- We should bear each other’s burdens – “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
- We must bear our own burdens – “For every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal.6:5).
- Jesus will help us with our burdens – “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Great Thoughts about God
In the opening chapter of his book The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer observed: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…. Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ‘What comes into your mind when you think about God?’ we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man.”
Our thoughts of God are significant. Paul wrote, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). David wrote: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).
While the Bible does not set out to prove God’s existence, it provides concrete reasons which lead to the undeniable conclusion He exists. God is expecting us to use our senses and our sense and deduce this. We may not be able to know everything (which is what atheists claim), but (unlike agnostics) we can be certain of enough items to understand God is real. Here are four convincing reasons:
1. THE COSMOLOGICAL REASON: Every cause has an effect, so there must be an uncaused, first cause of all finite beings and things, and this is God. “For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God” (Heb. 3:4). “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Rom. 1:19-20).
2. THE MORAL REASON: All people have a moral impulse, which calls for justice or reward that is not always experienced in this lifetime. Therefore, an eternal, spiritual world exists, and an eternal, spiritual being controls the rewards and punishments. “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
3. The ONTOLOGICAL REASON: We can deduce that God is real because mankind has an idea of an infinite, perfect divine being, who has no superior. “Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? 24 Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD” (Jer. 23:23-24).
4. THE TELEOLOGICAL REASON: There is an observable order or design in the universe that cannot be explained by the object itself. Therefore, there is an intelligent being who provided this order, and that Being is God. The law, order and design of the universe is evidence of a divine Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1; see also Job 12:7-10; Isa. 40:21-26; Rom. 1:20-21). God has a design for you and me, too: to love Him and serve Him (Eccl. 12:13-14).
Six Methods for Time-Effective Bible Study
If you’re interested in getting the most out of the time you have available to read the Bible, here are a half-dozen ideas you can try:
The Basic Approach: Try the old school method: Read the Bible through a chapter at a time. Begin in Genesis (or Matthew) and finish in Revelation.
The Alternative Approach: Use a translation other than the one you regularly use, and read through the Bible. If you usually use the King James Version, give the American Standard or New King James editions a try. The differences in expressions will be more noticeable, and will help you see more shades of meaning in a text.
Get Smart: Use your smartphone, desktop or laptop and download a Bible-reading app. YouVersion, Olive Tree and Blue Letter Bible are popular options.
Listen Up: Find the Bible on CD – or cassette – and spend time listening to Scripture being read. You can also find it for smartphones or tablets on Audible or other online sources.
Book by Book: Select a Bible book and read it through more than once. You’ll see new features by re-reading it.
Keep Up with Class: Get involved in a regular Bible class and follow the Bible texts assigned for each class. You’ll get the added bonus of being ready to participate or field questions about the text, and will feel better prepared to discuss the material.
More info on effective Bible Study is in our YouTube video: Three Keys for Profitable Bible Study (II Tim. 2:15).
I Believe in Jesus: Because He’s Going to Return
Probably the most misunderstood aspect of Jesus’ life and teaching is the subject of His return. Some say He has already returned, others say He isn’t returning, yet others say He is coming back – but only as part of a series of apocalyptic events.
If we confine the source of our information about Jesus’ return to what is revealed in the Bible, it is not too complicated or cryptic.
First, like every other event in Jesus’ life, the Old Testament prophesied He would return after His ascension.
Job did not fully comprehend the meaning of the scheme of redemption, but expected the Redeemer to bring equity after his death: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me” (Job 19:25-27). David prophesied the Lord would eternally repay His enemies (Psalm 2:9; 110:1). Isaiah foretold of a time when “every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” submission to the Lord (Isaiah 45:23). Daniel foresaw a future resurrection and eternal consignment (Dan. 12:2-3). These are all references to Jesus’ second coming.
