lucifer (Isa. 14:12) means “light bearer” indicating that Satan was of a high rank among the angels. This may explain how he can so easily transform himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). Pride and desire for worship led to his fall (Matt. 4:8-9). It is no exaggeration to say that he desired to usurp the very place of God Himself. His mission in the world is to afﬂict and tempt God’s people (Job 1:6-12; Gen. 3:4), as he did Jesus in the wilderness (Lk. 4:1-13), and to blind the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4). Demons are Satan’s agents—evil spirit beings that are hostile to God and to the people of God. In some translations they are often referred to in the New Testament as “unclean spirits” (Mk. 1:23-27).QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION1. What personal pronoun does Lucifer use ﬁve times in Isaiah 14:13-14?2. Write out John 8:44.3. What is Satan called in 2 Corinthians 4:4? Why is he called this?4. Give the meaning of the word “devil.”5. What do the names given to Satan in the Bible convey?6. What is the name of the chief of devils or demons (Lk. 11:15)?7. What does the word “Satan” mean?8. What tactic did Satan use to deceive Eve (2 Cor. 11:3)? Explain.9. Why is Satan called an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:13-15)?10. Give at least three things Satan does that are harmful to humans.11. Write out 2 Corinthians 10:4.12. Give the six pieces of armor we are to “put on” to ﬁght the Devil (Eph. 6:10-17).13. Give one important lesson you have learned from this chapter.
45chapter 7 iBelieve All Have SinnedThough created in God’s image and placed in a perfect environment—the Garden of Eden—Adam and Eve disobeyed the explicit command of God, ate the forbidden fruit, and plunged themselves and their posterity into a fallen, sinful state. After the passing of many centuries, and in spite of remarkable scientiﬁc and technological progress in many areas of life, sin remains a stubborn, hideous reality. Furthermore, the world has never been totally free of wars, rumors of wars, disease, crimes of violence, and death. What human, however good he or she may appear to be, can rightfully claim to be totally free from envy, pride, lust, deceit, greed, malice, or hate? But how did such a radical and terrible transformation come about? How did our ﬁrst parents, in such an idyllic setting, agree among themselves to violate the clear command of their Creator? Moreover, if God created a perfect world, how could sin develop?GOD AND THE ORIGIN OF SINIs it possible that God is the author of sin? This is a question that has perplexed humans since time immemorial. The Scriptures make it abundantly clear, however, that by nature God is holy (Isa. 6:3). There is no unrighteousness in Him (Deut. 32:4). Scripture states that God cannot do wickedness nor commit iniquity (Job 34:10). Furthermore, God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone (James 1:13). The psalmist afﬁrms that God hates sin (Ps. 5:4; 11:5).God’s original Creation was very good (Gen. 1:31). Far from being the author of sin, He is the author of salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9).
iBelieve46THE BEGINNING OF SINGod could have prevented sin by creating a universe of robots that would do only what they were programmed to do. But God’s love demanded that He create beings who could respond freely to His love, and such a response is possible only from beings who have the power of choice.Providing His creation with this kind of freedom, however, meant that God must take the risk that some created beings would turn from Him.Angels, beings of a higher order than humans, were created to enjoy intimate fellowship with God (Rev. 1:1; 3:5; 5:11). Of superior strength and obedient to God’s Word (Ps. 103:20), they function as servants or “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14). Though generally invisible to the human eye, at times they appear in human form (Gen. 18, 19; Heb. 13:2). It was through one of these angelic beings that sin was introduced to the universe.Although sin’s rise is mysterious and unjustiﬁable, its roots can be traced to Lucifer. As a high-ranking being in the angelic world, he became deﬁantly proud (Eze. 28:17; cf. 1 Tim. 3:6). Dissatisﬁed with the exalted position the Creator had given him, he selﬁshly began to covet God’s own place of authority (Isa. 14:12-14; cf. Jude 6). Lucifer’s rebellion against God’s government was the ﬁrst step in his transformation into Satan, the adversary.In an attempt to take control of the universe, this fallen angel sowed seeds of discontent among his fellow angels, and won the allegiance of many. The resulting conﬂict ended when Lucifer, now known as Satan, or the Devil ( the adversary), and his angels were expelled from Heaven (Rev. 12:4, 7-9).THE ORIGIN OF SIN IN THE HUMAN RACEUndeterred by his expulsion from Heaven, Satan determined to entice others to join his rebellion against God’s government. His attention was drawn to the newly created human race. How could he lead Adam and Eve to rebel? They lived in a perfect world, with all their needs provided for by their Creator. How could they ever become discontented and distrust the One who was the source of their happiness? The account of the ﬁrst sin gives the answer.When God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden, He only imposed one prohibition on them. The tree in the
ibelieve all have sinned 47middle of the garden, “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” was off limits. To eat of this tree would be an act of deliberate disobedience and would result in estrangement from God as well as death (Gen. 2:16-17). In his assault on the ﬁrst human beings, Satan decided to catch them off guard. Approaching Eve when she was near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Satan, in the guise of a serpent—the most subtle of all the creatures God had made—questioned her about God’s prohibition against eating fruit from the tree (Gen. 3:1-2).When Eve replied that God said they would die by eating the fruit of the tree, Satan challenged the divine prohibition, insisting that she would not die as God had warned. He aroused her curiosity by suggesting that God was trying to keep her from a wonderful new experience: that of being like God (3:4, 5).Immediately, doubt about God’s Word took root. Eve became infatuated with the grand possibilities the fruit was said to offer. The temptation began to play havoc with her mind. Belief in God’s Word now changed to belief in Satan’s word. Suddenly she imagined that the tree was not something to be shunned, but that its fruit was nourishing, it was pleasant to look upon, and it would make her much wiser than before (3:6a).Dissatisﬁed with her position, Eve yielded to the temptation of becoming like God. She took the fruit and ate it. Adam is said to have been with Eve at the time of the temptation and should have been her protector. Instead, he foolishly allowed her to eat without expressing his disapproval, and then ate the fruit himself (3:6b). In trusting their senses rather than God’s Word, Adam and Eve severed their dependence upon God, fell from their high position, and plunged into sin. The fall of the human race, therefore, ﬁrst and foremost was characterized by a breakdown in faith—faith in God and His Word. This unbelief led to disobedience, which in turn, resulted in a broken relationship and ﬁnally a separation between God and man.Though the term is not used in Scripture, the word fall is appropriate, because it echoes the language and teaching of Scripture. The New Testament consistently treats sin as a fall, a descent. When Adam and Eve deliberately chose to disregard God’s prohibition, immediate and long-term consequences were imposed on them because of their sin. The dire repercussions that resulted reveal the seriousness of their transgression.
