Salvation

Scripture tells us that God created mankind in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27). When man was created and placed in the Garden of Eden, sin and death were not a part of the world and “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). God told Adam and Eve that they could eat “freely” of any tree in the garden except from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” and that if they ever disobeyed His command, they would “surely die” (Genesis 2:15-17). Satan tempted Eve with the exact fruit that God told them not to eat. She ate and gave it to Adam; he ate, and so they sinned against God (Genesis 3:1-6). “Through one man sin entered into the world. . .and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). From that point on, humanity has been born sinful, separated from God, and in need of salvation from the coming judgment and wrath of God upon the sinner (Romans 3:10, 23). The Scripture declares that it is for this very reason that God sent Jesus—to redeem us from our sins (Matthew 1:21, John 3:16, Ephesians 2:1-6, 1 Peter 1:18-19).

From Scripture, we learn that it is by grace we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ and that this is God’s gift to us (Ephesians 2:7-8). To be saved means to be freed from the eternal consequence of our sin by receiving forgiveness and eternal life in Heaven with God through faith in Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:3-4). This is something that God desires for all of humanity. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

The Bible is very clear—Jesus is the only way to salvation. In John 11:25-26, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

The Bible is also clear that you cannot earn salvation. Some may say that they will just “do good” and God will save them, but there is no amount of good things a person can do in order to be saved. Ephesians 2:9 says our salvation comes “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Jesus Christ alone has the power to save the soul.

The Bible is clear about how a person is saved. Romans 10:9-10 says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10:13 says, “for whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Discussion Points

  • Have you believed in your heart that Jesus died and rose again for your sins and confessed with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord?

  • If you have not called on the name of the Lord to be saved, the following prayer is a guide to help you do that right now. However, it is important to remember that these words alone do not save you. It is the genuine belief in your heart and the confession of your mouth that brings about the salvation of the Lord.

“Lord, I acknowledge my sin before you. I admit to the need for a Savior in my life. I believe in my heart that Jesus Christ was cruci ed, that he died, was buried and rose again from the grave to save me from my sin. I confess, Jesus, that You are Lord and I ask that you forgive me of my sin and save my soul. In Jesus name, Amen.”  

Devotion To Scripture

Devotion to Scripture may be summed up easily as daily time spent reading and studying God’s Word. However, devotion to Scripture goes much further than just reading and studying. In the beginning of Foundational Doctrine, we learned that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is...profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

In James 1:22 we are told, “prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” We must be so wholly devoted to Scripture that it actually steers and controls our thoughts and actions. In Luke 11:28 Jesus says, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Obeying the Word of God brings the blessing of God on the life of a believer. In Matthew 7:24-29, Jesus compares those who hear and act on His words to a wise man. He compares those who hear and do not act on them to a fool.

Many Christians struggle with how to live a life for God and how to know what we are supposed to be doing for Him. When we read the Word of God, He tells us and shows us how to live for Him. Throughout all of Psalm 119, the author points to how devotion to God’s Word will do the following: give us strength in weakness (verse 28), light our path and guide our feet (verse 105), keep us from sinning against God (verse 133), and give us peace (verse 165). Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” When we are wholly devoted to God’s Word, we will live a life for God, directed by His very words. When we read the Bible, we are not just reading a book with words and pages; it is God revealing Himself to us directly.

Devotion to Scripture was something that the early church believers took very seriously. We see in Acts 2:42, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching...” The apostles’ teachings were the commands of Christ—the very Word of God.

Being devoted to Scripture builds our relationship with God. As Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), we should endeavor to know as much of God’s Word as possible. The prophet Jeremiah said, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16).

Discussion Points

  • What does your daily devotion to Scripture look like?

  • What evidence is there in your life that shows your devotion to Scripture?

  • Where in your life are you lacking devotion to Scripture?

  • In regards to the three previous questions: in what ways will you improve your devotion to Scripture? 

Fellowship: Relationships in the Church

In John 13:34-35, Jesus tells His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” As followers of Christ, His love should be displayed in our relationships with all people, especially those relationships within the church. The Bible teaches us that, as believers, we have a responsibility to each other. We are to hold each other accountable, encourage each other, and support one another. Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby ful ll the law of Christ.”

