"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Consider. God is the source, the originator of all true comfort. God comforts us, his people, in our affliction. God expects us, his people, to comfort others in their affliction.
God is the Source of All True Comfort
The Apostle Paul joyfully begins the main body of this letter with, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3). Let's discuss this opening verse in three parts.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul begins with the language of a heart which is full of joy and that bursts forth with gratitude (Ref. 1). Paul has a comfort which he recognizes comes from God (Ref. 2). Paul shows us that it is possible and proper to bless God (praise God - Ref. 3) when we, God's people, are experiencing affliction. Paul uses the same opening phrase in Ephesians 1:3.
The Father of mercies. Our heavenly Father is the originator, the begetter, the source of mercy and compassion (Ref. 4). As our heavenly Father, it is God's nature to impart mercy and compassion to his children. The Greek word for mercies in 2 Corinthians 1:3 is oiktirmos (oyk-tir-mos'). The short definition is pity, compassion, favor, grace, and mercy (Ref. 5). The long definition is "visceral compassions -- the deep feelings God has for all of us, and powerfully shows and shares in those following Him" (Ref. 5).
And the God of all comfort. God is the source of all true consolation and comfort. In the same way that God is the Father of mercies, God is the God of all comfort because it comes from him. There is no other real source of comfort but God; and "he is able abundantly and willingly to impart consolation to his people" (Ref.1). The Greek word for comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:3 is paraklésis (par-ak'-lay-sis), which means coming along side, encouragement, consolation, and comfort (Ref. 6).
"Comfort" is a great theme of 2 Corinthians. In the New American Standard Bible, the English words "comfort," "comforts," and "comforted" occur 10 times in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 alone.
God Comforts Us in our Affliction that We May Be Able to Comfort Others
Now, let's discuss the next verse, 2 Corinthians 1:4, in three parts.
Who comforts us in all our affliction. As the God of all comfort, God comes along side and encourages us -- all believers in Christ -- in our affliction (2 Corinthians 1:4, John 14:16-17). The Greek word for affliction is thlipsis (thlip'-sis), which means tribulation, especially internal pressure that causes someone to feel confined (restricted, "without options") (Ref. 7). Paul and his co-writer, Timothy (2 Corinthians 1:1), openly tell us from their personal life experience that they had felt an ever-continuing comfort flowing from God.
So that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction. Paul and Timothy knew that God comforted them not just for their own benefit, but that God's comfort might flow forth to others through them (Ref. 2). In the same way, Paul teaches us in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that as disciples and followers of Jesus, the affliction we experience is part of our "schooling" and training to sympathize with and comfort others (Ref. 8). Our life's experience with affliction coupled with God's power flowing through us helps us not only to sympathize with others but also to speak a word in season to those who are weary (Isaiah 50:4). This is the very essence of the work of comforting (Ref. 2).
With the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. The best comfort that we as Christian believers can provide to others comes from God, not from the world. As believers in Jesus Christ, we can communicate uniquely to others the forgiveness, the acceptance, and the hope for eternal life that comes only through faith in Christ (Ref. 1, Ephesians 2:8-9). Let us remember Jesus' final words of encouragement to his disciples. "These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Apply. Pray, and thank God that he is the source of all true comfort. Thank God for how he has comforted (come along side, encouraged) you in the afflictions you have experienced. Ask God to bring to your mind someone you can comfort (come along side, encourage) in their affliction. Think specifically how you can best comfort them, for example, listening to them, offering to pray for or with them, and sharing a verse of scripture that has been meaningful to you in your times of affliction. Follow through on God's leading.
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"And he was saying, 'Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!' 43 And He said to him, 'Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.'" (Luke 23:42-43)
Read: Luke 23:33-43
Consider. For the person who puts their faith in Jesus, upon the death of their body, their soul goes immediately to be with Jesus in Paradise.
Two thieves were crucified with Jesus that day - one on the right and the other on the left (Luke 23:33). Both thieves were next to the One who could save them. Yet, one thief hurled abuse (literally, blasphemed) at Jesus (Luke 23:39, Ref. 1). The other, penitent thief recognized that he himself was guilty yet Jesus was innocent. The penitent thief said, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!" (Luke 23:40-42). To this thief, the penitent thief, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Jesus' promise to the penitent thief has brought hope to millions of believers over the centuries since Jesus' death and resurrection. Jesus' promise to the penitent thief brings believers hope today as we consider the destination of our souls upon our death and the destination of the souls of our loved ones.
In the next two sections, I would like to focus on two important points, or "take aways" from Jesus' promise to the penitent thief.
Paradise is where believers will be with Jesus after death. Jesus could have told the penitent thief, "Today you will be in Paradise." But Jesus did not say that. Jesus said, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43, underline added).
Paradise in Greek is paradeisos (par-ad'-i-sos), which is "an ancient Persian word meaning 'enclosure, garden, park'" (Ref. 2). Paradise is mentioned in the New Testament only three times - in Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:4, and Revelation 2:7.
