Friday, March 29, 2013

Passion of Jesus

Apostle Paul: I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. [Jesus] Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He [Jesus] was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, He was seen by more than 500 of His followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then He was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I [Apostle Paul] also saw Him [Jesus]. 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 (NLT).

The climax of Jesus’ life occurs with His Passion—Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, death, and resurrection.  All four Gospels of the New Testament describe this world changing event. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the heart of the Gospel message (1 Corinthians 15) and the entire truth of the Christian faith rests on Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:6–7; 1 Corinthians 15:12–58). The resurrection of Jesus from complete death is the unique and central fact of Christian history. Without the resurrection, there would be no Christian church today. The Christian church is built entirely on the resurrection.

The entire New Testament bears witness to the personal and bodily resurrection of Jesus from complete death. The New Testament Scriptures unanimously depict the resurrection of Jesus from the dead by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. The four Gospels contain a detailed narrative of evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, focusing on the empty tomb and resurrection appearances (Matthew 28:1–20; Mark 16:1–8; Luke 24:1–53; John 20:1–21:25). Furthermore, the Book of Acts is the story of the apostles’ proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 1:3; 2:24–35; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30–32; 13:33–37). The Epistles state that Jesus is living and reigning in heaven as Savior and exalted head of the church. The Book of Revelation repeatedly shows the resurrected Jesus as reigning in heaven with God the Father and the heavenly hosts.

Moreover, the empty tomb confirms and verifies Jesus’ resurrection. After His resurrection from complete death, Jesus appeared to many people over a forty-day period (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20–21; Acts 1:3) in Jerusalem, Galilee, and the Mount of Olives. Jesus made physical and bodily appearances to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11–17); several other women (Matthew 28:9–10); to Peter (1 Corinthians 15:5); to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35); to the ten disciples (Luke 24:36–43); to the eleven disciples (John 20:26–29); to seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1–23); to more than five hundred (1 Corinthians 15:6); to the eleven remaining disciples at His ascension to heaven (Matthew 28:16–20); and to Paul (1 Corinthians 15:8). Essentially, everyone who saw the risen Jesus went on to turn the world upside down and change history.

Jesus experienced a physical, bodily resurrection from complete death (John 20:20). His body was identified as the same one laid in the tomb (John 20:25–29). Jesus had a physical body that could be touched and handled after His resurrection (e.g., Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:30). The resurrected Jesus proved that He was indeed alive and no evidence has every contradicted His resurrection. Jesus body has never been located!

Jesus rose from the dead as the “first fruits” (1 Corinthians 15:20–23) of a new kind of human life, a life in which the body was made perfect, no longer subject to weakness, aging, or death, but able to live eternally. His resurrection involved all three persons of the Godhead (John 10:17–18; Acts 13:30–35; Romans 1:4). Jesus’ resurrection transformed His humanity to enable Him to appear, vanish, and move unseen from one location to another (Luke 24:31, 36). Jesus’ body was now fully glorified and deathless (Philippians 3:21; Hebrews 7:16, 24).

Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred in Jerusalem around AD 30 or 33. He arrived in Jerusalem one week before Passover, a festival celebrating the Jews’ deliverance from Egypt and the high point of the Jewish’ calendar (Mark 14:1). This trip was Jesus’ third Passover visit to Jerusalem. As He approached Jerusalem for the last time, when Jesus made His triumphal entry, He was recognized as the King coming in the Name of the Lord (Matthew 21:1–11; Mark 11:1–10; Luke 19:29–44; John 12:12–19).

During the week leading up to Passover, Jesus cleansed the Temple of moneychangers and merchants (Matthew 21:12–16; Mark 11:12–18; Luke 19:45–47; John 2:13–16), cursed the fig tree for being unfruitful (Matthew 21:19–22; Mark 11:20–26), and taught the people on the Mount of Olives about the coming judgment. In addition, Jesus debated with the Jewish leaders regarding the correct interpretation of the Old Testament Law. On the night in which Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He introduced the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17–30; Mark 14:12–26; Luke 22:7–23). The Lord’s Supper (also called the Communion, Mass, or Eucharist) refers to the New Covenant as being sealed by His sacrificial blood on the Cross (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18; 1 Corinthians 11:26). At this Supper, Jesus predicted His betrayal by Judas, His desertion by all of them, and the giving of His body and blood for the forgiveness of humankind.

