Introduction to Biblical Christianity (Christianity 101)
God’s message of love and reconciliation reaches from Capetown to Shanghai and from San Francisco to Karachi. Men from every tribe and tongue will be judged on the basis of their response to Jesus of Nazareth.
The starting point of the Christian faith is the problem of sin. Humankind’s inherently sinful (evil) nature and actions have created a gulf between God and mankind which is impassable by any human effort whatever. The Bible (66 Books of the Old and New Testament) provides a narrative of man’s rebellion and God’s initiative to repair the broken relationship. The gulf between Holy God and sinful man was repaired through God’s initiative of reconciliation. Reconciliation was made possible by the removal of man’s sin by the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God in 33 AD, in the place of humankind. This substitutionary sacrifice was foretold in detail by the Old Testament prophets. Humankind can only enter into this declared reconciliation through repentance (turning away) from sin and faith in Jesus as Savior. God has provided no other terms for peace. Reconciliation can not be found outside of the cross (sacrifice) of His Son Jesus. Without repentance from sin and faith in Jesus, humankind stands justly and eternally condemned before God. God’s love is manifested through the gift of His one and only Son for the sins of the world. “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). God’s desire is that none would perish, but that all would come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
A suggested prayer for salvation: Lord God I know that I am a sinner by nature and choice. I believe that you sent your one and only Son Jesus to pay the penalty for my sin. Please forgive my sins in Jesus name. I receive you into my heart to take away my sins and to become Lord of my life. Thank you God for the gift of your Son and for my new life through Jesus. Help me to walk according to your will. In Jesus name: Amen.
Chapter 1 Conviction of Sin
Chapter 2 Substitutionary Atonement
Chapter 3 Repentance
Chapter 4 Lordship
Chapter 5 Holy Spirit
Chapter 6 Fruit of the Spirit & Gift of the Spirit.
Chapter 7 Baptism
Chapter 8 Final Judgment
Welcome to Christianity 101! This brief, but concise course is designed for new Christians and for those who are seeking to know more about Christianity. It is essential for new and “potential” Christians to have a clear understanding of the Christian faith. Unfortunately, few Christians have a solid understanding of the “elementary doctrines (teachings)” (Hebrews 6:1) of Christ. So often when I have taught the foundations of the Christian faith, believers regret having not been exposed to such teaching earlier in their pilgrimage.
Christianity has basic truths without which Christianity fails to be truly Christian. These basic truths have been the basis of true Christianity throughout the ages. With the help of our Lord, we have attempted to display those foundational doctrines in a format which is both logical and consistent with the biblical witness.
Christianity’s foundation is no secret. The name “Christian,” uncovers both the “founder” and “perfecter” (Hebrews 12:2) of the faith, Jesus the Christ. The name “Christ” was a special name given to Jesus of Nazareth that indicated his special relationship with God. (Christos is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah, which means “anointed one.”) “Christian” was a name that was given to the disciples (followers) of Christ in Syrian Antioch (present day Turkey) in the early 40’s AD (Acts 11:26. AD = Anno Domini, which is Latin for, “in the year of our Lord.” It is interesting to note that time revolves around the person, Jesus of Nazareth. (BC = Before Christ). The Apostle Paul wrote a large portion of the New Testament (The part of the bible which describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. (Matthew – Revelation). In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul states clearly that, “No one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11) Therefore, in a study of Christian core beliefs, it is our task to make clear how Jesus Christ is foundational to Christianity, and in particular, what Christ’s life, death and resurrection means for the individual studying this course in the 2nd millennium AD.
I think it would be helpful at this point to make use of one of Jesus’ parables (A short story used to teach a spiritual principle or truth.) to give us a broad overview of the picture that will be painted in more detail throughout the course. The parable of the “Prodigal Son,” is one of Jesus’ parables that brings us close to the heart of Christianity.
The Prodigal Son is found in Luke 15:11-32. Read Luke 15:11-24
When we read the Bible, we attempt to understand what God is communicating to us. When we read this parable, we try, (always with God’s assistance) to determine what God wants us to know about Himself, and what He wants us to know about ourselves. Once this is revealed, we make the necessary adjustments in our lives. Before we attempt to examine the story in more detail, what do you think is the main point of this parable?
Who do you think the father represents in the parable?
Who do you think the younger son represents in the parable?
If the younger son represents humankind as a whole, what do you learn about yourself from this parable?
A key element of the Christian faith is repentance. Repentance literally means to “change one’s mind.” Before we can be truly repentant, we must have a moment in our lives when “the light comes on.” When do the lights come on for the younger son?
Repentance is also characterized by action. The evidence of a changed mind is a change in direction. What new direction does the son take?
Repentance is also characterized by an acceptance of one’s guilt before God. What evidence is there in this story that the younger son had accepted this responsibility?
After squandering his inheritance in “reckless living,” (see verse 13) how might we expect the father to treat the son upon his return? How did the father treat the younger son upon his return?
Another key to understanding the Christian faith is grace. One aspect of grace is unmerited (unearned) favor from God towards humankind. In other words, grace is a free gift. A gift ceases to be a gift if it is earned. How does this parable demonstrate this aspect of God’s character?