iBelieve48THE IMMEDIATE CONSEQUENCES OF SINSin brought about a change in human nature. This affected interpersonal relationships, as well as their relationship with God. The initial exhilarating, eye- opening experience in due course brought Adam and Eve only feelings of shame (Gen. 3:7). Instead of becoming God’s equals, as Satan had promised, they became afraid of God and attempted to hide from Him (3:8-10).When God interrogated Adam and Eve about their sin, instead of admitting their fault, they tried to pass the blame along. Adam faulted Eve (3:12). His words imply that both Eve and, indirectly God, were responsible for his sin, clearly showing how sin had broken his relationship with his wife and his Creator. Eve, in turn, sought to absolve herself from blame by pointing the ﬁnger at the serpent (3:13).A curse was placed on Satan’s instrument, the serpent. Condemned to move on its belly, the serpent would be a perpetual reminder of the fall (3:14). The serpent had been the most cunning of animals (3:1); now it was the most cursed. It is possible the serpent had legs up until the moment of the curse.The woman’s pain would be greatly increased in childbirth. And though her desire would be for her husband, he would be her master (3:16). The marriage relationship would be adversely affected as the two struggled to help each other.The earth was cursed to increase the anxiety and toil of Adam’s labors (3:17-19). No longer would Adam and Eve live in an unspoiled paradise, but on an earth that is cursed. The good fruits and vegetables it produces must now be extorted from it by the ingenuity and industry of humans. This is merely a sample of the actual effects on the creation. Paul states that all of creation has been affected by the entrance of sin into the world, and is now in bondage to change and decay (Rom. 8:20-22).They were expelled from Eden and became subject to death. In reafﬁrming the unchangeableness of His law that such a transgression would lead to certain death, God reminded Adam that he was made from the dust of the ground and to dust he would return (3:19). God executed this verdict by expelling the disobedient pair
ibelieve all have sinned 49from their home in Eden, severing their direct communication with Him (3:23-24). In addition, God prevented them from reentering the Garden to eat of the tree of life, the source of eternal life. Thus Adam and Eve became subject to death (3:22).THE LONG TERM CONSEQUENCES OF SINMany Scripture passages, particularly the account of the Fall in Genesis, make it abundantly clear that sin is a moral evil, the result of a free moral agent’s choosing to violate the revealed will of God (Gen. 3:1-6; Rom. 1:18-22).Biblical deﬁnitions of sin include the following: it is breaking the law of God (1 John 3:4); it is neglecting to do good when one knows to do good and fails to do it (James 4:17); it is any act that does not spring from faith (Rom. 14:23). Sin may also be deﬁned as any deviation from the known will of God, either neglecting to do what He has speciﬁcally commanded or of doing what he has speciﬁcally forbidden.Sin knows no neutrality. Jesus said that anyone who was not with Him was against Him (Matt. 12:30). Failure to believe in Him is sin (John 16:9). Any sin, great or small, results in the verdict, “guilty.” The Bible makes it clear that though a person keeps the whole law, yet fails in only one point, he is still guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10).Sin involves thoughts as well as actions. Frequently sin is spoken of only in terms of actual acts of lawbreaking. But Christ said that lustful desires transgress the command not to commit adultery (Matt. 5:28; cf. Ex. 20:14). Sin, therefore, involves not only overt disobedience in actions but also thoughts and desires.Sin darkens man’s reason. Although naturally attainable, the knowledge of God was obscured by sin (Rom. 1:18-23). Darkened reason led to irrational urges that ﬂared up in numerous ways, but notably in lusts of the ﬂesh (Rom. 1:24-27). Nothing is sacred to the person who wallows in sexual indulgence. No law is too binding not to be broken (or breakable) by one who is enslaved by the ﬂesh (Rom. 1:28-32).Sin produces guilt. From the Biblical perspective, guilt implies that the one who has committed sin is liable to punishment. And because all are sinners, the
iBelieve50whole world is guilty before God (Rom. 3:19). If not attended to properly, guilt devastates the physical, mental, and spiritual faculties. And ultimately, it produces death, for the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).Sin affects all of humanity. Some may feel that the sentence of death was too severe a penalty for eating the forbidden fruit. But we can only gauge the seriousness of the transgression in light of the effect of Adam’s sin on the human race. Adam and Eve’s ﬁrst son committed murder. Their descendants soon violated the sacred marriage union by engaging in polygamy, and it was not long before wickedness and violence ﬁlled the earth (Gen. 4:8, 23; 6:1-5, 11-13). God’s appeals for repentance and reformation went unheeded, and only eight persons were saved from the Flood that destroyed the unrepentant in Noah’s day. The history of the race after the Flood is, with few exceptions, a sad account of the culmination of the sinfulness of human nature.The Bible teaches, and history veriﬁes, that Adam’s descendants share the sinfulness of his nature (Ps. 143:2; cf. 14:3; 1 Kings 8:46; Prov. 20:9; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23; 1 John 1:8). Paul said, “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). He reafﬁrms this when he declares that sin entered the world through Adam, resulting in death; and then death spread to all mankind, because all have sinned (Rom 5:12). THE CONTROL CENTER OF SINThe seat of sin is in what the Bible calls the heart—what we know as the mind and emotions of a person. Accordingly, the Bible cautions to guard the heart, for the good or bad decisions we make proceed from that source (Prov. 4:23). Jesus reveals that it is the person’s thoughts that deﬁle (Matt. 15:19). It is by the heart that the entire person—the intellect, will, affections, emotions, and body—is inﬂuenced. Because the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9), human nature can be described as corrupt, depraved, and thoroughly sinful.THE REMEDY FOR SINFellowship with God is restored only through the new creation. For humans, the new creation means the restoration of that which we lost in Eden. In our fallen condition we stand in desperate need of a new creation. Only God can rectify the situation. To bring fallen humanity back into fellowship with Himself, He sent His only Son to be their Savior. Those
ibelieve all have sinned 51who respond to this gracious message, God creates anew (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10). His regenerating grace brings forth a new world within the soul. All things are new. As Matthew Henry says, “the renewed person acts according to new principles, by new rules, with new purposes, and in new company.”For the universe, the new creation means “a new heaven and a new earth.” Since Adam and Eve by transgression fell, the whole creation has staggered under the load of sin. But one day God will once more act in creative power. He will create new heavens and a new earth (Isa. 65:17; 2 Peter 3:10, 13). This creation will endure forever.REVIEWNothing is so evident and nothing so important as the reality of sin. Sin is as old as the human race; in fact, it is older because it originated in the mind of Satan before the creation of man. We have seen that Satan was the ﬁrst sinner. With his heart swelling with pride, he desired equality with God (Isa. 14:12-14). Through the malignant inﬂuence of Satan, sin entered the world through the ﬁrst man Adam, and Adam’s transgression in turn has corrupted the whole human family. Biblical faith confesses that sin is now inherent in the human condition. We are not simply born into a sinful world; we are born with a propensity toward sin. The Apostle Paul afﬁrmed this when he said that sin came into the world by one man, Adam. Sin brought death, then death spread to all humans because all have sinned (Rom. 5:12, 18-19).QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION1. Why is it that God cannot be the author of sin?2. Although sin’s rise is mysterious, its roots can be traced to whom (Ezk. 28:17; 1 Tim. 3:6)? And why did he do this?3. What was the one prohibition God placed on Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:16-17)?4. What were the three promises made by the Devil to Eve (Gen. 3:4-5)?5. Was Adam with Eve when she ate the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6)? 6. What was it that caused this “breakdown in faith” on the part of Adam and Eve?
iBelieve527. What kind of feelings resulted when Adam and Eve sinned (Gen. 3:7-10)?8. How did Adam and Eve respond when confronted with their disobedience (Gen. 3:11-13)?9. What was the curse imposed on the serpent (Gen. 3:14-15)?10. What was the punishment imposed on the woman (Gen. 3:16)?11. What was the punishment imposed on the man (Gen. 3:17-19)?12. Did the earth experience the effect of the curse?13. How did God prevent Adam and Eve from re-entering the Garden of Eden after being expelled (Gen. 3:24)?14. In the Bible, the seat of sin is called what (Jer. 17:9; Matt. 15:19)?15. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
53 chapter 8 iBelieve Jesus Died For Our SinsThe question, “What must I do to be saved, to experience God’s favor and be assured of a home in Heaven?” has both perplexed and fascinated humans since the days of Adam and Eve. Those who remain perplexed about the matter are the ones who are reluctant to submit to the authority of God’s Word. A correct answer to the question can only be discovered in Holy Scripture. For the next several chapters we will consider the all-important topic of salvation.The question, “Why did Jesus have to die?” relates to what the Bible calls the atonement. This ﬁrst in a series of chapters on salvation stresses the atonement. When we say that the atonement is the crucial doctrine of Christianity, we are not only propounding a theory that is generally accepted among Christian groups, we are also, perhaps unwittingly, illustrating our belief with the use of a choice word—crucial. Crucial is from the Latin crux, meaning “a cross.” So, whenever we say, “this the crucial point” or “the crux of the matter is this,” our language means, “just as the cross is central to Christianity, so the point I am making is central to the present discussion.” The centrality of the cross to the Christian faith has shaped the language we use.Right at the heart of Christianity is a cross, and on that cross the Son of God wrought man’s salvation. Put simply, the atonement means that Jesus Christ in His death dealt completely with the problem that man’s sin had brought about. Whatever had to be done He did it, and now those who come to Him in faith may enter into the blessing of salvation. The Apostle Paul believed the doctrine of the atonement is essential, and includes it in his classic deﬁnition of the gospel in the ﬁrst four verses of 1 Corinthians 15. “Gospel” means “good news” and this was the best news humans ever received.
