Hello again family! Where God Has Me is so excited to bring to you this month, another awesome, and FREE, Bible study lesson.
This month's study is titled, "Knowing Christ, Knowing God" by author Rosemary Bardsley. This study reaffirms that Jesus Christ is the true and living Son of God and the way in which we have access to the Father! In this nine lesson study, we go through the Bible and learn the connection between Christ and God; we see how it is impossible to love one, and not the other because to know and love Christ, is to know and love God our Creator, our Father.
Not that we ever need to prove God's word is true---it stands in truth and authority all on it's own---but if you have ever struggled with ministering (or even on a more personal level, within yourself) about Jesus Christ's true identity, or God's love for us through Jesus Christ, then this is a great study for you! Even if you are 100% confident in your knowledge of Christ---His identity, His purpose, His deity---this is still an awesome study for you to delve into!
We encourage you to take your time with this study and feel free to break each lesson up into weekly studies.
Whether you are studying with us individually, or with a group, we pray you enjoy and that this study adds a little bit more depth to your growth as a Christian, and in your understanding of God's word.
As always, be blessed and happy studying!
*For you convenience, we have included the website address for Rosemary Bardsley's, "God's Word For You" website where you may find this and other Bible studies. www.godswordforyou.com
*Note from Where God Has Me: As stated by the author, this study was created for a group study; however individuals who are studying on their own may also enjoy this study. Simply use a journal, notebook, or piece of paper to write your thoughts. Also, note that the worksheets for these studies are not included on this site; however you may visit godswordforyou.com to print out the coinciding worksheets for each study unit.
Instructions: Click on the "+" sign located to the right of each box to reveal the information for that section.
'Knowing Christ - Knowing God' is a highly impactive Bible study series that draws our attention to Jesus Christ as the ultimate revelation of the truth: truth about God, truth about man, truth about the meaning and purpose of life. It is affirmed that there is such a thing as ultimate and absolute truth, and that this ultimate and absolute truth is revealed in and by Jesus Christ. The truth, therefore, can be known, and because it can be known, our human lives can have meaning, direction and significance. Our lives are not the meaningless result of arbitrary and inescapable chance, but have their source, their significance and their goal in Jesus Christ. These studies were prepared at the request of Bruce Murray, Associate Pastor of Southport Church of Christ, Queensland. At Bruce's request, the specific starting point for each study parallels the starting points used by Roy Hession in his book 'We Would See Jesus'. However, anyone familiar with that book will realize that the direction taken and the progressive development of each study give these studies their own unique content and impact. The studies are specifically written with a group study situation in mind; each study has its own worksheet, and includes instructions to the study leader. They can however be readily used for personal study.
Study One: What are we here for?
INTRODUCTION Our world today, perhaps more than any other generation, and especially in the 'western world', powerfully and increasingly displays the meaning of the word 'lost'. People don't know who they are or why they are here or where they are going. Individually and corporately there is a massive disintegration going on:
Respect for human life is rapidly diminishing - evidenced in moves to legalize abortion, euthanasia - at both ends of life, embryonic stem cell research and cloning, as well as in the massive increase in the incidence of abuse and assault. This is also evident in the mentality that places the well-being of animals, forests, etc, on an equal par with, or above, the well-being of humans.
Moral standards are in rapid decline - boundaries formerly firmly fixed no longer exist, the whole idea of an absolute standard relevant for everyone at all times is not even considered, what is 'right' has become whatever the 'norm' or the consensus of opinion is, and this 'boundary' is consistently becoming broader and flimsier.
Personal meaning and significance (that is our inner security and identity) has crumbled - this is devastatingly evident in the high suicide rate and in the high incidence of depression and similar illnesses.
Study Task #1: Think about ways in which these three aspects of life are disintegrating in your society. A. WHY IS IT LIKE THIS? Over the past two centuries three powerful influences have combined to produce the present state of our society:
1. Secular Humanism, which denies the existence of any supernatural entities - including God. 'Nature', the physical world, is all that there is. Man, the most developed part of nature, is responsible for and capable of fulfilling his own destiny. Our future and that of our planet is in our hands. In the absence of any 'god' there are obviously no absolute standards of right and wrong: we are not answerable to any 'out there' above us deity who has laid down the rules for living.
[Do not confuse with 'humanitarianism' which = expressing human kindness to other humans.]
2.The Theory of Evolution, which effectively eliminates the concept of a Creator God, as defined in the Bible. In eliminating the Biblical God evolution also eliminates the Biblical meaning of human life, robbing human life of its uniqueness, and goes hand in hand with Secular Humanism in eliminating absolute moral standards.
3. Liberal Theology, working hand in hand with the two above in their denial of the supernatural and of absolutes, denies that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and does not even consider that God, in his sovereign power, could have overruled its writing. Church-goers exposed to this mentality are left without any sure and absolute definition of God, without any belief in the deity of Christ, with no belief in miracles - including the virgin birth and the resurrection, and with little perception of the sinfulness of man or the meaning of salvation.
[Do not assume that all theology is bad. Some theology is very good: it all depends on how closely it represents Biblical teaching.]
The net result of all of this is
4. Postmodernism, in which there is no such thing as truth to be found, so one does not even look for it. One does not know, and cannot ever know, who one is - or even if one really is, what life is all about - or if it is about anything at all, what is right or wrong - or even if there is such a thing as right and wrong. In fact one lives with the assumption that there is no meaning, no purpose, no absolutes. [Note to study leader: for the sensitive thinking person this can quickly lead on to nihilism the despairing state of mind where nothing at all has any meaning or purpose. It is no wonder that people seek either identity or escape in addictions to drugs, sex, extreme sports and the like, or eventually to suicide.]
Study Task #2 [Note from Where God Has Me: Remember that all worksheets, should you decide to use them with this study, may be found on the author's website, www.godswordforyou.com; also note that this task may be completed individually if you are studying on your own, consider writing your thoughts down in a journal, or also using the worksheet]: If you are leading a study group allow the group time to list the characteristics and impact of these in their notes at Task #2 on the Worksheet. This might require time for discussion. You might find that this will stir up discussion as some of the folk suddenly realize why things are as they are. There also might be some controversy arising out of the reference to the Theory of Evolution. If so, refer them to www.AnswersInGenesis.org .
B. SUBSTITUTES FOR MEANING AND PURPOSE In the perceived absence of God, truth and meaning, we, that is we humans, find our significance in a number of ways. We create our own 'gods' : either physical idols or 'philosophical', conceptual idols. Thus we find such ideologies as
Polytheism - the worship of many gods
Deism - the belief in a 'hands-off' god, who created the world then ceased to have any involvement or interest in it.
Fatalism -the belief in a hard-hearted, loveless god who has pre-determined every single thing, and to whom it is irrelevant to pray.
Pantheism- the belief that all is god, all is one, therefore I, (and everything else) am god. The New Age mentality lies here - seeking for union with 'the god within' or 'the cosmic power of the universe' which is in all that exists.
Agnosticism- the belief that it is impossible to know if there is any 'god' or what he/it is like if there is.
[Scripture References] "Romans 1:18-32, where the persistent corruption and distortion of the concept of 'god' is recorded; Isaiah 40-46 where the awesome and incomparable majesty of God is contrasted to the puny insignificance of idols."
We search for meaning, significance and purpose in
Materialism- in which we take our significance in the amount or quality of our physical possessions and wealth.
Non-physical materialism: in which we take our significance from our personal achievements and the praise and affirmation they generate.
Legalism- a form of non-physical materialism, in which we gain our significance from our ability to live according to a moral or ritual code [either imposed upon us from outside ourselves by state, church or social group, or one we have created for ourselves].
Mysticism- in which we find our meaning and significance in the inner experiences of our mind and emotions.
Subjectivism- in which we interpret the whole of life according to our own experiences. What works for me is right for me; what works for you is right for you. The meaning and purpose of human life is thus as varied as the number of individuals there are on earth.
Hedonism- in which we value everything in terms of whether or not it makes us feel good, or gives us a 'buzz'. If it does it is good; if it doesn't it is bad.
As Christians we must not assume that the quest for meaning, significance and purpose in these ways is limited to unbelievers. At every one of the points listed above Christians are involved, seeking in them to find personal fulfilment, completeness and contentment, and seeking by them to 'big-note' themselves in the presence of their fellow Christians, of the world, and of God.
Examples of how each, in their order listed above, have seduced Christians:
Materialism: Prosperity teaching and Word of Faith teaching promise us unlimited health and wealth, and consider Christians who do not have wealth and health to be failures; even non-charismatic Christians frequently view the presence or absence of God's blessing in material/physical terms.
Non-physical materialism: All to frequently Christians take significance from their ministry or from their spirituality - the number of souls we have saved, the size of our church, the years, days or hours per week of our service, our spiritual gifting, our faithfulness in quiet time habits, our personal success/progress in striving for holiness, and so on.
Legalism: The automatic inclination of the human heart, including the Christian heart, is to relate to God, ourselves and others in terms of the level of one's obedience to law . We rate ourselves and others on this basis. We rate God's relationship with us on this basis. We rate our identity of 'success' or 'failure' on this basis. We assume that we are close and more acceptable to God when we obey a command and removed and less acceptable when we disobey. We set aside the message of the Gospel of grace and relate to God as though we were still under the condemnation of law and sin. We also do the same to others, refusing to pass on to them the very grace of God that enables our existence as Christians.
Mysticism: Christian 'experience' is the source of significance - visions, dreams, hearing God's voice, ecstatic experiences, getting supernatural guidance through inner impressions and feelings, communicating with angels, finding personal messages from God in coincidences and the like, looking for signs and wonders, hearing God's call, having a wonderful quiet time, participating in exhilarating corporate worship - all of these become the source of meaning and purpose and significance and fulfillment.
Subjectivism: Christians leave aside the Bible as the source of absolute truth and define truth in terms of their personal experiences. Rather than the Bible being used to validate or invalidate and interpret an experience, the Christian's subjective, personal understanding of his/her experience is used to interpret and identify the meaning of the Bible, and the subjective meaning they, or others, have given to their experience is thus imposed on the Bible and, sometimes, made normative for everyone. The Bible is made to conform to subjective experience, rather than subjective experience being under the authority and judgement of the Bible.
Hedonism: Christians assess reality from the hedonistic mindset: this is clearly evident, as an example, in attitudes to church services, which are assessed in terms of how exciting or moving they are or how good they made one feel, irrespective of whether or not the Lord was honored and his truth proclaimed.
Study Task #3: Have the students complete Task #3 while you are presenting the above material. Leave time for discussion here: there are some extremely significant points. Don't let the group think that they are currently immune and guiltless here - these things are very pervasive, insidious and subtle, and the cause of many of the difficulties that Christians experience in their relationship with God and in their Christian walk today.
C. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY? In contrast to all of this the Bible is very clear in its answer to the question 'What are we here for?' It expresses its one answer in a number of ways:
Task #4: Have the group look up the following verses and make notes of what they say about the purpose of human existence. Encourage discussion of the meaning of these verses.
Genesis 1:26, 27: 'Then God said: "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness ... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him ... '
Deuteronomy 10:12: ' ... what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul ... '
Isaiah 43:7, 10: ' ... whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made ... whom I have chosen so that you may know and believe in me'.
Jeremiah 9:23/24: 'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord ... '
Zephaniah 3:17: 'He (God) will take great delight in you ... he will rejoice over you with singing.'
Mark 12:30: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'
Acts 17:27-28: 'God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being ... '
1 Corinthians 8:6: ' ... there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live ... '
Ephesians 1:10: ' ... to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.'
Ephesians 1:12: ' ... in order that we ... might be for the praise of his glory.' [also 1:6 &14]
*Ephesians 1:23: ' ... the fullness of him who fills everything in every way'
*Ephesians 2:10: ' ... created in Christ Jesus to do good works ... '
*Ephesians 3:21: ' ... to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations'
*Ephesians 4:13: ' ... until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ'.
*Philippians 1:21: ' ... for me to live is Christ ... '
Colossians 1:16: ' ... all things were created by him and for him ... in him all things hold together.'
1 Peter 2:9: ' ... a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.'
Revelation 21:6: 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End'
The one answer expressed in all of these answers is: we are here for God.
Created by him to reflect of his glory.
Dependent on him so that we may find fulfilment in him.
Saved by him to express his glory.
Loved by him in order that we may love him.
Known by him in order that we may know him.
In all of this God is wholly for us in order that we may be wholly for him. It is God who gives meaning, significance and purpose to human existence. It is only in this relationship of knowing God that human life achieves its maximum potential. It is only in knowing God that we are truly human. It is only in knowing God that we can live the life for which we were created.
CONCLUSION: 'What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever' (Westminster Confession of Faith: The Shorter Catechism). 'This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent' (John 17:3).
Task #5: The asterisked verses in the list above contain a common element. Challenge the group to study these verses again to find that common element, and to identify how this common element is the key to the purpose of God for human life to be achieved.
[This common element is Jesus Christ. It is only in and through him that we can know God, and, knowing God by knowing Christ, that we fulfil our God-ordained potential and purpose as humans. This finding fulfilment/ completeness/ purpose/ meaning/ significance in knowing God in knowing Christ, seeing God in seeing Christ, receiving God in receiving Christ is the theme of these studies.]
RECOMMENDED READING: -Knowing God, JI Packer. -Whatever Happened to the Human Race? Francis Schaeffer
Study Two: Shattering the darkness-in christ we see god
INTRODUCTION: IDENTIFYING THE DARKNESS In the first study we saw the lostness and alienation of man - a darkness of mind and soul so deep that there is frequently no hope that there is any light to be found; a darkness so ignorant of light that it thinks that it is itself light; a spiritual darkness so deep that there is sometimes no concept that any such thing as spiritual light exists. What is the core meaning of this spiritual darkness? What is it that makes this darkness 'darkness'? The Bible identifies this darkness in a number of ways:
~Darkness expressed as sinful actions Proverbs 2:13 ' ... who leave the straight paths and walk in dark ways'
Romans 13:12 ' ... put aside the deeds of darkness ... '
Ephesians 5:11 'have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness ... '
~Darkness as God's judgement Deut 28:28,29 'The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. At midday you will grope about like a blind man in the dark. ... '
Psalm 88:6,7 'You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me ... '
Psalm 105:28 'He sent darkness and made the land dark - for had they not rebelled against his words?'
Proverbs 20:20 'if a man curses his father or mother, his lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.'
Isaiah 13:9,10 'the day of the Lord is coming - a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger - ... the stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.' [see also Ezekiel 32:7,8; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24; Revelation 8:12]
Jeremiah 13:16 'Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings the darkness, before your feet stumble on the darkening hills. You hope for light, but he will turn it to thick darkness and change it to deep gloom.'
Joel 3:15 'The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine.' [see also 2:10; Amos 8:9]
Amos 5:18,20 'That day will be darkness, not light. ... Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light - pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?'
Zeph 1:15,17 'That day will be ... a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness ... they will walk like blind men because they have sinned against the Lord.'
Matthew 25:30 'throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' [See also Matthew 8:12; 22:13]
2 Peter 2:17 ' ... blackest darkness is reserved for them'
Jude 13 'men ... for whom the blackest darkness has been reserved forever'
~Darkness as Satan's realm of authority
John 8:42-47 [ in which Jesus indicates that the failure of the Jews to recognize and believe the truth indicated that they belonged to the devil ]
Acts 26:18 ' ... to ... turn them from ... the power of Satan to God'
Ephesians 6:13 ' our struggle is ... against ... the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.'
Colossians 1:13 ' ... the dominion of darkness'
~Darkness as  the realm of separation from God, and  the characteristic quality of this life without God
Psalm 107:10,11 'Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High.'
Proverbs 4:19 'the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.'
Eccles. 5:17 'all his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.'
John 3:19 ' ... men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.'