As a believer, fellowship is the cultivation of relationships with other believers. In Acts 2:46, Luke describes some of the church’s fellowship: “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple.” This verse shows us the unity among the early church believers. Godly fellowship can only exist within a uni ed church. As believers, we are to have the same goals and desires (Philippians 2:1-2). Continuing on in Acts 2:46, early believers spent time “breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.” The early believers genuinely enjoyed each other’s company, sharing in communion and also sharing everyday meals. We are told that the church was “praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47). The early church was in fellowship with each other simply by praising God and serving Him as one. The passion they had for the Lord brought them together and fostered godly relationships. The writer of Hebrews tells the church in Hebrews 10:24-25, “let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” It is incredibly important for the church to meet together and love and encourage each other. The Lord brings us to a body of believers because it is impossible to sustain life outside of the body. Just as if a hand or foot was severed from the human body and could not function, so it is for the believer when disconnected from the body of Christ. As we stay connected to the body of Christ through worship and fellowship with other believers, we gain strength and grow in our walk with the Lord.

Discussion Points

  • Are you isolated from the church body? Within the church body?
     
  • Do you have growing relationships with people in the church?
     
  • In what ways will you seek to become more connected with fellow believers? 

Communion: Proclaiming His Death Until He Comes

Communion, also called the Lord’s supper, is a practice that the church is commanded to do in Scripture. It is for the remembrance of Jesus Christ’s sacri ce for the forgiveness of our sin, and it is for all who have believed in and confessed Jesus Christ as Lord. Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:14-20 all show that Communion was rst instituted and commanded in the Scripture when Jesus shared a last meal with His disciples before His death. This meal is commonly known and referred to as the “last supper.” Jesus, while taking both the bread and the wine, described the imagery of the death He would soon die (Luke 22:19-23).

Communion focuses the church on the power of Jesus’ death for the redemption of their sin (2 Corinthians 5:17- 21). Through Scripture, Christ not only commands that we observe Communion; He also gives speci c direction as to how the church ought to observe it (1 Corinthians 11:23-32). During the sacred observance of Communion, an element or portion of unleavened bread, symbolizing Christ’s body, is distributed to the church. Along with the bread, a cup of the fruit of the vine, symbolizing Christ’s blood and typically represented with wine or grape juice, is also distributed to the church. Though instruction on observing Communion are speci c, there is no biblical command as to when and how often Communion is to be observed.

Scripture calls those who may be moved to partake in Communion to a time of self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:28). The purpose of this time is to purify ourselves of sin through prayer and repentance. Anyone harboring sin that they are unwilling to repent of should not participate in Communion. The Scripture warns that those who participate in Communion with an unrepentant heart are at risk of sickness and even death (1 Corinthians 11:27-30). For the church, Communion is a time to worship in unity as we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Discussion Points

  •  Are you harboring sin in your life that would keep you from partaking in communion right now?
     
  • How long will you delay before taking action on this sin in your life?  

Prayer & Fasting: Drawing Closer To God

What is prayer?

Prayer is communication with God, and is a vital part of a believer’s walk. The basis of Christianity is God’s desire for a reconciled relationship with fallen mankind. Prayer not only brings about the beginning of this relationship, it fosters the growth of it as well. Many people think of prayer as a tool to ask God for needs in their life or for help in various circumstances they nd themselves in. However, through prayer we are able to develop an intimate relationship with the Lord.

Some may say or think that prayer is something to be done only at a certain time or in a speci c place. However, we have the ability to come to God in prayer at any time, anywhere. Paul told the people at Ephesus in Ephesians 6:18 to “pray at all times.” Though we are able to go to God in prayer at all times, it is good to have a speci c time that we set aside to pray. When a law was put into effect in Daniel 6 that no one was to pray to any god other than the king, verse 10 tells us that Daniel went upstairs in his house with his windows open toward Jerusalem and knelt three times a day “praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.”

