Understanding the Basics of the Faith is a question and answer Bible study series put together for the person who wants a better understanding of what the Bible teaches in the major areas of theology, such as God, Christ, the Spirit, man, the Devil, sin, salvation, the church, and end times. It can be used individually or in small groups. Each study is from four to six pages and attempts to include most of the important biblical passages on any one issue. Thus it is comprehensive in its approach to studying theology, yet not so detailed that it becomes cumbersome and tedious. This is not to say, however, that it is simplistic. On the contrary, it will require some reading, prayer, and thought. Both older believers as well as younger, newer believers will benefit greatly. The question and answer format encourages the reader to look up the passages on his own and to read them for him/herself in their context. In this way, the Bible can be learned firsthand!
1. The Bible: “A Lamp Unto My Feet…”
2. Our Great and Awesome God: “I Am the Lord, That Is My Name”
3. Jesus Christ: “Our Great God and Savior”
4. The Holy Spirit: “Sovereign Lord and Life-Giver”
5. Man: “Who Are We, Anyway?”
6. Our Adversary: “That Ancient Serpent Called the Devil”
7. So Great A Salvation: “Blind But Now I See”
8. The Church: “A Home Away From Home”
9. A Brilliant Future: “Where’s It All Leading?”
Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the Heavens (Psalm 119:89)
Have you ever thought about a reading program for Scripture? There are several different approaches. If you were to read 3-4 chapters a day you could read the entire Bible through in one year. However, some people have decided that this is too much to do at one sitting (say, for example, 30 minutes in the morning). They have instead thought of reading just a Psalm or some smaller unit of Scripture. This is perhaps the better choice and most people should opt for something along these lines.
But there is yet another choice—one that is more helpful for those who are more zealous and for those who sustain a teaching ministry. The Old Testament can be read in larger chunks each week as you have time. The NT, on the other hand, can be read repetitively. The point here is to take a letter of the NT, such as Galatians, and read it through at one sitting. Do this each day for a month or so. At the end of that month, you will have an understanding of the whole message of Galatians and chances are, you will not forget it, at least not as easily. Verses that were once obscure, will become clear in the light of their immediate and remote contexts. In any case, you can do this for all the books in the NT, breaking up the longer books and letters into smaller, manageable units. For example, Matthew could be broken up into four units of seven chapters each; Revelation into two units of seven and one of eight, or two units of five and two of six. Read each unit once a day for thirty days. This means that at the end you will have spent about 120 days in Matthew. At this rate you can finish the entire NT in about 3 years. But…and this is a big difference, you will probably understand what you read and you will be inclined to remember it too! How cool is that?
We can hear Scripture read or preached. We can read it for ourselves. We can also memorize it so that we can have it available at any instant for meditation, evangelism, spiritual warfare, and encouragement. Though memorization requires effort, perseverance, and a plan of attack, the benefits are enormous and well surpass the investment. The reader is encouraged to check out the scripture memory program we have at the Biblical Studies Foundation.
Our primary posture toward God’s word is the same posture we should have before him. As Isaiah says, God esteems the one who is contrite in spirit and who trembles at his word (Isa 66:2b). We are to come before him in humility, open to receive, and wanting to receive instruction, correction, rebuke and encouragement. Let the word of God read you and speak to your needs. Through meditation ask God to show you his will in his word. He will do it.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth (Isaiah 40:28)
In this lesson we learned that our God is loving and holy. He loves people, but he hates sin. We have also seen that God is a trinity of persons, all of whom are rightly to be regarded as deity or God. The psalmist said, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise. No one can fathom your greatness” (Psalm 145:3). We should respond in the same way that Isaiah responded, by falling down on our knees and worshipping God (cf. also Romans 11:33-36)!
How does the fact that God is loving and holy help you to trust him implicitly? How does his love relate to the difficult things he brings into your life? How does his holiness relate to his truthfulness about who he is and what he says he’ll do? How does it relate to who he says we are and his plan for us?
Now that you have studied God’s love and holiness, what does it mean for you to obey God in every area of your life? How is obedience related to trust (discussed above)?
Read 1 John 2:5. How do we express our love to God? How does this relate to 1 John 2:15-16?
The primary focus of our worship and love to God is to grow in holiness. Read 1 Peter 1:15-16 again. Then read Hebrews 12:14 and 2 Corinthians 7:1. What does it mean to be holy and how does that relate to being loving? Why is it important to be holy according to Hebrews 13:14?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. How did God’s love for Paul affect him? According to 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, what did he do (cf. Rom 1:16)?
For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16)!
