Exploring the Bible Course - 26


We  have  seen  that  the  Gospel  message  proclaimed by  the  apostles  consisted  of  two  themes  or parts (Acts 8:12). We have considered “the things concerning the kingdom of God” in the last lesson and  now  we  will  concentrate  upon those  things  associated  with “the  name  of  Jesus  Christ” and their bearing upon our life in Christ.

The expression, “the name of Jesus Christ”, incorporates God’s work through His Son in providing forgiveness of sin for mortal man, and the reward of immortality at the return of Jesus Christ to the earth. God, through the prophet Isaiah, said He is “a just God and a Saviour”. He continues: “Look  unto  me,  and  be  ye  saved,  all  the  ends  of  the  earth:  for  I  am  God,  and  there  is  none  else” (Isaiah 45:21-22). Jesus himself said: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that  whosoever  believeth  in  him  should  not  perish,  but  have everlasting  life...  that  the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). Peter told the rulers of Israel: “Neither is there salvation in  any  other:  for there  is  none  other  name  under heaven  given  among  men,  whereby we must be saved ” (Acts 4:12). It is only through be
lief and then baptism into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that we can be saved.  

When  Peter  was  asked  at  the  Feast  of  Pentecost by  those  who  had  listened  carefully  to  his  address, “What  shall  we  do?” (for  they  were  struck  with  the  horror  of  what  they  had  done  in crucifying the Son of God), he answered, “Repent, and be baptised every one of you
in the name of  Jesus  Christ for  the  remission  of  sins” (Acts  2:37-38).  Peter  later,  preaching  the  message  of salvation  to  the  Roman  centurion  Cornelius,  pointed  out  that  all  the  prophets  of  Israel  had witnessed “that through  his  name whosoever  believeth  in him  shall  receive  remission  of  sins”. Cornelius responded in faith and therefore was “baptised in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:43,48).  

Baptism into Christ
When  a  person  is  baptised  he  is  identifying  with  the  death,  burial  and  resurrection  of  the  Lord Jesus  Christ  (Romans  6:3–5).  We  have  noted  that there  must  be  a  confession  of  past  sins  and repentance shown by a commitment to forsake one’s former way of life, before a person is ready to be baptised. In Romans 6 Paul explains in simple and clear terms the significance of baptism and the effect that it should have upon the life of the disciple of Christ.

Jesus was at all times completely obedient to his Father’s will. This obedience finally took him to the cross where he was cruelly crucified by wicked men. Though he was “in all points tempted like as  we  are”, yet  he  never  succumbed  to  sin  (Hebrews  4:15-16).  In  his  death  he  gained  his  final victory over those sinful tendencies that are inherited by all Adam’s descendants and which have caused  all,  except  him,  to  sin.  We  are  emphatically  told  that  he  shared  the  identical  “flesh  and  blood”  nature  that  we  have—“he  also  himself  likewise  took  part  of  the  same”.  This  was  essential,  that “through death he might destroy him that [Gr ton, that which] had the power of death, that is, the devil” (the diabolos, a synonymous term for the capacity to sin that we all possess—see Lesson 24) (Hebrews 2:14; cp Romans 7:15-21).  

Because  of  his  sinless  life  of  perfect  obedience,  even  to  death  on  the  cross,  it  was  not  right  that  the grave could hold him (Acts 2:23–24; Romans 6:9). God, in His justice, raised him to life again and  granted  him  immortality  in  His  presence  (Acts  2:32–36;  Philippians  2:8–10).  He  now  sits  at the  right  hand  of  God  in  heaven,  there  to  mediate  as  High  Priest  for  those  who  approach  God through him (Hebrews 7:25; 2:17-18).

We have seen in Romans 6 that in baptism we identify with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. First let us consider how we identify with his death.  

