Base Theology Discipleship

A series of short beginner theology discipleship lessons.

17 – God Created

God’s Word begins before the beginning, starting with an explanation of the beginning. As the only recorded eyewitness to this worlds’ beginning, God presents a powerful, yet sensible testimony of how everything that we know of in creation came into being. This is the doctrine of creation. Creation is not a matter for science, rather, creation is theological as Scripture is our only source of information regarding the creator and the events of His creation.

As the pre-existent one, God tells us that ​“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). He did this through “his Son… through whom also he created the world” (Heb 1:2). John explains that Jesus, who is also known as ‘the Word,’ “was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jn 1:1-3).

God testifies to being unassisted in the work of creating everything. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb 11:3). No other being, no angels, no microscopic matter, and no external information was used by God to design and bring into being everything we know to be real in the universe. He did not require assistance; he did not need to use building materials or tools. He simply spoke all of creation into existence by His own intrinsic power and will. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:16).

All living things in the heavenly and spiritual realm, plus all within the earthy physical realm, are the direct result of God exercising His creative power. Nothing that came into being was without purpose or meaning, as everything was intended for the glory of God. Therefore, mankind finds his meaning, his purpose, and his hope in living for God. Mankind is NOT independent of God, nor is mankind autonomous, or self-authoritative.

As the eternal, uncreated, and pre-existent God who “has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (Jn 5:26). God is life, and His Son Jesus Christ who was the instrument of God’s creative Word is also life. Which is why Jesus was able to say of himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Furthermore, the apostle Paul adds that “the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2). So, we see that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are perpetual life in and of themselves, incapable of non-life, incapable of annihilation, and incapable of non-existence.

Genesis 1:2 further tells us that in the initial steps of creation “the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” God the Holy Spirit was both present and active in the exercise of the Father and Son’s creative work. The entirety of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were united in the expression of their will and power through bringing into existence their world within their universe, for their glory.

Proverbs 3:19 adds that “the LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens.” God engaged more than His intellect and power in creation. He unleashed the greatest expression of His understanding by employing His wisdom. Proverbs 8:22 continues, “the LORD possessed me (wisdom) at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.”  Then, wisdom testifies, “I was daily his delight” (Proverbs 8:30). As Yahweh exercised His will through His intelligence and powerful creativity, He only made the best decisions, only implementing the very best that He was capable of. The result was that God’s perfection rejoiced in the excellence of His wise handiwork. This is why on the sixth day of creation, as the Lord evaluated all that He had accomplished, He concluded that everything “was very good” (Gen 1:31).

Paul informed the Colossian believers that “He (Christ) is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Col 1:17). Jesus Christ, who existed before anything else existed, was not only the cause of all created things, but He is the cause of the created universe holding together. Christ is the reason for all material objects NOT falling apart. Every unseen, and every visible process that operates in the universe to maintain order is the direct enablement of Christ’s sovereign will and power. This is why the writer of Hebrews says that Christ “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3). Because of Christ’s sovereignty over creation, we can say with Paul, “in him (Christ) we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Christ is the giver of life, and Christ is the sustainer of life. Therefore, every creature that exists is subject to God and dependent upon God as the absolute owner of all. Understanding this is essential because “the whole world… is accountable to God” (Rom 3:19).

Nothing was left to chance or to self-development, there was and remains no evolutionary process. God did NOT create the universe then sit back and hope that everything would somehow continue to develop and maintain itself. No, in the beginning, God created everything complete, fully developed, and fully functional.

Let’s now turn our attention to some details concerning the origin of all that we know that exists in the universe. The creation account recorded in Genesis 1:1-2:3 puts God’s genius on display. Even a quick reading reveals the increments in which God worked. The entire process was divided into 6 stages, which were 6 cycles of time which He called days and nights. Notice that before God’s first creative work NOTHING existed, there were no building materials and no measurement of area or of time.

Day 1     Gen 1:1-5
God created the empty universe with a single planet – earth. The earth was a round sphere (Isa 40:22) completely covered with water, sitting in total darkness. God then created light and separated the light from the darkness, calling light “day” and darkness “night.” This was the first literal 24 hour cycle of time divided into night and day without a Sun or Moon, purely by God’s power.

Day 2     Gen 1:6-8
God created an expanse, an empty area which separated the waters and called it heaven (sky). Now there was water covering the entire earth surface, plus water up in the sky which we call cloud. In between these two waters was the empty expanse which we call air (atmosphere).

At this point in time there was no rain, the clouds contained the water without dropping it. Plus, rising from the surface of the ground was a water vapour, a mist of tiny floating water droplets which provided water to anything that grew up from the ground.

Day 3     Gen 1:9-13
God created the dry ground, and He gathered the waters which covered the surface of the earth, calling the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters “seas” (Oceans).

God also created vegetation (plants and trees). The plants were divided into distinctly different types, or categories, and given the ability to reproduce through their seeds. Each plant could only reproduce another plant of its same kind by its own seed.

Within these different plant types, God created some which produced fruit which also contained their seeds. All these plants were created mature, and without the need for further development for them to reproduce.

Day 4     Gen 1:14-19
God created the sun, moon, and stars to give light to the earth and to govern and separate the day and night times. These would also serve as signs to mark out and govern seasons, days, and years.

On this day God created what we call our solar system, a highly accurate group of revolving heavenly bodies. The distance, the angles, and the magnetic fields of these planets and stars are precisely determined by God and they in turn determine the earths seasons, temperature, and the ocean tides.

Day 5     Gen 1:20-23
God created every living creature in the seas and every winged bird. He blessed them with the instinctive ability to multiply and fill the waters and the sky with life. The enormous diversity in the many kinds of sea life and bird life is testament to God’s ingenious creative mind and power. From the microscopic organisms to the great whales of the sea, God created them all as living beings.

Notice again, that God created all these creatures mature and fully developed in their distinct categories of kinds, ready for reproduction. God did not create just a few of these creatures, but huge numbers of them so that the oceans swarmed with them.

Day 6     Gen 1:24-31; 2:7-8, 2:15-25
God created all the animals to cover the earth, from tiny insects to giant creatures such as the Elephant, and even larger, the dinosaurs. Again, every creature was made fully mature, reproductive, and fully functional in all the activities of their lives. Each kind of creature was unique, different in design and function, and possessed differing levels of intelligence and reasoning. All were given the instincts, the required mental instructions needed to live from the moment of their creation, NO further development was needed.

But it was on the sixth day that God created His most spectacular creature, the only creature which God formed from the dust of the earth. This creature carried the image of God, it was man (Adam). God breathed life into the man who carried superior intelligence, greater dignity, and an awareness of his unique relationship with creator God.