Although prayer is a time for us to go before the Lord with various types of requests and petitions, it is necessary to not consume our prayer time with only making requests of God. In John 10:14, Jesus calls himself “the Good Shepherd” and His followers “the sheep” (John 10:2-3). He says that the “sheep follow Him because they know His voice” (John 10:4). If we spend all of our time speaking to God but not allowing time for Him to speak to us, how will we know His voice? In Matthew 6:7-10, Christ teaches us how to pray and says not to “use meaningless repetition,” but that when we pray, we should seek for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. In doing so, we yield ourselves to a Holy, Sovereign God.

How do I pray?

Throughout the Bible we see examples of public prayer, people gathered together with the intent of coming before God with a speci c request or purpose. However, and more often, it is something done in private between us and the Lord.

Again in Matthew 6:6, Jesus says, “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

We see examples throughout the gospels of Christ getting alone to pray before God (Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, and Luke 6:12).

In Matthew 6:9-13, Christ teaches us very clearly how to pray. Using the acronym of P. R. A. Y. (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield) and applying it to this passage can help the believer understand how to approach the Lord in prayer.

What is fasting?

Fasting is another step taken in prayer. Scripturally, we see that a fast is used for seeking the Lord in a speci c situation. We see it used in Acts 14:23 when Paul and Barnabas prayed over newly appointed elders in the church and commended them to the Lord.

A common thought when the word fasting is mentioned is that someone is going to go without food for a certain period of time. In the Bible, most fasting is from food, but not necessarily all food. In Daniel 1:12, Daniel, in not desiring to be de led by the king’s food and to serve in proving that God would sustain he and his friends, asked the king’s attendant that they be served only vegetables to eat and water to drink. We see this again in Daniel 10:1-3 when a message was revealed to Daniel. He says, “I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all.”

Although food is what we see most commonly fasted from in Scripture, this is not always the case. In 1 Corinthians 7:5, Paul is teaching the Corinthian believers that they should not deprive their spouses of sexual intimacy. He says, “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” This simply illustrates the point that it does not need to be food that is given up for a fast. The object of fasting is to deny yourself a source of pleasure or distraction in order to spend additional time seeking the Lord more intently.

In Matthew 6:16-18, Christ says, “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face.” We are told that we should maintain our personal hygiene and let our fasting be done in secret and noticed only by God. Fasting is not about how spiritual you are, that would be pride and God opposes the proud (James 4:6).

Fasting is done by believers desiring to pursue God’s favor, protection, deliverance, and power (Ezra 8:21-23, 31- 32). Fasting can also be done in order to seek the Lord’s forgiveness. There is no speci ed length of time in Scripture for a fast to be carried out. Esther called for a three day fast (Esther 4:16). Daniel, as we saw, fasted for three weeks. Jesus fasted for forty days as seen in Luke 4:2. In Scripture, fasting is found to be a very useful and effective way for a believer to draw closer to God.

Discussion Points

  •  Do you have an established daily prayer life? What does it look like?
     
  • Can you speak to the effect of prayer in your life?
     
  • Are there steps you should take to improve your prayer life? If so, what are they?
     
  • Have you ever considered giving something up for a time in order to seek the Lord in a greater way? 

Praise: Giving God Glory

The life of a Christian is to joyfully praise God, by declaring His glory, honor, and power, in good and bad times. Though praise to God can and should be offered in various ways, for our purpose here we will look at praising God with song and in sorrow. Throughout Scripture, praise is continually given to God. In the book of Psalms, which is often viewed as the book of praise, we see verses like, “my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent” (Psalm 30:12), and “I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name” (Psalm 63:4). Praise is outward glori cation of our Heavenly Father, the reason we were created (Isaiah 43:7). 1 Peter 2:9 says of those who have believed and confessed in Christ as their Savior, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Psalm 150 is an incredible example of praising God. David writes,

“Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse. Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.”

David writes this psalm with passion, love, and excitement for who God is. This same passion should ll us with joy and cause us to sing and declare the things our God has done for us.

In Colossians 3:16, we are called to let the word of Christ dwell within us and to encourage one another “with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” We are called to praise in order to glorify God. By doing so, we draw closer to the purpose for which He created us. Our praise can also be used by God in drawing others to His faithfulness, truth, and love.