Paul  says: “Knowing  this,  that  our  old  man  is  crucified  with  him,  that  the  body  of  sin  might  be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). Therefore in baptism we demonstrate our desire to identify with our Lord’s death, a death in  which  he  destroyed,  once  and  for  all  for  himself,  the diabolos,  that  sin  prone  nature  that  he bore in common with us all. Paul calls it the “old man”.  In baptism “our old man is crucified with him” as it were, and we repudiate the ways of sin that have governed our life, confessing that we are  sinners  in  need  of  forgiveness.  We  acknowledge  that  we  are  worthy  of  death  because  of  our sins, for we have learned that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
As we rise from the waters of baptism, Paul identifies another parallel—with Jesus’ resurrection. We come forth to a new way of life, serving God
as our new Master. Paul describes it this way:

“We are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

It  is  in  this  “newness  of  life”  that  the  disciple  now  strives  to  follow  Christ.  It  is  a  way  of  life  in  which Christ is seen living in us as we strive to follow his example (1 Peter 2:21–25). With considerable feeling Paul describes the change that took place in his own life:  

“I  am  crucified  with  Christ:  [that  is,  the  ‘old Paul’  was  dead  now]:  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” (Galatians 2:20).

It was the love of Christ, revealed in his willingness to lay down his life for the sins of the world, that constrained Paul to respond by committing hi
s own life in service to his Lord (2 Corinthians 5:14,15;  cp  1  John  3:16).  Jesus  had  said:  “Greater  love  hath  no  man  than  this,  that  a  man  lay  down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:13-14). Those who, like Paul, have a true understanding of how Christ has redeemed them from sin and death, will desire to crucify “the old man” and rise to a “newness of life” in Christ by following his  commandments.  It  is  by  walking  according  to  these  commandments  that  Christ  is  seen  “in us”. It is through his teaching that our new character is developed (Colossians 3:1–14; Galatians 5:19–26; Ephesians 4:17–32; 5:1–21).  

(Note—a  brief  summary  of  the  Commandments  of Christ  is  set  out  at  the  conclusion  of  these lessons)
Walking in “Newness of Life”

Paul says that in our new state we have a change of master and of service. Whereas previously the believer had served “sin” and satisfied his own desires, now, through baptism, he has been freed from slavery to sin and serves “righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). Paul describes this new service as producing “fruit unto holiness” and in the end, eternal life:  

“But  now  being  made  free  from  sin,  and  become  servants  to  God,  ye  have  your  fruit  unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23).  

Again, this dramatic change is spoken of as “putting off... the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” and “putting on...the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22–24). The “new man” is seen in our new way of thinking and acting, which reflects the excellent virtues of the Lord Jesus Christ.  

The  disciple’s  life  will  focus  on  loving  service  to  God  out  of  gratitude  for His  grace  in  providing Jesus  Christ  for  the  forgiveness  of  sins  (Titus  2: 11–14).  He  will  aspire  to  manifest  in  his  life  the glorious character of God as revealed in the Bible (Exodus 34:6,7). He will find, too, that he now has an abhorrence of the perverse and wicked ways of the world. Like Jesus Christ, he will love righteousness and hate wickedness (Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:9). So Paul concludes: 

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The “New Man” Begotten by the Word of God
This “new  man”, Paul  says, “is  renewed  in  knowledge  after  the  image  of  him  that  created  him” (Colossians 3:10). The new man has come into existence because of a new-found knowledge of the truth of the Gospel. The change that has taken place has come about through careful study and meditation  upon  the  word  of  God.  James  says  that  God  has  begotten  His  children  through “the word  of  truth” (James  1:18).  Peter  says  that  those  who  respond  in  faith  and  obedience  to  the Gospel are  

“born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth  for  ever.  For  all  flesh  is  as  grass,  and  all  the  glory  of  man  as  the  flower  of  grass.  The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is pr eached unto you” (1 Peter 1:23-25; cp Isaiah 40:6-8 from which Peter is quoting).

Man’s  nature  is  such  that  he  will  inevitably  perish.  If,  however,  a  man  (or,  woman)  allows  the living word of God to grow in his heart and transform his life, God will give him eternal life. Jesus also had pointed out the contrast between the two ways, one leading to life and the other to death, when he said: “It is the spirit that quickeneth [gives life]; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

Daily Reading of the Bible
The  Lord  Jesus  Christ  draws  our  attention  to this  very  important  lesson  when  he  quotes Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live”. Daily reading of the Bible is as essential for the disciple of Christ as  his  daily  bread.  Because  the  disciple  has  been  “begotten”  by  the  word  of  God,  then  it  is  his  wisdom  to  draw  spiritual  nourishment  from  it every  day  to  ensure  steady  and  healthy  growth. This  is  how  Christ  is  to  be  seen  living  in  him.  David  describes  the  blessedness  of  the  man  who, turning from the company of the ungodly, delights himself “in the law of the LORD, and in His law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1). Again we read: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).

