Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Week in the Word, March 30 – April 5

Theme: God—Holy God

If there is ever anything about which we might possess a sense of pride, it is that we know and understand God (Jer. 9:24).  And if there is anything about God which we ought to know, it is that He is holy.  Obvious emphasis is given to this point in both the Old and New Testaments when it’s exclaimed by those who know best—those in His presence in heaven—that He’s not just holy, He’s “holy, holy, holy!” (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8).

When we describe God our tendency is to compile a list of all the traits He possesses; He’s loving, compassionate, just, kind, pure, merciful, all-knowing, all-powerful, and so on.  We would tend to add “holy” to that list.  Such would be a mistake, for His holiness is synonymous with who and what He is, not just one trait among many.  God is God because He is holy–the fundamental idea of which is separateness.  God is so far removed from all that we are and all with which we are familiar—including sin and unrighteousness.  By His very nature He is separated.  Therefore, we can’t simply add “holy” to the list of things God is.  Instead, His love is holy love, His mercy is holy mercy, His justice is holy justice, His power is holy power, and so on (R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, 57).

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, the very first petition of that prayer—though most of us probably hove thought of it as part of the address—is that God’s very name would be kept and treated as holy (Matt. 6:9).  His holiness demands something of us in our relationship to Him.

As last week’s reading was more extensive than usual, this week’s will be more brief than usual.  There are few events recorded nor extended discussions for which God’s holiness is the primary subject.  There are, though, a multitude of exclamations of the fact.  Like  other aspects of God and His nature, Scripture does not set out to prove or establish that He is holy, it assumes it.

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Isaiah 6:1-6; Revelation 4:1-11

As mentioned in the introductory remarks, twice we are privileged with glimpses into the throne room of God in heaven.  On both occasions those present before God’s throne are exclaiming with great emphasis the holiness of the Almighty.

Leviticus 10:1-3; Numbers 20:2-13

In two instances during Israel’s time in the wilderness leaders failed to treat God as holy by not obeying Him as He commanded.  Both the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and Moses himself failed to honor God’s holiness by their actions and each paid dearly for the grievance.

Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7; Numbers 15:40; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:21; 26:18-19; 1 Peter 1:13-21

If a people—or a person—would claim to be God’s, they then must also reflect the likeness of God, including His holiness.  So it is that Israel was called upon repeatedly  to be holy to the Lord.  The motivation for their holiness was God’s own holiness—a theme upon which Peter also focuses in the New Testament for those under the New Covenant.

Joshua 24:19-28; 1 Samuel 6:19-21

The fact of God’s holiness is intimidating.  He is separate from us; far removed.  Isaiah talked about Him and His ways being higher above us than the heavens are above the earth (Isa. 55:9).  Recognition of that separateness (holiness) puts us in our place.  No wonder Isaiah’s response to being in God’s holy presences was “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5).  So it is that those who would be God’s people do feel a real sense of discomfort with that relationship.  Joshua said the people were not capable of serving a holy God (Josh. 24:19; note that this is in the context of Joshua’s challenge to choose whom they would serve—read vv. 14-18).

Psalm 99:1-9; Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 5:16, 19, 24

We end this week’s readings with beautiful exclamations of God’s holiness.  Note that in verses 19 and 24 of Isaiah 5, God is referred to as “the Holy One of Israel.”  This is Isaiah’s favorite designation for God.  He uses it 30 times throughout the book while the reference is found only six times total outside of the book of Isaiah.

Study/Thought Questions:

Isaiah 6:1-6

  • When did Isaiah see the Lord on His throne? (v. 1)
  • What/who stood above the Lord? (v. 2)
  • How is God referred to in v. 3?
  • What was Isaiah’s response to what he saw and heard? (v. 4)

Revelation 4:1-11

  • What did John see in heaven? (v. 2)
  • Who sat around the throne? (v. 4) Whom else were around the throne? (vv. 6-7)
  • How frequently is God’s holiness proclaimed? (v. 8)
  • How else is God lauded? (v. 11)

Leviticus 10:1-3

  • How will God be treated by those who are near Him? (v. 3)

Numbers 20:2-13

  • What were God’s instructions to Moses about how to get water from the rock? (v. 8)  What did Moses do? (vv. 10-11)
  • What did Moses fail to do in regard to God? (v. 12)

Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7

  • What were God’s people to be since God was this same thing?

