Archive for June, 2013

Study Six: Going on with God

June 26, 2013

Study Six

 

GOING ON WITH GOD

 

All that we have studied so far is relevant to going on steadily as a Christian. If we do not obey God, for example in being baptized, we cannot expect to grow spiritually. The gift of the Holy Spirit is intended to enable us to worship, to equip us for service, and to help us to be a fully functioning member of the Body of Christ, the Church. The Church is the proper environment for our growth. There we receive shepherding care, fellowship, teaching, and many other blessings. These are all essential, but there are several other matters we must mention.

 

I.          GROWTH

 

If you are to grow as a Christian certain things are essential.

 

A.   Fellowship

            The basic meaning of fellowship is ‘sharing’.

 

Read Psa. 122:1. What made the Psalmist glad?

 

Read Psa. 133. In verse 1 what two words are used to describe brethren dwelling together in unity?

 

In Malachi 3:16 what did those who feared the Lord do? (Fearing the Lord is another way of saying reverencing Him or worshipping and obeying Him.)

 

What was the Lord’s reaction to this?

 

In Acts 2:42 what four things did the early Christians continue

steadfastly in?

 

In Heb. 10:25 what are we not to do and what are we to do?

 

As you have seen in a previous study, Paul speaks about the Body of Christ in I Cor. 12. What do you think verse 21 means?

 

Fellowship is essential for every Christian. A baby is born into a family and, likewise, a new Christian needs the family of God.

 

If a live coal is taken out of the fire and placed on the hearth, it will quickly cool. So will a Christian who neglects fellowship.

 

B.   The Bible

 

The Bible is food for your soul. Some parts are easier to understand than others, so if you are a new Christian, you should seek help from your pastor, elder, or housegroup leader. Mark’s Gospel is a good place to begin. Then you could read the Acts of the Apostles. There are several ways of taking in or absorbing the Word of God.

 

1.   You hear it read and preached in Church. God expects us to hear His Word. What comes to us through hearing God’s Word (Rom. 10:17)?

 

Apart from hearing with our ears, what are we to do, according to Ezekiel 3:10?

 

But we must not only hear the Word, we must also read it.

 

 

2.   Reading God’s Word

Israel’s kings were commanded by God to read His Law.

In Deut. 17:19 how long was the king to read the Law of God and what would be the outcome?

 

In Rev. 1:3 what is promised to those who read that book? 

 

What did Paul tell Timothy in I Tim. 4:13?

 

The first part of Isaiah 34:16 is an important command. Write it out here:

 

3.   Studying God’s Word

What would you say is the difference between just reading the Bible and studying it? Discuss this with Christian friends.

 

Why were the Bereans noble in Acts 17:11?

Write out II Tim. 2:15 in full.

4.   Memorizing God’s Word

Why does the Psalmist say he has hidden God’s Word in his heart? (Psa. 119:11)

 

What impression do you get from Deut. 6:5,6 and 11:18 about the importance of having God’s Word in your heart?

 

Learning verses of Scripture by heart is not as difficult as it may seem.

 

 

 

The secrets are (a) Repetition, (b) Daily review, (c) Learning the chapter and verse with it, i.e. the reference, so that you can find it.

 

5.   Meditating on the Scripture

To meditate on something is to think prayerfully about it. Hearing, reading, studying, and memorizing the Scripture are like swallowing food. Meditating is like digesting food. Clearly, then, it is very important.

 

What benefits come from meditating on God’s Word, according to Josh. 1:8?

 

What will the man who meditates in the Word of God be like, according to Psalm 1?

 

We should read the Bible and meditate on it daily. We hear it read and preached two or three times a week when we gather for worship and fellowship. Studying the Bible and memorizing it require greater effort and you may need further help with that. However, remember that this course is Bible study! Maybe you didn’t realise that you have been studying the Bible? Now why not memorize one of the verses in this study? Psalm 119:11 is a good one to start with.

 

C.   Prayer

 

Prayer is conversing with God. That is, you talk to Him and He talks to you in your heart and through His Word. You should talk to God in prayer every day. Have a definite time set aside, preferably first thing in the morning.

 

What instructions are we given in Matt. 6:6?

 

 

What does Jesus say will happen if we abide (remain, continue) in Him, in John 15:7?

 

 

What condition is required to get our prayers answered, according to John 16:23,24?

 

 

II.          WITNESS

 

We are called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ (see Acts 1:8). We witness by our lives, the way we behave, and by our lips, what we say. What will be the result of letting our ‘light’ shine before men, according to Matt. 5:16?

 

 

Read carefully Acts 8:1-4 and answer this question: Who was it that went everywhere preaching the Word?

 

Why did Paul not need to preach in Macedonia and Achaia and places round about, according to I Thess. 1:7,8?

 

 

III.         ATTITUDES

 

Certain attitudes must be avoided at all costs, while certain other attitudes must be cultivated.

 

A.   Attitudes to Avoid. Write down what the wrong attitudes are next to the Scripture verses:

           1.     Prov. 16:18
           2.     I Jn.2:15,16
           3.     Prov. 6: 16-19

 

B.   Attitudes to Cultivate. Write down the desirable attitudes:

 

1.   Jn. 13:34, 35

 

 

2.   I Pet. 5:5

 

 

3.   Heb. 13:7, 17

 

 

4.   Matt. 11:29

 

 

5.   Heb. 12:28

 

If you give serious attention to the matters outlined in this study, you should certainly grow as a Christian. But if you have problems, see your pastor or elders. This is what they are there for (Jer. 3:15). After completing this course, seek to continue some form of Bible study, such as the Commitment Course.

 

Don’t stand still in the Christian life. Keep moving and keep growing.

