"Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble." (Job 14:1)
These words, spoken thousands of years ago, express the sentiments of millions living today. Now, however, there is a way out -- Jesus Christ. He said of Himself, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).
To everything that is truly good, both in this life and in the life to come, Jesus Christ is the way!
Finding Jesus, The Way
Following Jesus as "the way" involves more than just praising Him with our lips. He said, "And why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46) as well as "If you continue in My word, then you are My disciples indeed." (John 8:31)
The life and teachings of Jesus are found in the first four books of the New Testament -- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Other books of the New Testament are also the teaching of jesus, for He revealed it by the Holy Spirit through men like Peter and Paul. Paul wrote: "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 14:37)
Following Jesus as the way, therefore, requires a carefuls tudy of the New Testament and a determined effort to live as it directs.
Jesus, The Way To A Better Life
Jesus stated His purpose in coming to earth in the following words: "I have come that they may have life, and that they have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)
Jesus provides this better life by offering the solution to the problems that make life difficult -- guilt, self-pity, and fear. He does not promise wealth or luxury, but He does assure us of a loving Father in Heaven who cares for His children and will provide the things they truly need.
"Therefore do not worry, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we wear?...For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:31-33)
The happeist people in the world are those who have most completely committed themselves to following Jesus as the way.
"Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." (1 Peter 1:8)
Jesus, The Way To Forgiveness Of Sins
Sin is a more serious threat to our well-being than any physical, economic or social danger that we face. Yet, all of us are guilty of sin and we are helpless on our own to remove its stain. Sin is violation of God's law and only God can forgive it. He has made provision for our forgiveness through Jesus. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." (Ephesians 1:7) "Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree." (1 Peter 2:24)
After His sacrifice for us, Jesus explained how those who are lost in sin can have remission of sins and be saved. "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:46-47) "He who believes and is baptized will be saved." (Mark 16:16)
Jesus, The Way To God
Lost people need more than forgiveness of sins. They need to be restored to that close union with God which they lost by their sins. In sending Jesus into the world -- "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself." (2 Corinthians 5:19)
Jesus stated that one can reach God only through Him. He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)
Jesus, The Way Out Of Religious Confusion
Many who wish to follow Jesus are repelled by the multitude of churches and the conflicting doctrines taught by those who profess to be Christians. One does not have to be a part of this confusion! Jesus did not approve of it.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus promised: "I will build My church."
We read of the beginning of His church in Acts, chapter 2. "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:47)
The Lord is still adding those who are being saved to His church. If we are saved, we are in His church and united with all others who are in it. "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all." (Ephesians 4:4-6)
It is good for us to worship and work with other saved individuals who are bound with us in Christ by these unifying ties. But if we join to another body (denomination), accept another lord (religious authority), or adhere to another faith (creed), we are leaving the unity for which Jesus prayed in John 17:20-21.
Jesus, The Way To Heaven
"It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." (Hebrews 9:27)
Death is the door, both to heaven and to hell. To die in Jesus is to die in the way to heaven. "And I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, 'Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors,a nd their works follow them.'" (Revelation 14:13) "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14)
Can You Answer These Questions?
Following Jesus as The Way means following His example and teaching. He said: "If you continue in my word, then you are my disciple indeed." (John 8:31)
Jesus chided the people of His day who claimed to accept Him as Lord, but disregarded His teaching. "And why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46)
The Bible is the only dependable source of information about Jesus. Producers of movies and authors of novels take many liberties in dealing with stories about Him. Many parents and acquaintances who talk to us about Jesus have never made a serious study of the Bible. Often preachers and teachers who have studied the Bible for years add so mamy of their own opinions and philosophies that we can scarcely know what is from the Bible and what is not; the fact that they differ so widely is proof that many are mistaken. It is essential, therefore, that each one of us make his own study of the original source of truth concerning Jesus.
Jesus In The Old Testament
The Bible is divided into two major divisions: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The writing of the Old Testament was completed 400 years before Jesus was born, yet it contains many things about Him.
The Old Testament provides glimpses of Jesus in a pre-fleshly state. When God was about to make man, He said to another Divine Being: "Let us make man in our image." (Genesis 1:26).
The New Testament identifies this Divine Being as "the Word." "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." (John 1:1-3)
The Old Testament predicts His birth of a virgin. "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall call His name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14)
The name Immanuel means "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). The Old Testament even predicts the place of His birth in Micah 5:2.