It is through personal reading and study of the Bible that the disciple will be strengthened in that “inward man” (Romans 7:22). He will feel the need, too, to gather with others who also believe the same true Gospel and be encouraged by the mutual joy that comes from sharing the same hope in Christ. God is pleased to see His children delighting to talk one to the other about His word and His ways, as the prophet Malachi tells us:  
“Then  they  that  feared  the  LORD spake  often  one  to  another:  and  the  LORD hearkened,  and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make  up  my  jewels;  and  I  will spare  them,  as  a  man  spareth  his  own  son  that  serveth  him”  (Malachi 3:16-17).  

Continuing in Prayer
One  of  the  great  privileges  that  the  newly  baptised  disciple  now  has  is  access  to  God  in  prayer through  the  Lord  Jesus  Christ  who,  at  the  right  hand  of  God,  mediates  as  High  Priest  on  his behalf to forgive his sins. (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).  

However, although without baptism into Christ there is no forgiveness of sins, it is important to remember that God does hear the prayers of those who are seeking to know and understand His ways and serve Him. We have the example of Cornelius who regularly prayed to God and so Peter
was  sent  to  show  him  the  way  of  salvation  through  Jesus  Christ  (Acts  10:1-6).  We  also  read  of  Lydia  and  her  household  who  were  people  of  prayer  and  God  brought  Paul  to  Philippi  that  they might hear the truth of the Gospel (Acts 16:13). Both Cornelius and Lydia and their households were baptised after hearing the Gospel (Acts 10:48; 16:14-15).

The  disciple  can  learn  to  develop  in  prayer  by  meditating  upon  some  of  the  prayers  that  are recorded  in  the  Bible.  The  prayers  of  faithful men  and  women  are  instructive  and  we  can  quite often see our own needs mirrored in their prayers. Many have received strength and comfort from prayers  like  Psalm  23.  The  apostle  Paul  continually  prayed  for  the  groups  of  believers  that  he knew. An example of this is recorded in Colossians 1:9-14, which is worthy of consideration for it helps us see how to pray for others.

Jesus’  disciples  asked  him  on  one  occasion  to  teach  them  how  to  pray.  The  result  was  the wonderful prayer that has been commonly called “the Lord’s Prayer” that sets a pattern for us to follow  in  our  own  prayers  (Luke  11:1-4;  cp  the  fuller  detail  in  Matthew  6:7-15). However  Jesus warned  against  repetition  through  reciting  of prayers  that  do  not  have  the  mind  and  heart involved. He said:  

“When  ye  pray,  use  not  vain  repetitions,  as  the heathen  do:  for  they  think  that  they  shall  be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:7).  
Not  only  will  the  disciple  of  Christ  approach  God  to  praise  Him  and  seek  for  daily  guidance  and  care, but he will also express thanks to Him for the many blessings he receives. Jesus gives us an example  of  giving  thanks  for  food  before  eating  when  he  fed  the  multitude:  
“He  took  the  seven loaves  and  the  fishes,  and  gave  thanks,  and  brake  them,  and  gave  to  his  disciples,  and  the disciples  to  the multitude” (Matthew  15:36;  see  also  John  6:11;  Acts  27:35;  1  Timothy  4:3-4). There are also times when the disciple will offer specific requests for help for himself or others in difficult circumstances, but he must recognise that he can only pray according to God’s will. God knows what is best for us more than we do ourselves and may not always grant our requests. It is in this confidence that he will follow Paul’s instruction—
“in every thing by prayer and supplication with  thanksgiving  let  your  requests  be  made  known  unto  God” (Philippians  4:6).  Seeing  both  the need and the privilege of prayer he will “continue in prayer” (Colossians 4:2).