2 Cor 6:14 ' ... what fellowship can light have with darkness?'
Ephesians 5:8 ' ... you were once darkness ... '
1 Peter 2:9 ' ... called you out of darkness ... '
1 John 1:6 'If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.'
1 John 2:11 'Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.'
~Darkness as death Job 10:21,22 ' ... before I return to the place of no return, to the land of gloom and deep shadow, to the land of deepest night, of deep shadow and disorder, where even the light is like darkness.'
Psalm 88:12 'Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?'
~Darkness as ignorance of God Job 23:17 'I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.'
Isaiah 56:10 'Israel's watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge ... '
Isaiah 59:9,10 ' ... We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadow. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.'
Jeremiah 13:16 'Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings the darkness, before your feet stumble on the darkening hills. You hope for light, but he will turn it to thick darkness and change it to deep gloom.'
Micah 3:6 'Therefore night will cover over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them ... They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God.'
Matthew 6:23 'if the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!'
Matthew 15:14 ' ... they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.' [Mt 23:16,17,19, 24,26]
Luke 11:35 'See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.'
John 1:5 'The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.'
John 9:39-41 '"For judgement I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?" Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains."'
John 12:40 'He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts ... '
Acts 26:18 'to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light ... '
Romans 1:21 ' ... their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened'
Romans 2:19 ' ... if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark ... '
2 Cor 4:4 'The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of Christ, who is the image of God.'
Ephesians 4:18 'They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.'
Revelation 3:17 'You say "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.'
Task #1: [...] discuss the verses listed in Worksheet #2 and [...] identify how the Bible presents 'darkness'. [...] Be aware that many people will automatically think that the Bible generally identifies 'darkness' as 'sin'. The evidence above does not permit such a minimization and generalization. Indeed, the overwhelming focus of darkness in the Bible is on ignorance of God, God's judgement on rejection of him, and the resultant characteristic of life without him.
A. EXPLAINING THE DARKNESS
A study of Romans 1:18-32 gives us a 'flow chart' for spiritual darkness:
There is knowledge of God: the truth is there - [v.] 18 revealed in creation - [v.] 19, 20 they knew God - [v.] 21 they claimed to be wise - [v.] 22 the glory of God was there - [v.] 23 the truth of God was there - [v.] 25 the knowledge of God was there - [v.] 28 they know God's righteous decree - [v.] 32
This knowledge of God is rejected: the truth is suppressed - [v.] 18 God was not thanked nor glorified -[v.] 21 the knowledge and glory of God is exchanged for man made images - [v.] 23 they worshipped and served created things - [v.] 25 they did not think it worth retaining the knowledge of God - [v.] 28 they approve those disobeying God -[v.] 32
God's judgement falls: he gave them up to do as they please: verses 24,26,28
Men live in the darkness of godlessness - ignorant of God and displaying the characteristic 'darkness' quality of life without God - verses 24-32
This flow chart of darkness shows us that individual sinful actions are not the cause of the problem of darkness: they are the expression of the darkness. The fundamental problem is the rejection of the knowledge of God - which is the rejection of God as he really is - a rejection that began in Genesis 3, where Satan projected a distorted concept of God to Adam and Eve, and where Adam and Eve, only too happy to buy into this distortion, rejected God as he really is - the rightful, powerful and loving Sovereign Lord of all, including them.
This foundational rejection of God as he really is means that the human race lives in the darkness of ignorance of the one true God, and the consequent darkness of life that accompanies that ignorance and that separation from God. This darkness also constitutes God's present and future judgement.
What the world supposes is knowledge of God is so corrupted and distorted that it is ignorance ('light' that is actually 'darkness', 'sight' that is actually 'blindness'). Left to ourselves it is impossible for us to escape from this darkness of ignorance of God. Even the Jews, to whom was given not only the revelation in creation which is accessible to the whole world, but also revelation of God in historical events, and the written revelation in the Law, the Writings and the Prophets, - even the Jews did not know God: Jesus rebuked their failure to recognize him as indicating their failure to know God [John 5:37-47; 7:28,29; 8:19, 42,47,54-56]
It is easy to see how each aspect of darkness listed in the introduction all hang together. The rejection of God, that is, ignorance of God - the foundational darkness - is also automatically at the same time the darkness of judgement, life in the arena of darkness, life characterised by darkness and life in the arena where Satan, the prince of darkness, reigns. It is also, at the most basic level, the darkness of death - for life cut off from God is nothing other than spiritual death.
Task #2A: [...] read Romans 1:18-32 to identify the darkness flowchart. Task #2B:[...] read Genesis 3:1-6 and identify verses which display corrupted knowledge of God.
B. SHATTERING THE DARKNESS To shatter the darkness, to disperse the darkness God moved to undo it first of all at its source - that of ignorance of himself: of the rejection and loss of knowledge of God. Into this darkness of ignorance of and rejection of God, God himself came, in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, and revealed himself to us. With the coming of Jesus Christ no one need ever again ask the question: What is God like? No one ever again can say 'Who is God?' God has come to us and said: Here I am! Some of the references below are prophetic of Christ, some are from the testimony of Christ himself, and some from the apostolic witness to him. [Note: some of these verses are also relevant in later studies.]
Isaiah 9:2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
Isaiah 29:18 In that day ... out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. [See also 35:5]
Isaiah 40:5 The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.
Isaiah 40:9 You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!"
Isaiah 42:6,7 I ... will make you ... a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind ... to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
Isaiah 49:6,9 I will make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth ... to say to those in darkness, "Be free!'
Matthew 4:16 ... the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
Matthew 11:27 No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Luke 1:78,79 ... because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.
Luke 9:29,32 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning ... they saw his glory.
John 1:9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only who is at the Father's side, has made him known.
John 3:19 ... Light has come into the world
John 5:19 ... what the Father does the Son also does
John 8:12 I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
John 9:5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
John 10:30 I and the Father are one.
John 10:38 ... the Father is in me, and I in the Father.
John 12:35-36 You are going to have the light just a little while longer. ... put you trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.
John 12:35 You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. ... Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.
John 12:44-46 When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 13:20 ... whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.
John 13:31 Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.
John 14:7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. ... Any one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father?" Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?
John 17:6 I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.
John 17:25,26 ... though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known ...
Acts 9:3-5 ... suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him ... "who are you Lord," Saul asked. "I am Jesus ... "
2 Cor 3:14,16,18 ... only in Christ (the veil) is taken away ... whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away ... we ... with unveiled faces all contemplate the Lord's glory ...
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God who said "Let light shine out of darkness" made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God
Colossians 2:2,3 ... that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Hebrews 1:2,3 ... in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ... the Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being ...
1 Peter 2:9 ... called you out of darkness into his wonderful light
1 John 1:1-2, That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you: the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him ... God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 2:8 ... the truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
Revelation 1:12-17 ... white as snow ... like blazing fire ... like bronze glowing in a furnace ... his face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance ...
In the above verses there is ample material to demonstrate that in seeing Jesus Christ we see God. Here, in a final and ultimate way, God reveals himself. Here there is no darkness. Here it becomes very obvious what God is like and what 'God' actually is.
Task #3: Use the material above and below as the group works through Task #3. The significance of this truth for evangelism is twofold:  the people we evangelise are ignorant about God: it is necessary to define 'God' by presenting Jesus Christ as God.  if people refuse to accept 'God' as defined and identified by Jesus Christ then his cross cannot help them because they have neither believed in nor received the one true God.
C. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS' CLAIM TO BE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Jesus' statement 'I am the light of the world' is rich with Old Testament images:
 In the exodus from Egypt the Israelites are accompanied by a pillar of fire and cloud, encompassing them with physical light, and symbolizing the presence of the Lord (Exodus 13ff). [Note from Where God Has Me: the symbol "ff" usually refers to the inclusion of the verses/scriptures that follow]
 During the Feast of the Tabernacles, which was probably just finishing when Jesus made this statement, the Temple was illuminated, drawing attention to its significance as the earthly 'dwelling place' of God.
 In the Psalms light is associated with God:
Psalm 27:1: 'The Lord is my light and salvation'
Psalm 36:9: 'for with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light'
Psalm 43:3: 'send forth your light ... '
Psalm 56:13b: 'that I may walk before God in the light of life'
Psalm 118:27: 'the Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us' (this psalm is filled with joyous anticipation of the coming Christ).
 Isaiah identifies God as the 'Light of Israel' (10:17) and identifies the coming Servant of the Lord as 'a light for the Gentiles' (42:6); and in 60:1-3,19,20 looks ahead to a glorious time of salvation when the light of the Lord will enlighten and draw to himself people from all nations.
As Jesus stood in the Temple, where the brilliant lights of the Feast of the Tabernacles had recently been extinguished, claiming 'I am the light of the world' all of this richness of meaning pulsated through his words. By these words he identifies himself, not only as the prophesied Messiah/Suffering Servant, but also as God. The symbolic, prophetic lights have gone, but he whom they both symbolised and prophesied is here. They need no more that brilliant illumination of the Temple. What purpose is there in a mere symbol when he whom it symbolises is here? What purpose in rejoicing in a prophetic hope when the subject of the prophecy has arrived?
There is thus no more darkness for those who recognise and believe what Jesus is claiming when he says 'I am the light of the world'; those who believe in him, those who follow him both see and know God: 'Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.' No longer is God hidden in inscrutable darkness (Exodus 20:21): he has come to us in this man, Jesus. Here in this man we see God. 'If you knew me,' Jesus said, 'you would know my father also' (John 8:19) but those to whom he spoke neither knew him nor his Father.
We must not lose the profound, far-reaching significance of Jesus' simple words. Knowledge of God is inseparably bound to knowledge of Jesus Christ. Jesus made it unquestionably clear that it is impossible to know God apart from knowing who Jesus really is. He is the light of the world. All other supposed lights are not true lights at all; they are either inadequate, or inaccurate, or false. No matter how enlightened they may suppose themselves to be, Jesus makes it clear that those who do not follow him walk in darkness.
The New Testament teaches that those who do not know God by knowing Jesus simply do not and cannot know God. Only in him is the darkness of ignorance of God shattered.
[...] Task #4: Is  the completion of any task not finished during the study; and  a personal impact statement.
study three: jesus- identifying the truth and exposing error
INTRODUCTION: We have seen in the first two studies the great and overwhelming darkness of the world. We have seen that the core meaning of this darkness is ignorance of God, and the resultant life of separation from God. We have seen that Christ has come as the Light of the world, shattering the darkness for those who believe in him. Jesus Christ replaces the darkness with light. He replaces the ignorance and erroneous thinking about God with the truth. In fact he claimed: I am the truth [John 14:6]. This is an absolute claim. Jesus is not saying that he is one source of truth among many. He is not saying that he is part of the truth. He is the truth - not relative, not qualified, not conditional. He is the truth. If we do not find truth here we will not find it anywhere. If we believe we have found the truth, but we have not found it in Jesus Christ, then the truth we think we have found is not the truth at all. Jesus Christ defines the truth. Anything additional, anything alongside, is at the worst a lie, and at best a watered-down, wishy-washy corruption of the truth, and therefore error.
At the deepest level all of our spiritual questions can be answered in Jesus Christ. He is the truth - about God, about ourselves, about life, about death, about salvation. No matter what the question its true answer is here, in this one place: Jesus Christ.
Task #1: [...] brainstorm examples of common 'spiritual' questions that are asked by either Christians or non-Christians. [...] A word of caution: We must not minimize the meaning of Jesus' claim to the 'the truth'. We must not here think that he is simply speaking of being honest. When he claims to be 'the truth' he is claiming to be the ultimate reality, the ultimate and absolute truth by which the essential meaning of everything is defined. The meaning and definition that Jesus gives to everything is its true meaning. This is essentially how the Scriptures talk of the truth. [See the Appendix A for an extensive list of New Testament references.] Thus we find in the Bible that:
'the truth' is the sum total of what is true about God and all that is
'the truth' is the arena in which true worship of God takes place
'truth' is a synonym for 'the Gospel'
'the truth' is the arena in which those who believe in Christ live out their lives
'the truth' is something to be obeyed - so that one's whole life is to be lived in accordance with the knowledge contained in the truth.
a lifestyle of sin confirms that one does not know the truth and is not in the truth
'the truth' is the opposite of all erroneous perceptions about God and life
'the truth' is something of which Satan and those who are in his clutches are ignorant, and their lives and perspectives are characterized and dominated by the perceptions, principles and priorities of he arena of error/darkness in which they are trapped.
In our Christian walk our goal should be to live in the light of 'the truth' - expressing in all of our relationships the perceptions, passions, principles and priorities revealed in and by Jesus Christ, 'the truth'.
A. JESUS CHRIST = THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD
A.1When we see Jesus Christ we are seeing God Here we will pick up some of the verses mentioned in Study Two and look at them in greater depth, along with some other significant verses. Matthew 11:27 Here Jesus says straight out that no one knows God the Father unless he, Jesus, reveals the Father to them. In other words, no matter what we think we know about God we actually do not know him unless Jesus reveals him to us.
John 1:1 John here affirms the eternal deity of Jesus Christ, 'the Word'. He goes on to affirm that he was the Creator of all things, and the source of all life. [See also 1 John 1:1,2]
John 1:18 Again we are told: no one has seen God. Then we are told that Jesus has made him known. The Greek word used is exegeomai - to unfold, to bring out the meaning of. Jesus Christ has unfolded to us the true meaning of and nature of God.
John 8:12 The clear inference of this verse is that everyone who is not following Jesus is actually walking in darkness.
John 8:24 Meaning: if we reject the truth that Jesus revealed about his true identity there can be no forgiveness.
John 10:30 When Jesus said this the Jews immediately picked up stones intending to stone him to death for blasphemy. They understood exactly that by these words Jesus was claiming for himself equality and identity with God. Here, in Jesus, God stands before us.
John 12:44-45 Here is the answer to anyone's question 'What is God like?' That answer is: look at Jesus. What Jesus is, God is. What Jesus does, God does; what Jesus says, God says. It is as simple and as deep as that. Similarly, to believe in Jesus is to believe in God.
John 13:20 Again, the identification.
John 14:6-9 This is a powerful interchange. Jesus is amazed that Philip hasn't got it yet, that, after being with Jesus for three years, he still has to ask to be shown the Father. He should have understood by now that in knowing Jesus he actually knew God the Father. Anyone, says Jesus, who knows him actually knows the Father. The logical opposite of this is that if a person does not know Jesus he does not know God the Father. If he hasn't 'seen' Jesus Christ he simply hasn't seen the Father.
John 17:6,26 Jesus actively made the Father known to his disciples.
Romans 9:5 Here Paul comes straight out and identifies Jesus as God of all, to whom eternal praise is both given and due.
Romans 10:9 Here the affirmation that Jesus is God ('Lord' is one of God's common OT names) is the prerequisite for salvation.
Hebrews 1:2,3 This verse teaches us that Jesus Christ displays, radiates, the glory of God - all that God is shines out in Christ; in addition, Christ is, exactly, the essence or substance of God. What God is, he is.
1 John 5:20,21 Three points here teach us that in knowing Jesus we know God:  'he has given us understanding so that we may know him ... ' Jesus enables us to know God.  'he is the true God and eternal life' - these words refer to Jesus Christ: he is the true God.  'keep yourselves from idols' - nowhere else in this letter does John refer to 'idols' - only here right after he has identified Jesus as the true God. What is he saying? Simply and powerfully this: that any 'god' concept that is not co-identical with Jesus Christ, is an idol. Jesus defines the one true God.
Task #2A [Note from Where God Has Me: refer to worksheet to complete questions for this task]: [...] These verses are highly discriminatory and exclusive. They allow for no reduction of their meaning that only in Jesus Christ can the one true God be known.
A.2 When we see Jesus we see God in action - we see the kinds of things God does. Many teachers consider that Mark's Gospel is about Jesus, the man. Mark, however, introduces his Gospel with the words: 'The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.' As we read through this gospel we see God in action, displaying his power and authority in every situation. God incarnate, Jesus Christ, demonstrated beyond doubt that God is both interested in, involved in and interferes in, life on planet earth. He is not some distant and removed deistic god, nor even a fatalistic uncaring god to whom it is useless to pray. He is with us; he is here, close at hand, able and willing to act and intervene. [For more detailed input on the points below go to Mark's Answer in the Who is Jesus? studies on www.godswordforyou.com.]