Jesus In The Gospels
The New Testament records the fulfillment of the Old Testament predictions. John testifies: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
Four writers give accounts of His life. These accounts are commonly called the Gospels, a word which means "good news". Each of the writers seems to emphasize something different about Jesus.
MATTHEW emphasizes His teaching, especially that concerning the Kingdom of Heaven.
MARK features the miracles of Jesus, showing His power.
LUKE stresses the perfect humanity of Jesus without detracting from His divinity.
JOHN emphasizes the perfect divinity of Jesus without detracting from His humanity.
Though different, the Gospels give a perfectly harmonious description of one person -- the greatest in history.
No one can know JESUS, THE WAY, who has not read these records carefully. Reading them, we may well be surprised to find how far the real Jesus differs from the imaginary one who has been created in our minds by the misinformation so commonly circulated among us.
Jesus In Acts And The Epistles
The Gospels do not contain all of the teaching of Jesus. They report only the teaching which He did while on earth. This had to be limited to what His disciples could comprehend in the short time that He was with them. Before He left them, He told them of the arrangement by which He would continue to speak to them: "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you." (John 16:12-14)
The Holy Spirit came upon them soon after Jesus returned to Heaven. "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4)
This means that the preaching and writing of the inspired apostles, which we find in the remainder of the New Testament, are as much the teaching of Jesus as what we read in the Gospels. The apostle Paul wrote: "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are commandments of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 14:37)
No Other Revelations
The revelation of Jesus and His teaching in the New Testament is complete. The writers warned: "But even if we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8)
The writer of the last book of the New Testament gives warning: "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book." (Revelation 22:18)
Old Or New Testament?
Though many things about Jesus are foretold and foreshadowed in the Old Testament, it is in the New Testament that God speaks to us through Him. "God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son." (Hebrews 1:1-2)
This means that we must not go back to the Old Testament to learn how to follow Jesus, The Way. The law was intended simply to bring men to Jesus. "Therefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." (Galatians 3:24-25)
The popular goal of our generation is "the good life". This dream is not new. It has been the desire of every age -- of teachers and philosophers -- of kings and common men. But to the truly good life, as to every other good thing, JESUS IS THE WAY!
Jesus Corrects Misconceptions
The good life is probably summed up best int he word HAPPINESS. Yet, when we think of the good life, we usually think of material prosperity, of pleasure, and popularity. This is because we suppose that these are the things which bring happiness. Jesus rejects this supposition. Hear Him: "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." (Luke 12:15) "Woe to you who are full! For you shall hunger. Woe to you who laughs now! For you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets." (Luke 6:25-26)
Our own personal observations agree that msot wealthy, high-living, and famous people are not happy. Yet we continue to seek these things and often are disappointed when Jesus does not provide them. If Jesus offered these as the way to a better life, He would be a failure.
Jesus Roots Out The Problem
God endowed man with the good life in the very beginning of time. But man lost it when he sinned. With sin came guilt, fear, pain, and death. Sin is still the spoiler. Jesus said: "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man." (Mark 7:21-23)
Is it not true that most of the unhappiness you have known is traceable to just such sins as these? It is only in turning from sin that we can hope to find happiness. "For he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it." (1 Peter 3:10-11)
Only by studying the law of Christ can we recognize sin. "...sin is lawlessness." (1 John 3:4)
Only by following the perfect example of Jesus can we avoid sin. "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth." (1 Peter 1:21-22)
Imagine a life without guilt, without fear, without the anxiety that always attends a life of sin! Here, indeed, is peace that passes understanding!
Jesus Teaches Us To Seek New Goals
The goal of an unhappy world is earthly treausre. But Jesus says: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven." (Matthew 6:19-20)
Men are eager to receive, but reluctant to give. Jesus says: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)
Men consider it a symbol of the good life to be served. Jesus says: "Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant,...just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve." (Matthew 20:26-28)
The goals the world sets are goals which many can never achieve. Achievement does not insure happiness and those who fail to achieve them are made even more miserable by their failures.
But when our goals are changed, we can be content without htose things the world considers essential; they are no longer the things we are seeking. Our contentment and happiness come with attaining our new goals, and success in these is within the reach of all. All can store up treasure in Heaven, all can give, all can be servants. If there is any doubt that these do bring happiness, just look at any individual you may know who is actually practicing them.
But, wonder of wonders, there is MORE:
Jesus Gives What We Do Not Expect!
