In our last lesson we focused on HOW Jesus' death can satisfy JUSTICE and pay the price for OUR sins. Putting everything into perspective, you should now be able to see why Jesus IS the only hope for man. Do not forget that only blood takes away sin and that only Jesus' blood satisfies the requirements for the blood needed to accomplish God’s PLAN for a sinner to become right with him again! We also learned that Jesus taking our sin and dying is what the Bible refers to as the GRACE of God - the favor God did for us and THIS FAVOR ALONE saves us!
Ephesians 2:5-10 - ”5 Even when we were dead through our trespasses, he made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God -- 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
These words were written to people who were already Christians and they show us very clearly that salvation cannot be earned by man - it is offered to us as a gift. However, as we discussed in our last lesson, even a gift must be RECEIVED and this involves action! This brings us then to perhaps the most important question we can ask. "How do we receive the gift of God’s grace for our salvation?" Traditional lessons on this topic simply take you to a few SELECTED verses that are then explained in many different ways leaving most people confused.
Some of the more popular such passages are…
Matthew 11:28 - ”Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Revelation 3:20 - ”Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
Notice that while these verses DO contain INVITATIONS from Jesus for the listener to COME to him, they DO NOT tell readers exactly HOW this is to be done. They simply point out the importance of coming to Jesus. Therefore, since there are no details given does this mean that we are free to make OUR OWN answer about HOW we come to Jesus and become a part of the NEW AGREEMENT? Of course, we cannot! Only God can answer that question.
Do you remember our “How to Study The Bible” lessons back at the beginning of the course, Jesus: Man Of The Bible? It was there we learned that the correct way to handle a situation like this is to look at all the available evidence before making any conclusions. The purpose of this lesson is to research the instructions for HOW a person receives Jesus’ blood and becomes part of the NEW AGREEMENT. In the back of this book you will find a WORKSHEET containing all the verses for this lesson with the instructions to read each passage carefully, put them into proper context, and then record a short summary of any instructions that are found in the passage relating to the matter of HOW a person can make the journey back across the “River Of SIN” to be righteous once again. After completing your research, you were asked to come up with at least 5 summary statements that form the basic instructions God has given to man.
The list of passages was created based upon common word phrases found in the New Testament that represent the idea of a person going from the wrong side of the river back to being on the right side! The first phrase we look at is "entering the kingdom". This phrase applies to our study because God’s side of the river is HIS KINGDOM. The other side of the river is the kingdom of the Evil One! Verses that tell us HOW to get into God’s kingdom are telling us HOW to get from one side of the river to the other!
In Matthew 5:20 we read that IF we are not better people than the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, then we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. We know that these leaders CLAIMED to be religious, but they were not faithful to God. They had substituted their own beliefs and traditions in place of the true teachings God gave the people. Because of this, Jesus called them hypocrites! The point here seems to be that we must be genuine if we want to go back to be with God!
In Matthew 7:21-23 we find a passage we have visited several times before in this course. What was the point of the lesson Jesus was giving here? He shows that it is not enough for a person to be sincere in their heart when it comes to being religious. It is not enough to be active and to CLAIM to be a devoted person to God! In fact, we learned that this passage teaches us that it is possible for a person to FEEL close to God, to DO so many wonderful things for God, and to GIVE God all the credit, but STILL BE LOST! The only way to get from one side of the river to the other is to DO those things that GOD says to do – HIS will!1
In Matthew 18:3, we find that unless we become LIKE small children, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. The context here helps us understand that Jesus is speaking here about the characteristics and attitudes of a child. A child trusts the adults in its life and is willing to obey without question. This is how we also must be toward God if we are to make it from one side of the river to the other.
Our final passage in this section is John 3:3-5. The statement “enter into the kingdom” is found twice here, in verse 3 and in verse 5. In verse 3 most Bibles says that we must be “born again” to enter into the kingdom. However, this is a wrong translation. The original language actually says, “born from above”, not “born again”.2
If we summarize what we found in this section, then IF we want to enter the kingdom, we must be genuine, we must do the will of the Father, we must become like children, and we must be born from above!
The next phrase we will study about is "forgiveness of sins". This one definitely fits into our study because you cannot get from one side of the river OF SIN unless you get your sins forgiven.
The first passage we have is Acts 2:38, in which we read that if we want forgiveness of sins we must do TWO things. First, it says that we must do something called “repent”. Second, it tells us that we must “be baptized”. There are no explanations for these words in the verse, but they are clearly important things.
In Acts 10:43, we see that anyone who believes in Jesus will receive forgiveness of their sins.