Read Luke 15:25-32
God’s mercy toward sinful people is almost beyond comprehension. It is difficult to understand how God would accept people who have nothing to give except sin, rebellion and failure. Not only does God accept the sinner who repents, but according to this parable, He celebrates his return! Do you think the older brother understood this aspect of God’s grace?
What does this parable teach us about God’s attitude toward “lost” or “dead” humanity?
The younger son went through 3 stages. The first stage was being lost, but not realizing it. The second stage was being lost, and being intensely aware of it. The third stage was reconciliation with his father. As you begin this study, it would be helpful to chart your own experience. Which stage are you in today?
The parable of the Prodigal Son demonstrates clearly some of the main principles of our faith. It shows the “lost” condition of humankind, and God’s unconditional love toward the repentant sinner. It is worth noting, however, as this parable teaches, that we leave God on our terms, but we return on His terms. Thus, the younger son had to return to the father, in order to receive the benefits of his mercy. In other words, the son would not have been shown compassion and mercy had he not turned from his rebellion and returned to the father. Therefore, the grace of God is available to all humankind, but humans must return to God and seek forgiveness in order for reconciliation to occur.
Jesus of Nazareth (Nazareth was the town in Galilee where Jesus lived for some 30 years.) came to the earth for the purpose of saving humankind from his sins (1 Timothy 1:15). Therefore this study focuses on how Christ’s life, death and resurrection accomplishes salvation for humanity. The form that we have taken to connect Christ’s life to the individual, is simply to ask the question: What is a true Christian? The answer to this question forms the core foundation of biblical Christianity.
What is a true Christian?
I. A person who is convicted (convinced) that he is in all ways sinful. [This conviction is a supernatural (Beyond the capacity of mankind to comprehend without God’s help.) work of the Holy Spirit]
“One cannot intelligently and heartily ask or accept a pardon until he sees the justice of his condemnation…The Gospel is no glad tidings to the careless sinner not convicted of sin.” (Charles Finney)
The starting point of the Christian faith, is that there is something terribly wrong with the human condition. The good news is that God in His “steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6) has provided a remedy for our desperate situation by the sacrifice of His only begotten and beloved Son. This is in fact the heart of the gospel (good news). Jesus’ name defined his earthly mission. Jesus is the Greek for the Hebrew Yeshua, which means the LORD saves. (Hebrew was the language of Jews living in Palestine. Aramaic was also spoken by Jesus and his disciples. The New Testament was written in koine Greek.) In the first book of the New Testament, Matthew, Chapter 1 verse 21 this is stated clearly: “..you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
All people who call themselves Christians must come to terms with their own sinful condition. The innate (natural) sinfulness of humankind is a reality that can only be revealed by God the Holy Spirit. That is why we call this a “supernatural revelation.” All people know that they have done bad things, such as lie, cheat, or steal, few, however, know that indeed every aspect of their being has been stained by sin. The latter is something that only God can convince a person of. (Certainly, the conventional wisdom of western society is exactly the contrary. It states that mankind is essentially “good,” and what flaws he has are learned and may be remedied through secular education, i.e. salvation can be found within man.) It is only in light of one’s desperate state, that man beholds the glory of God’s mercy poured out to us through His Son. It is only when a person understands his depravity that he seeks a Savior. Let’s read another parable that Jesus told to illuminate this first truth. Read Luke 18:9-14
Who was Jesus addressing this parable to? (9)
Whose sins (faults) is the Pharisee focusing on? (11) Is there any indication that the Pharisee saw his own sins?
Why do you think the Pharisee thought God would accept him? Was it because of his (Pharisee’s) good deeds, or because of God’s mercy?
Whose sins is the tax collector focusing on?
By what right do you think the tax collector thought he would be accepted by God? By his (tax collector’s) own merit or by God’s mercy? Do you think the tax collector had come to grips with his sin?
Which of the two men were accepted by God and why? (14)
Which of the two men had received “supernatural revelation” about their sinful nature? Which do you think loved God more? The good news is that God loves the ungodly (Romans 4:5), and desires to forgive the repentant sinner. Perhaps the person most used by God to spread the good news was the Apostle Paul. Paul was someone who embraced the gospel so intimately, in part, because he knew the depths from which God had rescued him.
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
In sum, we can never know Jesus to be our “Savior” until we know that we need to be saved! God shows us our own depravity (sinful condition) before our heart can earnestly yearn for a Savior. To be convicted of our depravity is a good thing, because without this awareness, we are careless sinners with no apparent need for salvation. Therefore the first piece of information in the gospel message is that man’s heart is, “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Scripture Reference: (Genesis 6:5, Job 42:5-6, Isaiah 6:5, 64:6, Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 1:21 (Jesus is the Greek for the Hebrew Yeshua-the LORD saves) Luke 5:8, 11:13, John 16:8, Romans 3:9-18)
II. A person who recognizes that Holy God’s only provision for our sin is the substitutionary death of His Son, Jesus the Christ.