Seeking Forgiveness of Sins
The disciple, having been baptised and manifesting a zeal to serve God and forsake his former way of thinking and behaviour, soon realises that his desire to serve God is again marred by sin. The sad  reality  is  forced  upon  him  that  he  still  bears  that  same  flesh  and  blood  nature  with  all  its weakness  and  sinful  promptings.  His  past  sins  were  forgiven  at  baptism,  but  alas,  he  has  again sinned.  The  apostle  Paul,  like  all  disciples  of  the  Lord,  was  frustrated  by  this  reality.  He  found that, although his desire was to serve his Lord in fullness, sin deceived him and he fell (Romans 7:18-24). Yet Paul knew that all was not therefore lost and rejoiced in God’s wonderful provision of a Saviour and Mediator: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (v.25). What comfort there is in knowing that “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1-2) and “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all  unrighteousness” (1  John  1:9).  So  the  disciple  will  be  very  aware  of  his  continuing  need  for forgiveness that he might find favour with God. This was part of that model prayer which the Lord taught  his  disciples: “Forgive  us  our  debts,  as  we  forgive  our  debtors” (Matthew  6:12). Like  King David,  he  will  pray  that  God  will  lead  him “in  the  paths  of  righteousness  for  his  name’s  sake” (Psalm 23:3; Matthew 6:13).

Gathering Together to Remember Christ  
The custom of the early disciples was to gather on the first day of the week to remember the Lord Jesus  Christ  as  he  had  appointed  (Acts  20:7).  While  the  first  day  of  the  week  remains  a convenient time for many to meet today, the precise day, time or place is not important. Jesus had commanded his disciples to remember him regularly in a simple ceremony that he had instituted—in eating bread and drinking wine. The bread was to represent his body and the wine was  to  remind  them  of  his  shed  blood  (Matthew  26:  26-29;  Luke  22:19-20).  The  apostle  Paul discussed this remembrance of the Lord in his letter to the disciples in Corinth, emphasising the need  to  place  the  highest  importance  upon  what they  were  doing  (1  Corinthians  11:23-29;  cp 10:16-17).  He  also  reminded  them  that  when  they  gathered  the  women  must  have  their  heads covered (1 Corinthians 11:4-5,13) and that the role of speaking and teaching in the meetings was the  responsibility  of  the  men  (1  Corinthians  14:34;  1  Timothy  2:12).  Disciples  today  follow  this commandment of their Lord and meet together each week to worship God and remember His Son in this appointed way.  

However  if  a  believer  is  in  an  isolated  area,  separated  from  others  who  hold  the  same  faith  and hope, then he/she must still remember the Lord regularly as he has appointed. There is a need to set aside a quiet time to pray, read the word of God and partake of bread and wine, recalling the wonder of the Lord’s sacrifice whereby his sins have been forgiven. Though alone, he is part of the worldwide family of God, and can take comfort in the fact that many throughout the world will be doing likewise as they worship God and remember His Son.  

It is important to realise that those who break bread in this way, do so on the basis of a common understanding of Bible Truth. After they were baptised, the disciples “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). Fellowship, in  the  sense  of  being  united  together  with  God  in  Christ,  is  only  possible  for  those  who  believe  those things revealed in God’s word. The apostles instructed that those whose life-style was not in accord with the gospel, or who taught things that were not true doctrine, should not be accepted in  fellowship  (1  Corinthians  5:4,5;  1  Timothy  1:16-19;  Titus  3:10;  2  John  v.10,11).  We  are  not therefore,  as  believers  baptised  into  “the  truth  as it  is  in  Jesus”,  free  to  break  bread  with  those who belong to other churches or who hold wrong doctrines.

The disciples in the first century also met together for prayer and discussion on the word of God, first of all the Old Testament and later the epistles sent by the apostles, as we see from reading through the Acts of the Apostles and the various epistles (Colossians 4:16). There was a keenness to study and think upon the word of God that they might gain greater understanding of His ways and draw nearer to Him. Those who did not continue to develop in the understanding of the word of God were reproved (Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Peter 2:1-2).

The apostles realised that faith could only be strengthened by continually reading the word of God (Romans  10:17).  Godliness,  too,  could  only  grow  out  of  considering  God’s  character  as  He  is revealed in His dealings with men and women in the past, and by seeing that character revealed perfectly in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.  