He has authority to command people [1:16-20; 2:14].
He has authority over the truth [1:21,22] - he knows what the truth is - he is, after all, 'the truth'.
He has authority over evil spirits [1:27, 34b,39; 3:20-30; 5:1-20; 7:24-30].
He has authority over sickness and disability [1:30,31, 40-42; 3:1-5; 5:25-34; 7:32-37; 8:22-26; 10:46-52]. In all of this we must realize that Jesus is here displaying his divine authority over the curse of Genesis 3, demonstrating that he has the power and the right to undo and reverse it, as he will do eventually at the end of the age, when all sickness and suffering is no more.
He has the authority to forgive sin [2:1-12]. Again, this is what God does. God can and does reverse his own judgement on sin.
He has authority over the Law [2:18-28; 3:1-6]. The Law is not what men make it. The Law is God's law: he knows its true meaning and its purpose.
He has authority over nature [4:35-41; 6:30-44; 6:45-52; 8:1-10]. Jesus here commands and controls nature as its divine Creator and Lord. He is amazed that the disciples did not realise who he was purely on the basis of these incidents [see 6:51,52; 8:17-21]. [See Colossians 1:17: 'in him all things hold together' - Christ is the cohesive principle of the entire universe; without his sustaining word all things would disintegrate and cease to exist. See also Hebrews 1:1-3.]
He has authority over death [5:21-24, 35-43; 8:31; 10:34].
Task #2B: The significance of this section is that Jesus reveals the truth about God in action, making prayer a significant exercise, and potentially putting great confidence into our lives as we recognize that God is active in this world, that he is active for us, and that nothing is outside or beyond his authority and control. [if working as a group] Lead the group to see this truth revealed in the actions of Jesus.
A.3 When we see Jesus we see the love of God Many people question the love of God. They look at 'all the suffering' especially of the 'innocent' or the 'righteous', and they cannot see that God can possibly be loving. In Jesus Christ those accusations and questions fall to the ground. In him the love of God was clearly demonstrated, not only in the way he eased our physical suffering, which we have already seen in the references from Mark, but also in that ultimate expression of love in which God the Father sent Jesus Christ, his Son, to stand in our place as our substitute to bear the punishment due to us for our sin:
John 3:16 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.'
Romans 5:8 'But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.'
Ephesians 1:6-8 ' ... to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves ... the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding ... '
Ephesians 2:7 ' ... that he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus ... '
Ephesians 3:17-19 'I pray that you ... may have the power, together will all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge ... '
1 John 3:1 'How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!' [We can only be called his children because of the cross-work of Jesus Christ].
1 John 4:9-10 'This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.'
Jesus Christ is God's final affirmation of his love for us. Nothing can surpass this demonstration. If a person can look here, at this Christ on this cross, and not see the love of God, that person will never see it anywhere.
Task #2C [Note from Where God Has Me: if studying individually, consider writing your thoughts in a journal, notebook, or on a piece of paper]: This task is very sensitive and personal. Guide the group into a true and deep appreciation of the love of God revealed in the coming and dying of Jesus Christ. Everyone in the group should be touched here in the very core of their being, overwhelmed by the sheer immensity and liberality of God's love.
B. JESUS CHRIST = THE TRUTH ABOUT MAN
The life of Jesus Christ reveals the true nature of 'man'.
When we look at Jesus Christ not only do we see God, we also see the only authentic man. Here in Jesus is human life lived as it was created to be lived. Here, in Jesus, we see the full meaning of man made in the image of God: a human life lived in complete and willing dependence on God, in complete and willing conformity to God's Word, and expressing completely the nature of God - fulfilling the God-ordained role and destiny of every man - to reflect (to image) God - the role and destiny that gives to man his unique identity.
This authentic man so loves God that he is committed to glorifying God [John 17:4; Hebrews 2:12-13].
This authentic man lives in dependence on the Word of God [Matthew 4:4; John 4:32-34].
This authentic man's heart and mind are in sync with the mind of God [Hebrews 10:7-9].
This authentic man is subject to the Word of God [Matthew 3:15; 4:7,10; Luke 22:37; 24:44-46; John 15:25].
This authentic man, the man totally fulfilling his God-given role, is without sin [Luke 23:4; John 8:46; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22].
[Much more could be added here - e.g. Jesus shows us how the true man loves, Jesus shows us how the true man prays, Jesus show us how the true man relates to persecution, etc, etc.]
Jesus of Nazareth lived the only really human life. The rest of mankind since Genesis 3 have been trying to live as humans outside the criteria set by our Creator, which is, in the ultimate sense, an impossibility. We cannot be authentically human, human in the way God intended, while we are in a state of severance from, and discord with, God. Hence the inner severance and alienation and the interpersonal severance and alienation that characterizes human life as we see and experience it: we cannot live authentic human lives while we are severed and alienated from the One who gives meaning, purpose, identity and dignity to human life.
Task #3 [Note from Where God Has Me: refer to worksheet for this task; while this can be used as a challenge for a group study, individuals may consider giving themselves a challenge as well]:This task can be turned into a challenge to the group members to strive to 'follow' Jesus, the authentic, or true, man.
C. JESUS CHRIST REVEALS THE TRUTH ABOUT SIN AND JUDGEMENT
C.1 The teaching and attitude of Jesus Christ expose the true nature of our sin. Sin is something we need to be saved from [Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10]
He commanded people not to sin any more [John 5:14]
He knew that everyone is a sinner [John 8:7-8]
He sees sin as an enslaving power [John 8:34-35]
Forgiveness of sins is a cause for joy [Matthew 9:2]
To die 'in your sins' is the fate of those who do not believe in him [John 8:24]
Our sins involve us in an immeasurable and unpayable debt [Matthew 18:21-35]
The foundational and ultimate sin is the rejection of God [Mark 3:28-29; John 15:24; 16:9].
C.2 The death of Jesus Christ on the cross shouts out the truth about the horrific consequences of sin, and what God thinks about sin [Note: The death of Christ will be more in focus in later studies.]
When we look at the death of Christ we know: this is how wrong sin is; this is how much God hates sin; this is the penalty for sin that hangs over each one us. No one looking at the cross of Christ can ever again think that sin is okay. If someone claims to believe in Christ and at the same time also thinks that it doesn't matter if they sin, they do not really know Christ, they do not really know the truth revealed in his cross: that God hates sin with a terrible hatred, that sin has horrific effects, and that God's just judgement on sin is extreme. No one really seeing Christ in the act of dying for their sin can flippantly say to him, 'Oh, you're paying for my sin, Jesus. Great! No I can go and ... ' To do so is to act in a way that is incongruent with the truth and ignorant of the truth, and to demonstrate that one is a stranger to the truth. It is to live in the arena of Satan's lie.
Jesus in his dying reveals the truth: this is what sin does. This is what God thinks of sin.
Task #4 [Note from Where God Has Me: refer to the worksheet for this task, this is designed for those working as a group; however the task may be completed by those studying individually as well]: After you have communicated the content of this section, get the group to discuss the impact of this for their lives, and to fill in the box with their own personal response. Again this is a very powerful and sensitive truth, and if it fails to impact someone they certainly need some pastoral care and/or discipling! Again, this section is a challenge to the group members to be determined in their hatred of sin.
Study four: Jesus Christ-the only door [To truly know God in Christ is to have eternal life - John 5:24; 17:3; 20:31; 1 John 5:12,20]
INTRODUCTION: Whenever Jesus used the image of 'the door' it was in the context of false teaching and false perceptions: he used the image of the door or gate to teach that there is a narrow and exclusive entry point into the presence of God. By this image he passes judgement on all the religions and ideologies of men, on all those who preach and teach some other entry point into life with God, and on all those who have allowed themselves to be deceived by either [of] these false teachings and by the deceptive perceptions of their own deceitful and ego-centric hearts. There is in all of Christ's references to the door an urgent and powerful warning that we do not allow ourselves to be deceived. [Note that 'door' and 'gate' are the same word in the Greek text.] This image of Jesus Christ as the one and only door, standing in contrast and opposition to all other supposed doors, is the necessary and obvious companion truth to the two images we have already studied: Jesus as the Light of the world, and Jesus as the Truth.
A. THE DOOR/GATEIN MATTHEW 7. 'Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.' [Matthew 7:13,14].
Task #1:[...] analyze Matthew 7 and identify the need for discernment and the significance of each point of this need for our lives. This can be done before, concurrently with, or after presentation of the material below. [...] be careful that the last point in this task is not interpreted legalistically.
Putting this statement in its context in Matthew 7:
A.1 Matthew 7:1-5: The plank in your eye. When we compare this passage with its parallel passage in Luke 6:39-42 it is clear that Jesus is talking about our inability to see the truth, and not, as commonly assumed, about some sin in our lives. He introduces the Luke passage by saying: 'Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?'
The 'plank in your eye' is the great host of erroneous perceptions that we have inherited, been taught, learned or invented that blind us and prevent us from seeing the true truth. To see the truth, and thus be qualified to help another see the truth we must first recognize and jettison our own horde of error.
A.2 Matthew 7:6: The sacred trampled underfoot. In the light of the command in verse 1 not to judge, this is an extraordinary and enigmatic statement (indeed the bulk of the chapter emphasises the urgent necessity for judgement). The 'sacred' and the 'pearls' are certainly references to God's truth - to the genuine Christian gospel. The rest of this statement commands us to exercise discernment concerning whom we give this message to - because there are those who will destroy both the message and the messenger. [We see this discernment exercised by Jesus (Mark 4:9-12; Luke 23:8-9) and Paul (Acts 13:46-51; 18:5-7)].
We need to recognize that there are people who are so enslaved and deceived by their own erroneous perceptions that their only intention on hearing the true message is to destroy it. It is not without significance that Jesus, the loving and compassionate Saviour who came to seek and save, identifies these people as 'dogs' (not family pets, but pariah type dogs) and 'pigs'.
A.3 Matthew 7:7-11: Asking, seeking, knocking ...In the parallel passage in Luke 11:9-13 Jesus concludes by saying 'how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!' With this in mind it is clear that, while Jesus here teaches us something that is true about prayer generally, in the context here he has in mind asking God for knowledge of his truth, for the Holy Spirit is the 'Spirit of truth' who teaches us all things about Jesus Christ [John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13]. Here, in Matthew 7, where everything else is focused on discerning the difference between truth and error, Jesus says 'Ask ... and the Father will give.' We are reminded here, by the continuity of asking, seeking and knocking indicated by the present continuous tense, of those Old Testament verses in which persistent seeking the Lord [as opposed to going after false gods] has its reward:
'if ... you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul' [Deuteronomy 4:29]
'In their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them' [2 Chronicles 15:4]
'Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. [Isaiah 55:6,7]
'You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart' [Jeremiah 29:13].
A.4 Matthew 7:15: Wolves in sheep's clothing. A clear call to acute discernment: here the false teachers/false believers are in the very midst of God's 'flock', actually so subtle and deceptive that they look like his sheep. Here again the destructive nature of false teaching/error is identified - the false prophets are 'ravening wolves'. The verses following indicate that false teachers can be recognized by 'their fruit'.
A.5 Matthew 7:16-20: Good trees and bad trees. A further statement making a distinction between truth and error and the teachers/adherents of both, in which their 'fruit' is that which identifies them. No indication is given as to what this 'fruit' is, other than that it is either 'good' or 'bad'.
A.6 Matthew 7:21-23: Not everyone who says ... 'Lord, Lord' ... Here Jesus states that there are many people who address him as 'Lord', and who are engaged in 'Christian' activities - preaching in his name, driving out demons in his name, and performing many miracles - and yet he does not know them. He calls them 'evil doers' and says they will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. The following verses indicate that these people had never really put the words of Jesus into practice.
[We can gain insight here from John 2:23-25 where many people 'believed in his name' when they saw his miracles, but Jesus did not believe (same word in the Greek) in them for he knew what was in their hearts. What appears to our human perspective to be believing or following Jesus is not all that meets the eye - Jesus knows who is really following him.]
In these verses Jesus identifies the 'fruit' that is the expression of true faith and the necessary companion of it: doing the will of his Father who is in heaven. To really acknowledge Jesus as 'Lord' and to live contrary to his teaching are incompatible. The life denies the integrity of the confession. [This not doing the will of the Father, as well as including a lifestyle of straight disobedience to straight commands, also includes the whole mentality of life that is contrary to the mind of God as revealed in Jesus Christ - including any man-centred, performance based mentality such as that evidenced by the rejected people here in Matthew 7:21-23.]
A.7 Matthew 7:24-27: The two foundations. The lives of false believers and false teachers are not built on the foundation of the teaching of Jesus Christ; these people may have heard it, but they have not put it into practice. Only lives built on that foundation stand. The words of Jesus contain much more than commandments to be obeyed; his commandments are set in the context of his teaching about his identity as the Son of God who reveals the truth about God and as the Saviour who came to seek, ransom, save and forgive the lost - not on the basis of their religious resume, but on the basis of God's mercy [Luke 18:9-14; compare Philippians 3:1-11]. This passage stands as a severe and terrible warning to all of us to make sure that our lives are grounded firmly in, and demonstrating the truth of, the teaching of Jesus Christ.
Conclusion: In the light of the context, when Jesus says 'Enter through the narrow gate ... small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it' he is speaking of the exclusiveness of the truth. The truth rules out all error. The truth disqualifies all that is not the truth. It is absolute. It cannot be distorted or diluted or diminished and remain the truth. Here the warning stands: don't try to get to God by any other 'door' or 'gate' no matter how many people use them: any other supposed 'truth' that claims to lead us to God and to salvation (and that is what all false religion does in one way or another) will only lead to destruction. Learn to discern, don't be deceived. The majority, the great crowds, are wrong.
B. THE DOOR/GATE IN MATTHEW 25:1-13 'Later the others also came. "Sir! Sir!" [KJV: Lord, Lord; Greek: kurie, kurie ] they said. "Open the door for us!" But he replied, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you." Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.' [v.11-13]
Although there is no mention of false teachers in this passage it is certainly dealing with deceptive and false perceptions, with a group of people, who right up to the last hour were not noticeably different from genuine believers, but who have deceived themselves into thinking they are okay and that they can enter the kingdom on their own terms and at their own time. As in Matthew 7:23 Jesus, here called 'the bridegroom', states that he has no knowledge of these people. When they come to the door they are not recognized. They had a form of belief - they expected that the Bridegroom would come, and they fully expected to be let in to the banquet; sadly, their knowledge and their expectation were not significant enough to impact either their mindset (they were 'foolish', 'blockheads' - the same word as in Matthew 7:26 - from which our English 'moron' comes) or their lifestyle (they took no trouble to prepare themselves); they were not ready when he came: they did not go in with him [verse 10] therefore they could not go in at all. Clearly they had no real relationship with him.
Task #2 [Note from Where God Has Me: refer to worksheet for this task]: The specific answer here is that the bridegroom did not know them. The relevance is that those who know and are known by the Bridegroom are ready to go in with him when he comes. The meaning of this readiness will become clear in later studies. Don't let a legalistic meaning be read into it here.
C. THE DOOR/GATE IN LUKE 13:23-30 'Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, "Sir, open the door for us." But he will answer, "I don't know you or where you come from." Then you will say, "We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets," But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!" There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all of the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out ... '
Again we have people living out their lives with a false perception of a secure relationship with God. Here again we learn of a door that is both exclusive and limiting. Here again is the damning indictment twice stated: 'I don't know you or where you come from.' Here, particularly, there are Jews - they recognize the patriarchs - fully expecting to enter the kingdom of heaven, on the basis of their perceptions of what the criteria for entrance are, yet they are excluded, and people from the four corners of the universe - Gentiles who had no knowledge of the law and all its requirements - gain entrance.