Once we learn not to make material things, pleasure, and fame our goals, Jesus provides us an unexpected portion of these very things! Hear Him: "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or, 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:31-33) "Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom." (Luke 6:38) "For whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14:11)
How Does Jesus Do It?
We may never know all the ways by which the Lord fulfills His promises. But one way is through the sheer wisdom of His instructions. Knowing man as He does and loving man as He does, He asks of us only those things that are good for us; and He forbids only those things that are harmful.
Our life is better when we live with purity as Jesus teaches. We are better workers and we no longer have to pay the expensive cost of sin. Even family life is better as we learn to think first of others. And, regardless of the problems and troubles we still must face, we face them with Jesus and with the hope of Heaven! What a blessing!
The word BLESSED means HAPPY, WELL-FAVORED. It is another word to describe the truly "good life". Using your Bible, find the following verses which tell who are blessed and supply the proper words below.
Many people think that sin is nothing more than a violation of human relationships. They consider an action sinful only if it is frowned upon by society, if it violates their own conscience, or if it is harmful to someone. To such people, correcting sin is nothing more than making things right with other people. When this is done they feel a peaceful release.
But sin is more than this. Sin is any deviation from God's will. "All unrighteousness is sin." (1 John 5:17)
Also, it may be doing what God disapproves. "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." (1 John 3:4)
Or, it may be failing to do right. "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)
The grossest behavior toward another human being is sin only because it violates God's law. After committing adultery and murder, David wrote in a Psalm to God: "Against You, You only, have I sinned and done this evil in Your sight." (Psalm 51:4)
This means that sin is more serious than most people realize and it explains the penalty attached to it: "For the wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23)
It means, also, that no man is forgiven until all is right with God.
The Problem Of Sin
Making a sinner right with God is not easy - even for God. God is perfectly HOLY, and holiness makes any truce with sin impossible. "You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness" (Psalm 45:7).
God is infinitely JUST, and justice demands that He punish sin with that penalty which His justice prescribes for the guilty -- death. "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience." (Ephesians 5:6)
These facts involve man in a terrible predicament. He is a sinner. The very nature of God demands separation from man and man's punishment by death.
Man is helpless to solve the problem. He cannot deny the fact that he is a sinner; and no good works he may do can make him innocent. A man who has committed an undetected murder is not made innocent by living the rest of his life by the law!
Doing other things God has required does not give us credit to apply against our sins. Once we are sinners, we are as dead men. "So likewise you, when you haev done those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was out duty to do.'" (Luke 17:10)
Solution To The Problem
"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)." (Ephesians 2:4-5)
God's love and grace do not compromise His holiness or justice. He struck the blow which Justice required. But His love provided His own Sin as a shield to receive the blow in place of sinful man. "...He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people was He stricken." (Isaiah 53:8)
These words, written hundreds of years before Christ, were fulfilled in His death on the cross. A shield or protection from punishment is called a propitiation. "And He Himself is the propititation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." (1 John 2:2)
Truly, JESUS IS THE WAY TO FORGIVENESS OF SINS. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." (Ephesians 1:7)
Though Christ is the propitiation for "the sins of the whole world", not all will be saved by Him. "And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him." (Hebrews 5:9)
Obeying Christ requires BELIEVING, having FAITH in Him. If He is THE WAY, we must put our trust in Him. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31)
This faith, of course, must be strong enouch to create in us a resolve to turn from sin. This is REPENTANCE. "And these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30)
Our faith must be strong enough to prompt public CONFESSION. "For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation." (Romans 10:10)
And we must believe sufficiently to be BAPTIZED. "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16)
This baptism puts us into Christ where we are children of God by faith. "For you are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:26-27)
It is when we are buried with Christ in baptism that God makes us alive. "Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4)
Once we are in Christ and have this new life, we are continually forgiven as we "walk in the light" of truth and righteousness. "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)
However, if we choose not to abide in Christ, we find ourselves once more under condemnation, an even worse condemnation than before we were in Christ. "For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame." (Hebrews 6:4-6)
It is therefore imperative that we remain faithful until death so we may obtain the crown of life! (Revelation 2:10)
By His death on the cross, Jesus made possible the forgiveness of sins. When sins are forgiven we are no longer objects of God's wrath. "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." (Romans 5:9)
But we need more than this. We need the kind of close friendship that existed between God and Adam before the fall of man.