iBelieve54THE MEANING OF CHRIST’S ATONEMENTThree principles underlie the atonement. These are closely related to, and associated with, the fact of sin.The principle of “covering.” The safety of the Israelites on that ﬁrst Passover night in Egypt depended solely on the shedding and application of the lamb’s blood and their position beneath the covering (Exo. 12:1-13; 1 Cor. 5:7). The parallel is obvious. The blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross of Calvary covers the believer’s sins. To be under the blood is to be in a place of complete safety.The principle of “reconciliation through payment of the penalty.” The one time the word atonement is used in the New Testament, it means reconciliation (Rom 5:11). Sinners are alienated from their Creator (Eph. 4:18). The death of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, is the one act which could produce reconciliation between sinful man and a holy God.The principle of “substitution.” Christ did not die as a martyr for some worthy cause. He died “for our sins.” The concept of substitution is found many times in the New Testament. We see it in the saying of Jesus when He declared that He came to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Paul expresses a similar thought when he states that God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). This identiﬁes Christ in His death with sinners. When Paul wrote that Christ redeemed us from the curse pronounced by the law, taking upon Himself our curse (Gal. 3:13), he meant that Christ bore the curse that we should have borne. And this is substitution. He died in our place. He died the death we deserved (Isa. 53:5).In my place condemned He stood;Sealed my pardon with His blood. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHRIST’S ATONEMENT AND THE OLD TESTAMENT PROTOTYPEA prototype is an original or model after which anything is copied or patterned. Though there are similarities between the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament and the atonement of Christ in the New Testament,
ibelieve Jesus died For our sins 55there are also signiﬁcant differences. The Old Testament priest shed the blood of an animal; Christ shed His own blood. The Hebrew priest made atonement ﬁrst for his own sins and then for the sin of the nation. The sinless Christ needed no personal atonement, but offered His own blood for the sins of the human race. Christ has received a ministry far superior to that of the ancient priesthood (Heb. 8:6)THE ADEQUACY OF CHRIST’S ATONEMENTThe Hebrew priest entered into the Holy of Holies once every year. The sacriﬁce on the Day of Atonement was an annual celebration. Christ offered Himself only once. His one offering was adequate to atone for sin forever (Heb. 9:26).The final sacrifice has been made. When our Lord cried out on the cross, “It is ﬁnished,” He was not admitting that His death would put an end to what He was trying to accomplish. Rather, the ultimate and ﬁnal sacriﬁce for sin was now completed. There is no need to search for or substitute other “plans of salvation.” Any effort to substitute another medium of salvation is a denial of the revelation of Holy Scripture and a deﬁance of God’s eternal purpose in Christ Jesus (Rev. 1:5).Calvary, the Christian’s “Day of Atonement,” does not need to be repeated. Any repetition of Calvary, as for instance in the Catholic Mass, is a refusal to accept Christ’s atonement as being forever complete.THE EXTENT OF THE ATONEMENTThat the death of Christ was designed to include all mankind is the historic view of the church, being held by the vast majority of theologians, reformers, evangelists, and fathers from the beginning of the church until the present day. Even John Calvin, who is appealed to by those who believe in limited atonement or particular redemption, had this to say regarding Mark 14:24 (“This is my blood . . . which is shed for many”): “By the word ‘many’ he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race.”When the Bible says, Christ died for all, it means just that. The word
iBelieve56should be taken in its normal sense unless some compelling reason exists to take it otherwise. Isaiah 53:6; John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:15; 1 Timothy 2:1-6; 4:10; 1 John 2:2; and Hebrews 2:4 make no sense if not taken in the normal way. No one denies that Christ died for the elect. But it is wrong to claim that he died only for the elect.APPROPRIATING THE BENEFIT OF CHRIST’S ATONEMENTAt Calvary God stooped in inﬁnite mercy to the needs of a sinful race (Eph. 2:4-7). The question arises, “How may I be sure that Christ’s offering for sin was for me?” Understanding a general principle is one thing; making it personal and practical is another. Food on the table may be appealing, but the sight of food, or even the knowledge of what food can do for you, will not satisfy hunger. Food must be eaten before it can be useful for your body. The wonderful truth of the Atonement, that someone has taken our place, suffered what we deserved, is appealing. But, unless and until we acknowledge our sinful condition, open our heart to Jesus Christ, submit to Him as the Son of God whose blood atones for our sin, accept Him by faith as our Lord and Savior, we will not receive the beneﬁts of His atonement (John 1:12; 4:24; Eph. 2:8).Implicit in the doctrine of the atonement is the inference that Jesus is the only Savior. Jesus said of Himself that He was “the way, the truth, and the life,” and that no human being can enjoy a saving relationship with God unless they come through Him (John 14:6). He is not one way among other ways or one truth among other truths. Christianity stands or falls on the answer the church and its people give to a single question. The question has been unavoidable for almost two thousand years. It is the question Jesus Himself posed to His disciples at Caesarea Philippi: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15).REVIEWWe have already seen that sin is a virulent malady that affects the whole human race. And because God the Creator is holy, something must be done to bridge the gap between sinful humanity and a holy God. That bridge in Scripture is called “atonement.” The need for atonement arises from the fact that all humans are sinners. In the Old Testament sin is dealt with by the offering of a sacriﬁce. The truth is repeated and enlarged in the New Testament. There it is made clear that all people are sinners (Rom.
ibelieve Jesus died For our sins 573:23) and that judgment awaits them (Heb. 9:27). However, it is the will of God that all humans be saved, and salvation can only be accomplished by the atoning sacriﬁce of the Son of God on the cross (2 Cor. 5:18-21). The cross, then, is absolutely essential in God’s scheme of redemption. Christ took our place and did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He redeemed us, paying the price that enables us to cross that otherwise uncrossable bridge and become accepted into God’s family. Moreover, Christ did not die for only a select few. He died “for all” (2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 Jn. 2:2). The atonement then, extends to all mankind.QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION1. What is the meaning of “atonement”?2. Brieﬂy give the signiﬁcance of the ﬁrst Passover night in Egypt as it relates to the death of Jesus Christ.3. Deﬁne the word “prototype.”4. How often was the Day of Atonement celebrated? 5. What is the meaning of Christ’s words from the cross, “It is ﬁnished”?6. For whom did Christ die (2 Cor. 5:15; 1 Tim. 2:3-4)?7. Write out 1 Timothy 2:3-4.8. What does God promise in John 1:12?9. What important truth about salvation is found in Ephesians 2:8-9?10. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
59chapter 9 iBelieve in Salvation by Grace rough FaithThe new birth (also referred in the Bible as “regeneration”) is an act of God by which He imparts spiritual life to the believer in Jesus Christ. It is the divine side of that change of heart, which, viewed from the human side, we call conversion. As such it is simultaneous with the other aspects of this religious experience, such as justiﬁcation, redemption, adoption, and sanctiﬁcation. It is of the utmost importance that we have a clear understanding of this vital doctrine. By the new birth we are admitted into the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-7). There is no other way of becoming a Christian but by being “born again.” It is the door of entrance into the family of God. Those who do not enter here do not enter at all.THE MEANS OF THE NEW BIRTHIf one is to be born again, one must give assent to a message. He must “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” In his unsaved condition the sinner cannot impart spiritual life to himself or admit himself to God’s Kingdom. But by His atoning death for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2), Jesus paved the way for God to forgive those who repent and believe the gospel, to impart to them eternal life, which is required for His Kingdom (John 3:16).Personal faith in Christ as Redeemer is the condition of regeneration (John 1:12, 13). This is the message of the Word of God, and only by subscribing to this Word, does one have hope of being “born again” (1 Pet. 1:23).Jesus announced that the Holy Spirit acts as the agent in regeneration
iBelieve60(John 3:5, 6). It is the Spirit that brings conviction and opens the heart to receive the message of salvation. The Spirit imparts spiritual life in place of spiritual death, and turns humans from sin to God. Some Christians know the precise time of their new birth. The resultant change was dramatic because it came when they were older and perhaps after a prolonged life of sin. Those who were brought up in a Christian home and professed faith in Christ at an early age may not remember the exact time or place of their salvation experience. The details are somewhat vague. In whichever one of these groups you may be, if you are trusting solely in Christ as Lord and Savior, you may rejoice in the inner witness of the Spirit, and know that you are a born again child of God (Rom. 8:16).THE NEW BIRTH REQUIRES REPENTANCEThe Greek verb repent (metanoeo) and the noun repentance (metanoia) are used many times in the New Testament. The common meaning is a change of mind. Repentance is a change of mind and attitude toward God and the things of which the gospel speaks (cp. Matt. 21:28, 29). The sinner normally is rebellious toward God, is hostile or indifferent toward the things of God, and often exalts himself above God (Rom. 3:11-12, 18; 1 Cor. 2:14).Also, the sinner seeks to justify his wrongdoing or makes excuses for it. When he repents, he humbles himself before God and repudiates his sins. A keen awareness of the holiness of God and the enormity of his sins causes the sinner sorrow of heart, from which true repentance arises (2 Cor. 7:10). This change of mind and attitude was initiated by God Himself (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). Without true repentance there is no salvation (Luke 13:3).Repentance involves confession of sin to God. It involves confession to God and sometimes to fellow humans if the circumstances require it. The publican implied that he had broken God’s law (Luke 18:13). The prodigal son confessed that he had sinned against God as well as his own father (Luke 15:11-21). Priests, ministers, or other Christians do not have the right or the power to forgive sins, yet under certain conditions confession to them may be helpful. Any Christian has the authority to declare to a repentant sinner that his sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake.
ibelieve in salvation by graCe through Faith 61Repentance involves forsaking sin (John 8:11; Prov. 28:13; Isa. 55:7). The publican Zacchaeus in Luke 19, immediately after trusting in Jesus declared his willingness to make restitution for his practice of embezzlement, implying also that he was giving up his former dishonest habit. Repentance involves turning to God. No human is able to do what God has promised He would do for the repentant sinner. God alone can offer pardon and give peace. The apostle Paul stresses this point. The goal of his preaching was to turn unbelieving, skeptical, lost men and women from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive the forgiveness of sins and an everlasting inheritance among the saints (Acts 26:18).Some Christians weaken the concept of repentance by emphasizing that it is only a change of mind, not necessarily of conduct. However, if changing one’s mind does not alter one’s life, what does it do? There is an inviolable principle that our actions are nothing more than the ﬂowering of our deepest thoughts. Jesus told Peter that the things which proceed out of our mouths spring from the heart, such things as evil thoughts, murder, sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander (Matt. 15:18-20). The words must have had their desired effect on Peter, because after his powerful message on the day of Pentecost, his audience was convicted in their hearts (Acts 2:37). The heart is the seat of our deepest reﬂections and thus the source of all of our actions. So the Jews asked, “What shall we do?” They urgently wanted to do something to rectify their previous actions. Their change of mind about Christ and their sins demanded a change of action.THE IMPORTANCE OF FAITH IN THE NEW BIRTHSome misrepresent Scripture by separating repentance and faith as if the former were a condition of receiving the latter. Repentance and faith are simply two aspects of the same act. Repentance is a moral act involving the turning of the whole person—spirit, mind and will—to the will of God. If repentance does not result in a change of behavior, it is not true repentance. What gas is to your car’s engine, faith is to Christianity. You cannot understand what Christianity is unless you understand what faith is. If there is one passage that makes this crystal clear it is Romans 3:21-30.