Task #3 [Note from Where God Has Me: if working individually, consider completing this task by writing your thoughts in a journal, notebook, or on a piece of paper]: Guide the discussion of the similarities between this passage and the two previous as listed in the Student Guide. Help the group to work out the implications of these passages for their lives. Here is an opportunity for any who are false believers - including nominal Christians and those relating to God on the basis of their own credentials - to realize it and to come to a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.
D. THE DOOR/GATE IN JOHN 10:1-11 In this passage Jesus comes straight out and identifies himself as the door/gate. He is both the entry point, and the deciding factor, in regards to entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Through a variety of images all relating to sheep, shepherds and sheepfolds, Jesus here teaches us:
D.1 The man who does not enter ... by the gate ... is a thief and a robber.
[This statement continues on from Chapter 9 (as indicated by the reference in verse 21 to the healing of the blind man). There we read of the vehement opposition of the Pharisees to Jesus and to any one who acknowledged him as the Christ; we read also of Jesus' back-handed identification of those Pharisees as 'blind' even though they thought that they could see.]
Jesus' statements flowing on here are directed towards the Pharisees as the 'thieves and robbers'. He says of them:
they try to enter the kingdom of heaven by some way other than the door
the 'sheep' who belong to the true shepherd will never follow them, in fact they will run away from them.
These teachers and practisers of error are contrasted with the 'shepherd of the sheep' who
enters through the gate,
is heard, recognized, listened to and followed by the sheep,
knows and calls his sheep by name,
calls, leads, brings out and goes ahead of his sheep.
D.2 Jesus is the gate/door for the sheep Here the image changes. Jesus, whom we know is the shepherd of whom he has just been speaking, suddenly says 'I am the gate for the sheep.' In the previous verses the image was of a sheepfold that has an actual door, which is open and shut by the watchman or doorkeeper, letting the real shepherd in and out. Now Jesus moves to a sheepfold which has only a doorway - a space in its wall in which the shepherd himself lay, becoming himself the door, keeping the sheep in and keeping out the wolves, lions, thieves and robbers. The 'door' is the shepherd: the shepherd is the 'door'.
With this image Jesus teaches:
he is the one and only real door/gate [sheep folds had only one door],
all other supposed 'doors' are 'thieves and robbers' - whose purpose is to steal, kill and destroy [Note: this is Christ's indictment against all the religions and ideas of men],
whoever enters through him will be saved - clearly teaching that apart from entering through him we are not saved,
those who enter through him are both free and satisfied.
D.3 Jesus the good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep In 10:11-18 and 10:25-30 Jesus expands on the image of himself as the Good Shepherd. Two points in these passages are relevant to our study on Jesus as the Door. Both of these relate to the fact that we have already noted that the Shepherd is the Door: that the shepherd himself lays down in the doorway and he himself is the sheep's security and protection. Consider:
five times in 10:11-18 Jesus says that he, the good Shepherd, the one who owns the sheep, lays down his life for his sheep. As the door, that is exactly what the shepherd did: although, unlike Jesus he did not deliberately choose death, he did lay down in the doorway, putting his life on the line for the well-being of the flock. Jesus Christ is the Shepherd/Door. He deliberately gave his life for his sheep. We must keep this aspect in our minds when we consider Jesus as the Door.
The sheep belonging to this Good Shepherd are totally secure [10:18, 27-30] because of the authority [10:18], power [10:28-29] and identity [10:29-30] of the Shepherd who is also the Door.
All of this is set in contrast to those with false perceptions/teaching, who in this chapter are variously identified as thieves, robbers, hired hands, and 'not my sheep'.
Task #4 [Note from Where God Has Me: if working individually, consider completing this task by writing your thoughts in a journal, notebook, or on a piece of paper]: Lead the group through the discussion of the contrast that Jesus Christ tells us about in this passage: the contrast between himself and all false perceptions and religions. Note particularly that his intention is fullness of life for his sheep; their intention is death and destruction.
E. WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF JESUS THE DOOR/GATE?
The exclusion of all other supposed points of entry.
The urgent necessity of making sure we have entered through this door.
The urgent necessity of recognizing the difference between the narrow gate and the wide one.
The absolute and permanent security and confidence of all who have really entered through this door.
The recognition that our mindset will demonstrate whether or not we have entered through the one and only door.
The acknowledgement that our lifestyle will validate or invalidate our claim to have enter through the one and only door.
Task #5 [Note from Where God Has Me: if working individually, consider completing this task by writing your thoughts in a journal, notebook, or on a piece of paper; worksheet/Student Guide may be found at: www.godswordforyou.com]: Guide the group in discussing the significance of these implications to the attitudes listed in the Student Guide. [None of the listed attitudes can stand in the face of the fact that Jesus is the Door.]
study five: the way back to god
A. EXILED BY GOD'S DECREE The Old Testament teaches us that man by his sin has been separated from God and sent away from life in God's presence, banned, outlawed, exiled.
A.1 Driven out by God and barred from the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24: 'And the Lord God said: "Man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden ... After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.'
As we have already seen in Study 1: What are we here for? and as we will see later in this study series, real 'life' is life in union with God. To be cut off from God, to be banned from his presence, is to cease to live. Here, resulting from our rejection of God as he really is, this Genesis 3 real and physical banishment from the Garden of Eden is also the equally real spiritual banishment from life with God. God's judgement fell on us in Genesis 3 and we live out our lives under that judgement - severed and exiled from him who is our life.
A.2 Barred from the symbolic presence of God in the Tabernacle/Temple
Exodus 26:31-33: 'Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman. ... place the ark of the Testimony behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.'
Leviticus 16:2: 'Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.'
The Most Holy Place in the tabernacle and the temple was the symbolic presence of God. It was a place no one was permitted to enter, except the High Priest once a year of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), and even then strict requirements had to be observed or death would ensue. A great thick curtain kept everyone out; on this curtain were embroidered golden cherubim, barring the way to the presence of God.
A.3 Disqualified from living in the presence of God
~Psalm 15:1: 'Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous ... .'
~Psalm 24:3-4: 'Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart who does not lift up his soul to an idol ... '
Behind the symbolism of 'your sanctuary', 'your holy hill', 'the hill of the Lord' and 'his holy place', referring to Mt Zion in Jerusalem where the true worship of God was supposed to take place, these Psalms are asking 'Who is qualified to enter God's presence and survive? Who is qualified to enter God's presence, behold his glory, and live?' Their answer is that only the holy can stand in God's presence, only the pure are qualified, only the blameless and the righteous. By this statement everyone is excluded and disqualified. In ourselves, with our own puny, distorted and diminished perceptions of what is blameless, righteous, pure and holy, and our own feeble efforts to achieve even that minimal standard, we simply fall short of God's perfect standard [Romans 3:23]. As God told Moses generations earlier: 'no one can see me and live' [Exodus 33:20].
A.4 Separated from God by our sins so that he hides his face from us and will not hear us
Isaiah 59:2: ' ... your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.'
These words were spoken to the people of Israel, who, like Adam and Eve, had rejected God as he really is, and had substituted idols in his place. The foundational sin of rejection of God is the source that spews out all other sin and all other sins. They are but varied expressions of this one sin of idolatry - of putting our own concept of 'god' in the place of the One who alone is the true God. Sin separates man from God. Sin makes him hide his face from man. Sin makes him deliberately choose not to hear us. [It is an instructive exercise to read the Bible through and list all the references to this substitution of idols and/or occultish entities in the place of God. It is a theme that runs right through the Scripture, culminating in God's ultimate self-revelation in Jesus Christ his Son and man's rejection of him as he stood face to face before us. It is into this context of rejection of the one true God that Jesus came - God's final Word: man's final chance.]
A.5 The New Testament also states beyond doubt this alienation from God:
Task #1 [Note from Where God Has Me: this task can be completed individually as well]: Get the group to look up the verses and write out the words in the verse or passage which refer to the alienation, separation, exile, banishment or disqualification of man from the presence of God and/or life with God.
[They are identifieded below].
Luke 15:32 ' ... he was dead and I alive again; he was lost and is found'
Luke 19:10 'the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.'
John 3:3,5 ' ... cannot enter the kingdom of God'
Romans 1:24,26,28 'God gave them over ... '
Romans 5:10 'when we were God's enemies'
Romans 5:17 ' ... by the trespass of one man death reigned.'
Ephesians 2:1(5) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins ... ;
Ephesians 2:13 ' ... you who once were far away ...
Ephesians 4:18 'they are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God ... '
Colossians 1:21 'Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds ... '
Task #2 [Note from Where God Has Me: if studying as an individual, consider writing your thoughts down in a journal, notebook, or on a piece of paper]: Get the group to discuss the different ideas that men have thought up as ways to find reunion with 'god' and acceptance with 'god'. As we saw in the first study, man created his own gods to replace the One he had rejected and from whose presence he was exiled. Man also set up his own 'ways' of seeking acceptance by whatever 'god' he thinks is there. Even those who, like the Jews of Jesus' day, sincerely believe they are worshipping God, have their own perceptions of how a person gets back to 'god'. You may have to help the group to identify such things as - keeping the law, doing good deeds, keeping the ten commandments, following the example of Jesus, sacrifices, offerings to gods, performing rituals, keeping special days, meditation, rote prayers, belonging to a particular group or organization, submitting to initiation rites, maintaining traditions, mystical experiences, ecstatic experiences, out-of-body experiences, occult practices, deliberate poverty, self-abasement, asceticism, giving of alms (charity), and so on. If you wish you may decide to identify which groups teach which requirements.
Draw the attention of the group to the fact that all of these supposed ways back to God are something that man has to do. They are all in the realm of human performance.
B. JESUS CHRIST - THE WAY BACK TO THE ONE TRUE GOD We have seen already that mankind has abandoned and lost knowledge of the one true God. From the first rejection of God in Genesis 3 right up to this present moment, man has conceived and made for himself gods of his own imagining and gods of his own fabrication. We have seen that this loss of the knowledge of the one true God, this loss of God, is the primary significance of our lostness. Our present and continuing sin is the expression and the result of this primary lostness.
We have already seen Jesus Christ identifies the one true God. He stands before us [and] says: If you see me you see God; if you know me you know God. He renders all other god concepts false and redundant. In this way, and it is first significant way without which the second is meaningless, Jesus is the Way. This is the primary significance of the John 14:6 statement taken in its context. Jesus, in his person, in his identity, in his essential being, is the Way to know the one true God, because he, Jesus, is God. Here we are called and challenged to return to the one true God whom we rejected in Genesis 3.
C. JESUS CHRIST - THE ONEWAY TO BE REUNITED WITH THE ONE TRUE GOD
Yet it is not enough to see the one true God in seeing Jesus, it is not enough to know that this is God. For immediately we know that here in this Jesus we are standing in the presence of God Almighty, that here we are face to face with him the seraphim adore with their 'Holy, holy, holy' - immediately we know this, we also know that we are sinners, severed from him forever by our sin, condemned to eternal separation from him who is the very source of our life, and on whom we are dependent for our every breath. It is not enough just to see him, just to recognize him.
That is why Paul says in Ephesians that God has lavished his grace on us 'with all wisdom and understanding'. He knows that we need to be saved from more than our ignorance of him; we need to be saved from our sin and its condemnation as well. He needs to provide us not just with the way to know him, but also with the way to be reunited with him. Thus Jesus comes to us, not just to glorify the Father and reveal him to us, but also, having shown us who he is, to then do what was necessary to qualify us to come back into his presence. It is in this respect that we will look at Jesus in this study: Jesus - our way back into a permanent, positive relationship with the one true God.
C.1 The critical question: how can sinful man live in the presence of the holy God?
This is a question about the way: In what way, by what means or method, that is, how, can we enter God's presence and survive? We have already looked at our utter banishment and disqualification from God and life. We have considered ways that men have tried to get back to 'god', ways that all focus on our own actions or performance. We have seen that the criteria for entry into God's presence are beyond us. So we are faced with an impossible quest. We are disqualified, and we have no means of meeting the criteria for qualification.
Into this hopeless, impotent, impossible situation God sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world, to provide for us a permanent and effective way back through every barrier and impediment into the very presence of God.
C.2 Jesus Christ: the way past/through the sin-barrier between man and God We saw above in Genesis 3 and Exodus 26 that because of sin there is a barrier barring the way to the presence of God. In the tabernacle and temple this barrier was effectively symbolised by the physical barrier of the curtain or veil, with its golden cherubim a reminder of the Genesis 3 cherubim.
The Gospels tell us that at the very moment Christ died on the cross this curtain, which barred the access of man into the symbolic presence of God, was torn in two from top to bottom [Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45]. This rending of the curtain indicates that [the] death of Jesus removed the sin barrier once and for all, setting us free to enter the very presence of God.
This removal, this lifting away of the barrier, is a key significance of the word for 'forgiveness' most frequently used in the New Testament: aphiemi (verb) aphesis (noun). This word is formed from apo (away) and hiemi (I send). It speaks of release. The death of Jesus Christ, in which he bore our sin, took the sin-barrier up and out of the way, setting us free to live with God. [Hence in Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14 'forgiveness of sins' is an explanation of 'redemption', which means 'freedom' achieved by the payment of a price.] The word is used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) in Leviticus 25:10 to refer to the liberty/release granted to people and/or property in bondage because of debt during the Year of Jubilee - the Year of Freedom. This Year of Freedom symbolized the spiritual release purchased and granted by Jesus Christ:
'"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." Then he rolled up the scroll ... and he began by saying them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." ' [Luke 4:18-21].
Jesus is not speaking here on the physical plane, otherwise he would have been breaking prisoners out of the Judean and Galilean jails. Rather, he is speaking of the spiritual plane: of the release and freedom of us sinners who were held fast in exile from God's presence by the sin barrier.
C.3 The meaning of forgiveness The Lord is so keen for us to enjoy his forgiveness - to live in the liberty of this forgiveness, to live with the truth that the sin barrier has been taken away - that he has scattered images of forgiveness right through the Scriptures. Please go to the study on Forgiveness from the Words of Salvation studies on this website [www.godswordforyou.com] for input on the images of forgiveness listed below which portray the many faceted meanings of forgiveness.
God's forgiveness is an immense concept; its implications reach into our every moment. Hopefully this study will be sufficient to give you insight into the incredible unexpectedness of God's act of forgiveness, and the liberating, motivating impact this undeserved act of God has on our lives.
As you study these images remember that the promise of forgiveness is given to people with genuine faith in the Biblical God.
Forgiveness is God throwing our sins behind his back [Isaiah 38:17].
Forgiveness is God canceling our debt [Matthew 18:21-35].
Forgiveness is God nailing our sins to the cross of Christ [Colossians 2:13-14].
Forgiveness is God removing our sins from us as far as the east is from the west [Psalm 103:12]
Forgiveness is God throwing our sins into the deepest sea [Micah 7:19c].
Forgiveness is God stamping on our sins [Micah 7:19b].
Forgiveness is God washing away the record of our sins [1John 1:9; Psalm 51:1-2]. [Note to study leader: be careful here, most people have a wrong conception of what 'cleansing from sin' means'.]
Forgiveness is God covering our sins [Psalm 32:1; 85:2].
Forgiveness is God hiding his face from our sins [Psalm 51:9].
Forgiveness is God setting us free [Leviticus 25:8-54; Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:16-21]
Forgiveness is an act of God's grace [Colossians 2:13].
These then are images God gives us to ensure we understand the great thing he does when he forgives us. Rather than make us think that with a forgiveness like this it doesn't matter if we sin, this forgiveness is so overwhelming, so unexpected, so undeserved, so absolute, so costly to our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, that we, with the Psalmist, ought constantly to pray:
'If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared' (Psalm 130:3-4).