Acts 26:18 mentions turning from darkness to the light and that seems to represent a person turning from the power of Satan to God. A person who does this will be forgiven of their sins.
Romans 3:25 says that God gave Jesus as a way for people to receive forgiveness of sins, through faith.
Ephesians 1:7 tells us that we can have forgiveness of sins through Christ’s blood IF we are IN him.
In the same way, Colossians 1:13-14 tells us that if we are IN him we have forgiveness of our sins.
If we summarize what we found in this section, then IF we want to have our sins forgiven, we must repent and be baptized, believe in Jesus, turn from Satan to God, and be IN Christ!
The next section of passages in the list is composed of those that speak of “being saved." Again, this is an obvious fit for our research because being saved is definitely going from one side of the river to the other!
We begin with Matthew 10:22, which speaks about difficult times for anyone who decides to become part of the NEW AGREEMENT. Here, Jesus says that only those who remain faithful to the end will be saved!
Matthew 24:13 is a restatement of the same thing in a different place and time. The one who remains faithful to the end will be saved.
Mark 13:13 contains another reference to the idea of remaining faithful to the end.
In Mark 16:16, we have one of the passages that is often called the “Great Commission” by religious scholars. In it, Jesus gives orders to his disciples to preach the Good News of the NEW AGREEMENT as they go into all the world. Jesus says that the ones who believe and are baptized will be saved!
In Luke 8:12 Jesus is explaining the meaning of a parable that he had earlier told to the people about a man who planted seed and he mentions here that people must hear God’s teaching and believe it so that they can be saved.
In John 10:9, Jesus speaks figuratively about himself and says that he is the DOOR/GATE and that anyone entering through him will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture (grass to eat). This is part of Jesus’ larger figurative discussion about his being the GOOD SHEPHERD, and so we can understand his references to enclosures, gates, and pasture. The point here is that IF a person comes to God through him, he will be saved!
In Acts 2:21, when you first hear this quotation, you might think you are hearing something that was made up by the apostle Paul.3 However, the phrase, “and anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved”, is actually a quotation from the Old Testament!4 Although this IS NOT a passage where someone is giving people instructions about entering into the NEW AGREEMENT, the idea of calling upon the name of the Lord is a very old one. God wants to help his people and so listens to their cries for help.
In Acts 11:14, we find Peter making a report to the church leaders in Jerusalem about how God brought him to the house of a Gentile soldier named Cornelius. Cornelius was the first person from a Gentile background who became a Christian and Peter was the one God chose to help him. Cornelius was told that he should send for Peter and that he would tell him things he needed to do to be saved. The context demands that Cornelius had to do these things.
In Acts 16:31, we have the story of Paul and his companion Silas when they were in jail in Philippi. An earthquake shakes the prison so that the entire jail was opened. The jailor thought everyone had escaped and was about to kill himself when Paul told him that everyone was still there. The jailor was so amazed, and Paul then told him to believe on the Lord and he would be saved.
In Romans 10:9-13, Paul writes to people who are already Christians. He tells the people about being made right and being saved and he mentions that if a person BELIEVES in their heart and if that person also CONFESSES the Lord Jesus, then that person will be saved.
In 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, we find that Paul is once again writing to people who are already Christians. He is discussing the idea of how he brought them the message of the Gospel, how they received it, how they stand firm in it, and how they are saved by it, IF THEY CONTINUE to hold fast to their original commitment, otherwise, that original commitment becomes useless!
In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-13, Paul speaks to people who are already Christians and he is speaking about problems that will come in the future. He makes a very remarkable statement when he says that God will help people to believe that the wrong things they want to believe are true. God will do this because these people do not want to love the truth so that they can be saved.
In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul is writing to one of his co-workers, Timothy, who has been sent to the town of Ephesus to take care of some problems facing the Christians in that place. He is speaking about how Timothy needs to be an example to these people and how he needs to continue to live and teach right things so that BOTH he and the people he is sent to help will be saved!
In Titus 3:5, Paul is also writing to another of his co-workers, Titus, who is a Christian. He tells him that God saved us by his mercy and by a washing of regeneration and a renewal of a special spirit!
In James 2:14-26, we find James discussing the topic of having a kind of faith that will save a person. He shows that this faith is a combination of believing in God and doing what God tells a person to do.
In 1 Peter 3:21, we find Peter talking about being baptized and he compares it to the story of Noah and the Ark, and then says in very plain words that “baptism saves you”.
If we summarize what we found in this section, then IF we want to be saved, we must remain faithful to the end of our lives, believe in Jesus, confess Jesus, be baptized, follow instructions, and love the truth!