The death of Jesus of Nazareth on the cross in 33 AD stands as the center of the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth states, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)
Fundamental to Christ’s mission on earth was his death for the sins of the world. Jesus of Nazareth was not merely a victim of injustice, envy and betrayal. Jesus’ death was central to the gracious plan of God to take away the sins of the world. The prophet Isaiah, almost 700 years before Christ, prophesied concerning Jesus’ sacrificial death, “it was the will of the LORD to crush him.” (Isaiah 53:10) John the Baptizer saw Christ as, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29) The Apostle Peter states that Christ, “bore our sins in his body on the tree.”(1 Peter 2:24) The Apostle Paul states that, “he was delivered up for our trespasses.” (Romans 4:25) The night before his crucifixion, as Christ and his disciples ate the Passover meal together, Jesus took his cup and said, “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28) Crucial to understanding the need for an adequate sacrifice for human sin, is understanding the nature of God. The great King David (1000BC-961BC) wrote concerning the Lord, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.” (Psalm 5:4) The Apostle John said, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) In order to gain some perspective on God’s holy nature, and the need for sin to be removed, let’s take a look at a passage from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah’s Vision of the LORD (Read Isaiah 6:1-7)
In a vivid picture of the throne room of God, the prophet Isaiah sees angels called seraphim surrounding God’s throne. A few details from this experience may help clarify God’s holiness. (The Hebrew word for holy refers to both “brightness” and “separation.” Both words refer to God’s complete disassociation with sin.) First, the Hebrew verb “seraph,” from which seraphim is derived, means “to burn.” Fire is oftentimes representative of God’s holiness in the Bible. Therefore, surrounding the throne of God are holy, “burning,” ministers of God. Second, the angels themselves holy ministers, are unable to behold the glory of the LORD, and so with one set of wings they hide their face from God’s brilliance and glory. Third, the words recorded from the seraphim are as follows, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The three-fold use of “holy” is indicative of God’s magnificent holiness. Finally, one of the most important prophets of God, Isaiah, is almost crushed underneath the weight of God’s radiant presence, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Isaiah’s reaction to God’s holiness is universal (the same for all people). God’s brilliance always illuminates our darkness, which, in the short run, causes anguish, as expressed by Isaiah. God’s holiness, however, does not mean that God is inaccessible. It means, however, that we must come to God on God’s terms. God’s terms are that human sin be dealt with for reconciliation to occur. Thus, for Isaiah, who would draw near to God, atonement was provided for his sin, “your guilt is taken away, and your sin is atoned for.” Without such a merciful provision, man is alienated from his Creator.
The sacrifice of God’s beloved Son, Jesus of Nazareth, is the foundation of the Christian faith, because it is God’s provision for mankind’s sin which restores the communion which was lost in the beginning with Adam and Eve. The substitutionary sacrifice of Christ is the basis by which we approach God. It is the completion of a process whereby God restores a broken relationship with a fallen world. In fact, the entire Bible is the story of God’s plan to repair and reconcile a broken relationship between God and man. Man was the initiator of the rebellion; God was the initiator and perfecter of the reconciliation. This plan was completed through the life, death and resurrection of God’s Son some 2000 years ago. The cross is then the culmination and center of all history and civilization.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:24-25,1 Peter 3:18
What was the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice?
What effect does Christ’s sacrifice have on my former way of life?
What effect does Christ’s death in 33 AD have on me today?
Christ’s substitutionary death has three essential components. First, our sins were transferred to Christ. Thus Christ, “himself bore our sins in his body.” (1 Peter 2:24) Second, Christ’s righteousness was transferred to us. (2 Corinthians 5:21) By removing our sin and guilt and replacing it with the righteousness of Christ, we are now able to enter into the presence of God the Father, “For Christ also suffered for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous that he might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)
Read Romans 3:23-25
The third component of the cross is propitiation. Propitiation is a term that means to appease the wrath of someone by the substitution of an offering. Jesus’ death averted the wrath and fury of God that was directed toward sinful humanity. The sin of humankind was placed on Jesus as well as the corresponding penalty due that sin. The righteous anger that was due mankind for all time was placed upon Christ Jesus.
A few definitions:
Read Hebrews 10:19-22
What consequence does Christ’s atoning death have for an individual in regards to their relationship with God?
Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross means that mankind is unable to escape from the bondage of sin on his own. Therefore salvation is completely God-derived and God-centered. In many cases we attempt (vainly) to find salvation from within, usually through a variety of “human-centered” or “self-help” projects. This is the essence of “legalism” and “works-righteousness.” (It is also worth noting that all other forms of pseudo-salvation ultimately discredit the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross. (Galatians 2:21) A good biblical example of this has already been studied above in Luke 18:9-14 (Pharisee and Tax Collector)
The sacrificial death of Christ is also the most precise definition of God’s love, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) and similarly, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) The crucifixion portrays the depth of God’s love because God’s beloved Son suffered and died for the wicked (Romans 4:5). We often think of Christ’s bodily torment as demonstrative of His love for us, but this does a great injustice to the heart of Christ’s passion (suffering). The Bible teaches that far exceeding the physical agony and humiliation of the cross, (though agony it was) was the fact that Christ bore the sin of all ages upon Himself. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) And elsewhere, “Christ redeemed us from the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13) Many find it crushing to be faced with their own guilt, but to be faced with the shame, filth and guilt of humanity past, present and future is certainly well beyond the limit of a mere mortal’s comprehension. In 1 John 4:10 (above) the Bible states that God’s love is demonstrated through propitiation. Another component of Christ’s sacrifice was to avert the wrath of God that was due mankind. Thus the full force of God’s righteous anger that mankind deserved throughout all time was placed upon His Son. It is little wonder that Christ, in his passion cried to his Father, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” (Matthew 27:46)
God’s grace is portrayed so clearly in the cross, because mankind couldn’t contribute anything towards his salvation. A beautiful picture of this was given above in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The son returns with nothing to give to his father except a record of rebellion and failure. In return, the father receives his son, celebrates his return, and treats him as royalty. The cross means that we can not “earn” our salvation. If we could earn it, then Christ would not have had to die for sin. “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Galatians 2:21) Since we can not earn or deserve our pardon, it must be received as a gift to be cherished above all else.
IIb. The Resurrection of Christ.
(Romans 4:25, 6:5-11, 1 Corinthians 15:14,17, Ephesians 2:6, 1 Peter 1:3)
The resurrection demonstrates Christ’s victory over sin and death. It also demonstrates the believer’s victory over sin and new life in Christ. The resurrection legitimizes all of Christ’s teaching, by demonstrating his absolute authority and power over all creation, including his own death. The apostle Paul connects the work of salvation to both Christ’s death and resurrection, “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25)
The crucifixion of Christ for mankind has three chief components. The first function of the crucifixion was expiation: that is Christ took our sins in his body. Secondly, we received Christ’s righteousness. Finally, Jesus bore the fury of God’s anger toward sinful man upon himself. The biblical word for this is propitiation. In this sense Christ’s death can be understood as a “substitution.” Where humankind deserved punishment, Jesus was a “substitute,” taking both our sin and the penalty for our sin upon himself. He took our sin and penalty in exchange for his righteousness.
(Leviticus 16, Isaiah 53, Matthew 26:28, Mark 10:45, John 1:29, 14:6, Acts 4:12, Romans 3:25, 5:8, 1 Corinthians 5:7, 15:3, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 2:20-1, Ephesians 2:8-9,1 Timothy 2:5-6, Titus 2:11-14, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 9, Hebrews 10, 1 Peter 2:24, 3:18, 1 John 2:2, 3:5, 4:10)
III. A person, once awoken to his spiritual condition, (through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit) turns away from sin and turns to God, by faith, to forgive him. (Acts 20:21)
Absolutely critical to conversion is “supernatural revelation” from God. Without such God-given revelation (insight), true conversion becomes an empty, hollow and sterile ritual.
There are two revelations (God-given insights) that are necessary for conversion:
A revelation of one’s sinful nature.
A revelation of God’s grace and love toward the unworthy sinner.
These two revelations form the basis by which repentance can genuinely occur. I can not stress enough how critical supernatural revelation is to true repentance and conversion. There are many church members who have been baptized and exist on church rosters without having any God given conviction. Without a God given knowledge of one’s sinful nature, as well as His unsurpassed mercy toward the wicked, biblical conversion is simply inconceivable. Put another way, conversion is impossible unless God speaks to your heart about your sin and His mercy. These revelations provide the starting point for a true Christian life. Conversion is in every way a miracle. The ability to “see” one’s condition and “see” God’s remedy for one’s situation (repentance) may also be called “faith.” Faith is a gift of supernatural “sight.” As your natural eyes perceive the world around you, faith perceives the supernatural.
A good example from the Bible, that embodies these two revelations as well as repentance, is that of a scene that takes place in the book of Luke. Read Luke 23:39-43
It is amazing that the most agonizing moment in Christ’s ministry, is also the platform for a brilliant display of His mercy toward a vile criminal. Scripture teaches that on either side of Christ, two other criminals were similarly executed. In these few short verses, we have the opportunity to see clearly how “revelation” (or “faith”) leads to true conversion and transformation. In verse 39, one of the criminals cursed Christ as nearly all others (leaders, rulers, people, soldiers) had previously. It is thus startling to hear the second criminal’s response. His speech is in complete disagreement with the venom coming from all other quarters (criminal, crowd, rulers, soldiers). The second criminal has received revelation (faith) from God. He has received something he could not have learned without direct assistance from God. First, he understood the justice of his condemnation! “we are receiving the due reward of our deeds.” (41) This is a remarkable confession from a man who is nailed to a cross awaiting a slow and brutal death. How could he see that he deserved condemnation unless God had convinced him of such. Second, God showed him something totally hidden from the human eye. God revealed that Jesus was a King! (“Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”) This is extraordinary in light of Jesus’ completely desperate condition. Christ having been scourged (A punishment inflicted with a whip whose cords were embedded with pieces of lead and bone. According to Matthew 27:26, this was a punishment preceding crucifixion.) and now crucified, hardly appeared to be charge over a kingdom. The King revealed was also full of grace and mercy. It is for that reason that the criminal asks Christ to be a beneficiary (inheritor) of his kingdom, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (42) Christ’s mercy is made explicit through his response, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Again, we are reminded that grace is something that we by definition can not earn. The criminal, immobilized and near death, had absolutely no “good work” to give to God. The criminal doesn’t even have time to make amends for his life. There is no possibility for restitution. What has saved him is his response to God’s initiative. He trusted in Christ’s mercy, love and authority. We are saved because of God’s grace, not because of any work on our part, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Faith is a supernatural vision that God gives. It reveals the miserable condition of the sinner, the justice of his condemnation and the grace of God that desires reconciliation above retribution.