Task #3 [Note from Where God Has Me: if you are studying individually, consider completing this task by writing your thoughts down]: Have the group discuss these images of forgiveness and discover how each of these images in its own way teaches us how the death of Jesus Christ removes the sin-barrier and takes us into the presence of God. You will need to teach them here, so that they grasp the amazing nature of God's forgiveness, as not only something that God does, but also as something that they possess as a sheer gift of his grace. Even here in our understanding of forgiveness our human ego intervenes and wants to make our on-going forgiveness dependent on something we do - eg. Make an itemized list of our sins - instead of seeing forgiveness as the perpetual possession of the believer.
D. THE 'MECHANICS' OF JESUS' BREAKING THE SIN-BARRIER DOWN God is just and holy. He cannot act in contradiction of his own laws. He cannot do what is wrong. His decree of forgiveness in Christ does not mean that he has suddenly relaxed or removed his standards and his criteria. They both remain. Only the pure in heart, only the holy, can live in his presence. Sin still exiles man from his presence. The wages of sin is still death. None of that has changed. All the criteria that outlawed and barred us from life in the presence of God still stand.
How then does Jesus Christ break the sin-barrier and take us safely, securely and permanently into God's presence to live with him both now and forever?
D.1 By means of his perfect human life Although we rightly focus on the death of Jesus Christ, that death would achieve nothing if Jesus Christ had not lived a perfect life. This is because: - Only that which is perfect and without blemish can be offered as a sacrifice to God
Exodus 12:5: the Passover lamb
Leviticus 1:3,10: the burnt offering
Leviticus 3:1,6: the fellowship offering
Leviticus 4:3, 23, 28, 32: the sin offering
Leviticus 5:15,18: the guilt offering
Jesus could only take our sins and bear the punishment for them if he had no sins of his own to be punished for.
- To bear our sin as our substitute and to enter the presence of God as our great High Priest it was necessary for him to be one of us, and to have experienced real human life.
Hebrews 2:14,16,17: ' Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity ... it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.'
D.2 By means of his redeeming, sacrificial and substitutionary death The Bible teaches that the death of Jesus Christ is the effective means by which God dealt with our sins and removed the sin-barrier which exiled us from his presence by his own decree. This death of Jesus is seen as:
Concept: Ransom/ Redemption References [and] Texts: Job 19:25 'I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand the earth.' [and] Job 19:25 'I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
['This concept is rich with OT examples which are symbolic of the ultimate redemption which is in Christ. Time does not allow a study of these images. If anyone wants to study these they should do a concordance check on 'ransom', 'redeem', 'redemption', and 'redeemer'.]
[Note from Where God Has Me: "OT" is referring to Old Testament]
Isaiah 44:22 'I have swept away your offences like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.'
Isaiah 51:11 'The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.'
Matthew 20:28 'The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'
John 1:29 "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
Galatians 3:13,14 'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us so that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus ... '
Galatians 4:4,5 'God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons ... '
1 Tim. 2:6 ' ... who gave himself as a ransom for all men ... '
Titus 2:14 'Jesus Christ ... gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own ... '
1 Peter 1:18,19 'For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.'
Revelation 5:9 "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation ... "
Concept: Sacrifice [Also anticipated in OT symbols, and intimately connected with the concept of ransom/redemption] References [and] Texts: Ephesians 5:2 ' ... just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.'
Hebrews 7:27 'He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.'
Hebrews 9:14 'How much more, then will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death ... '
Hebrews 9:26,28 ' ... Christ ... has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself ... so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people ... '
Hebrews 10:10,12,14 ' ... we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all ... when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God . ... by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy ... '
Context: Substitution [ In each of these references the word translated 'for' is huper, which means: in place of, instead of, on behalf of. The concept of substitution is imbedded in the OT sacrifices in which the sacrificial animal was killed in place of the offerer.] References [and] Texts: Romans 5:6 ' ... just at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.'
Romans 5:8 'God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.'
Romans 8:32 'He ... did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all ... '
1 Cor 5:7 KJV 'Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.'
2 Cor 5:14 ' ... we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. '
2 Cor 5:21 'God made him who had no sin to be sin for us ... '
Galatians 3:13 'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us ... '
Eph 5:2 ' ... Christ ... gave himself up for us ... '
1 Thess 5:10 'He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.'
Titus 2:14 'Jesus Christ ... gave himself for us ... '
1 Peter 2:21 ' ... Christ ... suffered for you ... '
1 Peter 3:18 'Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. '
1 Peter 4:1 KJV ' ... Christ has suffered for us in the flesh ... '
1 John 3:16 ' ... Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.'
Task #4 [Note from Where God Has Me: this task can also be done individually; simply write your thoughts in a journal, notebook, or on a piece of paper]: Look up the above verses in their context and discuss what the context teaches about the implication of these truths for our permanent reconnection with God, and the way we should relate God and others.
D.3 By means of his resurrection The resurrection is of critical significance for the breaking of the sin-barrier and our reconnection with God. It does three things:
It validates all that Jesus claimed about himself. Without the resurrection his claims to be the Son of God, and therefore God, are proved false, and the Jews were right in their determination to kill him for the sin of blasphemy. Romans 1:4 states that he was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.
It proves and guarantees that he had the authority to pay for our sins because he had none of his own incurring condemnation and death. Had he stayed dead, he would obviously be justly dying the death penalty for his own sins. [Acts 2:24-32; Romans 4:24; 1 Peter 1:3]
It guarantees our present possession of eternal life (life in the presence of God), and our future bodily resurrection. [This will be a focus in a later study.]
D.4 By means of his ascension to the right hand of God [the current/continuing cause] Jesus enters the presence of God as our Great High Priest, who offered the ultimate and final sacrifice for our sin. He is in God's presence, at his right hand, not only as the rightful Lord of all to whom all honour and glory is due, but as our perfect representative - his presence there is our guarantee that we also are there right now, in him, in the presence of God. His presence there is our permanent access. He intercedes as our Mediator - not in constantly repeated pleas for God to show mercy to us, but as our permanent Mediator in whom, and only in whom, we have access to God in prayer, in worship, in everything. [Hebrews 6:19,20; 9:24; 10:19-23.]
There is no task relating to these last two points. If you wish you could challenge the group to think through  the implications of denial of the resurrection (which is common in churches with liberal theology), and  the implications of the common misconception that Jesus is in God's presence verbally and repeatedly begging the Father to forgive us, rather than Christ being present there as our perfect, constant Mediator and representative so effectively that God only, always and ever sees us in Christ.
study six: Jesus- our righteousness
INTRODUCTION: We have already seen in previous studies that man substitutes
false gods in the place of the one true God
error in the place of truth
human performance in the place of God's free gift of salvation.
Our study this week zeros in on the third of these. Here we come face to face with a fundamental human religious error: that man must and can gain and maintain his salvation by his own performance. In this universal error we seek to defend, preserve and justify ourselves by our own merit. We humans are obsessed with justifying ourselves. We defend our own rightness and excuse our lack of it. We hate to be considered in the wrong. We treasure our lists of 'brownie points', thinking that by them we merit acceptance and reward, and we minimize and deny our demerits, believing that by them we are disqualified and condemned. We automatically relate to God, our Judge, on a good works/performance basis. The Bible rejects this mindset as the way of the flesh, our way, as opposed to the way of the Spirit, God's way.
In this study our focus will be on the legal aspect of our relationship with God, the Judge of all the earth. Here we face the question: how can we, who are sinners, find acquittal in the presence of the ultimate and eternal Judge? This legal aspect is at the very centre of Biblical teaching about salvation, and is intimately bound up with the ransom/redemption, sacrifice and substitution aspects that we studied last week.
Task #1 [Note from Where God Has Me: refer to the worksheet for this task]: These verses identify Jesus Christ, the Lord, as our righteousness, the One in and through whom we are justified - as opposed to any thought that we have to gain and maintain our own righteousness. Task #2 [Note from Where God Has Me: refer to the worksheet for this task]: Knowing that Hebrew poetry is expressed in parallel thoughts teaches us that in these verses 'salvation' and 'righteousness' are one and the same thing. 'Righteousness' is not something we do or achieve, but the gift of God; it is his gift of salvation. These verses are listed here to press this point home to the group. Historical note: Martin Luther hated the concept of God's righteousness as long as he thought it was something God demanded of him. As soon as he realised that is was God's gift it became a thing of great joy.
A. THE BIBLICAL CONCEPT OF 'RIGHTEOUSNESS 'The Bible contains a group of words, sharing a common Greek root - dikaiosune, dikaioo, dikaios - which translate variously as 'to declare righteous', 'righteousness', 'to justify', 'justification', 'justice' and 'just'. Their primary application is legal, not moral. They are the language of the law courts; in the Bible they describe our legal standing in the presence of God. The person who is dikaios is the person who has received from the Judge the declaration of legal acquittal from all guilt.
B. 'RIGHTEOUSNESS' IN ROMANS3
Task #3 [Note from Where God Has Me: this task may be completed by those studying individually as well. Simply write down your thoughts to the reading]: This task requires the group to read and discuss Romans 3:20-31 and to identify 12 powerful truths about Gospel righteousness/justification by faith in this passage. The material below is what should be learned from this passage. There are ten points below, but some contain more than one truth. [For further Bible references go to the Appendix in Studies in Romans on this website [www.godswordforyou.com].
Romans 3:20-31 explains the significance of this justification/righteousness: No one will be declared righteous (dikaiothesetai) in his sight by observing the law (3:20) No matter how we try to keep the law our performance will never obtain for us the declaration 'not guilty' in the presence of God. He cannot acquit us on the basis of our own performance because our performance always fails. Similarly 3:21 & 28 tell us that righteousness/justification (dikaiosune, dikaiousthai) is 'apart from law'and 'apart from observing the law'. In the Gospel God declares us righteous apart from our keeping the law.
It is a righteousness (dikaiosune) from God (3:21-22; 1:17). When we try to be justified/declared righteous by keeping God's law, we see justification/righteousness as having its source in ourselves. When we think that by our own performance we can/must earn it, our standing in his presence will be constantly under threat of our failure to keep God's law. There is no guarantee in such self-focused justification/righteousness. In Gospel justification/righteousness no such threat hangs over us, because it is a legal acquittal in the presence of God that depends not on us but on him. It comes from him. Because it is not relative to our performance, it is absolute and guaranteed (Romans 4:16).
It is a righteousness/justification (dikaiosune) that has been made known (3:21). Every human effort to find union and acceptance with our god or gods is performance based. World religions, false cults, our own misuse of Scripture, all testify to this. Our idea is that we, by our effort, must get ourselves right with God: Gospel righteousness/justification, cutting right across our idea, is something that God has made known. He tells us that Gospel righteousness is in fact the message of the Law and the Prophets (3:21).
Gospel righteousness/justification (dikaiosune) comes through faith in Jesus Christ (3:22). Rather than our own actions meriting the declaration of acquittal, the Bible teaches that faith in Jesus Christ, which is essentially a return to the one true God, and always a gift of God, is accompanied by the declaration that we are right with God. 'Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness' (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3; Gal. 3:6); in the same way faith in Jesus Christ brings upon us the 'blessing of Abraham' by which we are declared right with God irrespective of our performance (Romans 4:1-25; Galatians 3:1-4:7).
Gospel righteousness/justification (dikaiosune) is to all who believe. There is no difference ...(3:22). Here the Bible teaches that all who believe in Jesus Christ stand equally acquitted, equally in the right with God. There are no degrees of righteousness/justification. Because our legal standing as right in the presence of God does not depend on our performance but on his pronouncement, it is the same for all who believe. There is no difference. (See also 3:29-30)
Reinforcing this Paul wrote: 'for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' (3:23). We 'have all sinned' (past tense) and are thereby disqualified in the court of heaven; in addition we 'all fall short' (present continuous tense), and are thereby constantly disqualified in the presence of our Judge. Not one of us ever merits God's acquittal. We are all equally condemned, equally in need of this alien righteousness, all the time.
We are all 'justified (dikaioumenoi) freely by his grace' (3:24). Justification/righteousness is something we cannot earn, merit or deserve with obedience or good works. It is free. It is independent. It is absolute. It does not vary with our variability, becoming greater when we are 'good' and lesser when we are 'bad'. It is unconditional. It is fixed. All of this is because it is by God's grace. Sheer unqualified, undeserved gift. This is God's will, God's purpose, God's pleasure (Ephesians 1:5,9,11): that out of his boundless, overflowing love he gives to us that which we don't deserve, that which we could never merit or maintain by our own goodness. By this grace we are justified freely.
This declaration of justification/righteousness (dikaioumenoi) is through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (3:24-25). What Jesus did on the cross was the one thing, the only thing, necessary to enable God to acquit and declare righteous those who believe in his Son. He died as our substitute, bearing all the legal punishment and condemnation due to us because of our sin. By dying for us (in our place) Jesus Christ redeemed us (set us free) from the curse of the law which holds all of us alienated from God and accountable and unacceptable to God (Galatians 3:1-14). This action of Christ on the cross to obtain our justification/righteousness was fixed in the purpose of our God before the world began (1 Peter 1:18-20; Revelation 13:8). It is rock solid. It cannot be moved. It cannot be reduced by our failures.
Because Gospel righteousness/justification depends on the death of Jesus Christ on the cross on our behalf it demonstrates God's justice (3:25b-26) (dikaiosunes, dikaion, dikaiounta). How can God acquit the guilty and remain just? How can he accept us, whom his word condemns, and remain faithful to that word? God here teaches us that because Jesus died in our place God's just verdict on our sin has been carried out. Justice has been upheld. Our sin has been paid for, punished to the full. So complete and finished is this act of Jesus Christ in taking our place that God reckons his death to be our death (Romans 6:2-11; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Galatians 2:17-21; Colossians 2:12,20; 3:3).
Gospel righteousness/justification (dikaiousthai) excludes boasting (3:27-28). Because gospel righteousness is grounded and fixed in the action and obedience of Jesus Christ and has no relation to our actions and obedience, because it is grounded and fixed in the purpose of God, because it is by sheer undeserved, unmerited grace, it excludes and outlaws boasting. We contribute nothing. Nothing we do gains it. Nothing we do maintains it. None of us can say 'I am right with God because I....'. None of us is permitted to say 'I am more acceptable to God than you are because I ...' There can be no boasting. Every believer is acceptable in the court of heaven because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. All equally acquitted. All declared righteous.
Gospel righteousness/justification upholds God's law (3:31). Lest some respond to justification by thinking that law is redundant Paul states that, rather than nullifying the law, justification by faith upholds the law. Living, Jesus fully met the law's demand for righteousness. Dying, he fully bore the law's penalty on all unrighteousness. In both he affirmed the true significance and relevance of God's law.
Task #4 [Note from Where God Has Me: refer to the worksheet for this task. Keep in mind that the task can be completed by individuals studying on their own by simply writing your thoughts down and also by using the worksheet]: Is geared to get the group to think about this verse.
C. SINAI - CALVARY : IS THERE A CONFLICT? The last and third last points above draw our attention to God's law, raising the question of the justice and rightness of teaching that a 'not guilty' declaration is granted apart from keeping the law. Having affirmed God's justice in verse 26, Paul asks in verse 31: 'Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith?' and answers 'Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.' We could phrase this question and answer another way: Does Calvary nullify Sinai? Not at all: Calvary affirms the law. Calvary is the anticipated and God-planned fulfilment and goal of Sinai. Sinai always had Calvary in mind.
C.1 What does Sinai teach?
Preliminary Notes:  the Sinai covenant is much more than the Ten Commandments. It is recorded in Exodus 20-23 and 25-31; and reaffirmed in Deuteronomy. The sacrificial, ceremonial and ritual regulations of Numbers and Leviticus flow out from the Sinai covenant. Hence, the five books of Moses - Genesis to Deuteronomy are commonly known as 'The Law'.
 We must also realize that the Sinai covenant, although expressing the facts far more comprehensively and extensively, is essentially no different from the relationship already in place between God and sinful man. Genesis 2:17 warned how it would be: disobedience would bring death (=separation from God and life), as its result and punishment, and as it turned out in Genesis 3. We see this law of sin and death/punishment in operation in Genesis 3 (Adam and Eve), 4 (Cain), 6-9 (the flood) and 11 (the tower of Babel).