Afterwards, Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane by Roman officers and Temple guards (Matthew 26:47–56; Mark 14:43–52; Luke 47–50; John 18:3–11). After His arrest, and before His death, Jesus had four “trials”—a meeting with Annas (John 18:12-13), then with the Sanhedrin, a trial before Pontius Pilate, and a meeting with Herod Antipas (Luke 23:7–12). At His trial, His accusers made many false charges. Although Pontius Pilate knew that Jesus was an innocent Man, because of the demands of the Jewish crowd, he sentenced Him to death by crucifixion.

In the New Testament, atonement refers specifically to the reconciliation between God and humanity as a result of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:19–21). The focal point of God’s atoning work and the heart of the Gospel is Jesus’ death on the Cross at Calvary and His shedding of blood for humanity. God the Father, through His Son Jesus, entered our world to die and pay the penalty for all human sins. The Apostle Paul wrote, “when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10). Jesus paid the penalty that we deserved to pay for our sin. In essences, Jesus bore God’s wrath on the Cross for the sin of all humanity. Through faith in Him, Jesus takes away our clothes of sin and replaces them with God’s righteousness (Zechariah 3:1–10; Ephesians 4:24; 1 John 1:9). A person is made right and reconciled to God through faith in Jesus’ atonement for sin on the Cross (Romans 3:21–23).

Because Jesus shed His own blood for humanity, His sacrifice is greater than any Old Testament offering (Hebrews 10:5–10). Through His own death, Jesus cast aside the Old Testament ceremonial system of sacrifices that involved shedding and offering the blood of unflawed animals. The ceremonial law of the Old Testament prepared people for Jesus’ coming. There was no longer a need for that ceremonial system after Jesus’ death and resurrection. However, Jesus did not eliminate God’s moral law (e.g., the Ten Commandments).

The New Testament regularly refers to the perfect blood sacrifice of Jesus for human sin (e.g., Romans 3:25; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5). As the perfect sacrifice for sin (Romans 8:3; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 1:18–19), Jesus’ death was our redemption that paid the price to free humanity from the enslavement to sin and God’s wrath against sinners (Romans 3:24; Galatians 4:4–5; Colossians 1:14). Jesus’ death was God’s act of reconciling us to Himself, and sweeping away His own hostility to us that our sins provoked (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians. 5:18–19; Colossians 1:20–22). Essentially, Jesus’ death on the Cross propitiated God (e.g., quenched His wrath against our sins and removed our sins from His sight).

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was identified as the Old Testament Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). John the Baptist expressly proclaimed Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” which takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus lived a perfect, sinless human life in full obedience to God. Thus, Jesus was the sinless, spotless Lamb of God or the Passover Lamb (Exodus 29:38–46; Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32–35; Revelation 5:5–14) without any defects or sin (Exodus 12:5; Hebrews 4:14–16; Hebrews 7:26–28; l Peter 1:19). As the perfect and sinless lamb, Jesus voluntarily sacrificed His life on the Cross to atone for humanities’ sin (Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 2:24) and create a new way to God (Hebrews 10:20). Jesus voluntarily bore upon Himself all the sins of those who would one day be saved (Isaiah 53:12). It is because of Jesus’ obedience and sacrifice on the Cross that humanity can have Jesus’ sinless life counted for their own through faith in His work (Romans 3; Romans 5:19).

The purpose of Jesus’ coming was to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Jesus came into the world to save people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). In fact, Jesus saved humanity of sins both through the obedient life that He lived for God and through His death on the Cross. Jesus’ death on the Cross absorbed, soaked, and quenched sin and God’s wrath against sin. On the Cross, Jesus took our place for our sins and He bore the curse due to humanity (Galatians 3:13). Through His death, Jesus made peace for us with God (Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20). In this context, peace means a pardon for all the past, present, and future sins through faith in Jesus’ work on the Cross reconciles or unites us to God through faith in Jesus’ work (Romans 5:1–11).

Jesus died the most humiliating death imaginable. On the Cross, Jesus suffered four kinds of extreme pain: (1) physical pain and death by crucifixion (one of the most horrible forms of execution ever devised by mankind); (2) the pain of bearing the evil and sins of humankind; (3) God and His disciples’ abandonment (Mark 14:34; Matthew 26:56; Matthew 27:46); (4) bearing the WRATH of God on the Cross at Calvary, Jesus was stretched out and fastened by nails and His arms supported most of the weight of His body. Even more, with His chest cavity pulled upward and outward, breathing was grueling. He forcibly endured a slow death by suffocation, brought on by the weight of His own body. The crucifixion of Jesus portrays Him as the Righteous Suffering Servant of the Lord as predicted by the Prophet Isaiah of the Old Testament (see Isaiah 52:13–53:12). At Jesus’ death, the Roman officer cried out, “Surely this Man was innocent” (Luke 23:47). Nonetheless, Jesus died this horrific death to save humans from their sins and separation from God (Matthew 1:21).

