We are now at the end of the material included in this course and it is time to go onward to additional courses and new sets of topics. However, before we leave this very interesting course behind, let us take time to review the main points brought out in our study.
We began our journey by looking at the realities we find in religion today. We brought out the fact that in our world, hundreds of groups claim to be “Christian” and follow the Bible and yet no two groups are the same. Many people claim to have special guidance from the Holy Spirit and yet their studies result in inconsistent teachings. How can this be a good thing when what we see in the Bible is, “one body”1 with one set of consistent teachings?
We examined and found that the original idea of Christianity carried at its heart a unity based upon complete submission to God. The original Christians had that kind of submission and if we want to be genuine Christians today then we also must make that same commitment to God.
We have provided evidence to show that the religious world of today, with its hundreds of different “Christian” churches, IS NOT what Jesus gave his life for on that cross outside the city of Jerusalem. Jesus gave his life for the one church mentioned in the Bible and it is our task today to submit to God’s will so that he will join us into that one church—the church that belongs to his son, Christ!
When we accomplish this, we will no longer be “Catholics”, or “Protestants”, or “Evangelicals”, or any of the other names we find being used today. These names did not exist during the time of Christ because, unlike today, there was only one kind of Christianity back then. If people living today will submit themselves to God and become obedient to his word (the Bible), they will simply become “Christians”, in the same way that the first believers became Christians. Therefore, without a doubt, there is a great need for everyone today to study the Bible frequently and carefully and then follow exactly what it says.
Please do not forget what we learned from Matthew 7:21-23. It is possible for a person to feel secure in their faith, to be very active in doing things “for Christ”, and yet be rejected by him in the end. From this, we can definitely see that it is not enough for a person simply to be a “religious person”. In order to be accepted by Christ, we must be people who do what the Father wants, and that means submission and obedience to whatever God tells us to do in the Bible. How can we know what God wants us to do unless we study the Bible?
Since the Bible is the key to our finding and living New Testament Christianity today, we discussed many things about its origin and purpose. One of the first things we noticed was that the message of the Bible did not originate from within the mind of man. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 showed us that the Scripture comes from God, and because it comes from God, it is useful to us in many ways. God gave us the Bible so that we could teach, correct, scold, and train one another other in the true will of God.
We also discovered the basic reason why there are the two parts or “testaments” inside of our Bibles. The two parts actually represent two distinct messages from God. We saw from Hebrews 1:1-2 that God—who is the only TRUE author—gave these messages to TWO different groups, through different agents, and at TWO different time periods. From the context, we noticed that the second message, the New Testament, is the message intended for US TODAY.
We discovered, from passages like 1 Corinthians 10:6-11, that even though God’s first message, the Old Testament, was written for another group of people who lived in a different time, there are many lessons that WE can learn from it today. For example, we learn about the meaning of FAITH because we see, in the stories of all those people, a PATTERN of God’s expectations for man. When God tells people to do something, he rewards those who do what he says and punishes those who disobey him. Perhaps the most important thing we learn from the Old Testament is God’s PLAN for saving us, how Jesus fits into this plan, and why he did the things that he did when he came down and lived as a man—“like us in EVERY way”.
We also discovered that the Bible is OUR ONLY SOURCE OF INFORMATION for religion today and that it is a complete guide. This was a very important point because there are so many confusing things happening around us today in religion that confuse our hearts and minds. We need a measuring device so that we will be able to determine when someone is telling the truth and when they are not. It was encouraging to find out that God gave the BIBLE to us for just that purpose!
We traced the history of the New Testament message from its beginning, through the personal teaching of Jesus, to its completion at the hands of his apostles, who were guided through the Holy Spirit. As the end of the first century came close, some very interesting remarks by some writers in their letters indicated that the second message had finally been completed. They consistently WARNED people against accepting NEW THINGS, which would contradict the things they had already received. The existence of those warnings was evidence indicating that the message had to have been completed during the lifetime of those first disciples. Therefore, ANY modern teaching that is truly Christian must be found inside the New Testament!