Among Sinai's more significant teachings we can identify:
Full obedience to God and the Sinai covenant as a prerequisite to a right relationship with God [Exodus 19:5-6].
God is so holy and we are so unholy that no one can approach him and live [Exodus 19:10-24]
Sin incurs a penalty/punishment .
We also find that Sinai includes certain provisions or 'concessions':
To avoid sin's penalty/punishment, atonement for sin is necessary
Only the death of a perfect substitute can atone for sin
A God-appointed Mediator is necessary between man and God
C.2 What does the New Testament teach about the Sinai Covenant, or 'the Law'?
Concept: Immutability of the Law Reference [and] Text: Matthew 5:18- ' ... until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.'
Concept:Jesus came to fulfil the law Reference [and] Text:Matthew 5:17- 'Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.'
Concept: Jesus upheld the law References [and] Texts: Matt 22:36-40- 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' Jesus replied 'Love the Lord your God ... Love your neighbour ... All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.'
Luke 10:26-28- 'What is written in the Law' ... 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart ... Love your neighbour as yourself.' ... 'Do this and you will live.'
~ As a basis for relating to God the Law must be kept in its entirety; keeping one part or most parts is not enough.
Romans 2:25-'Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised.'
Romans 10:5-'Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them."' [Gal. 3:12]
Galatians 3:10-'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law.'
Galatians 5:3-' ... I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.'
James 2:10-'Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.'
~ The Law exposes our sin and guilt
Romans 3:19- 'we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.'
Romans 3:20- ' ... through the law we become conscious of sin.'
Romans 5:20- 'The law was added so that the trespass might increase.'
Romans 7:7- 'I would not have know what sin was except through the law ... '
~The law was never meant to be used to justify us or identify our goodness
Romans 3:20- ' ... no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.'
Romans 9:31,32- 'but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.' Galatians 3:21- ' ... if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.'
Hebrews 7:19- ' ... the law made nothing perfect ... '
~Interim nature and purpose of the Law
Galatians 3:19 'It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.'
Galatians 3:23 ' ... we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.'
Galatians 3:24,25 'the law was put in charge of us to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.'
C.3 How are we justified [ = declared righteous = declared 'not guilty'] through Jesus Christ?
We are justified, declared righteous, declared 'not guilty' through Jesus Christ because he fully met the requirements of the Sinai Covenant on our behalf:
He fully obeyed 100% of the law 100% of the time. Without this perfect life he would not have been able to bear the punishment for our sins, for he would have had to be punished for his own.
He bore the total punishment for our sins required by the law.
We are justified apart from our keeping the law but not in disregard of the law. We are justified, declared righteous, acquitted, because the law has been fully kept both positively in its commands, and negatively in its punishment. Jesus Christ fully met all the requirements of the law on our behalf. We could rightly say: we are saved by the 100% keeping of the law, but it is Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who kept it, not us.
Thus, in Jesus Christ, both the justice of God, and his law, are upheld. Jesus Christ in his life and his death confirmed and upheld the law, and the true purpose of the law. It's goal was never intended to be a check list by which we tick off our own qualifications: rather it's immediate intention was to identify us as sinners, and to identify our sins; it's ultimate goal and purpose was to lead us and drive us to Jesus Christ, so that we would find our qualification in him.
God's purpose for the law was to drive us out of our ego-centric independence back into dependence on God. [We on the other hand, in our self-centred passion for independence and significance, see the law as our means of gaining/manipulating God's approval.]
C. 4 In addition, not only has Jesus Christ kept the Sinai law in these two respects, he is also the true meaning and the fulfilment or goal of the Sinai law in its 'concessions': its symbolic, prophetic anticipation of his and his work in ritual and ceremony:
He is the one perfect substitute qualified to atone for sin, anticipated by the sacrificial beasts.
His death for our sin is the one real, ultimate and final sacrifice for sin, from which all previous sacrifices took their power, and by which any subsequent sacrifices are made redundant [Heb 7:27; 9:26-28; 10:12].
He is the one perfect ultimate and final High Priest qualified to enter the presence of God on our behalf, anticipated by the High Priests of Israel [Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16; 7:18-28].
Jesus Christ, the great and final High Priest, bearing his own great and ultimate sacrifice for sins, enters not into the symbolic presence of God in the Most Holy Place in the temple, but into the very presence of God once and for all [Hebrews 8:1-3; 9:11].
Through the death/blood of Jesus Christ our perfect substitutionary sacrifice at Calvary by which all of our sins are wiped off our slate, and through his perfect High Priestly representation of us in the actual presence of God, those who believe in him now possess, (which were impossible under Sinai):
permanent and guaranteed justification/righteousness/acquittal/not guilty declaration. [Romans 4:13-14; Hebrews 9:15,26;]
permanent access into God's presence through Jesus Christ our great High Priest and through his blood [Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:24,28; 10:19-23]
permanent relief from a guilty conscience [Hebrews 9:9,14; 10:22]
permanent acceptance by God as perfect, holy and blameless [Hebrews 10:1-3,9-10,14; Ephesians 1:4; Colossians 1:22].
C.5 Is there then a Sinai 78 Calvary conflict? No. Not in God's perception. There is only a conflict when we, in our perceptions, see Sinai as a way of establishing our own 'righteousness' in the presence of God, when we like the Pharisees, see our supposed keeping of the law as a means of justifying ourselves and obtaining a 'not guilty' acquittal from God, the righteous Judge. Paul once lived this way, but cast such 'righteousness' aside for the perfect 'righteousness' that is offered in Jesus Christ [Philippians 3:1-11]. CONCLUSION: This then is justification/righteousness: that we stand today in the presence of God and are pronounced 'not guilty', declared 'right with God'.
It comes not from our performance, but from God's pronouncement.
It comes not from our goodness, but as a gift of God's grace.
It depends not on our doing but on Christ's dying.
It cannot fluctuate because of our fickleness and failures, but stands fast because of God's faithfulness.
It is not, and never will be, our own, but is always a gift, a declaration, given to us but alien to us, his righteousness, counted as ours, credited to us. It is not contrary to or opposed to Sinai: rather it is anticipated by Sinai and is gained for us by Jesus Christ in full and complete fulfilment of the moral, sacrificial, ritual and ceremonial teachings of Sinai. Jesus Christ, including his death at Calvary, is the real meaning of Sinai. He, the Lord, is our Righteousness.
study seven: Jesus Christ-the source of life
A. THE INTIMATE, ESSENTIAL AND UNAVOIDABLE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN JESUS CHRIST AND LIFE In John's Gospel and first letter there is a deep and intimate association between Jesus Christ and life.
Task #1 [Note from Where God Has Me: this task can be completed individually as well. Simply write your thoughts in a journal as you go through each verse]: Get the group to read and discuss the listed verses to identify the association between Jesus Christ and life, including the kind of life.
[Note from Where God Has Me: the reference scripture in the list below is listed first, and then followed by what the author has referred to as the scripture's "Significant Point"]
John 1:3,4- Context before = physical life; Context after = spiritual life.
John 3:15,16- Believing in Jesus - possessing eternal life (opposite of perishing')
John 4:10-14- Eternal life from the satisfying and life-giving 'water' given by Christ.
John 5:21-26- The Son has life in himself. He gives life to whoever he pleases. Those who believe the Father and the Son already possess eternal life, already have passed over from death to life.
John 5:39-40- Coming to Jesus means receiving the life promised in the Scriptures.
John 6:35- Permanent spiritual sustenance and satisfaction.
John 6:27-40- Eternal life the possession of all who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son
John 6:47-58- Eternal life the present possession of those who recognize God in the man Jesus.
John 6:63- Life linked to the words of Jesus.
John 7:37,38- Spiritual life [verse 39] for those who believe in Jesus Christ.
John 8:12- Life the opposite of darkness, through Jesus the light.
John 10:10- Abundant life the result of Jesus Christ's coming.
John 10:27-28- Eternal life the gift of Jesus Christ to those who follow him; it means never perishing and is secure.
John 11:25,26- Believing in Jesus causes life that transcends death.
John 12:49-50- 'Eternal life' linked to the words of Jesus.
John 14:6- Jesus identified as 'the life'; 'the life' identified as 'coming to the Father'.
John 17:2,3- Eternal life is knowing Christ and knowing God.
John 20:31- 'Life' is in the name of Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:1,2- 'Eternal life' identifies with the Son, and as the content of gospel proclamation.
1 John 5:11-13- 'Having' the Son = having eternal life.
1 John 5:20- Jesus Christ identified as 'the true God and eternal life'.
B. THE NATURE OF TRUE FAITH Task #2:[...] check out the I AM claims of Jesus Christ [including 15:1,5...], to identify the appropriate human response to these claims and their significance for our spiritual life. In the human response the Greek tenses are of extreme significance for an accurate understanding of our response. With one exception they all call for a present tense response, that is, a response that by its very nature is on-going.
Jesus made a number of significant claims in John's gospel:
With the exception of 'the gate', which of necessity can only be entered in a once-for-all, inceptive way, (as reflected in the Aorist tense, the right (and saving) human response to all of these claims is expressed in the present tense. This indicates that a genuine response/relationship to Jesus Christ is one that is on-going: it involves an essential continuity. It is not enough to be able to say that we believed in or came to Jesus at such and such a point of time; what the Bible is interested in is whether or not we believe in, are following, are coming to Jesus Christ present tense.
There is no such thing as a used-to-be Christian: if our believing/trusting is genuine today we will still be believing/trusting tomorrow. If our following today is genuine we will still be following tomorrow. If our coming to him today is genuine we will be still coming to him for our knowledge of God and our salvation tomorrow.
This is because our spiritual life is never something separate from Jesus Christ. He is the life (John 14:6); he is our life (Col 3:4;); he is life and eternal life (1 John 5:12,20). It is not that  we believe in him and  he gives us something called 'life'. Rather, in believing in him, in receiving him, that is, in acknowledging God in Christ, we are in that act of faith and repentance, brought back to life (regenerated by the Spirit of God) by being reconnected with God, the author and source of all life. The death which overtook us concurrently with, and in our act of rejection of God in Genesis 3 is here reversed: life is again ours, concurrent with, and in our act of returning to God in Jesus Christ.
We must never think that our repentance, our returning, our faith, is a meritorious action on our part which in itself gains for us the reward of life. While we see each of these, and others, as individual elements in a process of salvation, they are from God's viewpoint, all concurrent in terms of time, though sequential in terms of theological significance. Consider: The Scripture teaches that in ourselves we are:
Dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1,5; Colossians 2:13)
Powerless and unable to do anything (Romans 5:6; John 15:5)
Unable to come to Christ (John 6:44)
Unable to know the Father or the Son (Matthew 11:27)
Unable to see or enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3,5)
Obviously then, it is impossible for unsaved persons to recognize Jesus, repent, return to God or believe. Everyone is trapped in a no-win situation. If a person has done these things it is because:
God made us alive in and with Christ (Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13)
God exerted his own great power on our behalf (Romans 1:16; 5:6; 8:3)
The Father revealed the Son to us and the Son revealed the Father to us (Matthew 11:27; John 12:44-46; 14:7-9)
God put us into the kingdom (Colossians 1:13).
In addition, the Scripture teaches that:
Faith (the act of believing) is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)
Repentance is a gift of God (Acts 5:31; 2 Timothy 2:25)
Regeneration is the work of God (John 1:12; 3:1-8; 1 Peter 1:3)
Task #3: Here the group looks at the logical opposites of life in Christ either expressed or inferred in the I AM claims of Christ. Further relevant truths can be added from the teaching material above. It is important that the group understands that the opposite of abiding/remaining/dwelling in Christ is not being an inferior Christian, but being an unbeliever, as the following sections make clear.
C. JESUS CHRIST THE TRUE VINE This essential continuity and permanence of true faith, and this essential absolute dependence on God for our existence as people who live in God's presence [in contrast to being people who are spiritually dead] is further expressed in the final 'I AM' claim that is recorded in John's gospel:
John 15:1,5: [v.1] I am the true vine [v.2] The one who remains in me [Present tense] Will bear much fruit
[It is perhaps unfortunate that the English word 'remain' that is used here automatically makes us think of the possibility of not remaining - of the opposite of remaining, and that its use here makes us think that it is possible for a believer to not 'remain' in Christ, or, that there are two levels of Christians: those who 'remain' in Christ, and those who don't 'remain' in Christ.]
'Remaining' in Christ is in this verse, the equivalent of 'believing' 'following' 'coming' and 'knowing' in Christ's other claims. It is the present, continuous state of existence of the genuine believer. The Greek word, meno means to dwell, to abide, that is, to have one's 'abode'. Where is the place that the believer lives (dwells, abides)? It is always, ever and only in Christ (as Paul confidently asserts in his letters). The believer has no spiritual life apart from his union with Jesus Christ. This is clearly taught by Christ in his image of the vine. From this teaching in John 15, and then from elsewhere in John's writings, we learn the following positive facts about this faith union with Christ the source of our spiritual life. D. THE OPPOSITE OF LIFE IN THE VINE The opposite of living/remaining in Jesus Christ, the true vine, is not some inferior kind of Christian life: it is to not be a Christian at all. This is quite clear when we look at John's use of the concept of 'remaining'. From all of the above in context we understand that if a person does not have their place of spiritual residence or life in Christ (who in John 15 is the Vine) with its essential flipside of Christ dwelling in them, then:
They to do not believe in Christ
They [do] not have eternal life
They are not really Christ's disciples
They do not belong to God's family
They have not acknowledged that Jesus is the Son of God
They do not have God
They do not have the Spirit of God
Their life reflects a rejection of the words and teaching of Christ
Their life reflects that they are strangers to the love of Christ.
E. 'FRUIT' - THE ESSENTIAL EXPRESSION OF LIFE IN THE VINE Scattered through the Scriptures the image of 'fruit' is used to portray the essential God-honouring lifestyle of obedience that accompanies genuine faith in God, that is, that accompanies and expresses a genuine connection with Jesus Christ, the true vine.
Selected from Old Testament:
Psalm 1:1-3- 'Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked ... . But his delight is in the law of the Lord ... he is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season' Isaiah 5:2,4,7- 'Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit ... When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? ... he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.' Jeremiah 17:7,8- 'Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water ... it ... never fails to bear fruit.' Hosea 10:1- 'Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he built more altars ... ' Hosea 10:12,13- 'Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love ... but you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception ... ' Hosea 14:8- 'O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? ... I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me.' Amos 6:12- ' ... you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness ... ' Micah 7:1-2- 'What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave. The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains. All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net ... the best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge.'
Selected from New Testament:
Matthew 3:8,10- 'Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. ... the axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.'
Matthew 7:15-20- 'Watch out for false prophets ... By their fruit you will recognize them. ... every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus by their fruit you will recognize them.' [Verses 21-23 clarify that the 'fruit' is doing the will of the Father.]
Matthew 12:33-35- 'Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.'
Matthew 13:8-23 [This is the parable of the sower; only the genuine believers produce 'fruit'. The second and third seeds represent non-genuine believers whose non-genuine faith/following was brought to light by the cares of this world and/or trials and tribulations.]
Romans 7:4- ' ... you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.'
Galatians 5:22-'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.'
Ephesians 5:9-'For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth'
Hebrews 12:11- ' ... discipline ... later on ... produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.'
F. THE PROBLEM OF NON-GENUINE BELIEVERS WITHIN THE CHURCH [THE PROBLEM OF 'CHRISTIANS' WHO 'FALL AWAY'] When we consider the issue of people who are assumed to be Christians, but then 'fall away', we are faced with a number of explanations:
That they were in fact genuine believers but they have now lost their salvation. The teaching of the New Testament makes it clear that such a thing is not possible. [See study on Assurance of Salvation on this website--- www.godswordforyou.com]
That they were and still are genuine believers, but are going through a period of temporary rebellion or superficial doubt, in which they are being sorely put to the test by the devil to give up on their faith. Underneath they still really believe in Jesus Christ. If such is the case, they are still in Christ and he will restore them as he did Peter.