iBelieve62Faith is essential to Christianity. Not only can you not understand Christianity if you do not understand what faith is, you cannot be a Christian unless you have faith. So important is faith that we are told in Romans 3:28 that there is no justiﬁcation apart from faith. It is only possible to enter into God’s presence and not be condemned for our sins if we are justiﬁed by faith.WHAT FAITH ISSimply stated, faith is taking God at His Word. It is a believing response to what God has revealed in Scripture. According to Hebrews 11: 1, faith gives substance to our hopes and is proof of things we cannot see with our physical eyes. In this chapter, we are particularly interested in the roll faith plays in our salvation experience. There are three elements of true faith:Knowledge. No person can be saved without knowing something. As we have seen, faith is not closing one’s eyes to the facts. Faith is never afraid to look truth squarely in the face. A person is not saved by knowledge, but he cannot be saved without it. It is the Word of God that brings right knowledge (Rom 10:17). If one is not exposed to the gospel message about Christ, one cannot be saved. To be saved, one must know that Christ, the Son of God, died to pay the penalty for each human’s sins, was buried, and was raised again for the sinner’s justiﬁcation (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 4:25). But the bare knowledge of the historical fact will not save a soul. Two steps must follow.Acceptance of the fact. Acceptance must follow knowledge. A person must give rational assent to the facts of the gospel, that Jesus has paid the sin debt. Many people have long been exposed to the truth of the gospel, but they have not accepted it. To know the truth is not sufﬁcient. Acceptance, or mental assent, is the next step.Personal appropriation. Knowledge is not enough, nor is mental assent. A decision must be made. This implies action—a movement toward an object. Jesus Christ is to be the object of one’s faith if salvation is to be experienced.
ibelieve in salvation by graCe through Faith 63The Scriptures afﬁrm that Christ, not the church, not religious rituals, is to be the sole object of our faith. In the ﬁnal analysis, whether or not we believe in Him will determine our eternal destiny.The Bible teaches that faith is essential for the following reasons: . We are saved by faith (Rom. 3:28; Eph. 2:8) . We live by faith (Gal. 2:20) . We are kept by faith (1 Pet. 1:5) . We resist the Devil and overcome him by faith (1 Pet. 5:8, 9). We walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7)God has joined together repentance and faith in the act of salvation; and what God has joined together, humans must not separate. It is useless to argue which comes ﬁrst, repentance or faith. What we do know is that we cannot have one without the other. Wherever there is true faith, there will be repentance; and wherever there is true repentance, there will be faith. In order to please God, one must exercise faith. In no other way, or by no other means or method, is it possible to please God (Heb. 11:6).D. L. Moody once commented that in his earlier days as a Christian, he often prayed for more faith, but faith did not come. One day he read in the Bible that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. At once he saw the light: faith is increased in proportion to our knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of the Word of God.REVIEWThe Scriptures are unequivocal in presenting faith as a necessary condition of salvation. One must believe if one expects to be saved (Acts 16:29-31). All God asks of sinners is that they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, so that His merit and righteousness may be credited to their account. Faith is explained in Hebrews 11:1 as being certain of things we hope for and the conviction that something is real even though we do not see it. We have not seen the Savior with our physical eyes, but faith enables us to believe that He is who He claimed to be. Faith, then, is conﬁdence in Jesus Christ, and conﬁdence in what the Scriptures say about Him. The Bible is explicit in stating that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone, not through human merit (Gal. 2:16).
iBelieve64QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION1. Who acts as the agent in regeneration (Jn. 3:5-6)?2. Brieﬂy summarize your own new birth experience.3. What comes ﬁrst before forgiveness of sin (Acts 5:31)?4. What is the common meaning of the word “repentance”?5. What is it that causes true repentance (2 Cor. 7:10)?6. What was Zacchaeus’ response after repentance (Lk. 19:8)?7. Romans 3:28 says a person is justiﬁed by what?8. Write out Hebrews 11:1.9. Give a deﬁnition of faith in your own words.10. What are three elements of true faith?11. Faith comes through what means (Rom. 10:17)?12. The Bible teaches that faith is essential for what reasons?13. How did the evangelist, D. L. Moody, increase his faith in God?14. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
65chapter 10 iBelieve at Jesus Christ Founded the ChurchThe all-important subject of salvation has been the theme in recent chapters. The crucial questions now arise: What are new believers to do once they have experienced conversion? Where do they go for spiritual nourishment and fellowship? Where can they ﬁnd people like themselves? This is where the local church plays a vitally important role. New believers are not left to their own resources or to grope in the dark; nor are they to be an island to themselves. The church is to become the focal point of the Christian’s spiritual life, providing inspiration, fellowship, instruction, opportunity for corporate worship, and a means whereby they can put to use their spiritual gifts. Committed participation in a local congregation is essential to becoming what God wants us to be (Heb. 10:24, 25). For these reasons, it is essential that we know something of the church’s founding and its true head.IT WAS FOUNDED BY CHRISTIn the Scriptures the word “church” is a translation of the Greek ekklesia which means “a called out assembly.” The Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament popular in Jesus’ time, used ekklesia to translate the Hebrew qahal, which stood for “gathering,” “assembly,” or “congregation” (Deut. 9:10; 18:16; 1 Sam. 17:47; 1 Kings 8:14; 1 Chron. 13:2). Among the Greeks an ekklesia was an assembly of free citizens called out from their homes and places of business to give consideration to matters of public interest (Acts 19:32, 39, 41). As the word is used in the New Testament, it denotes the institution
iBelieve66founded by our Lord Jesus Christ. The word church or churches is found in the New Testament over 100 times, and always it retains its primary and simple meaning—a public assembly or congregation. The majority of times the word church is used, its reference is unmistakably to a local congregation or assembly, in keeping with the primary and simple meaning of the term. The remaining instances refer to churches in general (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23,24, 25, 27, 29, 32; Col. 1:18, 24; Heb. 12:23). For example, if a pastor announces that he will begin a series of messages on “The Home,” he is not referring to a particular home but to all homes in general. When Paul announced that “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it,” (Eph. 5:25), he meant not only the church at Ephesus, but all true, Bible-based churches that have ever existed or would ever exist.IT IS A DIVINE INSTITUTIONIt was born in the heart of God, not in the mind of man (2 Cor. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:15). Scripture writers refer to “the churches of God” or the “churches of Christ” (1 Thess. 2:14; Rom. 16:16). Such expressions denote not only the divine origin of the church, but that every Bible-based church looks to God as its source of authority.The church is ﬁrst mentioned by our Lord in Matthew 16:18. In response to Peter’s confession that Christ was “the Son of the living God,” Jesus stated that it would be on “this rock” He would build His church. This revelation had been hidden from previous generations, but was now made known to Peter and the rest of the disciples.The statement was not meant to imply that Peter would be the rock on which the church would be built, as Roman Catholic’s contend. When Jesus addressed Peter, He used the Greek word Petros for Peter’s name. It means a speciﬁc stone or rock. When Jesus added, “On this rock I will build my church,” He used another Greek word for rock—petra, which mean a rocky crag or bedrock. Jesus did not say, “On you, Peter (Petros), and on your successors, I will build my church.” Instead, it would be built “on this rock (petra)”—the divine revelation given to Peter, his confession that Jesus Christ was “the Son of the living God” (16:16). In other words, every Bible-based church would be built on Jesus Christ, not on any human being. The apostle Paul declared that no one can ever lay any other foundation than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).
ibelieve that Jesus Christ Founded the ChurCh 67TWO ORDINANCES GIVEN TO THE CHURCH Only two symbolic rites are to be carried out by the church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper, both of which were especially ordained by Jesus Christ Himself, thus called ordinances. An ordinance is a decree or command. Although the word “ordinance” is never used in the Bible in speciﬁc reference to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, it best expresses the truth about these two rites (the Greek paradosis in 1 Cor. 11:2 can be translated “ordinance,” “precept,” or “tradition,” and may indirectly refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper). Both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are rites Jesus commanded believers to observe (Matt. 28:19; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:23-26). Each richly illustrates the saving work of Christ and the new spiritual relationship between Him and His people.In the New Testament an inseparable link exists between salvation and baptism; yet they are not to be confused as being one and the same. Salvation or conversion is a new birth imparted from above. Baptism is an outward picture or symbol of salvation; it does not save or even contribute to the salvation experience (1 Pet. 3:21; 1 Cor. 1:17). Nevertheless, when there is a conversion in the New Testament, baptism soon follows (Acts 8:36-38). Baptism was considered a matter of extreme importance in the early churches. It symbolized a clean break with the past, which involved giving up the habits of the old life, and often family and friends as well.Churches differ on the mode of baptism. Some sprinkle or pour while others baptize by immersion. It is the authors contention that immersion is a primitive mode of baptism practiced in the New Testament. The word baptize is an English spelling of the Greek baptizo, which means to dip in or under water; to immerse. Few will dispute the basic dictionary deﬁnition of the term. Baptism is for believers only.THE IMPORTANCE OF BAPTISMWhat makes baptism so important, considering it is not essential to the salvation of the one who has already believed on Jesus Christ? It inspires churches. It gives a clear declaration to that local church and to the world around that this new believer is ready to obey and serve his Lord and Master. If baptism is neglected, the Lord’s command is disregarded and obstructed by the very people who should be His loyal followers.