 

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New Life Course Lesson Five: The Body of Christ

June 18, 2013

Study Five

 THE BODY OF CHRIST

 After they were converted, baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, the new converts ‘joined’ themselves to the local Church. This is part of the normal process of becoming a Christian. In the New Testament several different terms are used to describe the Church, such as ‘Body’ or ‘Building’ or ‘Branches of the Vine’.

I.          MEMBERS OF THE BODY

What do you learn about the Body of Christ from Rom. 12:5; Eph. 4:25 and I Cor. 12:27?

Write down other things you can learn concerning what the Church should be, by thinking of a human body.

Tick one of the following. The relationship between the various parts of the human body is:

A.   Vague, loose and indefinite

B.   Close, firm and well-defined

The members of a body receive life, strength and direction through other members and pass it on to one another, but it all originates in the head.

Who is the Head of the Body? (Eph. 1:22,23).

What attitude should members of the Body of Christ have for one another?

1.   I Cor. 12:25,26

2.   I Cor. 1:10

3.   I Pet. 4:8-10

What advantages are gained from being a living member of the Body rather than an isolated limb?

II.          STONES IN THE BUILDING

 What does Peter call Christians in I Pet. 2:5?

Study Eph. 2:19-22 and answer the following:

A.   Who is the chief corner stone?

B.   What is the building growing into?

C.   Is the process finished?

D.   Complete this: “You are also being built

E.   What is the purpose of the building? (v.22)

Consider the differences between a pile of bricks and a completed building. List some differences.

What do you consider are the advantages to a Christian of being ‘built into a temple’ of the local Church rather than being isolated?

III.  BRANCHES IN THE VINE

 Study John 15:1-8.

Who is the Vine?

Who are the branches?

What is the purpose of the Vine?

Which part bears fruit?

Can a branch bear fruit on its own?

What happens to a branch that is separated from the Vine? (v.6)

Consider the difference between a pile of branches and a living vine. What are the advantages of being joined to other ‘branches’ of the vine? List some of these advantages.

IV.        THE UNITY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH

 The New Testament knows nothing of isolated individual Christians. If there were such, they would be as grotesque as a dismembered body, as desolate as a demolished building, and as withered and fruitless as a chopped up vine.

Read through John 17 and note the verses which refer to the disciples being ‘one’. Make notes on what you learn about the unity of the Body.

Read Eph. 4:1-16 and make similar notes on unity.

N.B. We must never seek to maintain unity at the expense of truth or righteousness.  Can you think of examples?

Becoming ‘one’ does not happen by accident. It requires definite action. We have to ‘join’.

 V.         THE MEANING OF JOINING

The word ‘member’, as used in the New Testament, is not to be identified with merely having your name on a church roll, keeping certain rules and contributing to the offering. That is ‘club-type’ membership. New Testament Church membership is being a ‘limb’ of a living body. Some evangelical churches, in an attempt to avoid the ‘club’ image, have done away with a membership list. But they have missed the point. Many churches without lists of members are as much like clubs as many other ‘club-type’ churches. A list of members is purely an administrative convenience, and it is clear that there were such lists in the early Church (e.g. Matt. 1:1-17; Lk. 6:13-16; Acts 1:13; 2:42). But what does ‘joining the Church’ really involve?

A.   Commitment (I Cor. 10:16,17)

To join is to commit yourself to the Lord as He is seen in your brothers and sisters. It is a sort of covenant between you. This brings a sense of belonging. It carries with it a certain responsibility to and for your fellow members. This implies loyalty to all members and leaders alike. Make notes on your thoughts about these terms concerning the Body of Christ:

1.   Commitment

2.   Covenant

3.   Belonging

4.   Responsibility

5.   Loyalty

B.   Love for the other members of the Body. Write notes on these verses:

John 13:34, 35

I Pet. 1:22

C.   Obedience

Look up these verses and make notes on this question of obedience:

Acts 6:7; Rom. 1:5; 15:18; 16:25,26; Heb. 13:7

D.   Contribution

Every member of the Body should play his part. Rom. 12:4-8; I Pet. 4: 10,11; Mal. 3:8-10. Make notes on these verses.

VI.        THE RESULTS OF BEING A MEMBER OF THE BODY

 A.   Joints are formed. (Eph. 4:16, cf. Col. 2:19). These joints are relationships in the Body. What do you learn from these verses?

B.   Life flows from one to the other. (Eph. 4: 15,16; Rom. 12:4-8; I Pet. 4: 10,11; Jn. 15:1-17). How do you think life flows?

C.   There is mutual care. (I Cor. 12:25,26; Acts 2:44-46; 4:32-35). Give examples of how this can happen.

D.   We are pastored. This includes a measure of protection.

(Eph. 6:10; cf. I Cor. 5:3-5).

It implies being under authority (Lk. 7:6-8; Acts 13:1-3; Heb. 13:17).

Being subject to training and discipline (Heb. 12:5-11; II Tim. 2:2; 4:2).

Write comments on these.

E.   We have shepherds and leaders (Jer. 3:15). Who are they?

EXERCISE

Answer the following:

1.   Do you belong to a live Church?

2.   Is there anyone over you in the Lord?

3.   Is there anyone close to you and alongside you?

4.   Have you made any progress in the areas covered by this study? If not, write down what you are going to do as well as pray.

New Life Course Study Four: The Holy Spirit

June 17, 2013

 

Study Four

 

THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

On the day of Pentecost, Peter told the convicted crowd to repent and be baptized, and he promised that they would receive the “gift of the Holy Spirit”.  Who is the Holy Spirit?  He is the third Person of the Godhead.  God exists in three Persons, yet is one God.  This is a mystery, yet the Bible does teach this truth which is called the doctrine of the Holy Trinity (see, for example, Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14 and Jude 20, 21).  God the Father is the Creator, but he created all things through the second Person of the Trinity, called the Son of God, or the Logos (Word, see Colossians 1:15, 16; John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:2).  The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Godhead.  He is sometimes referred to as the “executive member of the Godhead” because he carries out what the Father decrees.  All three Holy Persons in the Godhead were involved in creation (Genesis 1:1-3).