That they never were believers in the first place - as in the case of Judas, the second and third seeds in the parable of the sower, and the people referred to in Matthew 7:15-27, John 2:23-25, 6:60-71 and 1 John 2:18-19.
The many warnings and exhortations [in] Scripture are there to encourage us to keep on believing in Christ and to make sure our faith in him is genuine. [See Studies in Hebrews on this website---www.godswordforyou.com; the whole letter to the Hebrews was written to people on the brink of rejecting Christ the one great high priest and the one true sacrifice, and reverting to reliance on Jewish sacrifice and priesthood. The letter to the Hebrews is littered with warnings against such a sin of unbelief in and disobedience to the Gospel that would have identified their profession of faith in Christ worthless.] CONCLUSION: In conclusion we return to the essential connection between life and Christ, and the essential nature of true faith. The person who has true faith will always have true faith, for such is the nature of true faith that it endures. Similarly, the person who is united to Christ by true faith in him, will always have this life in Christ, because the life that Christ gives is eternal life. The person who has true faith will also have the 'fruit' because such is the nature of true faith that it does not exist without the 'fruit' of obedience. It is only this person, who lives in Christ and in whom Christ lives, who can evidence in his life the 'fruit' of true obedience and faith of which the Scriptures speak. This obedience is no more perfect obedience than our faith is perfect faith, but it is real faith, that is faith in Jesus Christ, and it is real obedience, that is obedience that is God-focused, not self-focused.
study eight: Jesus Christ- The Great i am
INTRODUCTION:TWO SIGNIFICANT TEXTS There are two texts that express two powerful complementary truths:
John 8:58: 'before Abraham was born, I am!'
Colossians 2:9,10: ' in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ' [NIV]; 'in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him' [KJV].
These two truths, which are the foundation on which all other Biblical truth rests, and the climax of revelation which all of the Scripture anticipates, are:
Jesus Christ is God
We are complete in Christ
They teach us about the identity and nature of God, and the identity and nature of the one valid human relationship with God. A. JEHOVAH - GOD'S UNIQUE SELF-IDENTIFYING NAME In Exodus 3 when Moses was commissioned by God to go back to Egypt to rescue the Israelites Moses asked by what name he was to identify the God who had sent him. God said:
'I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: "I AM has sent me to you." ... Say to the Israelites "The LORD, the God of your fathers - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob - has sent me to you." This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.'
[Whenever the KJV and NIV have 'LORD' (all upper case) this translates 'Jehovah' the name of God derived from the verb to be 'I AM'.]
This name 'I AM' ['Yahweh' = 'Jehovah'] was held in great awe by the Hebrews.
The New Bible Dictionary states: 'The original Hebrew text was not vocalized; in time the 'tetragrammaton' YHWH was considered too sacred to pronounce: so 'adonay' (my Lord) was substituted in reading, and the vowels of this word were combined with the consonants YHWH to give 'Jehovah' ... '
A.1 Some comments about this name [highlights added]:
Barnes: ' "I am what I am." The words express absolute, and therefore unchanging and eternal Being. The name, which Moses was thus commissioned to use, was at once new and old; old in its connection with previous revelations; new in its full interpretation, and in its bearing upon the covenant of which Moses was the destined mediator.'
Clarke: 'I am that I am - These words have been variously understood. The Vulgate translates Ego Sum Qui Sum, I am who am. The Septuagint, Εγω ειμι 'ο wn, I am he who exists ... The Arabic paraphrases them, The Eternal, who passes not away ... As the original words literally signify, I will be what I will be, they seem intended to point out the eternity and self-existence of God.'
Wesley: 'I am that I am - This explains his name Jehovah, and signifies,  That he is self-existent; he has his being of himself, and has no dependence upon any other. And being self-existent he cannot but be self-sufficient, and therefore all-sufficient, and the inexhaustible fountain of being and bliss.  That he is eternal and unchangeable, always the same, yesterday to-day, and for ever: he will be what he will be, and what he is.  That he is faithful and true to all his promises, unchangeable in his word as well as in his nature, and not a man that he should lie. Let Israel know this, I am hath sent me unto you. A name that speaks what he is to his people.'
Kiel&Delitzsch: 'The question, "What is His name?" presupposed that the name expressed the nature and operations of God, and that God would manifest in deeds the nature expressed in His name. God therefore told him His name, or, to speak more correctly, He explained the name ... by which He had made Himself known to Abraham at the making of the covenant (Gen 15:7), in this way ... "I amthat I am," and designated Himself by this name as the absolute God of the fathers, acting with unfettered liberty and self-dependence. This name precluded any comparison between the God of the Israelites and the deities of the Egyptians and other nations, and furnished Moses and his people with strong consolation in their affliction, and a powerful support to their confidence in the realization of His purposes of salvation as made known to the fathers. To establish them in this confidence, God added still further: "This is My name for ever, and My memorial unto all generations;" that is to say, God would even manifest Himself in the nature expressed by the name Jehovah, and by this He would have all generations both know and revere Him. The name, expresses the objective manifestation of the divine nature ... '
B. OLD TESTAMENT REVELATIONS OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF 'I AM ... '
Task #1 [Note from Where God Has Me: if you are doing an individual study, this task may still be completed. Refer to the worksheet to complete this task]: Relates to the table below, and requires the group to fill out the meaning of the composite names of God formed with 'Jehovah' (I AM), and to note truths you know about the Lord Jesus Christ that display the quality contained in these names of God. [Not all of the names in this table are in the Student Guide.] Through out the Old Testament God reveals himself through many composite forms of this personal, self-identifying name. Among these are:
From this one name of God alone we can see that all that God is Jesus Christ is. He is the great I AM - Jehovah, the self-existent, absolute, eternal One, who is able to meet our real needs at any given point of time, at any place.
C. THE I AM CLAIMS OF JESUS CHRIST
Task #2 [Note from Where God Has Me: Refer to the worksheet for this task]: Here the group is asked to write the key significance of all the I AM statements of Jesus Christ. This can be done before or after the following teaching points.We have been looking at these claims right through these studies. The seven well known I AM's are:
I am the bread of life - meeting our need for spiritual sustenance.
I am the light of the world - meeting our need to have our ignorance about God ripped away.
I am the gate - meeting our need to gain entry to God's presence.
I am the good shepherd - meeting our need for love, protection and guidance.
I am the resurrection [and] the life -meeting our need for spiritual regeneration and life beyond death.
I am the way, the truth, the life -meeting our need to reconnect with the one true God
I am the vine -meeting our need for on-going spiritual life and productivity.
There are three other I AM's of Jesus in John's Gospel that are not so commonly recognized:
 ' ... if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins' [John 8:24NIV]. The Greek reads: 'unless you believe that I am [ego emi] you will die in your sins'. Here Jesus clearly makes forgiveness and eternal life dependent on a person's believing that he is indeed I AM - the God of the Old Testament, Jehovah, the LORD. The context of these words is:
Jesus told the Pharisees they had no idea where he came from (8:14);
Jesus referred to God as 'my Father' (8:19), a claim which had earlier provoked murderous antagonism from the Jews because they recognized this as an affirmation of equality with God (5:16-18);
The potential of being seized on the charge of blasphemy (8:19-20);
Jesus told the Pharisees that they don't know him or his Father (8:19);
Jesus said that his origin is  from above,  not of this world (in contrast to the Pharisees being from below and of this world) (8:23);
The repetition of the 'ego emi' of 8:24 in 8:28: 'when you have lifted up the son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be' [NIV], that is 'then you will know that I am'.
 'I tell you the truth ... before Abraham was born, I am!' [John 8:58] At this statement the Jews 'picked up stones to stone him' [8:59]. They knew precisely the significance of this claim, but rejected his right to apply this I AM name to himself. They believed that he was just a man; no man had the right to that divine name, that most holy of all names. To use it in this way was the height of blasphemy. Unless of course the one who used it was indeed God. Here Jesus lays claim to being the Eternal One, the ever-present, ever-living One.
 ' "I am he", Jesus replied. ... When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.' [John 18:5,6].
These words are in John's report of the arrest of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. The Greek reads: 'ego emi'. This I AM is recorded three times in this passage, the two times above, then again in verse 8. Jesus is not simply saying the equivalent of 'that's me'. The reaction of the arresting party reveals that these words had a powerful impact on them: they drew back and fell to the ground. This is the historic response of people overcome with awe in the presence of God, a messenger from God, or a vision of God:
Genesis 17:3: 'Abraham fell face down ... '
Numbers 22:31: '.. and he (Balaam) saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell face down.'
Joshua 5:14: 'Then Joshua fell face down to ground in reverence ... '
Judges 13:20: 'Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground'
Ezekiel 1:28: 'This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I feel face down, and I heard the voice of one speaking.' [See also Ezekiel 3:23, 43:3; 44:4.]
Daniel 8:17: 'As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate.'
Matthew 17:5,6: ' ... a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified.'
Acts 22:6-7: ' ... suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I [fell] to the ground ... '
All of the I AM claims and statements of Jesus point directly to his identification with the I AM of Exodus 3. Jesus Christ is YHWH - YAHWEH - JEHOVAH. All that is credited to the LORD in the Old Testament is assumed by Jesus to belong to him. He is all that God is:
Eternal, ever-living, ever-present, outside of time and space.
Self-existent, underived, independent.
Absolute, unchangeable, non-relative.
One who acts with unfettered liberty in any and every circumstance.
This God is Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ is this God. And it is this God who is also our Saviour.
D. JESUS CHRIST, THE GREAT 'I AM' IS THE ONE WHO IS OUR SAVIOUR
D1 The Old Testament identifies God as the Saviour, and as 'salvation'.
Task #3 [Note from Where God Has Me: refer to worksheet to complete this task]: This task aims to get the group to realize that God has always been the one and only Saviour and the one and only source of salvation; as the great I AM Jesus Christ is all that God is: the Saviour, and salvation.
Exodus 15:2- 'The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.'
Deut. 32:15- 'He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Saviour.'
2 Sam 22:2,3- 'The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation.' [also Ps 18:2]
1 Chron 16:35- 'Cry out "Save us, O God our Saviour ... " '
Psalm 18:46-'The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Saviour!'
Psalm 24:5- 'He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Saviour.'
Psalm 25:5- 'Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour'
Psalm 27:9- 'Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Saviour.'
Psalm 61:2- 'He alone is my rock and my salvation ... '
Psalm 68:19,20- 'Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.'
Psalm 89:26- 'He will call out to me, "You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Saviour." '
Isaiah 12:2- 'Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.'
Isaiah 43:3- 'For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour ... '
Isaiah 43:11- 'I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no Saviour.'
Isaiah 45:15- 'Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Saviour of Israel.'
Isaiah 45:21- ' ... there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Saviour; there is none but me.'
Isaiah 49:26- 'Then all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Saviour, you Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.' [also Is 60:16]
Hosea 13:4- 'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Saviour except me.'
It is clear from these verses that God, the LORD, is the one and only Saviour. Yet the New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ is the Saviour. There is no dichotomy here: for, as we have seen in the section on the I AM claims of Jesus, he is indeed the LORD, Jehovah. The New Testament in fact refers to both God and Jesus Christ as 'Saviour'.
Not only is Jesus Christ God our Saviour, he is also 'our salvation' in the same way that God is 'my salvation' in some of the texts above. God is both our 'Saviour' and our 'salvation'. Jesus Christ is both our 'Saviour' and our 'salvation'. This truth has undergirded all of the studies so far.
In this study we learn from this truth that our salvation is complete. In Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour, we have a salvation that cannot be equalled, that has no lack, that leaves nothing for us to complete for ourselves. We can learn of its completeness by understanding the composite Jehovah + names of listed above, and way that these names are also true descriptions of Jesus Christ. The completeness of the salvation we have in Jesus Christ is essentially connected to his full deity, as Colossians 2:10 has pointed out.
D.2 The New Testament identifies Jesus Christ as our salvation and our Saviour: In the New Testament Jesus Christ is identified as our salvation, our Saviour and the source of our salvation: ~Our Saviour- Luke 2:11; John 4:42; Acts 5:31; 13:23; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:4; 2:13; 3:6; 2 Peter 1:1; 1:11; 2:20; 3:18; 1 John 4:14.
~The source and means of salvation-Luke 1:69, 76-77; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Hebrews 2:10; 5:9; 9:28
~The 'location' of salvation- Luke 2:30; 3:6; Acts 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:10.
~Our righteousness, and the source of our righteousness/justification- Romans 1:16,17; 3:19-26; 5:1,12-21; 8:10; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 2:15-21; Philippians 3:9
~Our sanctification/holiness/source of our identity as 'saints'- John 17:17-19; Acts 26:18; 1 Corinthians 1:2,30; 3:17; 6:11; Ephesians 1:4; 5:27; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2, 22; 3;12; Hebrews 2:11; 10:10,14; 13:12.
~Eternal life, life-1 John 5:20; Colossians 3:4; [see previous study for more texts]
In addition to these - righteousness, sanctification, and peace - with which Christ is identified, we also learn from the New Testament that every aspect of our salvation is in Christ, through Christ, or in union with Christ: The table below lists some of the many references to most of these many aspects of the complete salvation which the Christian possesses in and through Jesus Christ. ~Forgiveness- Acts 5:31; 13:38; 26:18; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 2:14; Hebrews 10:17,19; 1 John 2:12;
~Recipients of God's kindness- Ephesians 2:7; Titus 3:4-6
~Guidance by God's Spirit- Romans 8:14;
~Transformation by God's Spirit- 2 Corinthians 3:18;
~Permanent spiritual satisfaction- John 4:13,14; 6:35;
~Inherit the promises of God- 2 Corinthians 1:18-20; Galatians 3:9,14; 2 Peter 1:4
~Faith- Ephesians 2:9; Hebrews 12:2; 2 Peter 1:1;
~Mercy- Luke 1:78; Ephesians 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:16; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 4:16; 1 Peter 1:3; 2:10
~Guarantee- Romans 4:16; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 1 Peter 1:4-5;
~Over-riding of guilty conscience-Romans 8:31-34; Hebrews 9:9-14; 10:2,22
Task #4 [Note from Where God Has Me: this task may be completed by individuals studying on their own; simply write your thoughts in a journal]: Requires the group to discuss aspects of salvation and identify Scripture references where these can be found. You may have to help them with some of the references from the Table above. This task is aimed at bringing the group to an awareness of how complete and all-embracing our salvation in Christ is, so that they can rejoice in the joy, peace and assurance that God intends us to have in Christ and his salvation.This list is not exhaustive. Even so it depicts a salvation that is comprehensive. Here in this salvation, Jesus Christ is indeed the great I AM, a Saviour mediating a salvation that reflects his essential nature.
Christ the great I AM is absolute: this salvation is absolute.
Christ the great I AM is eternal: this salvation is eternal.
Christ the great I AM is independent: this salvation is independent.
Christ the great I AM is free: this salvation is free.
Christ the great I AM is complete in himself: this salvation is complete in itself.
Christ the great I AM is unchanging: this salvation is unchanging.
Christ the great I AM is unique: this salvation is unique.
Christ the great I AM is trustworthy: this salvation is trustworthy.
This Christ and this salvation are sufficient to meet our every need. Yet if our concept of Christ and our concept of salvation are less, then we will enjoy and experience neither. The failure of many Christians to understand these two critical issues has undermined and disempowered their faith.
Jesus Christ is the I AM: the one true God. Any lesser view of Christ is not Christian faith. The salvation he mediates is complete because it is completely dependent on him alone. Any lesser view of salvation is not Christian faith.
These are the two pillars on which Christianity stands, and apart from which any concept of 'Christianity' is essentially no different from any other religion: that Jesus Christ is God, and that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Let everyone ask themselves: Am I still spiritually unsatisfied? Am I still groping in spiritual darkness? Do I still wonder if there are other gods? Do I still fear rejection by God? Do I still live under the threat of condemnation? If the answer to any of these is 'Yes' then the strong probability is that there is a fundamental failure of understanding and/or belief at one or both of these indispensable foundational truths.
study nine: Jesus Christ- the Omega
REVIEW: In Study One we asked the question 'What are we here for?' and found in the Bible the answer that we are here for God. We looked at various opinions and ideologies of the world and compared them to the teaching of Scripture that we are:
Created by God to reflect of his glory.