God entrusted the knowledge of obedience and disobedience, of life and death only to Adam by instructing Adam NOT to eat from one tree which lived in the centre of the garden. Genesis 2:17, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” No other creature was given this knowledge or responsibility. This instruction was given to Adam alone to pass on to all future humans, beginning with his future wife, Eve.

God also entrusted to Adam the job of naming all the creatures of the earth which God had created. Genesis 2:19, “now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.” Adam alone possessed the ingenious intelligence required to think up and assign names to the huge number of different creatures that God had made. To a lesser degree, Adam possessed similar intellect as His creator, which identified Adam as being very different from all else that God had created. Adam stood out, he stood apart from every other living creature.

The next stage of God’s human development was equally unique from all else. God put Adam to sleep and surgically removed one of His ribs, then closed the wound. God proceeded to form a woman from that rib (Eve), and presented her to Adam as His counterpart, the one who would complete and balance Adam. Eve was Adam’s wife right from creation. Both man and woman were equally created in the image of God. Neither Adam nor Eve were superior or inferior to each other. Both were equally superior to all other creatures, and both were equally inferior to their creator God.

God blessed them equally and gave them every creature and the whole earth to rule over, to care for, to develop, and cultivate as they thought best as a governing partnership over the earth. Out of all the creatures, great and small, only Adam and Eve were equally given the responsibility and freedom to manage the entire planet that God had created.

So, at the end of day number 6, having created His most spectacular creatures, God surveyed everything, looking intently into all that He had made. He evaluated with a piercing examination of  every aspect of all He had made over the past 6 days. His conclusion was that everything, in every detail, from the smallest to the greatest, “was very good” (Gen 1:31). From the Hebrew language which Genesis is written in, we learn that God wholly, or exceedingly, says that everything was the very best, without even the smallest imperfection. Everything was an accurate expression of His majestic greatness and power. Holiness and omniscient power had given birth to creation through the spoken Word of Christ.

Day 7     Gen 2:1-3
God had completed His 6 literal days of creative work, with NO part requiring any further development, refinement, or improvement. Everything, without exception, was perfect and in full alignment with God’s holy will and purpose.

God was not exhausted; He did not need to rest because He was tired or had run out of ideas. No, He rested because there was nothing more that needed doing, “so God blessed the seventh day and made it holy” (Gen 2:3). Everything that God had designed and intended had become reality, so He rested.

Why is it important to have a clear and literal understanding of biblical creation? Following is a sample of how Scripture reveals the significance of understanding God’s creative work.

Creation reveals God
Romans 1:19-20 “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Everything that exists is an open declaration by God of His desire to be recognised and known. Creation is a tangible book about God, written in language that all people can see and understand. All that can be scientifically examined, and all that can be experienced, speaks of God’s design, of God’s intelligence, and of God’s purposeful power. While the created universe is limited in its ability to display all of God’s attributes, much of God’s character is clearly seen in the created universe.

The human authors of God’s Word speak repeatedly, drawing the reader’s attention to God and His creative authorship of all that exists. Moses, Amos, Asaph, David, Ethan, Ezekiel, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Job, the Levites, Malachi, Nehemiah, the Psalmist, Solomon, Zechariah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, and the writer of Hebrews, all declare God as the creator of all things. The Bible points repeatedly to God being the reason for both the universe and mankind existing. The evidence is so clear, and so boldly obvious, that God says mankind is without excuse if they claim there is no creator God.

When Paul was preaching in the Greek city of Lystra, Acts 14:15-17 records him calling the people to look at creation.
“We bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them… God …did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” The hydrologic system that produces rain, as well as the earths’ ability to produce an incredible variety of fruits and vegetables is no accident. The earth produces food as an expression of God’s provision in creation. Food is given by God for our survival and nourishment. The earth’s food supply is testimony to God’s existence.

David proclaimed in Psalm 19:1-2, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” The enormity of the universe with all its stars and planets orbiting in their precise place and timing, tells of God’s greatness. The heavens remind us of just how small we are by comparison to God, yet He loves us and cares for us (Jn 3:16).

1 Chronicles 29:11-12 shares a prayer of David before the assembly of Israel. “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honour come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.” Understanding God as creator gives mankind a correct perspective of the greatness of God and the smallness of mankind. It also tells us that God is sovereign, owning everything. God sets the boundaries, and He controls all that happens within His kingdom. Mankind is dependent upon God for all things. There is no place, no time, and no circumstances when God is not ruling over everything. No matter who we are, or where we are, it is God who grants us our abilities and strength.

Therefore, it is only God who can forgive mankind’s rebellion. Only He can forgive humanity’s desire to live separate from, and in denial of creator God. Mankind’s disobedience to God can only be forgiven and cleansed by the God we offend. As Mark 2:7 says, “who can forgive sins but God alone?” “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb…’” (Isaiah 44:24). Our creator is our redeemer through His Son Jesus Christ. John 1:12 says, “all who did receive him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he (God) gave the right to become children of God.”

I shall leave you with the inspirational worship from the Levites of old. “Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you” (Nehemiah 9:5-6).

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16 – Exposit Gods Word

Reasons Why Biblical Exposition Is Best

When considering the many teaching methods and styles used by 21st century ministries, the choices can become quite bewildering. As Bible teachers, we wish to minimise the potential communication tensions between teachers and listeners.

The apostle Paul declared the Church to be “the pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). “A pillar is a concrete column that holds up the roof of a building. A buttress is anything that supports, strengthens, or stabilizes a structure. The picture emerging is that the church holds up the truth for all people to hear it amid the howling winds of error in the world. The truth remains constant and unshakable when the church faithfully discharges its duty. It is a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (Conrad Mbewe. God’s Design for the Church – A Guide for African Pastors and Ministry Leaders.)

That’s a fearful responsibility for teachers to accept and live up to. In today’s amoral world, it’s more important than ever for Church teachers to strive for the same degree of integrity as the apostles had. Paul explained to the Church in Corinth that “we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2 NIV). Like the apostles, we are not permitted to do whatever we like with God’s Word. We do not have the luxury of creating inaccuracies or softening Biblical truth to appease our listeners. Like Paul, we are to teach God’s truth plainly and clearly so that our hearers recognise it as God’s Word.

Preachers and disciplers are called of God to emulate the teaching model found in Nehemiah 8:1-8, where the Law of Moses was brought before the assembled congregation and read. The priests then “helped the people to understand the Law …and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”

  • The priests did not give their opinion or personal interpretation. The meaning came from the text itself, allowing people to understand the text. Neither the opinions of the priests or the people concerning the Law of Moses was of any value.
  • All the priests worked from, and explained, the same text from the Law of Moses. There was unity in their ministry as they exposed God’s people to God’s Law.
  • All the priests “helped the people to understand,” signifying a humble attitude working to elevate the people’s realisation of God speaking through His Word.
  • The priests did NOT help the people to explore what the Law of Moses meant to them. No, the meaning of the Law of Moses when God delivered the Law to Moses was the meaning that the priests explained to the people.

