Category: Theology

The Abrahamic Covenant Explained

The Abrahamic Covenant Explained

The Bible mentions several covenants that God made with certain individuals or a group of people, such as the covenant in Eden (Genesis 2:15-17), the covenant with Adam (Genesis 2:14-21, the covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:1-9), the covenant with Abraham, etc.

But unlike the first three which were God’s general provisions for the entire human race in their existence on earth, God’s Covenant with Abraham is the first of God’s covenants to establish a spiritual relationship with a called, believing people (Genesis 12:1-3).

The Call of Abram

Genesis 12:1-3

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God's Covenant with Abraham ExplainedAbram was seventy-five years old when God called him out of idolatry (Joshua 24:2), while he was in Ur of the Chaldeans (Genesis 11:28, 31; 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7), a city devoted to Nannar, the moon-god. God spoke to Abram, and the Word brought about the miracle of faith (Romans 10:17).

Abram did not know the true God and had done nothing to deserve knowing Him, but God graciously called him. Abram did not choose God, but God chose him. In the same way, we Christians did not choose God but He chose us and appointed us (John 15:16).

The call was to separate himself from the corruption around him, and Abram obeyed by faith (Hebrews 11:8). True faith is based on the Word of God and leads to obedience. God would not bless and use Abram and Sarai unless they were in the place of His appointment. That principle still holds true today.

The fact that Abram was well-advanced in age when God called him tells us that age does not need to be an obstacle to faith. He trusted God for one hundred years (Genesis 25:7), and from his experience, we today can learn to walk by faith and live to please the Lord.

Three Areas of Blessings

God’s covenant with Abraham provides for blessings in three areas: national, personal and universal.

1) National Blessing

The covenant anticipated that Abraham and his descendants would not only dwell in a land that they can call their own but that he will become a special nation in the work of God – “I will make you a great nation” (Genesis 12:2a).

So first, God promised to give Abram a land for him and his descendants (Genesis 12:7). But at the time of the call, Abram did not know where this land was. Only when we get to chapter 15 that the full description of the land was given:

On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18).

Although the land never belonged to Abram in his lifetime and had to buy a portion of the land for a burial site when his wife Sarai died, the title deed to the Promised Land was passed to his son Isaac (Genesis 26:3) and then from Isaac to Jacob (Genesis 28:13). Later on, Israel, under the leadership of Joshua went into the land of Canaan, possessed it and captured major cities.

*Related Article: God Promised a Land to the Jewish People

The second promise was that of a great nation coming from Abram. This promise demanded faith on the part of Abram because they were the least likely candidates to have a family and build a great nation. Abram was already aged and his wife Sarai was incapable of having children (Genesis 11:30).

But God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and by calling and blessing a barren couple, the Lord revealed the greatness of His power and His glory. Abram would be named “Abraham,” which means “father of many nations.”

2) Personal Blessing

The covenant also promised that Abraham would accomplish great things – “I will bless you and make your name great and you shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2b).

God made marvelous promises to the patriarch of the chosen nation. He would be the father of a famous nation; his name would be great because his life would be marked by God’s personal blessings and would be the channel of God’s blessings to many people.

Genesis 13:14-16

While much of Abram’s blessing was to come in the form of his offspring, there was also the blessing that would come in the form of the Messiah, who would bring salvation to God’s people.

God also promised to make Abram’s name great. No one is probably more honored in history than Abraham, who is honored not only by Christians and Jews but also by Muslims.

3) Universal Blessing

Finally, God promised Abraham that He was going to start a spiritual movement through him that would influence every nation of the earth – “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3c).

God’s covenant with Abraham reached beyond him to humanity in general. Those people and nations which treated Abraham well and the nation which would descend from him would know God’s favor. On the other hand, those people and nations who mistreated Abraham and his descendants could expect the curse of God to rest on them (Genesis 12:3).

The final universal aspect of God’s covenant with Abraham as implied by the promise that “in him all families of the earth will be blessed” would be Abraham’s most important descendant – the Messiah. The sacrifice and atoning death of the Messiah would make available forgiveness and salvation for the entire world.

This promise made more specific the prophecy in God’s covenant with Adam that the Seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:16).

Christ and the Abrahamic Covenant

God’s covenant with Abraham was more than a personal agreement between a godly man and the Lord; it promised blessings for “all the families of the earth.”

Paul wrote the church in Rome that believing Gentiles, like branches from “a wild olive tree, were grafted in among {believing Israel}, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree” (Romans 11:17). The “root” from which God’s people draw their rich spiritual life is God’s covenant with Abraham.

If You are in Christ, You are Abraham’s Seed

In Galatians 3:17, Paul reasoned that God’s covenant with Abraham was foundational to spiritual life on two bases. First, it predated the Mosaic Law by 430 years. The law must always be understood in light of the covenant with Abraham.

More importantly, Paul insisted that God confirmed His covenant with Abraham “in Christ.” God had made His covenant with Abraham “and his seed” (Genesis 13:15; 15:18, “descendants” literally reads “seed”). Paul contended that God looked through all the generations of Abram’s “seed” to Christ, “the Seed,” as the means of guaranteeing the unconditional provisions of the covenant (Galatians 3:16-17).

Paul wrote, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). The covenant made in Genesis 12:1-3 applied just to the physical descendants of Abraham. In Christ, the blessings promised to the heirs of Abraham find spiritual application to all people of faith (Romans 4:16).

Paul further reasoned that physical descendants of Abraham who rejected Jesus as their Messiah could be compared to Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar (Galatians 4:23-25). People who respond to Jesus with the kind of faith Abraham pioneered could be compared to Isaac, Abraham’s son of promise by Sarah (Galatians 4:28).

Paul called these people “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

All Israel will be Saved

By identifying people of faith in Christ as the heirs of blessings of God’s covenant with Abraham, the New Testament does not deny any future role to the Jewish people in the outworking of that covenant.

As mentioned earlier, the Book of Romans pictures native branches of the domesticated olive tree being broken off to make room for wild branches to be grafted in and draw fruitful life from the roots of Abraham’s covenant (Romans 11:17).

God's Covenant with Abraham Explained

That process is reversible as we read in Romans 11:23. Indeed, the New Testament anticipates a time of spiritual renewal among the physical descendants of Abraham when their ancestry and faith in Christ will align. “Hardening in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26).

Conclusion

Other than being the first theocratic covenant (pertaining to the rule of God) and the basis of all the other theocratic covenants, the Abrahamic covenant was unconditional.

This means it was dependent solely upon God who obligates Himself in grace, indicated by the unconditional declarations, “I will,” without corresponding “you must” demands on Abraham. Though it was given in broad outline in Genesis 12:1-3, it was later confirmed to Abraham at various times in greater detail (Genesis 13:14-17; 15:1-7, 18-21; 17:1-8).

The Abrahamic covenant contained all that God then began to do, has since done throughout history, and will continue to do. All of God’s plans for humanity grow out of this covenant.


*Are you looking for Bibles, Bible study guides and resources, Christian movies and music albums, gifts and souvenirs for yourself or your friends? ChristianBook.Com has it all at surprisingly affordable prices.

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What is the Mosaic Covenant?

What is the Mosaic Covenant?

The best-known covenant in the Bible is the one God made with Moses on Mount Sinai. This is the second of the theocratic covenants (after the one with Abraham) that elaborates on how God relates to His people as their sovereign Lord.

Unlike the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant was conditional as it is introduced by the condition: “Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5).

The Form of Covenant

The Mosaic Covenant was given to and accepted by the nation of Israel (Exodus 19:6-8) so that those who believe God’s promise given to Abraham in the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) would know how they should conduct themselves.

When God initiated a relationship with Moses and the Israelites at Sinai, He utilized a covenant style universally understood in the second millennium before Christ. The covenant begins with a preamble identifying the Lord as the absolute Sovereign (Exodus 20:1-2; Deuteronomy 1:1-5), followed by a brief history of relations between the Lord and His subject people (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 1:6 – 3:29).

Exodus 20:1-2

The bulk of the covenant is the stipulations that the subject people must observe (Exodus 203 – 31:17; Deuteronomy 4 – 26). The covenant is then sealed with an oath of allegiance and its accompanying blessings for obedience and curse for disobedience (Exodus 24:1-11; Deuteronomy 27:1 – 28:68; Joshua 8:30-35).

Finally, there is a list of witnesses and directions for keeping the covenant (Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 31:16 – 32:47).

Three Areas of Life Governed by the Covenant

God’s covenant with Moses found originally in Exodus and expanded in Deuteronomy, governed three areas of Israel’s life:

1) Personal Life

First, the (Ten) commandments in the covenant governed the personal lives of the Israelites in their relationship with God (Exodus 20:1-26). While all the Ten Commandments deal with Israel’s (and our) responsibilities toward God, the first four are particularly God-ward (Exodus 20:1-11) while the last six are man-ward (Exodus 20:12-17).

*Related Article: The First and Greatest Commandment of God

Now, why do you think the covenant has its focus first and foremost in the people’s relationship with God? It’s because generally, how we relate to others depends on how we relate to God, for if we love God and obey Him, we’ll also love our neighbors and serve them (Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10).

2) Social Life

The judgments governed the people’s social lives in their relationship with one another Exodus 24:1 – 24:11). Exodus chapters 21 to 24 deal with the rights of each person, his properties (money, animals, etc.), how he should conduct himself, social justice, observance of the sabbatical year and national feasts, conquest regulations and how the covenant is ratified through blood.

Let’s take for instance Exodus 21:12-17. The laws outlined here are laws regarding capital crimes and are the logical application of the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13; Leviticus 24:17). We’re made in God’s image, so to murder a fellow human being is to attack the image of God (Genesis 9:6).

If a person was found guilty of murder on the testimony of two or more witnesses (Numbers 35:30-31), then the murderer was killed.

Exodus 23:1-5 is a call for justice, an amplification of the ninth commandment (Exodus 20:16), a warning not to endorse falsehood and promote injustice because of what the crowd is doing (Leviticus 19:15-16; Deuteronomy 22:13-19).

Nor should God’s people be influenced by the wealth or the poverty of the accused or by the bribes people offer them for their support (Exodus 16:18-20; Isaiah 1:23; Micah 3:11). To condemn an innocent person for personal gain is to become guilty before God, and God doesn’t acquit the guilty (Exodus 23:7).

3) Religious Life

Finally, the ordinances governed the people’s religious lives so that they would know how to properly approach God (Exodus 24:12 – 31:18).