Jesus’ death was as the perfect Man and the perfect offering. He gave all of Himself to God and others so humans could have fellowship, peace, and reconciliation with God—both now and for all eternity. Because of Jesus’ death, our sins have been completely forgiven and fellowship with God restored. Because of Jesus’ final sacrifice on the Cross, there is no longer a need for animal sacrifice, as previously practiced in Old Testament times and many Middle Eastern cultures. Now, all people can be freed from the penalty and consequences of sin by simply believing (faith) in Jesus and accepting fully His atoning sacrifice on the Cross. There is no other path to salvation from God’s wrath against sin than faith in Jesus’ life and atoning death (Acts 4:12).

The death of Jesus made these Old Testament sacrifices unnecessary. On the Cross, Jesus became a substitute for and the salvation of sinful and guilty humans so that we would be spared the punishment our sins deserved (Hebrews 10:1–14). The blood of Jesus brings atonement (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:20) and obtains eternal redemption for believers (Hebrews 9:12). Jesus as God’s Lamb reconciles believers to God (John 1:29; Hebrews 9:14). Jesus paid the debt that our sins deserved (expiation) and in doing so, He satisfied God’s judgment against us and our sins (propitiation). Thus, Jesus’ death on the Cross was as our substitute or in our place. This simply means that Jesus died in the place of and for the benefit of sinners (2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 3:18). Even more, Jesus’ death on the Cross reconciles or merges people to God and we are no longer alienated from Him (2 Corinthians 5:19). In essence, through faith in Jesus and His atoning work, a former state of hostility and estrangement from God changes into one of becoming a member of God’s family.

As holy, God hates all sin. The atoning death of Jesus propitiated (appeased or satisfied) God and His wrath against our sins (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2). Because Jesus died on the Cross as an atonement for our sin, God is satisfied forever because He is propitiated (appeased or calmed down) by the death of Jesus. With the sacrifice of Jesus, God is completely satisfied and His wrath against our sins, as a believer of Jesus, is taken away or averted.

Even more, the death of Jesus takes away from believers the reigning power of our sinful nature (Romans 6:1–10). The Apostle Paul teaches that our wholehearted love, faith, and union with Jesus takes away our sins and makes sin effective in our lives. The blood (death) of Christ is the basis of our constant cleansing from sin (1 John 1:7). The once-for-all death of Jesus provides constant and continually cleansing of our sins as believers by our confession.

Moreover, Jesus’ atoning death provides redemption to believers (Romans 3:24), reconciliation with God (2 Corinthians 5:19–21), forgiveness (Romans 3:25), deliverance (Colossians 1:13), acceptance (Ephesians 1:6), future glorification (Romans 8:30), and justification (Isaiah 53:11; Romans 3:24). Anyone can accept all these benefits simply by accepting through faith Jesus’ life and atoning death on the Cross as our Lord and Savior (see Romans 10:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21). A person’s evil and sin is removed forever through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 4:22–24).

When we trust in Jesus, we make a great exchange—Jesus trades His righteousness for our sins. In other words, Jesus became the offering for our sin (or sin itself; see Isaiah 53:10) on the Cross—when He took sin’s penalty on Himself and died. Our sins were poured into Jesus at His crucifixion. Although He never sinned, Jesus made this exchange (John 8:46; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5), so that we would be made right and thus be accepted by God (see Galatians 3:13). Consequently, with faith in Jesus’ work on the Cross, Jesus’ righteousness pours into us humans. This great exchange is what is regarded as Jesus’ atonement for our sin.

Jesus’ atoning death confirmed the beginning of the New Covenant. The Old Testament spoke of a New Covenant where people would know God and the Law of God would be written on their hearts (see Jeremiah 31:31–34; Ezekiel 37:1–14; 2 Corinthians 3:1–18). With His sacrificial death, Jesus established this New Covenant between God and those who respond in faith. With the arrival of Jesus and His death on the Cross, the Law of Moses, which formerly ruled over God’s people, has been left behind. Our new relationship with God stands separate from the Law of Moses and now in Jesus Christ, who perfectly obeyed the law (Matthew 5:17; John 1:17; Romans 6:14, 15; Romans 7:4–6; Romans 10:4; Hebrews 10:1). Jesus is the guarantor and mediator of this Covenant and our sacrifice of atonement (Romans 3:25). Through faith in the atonement of Jesus on the Cross, any person can have full acceptance, reconciliation, and fellowship with God (Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:19–21). All who come to Jesus in faith will find mercy (John 6:35, 47–51, 54–57; Romans 1:16; Romans 10:8–13).