Numbers 15:40

  • In what way would God’s people be holy to Him?

Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:21; 26:18-19

  • Why was Israel a people holy to the Lord? (7:6)
  • In what way are God’s people to show that they are His treasuredpossession? (26:18)

1 Peter 1:13-21

  • Holy conduct is here described as not being conformed to what?(vv. 14-15)
  • How else is Christian conduct described? (v. 17)

Joshua 24:19-28

  • What did Joshua say the people could not do? (v. 19)
  • How else is God described besides being holy? (v. 19)

1 Samuel 6:19-21

  • Why did the men of Beth-Shemesh question their ability to stand before God? (vv. 20-21)

Psalm 99:1-9

  • What about God is to be praised? (v. 3)
  •  What has been executed in Jacob that demonstrates God’s holiness? (v. 4)
  • What acts of God demonstrated His holiness in v. 8?

Exodus 15:11

  • In this verse, how is God’s holiness described?

Isaiah 5:16, 19, 24

  • In what is God said to be holy? (v. 16)
  • How is God here described? (vv. 19, 24)

Meditation Thoughts:

  •  If the fundamental idea of holy is “separate,” is not the instruction of Paul in 2 Cor. 6:17 a call to holiness (“…go out from their midst and be separate from them, says the Lord”)?  How can that be carried out in a practical way?
  • What impact should a consciousness of God’s holiness have on our worship assemblies?
  • Based on the incidents of Leviticus 10:1-3 and Numbers 20:2-13, in what ways should we treat God as holy today?
  • In what ways can we keep God’s name “hallowed” (holy) today? (Matt. 6:9)  Is their application beyond how we use it in speech?

 Memory Verse:

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?  Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)

 

 

 

A Week in the Word, March 23-29

Theme: Biographical—Moses  

Second to Jesus Himself, is Moses the greatest figure of the Bible?

A compelling case could be made.  Though Jesus was a priest like Melchizedek, He was a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15).  It was Moses to whom God spoke face to face as does a man with his friend (Ex. 33:11).  Though not allowed to see God’s face (full glory), as requested, he was permitted to see His “back” (Ex. 33:23).  It was Moses, along with Elijah, who appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration and carried on a conversation—the content of which I’d desperately like to know (Matt. 17:3). It is Moses’ song, along with that of the Lamb which the heavenly hosts sing around God’s throne (Rev. 15:3).

More could be said, but need it be?  He’s the great law giver and deliverer.  He is the prime character in Jewish faith in the New Testament.  Failed understanding pitted Jesus against Moses in the minds of 1st century Jews.  Instead, as Jesus said, it was Moses who spoke of Him (John 5:45-47).

Reading about Moses takes up a large portion of the biblical text. Of necessity we must choose both what we can and should read and what we will not.  Difficult choices have to be made.   So as not overwhelm the reader—even though the reading load this week will be larger than usual—we will use some sampling readings (i.e., not all of the plagues in Egypt, only the most significant events as per their being referenced in other Bible passages, and so on).

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Exodus 2; 3:1-4:17; 5:1-23; 7:1-25; 11:1-12:51
These readings focus on Moses’ birth and early life, his call by God from the burning bush and his return to Egypt to demand that Pharaoh let God’s people go.

Exodus 13:17-14:31; 19:1-25; 20:1-21; 32:1-35; 33:7-23
The final departure from Egypt is marked by crossing the Red Sea (and the destruction of Egypt’s armies).  The arrival at Mt. Sinai and the year spent there are eventful.  Our reading will be limited to the giving of the 10 commandments, the incident of the golden calf and Moses’ request to see God’s glory.