The promise of the Lord in Exodus 6:6-8 was now about to move into its third phase. God had redeemed His people (Exodus chapters 1 – 18) and taken them to Himself as His people (Exodus chapters 19 – 24); now He was about to come and dwell among them and be their God (Exodus chapters 25 – 40).

The Covenant between God and Moses

This area governed by the Mosaic Covenant focuses on the design, construction, and dedication of the Tabernacle which is how the people of God can approach Him. Man cannot come to God in any way other than that which He ordained. Therefore, God commanded the Jews to build the Tabernacle so that He can fulfill His promise to be Israel’s God by coming to the camp to dwell with His people.

God met with His people at the Tabernacle of Moses set up for worship and sacrifice. Today, God’s people meet with Him through prayer, Bible reading and meditation, worship, service, and sacrifice which can be done individually (at home or in any in a private setting) or through corporate worship and fellowship (church setting).

Worshiping God is the highest privilege and the greatest responsibility of the Christian life because God is the highest Being in the universe and the One to whom we must one day give account. Everything that we are and do flows out of our relationship with the Lord.

God created us in His image so we might love Him and have fellowship with Him, not because we have to but because we want to. God is seeking people who will worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

Revelation 21:3

Conclusion

The Mosaic Covenant in no way replaced or set aside the Abrahamic Covenant. Its function is clearly set forth by Paul (Galatians 3:17-19), who points out that the law, the Mosaic Covenant, came 430 years after the Abrahamic Covenant.

The Mosaic Covenant was added alongside the Abrahamic Covenant so that the people of Israel would know how to conduct their lives until “the Seed,” the Christ, comes and makes the complete and perfect sacrifice, toward which the sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant only point.

The Mosaic Covenant was not given for salvation. The law was not given so that by keeping it people could be saved. Keeping the law does not save. Rather the law keeps and prepares a person for salvation by faith.

The law was given that man might realize that they cannot do what God wants them to do even when God writes it down on tablets of stone; that man is helpless and hopeless when left to himself, and realize that his only hope is to receive the righteousness of God by faith alone in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:22-24).

Faithlessness is Foolishness

Faithlessness is Foolishness

We live in a world so modern that denying the existence of God is the new norm. In fact, things have become so extreme that people who believe in the uncreated Creator called God are being mocked and labeled as fools.

Wait a minute; doesn’t the Bible say that faithlessness is foolishness? It certainly does in Psalm 14:1. King David paints the portrait of the prince of fools in one sentence: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

Psalm 14:1-7 presents a vivid picture of the man who rejects God and his corrupt deeds. David called those who denied the existence of God “fools.” But David did not call them such because they were not smart enough to figure God out. Rather, he had in mind those who simply reject God.

The Meaning of Fool

Our English word “fool” comes from a Latin word that means “bellows,” suggesting that the fool is a person “full of hot air.” In the Hebrew language, there are three basic words for fool: kesyl (the dull and stupid fool), eviyl (the unreasonable and perverted fool), and nabal (morally perverse). Nabal is the word used in Psalm 14:1, which implies aggressive perversity.

The original text does not say that “man is stupid.” We have gone to the moon, transplanted hearts, harnessed atomic power and more. We are not stupid! David knew that too and picked the perfect word to talk about those who are “morally perverse” just like the Nabal of 1 Samuel 25:1:44.

Only the Fool says in his Heart there is no God

Results of Denying God

When men deny God, it will lead them into corruption and abominable works (Psalm 14:2). All that they are, say and do comes from their arrogant (and ignorant) belief that “there is no God.”

This is not to say that all atheists are living immoral lives and all who believe in God are living good lives. It’s just that there is a marked difference in moral behavior between those who take God seriously and those who do not.

When the fools leave God out of their lives, they cause their inner person – the heart, the mind, and the will – to become more and more corrupt. The Hebrew word for corrupt means “rotten, putrid, and decayed,” and evokes an image of milk that has become rancid. It is used to describe Jeremiah’s useless sash (Jeremiah 13:7).

When God looks down to investigate He sees people who are filthy. They have turned their backs on God (Psalm 14:2-3) and refuse to fulfill the purpose for which they were created – to glorify God. We read the same thing in Genesis 6:5, 11-12; 11:5; 18:21 and 1 Kings 14:9-10.

When David says, “There is none who does good; no not one” (Psalm 14:3), he did not mean that there is no human good in this world. But because man is fallen living in a fallen world that he does not do good by instinct. In fact, even the good he may do is tinged with evil.

The indictment is universal; all people, individually or collectively, cannot do anything at all that is good enough to merit heaven – no one, not a single one. The apostle Paul quotes from this passage in Romans 3:10-12 as part of his proof that the whole world is guilty before God and can be saved only by the grace of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

We all need to be Born Again to Enter Heaven

The LORD, He is God Almighty

The word “God” as used in Psalm 14:1-7 is not the normal word Jehovah but El Jehovah, which refers to the God of the covenant, the God who does something for us. El refers to the Almighty God, the God of authority, the Ruler, the Judge, the Lawgiver.

David’s choice of words shows that humans do not want to know a God who demands anything; they want to be free to participate unimpeded in their sinful behavior. This is so true! It’s not the lack of evidence in the existence of God that atheists deny God. They reject God because belief in a divine Being comes with a sense of accountability to that Being.

The atheist’s rejection of the existence of God is due to a desire to live free of the moral constraints God requires and to escape the guilt that accompanies the violation of those constraints. Author Aldous Leonard Huxley has openly admitted that a desire to avoid moral restraints was a motivation for his unbelief.

Indeed, our concept of God will determine how we live. If we see God as a cosmic bellhop in the heavens responding to our paltry tips, we will live a loose, lukewarm, and loveless Christian life. But God is not a bellhop, and He is not a doting grandfather, smiling benignly in the heavens at godless conduct.

God is a God of patience and power, a God of compassion and correction. Hollywood labels God as someone up there who loves us. That’s true. However, He does demand that “we present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1).

We are not our own for we have been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Those who preach the love of God without the discipline of God are preaching a humanistic heresy. Paul taught that if you do not endure chastening, you are illegitimate – not a child of God (Hebrews 12:5-8).

Faithlessness is Foolishness

The fool has deviated faith. The infidel shouts, “I have no belief!” Liar! A man who claims to believe in nothing still believes in something. It requires faith to be an infidel.

The atheist must believe that God is not, that prayer is a waste of time, that heaven is a myth, death is eternal unconscious existence, and that hope for a better tomorrow is weakness. The agnostic has been duped by Satan to believe the wrong things.

The fool defies the creation. The Bible begins with the declaration “In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1). Without God, there is no creation, no redemption, no deliverance, no healing, no hope. Paul says we can know God by the things He has created (Romans 1:20).

Look at our massive universe with its organization and structure that work together. The fool believes that this magnificent earth is the by-product of an ecological accident. Only a fool would believe that billions of years ago the sun shone on a pond and that life began wiggling in the water and that this life form developed lungs and legs and walked out on land. Finally, it climbed a tree and hung by its tail. Only a fool would believe that!

Here’s a quick video of Rick Warren explaining why it takes more faith to not believe in God than to believe in God.

History Attests God

The fool denies history. Daniel asked God to show him the parade of nations that would come upon the face of the earth. God gave him a vision of the nations in the exact order in which they would appear, the personality of their leaders, and the military methods of conquest (Daniel 7).

How was that known hundreds of years before it happened? An accident? Hardly. There is a God who sits on His throne, who puts kings up and takes kings down (Daniel 2:21).

Want another proof that there is a God? Israel’s history proves God reigns. God’s chosen people were scattered over four continents and sick civilizations. They survived persecution in the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and Hitler’s Holocaust. Today the nation of Israel shows that God continues to protect His people.

The Promise of Christ’s Coming

God has promised that the Redeemer will one day come to Zion and deliver His people in mighty power (Psalm 14:7; Isaiah 59:16-21; Jeremiah 31:33-34) and Paul affirmed this at the close of his great discussion of the future redemption of the Jewish nation (Romans 11:25-32).

But what about the wicked? They have no future with the Lord because they preferred not to know the Lord or live for Him. They lived according to the desires of their own heart, not to please the Lord and glorify Him. Those who reject Jesus Christ will spend eternity apart from the Lord and will honestly be able to say in hell, “There is no God – here!”

Closing Words

There is a God. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, holy, everlasting, sovereign, unchanging. He is my Father and your Father. He created heaven and earth. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is coming again in power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).

Are you a fool or are you ready to meet Him?

Receive Jesus Christ now as Lord and Savior and confess Him with your mouth for “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).


*Recommended Resource: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist
By Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek

Norman Geisler and Frank Turek show, first of all, that truth is absolute, exclusive, and knowable. From there, they proceed to demonstrate that the cardinal Christian doctrines are true beyond reasonable doubt, all convincing for you as Christians to believe, but requiring a leap of negative “faith” if an atheist is to disbelieve them.

Geisler and Turek argue that Christianity requires the least faith of all worldviews because it is the most reasonable. A valuable aid to those interested in examining the reasonableness of the Christian faith.

A Summary of the Book of Ruth

A Summary of the Book of Ruth

Ruth is one of the most significant books in the Old Testament for the Church. It explains like no other book in the Bible, the role and mission of the Kinsman Redeemer. This book is also an essential prerequisite to understanding the Book of Revelation. Before attempting to study Revelation 5, you need to understand the Book of Ruth.

In many respects, Ruth is the ultimate love story. It’s a love story on several levels. It’s a love story because Ruth falls in love with Boaz – that’s the main plotline. But overlaying that is the ultimate love story, a love story written in blood on a wooden cross, erected in Judea more than two thousand years ago.

Chapter 1: Ruth Remains with Naomi

Life was not easy in those days; for during the period of the judges, “Israel had no king so all the people did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6). How strange that a famine should hit Bethlehem, a town whose name means “house of bread,” thereby driving a family to Moab.

Elimelech, (which means “God is my king”) and his wife Naomi (“pleasant”) were forced to move to Moab along with their two sons, Mahlon (“unhealthy”) and Chilion (“puny”). The sons marry, but about ten years later all the men died, leaving Naomi destitute.

During those ten years, things began looking better back in Bethlehem, so Naomi decided to go back home. She released her two daughters-in-law from any obligations to her and encouraged them to find new husbands since they were still young. Naomi urged them not to follow her.

Ruth 1:16 Ruth's Loyalty to Naomi

Orpah ultimately decided to stay in Moab but Ruth (which means “desirable”) clung tightly to Naomi. In fact, her commitment is one of the most famous passages in the Bible. Ruth said:

“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).

