The ‘God of All Comfort’

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).’

We all like to be comfortable. By that I mean at ease, without pain, and in good health. Comfort contributes to our happiness. It’s difficult to be happy when you are in discomfort. I know this because of certain personal health issues I’ve had over the past year, and there have been times when I have been very uncomfortable, but I praise the Lord; for my situation is improving, and this is of great comfort to me. I am comforted by my God.

In the context of the opening verses penned by Paul the Apostle, ‘comfort’ is akin to ‘consolation’ . The Corinthian Christians were suffering for their beliefs and for their obedience to Christ. Their sufferings were being added to the sufferings of other Christians for Christ’s sake; but it must be pointed out that their sufferings in no way contributed to Christ’s. His death and sufferings alone were sufficient and efficacious for making atonement for all of the redeemed.

After Jesus ascended to His Father, His Father gave the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ disciples to be their Helper, their Comforter. Here’s the text:’“And I will pray the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you (John 14:16-18)”’.

There can be no greater Comforter than the ‘Spirit of truth’, for He comforts us in our hope, which is eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Paul also wrote of the comfort to be had from the Scriptures: ‘For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4).’

The same comfort was spoken of by the writer of Psalm 119 when he wrote: ‘This is my comfort in my affliction. For your word has given me life (v 50).’  And, telling of God’s mercy he continued, ‘Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to your word to Your servant (v 76).’

Writing to the Philippian church, Paul exhorted them to be in accord with him, and ‘of one mind’ , being consoled in Christ and comforted through His love: ‘Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfil my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (Philippians 2:1, 2).’

Of the same consolation in Christ he prayed: ‘Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who has loved and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work (2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17).’

Thank God that we are comforted by Him for evermore.

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Does God Discipline His People?

Disciplining with Corporal Punishment

When I was a youngster my mother spoke of the *birch. She could remember its use for punishing petty criminals, and even I can remember when it was used in the Isle of Man, back in the nineteen-seventies. It was finally banned in 1993. The purpose of birching was both to punish and to deter.

I can testify that corporal punishment was widely used in the school where I was a pupil between 1946 and 1951. I was caned twice and slippered many times! I saw the headmaster brake a cane on the hand of pupil because he struck him that hard, not once, but three times on each hand. He had bespoke canes for that purpose. Caning was banned in UK state schools in 1986, and in independent schools in 1999.

Scottish government ministers have recently been considering legislation which will ban parents from smacking their children. If the proposed bill is passed, it will become a criminal offence for them to smack their children. No longer will they have the ‘right’ to smack them for enforcing discipline.

Whether you agree or disagree with laws banning corporal punishment, among things to consider are the ethical and moral aspects.  And, is there compelling evidence that demonstrates it works? Is it effective for disciplining children?

If you are a Christian you will be guided by the teachings of the Bible, especially those found in the New Testament, and in particular what Jesus says about it. You will want to act in accordance with His will and in obedience to Him.

God’s Disciplining of His Old Testament People

God promised He would be severe when it came to disciplining His Old Testament people, i.e., His special people whom He loved (1 Kings 10:9;  Hosea 11:1). He warned them through Moses with these words, ‘And after this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins (Leviticus 26:27. 28).’ In Psalm 89:31, 32 He declared, ‘If they break My statutes and do not keep My commandments, then I will punish their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.’ 

There’s a fair amount in Proverbs about disciplining – some of it by physical chastisement. Here’s a selection:

‘My Son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights (Proverbs 3:11, 12).’

‘Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding, but a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding (Proverbs 10:13).’

‘He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly (Proverbs 13:24).’

‘Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way, and he who hates correction will die (Proverbs 15:10).’

‘Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him (Proverbs 22:15).’

‘Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell (Proverbs 23:13, 14).’

Did Jesus Discipline His New Testament People?

We find precious little in the New Testament about Jesus disciplining His disciples and His followers, but there were issues of discipline within His church (1 Thessalonians 5:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15). Paul the Apostle wrote epistles to the churches concerning matters of discipline (2 Corinthians 10:10, 11). He was exceptionally keen on disciplining himself, as is evident when He wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27, ‘But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.’

Having been strict with himself he could be strict with those who received his instruction. He would not accept disobedience (2 Timothy 3:2), laziness (Titus 1:12, 13), worldly lusts (Romans 13:13, 14; Galatians 5:16), and above all, the teaching of a false gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6-8).

Regarding Jesus, I know of only one occasion when He came near to disciplining one of His disciples. It was when He severely rebuked Peter saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offence to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men (Matthew 16:23).”