The next section of passages in the list is composed of those that speak of “having eternal life." This is also a match for our research because having eternal life also represents the idea of going from one side of the river to the other!
Our first passage is Matthew 19:29, where Jesus speaks about the cost of a person following him. He states that a follower must be willing IF NECESSARY to sacrifice all earthly possessions and relationships that he has in order to gain eternal life.
John 3:15-16 stresses that a person must believe in Jesus in order to receive eternal life.
John 3:36 states that a person must believe in AND OBEY Jesus in order receive eternal life!
John 5:24 clearly says that a person must listen to what Jesus says and believe in the one who sent him (God) in order to receive eternal life.
John 6:40 again stresses the idea of believing in Jesus in order to receive eternal life.
In John 6:47, Jesus states that the one who believes has eternal life.
In John 11:25-26, we again see Jesus emphasizing that a person must believe in him in order to have eternal life.
John 12:25 speaks again about the cost of being a follower and says that a person must hate his own life in this world in order to keep it for eternal life!
In John 20:31, we read the writer’s purpose for writing his book. He says that he wrote all the things he did so that a person might believe that Jesus is the Christ so that he can have eternal life!
In Romans 2:7, Paul speaks of God giving eternal life to people who are always seeking to do those things that are good and honorable.
The passage Romans 6:22 states that if you want eternal life, then you must become a slave to God!
Galatians 6:8 speaks figuratively about planting and harvesting crops. It states that if you want eternal life you must plant seeds that are into the ways of the spirit. This is in contrast to planting seeds into the ways of the world. “Planting” in this sense is used to represent the kinds of things a person chooses to devote their lives to doing.
If we summarize what we found in this section, then IF we want to be receive eternal life, we must believe in Jesus, believe in God, obey Jesus, become a slave of God, and make Jesus the most important thing in our lives!
The next section of passages in the list is composed of those that speak of “becoming a child/children of God." This is a match for our research because becoming a child of God also represents the idea of going from one side of the river to the other!
John 1:12 states that God gives people who believe in Jesus permission to become his children!
Galatians 3:26-27 says that people become children of God through their faith because when they are baptized they put on Christ.
Philippians 2:14-15 states that people will become God’s children if they do what God says to do without arguing or complaining.
1 John 3:10 states that people must do what is right and love their brother if they want to be children of God.
1 John 5:1-2 says that to be a child of God a person must love the father AND do what he says!
If we summarize what we found in this section, then IF we want to become children of God, we must believe in Jesus, be baptized into Christ, love God and do what he says, and love God’s other children!
This section in the list is composed of just one passage and, as we pointed out in the section about “entering the kingdom”, actually a mistranslation of the original text! The actual wording should read “BORN FROM ABOVE”, and NOT “born again”. However, “being born from above” is also a match for our research because it also represents the idea of going from one side of the river to the other!
John 3:3-5 is a very interesting passage. Context helps us see that there are TWO births being discussed here. The first is the one we ALL experienced from our mothers. It was a physical (water) birth5 and we know that this IS NOT the one that Jesus is speaking about here. Nicodemus proves that because he asks how it can be possible for a person to go back inside his mother and be born a second time after he is already old! To this, Jesus responds by saying that there is a physical birth and a spiritual birth. A person must experience BOTH of these if they want to enter the kingdom! The problem here is that Jesus DOES NOT give the details about HOW a person is born from above, except to say that it is a spiritual birth!
If we summarize what we found in this section, then we have to admit that there IS NO summary, except to say as we did in the earlier section, that a person must be born spiritually (from above) to get into the kingdom of God.
The next section of passages in the list is composed of passages that mention the idea of joining with Jesus. This is also a match for our research because joining with Jesus also represents the idea of going from one side of the river to the other!
The first passage in this section is one of the most informative of the entire research project. In Romans 6:3-4, we find the context gives us so much data in itself. The people that Paul is writing to are already Christians. They are having difficulties in keeping their commitment to the NEW AGREEMENT, and especially regarding the idea of eliminating sin from their lives. Paul asks a hypothetical question, “Shall we continue sinning so that we can get more and more grace?” His response takes the readers back to their experience when they became Christians and Paul brings up their experience when they were baptized. He says that they were JOINED with JESUS’ death, burial, and resurrection through this baptism. Just as Jesus died, they died TO SIN, and just as Jesus was buried, they were buried IN BAPTISM. Then, just as Jesus was raised up out of death, they also were raised to have NEW LIFE! If THIS is not what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of being BORN FROM ABOVE then what was he speaking about?