The second Person of the Godhead, the Word, became flesh and was incarnate as Jesus Christ, the Messiah (John 1:14).  A simple way of expressing the work of redemption is to say that God the Father planned it, God the Son carried it out on the cross, and the Holy Spirit applies it to the believer. 

One of the amazing blessings of the Christian life is that the Holy Spirit comes to live in the believer.  The Lord Jesus Christ promised his followers that after he had gone back to heaven he would send the Holy Spirit to them (John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26; 16:7, 13, 14).  He is occasionally called ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ (Acts 16:7), and this is how Christ lives in his followers (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:19).

According to Acts 2:38, when we repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Consequently Romans 8:9 implies that all true believers have the Holy Spirit in them.  It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us, planting the seed of new life in us (John 3:1-8), convicts us of sin (John 16:8, 9), gives us the gifts of repentance and faith (Acts 5:31; 11:18; Ephesians 2:8,9).  This fact of the Holy Spirit coming into the life of the believer is described in many ways (e.g. 1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 6:19; 2 Timothy 1:14).

The Bible does distinguish between having the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and being filled with the Holy Spirit.  (See Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3; 7:55; Eph. 5:18).  A simple illustration may help.  You may invite someone into your home as a guest.  They may enter your sitting room, dining room, bathroom, and if they are staying overnight, a guest bedroom.  But the guest may become a very close friend or even a family member, and you can invite them to go anywhere they like in the house.  It is their home now.  No room is forbidden to them.  So it is when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  As we are commended to go on being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) this implies that we should go on making every part of our lives available to Him.  To ensure that this is so we must feed on the Word of God (Colossians 3:16), pray regularly (Luke 11:13; Acts 4:31), be fully consecrated to God (Romans 12:1, 2), and be sure to obey His commands (Acts 5:32).

In addition to all of this, there are occasional and special enduements of the Holy Spirit for special purposes, such as revival.  These experiences are entirely under the sovereign disposition of God. With these truths as a background, now study the remainder of this lesson.

 ONE EXPERIENCE, MANY TERMS

 Read Acts 10:44-48. This describes the events in Cornelius’ home after Peter had preached there. What did Peter say was poured out on the Gentiles? (v.45)

 In Acts 11:1-17 Peter described his experience with Cornelius to the other apostles. Study this passage carefully. With what did Peter compare Cornelius’ experience? (v.15)

  What term is used to describe the experience in verse 16?

  So what happened to Cornelius and his household is the same as happened to the disciples on the day of Pentecost. List the different terms used in the following Scriptures to describe the same experience.

 A.   Luke 24:49

 B.   Acts 1:5

C.   Acts 1:8

 D.   Acts 2:38

 E.   Acts 8:15,16

 F.   Acts 9:17

 G.  Acts 10:44

H.   Acts 10:45

I.    Acts 10:47

 J.   Acts 11:15

K.   Acts 11:16

 L.   Acts 11:17

 So this experience of being provided with power is called by several different names.

II.          NOT BIRTH BUT BAPTISM

 Now this experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit must not be confused with the work of God in the heart which is called regeneration. Certainly it is the Holy Spirit who works in a man’s heart and regenerates him (John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5). In that sense all Christians have the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). The disciples were born again before Pentecost (see John 20:19-23). But whereas regeneration happens once and for all, we need to go on being filled with the Holy Spirit.

 Note: The Greek word translated ‘breathed into’ or ‘breathed on’ in John 20:22 is found only in two other places in the Bible, both in the Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. These passages are Gen. 2:7, where God breathed into the inert clay and man became a living soul, and Ezek. 37:9 where the Spirit breathed into newly reconstituted corpses and they became a living army.

Also, the command, ‘Receive ye’ is a form of the Greek verb called an ‘Aorist Imperative’, which does not have a future meaning. ft implies ‘receive now’. Though the disciples had been taught much, had confessed Jesus as Messiah (Matt. 16:13ff) and had even performed miracles, this does not mean that they were born again (see Matt. 7:22, 23). The fact is that they were unbelieving (Matt. 16:21-23; 17:1 7ff, Mk. 16.14ff, Lk. 24:11,25), fearful (Lk. 24:36,37; Jn. 20:19), and did not understand what Jesus taught (Mk. 8:31-33; 9:31,32). But after they were born again when the risen Christ appeared to them, by Jesus breathing His Spirit into them, He opened their understanding (Lk.24:45f.), they were filled with joy (Lk. 24:52), were of one heart (Acts 1:14; 2:1), and no longer hid but worshipped openly in the temple (Lk. 24:53).

 But even though the Lord had opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, by breathing into them the life-giving Spirit, they needed to go on being filled with the Spirit. Because baptism is an initiatory experience, that is, it comes at the beginning of the Christian life and inaugurates the new experience, theologians link the term ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ with regeneration. In fact, according to Acts 2, the only conditions for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit are repentance (faith is implied) and baptism (Acts 2:38).

 III.         GOD’S ENABLING

 What did Jesus say the disciples needed? (Luke 24:49).

 What were they promised? (Acts 1:8).

N.B. The word ‘power’ may also be translated ‘ability’.

 With what did the apostles testify? (Acts 4:33).

 What was Stephen full of in Acts 6:5?

 and in verse 8?

 What was connected with the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus, according to Peter in Acts 10:38?

 Write down what else you learn about God’s enabling from the following Scriptures:

 A.   John 14:26

B.   John 15:26,27

 C.   John 16:7,8

 D.   John 16:13,14

 IV.        THE SEAL OF GOD

In Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30 the gift of the Holy Spirit is described as a seal. What do you think speaking of the ‘seal of the Spirit’ signifies? What does a seal normally do?

  (cf. Matt. 27:66; II Cor. 1:22; II Tim. 2:19).