On the eve of the Jewish Sabbath (Friday), outside the city of Jerusalem (John 19:20), Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world (Mark 10:45) at a place called Golgotha (Mark 15:22). He was crucified at 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning. By 12 noon, the Golgotha site in Jerusalem had turned completely dark. Jesus died at 3:00 p.m., hanging on the Cross at Golgotha between two thieves (Matthew 27:38). He gave up His life before the Jewish Sabbath arrived (Saturday), so there was no need to hasten His death by crurifragium (e.g., breaking His legs (John 19:31–34). With His sacrificial life and death, Jesus has been called “Man of Sorrows.”

Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Jewish Council, requested (from the Roman government) the body of Jesus after He was crucified. Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43; John 19:38) on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath (Friday evening). That Friday, before dusk, Joseph gave Jesus a royal burial in the unused tomb (Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:31-42). Jesus was in the tomb until Sunday morning. By Jewish calculation, three days and nights equals as follows: Friday to 6 p.m. = 1 day; Friday 6 p.m. = day 2; Saturday 6 p.m. to Sunday a.m. = day 3). 

On the first day of the week, which was the third day and Sunday morning, the GREATEST miracle of the world occurred (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 1-12; John 20:1-10). God raised Jesus from complete death by the Holy Spirit. Discovered on Sunday morning, the empty tomb of Jesus was undeniable evidence of His resurrection from the dead. Jesus rose victorious from the dead, just as He had predicted. Jesus’ death and resurrection confirm that He is truly the Son of God and the Christ (Messiah). No other religious leaders had ever predicted their own death and resurrection.

Jesus’ enemies went to great lengths to prevent the news of the Resurrection. In reality, no real evidence has ever been found to refute the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus lives! He is the Risen Lord No evidence in history found the recovery of Jesus’ body! Jesus’ resurrection demonstrated His victory over death (Acts 2:24; 1 Corinthians 15:54–57) and revealed His divine identity (Romans 1:4).

After Jesus’ resurrection, He was on earth for forty days (Acts 1:3). Then Jesus led His disciples to Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, and “lifting up His hands blessed them.” While He blessed them, He ascended from His disciples, and was carried up into heaven (Luke 24:50–51; see also Acts 1:9–11). Jesus did not suddenly disappear from His disciples; instead, He ascended into heaven and then a cloud (apparently the cloud of God’s glory or the Glory Cloud) took Him from their sight. However, the angels with the disciples at Jesus’ ascension also said that Jesus would come back in the same way in which He had gone into heaven (Acts 1:10-11).

When Jesus ascended into heaven, He received glory, honor, and authority (Acts 2:33; Philippians 2:1-9; Ephesians 1:20–21; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:4). Jesus is now in heaven at the right hand of God, the Father (Psalms 110:1; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 4:14–16; Revelation 5:12). Jesus reigns in heaven with God the Father, as our Great High Priest, interceding or mediating with God on the behalf of believers (Hebrews 4:14–16). Furthermore, Jesus is preparing a place in heaven for all true believers (John 14:2). This ascension into heaven with God the Father indicates the completion of Jesus’ work of human redemption. As promised during His public ministry (John 15:26; John 16:7), Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on the Church at Pentecost to spread His Good News of God’s saving love to the world (Matthew 28:18–20; John 21:1–25; Acts 2:33).

Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:62 (NLT). One day, Jesus will return to earth on the clouds of heaven (see Daniel 7:13) to judge the world (James 5:7–9; Revelation 20:11–13; see also Isaiah 26:21; Micah 1:3). Jesus will shine like a star in His full glory (see Luke 1:78; Ephesians 5:14; Revelation 2:28). No one knows except God the Father of Jesus’ second coming (Matthew 24:36). The time of Jesus’ return remains completely unknown and no dates can be determined from Revelation or any other book of the Bible. The return of Jesus will be the end of life on this world and the start of a new life (John 14:2–3). When Jesus returns to earth, the promises of God’s Kingdom will finally be complete. All of creation will also be rescued from the curse that started in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Genesis 3:17–18). Sorrow, tears, mourning, and death will no longer exist (Revelation 21:4–5).

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, the Apostle Paul describes Jesus’ second coming as taking the form of a descent from the sky, heralded by a trumpet fanfare, a shout, and the voice of the archangel. Jesus will raise His followers to a resurrection and life like His own (1 Corinthians 15:20–23; Philippians 3:20–21). His followers who are alive at His second coming will be instantly transformed (1 Corinthians 15:50–54), while those who had already died will experience a glorious recreation (2 Corinthians 5:1–5). 