Put simply, expository preaching involves the detailed explanation of the biblical text. It’s explaining the authors intended meaning at the time of writing in such a way as to be understood today.

Campbell Morgan, pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel (1886-1919 & 1933-1943), taught that a sermon is limited by the text it is covering. Every word from the pulpit should amplify, elaborate on, or illustrate the text at hand, with a view towards clarity. He wrote, “The sermon is the text repeated more fully.” A sermon’s primary function is to present and explain the text.

As a method, expository preaching differs from topical preaching. With a topical sermon, the preacher starts with a topic and then finds material or passages in the Bible that speaks to that topic. For example, if the topic is “Laziness,” the preacher may refer to Proverbs 15:19; 18:9, possibly touching also on Romans 12:11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:10. None of the passages would be studied in depth; instead, each is used to support the theme of laziness. To do this, the texts being used are typically treated superficially in order to support the topic. This permits the teacher great liberty to insert his own thoughts into the study and teaching process.

Topical sermons use a Bible passage as support material for the topic. Whereas expository teaching uses the Bible passage as the topic, with other support material, including other Bible passages being used to explain and clarify the primary biblical text. Continual topical preaching brings out the preacher’s pet subjects, and in effect, even unknowingly, it can end up discipling the congregation towards the preacher instead of towards Christ.  

While exposition is not the only valid method of preaching, it is the best for teaching the plain meaning of the Bible. Expository preachers and teachers usually approach Scripture with the following prerequisites in their thinking:

  • The Bible is God’s Word. Since every word of God is pure and true (Psalm 12:6; 19:9; 119:140), every word deserves to be examined and understood in its own context.
  • Men need divine wisdom in order to understand God’s written Word (1 Corinthians 2:12-16). Therefore, diligent Bible study, while being dependent upon the Holy Spirit is essential.
  • With exposition, the preacher is subject to the text, not the other way around. Scripture is the authority, and its message must be presented honestly and apart from personal bias.
  • The preacher’s job is to clarify the text and call for a corresponding response from the hearers. This calls for expository listening by the hearers, where they are watching and listening for truth rising from the text of Scripture.
  • When teaching by exposition, all stories and illustrations are secondary and should point directly to the truth of the passage being taught.
  • An expositor cares little if his audience says, “What a great sermon.” Rather, the expositor genuinely wants to hear his listeners say, “now I understand what that passage means.”

Biblical expository teaching educates God’s people sequentially, which is God’s design for discipleship. Primarily, God’s people need to grow their understanding and experience of Jesus Christ through the Scriptures in the order of revelation as the Holy Spirit intended. When we read a letter from someone, we naturally begin reading at the start of the letter and continue to the end. It is the same with God’s Word. We begin teaching at the start of the book or letter in Scripture and continue sequentially and logically through to the end of it. Learning God’s truths in the order in which they were revealed by the Holy Spirit.

Biblical exposition covers more thoroughly all the required topics needed for the job of discipling believers to maturity. The preachers imagination and creativity is not needed, just his faithfulness to teach God’s Word as it was written.

Further reasons and benefits for expository preaching:
Expositional teaching seeks to deliver the Word of God in the same revelatory sequence and groupings of truths that God delivered them in the original Scriptures.

  • Expositional teaching follows the Holy Spirit’s order of subjects in keeping with the context of each passage.
  • Expositional teaching recognises the contextual, grammatical, and subject boundaries of a passage. This assists the teacher by preventing him from following personal preferences and pursuing subjects outside of the primary theme within the context.
  • Expositional teaching limits the human vulnerability of teachers having hobbyhorses, favourites, or pet subjects. There is a consistent flow of differing subjects as the text develops its contextual theme. Frequent repetition of the teachers’ subjects are avoided.
  • Expositional teaching recognises where and how the passage fits into the overall scheme of the book or letter, as well as Scripture as a whole.
  • Expositional teaching best integrates biblical truth with human listening abilities. That is, the Holy Spirit has maximum exposure through the Scriptures, which He authored (2Pe 1:20-21), to minister within the hearers. Therefore, His work of conviction within the hearers is potentially maximised.
  • Expositional teaching best provides for expositional listening and expositional prayer by the hearers. That is, people learn to listen and pray in alignment with the actual truths of the biblical texts. Hearers are listening for textual explanations and not opinions.

Expositional teaching covers more themes and topics than if you relied on the preacher’s creativity for choosing topics or themes.

  • By textual design, the Holy Spirit dictates the order (sequence) of truth to be learned by the hearers via the ebb and flow of biblical text.
  • It also helps restrict domineering people in a congregation from dictating the teaching schedule according to their desires and preferences.
  • Expository teach limits the opportunities for man-made traditions to dominate the preaching.

Expositional teaching submits the teacher to the sovereignty of God for the Holy Spirit’s work of applying His truth into the hearer’s lives.

  • Expositional teaching best heightens a sense of dependence upon the Holy Spirit, rather than the preacher hoping that he chose the right topic for the occasion.
  • Exposition naturally takes the teacher and the hearer alike on the Lord’s exploration of biblical truth. The textual narrative draws everyone into the context and therefore, into it’s truths which are to be applied.
  • It raises the hearer’s appreciation for the genius of Scripture, and the grace of God in giving it to His people.
  • It accelerates the hearer’s exposure to consecutive truth, application, and accountability.

Expositional teaching considers the grammatical, historical, and geographical content, causing the Bible to become an exciting adventure as hearers increasingly discover God. The Bible comes alive, allowing the fascinating truth of God to speak for itself, from the text itself. The Old Testament stories, and particularly the Gospel accounts in the New Testament, powerfully accomplish this, drawing readers into real life stories and lessons.

As the apostle Paul reminded Timothy; “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). It is this Word of God that saves, changes, and grows believers, not the preacher’s cleverness.

There are 2 foundational and personal biblical issues that every student of the Bible must come to grips with. These are best stated as questions:

  1. Does the student believe God the Holy Spirit is able and willing to say what He means and mean what He says in every line of Scripture?
  2. Does the student’s integrity hold him/her to a single and consistent method of interpretation for all of Scripture? (Refer to chapter 2 of “He will reign forever” by Michael J. Vlach.)

It is possibly the most challenging discipline for any student of the Bible, to maintain a single method of interpretation for all of God’s Word. This must be a priority if we are to faithfully teach God’s truth as He intended at the time of writing. This single discipline guards against manmade interference with Scripture.