Jesus did not use physical violence on people. Yes, He may have cracked a whip in the temple as He drove out those who sold oxen, sheep and doves, but He did not hurt or wound them (John 2:15, 16). He was very forthright when dealing with the Scribes and Pharisees. However, He never physically abused them. Instead He berated them, calling them a ‘brood of vipers!’ for their evil ways (Matthew 12:34; 23:33).

Jesus came to save a **people and to demonstrate His mercy, grace, forgiveness and steadfast love (Exodus 34:6, 7). He did not come to ‘discipline’ a people, but to have them as an inheritance (v 9; Psalm 33:12) and to give them an inheritance (Hebrews 9:15; 1 Peter 1:4), a place where there will be no need for discipline (Revelation 21:22-27).

*Birching – Isle of Man 1972

https://www.corpun.com/imjur1.htm

**The Message of the Bible [The Salvation of a People]

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/08/25/the-message-of-the-bible/

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Jesus, My Friend

The title of this short article is ‘Jesus, My Friend’. That’s a huge claim to make, but it is true, and the same can be said for all Christians, i.e., those who believe, trust, and obey Him (John 15:14).

This friendship is not extraordinary for the believer, but for those who do not know Him and are not known by Him (1 Corinthians 8:3; Galatians 4:9) the claim of friendship with Jesus sounds ridiculous; they reason Christians must be deluded or insane! At best, they credit them with believing in the supernatural. Indeed it is miraculous, because the Holy Spirit brings this relationship into being by imparting new spiritual life to those who are spiritually dead (John 3:3-7) in their trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1). Thus they are born again in the Spirit, and are given this relationship. There is no difference in this respect between Christian men and women, because all are in Christ (Colossians 3:11).

As they grow and mature in their knowledge and experience of their new relationship with Jesus they learn more about Him and His Father. They begin to appreciate more fully their adoption by the Father (Galatians 4:4-7) and what it means to be a brother [or sister] of Jesus who makes them His friends. Furthermore because they are in Christ (Ephesians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:14) He brings them into a close relationship with His ‘Abba’ Father – His ‘Daddy’ Father (Galatians 4:6).

None of this is of the making of the adoptees; it is all of Jesus, who brings it about through the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 10:12). The fact is, there is no sex in heaven. Jesus tells us that His saints will be like the angels who do not marry (Matthew 22:30). There will be a finite number [the elect] who will have an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11, 14) in the new earth (Revelation 21:1), and as they will be eternal creatures (John 5:24; 17:3) there will be no need for procreation. As they sojourn on earth, prior to dying and their souls going to be with Jesus, they have the great privilege of being His friends. He said, ‘“You are My friends (John 15:14) if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you that you should go and bear fruit ….. (John 15:14-16)”’.

Jesus said to His disciples, ‘“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do (Luke 12:4)”’. He also said, ‘“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13)”’, and not only did He say these words, but He laid down His own life for His friends.

Hymn: ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’, by Joseph M. Scriven

What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,

Oh, what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer!

 

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged—

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful,

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness;

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

 

Are we weak and heavy-laden,

Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Saviour, still our refuge—

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,

Thou wilt find a solace there.

 

Blessed Saviour, Thou hast promised

Thou wilt all our burdens bear;

May we ever, Lord, be bringing

All to Thee in earnest prayer.

Soon in glory bright, unclouded,

There will be no need for prayer—

Rapture, praise, and endless worship

Will be our sweet portion there.

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Persecution of Christians

‘“And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22).”’

Today we hear of ‘ethnic cleansing’ which is an extreme form of persecution. The people who organise and bring about these atrocities may be motivated by their religious beliefs or ideologies. They oppose others whom they hate, because they don’t subscribe to their beliefs or ideologies.

This would appear to be the case in Myanmar where the military have forced Rohingya Muslims to leave their homes and villages and flee to Bangladesh. There they endeavour to survive in vast refugee camps with little hope of returning to their homeland. Their villages have been razed to the ground by burning. Some are left with nothing, apart from terrifying memories of horrific atrocities, murders and rape. The photographic evidence and testimony of survivors is clear and indisputable. Consequently the United States has called upon the U.N. Security Council to hold the military accountable.

Since the formation of Jesus’ church (Acts 2) countless numbers of Christians have been treated with violence and hatred because of their belief in Him. [Go to link below. *]

Way back in 67 AD Nero Caesar persecuted Christians by burning them alive while encased in waxed clothing. He had them strapped to trees in his garden to illuminate it. Sadistically, he may have done it because Jesus told Christians they were the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Who knows? Others he had sewn into animal skins, then set upon by ravenous dogs who tore them apart. Yet others he had crucified.