iBelieve68It helps believers to solidify and express their own testimony. It impresses their conversion experience upon their minds in such a way that their gratitude increases and their assurance is strengthened. Furthermore, they realize that whereas their conversion has been an inward, unseen transaction between themselves and the Lord, it must now be expressed and lived out before the eyes of the world and fellow believers.It reminds believers of the importance of conversion. Just as the Lord’s Supper keeps the cruciﬁxion in view, the act of baptism reminds us of the great importance of conversion, that we are a “royal priesthood” whose chief objective is to declare to the world the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). Every baptismal experience profoundly moves the people of God, lifts their morale, and encourages them to become involved in the great task of reaching others with the gospel. Baptism places the necessity and glory of evangelism at the forefront of the life of the church.THE MEANING OF THE LORD’S SUPPERThe Lord’s Supper is the only other ordinance committed to churches by Christ. As Jesus observed His last Passover with the disciples, He instituted this ordinance in place of the Passover to memorialize His great sacriﬁce. Taking the unleavened bread, He blessed it, broke it and gave it to the disciples, revealing to them that it was His body that was broken for them. He then admonished them to observe this ritual in remembrance of Him. Next, He took the cup and after giving thanks, gave it to them, reminding them to drink all of it, for it was His blood of the new covenant which would be shed for many for the remission of sins (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:9-20). The Apostle Paul tells us that when we observe the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He returns (1 Cor. 11:23-26). The Lord’s Supper is to be a joyful season, not a time of sorrow. Of course, the time preceding the Lord’s Table should be a time of reﬂection and self-examination. Being assured that through the blood of Christ they are cleansed and forgiven, believers are ready to enter conﬁdently into special communion with their Lord. They turn to His table with joy and thanksgiving, ready to celebrate the redemptive victory of Christ.
ibelieve that Jesus Christ Founded the ChurCh 69It emphasizes the substitutionary dimension of Christ’s atonement. “This is my body,” Jesus said, “which is broken for you” (1 Cor. 11:24; cf. Isa. 53:4-12). The expression “for you” is signiﬁcant. At the cross the innocent was substituted for the guilty, the righteous for the unrighteous. The cross removed the repentant sinner’s condemnation, providing him with the robe of Christ’s righteousness, and assuring him of forgiveness, peace, and eternal life.Jesus used many metaphors to teach different truths about Himself. He said, “I am the door” (John 10:7), “I am the way” (John 14:6), “I am the true vine” (John 15:1), and “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). These expressions are not to be taken literally, for He was not an actual door, or vine, or bread. Instead, these metaphors illustrate deeper truths.It emphasizes the duty of holiness. The Lord’s Supper is a time for honest appraisal before God (1 Cor. 11:27). Earlier in chapter eleven Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their careless living and attitude towards the Lord’s Supper (11:17-22). They had forgotten their calling to live as members of God’s holy family and to show love and compassion to one another. They had divided into exclusive cliques, and had lost all sense of mutual obligation. Above all, they had become indifferent to the price paid by Christ to redeem them and make them a holy people, an attitude that displayed its ugly self in their observance of the Lord’s Supper.Paul warns them of eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner (1 Cor. 11:29). This refers to the cavalier manner in which they were observing the Supper. They were making it more of a “party time” than a time of remembering what Jesus did for their salvation. Some Christians refrain from participating in the Lord’s Supper because they consider themselves to be unworthy. This attitude results from a misreading of verses 27 and 29. In one sense, no Christian is worthy of participating in this ordinance. We are ﬂawed, sinful creatures. But Paul did not imply that we had to be worthy to partake of the Supper, only that we should partake of it in a worthy manner. It is no light matter to approach the Lord’s Table with a careless attitude. Before approaching this important event we are to examine our hearts and repent of our sins. To fail to do this could result in experiencing the Lord’s discipline (11:30).
iBelieve70It is a reminder of Christ’s Second Coming (1 Cor. 11:26b). The Lord’s Supper spans the interim between Calvary and the Second Advent. Each time we participate in this Supper, it is a reminder that Christ is coming back. The phrase, “until He comes,” is an integral part of the observance. Our memory needs to be continually refreshed so that we may recall that the day is coming when Christ shall appear and we shall be caught up together to be forever with Him. The Lord’s Supper serves as that necessary reminder.REVIEWThat Jesus is the Founder and Head of the church is made explicit from His declaration in Matthew 16:18, “I will build My church.” The statement was directed in particular to Peter: “On this rock I will build My church.” The play on words here between the Greek word, “petros,” a stone, designating Peter, and the Greek word, “petra,” a large bedrock, designating Jesus, suggests that Jesus will build His church on a foundation much more stable than Peter as a person. The foundation on which the church would be built was the great truth of Peter’s confession that Jesus Christ was indeed the Son of the living God (vs. 16). The church’s very existence is tied to the person and deity of Christ. The church, then, is a divine institution, founded by Christ and composed of baptized believers. Its internal function is to include a blending of worship, nurture, fellowship, and service. Its external mission is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world (Matt. 28:18-20).Almost all Christian churches practice some form of baptism. They do so because Jesus in His Great Commission commanded the church to baptize converts in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).Like baptism, the Lord’s Supper is symbolic. The unleavened bread and fruit of the vine are but symbols of the broken body and shed blood of the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s Supper is a repetitive ordinance. It is to be observed as a remembrance of what Jesus Christ did for our salvation until He comes again (1 Cor. 11:23-26). No command in Scripture speciﬁes how often the Lord’s Supper is to be observed. Jesus simply said, “As often as you [do this]” (1 Cor. 11:26).QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION1. What is to be the level of our participation in a local church (Heb. 10:24-25)?
ibelieve that Jesus Christ Founded the ChurCh 712. What does the word “church” (Gr. ekklesia) mean?3. When Paul wrote, “Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25-26), what did he mean?4. Is the church built on the Apostle Peter? Explain.5. What are the two symbolic ordinances of the church?6. Is it left to the individual to decide whether or not to participate in the ordinance of baptism?7. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper at what feast (Lk. 22:15)?8. What is meant by eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner” (1 Cor. 11:27-34)?9. According to 1 Corinthians 11:28, what must precede participation in the Lord’s Supper?10. How often is the Lord’s Supper to be observed?11. To participate in the Lord’s table, your heart should lead you to what action?12. Give one important lesson you have learned from this chapter.FURTHER STUDYMore than anything else, living a Christian life means surrender—a giving up of oneself completely to Christ. When we surrender all that we are and have to God—to whom it all belongs anyway (1 Cor. 3:21-4:2)—He accepts it, but then puts us back in charge of it, making us stewards, or caretakers of everything He has entrusted to us. A very important part of the Christian life has to do with our use of money: how we make it, how we spend it, and how we invest it. A clear recognition that we are stewards of the possessions God has entrusted to us enables us to have a right attitude about money. Additionally, God promised He would open the windows of Heaven and pour out an abundant blessing on those who bring their tithes and offerings to Him, as faithful stewards are expected to do (Mal. 3:10).THE MEANING OF STEWARDSHIPThe Bible teaches that we were purchased or redeemed at a high cost
iBelieve72(1 Cor. 6:19, 20). We now belong to God. In one sense we belonged to Him from the beginning, for He created us and placed us on this earth that is rightfully His (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 24:1). Now, in a special way, He has appointed His people, those who have received the gift of eternal life through His Son, to serve as stewards of His possessions. A steward is a person entrusted with the management of the household or estate of another.To the Christian, stewardship means a person’s responsibility for, and use of, everything entrusted to him by God—life, time, talents and abilities, material possessions, opportunities to be of service to others, and his knowledge of truth. WAYS TO ACKNOWLEDGE GOD’S OWNERSHIPLife can be divided into three basic areas, each a gift from God: abilities, time, and material possessions. We will consider each of these three gifts, but concentrate primarily on the stewardship of material possessions.The stewardship of abilities. Each person has special gifts or abilities. One may be talented in the musical realm, another in manual trades such as sewing or auto mechanics. Some may make friends easily and mingle well with others, while others may naturally tend toward more solitary pursuits. Every talent can be used to glorify either the one who possesses it or its original Bestower. A person can diligently perfect talent for God’s glory or for personal selﬁshness. By cultivating the gifts the Holy Spirit gives each of us, we are enabled to multiply those gifts (Matt. 25:14-30). Good stewards use their gifts wisely and liberally in order to bless others and bring glory to their Master.The stewardship of time. As faithful stewards, we glorify God by a wise use of time (Col. 3:23, 24). The Bible admonishes us not to behave like fools, always wasting time, but to make the best possible use of time because these are evil days in which we live (Eph. 5:15, 16). Like Jesus, we must be about our Father’s business (Luke 2:49). Because time is God’s gift, each moment is precious. Faithful stewardship of time means using it to get to know our Lord better, to serve our fellowmen, and to share the gospel with others. The Psalmist prayed, and so should we, that the Lord would