Numbers 13:1-14:45; 16:1-17:13; 20:1-13; 25:1-18
The 40 years of wilderness wandering began following the people’s decision to listen to the unfaithful spies at Kadesh Barnea.  During this time Korah led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, Moses sinned at Meribah, and the people sinned greatly at Peor in worshipping Baal.

Deuteronomy 18:15-22; 34:1-12
In Deuteronomy Moses prepares the people to enter the Promised Land.  Chapter 4 is a great example of Moses’ teaching and instruction.  He also gives an important prophesy of Jesus (chapter 18).  The book concludes with an account of his death.

Acts 7:17-44; Hebrews 3:1-6; 11:23-29
Moses plays a prominent role in the New Testament.  His name shows up frequently in Jesus’ discussions among the Jews, though most of these occurrences are but incidental references. He plays a major part in the sermon preached by Stephen in Acts 7.  The book of Hebrews speaks often of the Law giver; the most prominent discussions are in showing  Jesus’ superiority to him as well as his place in the great faith chapter (11).

Study/Thought Questions:

Exodus 2

  • How is baby Moses described? (v. 2; see also Acts 7:20 & Heb. 11:23)
  • Who named Moses? (v. 10)
  • To where did Moses flee and with whom did he live once there? (vv. 15-16, 18)

Exodus 3:1-4:17

  • Where was Moses when he saw the burning bush? (3:1)
  • Why did Moses hide his face? (3:6)
  • Under what condition would Pharaoh let Israel go? (3:19)

Exodus 5:1-23

  • What did Moses first ask Pharaoh that Israel be allowed to do? (5:1)
  • What did the people think of Moses following his first visit with Pharaoh? (5:21-23)

Exodus 7:1-25

  • How old was Moses when he stood before Pharaoh? (7:7)
  • What was the first plague? (7:17)

Exodus 11:1-12:51

  • What was the 10th plague? (11:5)
  • What was the memorial meal called that celebrated their departure from Egypt? (12:11)

Exodus 13:17-14:31

  • In what way did the Israelites leave Egypt? (13:18; see also 14:8)

Exodus 19:1-25

  •  What did God want the people of Israel to be to Him? (v. 6)

Exodus 20:1-21

  • How did the people respond to what they witnessed on the mountain? (v. 18)
  • Whom did the Israelites want to speak to them? (v. 19)

Exodus 32:1-35

  • What request did the people make of Aaron? (v. 1)
  • How did God describe the people? (v. 9)

Exodus 33:7-23

  • How did God speak to Moses? (v. 11)
  • What did Moses say distinguished Israel from other people? (v. 16)

Numbers 13:1-14:45

  • Was the land as God had promised it would be? (13:27)
  • Who spoke up in response to the 10 unfaithful spies? (13:30)
  • What did the people want to do? (14:4)
  • What did the people say should be done to Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb? (14:10)
  • What did God propose to do? (14:12)

Numbers 16:1-17:13

  • What kind of men were Korah and his companions? (16:2)
  • Whom did the people say were responsible for the deaths of the rebels? (16:41)
  • How did God demonstrate His choice of Aaron? (chpt. 17)

Numbers 20:1-13

  • What did Moses fail to do at Meribah? (v. 12)

Numbers 25:1-18

  • Whose bold actions stopped the plague that was killing Israelites? (vv. 7-9)

Deuteronomy 18:15-22

  • What did Moses say the people should do in regard to this coming prophet? (v. 15)  What did God say people should do in regard to Jesus? (Matt. 17:5)

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

  • Who buried Moses? (v. 6)

Acts 7:17-44

  • How was Moses described as a young adult? (v. 22)
  • What did Moses believe was happening when he killed the Egyptian? (v. 25)

Hebrews 3:1-6

  • How is Moses described? (v. 5)

Hebrews 11:23-29

  • What important choice did Moses make? (v. 25)

Meditation Thoughts:

  • What leadership lessons do we learn comparing the young, eager, educated, influential, well-positioned Moses at age 40 who flees Egypt, to the reserved, older, hesitant, and unknown Moses God calls at the burning bush?
  • Moses was denied entrance into the Promised Land for failing to treat God as holy at Meribah (see Num. 20:12).  How might we be guilty of the same?
  • Moses is renowned for his intimate relationship with God (Deut. 34:10). In what ways could I make my own relationship with God be closer?