Second, the second coming of Christ is proclaimed in the New Testament as a major feature of the New Covenant. The message of the Bible can be summarized in three statements: The Old Testament proclaims “Jesus is coming;” the gospel accounts declare “Jesus is here;” and the rest of the New Testament from Acts to Revelation announces “Jesus is coming back again.” Several passages focus on this major end-time event:
John 14:3: “And if I [Jesus] go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Acts 1:11: “Which [an angel] also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
Phil. 3:20-21: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
1 Thess. 1:9-10: “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
Heb. 9:27-28: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
Rev. 1:7: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”
Third, based on these straight-forward teachings, we should prepare for Jesus’ return. Knowing He is returning should compel us to:
- Convert, by turning from our old life and seeking reconciliation through Christ (Acts 17:30-31).
- Correct, and amend our ways before God, knowing we must give an account to Him (II Cor 5:10; II Tim. 4:1; II Peter 3:9-13). And,
- Cope, through every trying circumstance, remembering that Jesus is returning to take His followers to a place of eternal peace and rest (Rom. 8:18-25; I Thess. 4:13-17; Titus 2:11-13).
More info about the second coming of Christ is in our YouTube video: Seven Reasons We Can Know Jesus is Going to Return.
I Believe in Jesus: Because of His Resurrection
One of the greatest chapters in the Bible is I Corinthians 15, which presents the facts, features and force of the resurrection of Jesus – He came back to life after His crucifixion to confirm that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. Consider the three themes of this part of the Bible:
First, the resurrection of Jesus was verified (I Cor. 15:1-9). Paul insists we acknowledge the facts of the gospel, especially with regard to the resurrection of Jesus. He cites the prophecies of Scripture and other critical pieces of evidence.
We are not left to wonder whether Jesus actually arose from the grave. Consider:
(1) His death was brutal and public (John 19:1-18). No one survived that type of punishment;
(2) His burial site was easily identified and well-guarded (Matt. 27:57-66);
(3) His tomb was empty and His burial garments were left neatly folded where His body had rested (John 20:4-8);
(4) He appeared to numerous witnesses who knew Him well and to others who may not have met Him previously (Luke 24:13-52);
(5) His disciples were martyrs who would not renounce His deity or resurrection (Acts 12:1-2);
(6) His enemies were unable to disprove His resurrection so their focus was on silencing His followers (see, e.g., Acts 3:10 and 3:15-18); and
(7) Devout Jews, like Paul, who persecuted Christians changed their religion to follow Jesus (Acts 9:19-22). These changes included a new day for worshiping God: The first day of the week, the day on which Jesus rose again (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1-2).
The circumstantial evidence of the resurrection of Jesus is overwhelming.
Second, the resurrection of Jesus was vital (I Cor. 15:12-19). It would have been terrible for Jesus to have suffered the emotional, psychological, social and physical trauma He endured during His final 24 hours, only to have His story end that way. Bible critics assert the Book of Mark was supposed to end at Mark 16:8, but that would have ended in fear and despair. Jesus had to die, but it was also essential that He rise again. Paul pointed out that if Jesus did not rise again, we have no hope after death. The oppression experienced by Christians has no purpose if Jesus did not rise again (I Cor. 4:7-13; II Cor. 4:8-18). Paul explained they were “[a]lways bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (II Cor. 4:10). We can cope with the hardships of life because Jesus rose again for us.
Third, the resurrection of Jesus was victorious. When Jesus rose again from the grave, He declared victory over our greatest enemies. Paul pointed out how Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope for eternal life, and proclaimed “thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57). Jesus’ resurrection also gives us hope for today – we can begin a new life through his resurrection. We die to sin in faith and repentance, and rise again to a new life through baptism (read Rom. 6:1-10). Jesus said, “I am the resurrection…” (John 11:25).
If we believe in our hearts that Christ rose from the dead, we should commit our lives to trust and obey Him (Rom. 10:10).
More about this great event is in our video: A Dozen Reasons to Believe in Jesus’ Resurrection on YouTube.
I Believe in Jesus: Because He Died for Our Sins
Jesus didn’t have to die, but chose to do so because it would help others – including you and me – in ways we could not achieve ourselves.
1 – Jesus gave Himself for the sins of the world. One of the most familiar passages of Scripture emphasizes this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16, 17). Jesus said, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). He gave Himself for sinners (Rom. 5:8-9).