Ruth’s statement is one of the most magnificent confessions found anywhere in Scripture. First, she confessed her love for Naomi and her desire to stay with her mother-in-law even unto death. Then she confessed her faith in the true and living God and her decision to worship Him alone. She forsook her father and mother (Ruth 2:11) in order to cleave to Naomi and the God of her people.

Chapter 2: Ruth Gleans in the Field of Boaz

One of the values of the book is that to understand it, you have to do a little homework about the Law of Gleaning and the Law of the Levirate Marriage. The Law of Gleaning was a form of welfare. If you owned a field, your reapers could go through the field once, and only once. Whatever they missed was left for widows, the destitute, orphans, etc.

The existence of the gleaning law was proof of God’s concern for the poor among His people. The nation was instructed to treat the poor with equity (Exodus 23:3, 6; Leviticus 19:15; Proverbs 22:22-23) and with generosity (Leviticus 19:9-10). God was also concerned for the widows, many of whom were poor, and He told the people to care for them (Exodus 22:22-24; Isaiah 10:1-2).

A Summary of the Book of Ruth

In her gleaning, Ruth happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz (which means, “in him is strength”), one of the wealthiest landowners in the area. He was probably the primary leader among the men at the gate.

Boaz was introduced to Ruth by an unnamed servant. She obviously caught his eye because he instructed his supervisors not to let the young men touch her, and he gave her protection. He also instructed them to drop handfuls of grain on purpose.

It so happened that Boaz was a kinsman for Naomi’s family, which is why this is so important to us. The Law of Redemption said when someone sold their property; they actually sold only the rights to the property, not the title (the title belonged to God).

If you died, a kinsman of your family could go and pay the money to redeem the land. Naomi sold her property ten years before. Now they were back, but since she was destitute and couldn’t buy it back, a kinsman of hers would have the right to purchase that land from whoever was using it (the Law of Redemption is in Leviticus 25).

There is also a Law of the Levirate Marriage. If you were a widow without issue, you could ask your nearest kinsman to raise up an issue with you. He didn’t have to, but if he did, it would continue the line (see Deuteronomy 25). As we shall see, a family redeemer could rescue relatives from poverty and give them a new beginning.

The purpose of these laws was to preserve the name and protect the property of families in Israel. God owned the land and didn’t want it exploited by rich people who would take advantage of poor people and widows.

As a woman, a poor widow, and an alien, Ruth could have no claims on anyone. She was at the lowest rung of the social ladder. But grace is favor bestowed on someone who doesn’t deserve it and can’t earn it. Ruth received grace and the channel of that grace was Boaz.

The Message of the Book of Ruth

Ruth’s faith in God’s Word led her to the field of Boaz. The love of Boaz for Ruth compelled him to pour out his grace upon her and meet her every need. Ruth’s experience of grace gave her new hope as she anticipated what her family redeemer would do.

Chapter 3: Ruth at the Threshing Floor

The threshing floor was usually a raised platform outside the village and often on a hill where it could catch the evening breeze. Once the grain was harvested, the workers would throw the grain into the air, and the breeze would carry the chaff away while the grain fell to the floor. The men often worked in the evening when the breeze was up, and they slept on the threshing floor to protect the harvest.

Naomi understood all of this background. When she realized that Ruth happened upon the field of Boaz, she saw an opportunity because Ruth could put the bite on him to solve everybody’s problem. He could get Naomi back the land she had forfeited years ago and give Ruth a new life. So Naomi instructed Ruth on what to do.

Ruth washed herself, put on perfume and dress in her nicest clothes. Then she went down to the threshing floor where Boaz was sleeping, uncovered his feet and quietly lied down at his feet. When Boaz woke up and realized she was there, Ruth said, “Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a near kinsman” (Ruth 3:9).

There was no improper behavior implied in this episode; Ruth was asking Boaz to take her as a Levirate bride and put the authority of his house over her. He was flattered because he was much older and because he had learned a lot about her; she had a good reputation. He wanted to do this, but there was a problem: there is a kinsman nearer than him (Ruth 3:12).

A Summary of the Book of Ruth
Threshing Floor in Ancient Israel

Boaz told Ruth that he’ll see how things will go and gave her six measures of barley to take home as a code to Naomi that he would not rest until the matter was resolved. Not only did he calm Ruth’s fears, but he also made a promise to her concerning their future. That brings us to the climax of chapter 4, the redemption itself.

Chapter 4: Boaz Marries Ruth

The key theme of this chapter is redemption. The words “redeem,” “buy,” and “purchase” are used at least fifteen times and they mean “to set free by paying a price.”

In the case of Ruth and Naomi, Elimelech’s property had either been sold or was under some kind of mortgage. This explains why Ruth was also involved in the transaction.

As a near relative, Boaz could redeem the family property that Elimelech had mortgaged when he took his family to Moab. Naomi wasn’t wealthy enough to redeem it, but Boaz could buy it back and keep it in the family. The wife of the deceased went with the property; therefore, the family redeemer had to marry her and bring her up children bearing the name of the deceased. They would then inherit the property, and the family name and family possessions would continue to be theirs.

The Message of the Book of Ruth

Boaz was at the gate, which is like the city council, and told the nearer kinsman that Naomi had a piece of land t sell and needed a redeemer. The nearer kinsman said that it was no problem. But Boaz said, “By the way, the man who does this also has to take Ruth to bride.” But the nearer kinsman replied, “I can’t do that; it’ll ruin my inheritance.”

The nearer kinsman took off one shoe and gave it to Boaz, a symbol of him yielding the opportunity of the obligation. So Boaz purchased the land for Naomi and purchased Ruth as his bride. And that’s the term he used: he “purchased a bride.”

A Kinsman Redeemer

Looking at the Book of Ruth from the perspective of a goel, a kinsman redeemer, there are four requirements: 1) he has to be a kinsman; 2) he must be able to perform; 3) he must be willing, and 4) he must assume all of the obligations.

God has a goel for you and me. He has to be a kinsman of Adam. He must be able to perform. Revelation 5 is about the Seventh Sealed Book, the Title Deed of the Earth. No man was found to claim that Deed. It had to be a man. John sobbed convulsively because no man was found to redeem the earth.

But wait! There is one who has prevailed to open the book and loose the seals thereof. “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals” (Revelation 5:5).

And that unfolds in the story of Ruth. It has to be a kinsman, he has to be able; he was to be willing; he must assume all the obligations; and indeed, He has. “He proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30)!

An Overview of the Book of Ruth

An Ultimate Purchase

Redemption, of which the story of Ruth and Boaz is a vivid illustration, becomes a theme in the New Testament. The primary Greek word used to convey this idea is a commercial word that simply means “to acquire something in the marketplace” (see its commercial use in Matthew 13:44 and Luke 9:13).

But used in reference to Christ and salvation, the word takes on a very important theological meaning. Paul modified this word in Galatians 3:13 and 4:5 with a preposition, so that the term literally means “to buy something and take it out of the marketplace.”

In essence, Paul was saying that by His death on the Cross, Jesus had purchased our pardon. We were under the curse of the Law, enslaved to sin, and destined to eternal death. But Christ redeemed us. He paid the price to buy us out of our sorry state and sad condition.

*Read here: What is the Cost of Our Redemption?

John Hagee said, “If you happen to be old enough to recall trading stamps, you may remember that it seemed to take forever to save the thirty or thirty-five books of stamps needed to purchase a toaster or a croquet set. The cost was high. The wait was agonizing. The taste from licking all those stamps was awful.”

The good news is, redemption in Christ is nothing like that. You don’t have to wait. It can be yours today. And the best of all it’s free because Jesus has already paid the full purchase price with His shed blood on the cross.

Conclusion

Ruth is a cameo story of love , devotion and redemption set in the black context of the days of the judges. It is the story of a Moabite woman who forsakes her pagan heritage in order to cling to the people of Israel and to the God of Israel. Because of her faithfulness in a time of national faithlessness, God rewards her by giving her a new husband (Boaz), a son (Obed), and a privileged position in the lineage of David and  Christ (she is the great grandmother of David).

The book of Ruth is also a harvest story about the Lord of the harvest bringing in the sheaves. Now, Boaz is the Lord of the harvest and he is also the kinsman-redeemer. So Boaz is a type of foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. Naomi typifies Israel. She was out of the land; through his redemption, she was brought back into the land. Ruth was the Gentile bride, a type of the Church.

In order for Ruth to be joined to Naomi, Naomi had to be exiled from her land. The nearer kinsman couldn’t take Ruth; it was against the law for an Israelite to marry Maoabite. But what the law could not do, grace did.

The Message of the Book of Ruth

Incidentally, Ruth did not replace Naomi. They are different; they are distinctive. Israel and the Church are distinctive; different origins, different missions. Ruth learned the laws of Israel through Naomi, a Jew. We Gentiles learn the ways of God by understanding the Jewish Scriptures. We worship a Jewish King in a Church composed of Jewish leaders using a Jewish Bible as our authority.

In the threshing floor scene, no matter how much Boaz loved Ruth, he had to respond to her move. And Boaz took it upon himself to be her advocate; he was her intercessor. He confronted the nearer kinsman.

You and I are also beneficiaries of a similar love story that was written in blood on a wooden cross erected in Judea almost two thousand years ago. Have you asked your Redeemer to be your God?


*References:

  1. Learn the Bible in 24 Hours by Chuck Missler
  2. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible 
  3. The Transformation Study Bible (General Editor: Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe)
  4. The NKJV Prophecy Study Bible (General Editor: John Hagee)
The Biblical Principles of Worship

The Biblical Principles of Worship

Whenever we hear the words praise and worship, it is always in a church setting. Praise and worship is that part of a church service when the congregation offers songs of praise and adoration to God.

Two months ago I published an article on what praise is all about. In this post, I will be tackling worship. What is the true meaning of worship? What are the elements of Christian worship?

The Meaning of Worship

The dictionary defines worship as an expression of reverence and adoration in thought or in deed to a Supreme Being or deity. Christian worship can then be defined as the expression of reverence and adoration to God.

The word worship is the New Testament Greek word proskuneo, which means “to fall down before” or “bow down before.” In contrast to praise, which involves the stretching of the hands, worship is often coupled with the act of bowing or kneeling, which shows humility and contrition (Psalm 95:6; 2 Chronicles 29:28; Revelation 19:10).

Psalm 95:6

The Object of Worship

The Scripture is very clear in Matthew 4:10; we are to worship the Lord our God and Him only shall we serve. (See also Luke 4:8.) The Bible teaches that God alone is worthy of worship (Psalm 29:2), but it also sadly records accounts of those who worshiped other objects.