Authors John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue speak to the matter of how to approach Scripture in the Preface of their book “Biblical Doctrine.”
Five interpretive principles guided our explanation of biblical revelation and doctrine:

  1. The literal principle. Scripture should be understood in its literal, natural, and normal sense. While the Bible does contain figures of speech and symbols, they are intended to convey literal truth. In general, however, the Bible speaks in literal terms and must be allowed to speak for itself.
  2. The historical principle. A passage should be interpreted in its historical context. What the author intended and what the text meant to its first audience must be taken into account. In this way, a proper, contextual understanding of the original meaning of Scripture can be grasped and articulated.
  3. The grammatical principle. This task requires an understanding of the basic grammatical structure of each sentence in the original languages. To whom do the pronouns refer? What is the tense of the main verb? By asking simple questions like these, the meaning of the text becomes clearer.
  4. The synthetic principle. This principle, the analogia scriptura, means that Scripture is to be its own interpreter. It assumes that the Bible does not contradict itself. Thus, if an understanding of a passage conflicts with a truth taught elsewhere in the Scriptures, that interpretation cannot be correct. Scripture must be compared with Scripture to discover its accurate and full meaning.
  5. The clarity principle. God intended Scripture to be understood. However, not every portion of the Bible is equally clear. Therefore, clearer portions should be employed to interpret the less clear. (MacArthur, John; Mayhue, Richard. Biblical Doctrine (Kindle Locations 609-624). Crossway. Kindle Edition.)

“Got Questions” includes the following when speaking about expositional preaching. (
There should be two main goals of expositional preaching. First is the goal to discover and explain the original, historic, and grammatical meaning of the passage, or, to put it another way, “God’s intended meaning.” This is the divinely inspired message that God had for the original audience. The second is closely related—to help people apply to their lives the truths revealed in the passage. Some discount the ability of expositional preaching to address the needs of today’s churchgoers, but that overlooks the fact that “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The power to transform lives is found only in the Word of God as applied by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men and women. Great presentation is good but it is not life-changing. While there is a place for topical preaching, it needs to supplement expositional preaching, not replace it.

The work of teaching God’s Word begins with a devoted attitude and commitment to declare the truth of God’s Word. This motivates the teacher to study and preach the mind of God which is found in the inerrant Word of God. A consistent method of study uses a consistence method of interpretation. This requires disciplines of hermeneutics, which deals with how we interpret Scripture, and exegesis, which is the explanation, or interpretation, of Scripture. To exposit God’s Word faithfully, dedication to consistency in these disciplines is required.

Accuracy in preparation should lead to faithful expository teaching and preaching as the text of God’s Word is opened and explained to God’s people. Therefore, typically, exposition teaches through books and letters of the Bible, beginning at the start of the text and finishing at the end.

Even when a specific passage is taught as a standalone message, it is treated with the same careful and contextual study so the text can be exposited by the teacher. This allows the truth of God to speak for itself without personal ideas becoming the dominant theme being taught.

May we all pursue sound doctrine through our study and expositional teaching of God’s Word. The goal is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:12-14).

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15 – Faith and Doctrine

We live in a world where the necessity for faith and truth is played down and minimised. The worldly concept of faith and truth is fluid, flexible, and without absolutes, to the point of irrelevance, except where faith and truth can be used for personal advantage. This is not new, as the world has always resisted the absolutes of spiritual and moral laws, especially ones found in God’s Word. Believers were confronted in New Testament times with the same battles against faith and truth as we are today.

When speaking of faith in Jesus Christ we are forced to think through the matter of truth and doctrine. “Doctrine refers to a set of beliefs that are held by a group of people. In this case, we are talking about a set of beliefs that are held by the church. The beliefs are clear enough to be taught by or to them. Doctrine can also refer to one of those beliefs, e.g., the doctrine of justification by faith. Again, it is sufficiently clear that it can be taught to people.” (Mbewe, Conrad. God’s Design for the Church. Crossway. Kindle Edition.) For the Christian, doctrine should rise from the Word of God as the only authoritative source of truth which governs our beliefs and our teachings.

The importance of believing truth and translating those truths into doctrines that we teach cannot be overstated. Our living is always determined by what we believe, therefore, to grow the Church to maturity we must have sound doctrine. Doctrine is a central expression of our faith in God and our service to those we disciple. The Church must express faith in Christ through understanding God’s truth and teaching those doctrinal truths to others. Wrong belief always leads to wrong living, and the Church is not exempt from this rule.

This is so central to Church life that the Lord made it a requirement of those who lead His people. Elders “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). Beginning with the shepherds of the body of Christ, a tight grip on the doctrines taught through the Old Testament, plus those taught by Christ and the apostles must be maintained.

Elders are to be clear in their understanding of doctrine so that they are able to defend it when others come against it. Should the opposition to sound doctrine be aggressive, an elder should be able to rebuke the error of those who fight truth with the Sword of the Spirit, exposing the error for what it is.

Satan, being “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan’s highest priority is to prevent people from knowing the truth of Jesus Christ. By doing this, he prevents unbelieving people from understanding the majestic glory of Christ who could be their Saviour if only they would repent. Unbelievers need to be taught the doctrine of Christ, even in the simplest of ways, so that they can see the son of God correctly. In understanding Christ correctly, a sinner will see themselves correctly, which leads to belief in the gospel truth.

Paul instructed Titus to warn God’s people against those who devote “themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth” (Titus 1:14). Resistance and even rebellion against the absolutes of God lives in the heart of sinful mankind. Paul wanted Titus to realise the severity of this problem which can easily impact the Church if we allow it. If we fill our minds with cultural myths and human thinking about spiritual matters, we will certainly end up believing everything EXCEPT the truth. “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers” (Titus 1:10). Titus had the job of countering all the false ideas and false beliefs through the clear teaching of truth. This is why biblical truths are called doctrines, and they are to be taught authoritatively.

As in all ages, we live in a time where people, generally speaking, do “not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). This is perhaps one of Satan’s most effective strategies within the Church, to convince people that they should only listen to teaching that satisfies their fleshly passions. Such people will only tolerate listening to sound doctrine for a short time. They will invariably rise to challenge Church leadership, demanding softer, more accommodating teachers. Sadly, if they do not get what they want, they will either go to war against the elders by causing division in the Church, or they will leave the Church all together.

These types of people can creep into the Church without being recognised for who they really are. Typically, they are people who are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). The absolutes of God’s Word are ugly to these people, and to be avoided at all cost. They will resist and complain about all kinds of definitive and authoritative teaching that makes the truth of God’s Word clear and believable. They are content to be on a journey of never ending spiritual exploration without ever arriving at the truth.

The apostle Paul addressed these kinds of people in the Corinth Church when he wrote “ I could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). Towards the end of the same letter Paul again challenges these people by saying “do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20). God’s desire for the Church is for believers to grow to maturity in their applied knowledge of doctrinal truth. Mature believers are strong believers who remain faithful to Christ.