ibelieve that Jesus Christ Founded the ChurCh 73teach him to make the most of his time so that he might obtain a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90:12).The stewardship of material possessions. Because humanity needed a constant reminder that God is the source of every blessing in life (James 1:17), and that it is He who provides us with the power to get wealth (Deut. 8:18), He instituted a system of tithes and offerings. The system eventually provided the ﬁnancial means for supporting the priesthood of the Israelite temple.God has ordained that sharing the good news is to be dependent on the tithes and offerings of His people. He calls them to be unselﬁsh co-laborers with Him by giving tithes and offerings to Him.The word “tithe” means “tenth.” Scripture tells us that the tithe is “holy to the Lord,” symbolizing God’s ownership of everything (Lev. 27:30, 32). It is to be faithfully returned to Him. The tithing system is beautiful in its simplicity. Its equity is revealed in its proportional claim on the rich and on the poor. In proportion as God has enabled us to make money, so we are to return to Him a tithe or tenth.When God calls for the tithe (Mal. 3:10), He makes no appeal to gratitude or generosity. Although gratitude should be a part of all our expressions to God, we tithe because God has commanded it. The tithe belongs to the Lord, and He asks that we return it to Him.Tithing is an accepted practice throughout Scripture. Abraham gave Melchizedek, the priest of God Most High, a tenth of everything (Gen. 14:20). By doing so he demonstrated that he was well acquainted with this sacred institution. Apparently it was already an established custom at that early date. Jacob also understood the tithing requirement (Gen. 28:22).Far from repealing this institution, the New Testament assumes its validity. Jesus approved of tithing and condemned those who refused to practice the custom (Matt. 23:23). The ceremonial laws regulating the sacriﬁcial offerings symbolizing Christ’s atoning sacriﬁce ended at His death, but the tithing requirement did not.After the Cruciﬁxion, when the divinely appointed role of the Levitical priesthood ended, tithes were still to be used to support the ministry of the church. Paul illustrated the principle underlying this by drawing a parallel between the Levitical service and the newly established gospel ministry (1 Cor. 9:11-14). Church members, then, are to willingly bring their tithes to the
iBelieve74church that all the needs of the congregation would be met (Mal. 3:10)—in other words, so that there are enough funds in the church’s treasury to provide a living for its ministry and to carry forward the outreach of the gospel.Offerings are also to be given in addition to the tithe. Grateful Christians cannot limit their contributions to the church to their tithes. In Israel, the tabernacle, and later the temple, were built from “freewill offerings” (Ex. 36:2-7; 1 Chron. 29:14). Special offerings also covered the maintenance expenses of these places of worship (Ex. 30:12-16; 2 Kings 12:4, 5; 2 Chron. 24:4-14; Neh. 10:32, 33).Today, the Lord calls for liberal giving. Offerings are needed to build, maintain, and operate churches, and to support missionary personnel and projects around the world. In the New Testament, Christ laid down the principle of true stewardship—that our gifts to God should be in proportion to the light and privileges we have enjoyed (Luke 12:48). Nowhere does the New Testament repeal or relax this system. When Jesus sent His disciples on a mission He said, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). THE BLESSINGS OF LIBERAL GIVINGIt results in a personal blessing. One reason God asks us to tithe and give offerings is to encourage our own spiritual growth and character development. Also, it assists us in gaining victory over covetousness and selﬁshness. Covetousness, one of our greatest enemies, is condemned numerous times in Scripture (Exo. 20:17; Mark 7:22; Luke 12:15; Rom. 13:9). Our giving on a regular basis helps to root out covetousness and self-centeredness from our lives. It leads to the development of habits of economy and efﬁciency. A deep satisfaction and joy comes from the assurance that our investment is resulting in the salvation of the lost.It results in a blessing to the church and to the world. Tithes and offerings are indispensable for the ongoing ministry of the church. Only then will the church have adequate funds to support the ministry, to expand God’s kingdom in its immediate vicinity, and to extend it to the remote places of the earth. Think of the millions around the world who are followers of Christ as a result of effective missionary outreach. None of this would have been possible without the tithes and generous offerings of God’s people.
75chapter 11 iBelieve in the Great CommissionJesus Christ gave the “Great Commission” to His disciples after His resurrection and immediately prior to His ascension to Heaven. It was a summary statement of the church’s mission. The ﬁrst believers in the Lord Jesus, the exploits of whom are recorded in the New Testament, not only linked themselves together for praise and worship, they voluntarily united together to carry out this solemn mandate. Just as all great businesses have a charter stating their purpose and scope, so the churches of Jesus Christ have a charter clearly stating their mission or function. The Great Commission is recorded in ﬁve different places in the New Testament, and each has a slightly different emphasis (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:45-48; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). In all ﬁve of these accounts Jesus urges His followers to carry the gospel message to every corner of the globe, and He gives the formula for a successful implementation of His missionary enterprise. SUBMIT TO THE RIGHT AUTHORITYJesus proclaimed to His disciples that He had been given total authority in Heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). The Commission He gave was based on this authority (John 20:21). When someone makes a demand of us, our obedience or lack thereof is based on the authority of the one who gives the order. When parents tell a young child what to do, the child will most often obey, because parents are invested with the necessary authority to make demands of their children. Teachers make certain requirements of their students, and those who comply do so because of the teacher’s authority. If a man works for a company not his own, the boss has the authority to tell him what to do. Policemen are endowed with authority to arrest someone who is breaking the law.
iBelieve76Referees have the right to penalize a team member that breaks the rules of the game. Authority is an important element in life.The all-important point that Jesus emphasizes here is that He is in control of all things. He now has and wields authority over the entire order of creation both in Heaven and on earth. All creatures, nature, angels, and man, are at His disposal and under His authority. He is the One who has given us life and by the shedding of His blood, redeemed us from destruction (Ps. 103:4). What more is needed to qualify Him with the authority necessary to make whatever demands of us He chooses? We would not, nor should we, obey the command of a person who is not endowed with legitimate authority. Not only does Jesus have the right to tell us what to do, He has the power to enable us to successfully fulﬁll all aspects of the command.GO WITH THE RIGHT MESSAGEIn the Matthew Commission (Matt. 28:19) Jesus commands His disciples to go and teach all nations (literally, make disciples of all nations). The Mark Commission gives a slightly different slant. Jesus states that His disciples are to go and preach the Good News of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to all people everywhere (Mk. 16:15). The word preach means to “herald the message.” It is the same word found in 2 Timothy 4:2, where Paul urges his young protégé Timothy to “preach the word.” In ancient times a herald communicated momentous events. This was the king’s personal messenger who would cry out the king’s message as the people in the town eagerly assembled together to hear the latest news. The herald would not give his own message, nor would he add his own interpretation to the king’s message. He would simply give the message word for word. It made no difference whether the herald liked the message or not. He was obligated to faithfully deliver it. Paul declared that he was compelled to preach the gospel, but if he failed to do so, or if he substituted another message, a “woe” would be on him (1 Cor. 9:16). It is a serious matter to fail to accurately announce the King’s message of good news.We are not to substitute our programs for Christ’s Commission. Our primary calling is not to feed the hungry, clothe the destitute, or cure bodily illnesses. These humanitarian activities may be useful as door openers, permitting us to preach the gospel where otherwise it might not be possible, but they should not be considered an end in themselves.
ibelieve in the great Commission 77Our foremost calling is to “preach the gospel.” William Booth, the ﬁrst general of the Salvation Army, said that the real objective of his organization “was not just the amelioration of social conditions, but ﬁrst and foremost the bringing of men and women to repentance that their souls might be saved.” J. W. Hyde declared, “If every person in the world had adequate food, housing, income; if all people were equal; if every possible social evil and injustice were done away with, people would still need one thing—Jesus Christ.”The Commission entrusted to us includes an element often overlooked by parachurch organizations: the importance of baptism. Baptism is one of the two ordinances of the local church, the other being the Lord’s Supper. Converts are to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). Baptism follows conversion but is not a part of the salvation decision. It is the immersion in water of one who has already trusted in Christ, and symbolizes the believer’s death to the old life and resurrection to a new life (Rom. 6:1-11). It is an act of obedience, signifying to the church and to the world that he or she is now identifying with Jesus Christ and His people.The message, however, is not to be exclusive. It is to be preached to every person in the world. Being a Jew, Paul felt compelled to take the gospel ﬁrst to that ethnic group (Rom. 1:16); however, he confessed that the message was not for Jews alone. No one is excluded and no part of the world is to be neglected (Luke 24:47).TEACH WITH RIGHT DOCTRINEBaptized converts are to be taught whatever Jesus has commanded (Matt. 28:20a). Every church is a teaching center, not just an evangelistic center. Evangelism is to be done chieﬂy beyond the walls of the church building; obviously, this is where most lost people are to be found. In the world we should be reaching the unconverted; in the congregation we should be primarily teaching the converted. The saints need to be indoctrinated in the local church; the indoctrinated saints need to be evangelizing the world. Jesus commanded His followers to go into the world. He did not command sinners to come into the church. He urged His disciples to go out into the highways and byways of the world and “compel” people to come in (i.e., evangelize them) that His house might be ﬁlled (Luke 14:23). Once in the congregation, they were to be taught all the things that Christ commanded.