Until Jesus returns, the Holy Scriptures instruct all believers to endure (James 1:4), resist evil (James 4:7), continually pray (Matthew 6:10; Revelation 22:20), remain faithful to God (James 5:13–17), and wait patiently for Jesus’ return (James 5:7–8). Jesus instructed His followers not to speculate as to the dates for His second coming (Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7), but they should live honorably (1 John 2:28) and be prepared (Matthews 24:36–25:30). At Jesus’ second coming, all true believers will receive the crown of eternal life (James 1:12).

After Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus made a number of appearances to different people. Jesus appeared to:

(1) Mary Magdalene and some other women at the tomb on Sunday morning (Matthew 28:8–10; Mark 16:9–11; John 20:11–18);
(2) Peter in Jerusalem on Sunday (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5);
(3) Disciples on the Emmaus Road on Sunday (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13–35);
(4) Disciples in Jerusalem, except Thomas, in the upper room on Sunday (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36–43; John 20:19–25);
(5) Disciples in Jerusalem, including Thomas, on the next Sunday night (John 20:26–31; 1 Corinthians 15:5);
(6) Disciples beside the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1–25);
(7) 500 people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6);
(8) James, the brother of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:7);
(9) The disciples who witnessed the ascension of Jesus to heaven (Matthew 28:18–20; Mark 16:15–19; Luke 24:44–53; Acts 1:3–12).

Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991.
Douglas, J.D. NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible. New York: Zondervan, 1989.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan,1992.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
Packer, J. I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 1993.
Green, Joel. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1992.
Meek, James A. One Great Story: Study Guide to the Bible, 2007.
Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. Chicago, IL: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1995.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

In 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, the Apostle Paul provides the fullest explanation on the meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His saving act on the Cross at Calvary.

11 Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. 12 Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. 13 If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know Him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. — 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (NLT).

In 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, the Apostle Paul explains that God was in Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry (2 Corinthians 5:19) to plead to the world to “Come back to God!” God was in Jesus Christ to reconcile and bring humankind back to Him and cancel any and all sins of people. The Apostle Paul taught that Jesus Christ has commissioned all believers as ambassadors to continue His job of reconciling people to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). Jesus Christ makes His appeal and pleads through His followers to “Come back to God!”

The Apostle Paul explained in his writings, teaching, and preaching that God made Jesus Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for humankind’s sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. Once a person accepts, trusts, and believes on Jesus Christ, that person becomes brand-new on the inside with a new heart through the working of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings this new believer into Jesus Christ and makes a person’s life and heart anew. “The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT). Furthermore, the Apostle Paul teaches that believers in Jesus Christ are united God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

God reconciles Himself to believers of Jesus Christ by blotting out their sins (see also Ephesians 2:13-18) and declaring them righteous, holy, and NOT guilty of sin! Believers are no longer God’s enemies, but are now friends of God through Jesus Christ (John 15:15). Because we have been reconciled to God, Jesus Christ wants believers as His ambassadors to tell others of this same privilege of reconciliation, union, and friendship with God (Romans 5:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:20; and Colossians 1:15-20).

Perfection of Jesus

21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps. 22 He (Jesus Christ) never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 23 He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 24 He personally carried our sins in His body on the Cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed. 25 Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian (Bishop) of your souls. 1 Peter 2:21-25 (NLT).
Through Jesus Christ’s obedience and suffering on the Cross, God saved the entire world from sin and sin consequences. “My Righteous Servant will justify many” (Isaiah 53:11). Humankind now finds salvation, healing, forgiveness, peace and reconciliation with God through faith in the life and work of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ suffered so that everyone through faith in Him can be saved.  The suffering of Jesus Christ was part of God’s redemption plan of history and substitutionary atonement for our sins.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Light of the World

1 In the beginning was the Word (Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. 9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His Name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.' " 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. John 1:1-18 (NASB).

As the Creator of all, Jesus Christ existed long before King David. Jesus is the One who in the beginning was the Agent of God’s creative activity on earth as the “Word” (Greek Logos) (Genesis 1:1–28; John 1:1). Jesus was “in the beginning” with God (John 1:1–3; Hebrews 1:2–10). The Gospel writer John states that this Word or Logos became flesh and lived among us as a human (John 1:14). The “Word” became flesh and lived among us means that Jesus became a man and moved among us as a man. “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14) means Jesus was both the powerful, creative Word of God in the Old Testament by which the heavens and the earth were created (Psalms 33:6, 9) and to the organizing and unifying principle of the universe.