Among those were people (Daniel 2:46), false gods (2 Kings 10:19, images and idols (Isaiah 2:8; Daniel 3:5), heavenly bodies (2 Kings 21:3), Satan (Revelation 13:4), and demons (Revelation 9:20). It is indeed tragic that many worshiped gods they could carry and not the God who could carry them.

God Almighty alone is worthy of worship. We are to worship the Father (John 4:23). We are to worship Him because of what He has done, loving us and giving His Son for us.

We are to worship the Son Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior (John 9:38). We are to worship Him because of what He has done, His incarnation, life, and sacrifice.

Worship by Israel

The central aspect of Israel’s worship was the object of their worship, the Lord. While other nations paid homage to many gods (Deuteronomy 29:18), only Israel worshiped the one true God (Exodus 20:3). This worship could be private (Exodus 34:8), as a family (Genesis 22:5), or corporate (1 Chronicles 29:20), as a congregation.

Since so much of the Bible is devoted to Israel’s public worship, it deserves special notice. It included offering sacrifices (1 Samuel 1:3), adopting a reverent posture (2 Chronicles 7:6), verbal praise – either spoken (1 Chronicles 16:36) or sung (Psalm 57:7), instrumental praise (Psalm 150:3-5), prayer (2 Chronicles 6:14-42), and the great feasts (Leviticus 23:25).

One needs only to read the Psalms to see the excellent form of worship and spirit in which the godly Israel worshiped.

Matthew 4:10

The first place of worship for the people of Israel was the tabernacle constructed by Moses (Exodus 25-27); 30; 31; 35-40) and later the magnificent temple constructed by King Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:5). These structures served to localize the worship of the entire nation.

This geographic limitation stands in bold contrast to the privilege o immediate and direct access to God now available to the New Testament believer who himself is the temple of God (Hebrews 4:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19).

Read how Christian praise and worship was patterned from the Jewish way of worship at the Tabernacle of Moses in this article: The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and Worship

3 Important Elements of Worship

True worship involves at least three important elements:

1. Worship requires reverence.

This includes the honor and respect directed toward the Lord in thought and feeling. It is one thing to obey a superior unwillingly; it is quite another to commit one’s thoughts and emotions in that obedience.

Jesus said that those who worship God must do so “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). The term spirit speaks of the personal nature of worship: It is from my person to God’s person and involves the intellect, emotions, and will. In essence, worship gets to the heart of who we are.

Worship is the art of losing self in adoration of another. And that is why in order for us to truly worship God, we must let go of our self-worship. We must be willing to humble ourselves before the Lord and surrender every part of our lives to Him and adore Him not only for what He has done but for who He is.

Worship is an attitude of the heart

On the other hand, the word truth speaks of the content of worship. God is pleased when we worship Him, understanding His true character. This is why every worshiper must desire to have a knowledge of what the Bible teaches about who God is.

2. Worship includes public expression.

This was particularly prevalent in the Old Testament because of the sacrificial system. For example, when a believer received a particular blessing for which he wanted to thank God, it was not sufficient to say it privately, the expressed his gratitude publicly with a thankful offering (Leviticus 7:12).

Note: This element of worship will be dealt with more extensively under the subtopic “The Expression of worship.”

3. Worship means service.

These two concepts are often linked together in Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:19). Furthermore, the words for worship in both Testaments originally referred to the labor of slaves for the master.

For the believers in Jesus Christ, service as an expression of worship is always understood to mean getting involved in any of the Church’s five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11). However, the concept of worship must not be restricted to church attendance but should embrace an entire life of obedience to God.

Obedience is the highest form of worship

The Expression of Worship

Since worship encompasses thought, feeling, and deed, there are many expressions of it. Worship especially includes praise, thanksgiving, and adoration which may be expressed privately or publicly, either by grateful declaration (Hebrews 13:15) or by joyful singing (Psalm 100:2; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

Portions of early Christian hymns or worship actually may be observed in the New Testament (1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:11-13).

One very important expression of worship for the church is remembering the death of Christ through the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:26). The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Christ Himself (Matthew 26:26-28) and judged by Paul not to be taken lightly (1 Corinthians 11:28-32).

Giving is also a way of expressing worship to God. It includes but not limited to:

  • the cheerful giving of money to God’s work (2 Corinthians 9:7)
  • the giving of one’s time to the Lord’s work
  • the use of one’s spiritual gifts in ministry to the body of Christ and occupying a church office (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9)
  • ministry in edifying saints and evangelizing sinners

But the single most important act of worship for the Christian is the unqualified presentation of himself to God as an obedient servant. This dedication involves the body and the mind (Romans 12:1-2): the body because it contains the tools by which the will of God is carried out; the mind because it coordinates the actions to be executed by the body.

When the body and mind are gladly devoted to God, they become instruments by which He effects His will on the earth. Such faithful and joyous service makes one’s entire life a performance of worship.

The Reasons for Worship

So why should Christians worship God?

1. Worship is a command.

The first reason for worship is simply that God commands it (1 Chronicles 16:29; Matthew 4:10). The first four of the Ten Commandments, which are also the longest, clearly charge men to worship the one true God and Him alone (Exodus 20:3-10).

To allow any person or things to usurp the position of lordship over us constitutes gross disobedience to the will of God and incurs His terrible wrath (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 27:15). All people are destined to pay homage to God anyway, even if unwillingly (Philippians 2:10).

2. God is worthy and deserving of our worship.

An equally important reason for worship is that God deserves our worship and He is worthy. He alone possesses the attributes that merit our worship and service. Among these are goodness (Psalm 100:4-5), mercy (Exodus 4:31), holiness (Psalm 99:5, 9), and creative power (Revelation 4:110.

The Elements of Christian Worship

When men of biblical times clearly saw the unveiled glory of God, they could not help but fall prostrate in worship. Examples of this response can be seen in the actions of Moses ((Exodus 35:4-8), Paul (Acts 9:3-6), and John (Revelation 1:9-17).

3. Men need to give God worship.

A final reason for worship is that men need to give it. People cannot find personal fulfillment apart from the glad submission of themselves in worshipful obedience to God. He is the Creator and they are the creatures (Revelation 4:11)

People who adopt as their master anything less than God are building their lives on quicksand. They will be no stronger than the object they worship (Psalm 115:4-8). One who worships God, however, not only participates in the occupation of heaven (Revelation 7: 9-12), but finds joyful satisfaction for the present.

Final Thoughts

Just as praise is closely intertwined with thanksgiving, worship is intertwined with surrender. And so it is impossible to worship God and anything else at the same time.

One important thing to remember is that the place where we worship God is immaterial. What matters is the spiritual condition of our hearts. We can worship at home, in the church, etc.

We worship God when we enter into His presence and engage in worship, the highest occupation for every believer.


*Recommended Resource: For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church
By N.T. Wright

This insightful book by N. T. Wright explores both the meaning and the results of Christian worship.

Part 1, “The God Who Is Worthy of Praise,” focuses on what worshiping God actually means. Wright celebrates the greatness and beauty of God as the ground and reason for worship and shows how reflection on who God is leads us to true, heartfelt worship (from “worth-ship”), as we seek to give God all He’s worth.

Part 2, “Reflecting God’s Image in the World,” addresses a range of issues that flow from the activity of worship. Since worship can never remain isolated from the task of the church, Wright here explores how true worship leads to the mission of the church in various specific ways.

Based firmly on sensitive and creative readings of the biblical text, this book is an inspiring call for renewal in the worship and witness of today’s church.

Doctrines Taught by Apostle Paul

Doctrines Taught by Apostle Paul

Next to the Master Teacher Himself (Jesus Christ), the apostle Paul is probably the most eloquent and persuasive teacher in the Bible. Paul is so significant a figure in the New Testament and in the church’s history that he has been called the second founder of Christianity.

This, of course, is not true, for it ignores the continuity between Jesus and Paul and diminishes unfairly the contributions of men such as Peter, John, and Luke. But there is no question that Paul played a vital role in the growth and establishment of the church and in the interpretation and application of God’s grace in Christ.

His epistles make up almost one-fourth of the New Testament, putting Paul just behind Luke in the percentage of the New Testament written by a single individual. And if one adds the sixteen chapters of Acts (Acts 13-28) that are almost entirely devoted to Paul, Paul figures in almost one-third of the New Testament.

Major Teachings of Paul

Misinterpreting Paul and His Letters

One post on a Facebook Group I was invited in questioned how the apostle Paul differed in his teachings about God from every single one of the Old Testament patriarchs and even with Muhammad, the founder of Islam.

While the rest of them taught monotheism, that is, there is only one God; Paul taught polytheism – there is more than one God. Upon reading that, I couldn’t help but conclude that the conversation starter in the group hasn’t really read the Bible. And there’s no doubt that he misunderstood Paul’s teachings, especially about the Triune God.

Exploring Paul’s background will help us understand him better and to interpret his words more accurately. So who was this man Paul?

Paul’s Background

Paul himself provides a rough outline of his own background, but in his epistles, this material is scattered. The basic historical details are conveniently grouped in the speeches Paul gave (as reported by Luke) to a hostile crowd of Jews on the steps of the temple (Acts 22:1-21) and to King Agrippa II and the Roman procurator Festus (Acts 26:2-23).

Saul (Paul’s name before his conversion) was a Jew born in Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 22:3), a region in the extreme southeastern part of Asia Minor. In Paul’s day, the city was the capital of the Roman province Syria-Cilicia (Galatians 1:21). It was prosperous, privileged (it was exempt from Roman taxation), and cultured, being famous for its schools. Not only was Paul born in Tarsus, but he was also a citizen of this “no ordinary city” (Acts 21:39).

More important, however, was the fact that Paul was a citizen of Rome. The Romans did not confer citizenship on just anyone; only a small percentage of people who lived within the Roman Empire possessed this privilege.

Paul’s Roman citizenship was inherited from his family (Paul claims, “I was born a citizen” (Acts 22:28), perhaps because of some deed of service performed by his father or grandfather for the Romans.

Doctrines Taught by Apostle Paul

However achieved, Paul’s Roman citizenship was an important and providential qualification for his role as a missionary to the Roman Empire. It enabled him to escape detainment when his preaching brought disfavor (Acts 16:37-39), to avoid punishment (Acts 22:23-29), and to plead his case before the emperor’s court in Rome (Acts 25:10-12).

His statement, “I was brought up in this city, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God” (Acts 22:3), tells us that prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus, not only was Paul by birth a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” he was by conviction a serious and zealous follower of Judaism, a member of its strictest sect (Acts 26:5), the Pharisees.