The Church is the Buttress of Truth
The Church has both the privilege and the responsibility of being God’s truth bearers to the world. Paul gave Timothy a number of precise instructions for this very purpose, so that he “may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). The Church is God’s household, God’s place of dwelling through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Twice in Isaiah 65:16, Isaiah states that Yahweh is “the God of truth.” Intrinsic to God’s holiness is His truthfulness. He is incapable of anything other than absolute and definitive truth. Therefore, the Psalmist proclaimed, “the sum of your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160). Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). The only acceptable expression of worship that accurately reflects the nature of God is worship permeated with truth.

The Church is the household of God’s people who manifest truth. Therefore, the teachings of the Church must be characterised by a consistent presentation of God centred, God authored truth which flows out of God’s Word of truth, the Bible. Doctrine is simply the structured and orderly presentation of biblical truth on God’s behalf as His ambassadors (2Co 5:20). The Churches’ presentation of God’s truth is evidence that they are the living human “church of the living God.”

Paul unashamedly tells Timothy, that the Church, regardless of age or maturity, is “a pillar and buttress of the truth.” Paul uses common building terminology to describe the importance of these qualities. The pillar would have been a stone column that held up the upper levels of the building as well as the roof. While the buttress would have been any supporting structure, from the foundation to any other supporting or stabilising materials used in the building. Many Bible translations simply refer to the buttress and the foundation, which is true, but a little limiting.

Paul’s point is clear, as “a pillar and buttress of the truth” the Church is where people go to be presented with consistent and strong truth from God. In order to be a “pillar and buttress” the truth that is proclaimed must be strong enough to support the entire structure of belief and life as representative of God Himself. Paul is impressing heavily upon Timothy the absolute essential nature of teaching sound doctrines as structures for a correct faith in God. When the whirlwinds of life and error blast against the Church, it stands firm in Christ because it has been methodically built using Biblical “pillars and buttresses.” The Church is therefore, to be the safe house where people run for spiritual safety and security because the Church is built strong with the building material of God’s truth.

Paul’s description of God’s building material used in the Church enables us to understand more clearly the intensity of his exhortation to the Corinth Church. Having been purified by the Lord from all the fleshing sins detailed in 1 Corinthians, Paul writes again for restoration, reconciliation and strengthening of this revived Church. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

The “strongholds” Paul speaks of are the “arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.” The Church is the strong house of God where truth is proclaimed with strength and clarity for the purpose of destroying wrong thinking about God. Whether it’s a non-believer with a completely wrong understanding of God, or a believer with an inaccurate or distorted understanding of God, Church is the place to have them corrected. In fact, the truth of God’s Word is to have the effect of destroying error.

Not only so, but the divine power of God through His Word goes onto “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Every time Scripture is proclaimed it is an offensive weapon of God, the Sword of the Spirit, attacking Satan’s wrong thinking in the minds and hearts of the hearers. The Church is the household of God’s people who have had their thoughts, their beliefs, taken prisoner by Christ. The evidence of this divine work is that the Church is to obey the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sound Doctrine Sanctifies
The Church is unique, it stands alone in a privileged place of service for Christ as a body of redeemed sinners. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). Paul specifically told the Galatian believers that they were part of “the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10), as it is faith which is given by God (Eph 2:8) and it is faith that initiates salvation through the gospel. Saved sinners are immediately baptised into Christ and made members of Christ’s body, the Church (Rom 6:3). Now, joined together as saints of God they live for a new purpose, with new connected relationships with other saved sinners. Owned by God, for God, and energised by God, these citizens function as a family household for the pleasure and glory of their heavenly Father. This justified body of believers now wish to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

But the problem is, we saved sinners know that we “have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18) in our own strength. We all know that we are not as holy in our living as we wish we were. Praise God, He has provided the lifelong ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit to persistently carry on with the work of sanctification. Sanctification is the constant development of increasing holiness, increasing purity. Paul described it this way, “may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Every part of our lives is being purified continuously, and this will continue until the Lord Jesus returns. Sanctification is a spiritual work that practically strives to change us so that we become closer and closer to being blameless. This takes time and much patience, and the God of all grace perseveres at this work in our lives.

Realising this, the members of God’s household treat each other differently, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). When truth is spoken with a loving attitude and in a loving tone of voice, in loving relationships, truth becomes a powerful and effective tool for God. The goal of truthful love is Christlikeness. This is the wonderful ministry of sanctification, growing, changing, developing, forgiving, and kindly reconciling relationships for the glory of Christlike character. This is holiness in practice. This is the desire of the Head of the Church for His body.

Sanctification must touch every relationship in a believer’s life with the truth of God’s Word so that the fruit of righteousness can be produced. Paul taught on the ways in which believers are to treat each other in many of his letters. And he made an interesting application to Titus regarding the behaviour of Christian slaves towards their masters. “Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour” (Titus 2:9-10). Even in the most difficult and demanding relationships, the believer is to live Christ’s submission. A submissive attitude resists arguing, and it submits for the blessing of the other person.

This Christlike submission is the manifestation of good faith, genuine faith, a faith that comes from God. Now watch the connection Paul makes not in verse 10. Faith is to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour. That is, faith decorates the believer for the public display of doctrine. God intends faith to be displayed for everyone to see the truths and teachings of God’s Word in your life. Doctrine is central to living by faith and living a sanctified life for Christ. Without doctrine we cannot know how to live because we cannot know the truth of God that is to be applied. Members of the Church are constantly “being transformed into the same image (Christlikeness) from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The Holy Spirit relentlessly works in our lives, through joyful and painful times, through victories and failures, to transform God’s children to be more like His Son. And sanctification requires the truth of doctrine to do this.

Some will resist doctrine
As we noted earlier in this lesson, wherever God is at work you will also find Satan at work. Satan will use any method at his disposal to dilute God’s truth and convince people that the doctrines of God are of no value. Most often Satan will employ the services of people who are happy to become a member of a local Church, because that is where they can cause the most damage on Satan’s behalf. Large portions of the New Testament are dedicated to instructing the Church on how to deal with such people and with their wrong teachings.

In the closing chapter of Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome, having written the most detailed and exquisite explanation of the gospel, he ends with a warning. “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve” (Romans 16:17-18). Fifteen chapters of the most majestic doctrinal truths of God and salvation with many practical applications given, equipped the readers to defend against the enemies’ attacks from with. No matter how nice, how attractive, how smooth talking, or how wealthy a person may be, if they cause division over the doctrines taught in God’s Word, they are to be avoided. Doctrinal error can never produce purity. Error always promotes the self-righteousness of the person promoting the error, and it always seeks to divide the Church instead of building unity.

Often, Satan uses smooth talk and flattery (to) deceive the hearts of the naïve people in the Church who are not mature in their faith. This happens partly because those who are not knowledgeable with applied theology have minds open to worldly or fleshly thinking. Often error will sound appealing because it seeks to satisfy fleshly appetites. It is up the mature Church members, especially elders, to keep an eye out for such divisive people sneaking into the Church.