“The Word became flesh” (John 1:14) relate both to the Wisdom of God in the Old Testament (Proverbs 8:22–31) and to the Law of God (Deuteronomy 30:11–14; Isaiah 2:3) as these are revealed and declared in the going forth of the Word by which God creates, reveals Himself, and fulfills His will in history (Psalms 33:6; Isaiah 55:10–11; Isaiah 11:4; Revelation 1:16). Through Wisdom, God extended Himself into the cosmos, creating the world (Proverbs 8:22–31). In the New Testament, the Word is not only a message proclaimed but also Jesus Himself (Colossians 3:16).


The Suffering Servant of God

13 See, My Servant (Messiah, the Lord Jesus) shall prosper; He shall be highly exalted. 14 Yet many shall be amazed when they see Him—yes, even far-off foreign nations and their kings; they shall stand dumbfounded, speechless in His presence. For they shall see and understand what they had not been told before. 15 They shall see My Servant beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know it was a person standing there. So shall He cleanse many nations. Isaiah 52:13-15 (The Living Bible).

1 But, oh, how few believe it! Who will listen? To whom will God reveal His saving power? 2 In God’s eyes He was like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. But in our eyes there was no attractiveness at all, nothing to make us want Him. 3 We despised Him and rejected Him—a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way when He went by. He was despised, and we didn’t care.

4 Yet it was our grief He bore, our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, for His own sins! 5 But He was wounded and bruised for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace; He was lashed—and we were healed! 6 We—every one of us—have strayed away like sheep! We, who left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on Him the guilt and sins of every one of us!

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He never said a word. He was brought as a Lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He stood silent before the ones condemning Him. 8 From prison and trial they led Him away to His death. But who among the people of that day realized it was their sins that He was dying for—that He was suffering their punishment? 9 He was buried like a criminal, but in a rich man’s grave; but He had done no wrong and had never spoken an evil word.

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to bruise Him and fill Him with grief. However, when His soul has been made an offering for sin, then He shall have a multitude of children, many heirs. He shall live again, and God’s program shall prosper in His hands. 11 And when He sees all that is accomplished by the anguish of His soul, he shall be satisfied; and because of what He has experienced, My Righteous Servant shall make many to be counted righteous before God, for He shall bear all their sins. 12 Therefore, I will give Him the honors of One who is mighty and great because He has poured out His soul unto death. He was counted as a sinner, and He bore the sins of many, and He pled with God for sinners. Isaiah 53:1-12 (The Living Bible).

The humanity of Jesus is brought to light in passages that recall the Suffering Servant of the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 52:13–53:12). There was nothing beautiful or majestic in the physical appearance of Jesus while on earth. The people who saw Jesus considered Him an ordinary man. He was not physically attractive nor was He personally charismatic. Jesus did not attract a large following based on His physical appearance (Isaiah 53:2). Indeed, while on earth, He appeared with no greatness or self-evident royal splendor. However, the “Servant” Jesus was “marred beyond human likeness” through His human suffering to cleanse the world of sin (Isaiah 52:13–15). Jesus’ humility, suffering, and mercy demonstrate his true strength (Isaiah 53:1).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


4 Now this is what the Lord says to the family of Israel: “Come back to Me and live! 5 Don’t worship at the pagan altars at Bethel; don’t go to the shrines at Gilgal or Beersheba. For the people of Gilgal will be dragged off into exile, and the people of Bethel will be reduced to nothing.” 6 Come back to the Lord and live! Otherwise, He will roar through Israel like a fire, devouring you completely. Your gods in Bethel won’t be able to quench the flames. 7 You twist justice, making it a bitter pill for the oppressed. You treat the righteous like dirt. 8 It is the Lord who created the stars, the Pleiades and Orion. He turns darkness into morning and day into night. He draws up water from the oceans and pours it down as rain on the land. The Lord is His Name! ... 14 Do what is good and run from evil so that you may live! Then the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies will be your Helper, just as you have claimed. 15 Hate evil and love what is good; turn your courts into true halls of justice. … 21 I hate all your show and pretense— the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. 22 I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. 23 Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.”
Amos 5:4-8, 14-15, 21-24 (NLT).

Amos 5 of the Old Testament starts with a funeral song for Israel. Israel had sinned against God. The prophet Amos wept as he announced Israel’s death because of her sins. In fact, Amos considered Israel already dead, but just unburied. Israel look prosperous and happy outside but underneath Israel worshipped idols, oppressed the poor, and corrupted the judicial system (Amos 5:11-15, 24; Amos 8:4-6).