But Paul’s encounter of the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6; 22:6-11; 26:12-15) has turned him from being the number one persecutor of Christians into not only a follower but a preacher of Jesus Christ.

Paul’s Authority as an Apostle

Fundamental to Paul’s ministry was his consciousness of being an apostle. Like the other apostles, he had seen the Lord (1 Corinthians 9:1), and the Lord Himself, not any human being, had called Paul to his apostleship (see Galatians 1:1).

Because Paul was an apostle by God’s call, he could claim an authority equal to that of Peter, James, John, and the rest of the twelve—those whom some of Paul’s opponents had labeled “super-apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5). Paul writes from the consciousness of this apostolic authority in every one of his letters.

Doctrines Taught by Apostle Paul

True, Paul can sometimes distinguish between his teaching and the teaching of the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:6, 10, 12; 2 Corinthians 11:17), and nowhere does Paul make it clear that he thought his letters to be inspired Scripture. Nevertheless, in differentiating his teaching from the Lord’s, Paul does not suggest that his carries any less authority.

And, while not perhaps conscious of writing inspired Scripture, Paul’s apostolic stance enables him to interpret with sovereign freedom the Old Testament Scriptures and to make demands on his people that he considered to be as binding as anything in Scripture.

5 Major Teachings of Paul

We read from his background and the testimony of the Word of God that Paul became a faithful follower of Christ, a dedicated missionary, and a respected leader in the early church.

Here are five of the major doctrines he taught and expounded.

1. Justification by Faith

According to Paul, God ushered in a new era through the death of His Son. Under the old covenant, people such as Abraham were justified by believing God, looking forward to the promise of the coming Messiah (see Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:22).

Now believers are justified, or declared righteous before God, through faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and His atoning death on our behalf. Our justification is based on the work of Christ, accomplished through His blood (Romans 5:9), and brought to His people through His resurrection (Romans 4:25).

Justified: The Bible’s Meaning

What does it mean to be justified? To be justified means to be declared right with God by virtue of the remission of sins accomplished by Jesus: Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer, and the believer’s sins are imputed to Christ, who bears them in His body on the tree.

God Who Justifies, The – eBook

By James R. White

The author of The King James Only Controversy calls believers to a fresh appreciation and understanding of the doctrine of justification by faith. White, a Reformed Baptist, offers an in-depth study that focuses on the pivotal place of this often-ignored principle in church history; and an exegetical defense of key biblical passages in Romans and James.


However, let us not forget that justification is by faith. You are justified only when God the Father, based upon the meritorious work of Jesus Christ in your place, declares you to be so upon the exercise of the gift of faith – faith that is directed solely to the God who justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5).

Again, justification is the judicial act of God whereby He forgives the sinner of all his sins – past, present, and future – and declares him righteous in His eyes and free from guilt and punishment. It is an immediate and instantaneous act of God upon the sinner’s confession and his acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9).

2. Jesus Christ is the Risen and Living Son of God

Doctrines Taught by Apostle Paul - Jesus is the Son of God
Saul Encounters the Risen Christ

From the moment Jesus appeared to Paul at his dramatic conversion, Paul immediately started to proclaim without hesitation that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 9:20).

Let us not forget who Paul was – a Pharisee utterly devoted to stamping out the new Christian movement. But Jesus sovereignly intervened in his life while he was on Damascus road.

Amazingly, the last words we hear coming out of Saul’s mouth before his conversion are, “Who are You, Lord?” (Acts 9:5); and the first words we hear out of his mouth after his conversion are, “Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20).

Paul’s world has just been turned upside down. The Jesus that he thought was dead was not dead. Not only that; He was the living Lord of the universe! Instantly, Paul’s whole worldview collapsed and was rebuilt with great, unshakable and solid pillars of truth about Jesus.

Luke, the author of the book of Acts, surely wants us to see how the doctrine that Jesus is the Son of God is foundational to being a Christian and foundational to the rest of Paul’s life as the greatest missionary who ever lived.

Paul’s Made-Up Gospel

The accusation that Paul made up his own doctrine about Jesus being the Son of God and God could not be further from the truth. He encountered the risen Christ and the gospel he had taught the early churches during his ministry came by revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12, 16). In short, Paul’s was a supernatural gospel.

However, without taking anything away from this point, we must recognize that Paul on other occasions indicates his indebtedness to Christians before him for his teaching. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-3, for instance, Paul asserts of the Gospel that he preached to the Corinthians, “what I received I passed on to you.”

What Paul seems to be asserting is that elements of his gospel teaching, such as the truth of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-5), were handed down to him by other people.

To Paul, Jesus was the Messiah, God’s Son, the center of the gospel, and the One whom “all things were created” (Colossians 1:16).

*Related Article: Arguments Against the Deity of Christ

3. The Church is the Body of Christ

The only New Testament writer who speaks of the church as a body, Paul emphasized this fact in such passages as Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:7-16 and 1 Corinthians 12:1 2-27.

Meaning of the Word Church

First of all, the word “church” is derived from and understood in the light of the original Greek word ekklesia or the “called out ones.” So the church is a group of “called out” believers who have been placed into one Body by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13) at the moment of their salvation.

All believers have experienced this once-for-all baptism and nowhere in the Scriptures are we commanded to seek this baptism because we have already experienced it and it need not be repeated.

Jews and Gentiles are joined together to form a new entity through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:6) and the only qualification for membership is faith in the risen Savior. It is clear that every believer since Pentecost, living and dead, is a member of the body of Christ, the universal church.

Major Teachings of Paul
Photo Credits: fohonline.com

Christ is the Head of the Church

Ephesians 1:22 says, “God has put all things under His (Christ) feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body.” As believers and members of the church (the body of Christ), Christ is our Head. This means that there is a living connection between us and Christ.

Through the Spirit, we are united to Him as the members of His body. This means that we also share in His death, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation (Ephesians 6:3-5). We too are seated in “the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:6) and all things are under our feet.

At the same time, Paul reminds Christians that their various gifts were to be used in building up the body of Christ and that they should work together for the common good of the Christian cause (Romans 12:4-5).

4. The Power and Influence of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s Life

Paul taught that the Holy Spirit was a more effective power for holy living in the Christian’s life than the old Jewish Law had ever been. The Law told people what to do, but it could not provide the will of the power to do it.

But God’s Spirit could provide the necessary power and motivation (Romans 8:9-17; Galatians 5:16-25). As a loving and wise mother tenderly watches over her child, so the Holy Spirit cares for the children of God.

The Works of the Holy Spirit in Christian Living

a) The Holy Spirit indwells Christians.

The Bible teaches that all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). The purpose of this indwelling ministry is to control the newly created nature given at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17).

b) The Holy Spirit fills believers.

Doctrines Taught by Apostle PaulWe are admonished to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The word “filled” means to be controlled. So to be “filled” with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit and is therefore crucial to successfully living the Christian life.

Unlike the indwelling of the Spirit, “filling” is a repeated experience. This is understood by the use of the present tense (“be filled”) as well as by biblical examples of Christians who were filled more than once (Acts 2:4; 4:31). Just as important, we must observe that filling is a command to be obeyed, not an option.

c) The Holy Spirit sanctifies the believer.

Romans 15:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13

The basic meaning of sanctification is “separation” or “to be set apart.” In John 17:19, Jesus spoke of Himself as being sanctified; in other words, He is holy and set apart from sin and so His followers are to be similarly set apart from sin and for God’s use (1 Peter 1:16).

*Read here: Understanding the Personality of the Holy Spirit

In the spiritual sense of a believer’s life, sanctification means to be set apart by God, for God, from sin, unto a holy life and to be made more holy through conforming to the image of His Son Jesus (Romans 8:29).

d) The Holy Spirit produces fruit in the life of the believer.

This fruit is described by Paul: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The contrast between results and fruit is important. A machine in a factory works and turns out a product, but it could never manufacture fruit. Fruit must grow out of life, and in the case of the believer, it is the life of the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

Believers are to live by the Spirit, which means keeping in step with the Spirit if they are to bear fruit in abundance. This involves the Word, prayer, worship, praise, and fellowship with God’s people.

e) The Holy Spirit imparts gifts to Christians.

Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Ephesians 4:7-12

A spiritual gift is an ability imparted to every Christian (1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Peter 4:10). The purpose of these gifts is twofold, namely, to glorify God (Revelation 4:11) and to edify the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13).

f) The Holy Spirit teaches believers.

The Holy Spirit will instruct us in all spiritual things as we read the Word of God (John 14:26) and abide in the Son of God (1 John 2:24-27).

5. The Second Coming of Christ

Paul taught that Christ will return to earth at the end of this age and that all Christians will share in His glory in the age to come.

The return of Jesus Christ will happen in two phases:

a) The Rapture which is when Christ will return in the air and take with Him to heaven every person – both living and dead – who has trusted Christ as Savior (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

Doctrines Taught by Apostle Paul
Photo Credits: GotQuestions.Org

b) The Second Coming or Second Advent which is the return of Jesus with an army of angels and raptured believers to destroy the forces which are arrayed against God and to deliver the Jewish people (Zechariah 14:4 Revelation 19:11-21).

Bottom Line

Many of the doctrines taught and expounded by the apostle Paul are considered the hallmarks of the Christian faith. He may not be here anymore but he continues to minister to us today through the thirteen epistles he wrote that have become part of the canon of the New Testament.


References:

1) The NKJV Prophecy Study Bible Edited by John Hagee

2) An Introduction to the New Testament by D.A Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris

3) The God Who Justifies by James R. White

The “I Will” Promises of God

The “I Will” Promises of God

We find so many “I will” promises of God in the Bible; promises to the nation of Israel and promises to the Church. These promises assure us that in the face of trials and difficulties, God has something wonderful in store for us. Even at times when we turn our backs on Him, God remains faithful and will always be looking out for us.

This is exactly what God did when the nation of Israel committed the sin of idolatry (spiritual adultery), ingratitude and hypocrisy against Him. Despite their unfaithfulness and rebellion, God, through the prophet Hosea, gave the Jewish people assurance that He has a wonderful future planned for them.

Let us note the six promises of God in Hosea 2:14-23 and see how they can be applied to the church and to the individual Christian.

“I will win her back once again.”

Hosea 2:14

The word used here is “allure.” It means that God is not going to force the nation of Israel (His people) to love Him back. Instead, He woos her or speaks tenderly to her, as a lover woos his beloved, seeking her hand in marriage.