Jesus is both fully God and fully man. Obviously the precise “way” in which God accomplished this union is a mystery (1 Tim 3:16). While Christ’s two natures are taught in Scripture, the Biblical record only ever refers to Jesus Christ as a single person and he himself only acts and speaks as a single individual. Divine titles are used to refer to his human qualities and acts and human titles are used when his divinity (qualities or acts) is in view. In short, he has two natures (divine/human) united in one person forever, without confusion of the attributes.
While Christ’s death is a model of sacrificial service to God and love for people (cf. Phil 2:6-11), this is not the primary explanation of it in the New Testament. The primary explanation and summary of the multifaceted cross-work of Christ is to refer to it as vicarious atonement or penal substitution. This means that Christ’s sacrifice paid the full penalty of our sin by dying in our place. The penalty for sin is death and Christ completely paid that penalty on the cross.
Paul referred to Jesus as “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13). Just as Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and worshipped him (Luke 5:8) so we too should humbly worship the Lord and love him with an undying love (Ephesians 6:24). What do you think it means to worship Jesus Christ? Compare Mark 12:29-30 and Romans 12:1-2. What is God really looking for? See John 4:23-24; Mark 12:41-44.
What does it mean to serve a new master now instead of sin? How is Jesus a better master than the dictates and lusts of our previous life when we were without him (cf. Romans 6:12-13; Eph 2:1-3)?
There are those who deny the deity or humanity of Jesus Christ and thus they distort the teaching of Scripture on this matter. Almost always they begin with the presupposition that the incarnation is absurd or logically contradictory. This is simply false. There is nothing contradictory about asserting that Jesus is both God and man, that is, that he has two related, yet distinct natures. We have not said that his human nature was divine and human at the same time and in the same way, nor have we said that his divine nature is both human and divine at the same time and in the same way. This would be a contradiction. Rather, we are asserting that within the one person of Jesus Christ there are two natures, one human, one divine. Indeed, the biblical evidence, which we only lightly touched on above, demands this interpretation. Now, while the incarnation is not logically contradictory, the precise relationship between his divine nature and human nature is for the most part beyond our powers of rational explanation. Again, because we cannot completely explain it does not mean it is contradictory, it simply means we don’t understand it’s inner workings and dynamics very well. And here’s where we—along with the early church—joyfully cry out, “mystery” (1 Tim 3:16; Compare also Romans 11:33-36). In short, the incarnation must be both logically and existentially possible because scripture says it happened.
1 The Greek Old Testament, translated sometime between ca. 285 B.C. and 150 B.C., is often referred to with the Roman numeral LXX (i.e., “seventy”). Apparently this comes from a tradition which states that the work of translating was done by seventy two translators and completed in seventy-two days. This tradition seems to have had its beginning in the Epistle of Aristeas (2nd century B.C.) but is also found in Philo (Vita Mosis, 2.5-7.25-44), Josephus (Antiquities 12.2.1-15), and Justin (Against Heresies, 3.21.2). For more information, the reader is urged to consult Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 407-10.
Not by power, nor by might, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty (Zechariah 4:6)
The promise in Genesis 12:1-3 establishes God’s plan to bless the nations through Abraham and his descendents. In the progress of revelation we find in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 and later in Acts 13:22-23 that the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise involves the fulfillment of another promise to David regarding a future king and kingdom. We saw that the NT writers claimed that Jesus fulfilled this by his death, resurrection, and exaltation. It is here that we also see the fulfillment of the New Covenant as the Spirit is given to all believers by the exalted Christ, on the basis of his death and resurrection. The point of our brief survey was to help the reader understand that the coming of the Spirit is inextricably connected to Jesus’ coming and God’s plan to bless the entire world. This is made especially clear by the apostle Paul in texts like Galatians 3:14.
The Spirit works in conjunction with the work of the Son and the Father. The Father chooses certain ones for salvation and the Son dies to save them. The Spirit then gives new life to the ones God has chosen on the basis of the death and resurrection of the Son. How does this larger salvation framework help you understand the Spirit and his ministry better? What implications does this have for what God is doing in your life right now?
We know that our salvation is so secure that Paul could speak of our glorification (i.e., when we get to heaven and are perfect) in the past tense, as if it were already accomplished (Romans 8:30). It is a done deal, resting as it does on the integrated work of the Trinity. But, at the present time we experience struggles and sometimes a lot of pain and suffering come our way. In terms of the inner struggles, how does this relate to the ministry of the Spirit? Why is there this conflict at times? What are we to do about it (Romans 8:13, 26-27)? Up until now, how have you generally dealt with trials?
We should never think about the Spirit simply in terms of power. It is true that He is the One who gives us incredible spiritual power to worship God, face our sin head on, experience spiritual joy, serve others, and share the gospel with words and acts of kindness. But we must never reduce the third person of the Trinity to a force of some kind! May it never be! He is a divine person having come to mediate the presence of God in Christ to us. How does this relate to your current understanding of the Spirit and his ministry?