Colossians 2:12 also is written to people who are already Christians. Like the Romans, they also struggle with keeping their commitment to the NEW AGREEMENT. Here Paul speaks to them about how they were JOINED with Jesus’ death and resurrection, once again, through baptism. Notice how he says that when they were baptized, their old self died and was buried with Christ and that while their old dead self was being buried in baptism, they were TRUSTING in God’s power to make them clean.
In Galatians 3:27, we again see the idea of being joined to Jesus. This time the wording is like “putting on” a shirt or other piece of clothing and that Jesus is PUT ON through baptism. When this is accomplished, the person becomes a son of God through faith!
If we summarize what we found in this section, then IF we want to join with Jesus then we must be baptized and trust in God’s power to give NEW LIFE!
The next section of passages in the list is composed of those that speak of “being right with God", which also matches our search because becoming right with God represents the idea of going from one side of the river to the other!
The first few passages are from the book of Romans. These people were already Christians, and were being approached by false-teachers who were trying to confuse them into thinking that it IS NOT THE FAVOR God did for us that makes us right with God, but rather they were teaching that a person can become right with God by doing good things for God – such as the good things God told the people of Israel to do in the OLD AGREEMENT. Paul devotes a large portion of this book to fighting against this man-made idea. He brings out very clearly that ONLY GOD can do what is needed to make man right– by means of his PLAN – and that man is hopeless to do anything to make himself right! Man must simply RECEIVE God’s gift!
Romans 1:17 represents the foundation of the idea, that being right with God happens through faith. Literally, it says that a person who is made right will live by faith.
Romans 2:12-13 also speaks about being right with God and adds that it IS NOT enough to simply hear God’s laws, but we must also DO GOD’S LAWS if we want to be right with him.
Romans 3:21-26 speaks about people not being able to make themselves right with God by doing the things God tells people to do in his law, but that being right with God is offered as a gift that a person must receive THROUGH faith.
Romans 4:1-5 also speaks of the idea that a person is made right by God THROUGH faith!
Romans 6:17-18 adds the idea that becoming a slave to being right with God follows a person receiving the forgiveness of their sins.
Romans 10:3-11 continues to emphasize the idea that no person can DO ANYTHING to make himself or herself right with God. He or she must simply accept it as God’s GIFT by having faith and confessing Jesus!
Like in the book of Romans, these people in Galatia were also being confused by teachers trying to say that people can make themselves right with God by doing good works – such as the good things God told the people to do in the OLD AGREEMENT. In Galatians 2:16, Paul points out that no person can do anything to make himself or herself right with God, but that only JESUS can do that!
Galatians 3:11, like the earlier passage of Romans 1:17, shows that a person who is made right will live by faith, and that NO PERSON can be made right with God by doing good deeds!
Galatians 3:24-27 shows the whole relationship between the good deeds of the OLD AGREEMENT and God’s PLAN. He says that we are made right BY THE PLAN, and not BY THE OLD AGREEMENT. That agreement was just a temporary guide until Christ came, but now that Christ has come, the guide is no longer needed. Paul says that all who become right with God do so THROUGH FAITH, because everyone who has been baptized has put on Christ!
In Titus 3:4-7, Paul IS NOT fighting against the false teachers, but writing to his trusted co-worker and in this passage, he puts the whole idea together by pointing out that we are not made right by good things that we did, but rather by good things that GOD DID FOR US!
In James 2:20-26, the writer faces the opposite situation that Paul faced in Romans and Galatians. People seem to be saying that all you must do is BELIEVE and that it does not matter what you do! Of course, this is wrong. Paul was not saying that we should not do good things. He was saying that we cannot become right with God (have our sins forgiven) through doing good things. Remember that only blood can forgive sins! James brings out the other side of the picture. A person cannot be pleasing to God unless that person is willing to DO WHAT GOD SAYS! Unless a person is willing to OBEY, God will not make that person right with him! It is foolish to think that God does not care what we do, or how faithful we are with our actions! We must not forget that God is calling people to join HIS AGREEMENT and there are conditions for the agreement!
If we summarize what we found in this section, then IF we want to be made right with God we must be have faith and be willing to do whatever God tells us to do.
Now that we have worked systematically through all of the passages, it is time to look for common details. Some of them are going to be direct statements and some combinations of similar wordings into one common idea. We must be especially careful to look for relationships between the individual instructions in passages where one or more instructions are LINKED with the connecting word “AND”, however, it is the usage and context that MUST identify ANY relationship, NOT our own desire or religious beliefs.