In the story of the Prodigal Son we learned that repentance means to “change one’s mind.” What evidence is there that the criminal changed his mind?
What are the conditions necessary for a person to truly be repentant?
How do you think the criminal felt after verse 43?
How do you think Jesus felt about this 11th hour conversion?
Another key passage which underscores the necessity of revelation is found in Matthew 16:13-18. Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah (Christ) and the “Son of the living God” was clearly revealed not by Peter’s natural faculties, but through the “super” natural intervention of the Father.
Further Study on Repentance.
Who convinces a person of his sin? (read John 16:8)
How do we know that we have been forgiven by God? (Read Acts 3:19-20. It is God who convicts (convinces) of sin, and it is God who convinces of forgiveness. (see 1 John 1:9 also))
What are the consequences of true repentance? (read Matthew 3:8, Acts 26:20 and 2 Timothy 2:19)
How does true repentance differ from false repentance?
A critical concept in Christian discipleship is that of supernatural revelation (as noted above). Only God the Holy Spirit can truly reveal the personal implications of the cross. Without that revelation, however, one will never truly entrust his life to the Lord Jesus. It is worth stating at this juncture that every spiritual truth and doctrine must be supernaturally revealed and discerned. Without such revelation, the gospel will remain in the realm of sterile knowledge or “folly.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Another way to approach the idea of “supernatural revelation” is to focus on God’s sovereign choice for salvation. In the gospel of John, Jesus says. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44) It is the Father who grants us the revelation (faith) required for salvation.
A Theological Moment– Conversion and Regeneration. Conversion is comprised of 2 elements: Faith and Repentance. Regeneration is entirely God’s miraculous ‘recreation’ of the human heart. (Titus 3:5) After conversion and regeneration we are called literally ‘new creatures’ or ‘new creations.’ (There is always some sense of “mystery” involved in conversion. What is God’s part? What is the human part? We need God to have faith in the first place – at the same time humans must cooperate with God’s work in their life. This “mystery” of cooperation extends throughout the Christian life. “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13) )
(2 Chronicles 7:14, Isaiah 30:15, Ezekiel 18:30, Matthew 16:13-17, Mark 1:15, Luke 24:47, John 6:44, 65, Acts 2:38, 3:19, 17:30, Acts 20:21, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 6:1, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 John 1:9)
IV. A person who having received Jesus as Savior (from sins) surrenders to Jesus as LORD. Lordship is not optional, but integral to Christian discipleship.
What do you think it means to receive Christ as “Lord?”
Read Mark 8:34-37.
Who is Jesus addressing in this passage? (34)
What does Jesus state are the things one must do to follow him? (34)
What does Jesus state are the consequences of a “self-centered” or unsurrendered life? (35-36)
Read Luke 14:25-33
Jesus often told parables to illustrate a point that he wanted to convey. What do you think the main point of this parable is?
Who is Jesus addressing in this parable? (25)
What do you think Jesus means when he says that to follow him we must “hate” our family? (26)
In verse 33 Jesus states that a condition to following him is that a person should “renounce” all that he has. What does “renounce” mean? How does it make you feel?
Read Romans 12:1-2
The Apostle Paul states that Christians should present their bodies as a “living sacrifice.” What do you think a “living sacrifice” is?
According to verse one, what must happen before a person is willing to be a “living sacrifice?”
Discuss in your group what it means to present your bodies as a “living sacrifice.”
A personal relationship with Jesus becomes exciting when we speak to Him, and listen to His voice (2). For many Christians this never becomes a reality because verse 2 is only available to those who have passed through verse 1. What then are the conditions to hearing God’s specific will for our lives?
Lordship is not a concept new to the New Testament. The basis of Israel’s relationship with the LORD in the Old Testament was one of absolute faithfulness expressed in the first commandment,
“You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
Lordship has often been seen as the calling of a Christian “elite.” A careful examination of Scripture teaches, however, that all Christians are called to surrender every aspect of their lives, unconditionally, to Christ. In light of God’s work on the cross for us, we are called to forsake (disown) our will, dreams, ambitions, hope for fulfillment in the world, finances, and in fact all allegiances to the world. All decisions are subject to our Lord’s beautiful leadership including decisions regarding: career, location, possessions, behavior, marriage, education, time allotment, entertainment, vacations, etc. We must realize that we are called to be servants of God. God does not use self conceived plans, however good they may appear. Throughout Scripture God uses people who will do what He says.