God will win Israel back to Himself
Photo Credits: Brain Trust Hub

God did not say He would “drive her,” or “drag her;” not even “draw her.” While the devil tempts and ruins us with sweet words and baits of pleasure, God in His mercy seeks to outbid the devil and win us to Himself with His unconditional love which shall be much stronger than any force of resistance we may offer.

Throughout the Old Testament, we read how the Lord had spoken tenderly to His people through His Word and through the manifold blessings He bestowed on them in their land.

In spite of their rebellion and unfaithfulness, God was always there for them whenever they called upon Him.

Just as He had led the nation of Israel out of Egyptian bondage into the wilderness through the Red Sea and made a covenant with them at Sinai, so God would meet them again in the wilderness in the last days and lead them into their land and His glorious kingdom.

“I will return her vineyards.”

Hosea 2:15

God promises to bring His people back into their land and will make them prosperous again.

We find numerous passages in the Bible where God says He will scatter the nation of Israel among all the nations as a result of their rebellion. (See Deuteronomy 4:27; 28:64; Leviticus 26:33; Jeremiah 9:16; Ezekiel 12:15; 20:23; 22:15; Jeremiah 13:24; 18:17 and Zechariah 10:9 just to name a few.)

And true to His word, God scattered the Jewish people to all corners of the earth at the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans in 70 AD during the siege of Jerusalem. For many years, the Jews wandered in all corners of the earth and had no place to call home.

After nearly 19 hundred years of Jewish dispersion outside their land, the British government granted a national home for them in Palestine through the Balfour Declaration in 1917. On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel became a sovereign nation and Jews from all around the world started to return to their land.

The I Will Promises of God to the Jewish People

Despite being attacked many times by their neighboring countries, the Jewish people are now residing in their own land and have become prosperous over the years. This is in fulfillment of God’s promise to bring them back into their own land and for the desert land of Israel to prosper and bloom again (Isaiah 43:5-6; Jeremiah 6:14-15; Ezekiel 37:11-13; 36:33-36).

The Bible says, “There is no one is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). We were all born sinners and were alienated from God as a result of Adam’s sin. But God in His grace and mercy desires for us to be reconciled back to Him through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21); He wants us to have an intimate relationship with Him as it was in the beginning before sin entered into the Garden of Eden.

“I will wipe the many names of Baal from your lips.”

Hosea 2:16-17

In Hebrew, Baal means “master” and Ishi means “husband.” Both terms were used by Jewish wives to address their husbands. In this verse, God declares an end to idolatry among His people. They would have a new vocabulary and the “baals” would never be named again.

God Promised to Remove Baal Worship Among the Jews

God looks forward to the day when His relationship with His people, an intimate love relationship where they will think of Him as a husband, will be genuinely restored. At that time Israel would no longer prostitute herself before idols and would love and serve the true living God.

The Lord desires the same relationship with the Church, His Bride. He wants us to love Him above all else and to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30).

“I will make a covenant.”

Hosea 2:18-20

God’s wooing of Israel would result in her yielding to Him and entering into a covenant relationship that would never end. It will be a restored relationship founded on God’s righteousness, justice, loving-kindness, faithfulness, mercy, and compassion, resulting in a much deeper, intimate relationship. Basically, everything that Israel had lacked during her years of separation from her husband (Jehovah God), she will enjoy.

This new covenant would also include a restored creation: a transformed earth (Genesis 9:1-10; Romans 8:18-22) and peace among the nations.

The I Will Promises of God

The Church is included in the new covenant that God made with His people. The Bible tells us that because the Jews rejected God’s offer of salvation, it was brought to the Gentiles, which they gladly received. The Gentiles are spoken of as the wild olive tree branches that are grafted and have become partakers of the root and fatness of the olive tree (Romans 11:11-24).

At the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the Church (Bride of Christ) will receive her rewards from her groom, Jesus Christ, and will spend 7 years in heaven while the Tribulation is happening on earth.

“I will answer.”

Hosea 2:21-22

The I Will Promises of GodIn a tremendous cosmic conversation, God would speak to the heavens and the earth, and they would respond and bring blessings to God’s people.

The heavens would send the rain, the earth would bring forth the produce, and the Lord would send His rich blessings. This pictures a restored universe where sin and death no longer reign (Romans 5:12-21).

What a great blessing as a result of having a real, vibrant relationship with our God. Our thoughts and desires will become aligned with God’s and so when we ask Him to do things, we are actually asking Him to do what He wants to do.

This is the same exact principle we find in John 15:7. If we abide in Him, He will abide in us and we can ask anything we desire and it shall be done for us.

“I will plant.”

Hosea 2:23

The word Jezreel means “God sows,” and God would sow His people in their land the way a farmer sows seed. The Lord would say to them, “You are My people.” And they would respond, “You are our God.” This relates back to the names of the children that God in His grace had changed.

Before coming into a redemptive covenant with God through faith in the Lord Jesus, we belonged to the devil (John 8:44). Praise God for His amazing grace; He loves us so much that He didn’t want us to spend eternity in hell along with the devil and his demons.

The I Will Promises of God
Photo Credits: Now The End Begins

So He sent His only begotten Son to suffer and die at Calvary for the forgiveness of our sins that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life (John 3:16). God also gave those who believed in the name of Jesus and received Him as Lord and Savior the right to become His children (John 1:12).

The moment we placed our faith in the Lord Jesus, we have become God’s children; we’ve become His peculiar people and He has become our God. We have been granted direct access to God and we can call Him “Abba Father” (Romans 8:15).

Closing Words

What wonderful promises God has given to His people, the nation of Israel. Although a large population of the Jews still does not believe Jesus to be the Messiah, there are already quite a number of Jews who have come into the saving knowledge of God through Christ.

And God is faithful; He will surely keep His promise to save the nation of Israel (Romans 11:25-27).

In the same way, God will surely keep His promise to never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6), to be with us to the ends of the earth as we fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), and to keep us from the hour of trial that will come upon the whole world (Revelation 3:10).

These are just some of the “I will” promises of God to us that He revealed in His written word. What do we do about them? We have to claim them and believe with all our heart that we already received them.


*Recommended Resource: Unshakable Hope: Building Our Lives on the Promises of God
By Max Lucado

Nothing lifts us out of fear and weariness like hope. An anchor through life’s storms, hope buoys our spirits and seeks to make a way when we face tough times.

After 40 years of ministry and speaking to hurt hearts, Max Lucado has learned that the promises of God will give you the strength you need. Each chapter in Unshakable Hope explores one Biblical promise that will help equip you to face every day with courage.

Includes reflection questions for individual or group study.

The Power of the Word of God

The Power of the Word of God

The Word of God is living and powerful as Hebrews 4:12 says. But what is meant by the phrase “the word of God?” In the Bible, there are actually several different meanings taken by this phrase. So before going any further, it is important first of all to distinguish these different senses.

The Different Forms of the Word of God

A. The Word of God as a Person: Jesus Christ

Sometimes the Bible refers to the Son of God as the Word of God in John 1:1. Clearly, John is speaking of the Son of God here, because if we continue to John 1:14 he says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us …”

Also in Revelation 19:13 where John sees the risen Lord Jesus in heaven and says, “He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.”

B. The Word of God as God’s Decrees

At other times God’s words take the form of powerful decrees by God. A decree of God is a word of God that causes events to happen or even cause things to come into being (Genesis 1:3, 24 & Psalm 33:6).

Genesis 1:3 NKJV

These decrees of God do not only include the events of the original creation but also the continuing existence of all things, for Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Christ is continually “upholding all things by the word of His power…”

C. The Word of God as God’s Words of Personal Address

Sometimes God communicates with people on earth by speaking directly to them. There are examples throughout Scriptures, such as when God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17) and after they sinned, God still spoke personally and directly to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:16-19.

Another prominent example of God’s direct personal address to people on earth is found in giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-3) and at Jesus’ baptism wherein God the Father spoke from heaven (Matthew 3:17).

D. God’s Words as Speech through Human Lips

Frequently in Scripture God raises up prophets through whom He speaks. In Deuteronomy 18:18-20, God speaks to Moses about raising up for the Israelites a prophet from among them just like him, puts His words in his mouth and will speak to them all that He will command.

God made a similar statement to Jeremiah: Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth’” (Jeremiah 1:9).

Although it is evident that these are human words spoken in human ordinary language by ordinary human beings, the authority and truthfulness of these words are in no way diminished; they are still completely God’s words as well.

E. God’s Words in Written Form (the Bible)

The Power of the Word of God
Photo Credits: Bible Gateway

But we also find in Scriptures several instances where God’s words were put in written form. The first of these is found in the narrative of the giving of the two tablets of stone to Moses on which were written the Ten Commandments (Exodus 31:18; 32:16 & 34: 1, 28).

There were further additions to this book of God’s word by Joshua (Joshua 24:26), Isaiah (Isaiah 30:8), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 30:2; 36:2-4, 27-31 & 51:60) and in the New Testament by Jesus (John 14:26) and the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Peter 3:2).

Once again, it must be noted that even though they are written down mostly by human beings and in human language, these words are still considered to be God’s own words.

Of all the forms of God’s Word, the Bible, which is the written Word of God and how powerful it is, is the focus of this article.

How Powerful is the Word of God?

The Word of God is so powerful it can actually bring about a tremendous change in the life of a believer if they would just let it.

The Word of God Corrects

There are many symbols used to illustrate God’s Word that can be found in the Bible itself.

It can be thought of as a mirror in which the sinner or saint looks and sees a true reflection of himself as portrayed by the Lord Himself (James 1:23-25), a seed regenerating the hearer (1 Peter 1:23), a lamp that illuminates and guides the believer day by day (Psalm 119:105), a sword that convicts the hearer (Hebrews 4:12), and even as food that feeds and nourishes the soul of the hearer (Hebrews 5:12-14).

But the Bible also serves as a measuring rod or ruler. Many teachers have used wooden rulers in their classes not only to give the right measurement but, on occasion, to correct a misbehaving pupil. God’s word likewise can do both on these things. It should be used as a standard against which to measure our beliefs.

As Mike Mazzalongo said, “God’s Word is a standard against which all philosophies, ideas, and proposed solutions for the human condition can be measured for accuracy. If God’s Word approves it, we can run with it; if the Word rejects it, nothing we can do will make it work, make it acceptable, or make it right.” 

What about certain religious groups which claim Christ was not God, or that the Bible is filled with silly tales? Immediately we can reject such claims by using our divine written ruler to discover that such arguments simply do not measure up.

The Power of God's Word

Sometimes our heavenly Father uses His written ruler to correct us when we are in the wrong. Israel’s great King David once experienced this. “You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word . . . Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (Psalm 119:65, 67).