The law courts of Israel had become a place of injustice and greed and not a place of relief and truth (Amos 5:7). False accusations, bribery, and corruption ran rampant in Israel’s courts. The courts were controlled by the wealthy, corrupt judges, and hired witnesses. No one sought truth while the poor and defenseless were exploited (Amos 5:10-12). Even worse, Israel had also turned to worshiping stars, planets, and nature (2 Kings 23:4-7) and not the living God that controls nature and the universe. Israel depended on their wealth, their military power, and their foreign alliances and not the true and living God for all their needs. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" (Psalm 33:12).

Then, God gave Israel through the prophet Amos a gracious invitation. Amos invited Israel three times to come and seek God and find life (Amos 5:4, 6, 14). Though God’s judgment against Israel was looming, Israel could avoid God’s judgment and death by wholeheartedly seeking the Lord God. The true and living God is the omnipotent Creator, having made the stars, planets, and the heavens. Moreover, God is the One who actively controls everything around us in nature. In short, He is God, Creator of the heavens and the earth (Jonah 1:9).

One day, we will die but there is still hope — "seek the LORD and live." Sin leads to our destruction and eternal death, but seeking God leads to our life (see also Deuteronomy 30:11-20). Like Israel, our only hope is to seek God in wholehearted and true repentance to live and avoid God’s eternal judgment. God does not want us just to attend church, perform religious rituals and other outward deeds and sacrifices. Instead God wants everyone to first seek His heart through a close and devoted relationship with Him (Matthew 6:33). To seek God and live is to seek and love Him with all your hearts, souls, and mind (see also Deuteronomy 4:29; Matthew 22:34-40). God knows our sins. But in God’s mercy and compassion, He invites everyone to come to Him to find true life (Isaiah 55:1-7). We need to first seek God every day, especially during difficulty times.

God hates false worship, religious hypocrisy and spiritual unfaithfulness (Amos 5:21-23; see also Isaiah 1:10-20). He does not want people who just go through religious motions for show and to manipulate Him. Even more, God does not want people living sinful lives filled with sexual immorality and greed; use religious services to make themselves look good. Instead, God wants our continual and authentic worship from our whole hearts (John 4:23-24), righteous living, and genuine repentance (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Psalm 51:16-17; Amos 5:22, 24). God has never been concerned with our outward image but our inward heart appearance and total devotion to Him! He wants everyone to genuinely worship and trust in Him as the one true and living God (Joshua 2:11; Micah 6:6-8). Moreover, our worship of God must be based upon true heart devotion that yields obedience, goodness, and mercy (1 Samuel 15:22-23; Amos 5:14, 24; see also Matthew 18). 

Most important, God wants everyone to know that He loves them (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10)). Often, the Holy Bible speaks of God’s love and commitment to humankind (e.g., Deuteronomy 33:3; Psalm 136:1). Nothing can separate us from God’s love and affection for His people. When we are hurting, sad, and lonely, God is just a pray away. God wants to hear from you. NO SIN is beyond God’s forgiveness, love, and mercy (Romans 8:35-39). No matter what you have done, God is still waiting on you with open arms to love (Luke 15:11-32). Seek God and live! God really does love you.

6 Seek the Lord while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near. 7 Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that He may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for He will forgive generously. Isaiah 55:6-7 (NLT).
Believer’s Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Spirit Filled Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
King James Version Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
Wiersbe, Warren W. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

The Smallest Book of the Bible: Obadiah

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Prepare To Meet Your God

What caused a shepherd from Tekoa to say these famous words, “Prepare to meet your God” from Amos 4:12? The prophet Amos of the Old Testament was a shepherd from Tekoa, a small town about eleven miles from Jerusalem. Amos was not a paid preacher or professional prophet (Amos 7:10-15). Instead, Amos was a layperson sent by God to warn Israel’s northern kingdom to pursue true worship of the true and living God. Israel was carrying on token or surface religious performances, but they had no true heart love, honor, and worship of God. Even worse, Israel had no commitment to God’s Holy Word.

During Amos’ brief ministry to Israel, the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. Israel prized wealth, power, and self-indulgency while abusing the powerless and neglecting the faithful worship of God. Luxury and extravagancy flourished in Israel (Amos 3:10-15; Amos 5:1-6) and superficial religious rituals were popular. The Israelites lived beneath an appearance of religion without genuine spiritual integrity and sincere obedience toward God. The people gave God their lip service and outwardly religious rituals but not their wholehearted obedience and love. Making money and self-indulgence were more important than genuinely worshiping God (Amos 8:5). Israel worshipped idols, oppressed the poor, and corrupted the judicial system (Amos 5:11-15, 24; Amos 8:4-6). Mistreatment of the poor ran rampant throughout the land (Amos 2:6; Amos 3:10; Amos 4:1; Amos 5:11; Amos 8:4-6). The wealthy Israelites were getting rich at the expense of the poor. Justice was one-sided and corrupt. Businesses were dishonest and fraudulent. The people did not obey and follow God’s Word. Even worse, some people of Israel trusted their money, houses, or fortifications and not the true and living God (Amos 6:1-14). They believed their wealth and success were signs of divine favor. But, Israel’s prosperity increased their religious and moral corruption.