A life that is consecrated (set apart) to the Lord produces spiritual power, signs and wonders, joy, victory over sin, the flesh (sinful nature) and the devil. A divided heart produces powerlessness, depression and discouragement in virtually every sector of the Christian life. Christ is our supreme example of a relationship of servant-hood. Christ lived in complete obedience to the will of God the Father.
It is worth mentioning that Lordship is motivated out of one’s love for God. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” It is from this fountain that, “depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37, 40) In other words, our desire to serve God without condition, comes from our love for Him. It is impossible to be a servant of God unless there is a real relationship of love.
Other Scripture References:
(Genesis 12:1-4, Exodus 20:3, 1 Kings 19:19-21, Mark 8:34-36, Luke 6:46, 14:25-33, John 12:24-26, Romans 10:9-10, 12:1-2, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Revelation 5:9)
V. A Person who has received the Holy Spirit.
All true Christians receive the Holy Spirit when they are saved. (Romans 8:9, Ephesians 1:13) This is a critical part of the salvation process. The initial reception of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is characterized by a variety of experiences which witness to the Spirit’s presence. (It may not be helpful to systematize one’s salvation experience.) The Spirit’s abiding presence in the life of a believer is proven by the “fruit” (by-products) of the Spirit. If these fruit are not the pattern in the life of a Christian, then one must question whether the Spirit indeed inhabits the individual. Remember: True conversion always includes the reception of the Holy Spirit. Indeed the Spirit affects every part of the conversion process. He (the Holy Spirit) inspires the evangelist (Acts 1:8), convinces the sinner of his condition (John 16:8), draws the sinner to Jesus (Acts 7:51) , regenerates (recreates) the sinner (John 3:5, Titus 3:5), inhabits the believer (Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 6:19), empowers the Christian to be blameless (holy), (Romans 8:4) and assures the believer of his salvation (Romans 8:16)! The presence of God is made manifest in the believer and in the church by God the Holy Spirit. Bless you precious Holy Spirit!
God the Holy Spirit:
He convicts (convinces) humans of sin, righteousness and judgment. (John 16:8)
He regenerates (recreates) and renews the heart. (Titus 3:5)
He gives us power to live blameless lives. (Romans 8:1-4)
He teaches all things. (John 14:26)
He bears witness to Jesus Christ. (John 15:26)
He empowers for evangelism. (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8)
He supplies Christians with gifts of the Spirit. (Romans 12:3-8, 15:19, 1 Corinthians 12, 14, Galatians 3:5, Ephesians 4:7-12)
He supplies Christians with the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-24)
He is the guarantee of our inheritance. (Romans 8:16, Ephesians 1:13, 1 John 4:13)
Read Romans 8:5-8, 12-13; Galatians 5:16-21, 25
Walking in the Spirit vs. Walking in the Flesh
Though we are “new creatures” (2 Corinthians 5:17) in Christ, and “temples of the Holy Spirit,” (1 Corinthians 6:19) our struggle with sin does not end. We are still tempted to return to our former way of life or former identity. The good news is that we do not have to “give into” our old patterns. (Romans 8:12-13) The Bible clearly teaches that in Christ, “sin will have no dominion over you.” (Romans 6:14) Therefore, because of the power of the Holy Spirit abiding in the believer, we have the ability to choose to walk “according to the Spirit,” and not “according to the flesh.”
Flesh: The “flesh” in Scripture can be used to describe (1) physical body or (2) the attitudes, desires, passions and actions of the “old man.” (that is the man without the Spirit) Therefore, the 2nd definition is all that is part of a man that is not under the authority of the Holy Spirit (God). This is what Paul has in mind in this discussion of flesh and Spirit.
How can you stay “in the Spirit?”
Why is the “mind” such an important part of this discussion? (Romans 8:6-7)
How can you cross over into the realm of the flesh?
What does Scripture state is the consequence of living in the realm of the “flesh?” (Romans 8:6, Galatians 5:21)
Scripture References: (John 3:1-21, 7:38-39, 14:15-17, Acts 1:8, 2:38, Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Galatians 3:2, 4:6, Ephesians 1:13, 2 Timothy 1:14, Titus 3:5-7)
VI. A True Christian will produce Spiritual fruit, and have Gifts of the Spirit. (This is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence and true conversion)
Fruit of the Spirit
How does one know if one has been truly converted? There are plenty of people who agree with points 1-6 but are not true believers! (James 2:19) In many cases the answer lies in an absence of supernatural revelation of sin and grace. One might agree intellectually that one is a sinner, but one only “knows” this when God makes it known by His Spirit! So how do I know for sure that I am truly a Christian? Fortunately, God has given us His unmistakable presence, which abides in every Christian, the blessed Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 1:13-14) His presence is not a secret. He produces signs in a person’s life that witness to that presence. The Bible lists some of these signs, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Simply put, these characteristics affirm the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. If these characteristics are not normative, there is reason to be concerned about one’s spiritual status. Other characteristics of the Spirit’s presence are understanding God’s Word, desiring to read God’s Word, a desire to see others reconciled to God through Christ, a desire to separate oneself from sin, and a desire to be with God’s people (the church).