 V.         INTO ONE BODY

 John the Baptist baptized his followers ‘unto repentance’. Had they repented before they actually entered the water? (Matt. 3:6).

 Christian baptism is ‘into Christ’. Are believers ‘in Christ’ before they are actually immersed. (Gal. 3:7, 26).

 The answer in both cases is strictly ‘yes’. The act of baptism in water makes vivid and public the inward work of God. It seals it.

What are we baptized into by the Holy Spirit. (See I Cor. 12:12,13).

 We are ‘in Christ’ through repentance and faith, but just as baptism in water makes our conversion public and seals it, so the fullness of the Holy Spirit makes real, living and effective our membership in the Body of Christ.

 Now here are some questions to answer:

A.   What is the gift of the Holy Spirit?

 B.   Who may receive this gift? (Acts 2:38, 39; 5:32)

 C.   What is the normal order of experience?

 D.    What are the steps to receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit?

 Acts 2:38

 E.   List some of the results of the gift of the Spirit.

 1.   Acts 1:8

 2.   Acts 2:4, 11, 46, 47 (The special events and signs in Acts chapter two were unique. They were not repeated.)

 3.   Acts 4:32

  4.  Acts 2:42

  5.  I  Cor. 12:13

  6.  Eph. 5:18

 7.  Acts 4:31

 8.  Acts 8:1,4

 9.  John 15:8

  10.       John 15:16

  11.       Gal. 5:22,23

 List anything else you notice or any questions you would like to ask.

 

New Life Course Study 3: Christian Baptism

June 13, 2013

 

Study Three

 

CHRISTIAN BAPTISM

 

What is baptism? Why do Christians practise baptism? Does believer’s baptism do anything for the person baptized? These are some of the questions asked about this subject which we examine in this study.

I.          WHAT IS BAPTISM?

 Baptism is the immersion in water of a believer into the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19,20). It is carried out by someone acting ‘in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ’. The Greek word translated ‘baptism’ in our Bibles is ‘baptizō’. It means to immerse, to plunge, or to dip. Look up the following verses and write down the words or phrases which imply that the person baptized had gone down into the water.

A.   Matt. 3:16

B.   Acts 8:38,39

If a few drops of water had been sufficient, there would have been no need to have gone down into the water.  Baptism is a symbolic representation of being buried with Christ. (See Romans 6:3, 4).

II.          WHY DO CHRISTIANS PRACTISE BAPTISM?

 Look up Mark 1:9-11 and Luke 3:21,22. What happened to Jesus?

Should we follow His example? (I Pet. 2:21)

What did Jesus say baptism is in Matt. 3:13-15?

What does this mean?

Is baptism a command or an option? (See Matt. 28:19,20; Acts 10:48).

How important is obedience? (Lk. 6:46; Jn. 14:15,21,23,24; Acts 5:32).

So what is the second reason why Christians practise baptism?

The third reason is that baptism is part of the process of conversion. What three stages does Peter mention in Acts 2:38,39?

A.

B.

C.

See also Acts 8:12, 36-38; 9:18; 10:47,48; 19:5.

The fourth reason for baptism is that it is a sign of entrance into the Church. See Acts 2:41. What word is used of those baptized to describe their ‘joining the Church’?

III.         WHAT DOES BAPTISM MEAN?

 A.   It symbolizes union with Christ. You are united to Christ in His death and burial. See Gal. 3:27.

II.   What picture is used in Col. 2:12 and Rom. 6:1-5?

So baptism is a pictorial representation of the fact that you have …….  with Christ, have been ……………..  with Him, and are now …………….      to a new life in Him.

C.   it you believe and are baptized, what does Mark 16:15, 16 say will happen?

N.B. We tend to use the words saved’ and ‘salvation’ rather loosely. Strictly speaking, God’s salvation includes all that He does for us from beginning to end. The word ‘saved’ varies in its reference according to the context.

 Look up Titus 3:5. Does the word ‘saved’ in that verse refer to the past, present, or the future?

What about I Cor. 1:18 and Acts 2:47?

and Romans 5:9,10?

Now back to Mark 16:15,16. What do you think we are saved

from here? (Look up Acts 2:40; I Pet. 3:20, 21 and I Jn. 2: 15-17 for clues.)

Watchman Nee wrote: ‘What is baptism? It is. your emancipation from the world. It frees you from the brotherhood to which you once belonged. The world knew that you were one with it, but the moment you are baptized, it immediately becomes aware of the fact that you are finished with it … Baptism is a public announcement that declares ‘I have come out of this world’.”

IV.        DOES BAPTISM DO ANYTHING FOR THE PERSON BAPTISED?

 The mere act of plunging a person into water does not accomplish anything of itself apart from getting them wet! But baptism is more than just immersing a person in water.

A.   It is immersion of a believer in water, and faith can do mighty things. Look up Luke 18:41, 42. What did Jesus ask the blind man in verse 41?

What did He tell him in verse 42?

(See also Matt. 9:2, 22, 29; 15:28; 17:20; 21:21, etc.)

B.   Baptism is an act of obedience and obedience to the Lord always brings blessing. What does I Sam. 15:22 say about obedience?

What happens to those who obey God? (Acts 5:32)

C.   It is baptism in the Name of the Lord Jesus (as though He were doing it Himself) and into the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that the person baptized is publicly declaring to be “hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3). What does Paul, in Gal. 3:27, say that we do in baptism?

What do you think this means?

After the initial ‘quickening’ of the spirit of man by the Holy Spirit, he turns to God in repentance for sins, confession of sins and turning away from sin. He accepts the finished work of Christ on the cross and experiences the forgiveness of God and enters into a right relationship with Him. The believer has thus been cleansed through the blood of Jesus. Compare John 1:29 with Isaiah 53:4-7 and Acts 8:27ff. This is an inward experience. Being born again is only the beginning of life in Christ. It is only the entrance into the Kingdom (John 3:3,5). The words ‘born again’ themselves imply a beginning and a continuing. Salvation is a process which has now begun.