He is willing to help us even when we sin again: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:1-2). But this makes willful sin much more egregious (see Heb. 10:26-31).
God is completely impartial and shows no regard between nationalities, cultures or status (Acts 10:34-35). The invitation to benefit from Jesus’ sacrifice is open to anyone who chooses to follow Him (Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 2:38-39; Rev. 22:17).
2 – Jesus gave Himself for the church. The value of the collective group of baptized believers who follow Him is seen in His sacrifice. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). And, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). His death was intended to motivate His followers to live loyally to Him: “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14; see II Cor. 5:14-15).
Jesus said He intended to die for His followers: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). And, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
3 – Jesus gave Himself for those who are imperfect. This should lead us to be more patient with those who are still learning about His will. Paul reminded the stronger, more knowledgeable Christians: “But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died” (Rom. 14:15).
Fourth, Jesus gave Himself for you and me. Our names may not be found in the Bible, but He was thinking of us on the cross: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). He “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Gal. 1:4). He offered Himself out of love: “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Rev. 1:5). He offered Himself in our place as our example to love others: “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). Because God loves us (John 3:16), we should love others (I John 3:16).
Watch our YouTube video: Jesus’ Death in Five Words.
I Believe in Jesus: Because He’s the Promised Messiah
The early disciples were persuaded to follow Jesus because they recognized He answered the prophecies of the Old Testament about the Messiah. For example, in John 1, as the first apostles were dedicating themselves to follow Him, this was a compelling consideration:
“The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:43-45).
The Old Testament contains over 300 prophecies of the Messiah, with 109 being highly detailed. And Jesus fulfilled them all.
The Old Testament is so replete with forecasts of Jesus that He has been described as the only person who ever lived who had His biography written before He was born. Jesus recognized and declared He was fulfilling these prophecies (see Luke 4:14-22; 24:27, 44; John 5:39). Consider some eight categories of prophecies He fulfilled:
1 – The forerunner of Jesus – John the Baptist – was described in Old Testament prophecies. The Old Testament ends in Malachi with a promise concerning the one who would precede and prepare the world for Christ: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5). Isaiah described the forerunner’s work: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptist fulfilled these (see Matt. 3:1-3; 11:9-15; 17:11-12).
2 – The birth of Jesus was prophesied. The Old Testament predicted: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14; see also Gen. 3:15). It was also foretold He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). It happened exactly as predicted so “it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet” (Matt. 1:22).
3 – The childhood of Christ was prophesied. Jesus’ family lived for a time in Egypt, as foretold (see Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:13-15). Young children were slain, as predicted (see Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:16-18). Jesus’ family settled in Nazareth, just as the Old Testament had implicitly predicted (see Matt. 2:23).
4 – The method of teaching by Jesus was prophesied. He frequently taught in parables, which was predicted in the Old Testament (see Psalm 78:1-2; Matt. 13:34-35). See more about one of Jesus’ most memorable parables in our YouTube video on the Parable of the Good Samaritan: Ten Ways to be a Good Samaritan.
5 – Jesus’ miracles were foretold. The Messiah would heal in every form (Isa. 35:5-6). So did Jesus (Matt. 11:4-6).
6 – The mission of Jesus was prophetically described. The Messiah was foretold as a suffering, sinless Savior to sacrifice Himself for our sins (see Isaiah 53). He would be betrayed by His closest friend (see Psalm 55:12-15) for thirty pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12). This is Jesus.
7 – The victory of Christ was prophesied. The Old Testament foretold the death and the resurrection of Jesus (see Psalm 22-24; I Cor. 15:1-3). Jesus explained to His disciples that all of this was foretold (Luke 24:44-49). One of the frequently cited prophecies of Jesus’ resurrection is: “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10 NKJV). And Psalm 110:1 is quoted more times in the New Testament than any other single Old Testament verse, and it described in advance this monumental event: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”
8 – The church of Christ was also foretold. Prophetic statements in Isaiah 2, Daniel 2 and Joel 2 all look forward to what transpired in Acts 2: a body of baptized believers formed around the common purpose of glorifying Jesus and serving others in His name. Paul explained that one of the goals of his ministry was that “the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).