Memory Verse:

“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity an transgressions and sins…” (Ex. 34:6-7)

A Week in the Word, March 16-22

Theme: Bible Themes—Worship

“Oh come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Psa. 95:6).

Is not the worship of God what our existence is all about?  All of creation praises God by fulfilling the purpose for which He made it (Psa. 148:1-10, 13).  So too we are to glorify and honor God.  This purpose permeates our lives.  Not only do we specifically and purposefully worship on given occasions with other like-minded believers, we do so also in living God-honoring lives every day.

Worship is a theme that literally runs from early in Genesis through the end of Revelation.  Just as creation and those who reside in it worship, so also do the occupants of the heavenly realms.

God, because He is God, is most worthy to be praised and honored. To give to any other that which God alone deserves is the height of disrespect and dishonor; to give God’s honor and glory to self is the ultimate in arrogance and pride.

Not surprisingly, failure in regard to worship is not an uncommon topic in Scripture.  As a matter of fact the first sin outside of the Garden of Eden was worship related.  One of the over-arching themes of the prophets was false worship (idolatry).  Of Satan’s three temptations of Jesus, one, not surprisingly, centered on worship.

For a subject that should encompass every hour of our day and all the days of our lives, a week’s reading is but a small drop in a vast ocean.  This selection of passages is as notable for its exclusions as its inclusions.

Readings and Introductory Comments:

1 Chronicles 16:8-36

David knew something about worship.  Undoubtedly that contributed greatly to his reputation as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).  Short of building the temple, one of David’s important accomplishments of national religious concern was relocating the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem.  Knowing the significance and meaning of this ark and the solemnity of the event, David penned this psalm of worship to God.  It’s contents are also recorded in the book of Psalms (for vv. 8-22, see Psa. 105:1-15 and for vv. 23-33, see Psa. 96).

John 4:21-24; Matthew 6:1-18

Of obvious great concern to Jesus was His follower’s worship of God.  In His exchange with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well near Sychar, Jesus emphasized the great import as well as the true nature of worship to God.  His words here ought always to serve as a corrective to any casual or flippant attitudes toward worship.

Also not surprising is that in the Sermon on the Mount His teaching turned toward attitudes and mindsets relative to worship.

Genesis 4:1-7; Leviticus 10:1-7; Deuteronomy 4:9-24; Isaiah 1:10-20; Amos 5:21-24; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Numerous are Scripture’s warnings against worship that can easily become false and vain.  It is notable that one of the very earliest issues regarding sin in the Bible, started as a worship concern of the world’s first two siblings (Gen. 4).  Further, the rare narratives in Leviticus pique our attention.  One of these is the infamous worship attempts of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu.  The obvious attention drawn to this event dare not escape our notice.  Moses also warns that events that may prompt expressions of worship ought to be appropriately directed (Deut. 4).  The prophets also warn that even though there may be no issue with the mechanics of worship, if such activities are divorced from the devotion of our lives to God’s will it renders such efforts as detestable to Him.  So also Paul attempted to correct the church at Corinth as their worship assemblies had come to be a detriment, rather than a benefit.

Isaiah 6:1-8; Revelation 4:1-11; 5:1-14

Of tremendous motivation to earthbound creatures is the insight to activities around the very throne of God in heaven.  Both Isaiah and John were privileged to see God seated on His throne.  Both of them tell us the same thing; God is continuously honored and praised by those beings so distinguished as to be in His presence there.  Not only so, but John also sees Jesus who Himself is also worshiped in the same way as is God.