The most outstanding of the instructions we found mentioned should not surprise us. We already knew that FAITH is an important part of Christianity. What we have discovered is that without FAITH a person cannot join the NEW AGREEMENT. Any person who wants to join the NEW AGREEMENT MUST BELIEVE! Please note that we discovered LINKS to BOTH confession and baptism for this instruction.
Second, we found instructions telling people to REPENT OF THEIR SINS, or turn from their sins, or change their attitude to become like children. We found verses that LINKED this with the instruction of baptism.
Third, we found instructions telling people to CONFESS WITH THEIR LIPS that they believe in Jesus. While this was only emphasized in the verses found in the book of Romans, it was LINKED to the instruction of faith.
As a fourth instruction, we found that people who wish to join the NEW AGREEMENT must BE BAPTIZED. We found verses that LINKED this instruction with BOTH instructions of faith and repentance.
Finally, we found a fifth instruction that clearly shows that any person wanting to join the NEW AGREEMENT must OBEY GOD and REMAIN FAITHFUL TO THE END; otherwise, joining the NEW AGREEMENT is useless!
These are the basic instructions we found in our research.
If you compare this list with the teachings found in the religious groups of today, you will find differences, which brings us to the next important question in our study. “Can we simply pick out the instructions we like and discard the ones we do not like?” The problem we face here is like the illustrations about PARTIAL EVIDENCE we considered back in Jesus: Man Of The Bible. IF GOD gives FIVE INSTRUCTIONS to follow in order to become part of the NEW AGREEMENT how many do we need to follow?
Can we, for example, CHOOSE instruction #1 and #3 alone and IGNORE the others, as indicated in the diagram on the left that is labeled “Option 1”?
What about ADDING something NEW to the list of instructions, that was not found in any of the verses we studied - as in the case of the diagram on the left that is labeled “Option 2”? Can we add the instruction, “SAY A PRAYER TO RECEIVE JESUS”?6
We cannot IGNORE, ADD, or CHANGE anything we find in God’s instructions because WE DO NOT have any authority to ADD new things, or to TAKE AWAY things that God placed there. Please do not forget what we learned about Bible study back in the early lessons of the course Jesus: Man Of The Bible.
The Bible message belongs to God! Only HE can ADD or TAKE AWAY! Our responsibility in Bible study is to UNDERSTAND what God says and then DO EXACTLY WHAT HE TELLS US without question!
We MUST ACCEPT WHATEVER WE FIND, regardless of how it compares with our previous religious beliefs and experiences.
Therefore, only “Option 3” is acceptable because it, alone, contains the complete listing of ALL details that were revealed in the verses we studied! If GOD GIVES FIVE INSTRUCTIONS then FIVE is how many we need to follow, no more and no less!
Now that we have completed our research and have the instructions, we need to make a careful study and see what the Bible teaches concerning each one of them. This, we will do beginning with our next lesson and continue through Lesson 10.
In addition, one of the things we learned about Bible study is that after you finish a study like this it is good to see if you can find examples of people doing or teaching what your conclusions indicate should be taught and that finding such evidence helps to verify that your conclusions are correct.
With this idea in mind, we have a second WORKSHEET for you to study. This one contains a listing of every example of people becoming Christians that we have recorded in the New Testament. Study through each example and look for details about what the people were TOLD to do and what they ACTUALLY DID. Then compare these findings to the FIVE INSTRUCTIONS we found in this lesson and see how closely they match.
1 Do you remember Romans 6:17-18? It says that those people OBEYED the teachings they received from God! That was HOW they became Christians.
2 There is a specific Greek word for “born again” and this is NOT the word found in this verse. It REALLY SAYS, “born from above”. Therefore, we must be BORN FROM ABOVE if we want to enter into the kingdom. What does it mean? We will discuss this in detail a little later in the study.
3 Paul uses this phrase in Romans 10:13.
4 The quotation is from Joel 2:32. However, you can trace the idea of people calling on the name of the Lord back to the book of Genesis in chapter 4:26. Today, many religious groups try to say that this phrase is associated with people saying a prayer to receive Jesus as their Savior, through what many refer to as “the Sinner’s Prayer”, but context will show that “calling upon the name of the Lord” stands for an idea that more accurately represents a person asking God for guidance and promising him loyalty and obedience.
5 Biology teaches us that an unborn baby is encased in a bag of water and that when the baby is born that the process begins with the breaking of the water bag and a gush of water! This is all part of the process of physical birth!
6 Did we find any instruction in our research that specifically mentioned anything about saying a prayer to receive Jesus? We DID find passages stating that people must CONFESS Jesus, but did those passages mention anything about HOW this should be done? Did they mention anything about saying a prayer to do it?
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