The  disciples  of  the  Lord  today  still  delight  in gathering  together  to  discuss  the  Bible  and  to encourage  one  another  to  follow  in  the  footsteps of  the  Lord  Jesus  Christ  (1  Peter  2:21–24;  2 Timothy 3:16–17; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Hebrews 10:24–25). 

Christ—the Head of the Body
The pattern for both the individual life in Christ and communal life among the disciples is set out for  us  in  the  apostolic  guidance found  in  the  New  Testament.  As  communities  of  believers  were established throughout the Roman world the apostles continually reminded them that they were all  part  of  the  “one  body”  of  which  Jesus  Christ  was  “the  Head”  (Ephesians  1:22-23;  Colossians 1:18; 2:19). The different communities were called “ecclesias”, meaning “called out ones”, and we have explained the meaning of this word in Lesson 23. Members of ecclesias must never lose sight of  the  fact  that  they  are  a  separate  people  “called  out”  to  glorify  God  in  their  lives.  Although  all communities  of  believers  were  united  in  “one   faith”  and  “one   hope”  in  Christ,  yet  each administered  its  own  internal  affairs.  The  qualifications  of  those  who  were  to  be  selected  for  the care and guidance of these ecclesias are given in detail in 1 Timothy 3:1–7, Titus 1:5-9.

Since Jesus Christ was the acknowledged “head” of the “one body” of believers (Ephesians 1:22-23;  4:15-16),  it  was  understood  that  each  individual  community  was  answerable  to  him.  There was no tiered hierarchy established by the apostles answering to a central body, pope, patriarch, archbishop or prophet. Those who deviated from the true doctrines of the apostles were those who through  greed  exploited  their  followers,  as  the apostle  Peter  forewarned  the  early  ecclesias  to whom he wrote (2 Peter 2:1-3). It has been noticeable over many hundreds of years that the “covetousness” or greed of church leaders has turned religion into a money-making system. Those who know the prophecy of Peter understand how accurately the apostate church systems fulfil his prediction  of  this.  He  warned  that  false  teachers  would  arise  and  
“make  merchandise  of  you”  (2 Peter 2:3).  

Unity of Faith and Love
Although  each  ecclesia,  or  group  of  believers,  administered  its  own  affairs,  there  was  a  bond  of  unity that pervaded the whole community throughout the world. They were united because they shared  the  one  faith,  the  same  hope  and  a  mutual love  of  God,  of  Jesus  Christ  His  Son,  and  of one  another.  Paul  encouraged  all  individual  members  to  be  worthy  of  the  One  who  had  called them, “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”, for he reminded them that there was “one body...one hope...one faith” (Ephesians 4:1-7).  

This bond that united the brethren of the Lord is wonderful to read of in the epistles in the New Testament. There was a care that existed between ecclesias, even towards those whom they may never  have  met  face  to  face,  and  a  warmth  of  hospitality  extended  to  those  who  travelled.  Each member  was  accepted  and  cared  for  with  a  loving  concern  for  his  wellbeing  (John  13:34-35; Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 3:12-17). They were very aware that they were all the children of one Heavenly  Father,  begotten  by  His  grace,  and  it  was  this  that  constrained  them  to  extend  that brotherly love that should exist in the family of God. In fact they called each other “brother” and “sister” as a reminder of the status that they each enjoyed in Christ (2 Peter 3:15; Romans 16:1; Colossians 1:2).
This love that pervaded the ecclesias then, and is seen today amongst disciples, is well described by the apostle John: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation [means of forgiveness] for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11).

The Disciple’s Position in Society
One  of  the  notable  features  of  the  disciples  of  the  Lord  in  the  first  century  was  their  complete separation from the political and social structure of the society in which they lived. Although Paul is  described  as  having  turned  the  pagan  Roman  world  “upside  down” (Acts  17:6),  he  did  this through  the  preaching  of  the  Gospel.  The  disciples  considered  themselves,  like  Abraham,  “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13) and kept themselves separate from political activity. The power of their work lay in the message they proclaimed and the life that they lived.  