Part of salvation is being saved from this present evil age (Gal. 1:4; Acts 2:40). When the crowd asked Peter on the day of Pentecost, “What must we do to be saved?”, his answer contained two actions and a promise: (1) Repent (faith is implied as they would not truly repent unless they believed his message. cf. Acts 2:41; 16:30,3 1); (2) Be baptized in water; (3) The Holy Spirit would then be given to them.

These steps form the foundation of the Christian life. Because of his experience of the new birth, the believer is instructed to take a further step: be baptized in water, and he will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

EXERCISE

Look up Col. 1:13; I John 5:9; Rom. 6: 1-6; Col. 2:12 and write notes on being transferred from one kingdom to the other. (cf. Gal. 1:4 with Heb. 6:5).

Why should a Christian be baptized in water? Put down as many reasons as you can remember.

Appendix to Study 3 BAPTISM OF INFANTS

 Some people sprinkle water on babies as a substitute for baptism, and they call it christening.  But this is a deviation from biblical practice, a carry-over from the unreformed Roman Catholic Church.

 I.    Why We Do Not Baptize Infants

A.   The Bible commands us to repent, believe and be baptized, and a baby can neither repent nor believe.

B.   Baptism is a response of obedience to Christ’s command, and a baby cannot obey.

C.   The Bible tells us in I Peter 3:21 that baptism is the answer of a good conscience towards God, and a baby has not got a conscience.

D.   There is no indication whatsoever in the New Testament that we should baptize infants.

E.   Baptism is an outward sign of inward grace, and we have no certain knowledge that God has done anything in an individual’s heart until he has repented and believed.

II.    The Dangers of Infant Baptism

A.   Those baptized in infancy tend to trust in their baptism for salvation and feel they do not need to be converted.

B.   Those who are baptized in infancy may never be converted and so the act is made empty and useless.

C.   People tend to attribute semi-magical powers to baptism and imagine that the act does something in and of itself.

D.   Many people who believe in infant baptism think that if unbaptized babies die they will go to Hell. In other words, they think baptism makes them safe. But our answer is two­fold: first, we do not believe that God would send a baby to Hell just because it had not had water sprinkled on it. Secondly, there is no indication anywhere in Scripture that baptism by itself ensures a place in Heaven.

III.   How Do Those Who Baptize Infants Justify Their Practice?

 A.   By referring to long traditions. But no tradition of infant baptism goes back beyond the second century A.D. It is a deviation from N.T. practice.

B.   By likening baptism to circumcision, saying that just as Jewish (male) babies were circumcised, so Christian babies should be baptized. Just as circumcision was the sign of the Old Covenant with Abraham, so, it is alleged, baptism is the sign of the New Covenant made with believers. But there is  not a shred of evidence anywhere that baptism is the equivalent of circumcision. In any case, babies were, of course, circumcised after they had been born into the race of Abraham, so if baptism were the equivalent, then Christians should be baptized after they had been spiritually born into God’s family by the new birth. So, if that analogy is used, it can only prove believer’s baptism! Besides, Jesus was circumcised when a baby, but was nevertheless baptized at about thirty years of age.

In any case, the New Testament teaches that the Christian equivalent of circumcision is not baptism, but the cleansing of the heart. (Rom. 2:29; Phil. 3:3 and Col. 2:11).  Notice particularly that in that last verse the ‘circumcision’ referred to is “made without hands.” It refers not to something done by man but to regeneration, something done by God.

C.   Some try to justify infant baptism by referring to the households who were baptized in the New Testament. But there is no mention of a baby in any of these accounts. On the contrary, there is clear indication that those in the households heard the word, believed the Gospel, and obeyed the command to be baptized.(See Acts 10; 16: 12ff; 16:27ff; 18:8ff; I Cor. 1:16).

D.   Some refer to Acts 2:39 which says that “the promise is to you and to your children.”  But what is the promise?  It is mentioned in the previous verse.  “Repent and be baptized and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Clearly repentance comes first.  Moreover the promise is to all who are afar off.  Does that mean they are all automatically saved?  No. of course not.  They, too, have to repent and believe the gospel.  Verse 39 applies this to those who have been called by God, and verse 41 records that it is those who received Peter’s words who were baptized, and no one else.  So to be baptized, one has to receive the message of salvation, that is, believe it, repent of sin, and then one can be baptized.  Only one called by God which is evidenced by repentance and faith, is to be baptized.

IV.  What Do We Do For Babies Instead?

 A.   We have a dedication service in which the parents publicly express thanks to God, consecrate themselves to the task of parenthood, promise to bring up the child in the way of the Lord, present the child to the Lord, praying that he or she will become a believer in the years of understanding. Luke 2:22ff.  Jesus was presented in the temple as a distinct and different act from his circumcision, which took place after eight days.  Many believers like to follow this example and it can be helpful, provided that it is not confused with baptism.  Such a service of presentation of an infant is an option, but baptism of believers is a command.

B.   The believers seek to welcome the children as the Lord commanded and seek to help the parents by prayer, counsel, teaching and example. Mark 10: 13,14.

C.   Parents are encouraged to set up family worship and to teach and train their children to love the Lord from their earliest years. Deut. 6:4ff; Eph. 6:4; Titus 2:4.

 

New Life Course Study Two

June 10, 2013

Study Two

 

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN

 

N.B. Don’t forget to look up all the Scripture references in your Bible.

 We begin this study by summarizing what we have seen so far.