Prior to the heinous and murderous activities of Nero, some Christians had already experienced persecution. We know this because James, the brother of Jesus, wrote an epistle to Jewish converts who had fled from Jerusalem (James 1:1, 2) to places where they set up house churches. [James was martyred by Herod (Acts 12:2) probably in 62 AD, two years before the great fire of Rome, which was reputedly started and orchestrated by Nero’s minions. Characteristically he put the blame for the fire on Christians, adding further to their persecution.]

Jesus warned His disciples that they would be hated ‘by all’ for His ‘name’s sake’ (Matthew 10:22). He told of persecutions to come (Matthew 10:16-26), but they were not to fear (vv 28, 31). They would be delivered ‘up to synagogues and prisons’ and ‘brought before kings and rulers’ for His name’s sake (Luke 21:12).

But for those who would be persecuted He had this to say, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life (Mark 10:29-30).”’

He also said, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me (John 15:20, 21).”’

*Hostility Towards Christians

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2017/12/09/hostility-towards-christians/

Further Texts

For those who would like more texts about persecution of Christians I’ve compiled a list below:

Matthew 5:10-12 ‘“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets.”’

John 5:15 ‘The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.”’

Acts 7:52 ‘Which of the prophets did your Fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.’

Acts 8:1-3 ‘Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles and devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentations over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.’

Acts 13:50 ‘But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.’

Acts 22:4 ‘I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.’

Romans 8:35 ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword?

Romans 12:14 ‘Bless those who persecute you: bless and do not curse.’

1 Corinthians 4:12 ‘And we labour working wth our own hands. Being reviled, we bless,; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.’

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 ‘We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

2 Corinthians 12:10 ‘Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’

Galatians 4:29 ‘But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now.’

Galatians 5:11 ‘And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offence of the cross has ceased.’

Galatians 6:12 ‘As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these try to compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.’

2 Timothy 3:11, 12 ‘ persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Anticoh, at Iconium, at Lystra – what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’

2 Timothy 10-12 ‘But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra – what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’

1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 ‘For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.’

2 Thessalonians 1:4 ‘so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure.’

1 Peter 4:16 ‘Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.’

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Jesus said, “Follow Me.”

Users of online social media such as FaceBook or Twitter are most likely familiar with the term, ‘Follower’. They will visit particular web platforms, like what they see, and consequently register themselves as followers. They may also opt into receiving notifications so that they can be kept up-to-date with the latest postings. After that, nothing much is required of them, apart from clicking a few link buttons with the mouse. There is no commitment or obligation on their part to do anything. They can visit sites when they want; take from them what they want, and leave when they want, with no imposed fines or penalties.

Followers of Jesus

By contrast, and huge one at that, being a follower of Jesus is vastly different. Jesus requires so much more of a follower than just a liking of Him. He doesn’t ask people to follow Him, He tells them to follow Him! You might say He ‘commands’ them to follow HIm. A genuine follower of Jesus is a disciple of His, and he aspires to be like Him. He trusts Him and he is committed to diligently serving Him with perseverance, even unto death, for His name’s sake and for the gospel’s sake.

Several times Jesus told people to follow Him, and many willingly did so without delay; for example, there was no hesitation on the part of the fishermen Peter and Andrew.

Here’s the account: ‘Now Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they immediately left their nets and followed Him (Matthew 4:18, 19).’

On the other hand there was the case of a rich young man who asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to sell all he had, to give to the poor and to follow Him. He promised him that if he did he would have treasure in heaven, but the man became very sad, because he had much wealth (Matthew 19:16-22). He walked away from Jesus, apparently valuing his wealth more than his soul (cf Matthew 16:26).

Jesus makes it plain to those who aspire to follow Him that they must do it wholeheartedly, and not be distracted or look back. Here’s the text:

’And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put the hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:61, 62)”

Similarly, ’Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God (Luke 9:59)”’

The Cost of Following Jesus

Jesus was straightforward about the cost to those who follow Him:

He said, ‘“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me (Matthew 16:24),”’ and, ‘“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it (Mark 8:35).”’

“And He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:38).”’

There is a cost, but the rewards far outweigh any trials and tribulations; Indeed, James, the brother of Jesus, says count them as joy:

‘My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2,-4).

Now the disciple John wrote these words of Jesus,‘“If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My father will honour (John 12:26).”’

‘“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John 10:27).”

How about us? Has Jesus called us to follow Him? Have we heard His voice? If so, do we follow and serve Him? Do we serve Him joyfully?