On a related point, we saw how many people use certain passages of the Bible out of context by saying that the promise of Holy Spirit guidance that Jesus made2 was also intended for you and I today! Many pray for and subsequently CLAIM that they receive this guidance. However, we noted that while claims like this may be easy to make there should be visible proof to verify if this guidance is taking place. We observed that most of religious groups begin their Bible study sessions with prayers of guidance—asking the Spirit to show them the truth. However, we also observed that the results of these “guided studies” have no consistency.3 This was very important because if genuine Holy Spirit guidance is in fact happening today then the Spirit will not teach one thing to one particular religious group and then teach something completely different to another group! When we consider the different teachings found in religion today, even though these groups CLAIM that their teachings are received from the Spirit’s guidance, it is a very confusing situation.
However, by simply comparing the message these folks are teaching with the original message of the New Testament we can determine the truth and end the confusion. We learned that everyone MUST follow what is written in the Bible and that religious leaders are no different from “regular members”. If we see our leaders teaching or following teachings that cannot be found in the Bible, we must not follow them, no mater what the consequences of such a stand might be. The idea of opposing religious leaders might be frightening because many are quite powerful but consider the alternative. Would you rather stand before God on the Day of Judgment and have to explain why you decided to follow MEN instead of HIM?
We learned HOW the Holy Spirit guided the people God used as writing instruments in order to get his message to the people of the world. God sent the Holy Spirit to GUIDE the people to the complete message he wanted to give the people of the earth. Peter describes it best in 2 Peter 1:20-21, where he says that the message, which these spokespersons gave, was not their own and that they got this message direct from God through the guidance of the Spirit. God used around 40 such “instruments” in the writing of the Bible message.
We learned many useful things about studying the Bible. For example, we discovered that studying the Bible is similar to the work of a judge in a courtroom. A judge decides the guilt or innocence of a person based upon the facts presented as evidence. He MUST listen to all sides and consider all the evidence before he can make a conclusion. We MUST find all the available information the Bible has to give and consider all of it BEFORE we make any conclusion.
Because of the confusion in religion today, we found that many people decide to “follow their hearts”, or “do what FEELS right to them”. While it is certainly not wrong to have conviction, conviction itself DOES NOT prove what is right or wrong. We saw, in Proverbs 14:12, that there is a difference between what God says and what man thinks. The reason we cannot follow what we think is that we might be wrong! We must always study the Bible and make certain that what we are doing is the same as what God really says.
Perhaps the most important single point we learned about Bible study was context. We discovered that every passage in the Bible must be put into its place with the verses before and after it. Remember that “verses” in the Bible are just sentences and they can easily be taken out of their places and incorrectly applied. A single sentence, viewed by itself, can mean just about anything, however, if we put the sentence with the sentences which come before and after it, looking at the entire thought, we can correctly understand and apply its meaning to our lives.
After finishing our lessons about the Bible and Bible study, we looked at some very interesting material about Jesus Christ. As you think back on these studies, you should first remember that he was alive in heaven long before he was alive on the earth. We know this because of the many passages, like John 1:1-3 & 14, which tell us that he existed, IN HEAVEN, long before he came down to earth. We also discovered that Jesus is God and that he created everything that was made in the Creation.
After studying about Jesus as God, we looked at the HUMAN side of Jesus. The idea of Jesus the God becoming a man is very confusing for many people, and yet the Bible clearly says that this is precisely what happened. The extent of Jesus’ humanity was explained by the writer, in Hebrews 2:17, where he indicated that Jesus was “like us in every way”. How remarkable it was to discover that there was no difference between Jesus and the rest of the people living during his time, except for the fact that the human, Jesus, was the same individual who made the light and other things on the first day of the Creation!