SUMMARY OF THE GOOD NEWS

 God is willing, and indeed desires, to take us, His rightful subjects, back under His rule, and to save us from sin, death and the control of the devil. He calls us to come to Him. But because of our rebellion and sin we are both unable and unwilling to respond. This is where God in His love, mercy and sovereign power steps in. By His Holy Spirit, He convicts us of our sin, plants new life in us, and enables us to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ died in our place on the cross, bearing our sin and enduring the wrath of God. He rose from the dead, ascended to Heaven, poured out His Holy Spirit upon the Church, and now prays for us.

Thus we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ. Among the many blessings that salvation brings are justification, that is, being made right with God, regeneration, in which we are born again and given a new nature, and eternal life, with the assurance of eternal bliss with God in Heaven. Some of these terms will need definition.

II.          SOME DEFINITIONS

      A.   Grace:              God’s free unmerited favour; God’s undeserved benevolence, mercy and      kindness  shown to sinful man.

B.   Repentance:      A complete change of mind and heart in turning away from sin to God.

Repentance includes the following elements:

1.    Sorrow for sin (Psa. 51:17; II Cor. 7: 10-1 1).

2.    Confession of sin to God (Prov. 28:13; I John 1:9).

3.    Forsaking sin (Prov. 28:13; Isa. 55:7; Acts 2:38).

4.    Turning to God and determining by His grace to lead a new life (Matt. 3:8; 9:13; Acts 3:19).

5.    A work of God the Holy Spirit, for repentance is a gift of God, but we have to act upon it (Acts 11:18; cf. II Tim. 2:25).

C. Faith:      Not merely belief about God, nor even belief in Jesus Christ, but a real trust in Christ as Lord and Saviour, a resting and relying on Him.

Discuss the difference between belief and trust.

D.   Justification:

Being made right with God. Being counted as righteous in God’s sight.

III.         THE MEANING OF THE NAME CHRISTIAN

 How would you define ‘Christian’?

The word ‘believer’ occurs twice in the New Testament. The word ‘Christian’ is found only three times.

Acts 26:28; I Peter 4:16; Acts 11:26 – write this verse out.

This last reference is important. It reminds us that the only person who has a right to be called a Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ. How would you define ‘disciple’?

N.B. The word ‘disciple’ occurs 264 times in the New Testament.  A few of those occurrences refer to the disciples of John or of the Pharisees, but the vast majority refer to followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A disciple:     1. is an adherent

2. is a learner, not yet perfect

3. is a disciplined follower

4. has someone as his pattern not something.

Write out Luke 6:40.

Discipleship was a familiar method of education and training in the ancient world. It was aimed not merely at knowledge, but at a different way of life. Jesus commanded His disciples to make other disciples and to teach them to observe (i.e. live out), not merely to know, all that he had com­manded. Matt. 28:18-20.

IV.        THE MARKS OF GRACE

 What are some of the signs that a person is a real Christian?

In Acts 2:38-42 we see several. Can you find them?

A.   Repentance.

B.   Hunger for teaching and understanding of the Word of God. (Verse 42, cf. Luke. 24:45).

 C.   Desire to pray. (Cf. Eph. 2:18; Gal. 4:6).

D.   Desire to be with God’s people (cf. I John 3:14).

E.   A new heart. See verses 46 and 47.

They had gladness and singleness of heart (i.e. loyalty to their new faith).

Cf. II Cor. 5:17.

V.         JOINING A LOCAL CHURCH

 According to Acts 2:38-41, the steps in becoming a Christian are:

A.   Repent

B.   Believe – this is implied in verse 41 and is taught throughout the New Testament. This means really believe in or trust.

C. Be baptized.

D. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  When we truly repent, believe and are baptized, God gives us His Holy Spirit.

E. Join the Church.

To be a Christian means that we are part of that great company of the redeemed. The ‘redeemed’ are those who have been purchased by the blood of Christ. (I Pet. 1:18,19; Rev. 7:9).  But we need to identify ourselves with the local Body of Christ. (I Cor. 12:27; Heb. 10:25; Acts 2:41, 47).

Every Christian has a part to play in the Body of Christ which is another name for the Church. (I Cor. 12:27, 14-27; I Pet. 4: 10,11; Rom. 12:4-8).

Identifying ourselves with the local Church is one way of showing that we are one with every other Christian in the local Church. (Eph. 4:3-16).  For the first two or three centuries of the Christian era churches met in homes.  This is still the only way and indeed the best way for churches to meet in some parts of the world.  The church is not a building, but the people.  That is why the Greek word for church (ekklesia) is often translated ‘assembly’ or ‘congregation’.

The New Testament knows nothing of an isolated Christian. We were made to function in the local Body of Christ. If we are not in such a fellowship, not only are we prevented from growing as we should, but we are exposed to a great many unnecessary dangers and temptations. Moreover, we are not able to function as we should, for no Christian is complete in and of himself. We need each other.

NOTE:  Sadly, some so-called churches have deviated from the truth, as some did in the early days of the Church.  (See Galatians 1:6-9; Colossians 2:8; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 John verse 7; Jude verses 3 and 4).  Therefore be careful to associate only with a congregation that is true to the Word of God, where Christ is exalted, where there is reverence and sincere worship.

VI.        CHRIST’S LORDSHIP OVER US

 What do the following verses say about:

A.   The Lord and our bodies?

Rom. 6:13; 12:1; I Cor. 6:19, 20.

B.   Our mind and will?

2 Cor. 10:5; Phil. 4:4-8; Matt. 12:50; 26:39.

VII.       HOW WE MAY BE SURE WE ARE SAVED

 There are two ways we may be sure that we are ‘born again’.

A.   The Testimony of Scripture

We have already seen that God’s Word is inspired. The word translated ‘inspired’ means literally ‘God-breathed’. It is God’s revelation and as such it is trustworthy, inerrant and authoritative. When Jesus was tempted by the devil, He answered from Scripture (see Matt. 4:4, 7,10). In fact, when the Scribes and Pharisees questioned Him, He frequently quoted Scripture in answer.

How many things about God’s Word can you find from Psalm 19:7-11?