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A Light to the Gentiles

Time and again we are reminded that context is king – Yes, indeed for understanding the Scriptures, but there is another aspect of context that is seldom appreciated; that is the context of passages and their connections in different books of the Bible. It is helpful for us to understand the relationships between these passages, some of which are set out below. They have been extracted from Genesis, Isaiah, Psalms, The Gospel of John, The Gospel of Luke and the First Epistle of John.

My subject today is, ‘A Light to the Gentiles’. There are at least three aspects I would like to consider: Who or what is the Light? What is the role of the Light? and, What is our response to the Light?

Who or What is the Light?

Unequivocally, the Scriptures declare Jesus is the Light! He is the central character of the Bible. His DNA can be found in all of its pages. He said of Himself, ‘“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world (John 9:5).”’ He also said, “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12).”’

From before the beginning of the Creation Jesus was the Light (1 John 1:5). John’s Gospel 1:3-5 declares, ‘All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.’

Prior to the creation of the earth the Light had not revealed Himself. He had not created light (Genesis 1:3). All was darkness (v 2).

What is the Role of the Light?

Now, ‘“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light (John 1:6-8).’  From this we learn that the essential part of Jesus’ mission was to bring people to a belief in Him so that they would ‘have the light of life (John 8:12).’

A major role of the Light was to be, ‘………. as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house (Isaiah 42:6, 7).”’

He was also to be a Servant bringing salvation and a light to the Gentiles: “‘Is it too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel: I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6).’”

When Simeon saw the baby Jesus he described Him as, ‘A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel (Luke 2:32).’

What is Our Response to the Light?

From Matthew 4:16 we learn that, ‘The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned.’

Jesus went to Galilee to fulfil what the prophet Isaiah prophesied about Him (Matthew 4:14). How did the people respond? Peter, Andrew, James and John, all fishermen, immediately stopped fishing and followed Jesus (vv 18-22). Great multitudes followed Him and many were healed by Him (vv 23-25). Jesus taught the people His laws (Matthew 5, 6 and 7).

He told those who believed in Him, ‘“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14),’” and ‘“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (v 16).”’

That should be our response. He has given us His light; He has made us His light. We should live holy and exemplary lives in His light (1 John 1:7) and reveal that Light to others (Philippians 2:14, 15).

We can go forward without fear because, ‘The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid (Psalm 21:1)?’

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The Message of the Bible

‘“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).”’

The Purpose of God’s Creation

You’ve got five to ten minutes to explain to an atheist why God created the world. What do you say? 

I recently had one such opportunity. There were things I would like to have included which I didn’t. I should have said the Bible from beginning to end is an inspired revelation of God (2 Timothy 3:16). It explains who He is, what He has done, and what He intends to do. The main focus is on Jesus, God’s Son, who acted in accordance with His Father’s will (Matthew 26:42; John 5:19), and laid down His life to bring into being a special people (1 Peter 2:9) who would be given an ‘eternal inheritance’ (Hebrews 9:15; 1 Peter 1:4). It tells of the work of the Holy Spirit, without whom there would be no inheritance; for the Holy Spirit gives new life (John 3:3-8) and power (Acts 1:8; Romans 15:13; 1 Corinthians 2:4) to those who are given faith by God (Ephesians 2:8, 9).

God’s Enactment of His Plan

The Bible reveals God’s plan for calling a people to Himself. He set about achieving it, firstly by creating a physical world (Genesis1:1—2:1) and populating it with people (Genesis 1:26-28; 2;7) whose origins were in Adam (Genesis 2:19) and Eve (Genesis 2:21, 22), the very first human beings. It was no accident that they found themselves in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15), because God deliberately placed them there for Eve to be tempted by a talking serpent (Genesis 3:1). She would disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-7).

God had given Adam one command which was not to eat of the fruit (Genesis 2:9, 16, 17), and Eve was obviously aware of the fact, since she told the serpent she and Adam were not to eat it (Genesis 3:3). However, she ate of it (Genesis 3:6), and gave some to Adam who astonishingly, also ate of it!

Because of their disobedience they became sinners, i.e., transgressors of God, and consequently their offspring inherited their sinful nature (Romans 5:12). He cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden to prevent them from having access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). He told them they and their offspring would die, and their bodies would return to the earth as dust (Genesis 3:19) from whence they had come (Genesis 2:7; 3:19). As we all know, without exception, we all die (Romans 5:12).

The world population multiplied (Genesis 5:1-6:1) and as it did, their wickedness became great (Genesis 6:5). They progressively became more and more evil, and God in accordance with His decreed will [plan] brought about a worldwide flood that killed all but eight people: Noah, his wife and their three sons with their wives (Genesis 7:13; 8:18). From these survivors God would repopulate the earth and from their offspring [which includes us] He would call a special people to Himself (1 Peter 2:9).