There are times when God’s Word can correct believers when they are in honest and unintentional error. Aquila and Priscilla, a godly Christian couple, use the Scriptures to help a powerful young preacher Apollos (Acts 18:24-26). Paul does the same thing for some former disciples of John the Baptist he meets in the city of Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7).

The Word of God Cleanses

One of the pieces of furniture in the Old Testament tabernacle was called the bronze laver (Exodus 38:8). It consisted of a huge upright bronze bowl filled with water resting upon a pedestal. The priests would often stop at this laver and wash.

The Word of God may be thought of in terms of that laver, for it also has the power to cleanse. But while the Old Testament laver could only remove the physical dirt from human hands, the Scripture possesses the ability to take away our moral filth (1 Peter 1:22).

You can learn  more about the Old Testament laver in this article: The Origin of Christian Praise & Worship

So what areas of our lives can the Word of God cleanse?

a) It can cleanse us from wrong thoughts.

Sometimes we are tempted to think critically of others; God’s Word can prevent this (Psalm 1:2). On other occasions fearful thoughts may race through our minds; the Scriptures will prevent this also (Joshua 1:8).

In fact, the Bible will establish our total thought-life if we but allow it to do so (Philippians 4:8-9; 2 Peter 1:5-10).

b) It can cleanse us from wrong words.

Of all the Bible authors, James seems to be God’s expert on the sins of the human tongue. In the first chapter of his book, he deals with this very thing and shows the absolute necessity of dependence upon the Scriptures to keep our words true (James 1:22-26). See also Psalm 119:172.

c. It can cleanse us from wrong actions.

Jesus promised us this would be the case when He says in John 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”

The Power of God's Word

The Word of God Equips

In a general sense, it can be said that the Bible was written to convict sinners of sin and to equip believers for service.

a. It equips us for evangelism.

Philip the evangelist uses the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah to point the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ in Acts 8:26-35. Peter in his most powerful sermon at Pentecost when he quoted from the prophet Joel and preached to the crowd, who were mostly devout Jews, repentance and the last days in which God would bring to completion His plan of salvation for humankind (Acts 2:14-41).

Believers must also have the knowledge and proper understanding of the Word of God as they go about sharing the Gospel message of salvation to the lost. Without the Word of God as our weapon, we won’t have anything to use to usher in souls into the Kingdom of God.

b. It equips us for using our spiritual gifts from God.

A spiritual gift is an ability given by the Holy Spirit to the believer for the purpose of edifying the church and glorifying God. Paul says in Ephesians 1:17-19, 11-14 that a knowledge of God’s Word will provide us with the maturity we need to use our gifts in the most effective way.

c. It equips us to battle with Satan.

In Ephesians 6:10-17 Paul likens the believers’ armor to that used by Roman foot soldiers. In this comparison, the Word of God is likened to the soldier’s sword.

The Word of God Confirms

To confirm means to fully establish truth or fact. The Bible should be used to confirm the truth in our own hearts.

a. It confirms our salvation.

Often times many Christians are troubled with doubts about their conversion experience. Did God really save them when they asked Him to do so? Are they still saved today? A number of verses may be used to confirm our salvation and one of the strongest is Jesus’ own words in John 5:24. We have assurance of salvation as God promised in His Word.

You may want to compare John 3:16; 6:27, 35, 37, 40; 10:27-29 and Romans 8:1.

b. It confirms the hand of God in all of life’s bitter disappointments.

Undoubtedly the most important verse of reassurance and comfort in the hour of great need is Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

c. It confirms our forgiveness when we sin.

Admittedly, there are times when we carry an unnecessary burden of guilt over our past sins and failures. And although we have already confessed them, we have difficulty believing that God has truly forgiven and cleansed us.

But time and time again the Bible assures us that all confessed sin is instantly and eternally forgiven (Psalm 32:5; Isaiah 38:17).

Conclusion

2 Timothy 3:16-17The Bible which is the Word of God itself is truly inspired and infallible. Although it was penned by ordinary human writers, it has only one author – the Holy Spirit.

We can be confident that every word in the Bible has come directly from God and it has the supernatural power to correct, cleanse, equip and transform every believer into the kind of person that God wants them to be. The Word of God also confirms all the promises of God.

Have you made a personal decision to “be in Christ” by first acknowledging that you’re a sinner in need of a Savior? Have you repented of all your sins and received God’s gift of salvation and eternal life?

If you have been born again, are you immersed in the Word of God and are allowing it to change and empower you so you can be an effective witness for Christ and live the victorious Christian life?


*References:

  1. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
  2. NKJV Prophecy Study Bible
True Prophecy vs. False Prophecy

True Prophecy vs. False Prophecy

Obviously, not every prophecy is from God. That is why we are warned by John “to not believe every spirit but to test the spirits whether they are of God …” (1 John 4:1). We are never to assume that every prophetic utterance, spiritual experience or demonstration of spiritual power is from God.

Testing the spirits working in the body of Christ is the responsibility of every Christian, but especially of the church leaders and pastors. This is done using the gifts of discernment given by God to Christians in general, especially the leadership of a congregation.

9 Principles for Judging Prophecy in Scripture

How do we determine between true prophecy and false prophecy? John Hagee, general editor of the NKJV Prophecy Study Bible gives us nine principles to apply in determining if a prophetic word is true.

1) Prophecy agrees with the Word of God.

All prophecy is to be judged by Scriptural standards. Since all true prophecy comes from the Holy Spirit, who is the author of the Word of God, all prophecy will have to agree in fact and in spirit with the Word of God.

Prophecies are never to be received just because they are dramatic or given by certain individuals. In 1 Corinthians 14:29, the apostle Paul tells the church “to let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge” (or evaluate). Why was there a need to evaluate what was said? This is to determine whether the speaker had truly communicated the Word of God through the Holy Spirit.

God will never contradict His Word

Every prophetic utterance comes either from God, the flesh or from the devil through an evil spirit. We need to test every spirit and evaluate every prophetic word because it is possible for a speaker, under the control of his own emotions, to imagine that God was speaking to him and through him. It is even possible for Satan to counterfeit a prophetic message (2 Corinthians 11:13-14).

God will never contradict Himself, and we can distinguish between true and false prophecies by confirming them with what God has already said in His word.

2) Prophecy will edify, exhort and comfort.

1 Corinthians 14:3 says “he who prophesies speaks edification, exhortation, and comfort to men.” The word edify means to build up or strengthen. Paul’s choice of this word was a wise one because the huge mistake the Corinthian believers were making was to emphasize their own personal strength to the neglect of the church.

Paul detected that the believers were neglecting prophecy (that edifies the church) and giving a wrong emphasis to tongues (that edifies only the speaker). They wanted to build themselves up, but they did not want to build up their fellow believers.

The word exhort means to encourage. It could be the speech of a basketball team coach inside the locker room just before a championship game, rallying the team to go out there and give everything they’ve got to bring home the crown.

And the word comfort means exactly that. It has the idea of not only consoling but also strengthening. In other words, to comfort someone is not just to cry with them when they’re hurting; it’s putting your arms around them and strengthen them to carry the load.

A true prophetic word will build someone up, not tear them down; it will encourage someone, not discourage them; and will strengthen, not weaken someone. So when anyone speaks a message into your life under the auspices of prophecy that leaves you filled with condemnation or fear, that message is not from God.

3) Any prophecy containing predictions that do not come true is false prophecy.

How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord? Deuteronomy 18:22 says, “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously.”

God’s true prophets are always 100 percent accurate. Modern day “prophets” boast of being 75 percent accurate, or maybe 80 percent, but that admission only brands them as false prophets. A prophet sent by God is never wrong; what he predicts will come to pass.

Several Christian cult leaders have predicted the return of Christ and the “supposed” end of the world and repeatedly failed. Believers today must exercise spiritual discernment because many “false prophets have gone out into the world and (1 John 4:1).

4) Prophecy must bear fruit and agree with the Holy Spirit in conduct and character.

Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

Any form of joy and peace that bypasses righteousness is a demonic spirit of religiosity. A man who prophesies and does not care and provide for his family is a false prophet. A man who prophesies and lives in sexual immorality or financial irresponsibility is in deep deception and is a false prophet.

Prophecy must agree with the fruit of the Holy Spirit as stated in Galatians 5:22-23, namely: love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If the prophecy is without love, joy, or peace, it is not from God.

Galatians 5:22-23 NKJVOne thing we need to remember is that false prophets do not go around screaming obscene slogans. Instead, they come as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15-16). They look fine. They talk fine. They even act like sheep, but their purpose is to devour and deceive the body of Christ.

The first thing a false prophet or any person in deception will tell you is, “Don’t judge me.” But you are not actually judging; you are simply inspecting his fruit.

5) True prophecy produces liberty, not bondage.

Romans 8:15 says believers did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the Spirit of adoption by whom they cry out, “Abba, Father.” Also in 2 Corinthians 3:17, it says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

In the new covenant ministry, there is freedom in the Spirit. God’s people no longer have to live by rules and regulations. God wants His children to obey Him not because of an external code (the Law), but because of internal character. God’s word is written on the hearts of His children and they obey Him because of the new life He has given them.

True prophecy will bring liberty to the individual and not bondage. Any form of control over another person by intimidation, manipulation, or domination is witchcraft. False prophecy will always lead to witchcraft and so Christians are warned to not get hooked on anyone but Jesus.

6) A prophecy that comes true but promotes disobedience against God or Scripture is not a true prophecy.

In Deuteronomy 13:1-3, Moses describes a prophet or a dreamer of dreams who predicted an event and it occurred, which was the test of a true prophet (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). But then the prophet invited the people to join him in worshiping other gods.

Why would a prophet deliver a true message followed by an invitation to worship false gods? For the same reasons formerly orthodox religious leaders in the church will abandon their calling and get involved in cults or even organize their own cults in order to have a following, exercise their own authority and make money.

Moses clearly states that just because the prophecy comes true does not mean the person who gave the prophecy is from God. Any prophecy that causes a believer to look to another source for spiritual guidance such as horoscopes, psychic, hot lines, and palm readers is not from God.

7) True prophecy injects fresh fire into the meeting of believers.

The Bible says that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Paul here isn’t suggesting that the law was a mistake for he knew that the lost sinner must be slain by the law and left helplessly condemned before he can be saved by God’s grace.

But a legalistic prophetic word brings death. A prophecy that condemns and puts the congregation under a dark cloud of guilt, thereby killing their joy, power, and effectiveness in witnessing for Christ is not from God.