Requirements Of A Close Relationship
If a close relationship is to exist between God and man, we must understand God and feel comfortable in approaching Him. This is not easy.
God has unlimited power, unlimited wisdom, and unlimited holiness. He is the Creator of all things, the sustainer of all things, and He knows all things. He is a Spirit (John 4:24) and as spirit, He has no flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). How can a mortal, finite man ever hope to comprehend such a God? Contemplating His nature, the Psalmist wrote: "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it." (Psalm 139:6)
But if we should succeed in comprehending Him, how could we ever approach Him? We feel the need of a lawyer to represent us before a human court; how much more before God?!
Job expressed this need in one of the earliest books of the Bible: "For He is not a man, as I am, that I should answer Him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman (umpire) betwixt us, that might lay His hand on us both." (Job 9:32-33)
Jesus is this daysman/umpire/lawyer. "There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ." (1 Timothy 2:5)
He is qualified to "lay His hand upon us both" because He is the Son of God (John 5:25) and also the Son of Man (John 5:27).
Jesus Reveals God To Man
"No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him." (John 1:18)
Paul wrote of Jesus: "For in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9)
Jesus is "...the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person." (Hebrews 1:3)
Jesus Represents Man To God
By becoming a man, the Son of God not only revealed Deity in tangible form, but He also became our brother so that He can represent us to God. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Our Relationship With God In Christ
Through the good offices of Jesus, we are God's temple and priesthood: "You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:5)
We are God's children in Christ. "In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith." (Galatians 3:26)
When Christ is in us, God is in us. Jesus prayed: "I in them and You in Me." (John 17:23)
When we are in Christ, we are in God. "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3)
God's Blessings For Us Are In Christ
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3)
"...He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." (Ephesians 1:4)
"...He has made us accepted in the Beloved." (Ephesians 1:6)
"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." (Ephesians 1:7)
"In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in Whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Who is the guarantor of our inheritance." (Ephesians 1:13-14)
It is only in and through Jesus that we have access to God in prayer. He said to His disciples: "You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit,a nd that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you." (John 15:16)
In Christ, God grants eternal life. "And this is the testimony, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." (1 John 5:12)
Jesus Is The Only Way
"He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." (1 John 5:12)
Jesus did not hesitate to claim that He was the only way to God: "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)
This makes it essential that each of us be in Christ. Are you in Christ? "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:27)
"He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9)
May we assist you in being united with Christ?
Some of these passages are based on Scriptures used in this lesson and others are not included in this lesson. Use your Bible or an online resource like biblegateway.com to look up these additional Scriptures to answer the questions!
What Is Jesus called in the following passages?
When God gave His law by Moses to Israel, He made no provision for the division of His people into sects and parties. But by the time Jesus came into the world, sects, and parties were well-entrenched. There were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, Essenes, and doubtless others. It was assumed that all who were serious about religion would be associated with one of these.
To which of these parties did Jesus belong? All must agree that He belonged to none of them! He maintained His independent, non-sectarian relationship with God to the very end. For this reason, they all opposed Him.
Jesus did not provide for His followers to be divided into sects and parties. Rather, He desired that they might be united. After praying for His apostles, He added: "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will beleive in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us." (John 17:20-21)
Through the years, however, divisions have developed and these have been perpetuated by the writing of creeds and the formation of denominational organizations. The result is that now among professed followers of Jesus there are many bodies (denominations), many lords (religious authorities), many faiths (creeds), and many baptisms.
How different the present situation from the unity described in the New Testament: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Many today regret the division among believers and wish it did not exist. They desire the uniting of all the great denominations and are working diligently to that end. But they assume that until this is accomplished, there is nothing an individual can do but join one of the existing divisions and maintain a kind and tolerant spirit. Nothing in the teaching or practice of Jesus supports this approach to unity.
Jesus did not undertake to convene an ecumenical conference designed to effect a merger of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes into one super sect. Neither did He pray that His disciples might be united into one super denomination. He prayed rather that individual believers might be united in Himself and in the Father. His teaching was designed to turn individuals from the doctrines and traditions of men to the simple word of God. Through His teaching and example, He surely can be for us THE WAY OUT OF RELIGIOUS CONFUSION.