Moreover, God sent natural disasters to the people — through famine, drought, locusts, plagues, and war — to warn the people to turn from their sin and evil but they still ignored God (Amos 4:6-13). Five times God asked the people to return to Him but the continued their hypocritical religion and ignore true worship of God (Amos 4:6, 8, 9, 10, and 11). God warned the people to pursue righteousness — a sincere heart worship of God that yields social justice and kindness towards others — and turn from sin and wickedness. The prophet Elijah had a similar message to Israel as he also challenged the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel to choose whether they would worship the true and living God or Baal (1 King 18:21, 24).

After Amos’ announcement of judgment and warning on Israel, the book concludes with a message of hope (Amos 9:11-15). God promised to restore everyone who humbly turned from sin and turned their whole hearts to God. Most important, God wants everyone — individuals and nations from generation to generation — to pursue justice, righteousness and mercy, especially for the poor, oppressed, and powerless (see, e.g., Deuteronomy 24:10-22). True worship of God yields love, mercy, and kindness towards others (see also Hosea 6:6; Luke 10:25-37; John 13:34-35; Ephesians 2:8-10; James 1:27). God made all people (Genesis 1:26-27) and He is the Great King who rules the entire universe (Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8; Amos 9:5-6). He wants everyone to wholeheartedly love Him as God, to do good, and to love one another (Matthew 22:34-40). Even more, God wants everyone to be doers of His Holy Word and not just hearers only (James 1:22-25). Superficial religion and rituals never impress God without wholehearted love, obedience, and commitment to Him as the true and living God (1 Samuel 15:22-23; Matthew 7:21).

Amos encouraged the people to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everlasting stream” (Amos 5:24). For those who reject God’s ways, only judgment remained and “prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12).

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan,1992.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why Jesus?

The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you will have life by the power of His Name. John 20:30–31 (NLT).

Jesus changed the course of world history for ALL people. He is not only the turning point of human history but of eternity. Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) and the Son of God (Mark 1:1; Mark 8:29–30). God the Father, John the Baptist, Jesus’ miracles (or sins), the Scriptures, and many other people all confirm and acknowledge that Jesus is indeed the Savior of the World (John 4:42).

God sent Jesus into this world to reveal the glory of God to people. God guided the course of human history to climax with Jesus’ arrival as the eternal King of all the earth. Although Jesus is God incarnate (in the flesh), He entered human history as a Man and a Servant.

Jesus was a Jew, the Son of Abraham, and a King from the line of King David. He held the role during His public ministry on earth as prophet, priest, and king. Most important, this Jesus from the humble town of Nazareth was the long awaited Messiah and the promised Deliverer predicted from the Old Testament. Jesus is the Savior of all people, and He ultimately fulfilled God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3) to save people from their sins (Luke 15:1–32; Luke 19:10).

No one can ever be Jesus’ equal because Jesus is the Great Ruler of time and eternity, the Messiah, and God. Jesus is greater than King David and Abraham. He lived a life without sin and in full obedience to God. Even at Jesus’ birth, many people recognized Him as a King. Herod tried to kill Jesus at birth and evil tried to stop Jesus in the wilderness but three Wise Men (also called Magi) worshiped Him as King.

As the Messiah, Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for ALL people (Mark 10:45; Mark 14:24). The life and ministry of Jesus increasingly show the never ending love of God for people (John 3:16).The death of Jesus paid the penalty for sin and purchased freedom for everyone who believes in Him by faith (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6). He died in the place of sinners on the Cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). Through faith in Jesus’ death, anyone can be reconciled to God and saved from eternal separation from God (2 Corinthians 5:18–21). Jesus’ death for all people is proof of God’s love for the world (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

Jesus went to Jerusalem as the humble, Suffering Servant. Before His execution as a criminal, He proclaimed judgment on the nation. Then He rose from the dead to fulfill God’s plan, and launch His Spirit-driven mission to all the world. The risen Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, is the Savior of the whole world.

The entire message of the Bible is that Jesus has come to save the world. Jesus unites all people of all groups - Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles), male and female, rich and poor - through His love and the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:26–29; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 2:14–22; Ephesians 3:6). So, let us stand firm in faith with Jesus!