iBelieve78In saying this, it is in no way meant to discourage God’s children from inviting lost people to the services of the church. That is one way to fulﬁll the Great Commission. We rejoice for every sinner who hears a gospel message in church and receives Christ as personal Savior. When the gospel is faithfully taught and preached, people will respond and be saved. At the same time, we must not disregard the words of the Lord Jesus. A vital part of the Great Commission is to instruct members of the church so that they may be built up in the faith and be prepared to give an answer to unbelievers who may question them about their Christian beliefs (Jude 20a; 1 Pet. 3:15).RELY ON THE RIGHT PROMISEJesus promised to be with us, not part of the time, but always—“until the end of this present age”—as we carry out His Great Commission (Matt. 28:20b). Paul reminded the Corinthians that a great door for effective work for Christ had been opened to him, but he added, “there are many adversaries” (1 Cor. 16:9). No one has ever attempted to carry out the Commission of Christ without encountering opposition; but we are not asked to enter this mission in our own strength, armed with our own weapons (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Acts 1:8). In addition, the great Captain of our salvation has promised His abiding presence. Furthermore, Paul reminds us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).David Livingstone, the great missionary pioneer in Africa, was once asked how he could keep going, considering he had encountered so many obstacles in his attempt to get the gospel to the people of Africa. He replied, “The answer is simple. It is the promise of the Lord Jesus: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Implicit in the Great Commission is the necessity of church involvement. Because baptism, an important element in the Great Commission, is the prerequisite to the privileges of church membership, and the church is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (Note: Paul, 1 Timothy 3:15, does not intend to convey the thought that the church is the source of truth, as Catholics teach; he is simply afﬁrming the crucial role of the church as the support and bulwark of God’s truth), we may correctly assume that in order to fulﬁll Christ’s Commission, churches must plant other churches if we are to reach a burgeoning world population.
ibelieve in the great Commission 79Paul reminds us that no one can believe on someone about whom they have never heard, and they can never hear unless a preacher comes to them with the message; but how can anyone preach the message unless they are sent (Rom. 10:14, 15)? The New Testament pattern is that churches send messengers to those on mission ﬁelds who have never heard the gospel. The sober implication is, if there are no churches, no one will be sent. Few churches mean few will be sent. If there are many churches, many will be sent—a compelling reason why churches must reproduce themselves. Churches are to be teaching centers so believers can be grounded in the truth, well equipped to articulate that truth to nonbelievers. Making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them replicates the whole process. An important by-product is that churches will be birthing centers; new churches will spring up under their inﬂuence. Then and only then can the Great Commission be fulﬁlled.REVIEWThe purpose statement of the church is found in Matthew 28:18-20. The risen Christ stands before His disciples on a mountain in Galilee and delivers one of the most daring statements ever uttered: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” Christ possessed—and still does—all the power that rules the heavens and all the power that rules the earth. This includes, among other things, absolute power to command, and unrestricted use of personnel, resources, and ﬁnances. Hence He immediately commands, “Go therefore….” In what is known as “The Great Commission,” the mandate to the church is clear—we are to take the gospel to the whole world, baptize converts in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and then instruct them in everything Jesus commanded us to teach. We are to be supported by His immutable, unbreakable promise that He would always be with us, even to the very end of the age (Matt. 28:20).QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION1. The Great Commission is recorded in how many different places in the New Testament? List these verses.2. On what basis does Jesus have the right to make demands of us (Matt. 28:18)?3. The gospel message we have been commissioned to preach to the
iBelieve80whole world consists of what (1 Cor. 15:1-8)?4. Is it possible that humanitarian activities may be substituted for The Great Commission?5. What is the promise of Jesus that undergirds us as we attempt to fulﬁll the Great Commission (Matt. 28:20)?6. What must churches do if we are to reach a burgeoning world population?7. What are some of the means your church is using to reach the world with the gospel?8. Write out 1 Timothy 3:15.9. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.
81chapter 12iBelieve in the Second Coming of ChristOne of the most prominent and foundational doctrines taught in the Word of God is the Second Coming of Christ to the earth. The Apostles held out the possibility of His returning in their day, and the next generation kept alive the “blessed hope” as an event that was imminent. In time, however, this truth began to be neglected and even rejected on the part of many. Centuries passed before this great truth was to be revived. In the past 150 years, we have witnessed renewed emphasis on it, even though there is still much indifference and opposition. The Apostle Peter predicted that in “the last days” scoffers would emerge asking why Christ had not returned as He promised (2 Pet. 3:4).However, Christians are to love the appearing of their Lord (2 Tim. 4:8). They have spoken about Him, prayed to the Father in His name, and longed to see Him. And one day, perhaps sooner that many think, He will appear. We will “see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SECOND COMINGIts prominence in the Scriptures. While this truth is alluded to a number of times in the Old Testament, in the New Testament it is speciﬁcally mentioned more than three hundred times, or once in every twenty-ﬁve verses. Jesus’ discourse on the Mount of Olives treats this theme exclusively and takes up two whole chapters in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 24, 25). Other books deal primarily with this subject, such as First and Second Thessalonians and the Book of Revelation.It is the hope of believers (Titus 2:13). Throughout the ages of church history, true believers have found comfort in this great truth. Paul called the anticipation of the Lord’s
iBelieve82return “the blessed hope.” While some aspects of the coming of the Lord should create a sober attitude about the issues of life today, yet this hope can lift Christians above the sorrows, disappointments, and uncertainties of this life. It creates within us the sense that a day of victory is coming when all wrongs and injustices will be made right, and Jesus Christ will be recognized for who He really is.It is an incentive to Biblical Christianity. Those who entertain a sincere belief in this doctrine seldom dispute the infallibility of the Bible or depart from the faith. The acceptance of this truth leads to holiness of life (1 John 3:3; 2 Pet. 3:10, 11). It inspires watchfulness and perseverance (1 Thess. 5:2-11; 1 John 2:28). It fosters patience and comfort in times of adversity (James 5:7; Heb. 10:35-37; 1 Thess. 4:16-18).It results in more faithful service to Christ. Those who hold to this truth are the ones most likely known for their personal faithfulness, generous giving, missionary zeal, and evangelistic endeavors. There is no greater stimulus to service than to believe that Christ may come at any moment.THE TWO PHASES OF CHRIST’S COMINGThe Second Coming of Christ is one event, but it develops in two stages. The ﬁrst stage: He comes for believers; the second stage: He comes with believers.His coming for believers. Christ will return to meet the saints in the air (1 Thess. 4:16, 17). This is sometimes labeled “the rapture,” which means “to snatch away” or “to transport.” Christians will be caught up to meet the Lord. This stage of Christ’s coming may take place at any moment. When the Lord returns, only believers will be caught up to meet Him. Those who are alive and have rejected Him will be left on earth to experience the sorrows of “the great tribulation.”His coming with believers. After the Tribulation period, our Lord will return triumphantly to the earth to defeat the Antichrist and establish His kingdom. When He returns, His saints will be with Him (Jude 14, 15; Col. 3:4).