Paul carefully instructed the Ephesian Church on this very matter. Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelists all minister in the Church for the spiritual growth of believers. This is for the purpose that all members of your Church “may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). Faithfulness in teaching the whole counsel of God (Act 20:27) to the whole assembly of God’s people grows inoculation against Satan’s devious schemes of error, division, and sinful living. As the writer to the Hebrews cautioned, “let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Hebrews 6:1). Gifted teachers are to be careful to mature the diet of Bible teaching as the Church ages. Satan uses human cunning to deceive believers who permanently remain babylike in the Christian faith.

Resistance against sound biblical doctrine is the devil’s work. Resistance never causes sanctification for greater holiness. Resistance always produces more and more sins of the heart. The sinful heart will eventually leak out sins of anger, unforgiveness, lying, carnal behaviour, outbursts of temper, and division of Christ’s Church. So, Paul says, watch out for such people, and protect God’s Church from such people.

The local Church is to be the school of truth, the local school of biblical theology, of gospel compelled doctrine. The local Church is to be the place where people in the community go to discover spiritual realities as spoken by God. It is the Church that teaches God’s truth for the purpose of persuading others to become believers of truth. There is to be NOTHING random, haphazard, or casual about the local Churches proclamation of sound doctrine. Biblical doctrine is evangelistic, it’s practical by nature, and it’s satisfying. Doctrine happily expresses faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We shall give the last word to our brother Paul. “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).

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14 – Christ and His Church

For believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Church is the most precious place on earth, it is the household of God (1Ti 3:15). The Church is precious because “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). In this lesson we shall consider just a few of the essential truths of Christ and His Church.

The Church is not a building, and it is not a manmade religious organization. Rather, the Church is made of repentant sinners, who, upon salvation were immediately placed into the universal body of Christ, the Church (1Co 12:12-13).

This body of believers are the Bride of Jesus Christ (2Co 11:2; Eph 5:23-32; Rev 19:7-8), spiritually born again by the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ as head (Eph 1:22; 4:15; Col 1:18). It is Jesus, who “has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever” (Rev 1:5-6). Therefore, the Church is the human expression of Jesus Christ in the absence of Jesus’ physical body on earth.

The Church is seen in 2 ways on earth. First, the Church universal is the worldwide Church which is made up of all believers in Christ as Lord and Saviour. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1Co 12:13-14).

Second, the local Church is the smaller groupings of believers seen in many different locations around the world. Paul described local Churches in Galatians 1:1–2, “Paul, an apostle… and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia.” We see that in the province of Galatia, Paul said there were many churches, they were localized Christian ministries and were located throughout the province. They were local churches.

While there is only one worldwide Church universal, there are many local Churches. While believers are spiritually baptized into the Church universal, they must choose which local Church congregation they are to be a member of.

“The New Testament instructs those who are part of the universal church in every generation, scattered throughout the world, to meet together regularly in local assemblies. Such was clearly the pattern of the early church (cf. Acts 14: 23, 27; 20: 17, 28; 1 Cor. 11: 18– 20; Gal. 1: 2; 1 Thess. 1: 1). In keeping with that paradigm, the author of Hebrews offers this directive, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10: 24– 25).” (MacArthur, John; Mayhue, Richard. Biblical Doctrine)

In the first century, following the birth of the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2), Church membership was less complex because there was typically only one local Church in a city. Plus, there were no denominations. The Church was simply the Church, with no Baptist, no Brethren, and no Methodist etc. There was only the Church universal who gathered in local Church assemblies.

The primary purpose for the Church is to glorify God the Father (Jn 17:1-6), “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:21). This is achieved through Jesus Christ, in the energy of the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:12-15; 1Co 10:31; 1Pe 5:10). The Church accomplishes glory for God through worship (Jn 4:21-23; Rom 12:1; Php 3:3), through building itself up in the faith with God’s Word (2Ti 2:2, 15; 3:16-17), through fellowship and keeping the ordinances (Communion and Water Baptism) accompanied by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world (Ac 1:8) and making disciples of Jesus Christ (Mat 28:19-20).

Because the Church is Christ’s body, the Church is responsible for glorifying the Father as Christ glorifies the Father. Therefore, as the body of Christ, the Church is to manifest the character of Christ and continue Christ’s work on earth with a divine focus.

This simple but bold purpose of the Church gets the enemy’s attention. Satan is at war with God and at war with the Church of Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul discovered, “again and again… Satan hindered us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18). Satan goes to extraordinary lengths to infiltrate and damage the body of Christ. Satan skilfully introduces “false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Satan carefully inserts his people into local congregations. They are often “fierce wolves (who) will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). They are often “scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 1:18-19). Just as the Church is precious to God, the church is also the enemy of Satan.

As the Church is assigned with such an exalted  responsibility, glorying God through the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is assigned to equip the Church for the mission. The Holy Spirit produces spiritual rebirth (Jn 3:5; Tit 3:5), baptizing every true believer into Christ’s body (Act 1:5). He also imputes each believer with the righteousness of Christ (Rom 8:10; 14:17), sealing and securing an unchangeable salvation (Eph 1:13-14). Unmistakably, the Holy Spirit gives evidence of His presence in a life by “the fruit of the Spirit, (which) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Holy Spirit also gifts every believer with unique giftedness to serve and build up the body (1Co 12:7-9). To protect and maintain Christ’s body, the Holy Spirit also provides  believers with armour (Eph 6:10-18). With His armour, the Holy Spirit also provides a weapon to defend the body, which the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Eph 6:17).

Therefore, the Church is equipped with everything needed to glorify God. The challenge rests with each body of believers, will they take up God’s resources and accomplish their mission of glorification?

Israel and the Church
A significant part of understanding the Church, is understanding the Church’s relationship with Israel. Galatians 3:28 states the equality that exists between Jew and Gentile in Christ, in the Church. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (See also Col 3:11). God is presently at work; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, building His multicultural international Church.

Care should be taken to maintain the biblical integrity of both ethnic Israel and the Church. Attempting to amalgamate the two creates serious Bible interpretation (hermeneutical) problems. Old Testament promises, judgements, or instructions applied specifically to Israel should never be spiritualized or allegorized, then wrongly applied to the New Testament Church or Gentile believers.

From the beginning, the Lord has clearly stated the nature of His relationship with Israel. “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deu 7:6).

God has not finished with Israel, and He shall sovereignly re-engage the nation of Israel to bring to fulfilment every promise yet unfulfilled. Again, in Romans 11, Paul presents detailed information relating to Israel and Gentiles. “I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27 “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins’” (Rom 11:25-27. See also Daniel 9:24-26).