Study/Thought Questions

1 Chronicles 16:8-36

  • Whose hearts are to rejoice? (v. 10)  How often should they do so? (v. 11)
  • What does David call on worshipers to remember? (v. 15)
  • What activity does David repeatedly connect with worship? (vv. 8, 9, 23, 24, 31
  • According to v. 27, what four traits belong to God?
  • In what is God to be worshiped? (v. 29)

John 4:21-24

  • How do “true” worshipers worship? (v. 23)
  • For whom does God seek? (v. 23)

Matthew 6:1-18

  • About what must we beware in our worship? (v. 1)
  • Do those who seek men’s praise in their worship receive a reward? What is it? (v. 2, 5, 16)

Genesis 4:1-7

  • What was God’s disposition toward Abel’s and Cain’s sacrifices? (vv. 3-4)
  • In 1 John 3:12 how are Cain’s and Abel’s deeds characterized?
  • How did Cain respond to God’s reactions? (v. 5)

Leviticus 10:1-7

  • How is the fire described that was used for the incense offering by Nadab and Abihu? (v. 1)
  • What message from God did Moses give Aaron? (v. 3)

Deuteronomy 4:9-24

  • What had the people witnessed that would have prompted worship? (vv. 11-12)
  • Of what inappropriate response did Moses warn the people? (vv. 15-16)
  • What are the people not to forget? (v. 23)

Isaiah 1:10-20

  • Did God like the sacrifices being offered? (v. 11)
  • To what would God not listen? (v. 15)
  • What did God want from His people? (vv. 16-17)

Amos 5:21-24

  • What is preferable to God above worship? (v. 24; see also 1 Sam. 15:22)

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

  • What did Paul say the Corinthians were not doing in their assemblies? (v. 20)
  • Of what is one guilty who worships—eating the bread and drinking the cup—in an unworthy manner? (v. 27)
  • What must one do as they worship in taking the Lord’s Supper? (v. 28)

Isaiah 6:1-8

  • What did Isaiah see in the year King Uzziah died? (v. 1)
  •  What did the seraphim say to each other? (v. 3)
  •  What was Isaiah’s response to what he saw? (v. 5)

Revelation 4:1-11

  • What did John see? (v. 2)  Whose throne was it? (v. 8)
  • How frequent was the praise to God from the four living creatures? (v. 8)
  • The 24 elders said God was worthy of glory and honor for what reason? (v. 11)

Revelation 5:1-14

  • What is the identity of the Lamb John saw? (vv. 5-6, 9)
  • Of what is the Lamb worthy (vv. 9, 12)

Meditation Thoughts:

  • What worshipful sentiments and thoughts and ideas are presented by David in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36? Does our approach to worship ever focus too much on the external mechanics rather than the attitude and disposition of our heart?
  • How does the “in secret” principle from Matthew 6 apply to our worship? (vv. 4, 6, 18)
  • Has God’s desire for man’s worship (John 4:24) changed throughout time? How so?  How not so? (see Josh. 24:14; 1 Sam. 12:24; 1 Kings 2:4)
  • Based on the message of the prophets (Isaiah and Amos), what should be of greatest concern when it comes to worship?

Memory Verse:

“Oh come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Psa. 95:6)

 

A Week in the Word, March 9-15: Historical Psalms

Theme: Psalms & Proverbs—Historical Psalms

I doubt that this week’s theme will excite many.  First of all, we’re not accustomed to spending much time in the Psalms and secondly people, generally speaking, are not fans of history.

Still, many of the Psalms make appeals to the history of God’s people as reason and motivation for the present (and future) generation(s) to praise God, to live faithfully to Him,  and to honor the covenant relationship.

The plea of these Psalms is to be reminded again of God’s greatness, His awesome power, His steadfast love and compassion, and His goodness.  Further, they are to draw attention to the failures of previous generations, even those who experienced these events firsthand, who quickly forgot what God did and whose faith was not strengthened.