Another Psalm about the Word of God is 119. Read it sometime to see how much the Psalmist loved the Law of the Lord.

Because the Bible is inspired and trustworthy, you may rely upon it. It is God’s Word and He cannot lie. Now the Bible tells us that if certain conditions are fulfilled, then certain results follow. Write down the conditions and the results in the following Scriptures:

1.   John 3:16

Conditions:

Results:

2.   John 3:36

Conditions:

Results:

3.   John 5:24

Conditions:

Results:

4.   Romans 10:9,10

Conditions:

Results:

There are many other Scriptures that say the same things. If you have fulfilled the conditions, you may be sure of the results. So when you are questioned about your faith, you should be able, like Jesus, to reply by quoting Scripture. The Bible is the chief source of assurance of salvation.

B.   The Evidence of a Changed Life

On a previous page we noted the ‘marks of grace’ or the indications that God has worked in our lives. This is really the kind of thing James has in mind in Jas. 2:14-26. Read and discuss it.   A true Christian does not continue to live a sinful life.  Read the First Epistle of John to see this.

EXERCISE

Write out the answers to the following:

1.   Define Grace, Repentance, Faith, Justification.

2.   What are the signs of being a true Christian?

      Study One   THE GOOD NEWS

June 8, 2013

 

The word ‘gospel’ is an old English word meaning ‘good news’. The message Jesus preached was good news. The same message was preached by the apostles. That same good news is the only true message of the Christian Church.

The good news is that the holy, eternal, almighty God, Creator of the universe, desires to bring millions of people into friendship and fellowship with himself, and to give them eternal life, so that they may enjoy fellowship with him here on earth, and then live forever in his presence with great joy and eternal bliss.  We do not deserve this.  In fact we deserve eternal banishment from his presence.  But God is a God of love and mercy as well as justice.  He desires to save us from our sins and from eternal doom.  But there are many barriers preventing this.  The gospel is the good news of how God deals with these barriers and brings us into joyful fellowship with himself.  This is totally undeserved.  It is all of God’s free grace.

You will sometimes hear people speak about “the four Gospels”.  They are referring to the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The full title of these books is, “The Gospel According to Saint Matthew”, “The Gospel According to Saint Mark”, etc. The point is that there is only one Gospel, recorded by four different writers.

The Acts of the Apostles is the history of the beginnings of the early Church. The next twenty-one books in the New Testament are letters written by the apostles to various churches and individuals.  The last book in the New Testament is a book of prophecy written in symbolic language.

The whole Bible, Old and New Testaments, contains God’s revelation to us. It tells us about God, about man and sin, and about God’s way of salvation through Jesus Christ, and many other wonderful things.

What does II Timothy 3:16, 17 tell us about the Bible?

I.          WHAT IS THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT?

 

See first what Jesus preached. Mark 1:14, 15. Compare Matthew 4:23; 9:35. Write down what the good news was about in these verses.

Did the apostles preach it? Acts 28:23,31.

Is the Church still to preach it? Matthew 24:14.

The good news is about the Kingdom of God.

Note:   ‘Kingdom of God’ and ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ are really interchangeable terms. Matthew normally uses the latter, as he was writing largely for Jews who avoided using the word ‘God’, if possible. So Matthew used ‘heaven’ instead of ‘God’. See Matthew. 12.28; 19:23, 24; 21:43; and compare Matthew. 5:3 with Luke 6:20.

 

What does the Kingdom of God mean?

‘Kingdom’, in the New Testament, does not mean primarily a place or realm or country over which a king rules. Rather, it means the power to rule, kingship, sovereignty, rule or government. Therefore, ‘the Kingdom of God’ means ‘the rule of God’ or ‘the government of God’.

Why does God want to bring His rule or government into our lives?

Psalm 95:6; 100:3.

Because He has the right to do so, as He made us.

Secondly, because we need His rule. See Isaiah 53:6.

We have all “gone astray” and “turned to his own way”.

What attitudes in the heart of God and in man do the following verses suggest? Matthew 23:37; Rom. 10:21.

This rebelliousness of man is one of the reasons why a most

prominent fact about Jesus Christ in the New Testament is His Lordship.

See Acts 2:32-37; Romans 10:9,10; Col. 2:6.

 

 

N. B. For every once the Bible speaks of Christ as Saviour, it refers to Him twenty-nine times as Lord.

 

Therefore, coming into the Kingdom of God means coming under

the rule or government of God, and this means submitting to the

Lordship of Christ. This results in what, according to the

Scriptures?

A.   Psalm 91

Protection and safety.

B.   Psalm 23

Guidance and provision.

C.   Philippians 2:9-11

Submission to His will.

D.  John 14:15,21

Obedience to His Word.

E.   John 8:32, 36; Romans 8:1,2

Glorious freedom from bondage.

Is He the Lord of your life? (See Luke 6:46)

What phrase is used in the following verses to describe people’s conversion? Acts 6:7; Romans 1:5; 15:18; 16:26.

 

Paul did not speak of ‘decisions’ or ‘professions of faith’, but of becoming obedient to the faith. But the natural man will not submit to Christ’s Lordship, and because of his rebellion and bondage, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God without a work of God in his life.

II.          WHY CANNOT MAN ENTER THE KINGDOM?

 

Look up these verses and write down why man is unable to enter the Kingdom without God’s help. First Corinthians 2:14; Second Corinthians 4:4; John 3:3, 5.

The whole Bible is the record of God’s plan of salvation, progressively unfolded, so that it comes into clearest focus in the New Testament. The Holy Bible is sometimes referred to as the Holy Scriptures. The difference is that Bible means ‘book’ and the word Scriptures means ‘writings’, but the two terms refer to the same volume.

What are the Scriptures able to do? II Timothy 3:15.

The facts are:

  1. Man is in a state of rebellion against God and is consequently under judgment.

Romans 1:16-21; 2:5, 6.