Though easy to joyfully praise God in good times, it is also important to remember that we must joyfully praise God in our sorrow as well. The Bible is full of laments before God. The entire book of Lamentations was written as a lament before God because of the sin of the people of Israel. There is praise to be given to God in the midst of very hard and dif cult circumstances. In Acts 16:22-30, we read the story of two men, Paul and Silas, who are imprisoned for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. The story says that at midnight, in the middle of the prison, Paul and Silas began praying and singing hymns of praise to God. Suddenly an earthquake struck the jail and they were freed. The account of the man Job, in Job 1:13-22 and Job 2:7-10, shows his lamenting praise for the harm that comes upon his family and the physical af iction of his body.

As believers, we will be praising God now and for all eternity. John writes of eternity in heaven in Revelation 5:13, “And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’”

Discussion Points

  • Do you joyfully praise God in the good times and in the bad times?
     
  • Do you encourage other members of the body by living a joyful life of praise?
  • In what ways, other than song, do you praise God? 

Stewardship

We must understand that the time, abilities, resources, nances, and standing in society that we have been given are gifts to us from God. In John 3:27, John the Baptist responds to people questioning the growing following of Christ over his own following and he says, “a man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.” John the Baptist attributed the following that he had to God alone and like Job, realized that God gives and takes away (Job 1:22).

In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul tells the church at Corinth, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” No one should give simply because they are forced to (compulsion) or with the wrong attitude (grudgingly). Each person should seek God in determining what to give in the areas of their time, abilities, resources, nances, and standing in society.

As we saw when we learned about the Holy Spirit, each one of us is bestowed with certain gifts to use for the bene t of the church. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” This verse is saying that, rst and foremost, God has given grace to those who have believed and confessed Jesus Christ as Lord. We are to be good stewards of this grace by using the special gift that God has given us in order to serve one another.

We are to honor God with the things He has entrusted to us, whether great or small. We see this in Matthew 25:14-28 in the parable of the talents. The third servant was given one talent and did nothing with it. He was counted as wicked, lazy, worthless, and was ultimately thrown out.

Where we spend our time, abilities, resources, nances, and standing in society shows what we have placed value on. Matthew 6:19-20 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” Our stewardship should not be wasted on the meaningless pursuits of this world, but rather should be spent on furthering the kingdom of Christ and looking forward to our eternal reward in heaven with God. Matthew goes on to say in verse 21, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Discussion Points

  • Are you responsibly using the time, abilities, resources, nances, and standing in society to honor God?
  •  If not, how will you change in order to honor God by responsibly using what He has given to you? If so, how? 

The Great Commission: Preach, Baptize, & Disciple

Before Jesus’ ascension into heaven, He gave His followers very speci c instructions to be carried out here on earth. Mark 16:15 tells us that we are to, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” We are to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that lost sinners in the world “may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sancti ed by faith in [God]” (Acts 26:18).

Matthew 28:18-20 goes even further in explaining this job description. Jesus says to his disciples, as well as to you and I, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” In these verses, Christ tells us that He has been given all authority. We, in light of His authority, are to go to all nations and make disciples, teaching them all He has commanded.

There are three distinct commands that Christ gives to His followers in these two passages: to preach His Good News, to baptize new believers, and to disciple them in His teachings.

In these passages, when Christ says words like world and all creation, where does He mean? In Acts 1:8, Jesus says to His disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” If we take our cue from this direction, we need to begin evangelizing in our home communities. This is what Jerusalem was for the disciples. Simply following this direction, we spread out from our home communities to neighboring towns, eventually reaching across our own nation. The ultimate goal of the Great Commission is that we would reach to the “remotest part of the earth.”

Christ then reassures His disciples, as well as you and I, that He will be with us “to the end of the age” and that we do not need to fear. The need for Christians to do this is stressed in Romans 10:13-15: “For whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?” These verses show us that unless Christians take up the command of Christ to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel,” sinners will not be able to hear the Good News. If sinners don’t hear the Good News, they cannot have the opportunity to believe. If they do not have the opportunity to believe, they cannot be saved.

It is our hope and prayer that you will take what the Lord teaches you through His Word and apply it to your life. By doing so, you will begin leading others to Christ, thus ful lling the commission He gave us.

Discussion Points

  •  Where and how are you, the follower of Christ, carrying out The Great Commission in your life?