These Psalms remind us of the necessity of knowing the history of God’s dealing with His people and the nations.  These great Bible stories are not merely to be fodder for children’s Bible classes, but rather the very foundation of faith in God and the building of a right understanding of His character and nature.

Just as Paul used these very same events to admonish Christians to godly behavior and as reminders of God’s faithfulness (1 Cor. 10:1-13), so these Psalms can serve a great purpose in our own faith and Christians lives.

Some of the Psalms we’ll read are structured entirely around the recounting of specific historical events, some give only incidental references to them within the larger context of the Psalm.  Some refer in rather general terms to Israel’s history leaving the reader to determine to what might be specifically referred—though that may not even be necessary to get the message.

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Psalms 78; 81; 95; 106
In these Psalms many events from Israel’s history are recalled and even recounted, but all with a very specific purpose in mind.  In these the failings of God’s people are highlighted.  The mistakes they made are emphasized as a means of motivation to the current recipients of the Psalms to not make the same mistakes.  These are historical Psalms of warning.

Like the following group of Psalms these also contains appeals to worship and praise God.  The sins of the fathers, though, play a prominent role in motivating the readers to right living.

Psalms 99; 105; 107; 114
These Psalms are also historical in that they remember Israel’s history and the acts of God within it.  However, now the recollecting is for the purpose motivating the reader/listener to praise and honor God for His great works; for the demonstrations of His might and power and the deliverance of His people from impossible circumstances though they did not deserve such gracious treatment.

These would also classify as Psalms of praise, as we emphasized the first time we spent a week reading from the Psalms.  As a matter of fact we have previously read Psalm 135 which also would fit nicely into this week’s reading.  In addition to that is Psalm 136.  We will be reading it in another week of readings from Psalms when we note God’s steadfast love. This Psalm emphasizes God’s acts on behalf of His people as evidence of His steadfast love.

Psalm 44
This Psalm is a bit of a twist on this theme.  Instead of appealing to the people to remember the past, either as warnings to avoid previous failures or as reminders of why God is so great and worthy of praise, this Psalm appeals to God.  God is asked to remember what He as done in the past for His people as a reminder and motivation for Him to again so act on their behalf. (See also Psalm 74:2-3).

Study/Thought Questions:

Psalms 78

  • From whom had they learned these great accounts from their history? (v. 3)
  • For what reason was one generation to inform the next of God’s deeds? (v. 7)
  • What overall time period is being recalled from Israel’s history in this Psalm?

Psalm 81

  • What sin was being warned against by recalling what God had done? (v. 9)
  • How had God’s people failed Him? (vv. 8, 11)

Psalm 95

  • What had the “fathers” done to God? (v. 9)

Psalm 106

  • For whose sake did God save His people out of Egypt? (v. 8)
  • What did the people do quickly? (v. 13)
  • What is Horeb? (v. 19)

Psalms 99

  • What does God love, what has He established and what has He executed? (v. 4)
  • Who led the people in calling out to God? (v. 6)

Psalm 105

  • What are the people called on to do in verses 1-5?
  • With whom do the remembrances of this Psalm begin? (v. 9)
  • What series of events are under consideration in verses 26-36?

Psalm 107

  • What does God do for the longing and hungry soul? (v. 9)
  • For what should God be thanked? (vv. 15, 21)
  • What should the wise consider? (v. 43)

Psalm 114

  • To what events do you suppose verse 3 is referring?
  • What should the earth do at the Lord’s presence? (v. 7)

Psalm 44

  • From whom had these people learned of God’s great deeds? (v. 1)
  • By what means was the land taken? (v. 3)
  • How did the people feel they had been treated by God? (v. 9)
  • What did the people want God to do? (v. 23)

Meditation Thoughts:

  • Why is it important for Christians today to be familiar with the events of Old Testament history?
  • Are we ever guilty of forgetting the works of God? (see 78:11; 106:13)
  • What specifically do we learn about God from the events remembered in these Psalms?
  • What events from your own spiritual journey stand out as God being active in your life?