What spiritual gift(s) do you have? Why did God give it (them) to you? How will you exercise it (them) so that many will benefit? Is your church a place where the gifts can be used and where the context is one of love? If not, how can you prayerfully discuss this issue with the leadership? How can you humbly be a part of a solution if there are problems balancing truth, love, and unity in your church? Blessed are the peacemakers!
Let us make man in our image, in our likeness (Genesis 1:26)
5. What does Genesis 1-2 and Psalm 8:3-9 teach you about your privileged place in creation? What do God’s command and warning in Genesis 2:16-17 teach you about what goes along with such high privilege?
2 For a damaging critique of Darwinian evolution, see Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin on Trial, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993).
I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven (Jesus in Luke 10:18)
Satan and his demons operate in the kingdom of darkness and sin. When we live in unconfessed sin we give the Devil a foothold and a place from which to further harden our hearts, hinder our walk with Christ, and all but extinguish our productive witness for the Lord. Is there unconfessed sin in your life? How does 1 John 1:9 and Hebrews 13:14 relate to this? Satan is constantly accusing us of sin, but now, in light of the definitive break with sin which Christ inaugurated for his people, the Devil’s accusations are powerless and completely unable to permanently separate us from God. The more we grow in sanctification and holiness, the more unable he is to successfully tempt us. What does it mean to you to grow in holiness, to put sin down, and to walk in victory (cf. Romans 6:12-14; 8:13; 2 Cor 7:1; Eph 4:22-24)?
Review Genesis 3:1-6; Ephesians 6:17, and 1 Thessalonians 2:13. How important is the Word of God in your life? The Devil can surely wreak greater havoc with ignorant and therefore unequipped Christians (please compare Eph 4:14). Do you read, study, memorize, and meditate on it? How does the example of Christ in Matthew 4:1-11 help you?
Prayer is integral to resisting Satan. Do you pray that God will meet all your needs? Do you pray for things you really need? Want? Pray also that God would enable you to be alert in the battle against Satan and give you the strength to resist him where necessary. Do you pray for other Christians and the powerful furtherance of the gospel in your community and around the world? Such prayer is required of kingdom citizens. Pray also that God might give you an undivided heart and that obedience to his will would be your delight!
One of the best protections we have from Satan is the encouragement, wisdom, and friendship of our brothers and sisters in the Lord (Heb 3:12-13). Are you regularly encouraged by other Christians? We need this source of God’s grace in our lives if we are to have victory over the Devil. Do you make it a practice to encourage and strengthen other Christians? This was Paul’s practice (e.g., Rom 1:11-12).
Not only are we to never give up ground won for the kingdom of light, we are never to stop advancing into the world, Satan’s domain, “plucking people from the fire,” as Jude says (Jude 22-23). We are to preach the gospel in all the world, calling on the Lord of the harvest to confirm his Word in spite of Satanic opposition. When we are confronted with a person who has a demon or is demonized, we should command the demon(s) to depart immediately in the name of Jesus and under his authority. But we must be very alert to the more subtle ways in which the Devil works, e.g., his ability to slip in destructive heresies and encourage people to violate their consciences through questionable practices. NOTE: Ideas are powerful things and lead to strongholds in people’s lives, in the life of a community, a nation, and even an entire intellectual tradition (e.g., the Western tradition and its love affair with naked “reason” and human autonomy). In most respects we may be certain that the god of this world stands behind, in one form or another, the promulgation of doctrines which attempt to overthrow God’s government and render vain the preaching of the gospel. We are able to combat this through obedience to the truth, prayerful preaching of the truth, and living holy lives while we lovingly reach out to our neighbors.
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus who has become to us wisdom from God, namely, righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor 1:30)
Why is it important to understand the Biblical doctrine of God’s sovereignty? What happens, though, if we equate “sovereignty” with “fatalism” or a rigid “determinism”? Remember, God was completely sovereign in the death of his Son, but the Jews and wicked men acted freely to commit the crime. The point is, that though there is tension between divine sovereignty and human freedom and responsibility, do not fall off either the side that sees God’s decree or plan as rigidly fixed from a human perspective or that he does not know the future and responds to it as it occurs. Both are false: God knows the future for he designed it and directs the present toward it, yet we can and ought to render him intelligent and free service through His Spirit who lives in us. This is the best balance between the clear statements of Scripture and our experience as free creatures. See Phil 2:12-13 again.
What does it mean to you that God chose you for himself in eternity past? What should our response be when things are difficult?