That  message  revealed  the  divine  plan  for  the earth.  It  showed  the  utter  futility  of  human endeavour  to  solve  the  world’s  problems,  and  exposed  the  wickedness  of  the  perverse  and permissive  society  in  which  they  lived.  They  to ok  no  part  in  politics  or  military  activity,  
conscientiously believing that it was wrong for the servants of God to do so.  

The commandments of Christ are very clear. Those who follow Christ are not to commit violence or harm others. Jesus taught: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for  a  tooth:  But  I  say  unto  you,  That  ye  resist  not  evil:  but  whosoever  shall  smite  thee  on  thy  right cheek, turn to him the other also”; and again: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you,  do  good  to  them  that  hate  you,  and  pray  for  them  which  despitefully  use  you,  and  persecute you” (Matthew 5:38-44). Further, when the mob came to capture Jesus and Peter used his sword to  protect  his  Lord,  Jesus  said, “Put  up  again  thy  sword  into  his  place:  for  all  they  that  take  the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matthew 26:52).  

The  disciples  realised  that  the  only  hope  for  the  world  was  the  return  of  Jesus  Christ  and  the Kingdom of God which he would establish (Matthew 5:39-44; 26:52; Daniel 4:17). Therefore they followed  Paul’s  instructions  and  did  not  become  involved  in  the  ways  of  the  world. They  heeded Paul’s  instruction, “Come  out  from  among  them,  and  be  ye  separate”, that  they  might  keep themselves from the defilements of an immoral world, so “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 6:14 - 7:1).  

Although  Paul  and  the  other  apostles  instructed the  disciples  to  take  no  part  in  the  political structure of society, they were to willingly submit to rulers and obey the laws of the land as far as they  did  not  conflict  with  their  conscience  before  God.  They  encouraged  them  to  pray  for  God’s overshadowing  guidance  upon  those  in  authority  that  they  might  make  laws  that  would  allow them freedom of worship (1 Timothy 2:1-6; Romans 13:1-10, 1 Peter 2:11-25).

The disciple today will follow their example of separation from involvement in this world’s political activities,  awaiting  the  return  of  Jesus  Christ and  the  establishment  of  God’s  Kingdom.  He,  like  Paul, will see that his citizenship belongs to the coming Kingdom: “For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus” (Philippians 3:20 ASV).  

Preaching the “Good News”
You will recall that the word “Gospel” actually means “good news” or “to proclaim good news”. The message of salvation from sin and death and the coming Kingdom to be set up on earth is indeed “good news”. Jesus told the disciples: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel [or good news] to every creature. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved” (Mark 16:15-16). Once a person heard and understood this “good news” and believed and obeyed it by being baptised, he rejoiced in the new relationship he now had with God and Christ. There was then a strong desire to  share  this  “good  news”  with  others  so  that  they  too  might  share  the  hope  of  the  Gospel  also with them.

This is how Christianity spread so swiftly throughout the Roman Empire—as believers multiplied they  told  the  “good  news”  or  gospel  to  others.  Paul,  for  example,  tells  how  the  believers  in Thessalonica broadcast the word of God in the areas about them: “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad (1 Thessalonians 1:8). This same spirit will be seen in those disciples today who have come to believe and obey the gospel. They will tell others of the wonderful hope that God has offered through Jesus Christ, and assist them to understand the message of the Bible.  

Being a Faithful Disciple Today
Discipleship  of  the  Lord  Jesus  Christ  today  is  based  upon  the  same  principles  as  it  was  in  the days  of  Jesus.  The  word  “disciple”  primarily  means  one  who  is  a  learner  and  carries  the  idea  of  following  the  one  who  teaches.  It  incorporates  not  just  the  idea  of  receiving  instruction,  but  of  learning  to  perform  for  one’s  self  what  the  teacher  has  taught.  It  necessitates  following  the example  set  by  the  teacher,  and  the  Lord  was  the  greatest  teacher  the  world  has  ever  seen.  He expected  nothing  less  than  total  commitment  from  those  who  wanted  to  be  his  disciples  (Luke 14:25–33),  for  discipleship  requires  transformation in  our  lives.  We  see  in  the  lives  of  men  like Peter and Paul that they followed him joyfully and in this they are great examples to us.  