Read Galatians 5:22-23
Discuss the meaning of each fruit of the Spirit.
What does the fruit of the Spirit teach us about who God is?
The verses preceding this passage, (19-21) show us what the fruit of the “flesh” (sinful nature) is. Have you experienced these characteristics? The good news is that the Spirit wants to set all believers free from all of those old characteristics!
Gifts of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit is to be distinguished from the gifts of the Spirit, though both are signs of the Spirit’s presence and genuine salvation. The gifts of the Spirit are given to individuals for the edification (building up) of the church. The gifts are given to every Christian, (1 Corinthians 12:7) as determined by God, for the purpose of exalting the Lordship of Christ.
In Paul’s (author of Corinthians) discussion of Spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, he also provides valuable information about the church. In this passage, the church is compared to a human body. Just as a human body has many different parts which together make a single body, so the church is a “body” (27) composed of a diversity of members. The diversity of spiritual gifts distributed throughout the body (church) illuminate different aspects of Christ. Thus, when these different parts come together in unity, they have the potential to present the whole person of Christ. When this happens, the church presents a powerful witness to the world. Oftentimes the church’s witness is weak because so many body parts are “asleep,” or “dismembered.” Oh the glory and power of a church working in unity and one accord with all of its body parts!
Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-31
List the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in this passage. (8-10)
Who determines which gifts individual receive? (11)
How might the gifts be used to exalt the Lordship of Christ?
How does this picture of the “body” challenge your understanding of the church?
As Christians, we are incomplete apart from the body of Christ (the local church). Imagine how useful a hand is which is not attached to a human body. Similarly, a Christian who is not a spiritual member of a local body is in dangerous territory. The Scriptures do not conceive of the possibility of being a Christian outside of the church. Scripture teaches that true faith always leads to a love for His body, the church. (Colossians 1:4)
Scripture Reference: (Matthew 3:10, 7:15-23, Mark 4:20, Luke 4:4-15, Acts 26:20, Romans 2:6, 1 Corinthians 12, 14, Galatians 5:22-24, 2 Timothy 2:19, Revelation 20:13) (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4:8-16, 1 Peter 4:9-11, 1 John 3:9)
VII. A Person who has been baptized in water.
Baptism is a picture of the conversion experience. It normally takes place soon after the time of saving faith. Immersion in water represents one’s death in sin and death to sin. Emerging from the water is a picture of the believer’s new victorious life in Christ. The “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) in Christ is born of the Spirit and is an inheritor of all the promises of God in Christ. Baptism demonstrates God’s power over sin and death, since Christ died with our sin and rose on the third day. The believer is joined to Christ in baptism and inherits Christ’s victory over sin, death and the devil. No wonder the Bible states that we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
To summarize then, baptism is a picture of the fact that we were dead in our sins before they were taken away. It also demonstrates our death to sin, which means that the “old man” (sinful self) is put to death in conversion. We arise with a new “spiritual DNA,” released from the bondage and power of sin, the devil and death.
Baptism is also a time where one’s new faith becomes public. The Scriptures do not imagine that conversion would ever be a private affair. After having been delivered from the realm of darkness, sin and hell, into his marvelous light, there should be no other response than to make public one’s new life in Christ.
Read Romans 6:2-11
In this important passage, the Apostle Paul (author of Romans) reminds the church in Rome that their baptism represents important aspects of the Christian’s life in Christ. For some who thought grace gave them liberty to sin, Paul reminds them, that baptism is a picture of the believer’s death to sin and new life in Christ.
What does it mean that the “old self was crucified?” (6)
What does baptism represent in light of verses 6 and 7?
Why might it be important to “die” before we can truly live? (4-5)
(Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 41, 8:36, 16:33, Romans 6:1-7)
VIII. The Final Judgement
The doctrine (teaching) of judgment is one that extends throughout biblical history. One of the clearest examples of judgment is found in the book of Exodus where God makes a distinction between the Egyptians and Hebrews.
Read Exodus 12:1-13
What animal was to be used for the Passover meal? (3)
Do you know anyone else in the Scripture who is referred to as a “lamb?” (John 1:29)
How would God execute judgment in this last plague? (12)
What was the basis for God “passing over” the Hebrew firstborn? (13)
Does this passage mirror another picture that you have seen in Jesus of Nazareth? How? (Ephesians 1:7)
On what basis will God make a distinction concerning all the peoples of the world?