God’s Original Old Testament People

The [original] Old Testament ‘special’ people of God (Exodus 19:5) were descendants of Abraham, through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, from whom came the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:1-28). On account of a famine in Canaan (Genesis 41:56, 57) they travelled to Egypt where later they were forced into slavery. God gave them a leader whose name was Moses. He would be His representative who would help free them from slavery (Exodus 3:10, 17) and take them to ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ (Exodus 3:8). God made a covenant (Exodus 19:5, 6 ) with them promising that if they obeyed His commands He would make them His special treasure.

Tragically it turned out that they were a very disobedient people (Romans 10:21), and because of their disobedience, only two of them, Joshua and Caleb [men of faith and obedience] were permitted by God to enter the land of Canaan (Numbers 14: 29, 30, 35). The others were twenty or younger at the time of their departure from Egypt or they were born during Israel’s forty years of wandering (Numbers 32:13) in the desert. God allowed Moses to see Canaan from Mount Nebo, but on account of His disobedience (Numbers 20:7-13), God brought his life to an end before he could enter.

God was faithful and merciful (Exodus 34:6, 7). Despite the disobedience of His people and their inability to keep His commandments, Joshua took the children of the fathers into the land (Joshua 1:1-24:33).

The Problem of Sin and the Solution – A Saviour Jesus!

Sin is disobedience to God.

From the time of Adam and Eve sin has always been a barrier between God and Adam’s offspring (Romans 7), but from before the creation of the world God made provision for its removal. He would provide a sinless Saviour who would overcome it and satan, i.e., the serpent who tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. This Saviour was spoken of in Genesis 3:15 as the ‘Seed’ – of the woman. He would bruise the head of satan – in other words, He would triumphant over him at the cross and conquer death by rising from it (Luke 24:46). In a time of His choosing He would cast satan into the lake of fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:10).

This Saviour is Jesus Christ, the Father’s only begotten Son (John 3:16), born of the virgin Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph of the House of Judah (Matthew 1:3). She would be overshadowed by the power of the Highest and the coming upon her of the Holy Spirit; thus she would give birth to, ‘that Holy One …… called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).’  On this account He was sinless (Hebrews 4:15), and He would die as a sacrifice (John 1:28) in the place of sinners (Romans 5:6-11).

He would be a substitute (Romans 5:8) for those who repent of their sins and believe in Him (Mark 1:15). He would live a perfect life of obedience to God and to His laws (Matthew 5:1 7). He would die on a cross, suffer in hell and rise again to life before ascending into heaven (Acts 1:9, 10). From there He will return to earth for the gathering in of His redeemed people (Matthew 16:27). He will also judge those who reject Him and cast them into the lake of fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:12-15).

God’s New Special People

The unbelieving Old Testament Israelites [Jews], prefigured God’s new special people, who are still in the making, and have been since Pentecost (Acts 2). This new people of God are a believing and faithful people, ‘the Israel of God’ spoken of in Galatians 6:16. They are the church of Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18). They are chosen (Ephesians 1:4) from all nations, including the Jews (Romans 9:6-8).

God’s true people are holy (Ephesians 1:4) and obedient (Jeremiah 31:33) and they have laid up for them an inheritance (Matthew 25:34) in a new land, i.e., His everlasting Kingdom. This Kingdom exists today; it is a spiritual kingdom (Ephesians 1:3) experienced by its citizens who receive power from the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13; Acts 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). They are members of the body of Christ, His church (1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:12). They are disciples who follow Him (John 8:12; 12:26; Matthew10:38). He is their King, and from before time they were predestined (Romans 8:30) for this honour and glory. They will live with Him forever in the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2) where they will eat of the tree of life (Revelation 22:2). In this city there will be no sin, no pain, no death, no sorrow (Revelation 21:4) – only love, joy and life evermore. This is the inheritance (Matthew 25:34) God has decreed for Himself for His glory.

Conclusion

So there we have it: the creation of the world by God to establish an inheritance for a holy people and Himself so that they may share His glory and His love forever.

I mentioned nothing of the Prophets who were instrumental in pointing to the purposes of God and His Son. They repeatedly warned God’s people of their errant ways and of the consequences. They would suffer as a result, and they did! The same applies today. Those who do not acknowledge Him, disown or reject Him will also suffer. There is no escape for them from hell, unless they repent and turn to God for mercy.

This is an unpopular message, but for those who are wise they will have the fear of God in their hearts (Proverbs 9:10) and they will be saved.

I plead to atheists, agnostics and all unbelievers, please think again.

Whoever believes’ in the Son of Man, i.e., Jesus, ‘will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:15).’

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