Memory Verse:

“So that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Psalm 78:7)

A Week in the Word, March 2-8: Becoming a Christian

Theme: Christian Living—Becoming a Christian* 

The purpose for Jesus’ coming to earth, by His own explanation, was to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 17:9).  Or, as He also frequently said, it was to do the will of His Father ( ); and God’s will is that all men might be saved.  When Mary was informed of the child she would bear by the Holy Spirit, she was told He would save His people form their sins (Matt. 1:21).

This begs the question, how might I be saved?  It’s one found on the lips of people concerned for their spiritual condition (Acts 2:37; 16:30).  When Paul preached to the Roman ruler Agrippa, the pagan king queried, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts. 26:28).

Indeed, Paul sought to accomplish with Agrippa, what he sought for all men, to make them disciples of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19-20).

To become a disciple of Jesus is to be a follower of His, one saved from sin, and—as Agrippa suggested—a Christian.  So, what is it that makes one a Christian?  And it’s not just how one becomes so designated, but how does one enter this saved relationship with Jesus?

Our readings will fall into two categories.  The first is the numerous examples from Acts of people being saved.  One of the significant characteristics of these individuals is that they, like we, were ones who never personally encountered Jesus except through the message of the gospel.  In that sense, their circumstances are very much like our own.  We can, I would assert, have great confidence that what they did to become Christians (to be saved, become disciples, or however one wishes to express it) is what we too must do.

The second category is a series of statements from the epistles that address, for a variety of reasons, the topic of salvation, particularly as they speak to conditions of salvation.

*Of more than a little interest is the contrast in the frequency and wide spread usage (over use?) of the term “Christian” in our modern speech and the very sparing use of the term in the New Testament—a total of only three occurrences.  These are Acts 11:26; 26:28; and 1 Pet. 4:16.

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Acts 2:1-41
The significance of the first Pentecost following Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension could hardly be overstated.   The events of this day were pointed to by the prophets (as seen in Peter’s explanation of what was happening based on Joel’s prophecy) and also by Jesus (see Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4-5).  This day marked a “beginning” (Acts 11:15) in a number of ways, not the least of which was people learning what they must do to be saved in response to the proclaimed gospel of Jesus Christ.

Acts 8:4-13; 26-40
Besides the apostles, Philip, along with Stephen, proved to be among the most influential followers of Christ in the early church in Jerusalem.  Following Stephen’s death, Philip took a leading role in the spread of the gospel.  Acts 8 records his work in Samaria as citizens of that community responded to the gospel as well as his encounter with an Ethiopian nobleman traveling home from Jerusalem where he had come to worship.  In both instances we witness people hearing the message of Jesus proclaimed and their response.

Acts 9:1-19; 22:6-16; 26:12-18
One of the most startling conversions in the New Testament is that of Saul of Tarsus.  The remarkable transformation of this zealous, diligent and exceedingly fervent persecutor of the followers of Jesus into an equally devoted believer stands as one of the great proofs of the validity of the Christian faith, second only–in the minds of many people–to the resurrection itself.  The instructional value of this conversion account can be noted in the fact that it is related no less than three time the book of Acts.

Acts 10:1-48
The recorded of the conversion of Cornelius no doubt proved invaluable to the early church as evidence of God’s intention that Gentiles, in addition to Jews, were to hear the gospel and have opportunity for salvation. It also shows, though, that one’s salvation cannot be based on personal goodness but rather through faith shown in an appropriate response to the gospel.

Acts 16:11-15; 25-34
By the direction of the Holy Spirit, Paul’s so-called second missionary journey brought the gospel to the European continent for the first time.  Philippi became the first primary stop in the region of Macedonia.  Here, among Paul’s converts were numbered at least two households; those of Lydia, a business woman from Thyatira, and a Roman soldier in charge of the jail where Paul and Silas were incarcerated.  Again, these cases of conversion show the consistency of responses by those introduced to Jesus through the preaching of the gospel.