Discipleship today requires a daily dedication to follow the teaching and example of our Lord in all our  ways.  Disciples  have  the  consolation  of  sharing  their  walk  with  others  of  the  same  faith  by meeting  with  them  to  worship  God  and  discuss  the  Bible  together.  By  this  means  they  can  help one another to prepare for that glorious day when the Lord shall return from heaven to reward his faithful servants. To those who have patiently and faithfully served him in his absence he will say: “Come,  ye  blessed  of  my  Father,  inherit  the  kingdom  prepared  for  you  from  the  foundation  of  the world” (Matthew 25:34).

Summary Points
1. The two fundamental themes of the Gospel message are
  a. The things concerning the Kingdom of God, and
  b. The things concerning the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12).
2. To believe and obey the Gospel one must have an understanding of these Bible truths (Mark 16:15-16).
3. The apostles only accepted into the community of believers those who believed and obeyed the Gospel by being baptised into the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:37-38; 8:12; 10:43-48).
4. Baptism  is  a  public  identification  with  Jesus Christ’s  death  and  resurrection,  and  of  what God accomplished in him (Romans 6:1-7).
5. In requesting baptism a believer confesses that he is a sinner and acknowledges that he is worthy of death. As he comes out of the waters of baptism he commences a new way of life in Christ (Romans 6:4-6; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 4:22-24).
6. The new life that the disciple now endeavours to live is described by Paul in Colossians 3:1-17.
7. Daily reading and meditation on the word of God is an essential discipline in the life of the disciple of Christ (John 6:63; Psalm 1; Psalm 119:97,105; 1 Peter 1:23-25).
8. The disciple delights to talk with others about the wonders of God as revealed in the Bible (Malachi 3:16-17).
9. Prayer  and  thanksgiving  become  part of  the  daily  life  of  the  disciple (Philippians  4:6;  Colossians  4:2).  He  appreciates  that  Christ  is  at  the  right  hand  of  God,  there  to  make intercession for him (Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1-2; 1:9).  
10. The disciple is a “brother” or “sister” of the Lord Jesus Christ and part of the family of the living God, and acknowledges God as his “Father" (Matthew 6:9).
11. All  true  disciples  are  members  of  the  worldwide  “body  of  Christ”  and  acknowledge  him  as their  “head”  (Ephesians  1:22-23). This  body  is  bound  together  in  love (Ephesians  4:16;  Colossians  3:12-17). There  is  a  deep  bond  of  fellowship  and  care  one  for  the  other  that exists worldwide in the body of Christ, which is the ecclesia (John 13:34-35).
12. The disciple of Christ is committed to keephis commandments and follow his example in all things (John 14:21).
13. The  disciple  of  Christ  will  keep  himself  separate  from  the  ungodly  ways  of  this  world,  not  seeking  its  pleasures  but  rather  striving  to  be  holy  in  thought  and  action (2  Corinthians  6:14-7:1; 1 Peter 1:15,16).
14. The  disciple  of  Christ  will  take  no  part  in  the  political  and  military  activities  of  this  world (Matthew 5:39-44; 26:52; Daniel 4:17).
15. Believing  the  Gospel  of  the  coming  kingdom  of God  and  the  way  of  salvation  from  sin,  the disciple of Christ will gladly tell others
of this great hope revealed in the Bible (2 Timothy 4:1-2).
16. Following the commandment of his Lord, the disciple will meet each week to remember him by partaking of bread and wine (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29).

Lesson 26 - Questions
1. What are the two fundamental themes of the Gospel?
2. When a person believes the Gospel what must he do next?
3. In  Romans  6:2-7  Paul  says  that  through  baptism  our  “old  man” is  crucified  and  we “should walk in newness of life”. What does this mean?
4. Why is it vital for a disciple to read the Bible every day?
5. Why should prayer be an essential part of our life in Christ?
6. If Christ is the “Head”, what is the community of believers throughout the world likened to?
7. Why do disciples keep separate from the world and its ways?
8. Because disciples are now members of the family of God through Christ, how do they address each other?
9. Why do disciples of Christ take no part in the political and military activities of this world?
10. What did Jesus ask his disciples to do regularly to remember him?

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