True prophecy inspired of the Holy Spirit brings spiritual life to a meeting of believers. If a prophecy comes that destroys the worship service, that prophecy is not from God.

8) True prophecy given by the Holy Spirit will bear witness with your spirit.

The Word of God says, “It is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth” (1 John 5:6b). The Spirit was given to bear witness to Christ (John 15:26; 16:14) and we can trust the Spirit’s witness because “He is truth.” We may not be present at the baptism of Christ or at His death, but the Holy Spirit was present.

Today, the Holy Spirit is the only person active on earth who was present when Christ was ministering here. The witness of the Father is past history, but the witness of the Spirit is a present experience. And it is the Holy Spirit indwelling every believer that bears witness with their spirit.

Among the 9 principles used to judge prophecy, this is the only one that’s subjective. But when a given prophecy bears witness with your spirit, you’ll know that it is from God.

9) Any prophecy that comes true but does not give glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ is the spirit of divination.

This principle is much the same as principle number 6. The fact that a prophecy comes true is not proof it came from God. Again as John says, we need to test every spirit and every prophetic word that’s spoken.

Jesus Christ, the God-man

A prophecy uttered that comes to pass and yet denies the deity of Christ is false prophecy. Some groups today deny that Jesus is God (such as the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and Muslims). Back in John’s day, people did not have a hard time believing that Jesus was God. But they had a hard time believing He was a real man.

Conclusion

False prophets and false prophecy abound in the world today. False prophecy leads to deception and makes the believer the object of manipulation or domination by false prophets who have ungodly motives and hidden agenda.

What is God’s Covenant with Noah?

What is God’s Covenant with Noah?

As we continue our series on Covenants, in this article we will be looking at God’s Covenant with Noah. What is this covenant and what are the provisions included in it?

Genesis 9:8-11 constitutes what theologians call the “Noahic Covenant.” This is the third or universal covenant and it is the first of God’s arrangements with humanity that He identified as a covenant (Genesis 9:9, 11-13, 15-17) because of its solemn promise to never destroy the earth and life again with a flood.

The Story of Noah and the Great Flood

For many, the account of Noah and the ark is merely an attractively unusual children’s story about an odd man who built a massive boat. Upon the ark’s completion, representatives from every species of the animal kingdom were drawn to Noah, and two-by-two he escorted them onto his untested vessel.

What is God's Covenant with Noah

Soon it started to rain and this floating menagerie survived a great flood. After all was said and done, the happy cast of characters got to enjoy a spectacular rainbow before going their separate ways.

In short, the story is often seen as little more than a delightful decorating scheme – cute pictures of Noah and the ark, place mats, and the ark-shaped cookie jars. Tragically, the timeless truths of this story often get lost among the trinkets that decorate our homes.

The Noahic Covenant Explained

Noah had just passed through the awful flood, and he and his wife, his three sons, and their wives – eight people – constituted the world’s population. Noah must have wondered whether his family and the animals from the ark could survive on an empty earth.

So God made a covenant with Noah to assure him that they would endure. Some of the terms of this covenant actually hark back to the original arrangement God made with Adam and Eve when they were the only people and sin had not yet entered the scene.

A second aspect of this covenant adapts the Edenic covenant to a world in which sin, violence, and death are terrible realities (Genesis 9:2-6). And finally, the promise of God’s Covenant with Noah addresses the terrifying prospect of another worldwide flood (Genesis 9:8-17).

At that point, Noah might have thought that the things provided by the covenant with Adam had been changed.

However, God gives the Noahic Covenant so that Noah and all the human race to follow might know that the provisions made in the Adamic Covenant remain in effect with one notable addition: the principle of human government which includes the responsibility of suppressing the outbreak of sin and violence, so that it will not be necessary to destroy the earth again by a flood.

Provisions of God’s Covenant with Noah

1) The responsibility to populate the earth is affirmed.

When Noah came out of the boat, he was like a “second Adam” about to usher in a new beginning on earth for the human race. Faith in the Lord had saved Noah and his household from the destruction, and his three sons would repopulate the whole earth (Genesis 9:18).

God had told Adam and Eve “to be fruitful and multiply … fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28), and He repeated that mandate twice to Noah and his family (Genesis 9:1, 7).

2) The subjection of the animal kingdom is reaffirmed.

Noah may have feared that the wild animals from the ark would prove a threat to the safety of his family. But the covenant assured that the wild animals of every type would fear and avoid humans (Genesis 9:2).

As another remnant of the original Edenic covenant, God promised Noah and his descendants that they would still exercise dominion over the birds, animals, and fish of creation.

3) Man is permitted to eat the flesh of animals but refrain from eating blood.

By the terms of the Edenic covenant, human diet had been vegetarian (Genesis 1:29; 2:16). God’s covenant with Noah introduced meat to that diet (Genesis 9:3). In some way, this reflects further alienation within God’s creation after the Fall as animals now live in terror of humans who may kill and eat them.

Provisions of the Noahic Covenant

However, God put one restriction on the eating of animal flesh: The meat must be free of blood (Genesis 9:4). Even though people may eat animals; they must respect the principle of life represented by the blood of the animals.

The life is in the blood, and the life must be respected, even if you’re butchering an animal to eat at a feast (See Leviticus 3:17; 7:26-27; 17:10-14; Deuteronomy 12:16; 15:23).

4) The sacredness of human life is established.

After addressing the sacredness of animal life, the Lord proceeded to discuss an even more important topic: the shedding of human blood. Human blood still holds a higher value as the life symbol of a person bearing the image of God (Genesis 9:5-6).

Those who kill their fellow human beings will have to answer to God for their deeds. To attack a human being is to attack God, and the Lord will bring judgment on the offender. All life is the gift of God, and to take away life means to take the place of God. The Lord gives life and He alone has the right to authorize taking it away (Job 1:21).

Violence had been a primary cause of the flood (Genesis 6:11), and God introduced the principle of capital punishment as a deterrent to the repetition of such wholesale bloodshed.

5) The covenant is confirmed to Noah, all mankind, and every living creature on the face of the earth.

Though God spoke especially to Noah and his sons, the Noahic covenant includes all of Noah’s descendants and all generations to come (Genesis 9:9-10). The covenant doesn’t stop there, however, for it also includes every living creature (Genesis 9:10, 12, 15).

Humans, birds, beasts and wild animals, are encompassed in this wonderful covenant – a covenant with creation. At least four times in this covenant, the Lord mentioned “every living creature.” He was speaking about the animals and birds that Noah had kept safe in the boat during the flood.

6) God promised never to destroy the earth again by a universal flood and designated the rainbow as His testimony to this covenant.

In the same way that God helped Abraham remember His covenant with a visible sign – the sign of circumcision (Genesis 17:11; Romans 4:9-12) and Moses (the Mosaic Covenant at Sinai) with the sign of the weekly Sabbath (Exodus 31:16-17), God’s covenant with Noah was sealed with the sign of the rainbow (Genesis 9:12-17).

Whenever people saw the rainbow, they would remember God’s promise that no future storm would ever become a worldwide flood that would destroy humanity. It’s noteworthy that the New Testament alludes to this promise when it prophesies that God will use fire to destroy the earth at the end of time (2 Peter 3:10).

2 Peter 3:10 NIV

But the rainbow isn’t only for us to see, it’s an assurance that we don’t need to be afraid because certainly, God does not forget his covenants with His people. For the Lord said “the rainbow in the clouds serves as a reminder of My everlasting covenant with every living creature and of all flesh that is on the earth” (Genesis 9:16).

When we look at the rainbow, we know that our Father is also looking at the rainbow, and therefore it becomes a bridge that brings us together.

The Message of the Flood

1) God Grieves and Judges

The story of Noah and the Ark is, first of all, a story about the terrible depravity of men and women. According to the Scripture, human wickedness was rampant on the earth.so much so that the Lord was “sorry” and “grieved” (Genesis 6:6).

Here is a startling aspect of the story of the Flood, a rare glimpse of divine emotion and vulnerability. God our Creator was disappointed and wounded by sin.

The Flood is also a story about God’s judgment. We can’t soften the harsh realities of God’s severe verdict of the wicked people of Noah’s time. God issued His verdict in plain language: “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth” (Genesis 6:7).

Is this a harsh verdict? Not really. A holy God certainly could not condone sin nor could He tolerate it. It had to be addressed; it had to be punished, for God to remain the God of justice.

When we read the story of Noah, we often forget the terrible loss of life. We tend to focus so much on the boat and the adorable animals, that we forget that great floodwaters beneath it. Below the rails of Noah’s boat were drowning sinners – real people entering a dreadful eternity apart from God.

2) Depravity Meets Grace

Yet the flood is also a reminder of the love and mercy of God. “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8). By electing Noah and his family and saving them from judgment, God demonstrated amazing grace.

Even though humanity deserved the full force of His wrath, God in His mercy provided salvation.

All in all, the story of Noah and the Great Flood is a wonderful precursor of the ultimate salvation God would one day provide in Christ. Long after the floodwaters subsided, the human race would continue in its sinful rebellion. And God would continue to require the just penalty for sin; death.

But the next time, instead of providing an ark, God would provide His own son. By that act, He would open the door of salvation, for not only one family, but for all who would believe in him (John 3:16).

Closing Words

In many ways, God’s Covenant with Noah foreshadowed the New Covenant. The New Covenant also fulfilled much of what the Noahic Covenant anticipated. Looking at it more closely, Jesus Christ shedding His blood at Calvary brought the ninth chapter of Genesis into focus.

Like the Noahic covenant, the New Covenant was initiated by God and was accomplished by Him. What makes it different though is that while all flesh benefited from the common grace of God promised in the Noahic Covenant, only those who are “in Christ” benefit from the blessings of the New Covenant.

What is the New Covenant? It’s the New Covenant “in His blood” that is experienced by those who have trusted in the blood of Christ that was shed for the forgiveness of their sins and as a result, will receive the gift of eternal life.

The New Covenant in Christ

This means acknowledging not only Christ’s deity and the death that He died for sinners but also to make this a vital part of your life by trusting only in Christ for your salvation.

While the Noahic Covenant guaranteed all flesh that God would never again destroy all life by a flood, the New Covenant assures us that we will not face the outpouring of God’s divine wrath through other means, such as fire.

By the way, there is only one condition for entering into the blessing of the New Covenant and that is by acknowledging your sinfulness, repenting of your sins and expressing personal faith in Christ by receiving Him as Lord and Savior of your life (John 1:12).


References:

  1. NKJV Prophecy Study Bible (John Hagee – General Editor)
  2. The Transformation Study Bible (Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe  – General Editor)