The New Testament uses the word Israel approximately seventy times, of which, most refer to Ethnic (The cultural group of people) Israel. These references refer to either the nation of Israel as a whole or a group of Jewish people. Therefore, when the New Testament speaks of Israel, the normal sense of national Israel is being spoken of. The apostle Paul speaks to this matter in Romans 11:1-2 by asking and answering an all-important question. “Has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.” Israel has not been rejected, nor has she been superseded, replaced, or had her identity changed. The Israel that God foreknew by His sovereign will and power, He still holds onto. Paul continues to explain, “so too at the present time there is a remnant (of Israel), chosen by grace” (Rom 11:5). The immutable character of God will not change His relationship with Israel, even though Israel lives in disobedience to Him at present.

Some teachers insist that the Church has replaced Israel, with all the Old Testament blessings promised to Israel being transferred to the New Testament Church. This teaching is known as “replacement theology, or supersessionism” and it insists that the Church is the new Israel. The danger of this teaching is that the distinctions between Israel and the Church which are taught throughout the New Testament are lost (1Co 10:32).

In Romans 9:3-5, Paul states the permanent nature of Israel’s identity and her relationship to Yahweh. Paul speaks as a Jew when he says, “my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”
As the New Testament distinguishes Israel from the Church, so believers should also maintain that same distinction.

Today, a Jewish person comes to repentant faith in Christ the same as a Gentile. And upon salvation, they are both baptized into the body of Christ, the Church. Therefore, a Jewish believer is included in the Church with all Gentile believers, but this does NOT change their ethnic identity or inheritance as being an Israelite.

The unity between Jewish and Gentile believers in the Church today changes nothing of Israel’s relationship to God. God keeps all His Old Testament covenant promises to Israel. The church also shares in the blessings of the new covenant with Jewish believers (Luk 22:20; 2Co 3:3-8; Heb 8:7-13; 9:15), but this does NOT alter the existing Old Testament promises to Israel.

Headship of the Church
When God, who is the Father of all glory (Eph 1:17) exercised His great power in raising Jesus Christ from the dead, He “seated him (Jesus) at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Eph 1:20-21. See also Col 1:18). The Lord Jesus Christ reigns supreme over all that exists in both this present time and in the ages to come. Christ’s authority and power are beyond challenge in all spheres of physical and spiritual life. Therefore, God the Father has “put all things under his (Jesus) feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:22-23).

As Head of the Church, Christ reigns from His heavenly throne, administering all spheres of Church life. It is Christ, through His written Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who builds the Church. As “the chief Shepherd” (1Pe 5:4) of His Church, Christ delegates earthly leadership to His under-shepherds, who we call elders. Elders serve as willing shepherds of “the flock of God,” not domineering over God’s people but leading as humble examples of Christ’s character (1Pe 5:2-3). Elders especially “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than” themselves (Php 2:3).

Elders in the local Church have the heavy responsibility as “the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:11-13). That is an enormous task for Christ’s undershepherds. This is why it is important to “obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb 13:17).

The Church Body
The flock of God are the people in the body of Christ. Together they live and serve to worship God, to minister to the needs of one another, and to spread the gospel message. Together, elders and all believers “are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph 4:15).

The local Church congregation should seek to live the body principles outlined in 1 Corinthians 12. Identifying the gifts given by the Holy Spirit, they are to combine their energies to serve. This is because “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1Co 12:7). Believers in each local Church have been gifted to each other to compliment and strengthen the giftedness of each other (1Co 12:14-21). This enables “the members (to) have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together” (1Co 12:25-26). Humility and service are critical in Church family life to build up unity and manifest Christ. Today, as in the first century Church, “faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1Co 13:13).

1 Peter 3:8-9 further explains some of the essential attitudes that must be turned into behaviour to protect and nurture the body of Christ. “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

Mutual accountability and transparency between all believers (Pro 27:17; Mat 18:5-14) is the healthy Christlike  character for all believers to live. This mutually open-hearted living (2Co 6:11-13) creates a loving, caring environment for biblical growth, support, and discipline (Gal 6:1-2) should a believer become trapped in sinful behaviour (Mat 18:15-17).

The local Church has the privilege and responsibility to actively express the unconditional love of God by living out the grace and mercy of God (Mat 18:33; Rom 5:5; Jam 2:12-13; Jude 1:23). May we grow in or understanding of how to live Christ in His Church, and how to speak and behave in ways that others perceive the presence of Jesus Christ as Lord. With God’s help, may we be the servants of grace in our local Church for Christ’s glory. Amen.


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13 – Christ and Your Character

In this lesson we shall consider the connection between our relationship with Jesus Christ, and our character. This subject addresses our heart character, which fuels our thoughts, which then enables our behaviour. God intends our knowledge of Christ to achieve more than good doctrine and good Sunday behaviour. A genuine understanding of Christ must produce Christlike character. For a believer, Christ’s character is to dominate our heart, our mind, our speech, and our behaviour, until we can say with Paul, “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).

This lesson builds upon lesson 11, Applied Theology, and seeks to extend our understanding of Bible application in the areas of heart, thought, and behaviour. Yahweh is interested in far more than superficial good behaviour, He wants the heart, for “everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV). Whatever, or whoever, controls the heart, controls the whole life, and that needs to be Christ.

Ezekiel prophesied much about the day when the Lord will restore Israel. When that time arrives, the Lord will deal with Israel’s heart. Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” In that coming day, all living Israel shall be regenerated, born-again, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Only the Lord can do this supernatural work of removing a sinfully hard heart, and replace it with a soft, submissive heart that is compelled by love for Yahweh. You see, the Lord desires for our righteous behaviour to be an accurate outworking of a soft and righteous heart. This requires a new soft heart, and a renewed mind to produce Christlike character. There are no short-cuts, and there is no cheating or pretending in this Christ compelled inner work.

Paul’s writes to the Church in Rome, explaining in just a few verses what we are considering here. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).

Paul presents the foundation of our Christian relationship with God and how the Spirit of God works within us. These essential truths give us an understanding of what it means to glorify God through our character. Plus, these verses show us the qualities of a truly born-again Christian. Here, Paul presents us with the most basic fruits of salvation that should be evident in a believer’s life.

Christian character grows out of salvation. Without faith in Jesus Christ as our substitute on the Cross of Calvary, there is no justification. No faith equals no forgiveness of sin. If we are not forgiven by God, we are still dead in our sins, weighted down under the wrath of God. Justification by faith is the only way any sinner can be declared innocent before God who is Judge.

We deceive ourselves if we do not stand firm on the truth of the gospel in this area of character development. Many church attendees fail to manifest Christlike character because they have never placed faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord. In other words, because of their lack of faith they are not justified before God. Consequently, they attend church with hard and deceived hearts, unable to see their own sin or “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan blinds their minds so that they are unable to see the beauty of Christ in the gospel. They are often perplexed and saddened by worshippers who stand in awe of God’s majesty displayed through Christ on the Cross and in the gospel.