We also saw many interesting reasons why Jesus became a man. We discovered that most of those reasons revolve around the reality that GOD cannot experience many human things because, being God, he is “immune” to them. Because of Jesus becoming a man, God now KNOWS what it is like to be a human! God also has a way to put justice/fairness into the Judgment Day. Jesus will sit in judgment instead of the Father, and so no person can complain.
After finishing our discussion of Jesus as a man, we worked to find a way to put the TWO — seemingly conflicting — pictures of Jesus together. How could Jesus be GOD and, at the same time, a MAN? We noted several previous attempts to explain and noted that the question of HOW MUCH of Jesus was God and HOW MUCH of Jesus was man could not be answered by assigning a PERCENTAGE. Instead, we proposed that this topic is not a matter of establishing a level of “how much human” as opposed to “how much God” there was at any one point in Jesus’ life on Earth. It is, instead, a matter of IDENTITY! As we stated earlier, THIS MAN — Jesus, who was like us in every way — is the very same fellow who was there on DAY #1 and created everything in our universe!
Then we studied deeper into Jesus’ miracles and we noted that many people mistakenly point to his miracles as PROOF of his being God—stating that since no human can perform miracles, and since Jesus performed miracles, then his miracles are proof that he is God. However, we saw that just the opposite is actually true. Two passages in particular (Acts 2:22-23 and Acts 10:38) clearly stated that although Jesus did perform miracles, he did not perform miracles BY HIS OWN POWER. Instead, these passages indicated that Jesus was able to do these miracles BECAUSE GOD WAS WITH HIM. In other words, God gave Jesus the power — just as God also gave this same power to many of the other ordinary humans so that they could perform miracles.
We also took a deeper look at the sinless life of Jesus because understanding this matter is another area of confusion in religion today. Many people mistakenly explain Jesus’ sinless life as being the result of his being God. As a human, however, we saw how Jesus faced his daily life with the same tools that every other human does. He had the freedom of choice and the same promise from God that we all have regarding temptation and sin.(1 Corinthians 10:13)
Remember that we also looked at how many people mistakenly explain Romans 3:23 and noticed that the statement about “all men sinning” is actually one of historical fact AND NOT a statement expressing man’s capabilities. From our study about Jesus’ sinless life, we discovered that God has set rules in place so that IT IS POSSIBLE for a person to live without ever committing a single sin. Since we all have the freedom to choose, and since God promises that we will ALWAYS have TWO CHOICES, this proves that man has the possibility of choosing the right way every time. It is up to each person and the exercise of their free will.
The main point we found in our final discussion focused upon the equality of Jesus with the rest of mankind. If he were truly “like us in every way” then he would have to face his temptations just the same way as we do. Otherwise, if not, then how could it be said that he was like us IN EVERY WAY? Jesus was sinless because every time he faced a temptation he made the correct free will choice. Jesus had to try very hard to know God’s will and to follow that will perfectly. If our degree of commitment is as great as Jesus’ was then we would not sin either!
Ultimately, we discovered that when Jesus was living on the earth he was just like us in every way! Remember that Philippians chapter 2 explained to us that Jesus “emptied” himself of all things that made him “equal with God” and that he took on the form of a human. The result of that incarnation was that Jesus became “like us in every way.”
Then, in our previous lesson, we attempted to put all of our material about Jesus into perspective. “Why did Jesus come to the earth?” Certainly, we can say that Jesus came here to save us. However, he did not come here only to save us. He came to do so much more than that. Hebrews 12:1-2 described Jesus as the author and perfecter of our faith. It is important to remember that Jesus had nothing to prove and nothing to earn. Everything that he did was for our benefit. He established “the faith” and then he lived it! He demonstrated what we are all capable of doing in order to provide a living HUMAN example of what our lives can and should be like.