The fulfillments of these advance descriptions of Jesus and His work are meant to signal unmistakably that He is “‘the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ)” (John 1:41).
I Believe in Jesus: Because of His Stirring Message
Jesus was remarkable not only for His miraculous works (see, e.g., Matt. 9:33; Mark 2:12; John 3:2; 7:31; 9:32), He was also a brilliant teacher. More than once the people who heard Him speak were amazed at His message: “And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22).
Two features of Jesus’ teaching captured widespread attention: (1) the content – He taught with originality, which we’ll focus on in this lesson; and (2) its composition – He frequently utilized parables, which is the subject of our next lesson.
The Sermon on the Mount
Perhaps the closest example we have to an entire teaching session of Jesus is found in the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5 through 7. In this message, He distills the essential principles for following Him. The content of the Sermon reflects common themes of His teaching: He inspires hope; tells them how it is, then how it ought to be; and shakes them up with warnings.
Here are the primary topics of the Sermon (summarized from the Dictionary of Bible Themes by Manser):
- The blessings of being in the kingdom (Matt. 5:3-12).
- Jesus Christ’s disciples are to have a positive influence on the world (5:13-16);
- The relationship between Jesus’ message and the Law (5:17-21)
- Jesus’ disciples are to exhibit a new level of righteousness (5:20; 5:48). More particularly:
- Not only murder but also anger and broken relationships are wrong (5:21-24)
- Not only adultery but also lust is wrong (5:27-37). Faithfulness in marriage is called for.
- Retaliation must be abandoned, and enemies as well as neighbors must be loved (5:38-48)
- Jesus’ disciples are to seek only God’s approval in their religious duties (6:1-4). More particularly:
- Giving to the poor, prayer and fasting are to be done secretly (6:5-18). He includes a pattern for prayer (6:9-15)
- Speaking of money, the kingdom is to be valued above material possessions (6:19-34)
- Jesus’ disciples are to avoid being judgmental (7:1-5)
- Jesus’ disciples should pray, confident of an answer (7:7-12)
- True disciples will obey Jesus’ teaching (7:15-27).
The principles of patience, pure motives, showing dignity to others, and having the habit of prudent action are key element of His Sermon, and are expected of His true disciples.
More about a key passage in the Sermon on the Mount: The Golden Rule (Matt 7:12) is in our YouTube video: Four Essentials for Following the Golden Rule.
I Believe in Jesus: Because of His Supernatural Power
As the New Testament opens, Jesus the Messiah is performing miracles at a level that far exceeds anything that had been seen previously. The Old Testament contains accounts of miraculous signs performed by God’s spokespeople, such as Elisha’s healing of Naaman the Syrian military leader in 2 Kings 5, but Christ’s supernatural works were at a much greater frequency and magnitude.
Near the end of John’s gospel account, he explained: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31 NKJV). And John closed his book with a similar note: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:24). Jesus performed miracles, and the New Testament biographies of His life describe them, so that we will place our faith and trust in Him.
Miracles in John: The Magnificent Seven
The Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John report thirty-five distinct miracles by Jesus. Matthew and Luke described 20 apiece, and Mark recorded 18. John – who said Jesus had performed countless supernatural acts – only described seven. But these magnificent seven miracles are notable:
- Water is turned into wine (John 2:1-11);
- Nobleman’s son in another town is healed (4:46-54);
- Lame man is healed by the Pool of Bethesda on the sabbath (5:1-17);
- 5,000 fed from five loaves of bread and two fish (6:1-14);
- Walked on the Sea of Galilee (6:16-21);
- Gave sight to the man who was born blind (9:1-41);
- Raised Lazarus from the dead (11:17-44).
Characteristics of the Master’s Miracles
Jesus’ supernatural works share a combination of distinctive features:
They were complex: All kinds of subjects were addressed in Jesus’ works, including miraculous healing, raising the dead, casting out demons and supernatural control of forces of nature.
They were complete: His miracles were discernible, verifiable, flawless and immediate. These were not sleight of hand or some type of trickery, but were actual, historical supernatural events.