Dependent on him so that we may find fulfilment in him.
Saved by him to express his glory.
Loved by him in order that we may love him.
Known by him in order that we may know him.
In Studies 2 to 8 we have focused on Jesus Christ and learned from the Scriptures that all of this is accomplished and perfected in Christ. We have seen that:
Jesus Christ, the Light, shatters the darkness - that in seeing Christ we see God.
Jesus Christ, the Truth, identifies the truth and exposes error.
Jesus Christ, the Door, in contrast to every false teaching, is the one entry point to knowledge of God and eternal life.
Jesus Christ, the Way, is the breaker of the sin-barrier, providing a comprehensive forgiveness that enables us to stand in the presence of God guilt-free and unafraid.
Jesus Christ, is the Lord our Righteousness, in whom law and grace, Sinai and Calvary, are united.
Jesus Christ, the Vine, is the source, substance and sustenance of our spiritual life.
Jesus Christ, the great I AM, is the absolute, eternal, self-existent LORD, and is himself the comprehensive salvation that he gives.
In this final study we return to that original question: What are we here for? What is the end, the goal, the purpose, the ultimate reason and fulfilment of human existence, and in particular, of the Christian's existence? From the previous studies, if we have been thinking and understanding, we have learned that this question 'What are we here for?' is not the ultimate question. The ultimate question, the question forgotten by many within the Christian church, focuses not on us, but on Jesus Christ, a question that he himself posed: 'who do you say that I am?' That other question: 'what am I here for?' is answered as we answer this question. If he is indeed all that the Scripture claims for him, then he is the end of all other questions, for everything finds its meaning in him. Indeed we find that not only do we humans find our meaning, purpose, goal and fulfilment in Christ, but the whole of history, the whole of God's Scriptures, find their meaning, purpose, goal and fulfilment in Christ.
INTRODUCTION: JESUS CHRIST: THE BEGINNING AND THE END - THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA
There are a few verses that identify Jesus as the beginning and the end:
~Isaiah 44:6- I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.
~Isaiah 48:12- I am he; I am the first and I am the last.
~Hebrews 12:2- Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith ...
~Revelation 1:8- 'I am the Alpha and the Omega' says the Lord God, 'who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'
~Rev 1:17,18- 'I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! ... '
~Rev 21:6- 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End ... '
~Rev 22:13- 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.'
These verses identify God and Jesus Christ with the same words: the beginning and the end, the first and the last, the alpha and the omega. They teach us that our source/origin is Christ, and our purpose/goal/end is Christ. Everything, including our lives, including our salvation, is not only dependent on Christ for its existence, but also finds its meaning, purpose and fulfilment in Christ.
In this identification of Jesus as the 'end' or the 'omega' or the 'last' there are two concepts:
that he is the end or the last in that there is nothing more to come, and
that he is the goal, purpose, culmination, fulfilment of all that has gone before; he brings all that has gone before to its completion, to its ultimate meaning and purpose.
In this study we will look at several aspects of this finality and culmination in Jesus Christ.
The study tasks [Note from Where God Has Me: If you are working individually on this study, you can still complete the tasks by writing your thoughts in a journal]: All of the tasks in this study, after the first one, require the group to analyse the various aspects of Jesus Christ - the Omega. Encourage the group to discuss the implications of each of these for their lives: for their relationship with God, with themselves and with each other, and for their attitude to the religions, attitudes and value systems that we humans have developed for ourselves. Lead the group to a Christ-centred, Christ-focused mindset that puts Jesus Christ as source, centre and goal of their lives, so that he will be honoured and glorified in and through them as they commit to a life focused on him alone.
A. JESUS CHRIST: GOD'S FINAL REVELATION OF HIMSELF In Jesus Christ God has spoken his final word about himself and his purposes. There is no further revelation beside or beyond Jesus Christ. Any supposed revelation of God additional to Jesus Christ is counterfeit, and, if added to the knowledge of God which we have in Christ, only dilutes, disturbs, displaces and distorts that perfect revelation. The following Scriptures testify to this finality and completeness: John 1:14- 'The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.'
John 1:18- 'No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's, side, has made him known.'
John 12:45- 'When a man looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.'
John 13:31- 'Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.'
John 14:7,9- 'If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him ... Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father"?'
John 15:15- ' ... everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.'
2 Cor. 4:6- 'God ... made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.'
Colossians 1:19-'God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.'
Colossians 2:2,3- 'My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.'
Colossians 2:9- 'In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form ..'
Hebrews 1:1,2- 'In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ... The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being ... '
B. JESUS CHRIST: THE FINAL UNVEILING OF GOD'S SECRET PURPOSE The whole of Scripture moves towards a hidden and secret purpose. It contains a great multitude of prophetic words, prophetic symbols, prophetic rituals, which at the one time hide a mystery, and yet reveal that there is a meaning greater and grander than themselves as yet not made known. This mystery, this grand eternal purpose of God is unveiled in Christ:
Luke 10:23,24- 'Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.'
Romans 16:25,26- 'Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God ... '
1 Cor 2:9-10- 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him' - but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.'
Ephesians 1:9- 'And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure which he purposed in Christ'
Ephesians 3:3-6- ' ... the mystery made known to me by revelation ... the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.'
Ephesians 3:9-11- ' ... to make plain to everyone ... the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. '
Colossians 1:25-27- ' ... to present to you in its fullness - the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.'
1 Peter 1:10-12- 'Concerning this salvation, the prophets ... searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ ... was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ ... they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you ... Even the angels long to look into these things.'
C. JESUS CHRIST: THE FULFILLMENT OF ALL PROPHETIC WORDS
Repeatedly in the gospels we read that things that Jesus did and things that were done to Jesus happened 'in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled' or because 'it is written'. Jesus Christ consciously and deliberately chose to live in line with the Scriptural prophecies concerning himself, and, while not justifying or excusing them, recognized the opposition and disbelief on the part of the Jews and their final rejection of him as happening in fulfilment of the Scriptures. In every way Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophets:
Matthew 5:17- 'Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.'
Matthew 26:56- ' ... this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.'
Luke 1:70- ' ... as he said through his holy prophets of long ago ... '
Luke 18:31- 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.'
Luke 24:25-27- 'How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! ... and beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.'
Luke 24:44-46- 'This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.' Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, 'This is what is written ... '
John 1:45- 'We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'
Acts 3:18- 'But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer.'
Acts 3:24- 'Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days.'
Acts 10:43- 'All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.'
Acts 13:32- 'We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.'
Acts 26:22-23- 'I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen - that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.'
Acts 28:23- 'He explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tired to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.'
Romans 1:2,3-' ... the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son ... '
2 Corinthians 1:20- 'For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. '
D. JESUS CHRIST: THE FULFILLMENT AND THE ULTIMATE REALITY OF ALL OLD TESTAMENT RITUAL AND SYMBOL Not only does Jesus Christ fulfil the Old Testament prophetic words, he also is the real meaning of all Old Testament ritual and symbol. Below are the more significant areas of ritual and symbol of which Jesus Christ is the reality. Each of these has no intrinsic meaning or significance: they all take their significance and their effect from Jesus Christ: without him they are nothing:
~Re: Cleansing rituals
John 13:10; 15:3- 'You are clean. ... You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.'
1 Cor 6:11- 'You were washed ... in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.'
Ephesians 5:25,26- 'Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word. '
Titus 2:14- ' ... who gave himself for us ... to purify for himself a people that are his very own ... '
Titus 3:5- ' ... he saved us through the washing of rebirth ... '
Revelation 1:5- 'To him who loves and has freed [=washed] us from our sins by his blood ... '
Revelation 7:14- ' ... they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'
~Re: Priestly rituals
Hebrews 2:17- ' ... he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful hight priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.'
Hebrews 4:14- ' ... we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God'
Hebrews 6:20- 'Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever ... '
Hebrews 7:24- ' ... because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood '
Hebrews 7:26,28- 'Such a high priest meets our need - one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. ... the oath ... appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.'
Hebrews 8:1,2- 'We do have such a hight priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.'
Hebrews 9:11- 'When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. ... he entered the Most Holy Place once for all ... having obtained eternal redemption.'
Hebrews 9:25- 'Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year ... Christ ... appeared once for all at the end of the ages ... '
Hebrews 10:12- 'When this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.'
Hebrews 10:21,22- 'Since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith ... '
Re: the Ritual of Sacrifice
Matthew 20:28- ' ... the Son of Man came ... to give his life a ransom for many'
Romans 3:25- 'God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement ... '
Galatians 1:4- 'Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age ... '
Galatians 2:20- ' ... the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me ... '
Ephesians 5:2- ' ... Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.'
1 Timothy 2:6- ' ... the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men ...'
Hebrews 9:26- ' ... Christ ... has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.'
Hebrews 9:28- ' ... Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people ... '
Hebrews 10:10- ' ... we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.'
Hebrews 10:12,14- ' ... when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God ... by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.'
Hebrews 10:17,18- 'Then he adds: 'Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.' And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.'
1 Peter 2:24- 'He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree ... '
1 John 2:2- 'He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.'
1 John 4:10- ' ... he ... sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.'
Re: the Ritual Feasts and Days 1 Corinthians 5:7- 'Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. '
Colossians 2:16,17- ' ... do not let anyone judge you ... with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. '
E. JESUS CHRIST: THE FULFILMENT OF THE LAW AND THE END OF THE LAW As we have already seen Jesus fulfilled the law. In his living he perfectly kept its requirements; in his dying he fully bore the penalty for our disobedience. In every way he upheld the law. He also, through his substitutionary death, brought the ultimate purpose of the law into effect:
Matthew 3:15- ' ... it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.'
Matthew 5:17- 'Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.'
Romans 3:21,22- 'But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ ... '
Romans 3:26- ' ... he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.'
Romans 8:3,4- ' ... what the law could not do in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of flesh to be a sin offering in order that the righteousness requirements of the law might be fully met in us, ... '
Romans 10:4- 'Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.'
Galatians 3:23-25- 'Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.'
Philippians 3:8,9- ' ... that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ ... '
Hebrews 10:1- 'The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming - not the realities themselves.'
F. JESUS CHRIST: THE ONE WHOSE COMING IS THE CULMINATION OF HISTORY The Bible also teaches that all of history moves towards the incarnation. With the coming of God in human flesh the point to which God has been moving all history arrived. Here comes the Lamb, slain before the foundation of the world, here comes the salvation anticipated in Genesis 3, here comes that central event from which all history takes its meaning and to which all previous history moved. Now, in the coming of Christ into the world, God's time has come. We now live 'in these last days', at 'the end of the ages' - because Jesus Christ, the Omega, has come.
Mark 1:15- 'The time has come'
John 12:23- 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified ... '
John 12:27- ' ... what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.'
John 17:1- 'Father, the time has come.'
Acts 2:17- 'In these last days ... .'
Galatians 4:4- 'When the time had fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under law ... '
Hebrews 1:2- ' ... but in these last days he has spoken through his Son ... '
Hebrews 9:26- 'Now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin ... '
G. JESUS CHRIST: THE ULTIMATE MANIFESTATION OF THE GLORY OF GOD In the New Testament we learn that the glory of God is seen in Jesus Christ. There is no revelation of the glory of God beyond Jesus Christ : he is the end, the telos , the culmination point of God's revelation of his glory.
Matthew 15:31 KJV- 'Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.'
John 1:14- 'The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.'
John 2:11- 'This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.'
John 12:28- 'Father, glorify your name!' ... 'I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.'
John 13:31,32- 'Now is the son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.'
John 17:1- 'Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.'
John 17:4- 'I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. '
2 Cor. 1:20- 'For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.'
2 Cor 4:6- 'For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.'
Philippians 2:11- ' ... and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father'
Revelation 1:5,6- 'To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father - to him be glory and power for ever and ever!' [See also 4:11; 5:9-13; 79-12; 19:1]
H. JESUS CHRIST: THE ULTIMATE GLORY OF MAN Not only is Jesus Christ the ultimate glory of God: he brings humans to their ultimate glory of living in the presence of God and reflecting (imaging) his glory. In him and through him we come to our ultimate destiny and meaning and purpose. In him and through him we live in the positive relationship with God that we were created to enjoy and express:
Romans 5:1,2- 'Therefore, since we have been justified through faith ... we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.'
Romans 8:18- 'I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.'
2 Cor. 3:18- 'And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.'
Ephesians 1:12- ' ... in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.' [see also verse 6 and 14]
Ephesians 3:21- ' ... to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!'
Philippians 1:11- ' ... filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God.'
Colossians 1:27- ' ... Christ in you, the hope of glory.'
1 Thess. 2:12- ' ... encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.'
2 Thess. 2:14- 'He called you to [belief in the truth] through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.'
Hebrews 2:10- 'In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.'
1 Peter 4:11- ' ... so that in all things God may be praised (glorified) through Jesus Christ.'
1 Peter 5:10- 'And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, ... .'
In this way the two things come together in Jesus Christ:
in the person of Jesus Christ and through the saving work of Jesus Christ God is glorified. He is the ultimate revelation of God's glory and the ultimate cause of God's glory.
in Jesus Christ and through his saving work, human beings are brought to glory: to that ultimate purpose of living life to the full, in his presence, as his image.
I. JESUS CHRIST: THE GOAL/PURPOSE/FULNESS OF HUMAN LIFE In the references above to Jesus as the ultimate glory of man are some references to our purpose and goal: to live our lives to his glory. In addition to these are verses that indicate that we are here for Christ: that life lived for him is the ultimate life, the ultimate commitment.This means that all we are, all we do, all we say, all our aspirations and endeavours, are to be geared and directed towards him:
Mark 9:34,35- 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it ... '
John 6:35- I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'
John 10:10- 'I am come that they may have life, and have it to the full.'
John 12:25,26- 'The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be ... .'
Romans 6:11,13- 'In the same way count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus ... offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life. ..'
Romans 7:4- 'So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.'
1 Corinthians 10:31- 'Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.'
Ephesians 6:7- 'Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men ... '
Philippians 1:21 'For me to live is Christ ... '
Col. 1:16,17- ' ... all things were created ... for him. ... in him all things hold together.'
Colossians 2:10- ' ... you have been given fullness in Christ ... '
Colossians 3:17- 'Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus ... '
Colossians 3:23,24- 'Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, ... it is the Lord Christ you are serving.'
From all of this it is clear that the Bible expects and commands us to have a Christ-centred, Christ-focused life:
to view everything and to do everything from the mindset which knows that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, including ourselves;
to live with the mindset that knows that all of human history and all of God's purposes move towards Jesus Christ and is brought to its ultimate goal in and by Jesus Christ;
to demonstrate the mindset that knows that Jesus Christ, not we ourselves, is the centre of existence;
to live with the complete and absolute confidence Jesus Christ is our God, and we are his people, his own special treasure, the objects of his incredible love, recipients of his amazing grace, co-heirs with him of his glory.
This Christ-centred, Christ-focused mindset is the true motivation for true obedience. Any obedience issuing from a man-centred, self-focused mindset has no value, and is but a hypocritical obedience, a manifestation of the pride and/or the fears of the sinful human heart and mind, rather than an expression of a true recognition and acknowledgement of God. [Romans 14:23b; Hebrews 11:6].
Note from Where God Has Me: Please refer to the author's appendix for this study lesson at: www.godswordforyou.com
*Disclaimer: Permission to use this Bible study was granted by Rosemary Bardsley. Where God Has Me has not been compensated by, or received sponsorship from: Rosemary Bardsley, God's Word for You, or any individual or company used in, or associated with, the creation of this "Knowing Christ-Knowing God" Bible study lesson. This is a free Bible study written by Rosemary Bardsley and can be found on her website at: www.godswordforyou.com
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