From that material, we learned that the primary task of a disciple is to follow in the steps of the master. Following Christ IS what Christianity is all about! From the passages we examined, we found that God is serious about seeing a change in our lives. We discovered metamorphosis, which is a biological term used to describe the life cycle of certain living things. It is change that occurs IN STAGES and we found the idea in several very important passages. Romans 12:1-2 used it to show that the goal for us as “living sacrifices” is CHANGE — from what we are now into something different. That change will happen if we change the way that we think. Changing the way that we think will cause us to change the way that we act. 2 Corinthians 3:18 went a little further to show us that we are not to become changed into butterflies, but into the likeness of Jesus. This process is gradual and only happens if we live as Jesus lived his own life on earth. That is why we are told to IMITATE him.
Jesus was like us in every way and so his life is an example for us to follow in every way. Jesus never sinned. If we follow his footsteps then we will also never sin!
Speaking of footsteps, there is a very popular religious poem and song entitled “Footprints”. It is very popular because it is filled with confessions of human “weaknesses” and deep emotions. It also shows Jesus as a compassionate and loving savior! The story begins with the speaker walking down the beach side by side with the Lord, representing his daily struggle of living as a disciple of Jesus. He relates that most of the time he sees two sets of footprints in the sand along the beach behind them; one set belonging to himself and the other belonging to the Lord. As things proceed, however, the speaker encounters great difficulties in life and notices only one set of footprints. Thinking that the Lord had deserted him, he inquires from the Lord. In the poem, the Lord explains that the two sets of footprints were the times when the man was able to walk under his own power and he enjoyed a happy walk with the Lord side by side. He then explains that the times when there was only a single set of footprints were not times when the man was left walking alone...deserted by the Lord. According to the Lord, in those times, the man was not walking at all. The times when there was only one set of footprints were times when the Lord carried him!
“Footprints” is a poem that causes great emotions inside of those reading it, but is the message of the poem accurate? In the poem, WALKING along the beach is representative of a person LIVING day to day in the world and the steps therefore represent the choices and actions of the person. Now, as we consider what we learned from our studies, is there ever a time when Jesus will actually do our thinking for us, make our decisions for us, and then do our actions? No, he will not! From our study, we learned that while God wants us to do good, and Satan wants us to do evil, but neither can force us to do anything because that would take away our FREE WILL and thus we could no longer be held responsible for our actions because we were forced into action. In addition, if Jesus were to get involved in the life of one person, then justice would demand that he would have to do the same in the lives of every other person. After all, doesn’t the Bible say that God loves ALL people? Therefore, the reality is that God must stand by and watch us as we walk alone down the beach. He cannot do anything except plead with us to follow his will!
However, there IS help available! We might say that there really are footprints in the sand; but only one set going out before us into the distance. These are the footprints that Jesus left as a path for us to follow almost 2,000 years ago! Our task is to follow that path by putting our feet cautiously into those footprints, step by careful step. The promise is that as long as we will put our feet in his footprints then we will not sin. Expressed another way, we find that the goal in Christianity is not to let Jesus carry us, but for us to choose to walk as he walked. (See 1 John 2:3-6.) Only when we choose to follow Jesus’ example of obedience will God’s love truly arrive at its intended goal in us!
A good thought to end our study with is contained in the words of Jesus himself recorded in Matthew 11:28-30.
“28 Come to me all you people who are tired and have heavy burdens. I will give you rest.29 Accept my work and learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit. And you will find rest for your souls. 30 Yes, the work that I ask you to accept is easy. The burden I give you is not heavy.”
As we draw this course to a close, we hope that you have enjoyed your studies and that you have learned many new and useful things. We encourage you to continue studying, either through the other study courses we offer at the Bible Study Center, or, through your own study efforts. We will be happy to assist you in any way that we can.
The Bible Study Center
C. C. Regis Building
N. Bacalso Avenue, Corner Eucalyptus
Basak San Nicholas
6000 Cebu City, Philippines
(+63) (32) 414-6311
Monday through Friday:
1:00 PM - 7:00 PM