ibelieve in the seCond Coming oF Christ 83THE TIME OF CHRIST’S COMINGNo one knows the exact time of Jesus’ return (Matt. 24:36, 42). Informed Christians always maintain an attitude of anticipation, eagerly awaiting His return, and will not be caught by surprise when Jesus returns (1 Thess. 5:4). No doubt as the ﬁrst phase of His coming approaches, God will give His people an awareness of the imminence of that great event. As we study prophecy and relate that to current events, we cannot but conclude that the Lord’s return may be near. We see that the nations of Europe are uniting for economic and military protection, Israel is back in her land, and that little slice of geography is the focal point of many of today’s headlines. Militant Islam is on the march. They would like nothing better than for Israel to be driven into the sea, and much of Islamic terrorism today is linked to that issue. Furthermore, at the precise moment in history when the wealthy nations, and even the developing nations, need fuel for the burgeoning automobile, airplane, and manufacturing market, Arab (or Islamic) nations control a good portion of the oil supply of the world. All of these foreboding issues are “signs of times.”THE MANNER OF CHRIST’S COMING AT THE RAPTUREHe will return personally. There is no need to look for another Messiah or prophet. “This same Jesus” will return in person as was prophesied by the angels and by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (John 14:3; Acts 1:11).He will return with a mighty shout (1 Thess. 4:16). The Greek word for “shout” (keleuma) signiﬁes a “war-shout.” Jesus is represented as a victorious King who will deliver His people and defeat His enemies.He will be accompanied by the voice of the archangel (1 Thess. 4:16). As angels came and ministered to Jesus at the time of His temptation (Matt. 4:11), they will accompany Him at the time of His future triumph.He will return with the sound of the trumpet (1 Thess. 4:16b). The trumpet was used to convene God’s people to their solemn
iBelieve84convocations (Num. 10:2, 10); here it is used to summon God’s people together in preparation for their gloriﬁcation with Christ (1 Cor. 15:52).The above events depict the ﬁrst phase of His coming, when both dead and living believers will be “caught up” or “raptured” to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:16, 17), and be taken to Heaven. The second phase of His coming is when He returns to earth with the angels and saints from Heaven to reign over the earth in His thousand-year kingdom. These entirely different events should not be confused.Because the Lord’s coming may be at any moment, it is vitally important that proper preparation be made. First, those who are lost should speedily make their calling and election sure. Today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Second, those who are saved should live in the light of that great expectation. No one is more likely to live an exemplary life than those who cherish this hope (1 John 3:2, 3). In the meantime, Jesus said we are to be occupied in His service, doing His bidding, until He returns (Luke 19:13). The lesson Jesus is teaching in this parable is this: “Put your talents (minas) to good use while I am away (the minas or talents represent the different gifts the Lord gives to each individual). Do not sit back and complain that the world is getting worse and worse and do nothing. Get busy and invest what you have—your time, talents, and treasure—in my enterprise, for the night is coming when no one can work. At a time when most people least expect it, I will return; and after that will come a day of reckoning” (Luke 19:11-26).REVIEWAmong the most important events of the future are the Second Coming of Christ and its ensuing events. The one doctrine on which most Bible believers agree is the Second Coming. Although disagreements may arise regarding the timing of events surrounding our Lord’s return, almost all are agreed that He will come again to the earth. This is the basis of the Christian’s hope, the one event which will mark the beginning of the completion of God’s plan. Many Scriptures indicate clearly that Christ is to return. If we had nothing but the promise of Jesus Himself, that would be sufﬁcient reason to cling to this belief. Jesus assured His disciples shortly before His cruciﬁxion that He would go and prepare a place for them, and afterwards come again and receive them to Himself, that they would eternally be where He was (Jn. 14:2-3). In addition to Jesus’ own words, numerous other direct statements are to be found in
ibelieve in the seCond Coming oF Christ 85the New Testament regarding His return. It is one of the most widely taught doctrines in the New Testament.QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION1. In the New Testament the Second Coming of Christ is mentioned how many times?2. What did Paul call the anticipation of the Lord’s return (Titus 2:13)?3. The acceptance of this truth leads to what action (1 Jn. 3:2-3; 2 Pet. 3:10-14)?4. Does the Second Coming of Christ refer to His coming for us at the time of our death?5. Give the two phases of His Second Coming.6. Is it possible to determine the exact date of His return?7. What are the four events that occur when Christ returns according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17?8. According to Jesus’ words in Luke 19:13, what are we to be doing until He returns?9. Write out Acts 1:11.10. Give one important lesson you learned from this chapter.FURTHER STUDYWHAT IS THIS PLACE CALLED HELL?In most instances the word “hell” in Scripture is used to refer to a place of future punishment for the wicked. At times the word is used to refer to the grave or the place of the dead. According to Paul’s testimony, those who die in the faith of Christ go immediately into the presence of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Those who die without Christ go immediately to Hell (Gr. hades), a place of torment (Lk. 16:19-31). They will later be brought from Hell to appear before the Great White Throne Judgment, after which they will be cast into the lake of ﬁre and experience eternal damnation. The lake of ﬁre (Gr. gehenna), or “the second death,” is the eternal abode of the wicked. Hell is often seen in the New Testament as “unquenchable ﬁre” (Matt. 3:12; 5:22; 18:9), “damnation” (Matt. 23:33), “furnace of ﬁre”
iBelieve86(Matt. 13:42, 50), “blackness and darkness” (Jude 13), “a lake which burns with ﬁre and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8). Hell is a “place prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41), and if people go there it is because they have rejected their true destiny.WHAT IS HEAVEN LIKE AND WHO WILL GO THERE?The longing for a place of rest and joy after this life is almost universal in the human heart. The fact that humans could even conceive of such a place and long for it is not without signiﬁcance. Jesus gave voice to our deepest longings in John 14:2, 3 when He told His disciples that He was soon to leave them, but He would prepare a place for them in His Father’s House. He assuaged their fears by assuring them He will come again one day and take them to live with Him in that place. Many deny that Heaven is an actual place, insisting, rather, that it is nothing more than a state of mind. To deny that Heaven is an actual place is to contradict the emphatic words of Jesus in John 14:2, as well as other passages in the New Testament.Heaven is a place of indescribable beautyThe ﬁrst two chapters of the Bible tell of God’s creation of a perfect world as a home for the human beings He created. The original home of the ﬁrst two humans was called “the Garden of Eden,” or “Paradise.” As we have noted, the third Heaven is also portrayed as “Paradise.” When humans use the term “paradise,” it usually suggests a place of extraordinary beauty. The last two chapters of the Bible speak of God’s creating a perfect world for redeemed humanity (Rev. 21-22). The apostle John gives a brief but vivid glimpse of the holy city, New Jerusalem, in these chapters. He observed it coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2). His portrayal of that city deﬁes description and staggers the imagination. Unlike all earthly cities, it is ﬁlled with “the glory of God.” When Christians think of Heaven they often think of glory and sometimes call it “glory land” (as in “I’ve got a home in glory land that outshines the sun”).The brilliance of the city is like that of a precious jewel, clear as crystal. The wall is made of jasper; the city is pure gold, clear as glass; the foundations of the walls are decorated with all manner of precious stones. The twelve gates are twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The street of the city is pure gold, like transparent glass. It is a city of immense
ibelieve in the seCond Coming oF Christ 87size. Its length, breadth, and height are equal, measuring approximately 1400 miles (2,250 kilometers) each. The river of the water of life, clear as crystal, ﬂows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. On each side of the river is the tree of life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations. The city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God provides illumination. There will be no night there. It will be a world of unsurpassing splendor. Its citizens will live forever and enjoy the highest conceivable happiness. Scripture locates the Father’s throne and heavenly headquarters in the New Jerusalem, which will descend to the renovated earth (21:2, 3). The New Jerusalem is the capitol city of this new earth. In the Hebrew language, Jerusalem means “city of peace.” How different the New Jerusalem will be from the earthly Jerusalem, which seldom has lived up to its name. The New Jerusalem is the city for which Abraham looked (Heb. 11:10). Within that vast city Christ is preparing a dwelling place for each believer (John 14:2).Heaven is a place of happy associationThe redeemed of all the ages will be there (Rev. 21:24). In Heaven we will fellowship with the truly important people who have graced our planet. Imagine seeing Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, David, Peter, Mary, Lydia and Paul face to face. How long will it take to hear their story? No matter, we have eternity. Our loved ones will be there and will be recognized as such. On the Mount of Transﬁguration Moses and Elijah were identiﬁed and even had their same names. After Christ’s resurrection His disciples had no trouble recognizing Him. Mary knew His voice (John 20:11-16). Thomas recognized His physical appearance (John 20:27, 28). We may safely assume that in the heavenly world we will continue our relationships with those we know and love.Will there be marriage in Heaven? Jesus plainly said that in the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage. We will be like the angels in Heaven (Matt. 22:29, 30). The question arises: will the redeemed be deprived of the beneﬁts now associated with marriage? In Heaven, the redeemed will not be deprived of any good thing. The quintessence of marriage is love. The epitome of joy is in the expression of love. We may be conﬁdent that in the heavenly world no one there will lack for either love or joy or pleasure. No one there will feel lonely, empty, or unloved. We can trust that the loving Creator who designed
iBelieve88marriage to bring joy in this present world will have something far better in the next.Heaven is a place of blessed emancipationSome of the most striking aspects of the heavenly city have to do with what is not there. In the Book of Revelation are a number of “no mores:” “no more pain” (21:4); “no more sorrow” (21:4); “no more tears” (7:17); “no more death”(21:4). Death, man’s last and most feared enemy, will no longer strike terror into hearts as it has for thousands of years of human history. It will be cast into the Lake of Fire, and we will be in a world beyond its reach (Rev. 20:14).Only the righteous, those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, will enter into that holy city (Rev. 21:27). Only the names of those who have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb will be inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The door will be closed to all the unrighteous who refuse to enter through the one and only door—Jesus Christ. More important than the physical beauty of the heavenly city, more important than the fellowship we will enjoy with the saints of all the ages, more important than the freedom we will experience from pain, sorrow, and death, will be the fact that we will be in the very presence of God enjoying the beatiﬁc vision (seeing God face to face). The blessed Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—will be there to welcome us. Each will be the object of our adoration, and we will enjoy unbroken fellowship with them throughout eternity (21:3, 4; 22:3, 4).REVIEWHeaven is the abode of God (Matt. 6:9), a place of indescribable beauty (Rev. 21:1-22:5), the eternal abiding place of all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 21:27). According to Paul, the whole person survives in Heaven. Even the body is raised again. Although the body is no longer composed of ﬂesh and blood (1 Cor. 15:50), there is continuity with the present body—a heavenly body in form similar to its earthly form (1 Cor. 15:51-53). In Heaven the redeemed will be in the immediate presence of God. In this present life “we see through a glass darkly; but then [we will see] face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). The redeemed will see Christ “as He is” (1 Jn. 3:2). Heaven is a place of rest (Rev. 14:13) but activities will be a vital part of the heavenly experience.