The mercy of God extended to mankind will soon come to an end. In the absence of mercy there remains only the justice of God. Without mercy, humankind must stand on his own merit before God. Without the grace of God to remove our guilt, we stand justly condemned before Holy God. Our thoughts, words and actions (or lack thereof) which are intimately known by God, will justly condemn us on that terrible day. Since God’s holiness excludes sin, the guilty must be forever excluded from His presence. When Christ returns, it will not be for the purpose “to deal with sin,” but to “be the judge of the living and the dead.” (Hebrews 9:28 & Acts 10:42)
For those who have accepted reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ, reconciliation will be eternal. The cross, which brought us to God, will have eternal consequences for the believer. The believer will exist forever in the presence of God in heaven. On the other hand, those who have rejected the gift of God in Christ Jesus, and refused to turn from their sin, will merit eternal rejection, “for those who are self seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” (Romans 2:8)
The eternal judgment of humanity has always been a foundation of genuine Christian teaching, and preaching. (Hebrews 6:2, Acts 10:42, 17:30-3, 24:25, 2 Corinthians 5:11) Eternal judgment means that no-one can be indifferent to Christ’s message. If accepting God’s grace merely meant receiving temporary relief from guilt, rejection of such a gift would be eternally inconsequential. Our response to God’s gift of reconciliation, however, determines our eternal destiny. The place assigned to those who reject God’s Son is called hell. Hell is the place of eternal punishment for the unrepentant. Jesus spoke of hell more than any other person in the Bible. He wisely cautioned people of their fate, were they not to receive the Kingdom. (Matthew 13:42) Jesus of Nazareth described hell as a “fiery furnace,” a place of “unquenchable fire,” and “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” (Matthew 13:42, Mark 9:43,48) Elsewhere John (one of the 12 Apostles) likened hell to a “lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15) Jesus also referred to hell as “outer darkness,” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12) Thus, the consequences for denying God’s mercy are without human parallel. Eternal separation from God in hell is far beyond the limitations of human experience to describe or conceive.
Judgment is based on the human response to God’s grace, demonstrated through the sacrificial death of His only Son. The cross is God’s only provision for human sin. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6) God provided His Son to bridge the gap between Himself and humankind. All other attempts for man to draw near to God are hopeless. All other attempts to atone for sin are similarly futile. The scripture teaches that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), and God’s only antidote for sin is the blood of His Son (Acts 4:12). God’s claim on humanity is universal. God’s message of love and reconciliation reaches from Capetown to Shanghai and from San Francisco to Karachi. Men from every tribe and tongue will be judged on the basis of their response to Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus told a story about the fate of two people after they died and were buried. Let’s see what there is to learn from this passage.
Read Luke 16:19-31
Which man would have been labeled a “success” in the eyes of the world? Today, when someone says that “John Smith” is a success, what does he usually mean?
Which man would have been seen as complete failure by human standards? And why?
After both of the men died, their respective statuses changed dramatically and eternally. How do you think the “Rich Man” may have felt after such a role reversal? (It is important to note that this passage does not teach that the rich in this world are excluded from heaven. Nor does it teach that the poor will all go to heaven. In our previous discussions, you will remember that our response to Christ’s sacrificial death will determine our eternal destiny, not our monetary status on earth.)
Why do you think Jesus mentions the Rich Man’s tongue? (see Matthew 12:35-37)
What does this story say about the permanence of people’s position after death? (26)
What was the Rich Man’s second request? Why do you think he was so eager for his brothers to be warned? (27-28)
Why does the Rich Man think Lazarus could help convince his brothers to repent?
Abraham responds that even a miracle on the scale of resurrection would not convince his brothers. Instead, Abraham insists that God had already sufficiently revealed Himself through Moses and the Prophets (the Bible of that era). What does this response teach us about the role of supernatural revelation in the role of repentance and true conversion?
Ultimately, Christ’s words regarding a person rising from the dead were prophetic. How did people respond to Christ’s resurrection?
To many 21st century ears, eternal judgment may appear extreme. Eternal separation from God seems severe in contrast to the God of grace, love and peace. Hell teaches us however, that the treason and rebellion of man toward God is itself extreme. It teaches us that sin is an awful assault against the holiness of God. It reminds us of God’s awesome holiness and fury toward evil and ultimately toward creatures that promote evil. Hell-fire likewise reminds us that we live in a moral universe under the eyes of the God who ‘sees.’ It should urge all Christians to plead with people to be reconciled with their Maker through Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:11, Colossians 1:28)
Scripture Reference: Exodus 11:4-7, Matthew 10:28, 25:46, Mark 9:47-48, Luke 16:19-31, John 3:36, Acts 10:42, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, Hebrews 6:2, 9:27, Revelation 20:11-15, 21:8)
This course has covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time! Nevertheless, you have been introduced to the basics of biblical Christianity. You certainly are not expected to understand all of the material. This material is only “understood” as God makes it known to your heart by His Spirit. (John 16:13-14) I pray that God will use this study in your life to lead you closer to Him, and to provide a “tool” for understanding spiritual truths that you will be exposed to later on in your pilgrimage. I pray that this study has you pointed in the direction of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may he be greatly honored by it!
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About the Author:
Sky Cline was raised in Southern Africa in Baptist and Assemblies of God traditions.
Received his B.A. from the College of William & Mary. (1994), Masters from Duke University. (2001) Classes from Fuller Seminary in 2008.
Missionary to Guinea, West Africa (1995), South East Asia 2012-22, Prison Ministry (2011-2022) Pastoral Ministry (1997-2015) Ordained in Southern Baptist Convention, (1997)
Husband to Mahina Cline and Father of 4 children.
Founder & Owner of evangelicalbible.com & Schuyler Publishers
Favorite Pastors: Charles H. Spurgeon, William Duma, David Wilkerson.
Favorite Theologian: Millard Erickson.