God is not looking for church attenders! God does not want us to convince unchurched people to become church people. God is not trying to convince sinful societies to behave better so that they can feel better about themselves and have less problems. God is not trying to improve people so that they will find the gospel attractive. God does not want sinners attempting to work their way into Church life by their good works. God is not seeking religious people who become skilful at spiritual deception and manipulation.

No, God’s message to mankind is to “repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20). This gospel message is humanity’s only hope. God calls them to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, and you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10). Having placed repentant faith in Christ, the believer now realises that they stand cleansed and secure in God’s grace. They now rejoice in their new position of innocence before God, washed clean by the blood of Christ (1Jn 1:7). They now look to the future with certain hope of heaven and the call of glorifying God through their living (1Co 10:31). Paul defines this spiritual change by saying that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Faith in Christ changes the entire life, it’s unmistakable.

This new life, which has been gifted to them, produces rejoicing even while suffering. In Christ, they see that suffering can accomplish more than they ever imagined, but only if they maintain a humble and submissive attitude. Paul continues to say that suffering for Christ “produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom 5:3-4). Suffering is for the purpose of character development, which is evidence of God’s love existing in their hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Once reborn and indwelt by God’s loving Holy Spirit, He empowers the suffering believer to grow endurance, character, and hope which brings God glory. These inner qualities of grace take the believer towards maturity in Christ. The Christian lives for God and NOT for self. They do not live for greedy or selfish pleasures. Personal convenience and comfort are secondary to them. They live for Christ! “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8). This is why Paul could honestly say, “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

This highlights our need to preach the Lordship of Christ when we proclaim the gospel. We are not trying to convince people to add Jesus to their existing beliefs. Nor do we tell them to place Jesus to one side where He has no place of authority in their lives. Rather, we are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its (sinful) desires” (Romans 13:14).

Paul shows us God’s perspective on our salvation in Romans 8:29; “for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Simply believing about Christ has never been God’s plan. God the Father exercised His will (Jn 6:37, 44, 65) for the purpose of bringing people into a relationship of conformity to the image of Christ. The Father’s will in salvation is to reproduce Christ’s character in every believer. This requires humble submission on the part of the repentant sinner.

Sinners do NOT come to Christ to find themselves or to improve themselves. No, they come to Christ to loss themselves and put on Christ. Paul explains it this way, “for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). In context, the baptism Paul speaks of here is dry, no water. This is the baptism by God’s Spirit into Christ through justification by faith.

Christlike character growing in the believer is the persistent ministry of the Holy Spirit following salvation. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Just as Christlikeness was the Father’s will in salvation, so Christlikeness is the Holy Spirit’s will through sanctification. We are NOT set apart for holiness so that we can be the better version of who we are. No, we are set apart for holiness to be like Christ. We are to be imitators of the Lord Jesus Christ (1Th 1:6) who is the very best from God.

Jesus taught this principle in Luke 6:40, “a disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” When we call people to come follow Jesus, we are calling them to surrender their all so that they can increasingly become like Jesus through spiritual rebirth and sanctification. This is the opposite of how the religious person thinks. Religion says, if you do good works and become more like Jesus, you may be able to win God’s favour and go to heaven – WRONG!

Jesus, “calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). Self must be denied if a person is to be saved through the gospel of Jesus Christ. If self-denial is the attitude of a repentant sinner at the time of salvation, then it should continue for life.

Repentant sinners need to realise that through salvation Christ is going to change them. When confronted by the chief priests and elders in Matthew 21:32, Jesus addressed their unwillingness to change. Jesus said, “for John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.” Change of belief and behaviour towards Jesus Christ is God’s normal, and it is good. Personal change should be expected, it should be preached, and it should be included in all discipleship.

The apostle Paul serves as an example through his willingness to change in practical ways. He told the Galatian church, “I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you” (Galatians 4:20). Many believers fail in the simple sanctification of attitude and speech towards others. The tone of our voice always expresses the attitude of our heart. Paul realised that if he were with the Galatians in person, he would change the way he was speaking to them. This is because, as he was writing to them from a long distance, he was perplexed about them and struggling to understand what was happening in their lives.

To grow in Christlike character, we submit ourselves to the changing ministry of the Holy Spirit. This is a never ending ministry of sanctification, making us more holy, and more like Christ. Therefore, ongoing change is the inescapable path of sanctification as “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). The rapture will bring this earthly process to completion when “we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

In Romans 12, Paul instructed the Roman Church on the relationship between having physically pure lives and worship. “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). He immediately follows with an instruction which goes much deeper than physical holiness; “be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2). Growing in Christlike character impacts our bodies and our minds. This is God’s will for every believer in Christ.

Believers are to praise God for the privilege of being called into a life of growing sanctification towards greater Christlikeness. “We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Notice that Paul says the growth should always be upwards towards greater Christlikeness. Going backwards, or even standing still is not God’s will for us. Notice also, that this growth is to be “in every way.” No area of life goes untouched. No part of our lives, including our characters, can escape this all important work of God the Holy Spirit. To grow more and more into Christlike character is our earthly act of worship! This we need to understand, and this we need to be committed to as we proclaim the gospel and disciple people to be followers of Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Our sanctification is never challenged more than in our relationships with others, especially our brothers and sisters in the Lord. “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 NIV). While it’s true that in 1 Corinthians 2:16 Paul tells us that “we have the mind of Christ,” we are responsible to action Christ’s mind. We are the ones who must choose to put personal preferences and feelings to one side, permitting the mind of Christ to dominate our character towards others.

We do this because, in Christ, we have been equipped by the Holy Spirit to change. He energises us to be like Christ, to be different from our old nature. Now, in Christ, believers are able, if they submit, to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Only in Christ are believers empowered by the Holy Spirit to “look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). Therefore, our attitude towards others is a good thermometer of the level of Christlike character which you have permitted the Holy Spirit to achieve in you. Relationships with others can tell a powerful story of our submission to the Lordship of Jesus. Sadly, the opposite is also true. Our relationships can tell of the sadness of a belligerent believer who resists change, and resists Christlikeness. May this never be true in us?

Jesus commanded “that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). This deep love for others does not just happen overnight. No, it takes time as the child of God grows in Christlike love, in self-sacrificing love. It begins with changing attitudes towards others. Then, it develops Christlike motives as the reason for serving others without expectation of reward. This love exists “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

May we meditate on God’s Word and think often of Jesus Christ. As we think of Christ may our hearts become more and more soft to the controlling of God’s Holy Spirit. And as our hearts soften, may we pray more often, with greater passion, with greater urgency, seeking greater glory for Christ. May God continue to transform our hearts to be completely like Christ. Remember, “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV).

The final word in this lesson shall go to the apostle Paul from Philippians 3:7-11. “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith –  10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

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