They were conservative: Jesus was never wasteful with His ability or blessings. They weren’t performed for purely entertainment. Consistent with the principle of parsimony (detesting unnecessary use of money), Jesus used whatever resources were available first, natural and human: available water was turned into wine; food on hand was used to feed a huge crowd; bystanders rolled away Lazarus’ stone; Lazarus fed himself after he was raised. And baskets of leftovers were gathered.
They were compassionate: Jesus performed miracles with a desire to show real love to those who were in distress (Matt. 9:35-36; 14:14; Mark 5:19). Keep in mind, though, that He did not heal every illness of every sick person on earth. Neither did the apostles (Phil. 2:25-30; I Tim. 5:23; II Tim. 4:20).
They were compelling: Many who observed His miracles were convinced of His deity (John 3:2). But not everyone who saw His miracles believed (John 12:37).
More about one of Jesus’ amazing miracles is in our YouTube video: Calm in the Storm.
God’s Makeovers: How Paul Became a Christian
Paul is one of the best-known figures in the Bible. He was the most prolific writer of the New Testament, with 14 books (including Hebrews) authored by him under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He was specially equipped by God to perform all types of miracles to confirm that his message was sanctioned by heaven. And he was recognized as one of the most capable teachers and logicians of the early church. But the way he first became a Christian, when we closely examine it, is no different from the form by which anyone else becomes one.
The Book of Acts describes the way that Paul first became a Christian in three of its chapters – Acts 9, 22 and 26 – and two of those are in Paul’s own words. When we harmonize those three sections, we see how the Lord miraculously appeared to Paul. At that time, Paul (then known as Saul), was a Jew, and a member of its strictest segment, the Pharisees. He was on a mission to hunt down Christians so they could be punished for their supposed heresy. At the brilliance of the Lord’s appearance, Paul was struck sightless, and begged the Lord to tell him what he should do to appease Him. What happened next is important from the standpoint of showing that everyone – Paul, you, me, everyone in between – in the details, becomes accepted by Jesus as His follower in the same manner.
Read Acts 9:1-19, 22:6-16 and 26:12–18, and notice these three steps that Paul took in the process of becoming a Christian:
(1) Teaching: Consider carefully that Jesus, when He miraculously appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, did not make Paul a Christian at that moment. Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, He had provided forgiveness to some He encountered, but no instance of that type of direct pardon is recorded after His resurrection. Also, Paul’s seeing Jesus did not make Paul a Christian. Jesus directed Paul to continue traveling to Damascus, and gave him a specific address to visit. Meanwhile, the Lord directed one of His disciples to meet Paul to teach him how to become a Christian and to disclose the role of greater service to which the Lord invited him.
This is consistent with the pattern Jesus had described for how all of humanity would be brought into a relationship with Him. Christianity is a taught religion: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20 KJV).
(2) Penitent faith: Upon the Lord’s instructions to Paul to continue to Damascus, he complied and once there, he intensely prayed to God. What’s notable is what Paul was not doing: persecuting Christians. His desisting from oppressing Christians and his instead pleading to God to be appeased reveals the abrupt change inside of him.
The specifics of how a person shows he has a contrite, and fully trusting heart toward God will likely take different forms from person to person, but all have this demeanor in common. When Jesus explained how the apostles were to begin the cycle of leading the world to Him, He specifically included this element: “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).
(3) Baptism: In Acts 22, Ananias finds Paul praying, and it appears he had been intensely fasting and praying for about three days. But Paul’s prayers were insufficient to complete the process of his translation from outside of Christ into Him. Ananias advised him: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord’ (Acts 22:16).
It was not possible for Paul – or any other – under the New Covenant, to pray so earnestly that the Lord will accept him on his prayer and make him His disciple. This is because Jesus has already announced the terms of admission to His kingdom, which includes a command for initiates to be immersed for that purpose: “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).
Anyone today who desires to become Jesus’ disciple can follow the same elements that were taught in the New Testament, and then we can have peace of mind in knowing that we are just what Paul and the other first-century Christians were – Christians only.
More about God’s Makeovers: Paul (1 Timothy 1:13-16) is available in our YouTube video.