The Lord's Church
Jesus promised to build His own church. He said: "Upon this rock I will build My church." (Matthew 16:18)
He promised to build only one church and it was to be His. The rock on whch it was to be built was not Peter, but the truth Peter confessed: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11)
The word church means "called out". By preaching the gospel on the day of Pentecost, Peter and the other apostles "called out" those who were willing to believe in Jesus. "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' Then Peter said to them, 'Repent and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:37-38) "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day about three thousand souls were added to them." (Acts 2:41)
This was the beginning of the church. It was composed of all who were saved by Jesus Christ, and it continued to grow as others were saved. "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:47)
Groups of these saved people met in various cities and each group was an autonomous congregation of the Lord's people while simultaneously being comprised of individual saved souls. Though united in Christ, they were independent of any human association or federation. Christ directed them through His inspired apostles, teaching them how they were to worship and work together.
Avoiding Division By Following Jesus
If we obey the same instructions that Peter gave on Pentecost, repenting of our sins and being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, we too will be saved. When we are saved, the Lord will add us to His church as He added them. They joined no other religious organization; neither should we. In Christ, we are united with all others who are in Him.
As members of the Lord's church we must then study carefully the New Testament description of that church. This is found in the book of Acts and in the letters which follow it. Since the apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit, we may be sure that the churches under their instruction were exactly what Jesus wanted them to be. If we duplicate these early churches, the Lord will be pleased with us.
Duplicating a New Testament church may not be as difficult as one might think. It may be possible to find an independent group of Christians following the New Testament pattern already assembling in one's community. If not, just two or three who are of common purpose can meet and worship together acceptably. No great church building is necessary (Many churches in Bible times met in homes - Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19). No humanly ordained priesthood is required since all Christians are priests (1 Peter 2:5). No charter from any earthly headquarters is needed since the only affiliation is with the body fo Christ. Jesus said: "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20)
May we assist you to become simply a Christian? We would be delighted to have you visit us at 3741 Taylorsville Road in Louisville, KY. Our services are Sunday 9:30 AM Bible study, 10:30 AM worship, 5:00 PM worship and Wednesday 7:30 PM Bible study.
Using your Bible or an online resource like biblegateway.com, find the characteristics of the Lord's church as revealed in the following passages:
Day Of Worship
Both the Bible and experience remind us that death is certain. "...It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." (Hebrews 9:27)
The judgment will take place when Jesus returns and He has described it: "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, than He will set on the throne of His glory. And all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will se the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left." (Matthew 25:31-33)
These two groups will go forth to vastly different destinations.
The following words describe the destiny of those on the left.
"Then He will say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'" (Matthew 25:41)
"It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire -- 'where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.'" (Mark 9:47-48)
"But the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and sexually immoral and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.'" (Revelation 21:8)
"Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience." (Ephesians 5:6)
The warning of this last verse is appropriate for our times. Hell is a joke, considered no more than a mild bywrd, in our generation. Even among those who claim to be Christians, there are many who insist that God is "too good" to send men to hell. To question hell, however, is to question the goodness of God, for God is also too good to lie. Jesus said: "These will go away into everlasting punishment." (Matthew 25:46)
One who believes in Jesus must believe that this is true. The way to hell is easy and popular. "Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in through it." (Matthew 7:13)
One does not have to do wicked things to go to hell. He may go to hell by failing to take the way to heaven. The Bible describes the end of the world when "The Lord is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power." (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)
Man was not created to spend eternity in hell but to walk with God in paradise (Genesis 2:7-9). When man lost his home in Eden through sin, God set in motion a plan of redemption by which he may be forgiven and enjoy a home that is even better than Eden.
John, the apostle, was given a vision of the new paradise: "And I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice out of heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them and be their God. And God shall wipe every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:2-4)
This is the paradise to which the King will summon those on His right hand, saying: "Come, you blessed of the Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matthew 25:34)
But the sad fact is that few will enter this heavenly paradise. "Because narrow is the gate and difficult the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:14)
Jesus Is The Way
Those who will enter the heavenly rest after judgment are those who die in Jesus, for He is THE WAY. "And I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, 'Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.'" (Revelation 14:13)
If we wish to be among those who die in the Lord, we must establish that relationship with Him while we live. This is not accomplished by merely calling Him "Lord," but by obeying God's will as revealed through Him. He has warned us: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord', will enter the kingdom fo heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)
We have already learned that the will of the Father for those who believe in Jesus is that they should repent of their sins and be baptized into Christ. "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:27) "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14)
Having been baptized into Christ and living as He directs, we can sure that we are in the way to heaven. If we are not in Christ, we are not in the way, for as the text of this series assures us, He is the only way!