B.   Man is guilty before God and defiled in His sight. Romans 3:9-18, 23.

C.   Man is unable to live as God wants him to. Romans 7:14-24.

Write down two facts about the human heart from Jeremiah 17:9.

Can we save ourselves by our own good deeds? See Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5.

Can we be saved by keeping the Law? Romans 3:20.

Why did Jesus Christ come into the world? I Timothy 1:15.

Now let us consider what God has done about our dilemma.

III.         WHAT GOD HAS DONE TO SAVE US

 

A.   God loves us and sent His Son to save us. John 3:16; Mark

10:45. Write out these verses.

B.   What impresses you about Matthew 27:45, 46?

C.   Do these verses explain it? Galatians 3:13; I Peter 2:24.

D.  What three facts about Jesus Christ did Paul stress in his preaching of the Gospel? I Corinthians 15:3, 4.

1.

2.

3.

E.   What benefits does a believer receive from Christ’s work on the cross? Hebrews 10:4-12, 22; Romans 3:21-25; 5:6-9; Isaiah 53:5, 6.

Atonement; forgiveness; cleansing.

F.   What does the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead do?

1.   John 16:8-11.

He convinces us about our sin.

2.   John 15:26; 16: 13, 14; I Corinthans 2:9, 10.

He draws us to Christ and speaks to us about Him.

3.   Titus 3:5; John 3:3, 5.

 

He regenerates us.  That is, He makes us spiritually alive.

4.   Acts 11:18; Ephesians 2:8, 9.

He enables us to repent and believe.

5.   Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15.

He gives us assurance.

See Romans 14:9 for a summary of the purpose of Christ’s work. Write out this verse.

IV.        WHAT IS OUR PART?

 

What three things are offered in the name of Jesus Christ? Acts 4:12; Luke 24:47

When should we seek salvation? II Corinthians 6:2; Proverbs 27:1.

 

 

If we desire God’s mercy, what two things must we do?.  Proverbs  28:13.

A.

B.

 

 

This rhyme may be helpful:

“Repentance means for me to leave

the sins I did before;

And show that I in earnest grieve

by doing them no more.”

 

If we repent and turn to God, what will He do with our sins? Acts 3:19.

Is repentance an optional extra? Acts 17:30.

Romans 10:9, 10 states two other things we have to do in addition to turning from sin. What are they?

Cf. Matthew 10:32.

EXERCISE

Write out your own summary of the ‘Good News’ on a separate sheet of paper or in a notebook.

New Life Course

June 7, 2013

I have decided to publish one of the courses I wrote for our church in Dunstable in the UK.  This may be used by individual Christians or copied and used by pastors or missionaries among their people.  After the first six lessons, called the New Life Course, a further six studies may be issued about church membership.  The course is copyright but may be freely used so long as authorship is acknowledged.

I would be grateful for positive feedback and suggestions about possible improvements and further subjects from experienced Christians.

So here is the Preface and Introduction.

PREFACE

Before commencing this study we need to be clear about one foundational truth.  It is a basic, fundamental doctrine of the Bible that the world, and everything in it, was created by God.  We shall not, at this stage, go into the how, why and when of creation, but simply take it as a basic proposition.

The fact of creation is very important for many reasons.  For example, because God made us he has the right to expect us to live according to his commands.  Furthermore, the fact that the world was planned, designed and created by God, and is not just the result of chance or random events, means that there is design, order and beauty in it.  If the world was the result of the chance reaction of a few chemicals, and if the development of the world was due to the random events proposed in the theory of evolution, there would be no possibility of natural laws, and even no basis for logic.  How could we even think if we were the result of a “fortuitous concourse of atoms”?  Jesus Christ referred to the first man and woman (Mark 10:6; 13:19) and when the apostle Paul preached he stressed the fact of God being the Creator (Acts 17:24-26).

You may not want to look up all the following Bible verses right now, but these are just some of the many references to God as Creator found in the Bible: Gen. 1, 2; Exod. 20:11; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chron. 16:26; Neh. 9:6; Psalm 8:3; 19:1; 24:1, 2; 33:6; 74:16; 89:11,12; 90:2; 95:4, 5: 102:25; 104:2-6; 121:2; 124:8; 136:5-9; 146:5, 6; Prov. 3:19; Isaiah 37:16; 42:5; 45:12, 18; 48:13; Jer. 10:12; 31:35; 32:17; 51:15, 16; Amos 4:13; 5:8; 9:6; Jonah 1:9; Zech 12:1; Acts 4:24; 7:50; 14:15; Rom. 1:20; 11:36; Heb. 1:1,2; 2:10; 3:4; 11:3; Rev. 4:11; 10:6; 14:7.

With this fact in mind we can proceed with the study.

INTRODUCTION

This course is designed to help three different categories of people.

  1. Those who are new Christians.
  2. Those who are not yet members of a church.
  3. Those who are not yet Christians, but want to know how to become Christians.

In studying this course it is very important to look up and read every Bible verse given.  The exception to this is the long list of verses about God as Creator given in the Preface which may be consulted at your leisure.

The Scripture references are printed in a shortened form to save space.

First is the name of the book, e.g. Matt.  This stands for Matthew and refers to the first Gospel in the New Testament.

Next comes the number of the chapter, followed by the verse or verses in that chapter.  Matt. 6:33 means chapter six and verse 33 in the Gospel according to Matthew.

Most references used in this study are to be found in the New Testament.  Just a few are from the Old Testament, mainly Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah and Jeremiah.  The person leading the course will help you find your way around the Bible.  I pray that you may enjoy studying this course and that you will greatly benefit from it.

Stanley Jebb

Contents of the Course

Study One           The Good News

 

Study two           What it means to be a Christian

Study Three       Christian Baptism

Study Four          The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Study Five           The Body of Christ

Study Six             Going on with God