Acts 18:5-11
Typical of Paul’s practice, at the metropolitan city of Corinth he “reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4).  As was often the case “many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized” (v. 8). This description of how the Corinthians became Christians is succinct and shows the disciples following the commission as given by the Lord (Mark 16:16)

Romans 3:21-30; 6:1-11; 10:8-10; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Galatians 3:23-29; Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 1:13-14; 2:11-14
Though the epistles are all written to those already saved–Romans to “all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (1:7), Corinthians to “the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia” (1:1), Galatians to “the churches of Galatia” (1:2), Ephesians to “the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1), and Colossians to “the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae” (1:2)–in them are found a number statements regarding salvation. Such statements, in concert with the examples from Acts, give us a full picture of what one must do to be saved.

Study/Thought Questions:

Acts 8:4-13

  • Why did the crowds pay attention to Philip? (v. 6)
  • What did the people of Samaria do in response to the preaching of Philip? (v. 12)

Acts 8:26-40

  • Why had the eunuch been in Jerusalem? (v. 27)
  • From where was the eunuch reading? (vv. 30, 32-33)
  • What question did the eunuch ask Philip after hearing him preach Jesus? (v. 36)

Acts 9:1-19; 22:6-16; 26:12-18

  • How did Jesus identify Himself to Saul? (9:5)
  • What did God tell Ananias His plans were for Saul? (9:15)
  • What was Saul doing for the three days before Ananias arrived? (9:9,11)
  • What did Ananias tell Saul to do? (22:16)

Acts 10:1-48

  • What kind of man was Cornelius? (v. 2)
  • What startling revelation did the angel make to Cornelius? (v. 4)
  • Whom had Cornelius gathered to hear Peter? (v. 24)
  • What were the ones present gathered to hear? (v. 33)
  • Who is acceptable to God? (v. 35)
  • What did Peter command? (v. 48)

Acts 16:11-15

  • Why were the women meeting at the riverside? (v. 13)
  • Why did she pay attention to Paul’s preaching? (v. 14)
  • What was her response to Paul’s preaching? (v. 15)

Acts 16:25-34

  • Why would the jailor want to kill himself? (v. 27)
  • What was the jailor told to do? (v. 31)
  • What transpired between his being told to believe (v. 31) and his having believed (v. 34)?

Acts 18:5-11

  • What did those in Corinth who believed do? (v. 8)

Romans 3:21-30

  • By what means is the righteousness of God manifested? (vv. 21-22)
  • How is one justified? (v. 24)

Romans 6:1-11

  • Being baptized into Christ means being baptized in to what? (v. 3)
  • To what event does Paul liken the result of our being baptized? (v. 4-5)

Romans 10:8-10

  • A person will be saved if they do what? (v. 9)

2 Corinthians 7:10

  • What leads to salvation?

Galatians 3:23-29

  • Who has “put on Christ”? (v. 27)

Ephesians 2:1-10

  • What is one’s condition in sin? (v. 1)
  • How is this condition remedied? (v. 5)
  • We are saved by what? and through what? (v. 8)
  • For what purpose has one been worked upon by God? (v. 10)

Colossians 1:13-14

  • What change is brought about by one who receives forgiveness? (v. 13)

Colossians 2:11-14

  • Baptism is an act of faith in what? (v. 12)

Meditation Thoughts:

  • What are the various things to which salvation is attributed in the above passages?  Are these exclusive or inclusive of each other?  How might we understand each so that it is not placed in opposition to the others?
  • Baptism is often rejected as a necessity for salvation on the basis that it is a work (by which no man can be saved).  Who is it, though, that works in baptism? (see Col. 2:12)
  • Is it accurate to use the idea of becoming (and being) a Christian as synonymous with being saved from sin?

Memory Verse:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been save” (Ephesians 2:4-5)