What does it mean to you to be able to call God “Abba father”? We have a father who knows us through and through and still loves us. He understands us intimately and longs to hear our cries and comfort our hearts. He provides for us like any good father and he protects us as well. He even chastens us for our good so that we might share in his holiness. Someday he will bring us to himself where we will live in his family without the struggle which sin occasions.
What do you think the Spirit is most interested in working in your life these days? When you face struggles and defeat, why is it important to reflect on God’s electing purpose in your life as well as the doctrine of justification and repentance?
From this study what are some things you need to believe, attitudes to change, and behavior to work out? Ask God for insight, wisdom, and strength in the carrying out of his will.
So then, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19)
There are several marks of a true church, but some of the more commonly mentioned include: (1) biblical doctrine; faithful preaching of God’s word combined with living faith in Him (2 Timothy 2:15); (2) the proper interpretation and faithful administration of the sacraments, i.e., the Lord’s Supper and Baptism (1 Corinthians 11); (3) the Biblical exercise of restorative discipline (Matthew 18:15-20); (4) equipping each member toward holiness and effective service (Colossians 1:28), and (5) strong emphasis on reaching the world for Christ and training new christians (Matthew 28:19-20).
Does learning that Paul referred to believers who met in homes as churches change your perspective on the church? How? What other facts about the nature of the church caught your attention and how can this new understanding benefit you in the situation into which God has called you?
What did you learn about the organic nature of the church from these metaphors? In your mind, how do these metaphors relate to the institutional church? Which metaphor, in your thinking, best expresses your relationship with Christ and other believers?
What does it mean to you, in the context of sharing your faith, that Christ has all authority in heaven and earth? In talking about the service of the church, we discussed three areas. What were they and why is it important that all three be present in any church? How do you serve in your church? How can you develop and mature this ministry?
What things should a person look for in a church? What is the minimum that must be present before you would fellowship somewhere? When is it proper for a Christian to leave a church for reasons other than relocation (e.g., due to a career change, or the like)? Is there a difference between the importance of the gospel, and the importance of one’s eschatology? If so, which is more important and at what point would you begin to struggle with a church in any one of these areas (if the church differed from you). NOTE: In all these questions we would encourage people to stay where they are and try to mature together with other believers, rather than leaving simply because someone holds to a pre-tribulational rapture and another a post-tribulational rapture. Of course, there are certain doctrinal errors that might lead to leaving a church since it appears in some cases that any hope for restoration to clear Biblical standards is unlikely. But, it has been our experience that there are a lot of Christians, in the US and Canada, in particular, who change churches at the first sign of differences or dislikes. This is unhealthy and prevents a person from truly committing himself to God and His people in a certain location.
What is your spiritual gift(s)? If you do not know, what is a good way to begin the process of discerning your gift? Prayer? Godly counsel? See Romans 12:1-2. What is the basic ethical and spiritual context for the healthy functioning of the gifts? How can you contribute to developing this kind of ambience in your church?
Why does God establish leadership in his church? What should be our response to the leaders God has appointed over us? See Acts 17:11; Hebrews 13:7, 17.
How has reflecting on these passages given you fresh insight into God’s passion that his children live and walk in unity? What can you do to foster unity in your church and among churches in your community? Trust God to bless you in this.
I am God and there is no other…I make known the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10)
We come now to the final study in this series, i.e., the study of the end times. In every area of theology there are differences of opinion among Bible believing Christians simply because we lack sufficient understanding or Scripture itself seems unclear (e.g., 1 Cor 15:29). Nowhere is this more true than in the study of the end times. Nonetheless, there are also crucial areas of agreement among Christians and we will do our best to examine them as well. In fact, we will start with them first.
There are also some points of disagreement. These usually include: (1) the fact and timing of the rapture; (2) the nature and length of time of the millennial kingdom in Revelation 20; (3) the nature, timing, and extent of the tribulation period; and (4) the role of national Israel in the unfolding of the end times and in the millennium.
Describe what it means to you that God is in control of the world and bringing it to its grand consummation. We know that Christ could conceivably come at any time, but this in no way means that he will come today or soon for that matter. This is a great error and often leads to a lack of healthy Christian involvement in the world. Therefore, how should we balance the fact that he could come at any time with the Biblical admonition to be prudent and make wise plans for the future? NOTE: Never forget, that although this world is fallen and as John says under the power of evil one, it is nonetheless God’s world and we are to act responsibly in it. We are not to seek, in any sense, an escapist agenda.
How will you deal with other Christians who differ with you over issues related to the interpretation of the finer points of the end times? Will it do any good to hurl insults and bring into question people’s motives? Is this honoring to Christ? I ask this because there has been—over this issue in particular—a lot of mud-slinging among Bible believing Christians for quite a while. Determine now to listen to others, weigh carefully what they say, graciously offer your own version, and pursue unity above all things.