The Apostle Paul expressed his desire (his passionate longing) to be with Jesus after his death when he wrote, "But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better" (Philippians 1:22-23, Ref. 3). Likewise, the early Christians were encouraged, that when they were absent from their body, they would be at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8, Ref. 4).
Note that Jesus' promise to the penitent thief, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise," did not apply to the unrepentant thief who verbally abused Jesus and did not believe in him. Scripture teaches that the souls of the unrighteous go to the place of torment Jesus described in Luke 16:22-26 . There they await judgment and the second death (Revelation 20:11-15). It is far better to believe in Jesus during our earthly lifetime and to have his assurance that upon the death of our body our soul will be in Paradise with him.
The souls of believers immediately enter Paradise to be with Jesus upon death. Jesus told the penitent thief, "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43, underline added). Not tomorrow. Not some time in the future. Today. Jesus spoke to the penitent thief in language that he would understand. Even though their dead bodies would be on the cross or in the grave (Luke 23:50-53), the souls of the Savior and the penitent thief would be alive and in Paradise together that day (Ref. 5).
Another biblical example illustrates a believer's expectation of going immediately to be Jesus upon his death. At the time of his death from stoning, Stephen the martyr said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!," and then he died (Acts 7:57-60).
Apply. Let the words of Jesus to the penitent thief comfort you as you consider the destination of your soul upon your death. "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Put your faith and trust in Jesus who is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. You will receive God's gracious gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23), and upon the death of your body, your soul will go to Paradise to be with Jesus.
This article teaches about the biblical passages that Isaac Watts referred to when he wrote the poem that we now know as "Joy to the World."
In 1719, Isaac Watts published a poem about Psalm 98:4-9, Psalm 96:11-13, and Genesis 3:17-18. He titled the poem, The Messiah's Coming and Kingdom (Ref. 1, Ref. 2). Today we know that poem by the title, "Joy to the World," from the first line of the first verse:
"Joy to the World; the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev'ry heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing." (Ref. 1)
More than a century later, in 1836, Lowell Mason set the words of the poem, "Joy to the World," to music (Ref. 3). Musically, Mason borrowed the first four notes for his tune from the chorus, "Lift Up Your Heads," in Handel's Messiah (Ref. 1). As of the late 20th century, "Joy to the World" was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America" (Ref. 1).
Scriptures for "Joy to the World"
Psalm 98:4-9 KJV -- "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. (5) Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. (6) With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King. (7) Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. (8) Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together (9) Before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity."
Psalm 96:11-13 KJV -- "Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. (12) Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice (13) Before the Lord: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth."
Genesis 3:17-19 KJV -- "And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; (18) Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; (19) In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
The beautiful carol, "Joy to the World," that we love to sing at Christmas actually is more about the second coming of Christ than the first (the incarnation - John 1:14). Psalm 98:4-9 and Psalm 96:11-13 glorify Christ's triumphant return at the end of the age. The Apostle Paul, writing after the first coming of Christ, tells us the whole creation still groans and is subject to corruption (including destruction and decay) (Romans 8:21-22, Ref. 4). The time still is in the future when the sea will roar in praise, the floods will clap their hands, and the "trees of the wood" will rejoice when Christ comes to judge the world (Psalm 98:7-9, Psalm 96:12-13). Verses 1 and 2 of "Joy to the World" look forward to this time of rejoicing.
When Christ comes again he will establish his reign upon the earth. He will judge (the Hebrew word means to act as law-giver, judge, governor) the world with righteousness, truth, and grace (Psalm 98:9, Psalm 96:13, John 1:14, Ref. 5). Verse 4 of "Joy to the World" expresses this truth.
Genesis 3:17-19 describes the curse that God announced to Adam after Adam had sinned by eating the fruit from the forbidden tree. This passage specifically mentions the curse on the ground, the sorrow that Adam (mankind) will have toiling the ground, and that the ground will grow thorns (Genesis 3:17-18). In Verse 3 of "Joy to the World," the hymn looks forward and says, "No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground." When Christ comes, he "will make his blessings flow ... far as the curse is found." We can receive Christ's blessings now and become free from the eternal curse of sin by putting our faith, confidence, and trust in him today (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:23-24, John 11:25-26).
Hymn Writer and Composers for "Joy to the World"
Three different men from three different backgrounds have collaborated in mind and spirit to create the carol, "Joy to the World," that people have enjoyed for more than 180 Christmases.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was an English Independent (Congregational) minister, theologian, and a prolific and popular hymn writer. Watts composed more than 700 hymns (Ref. 2). Many of his hymns remain in use today including "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," "From All That Dwell Below the Skies," and "Marching to Zion" (Ref. 2).
Lowell Mason (1792-1872) was an American choir director, music educator, and composer in Boston and New York City (Ref.3). In 1836 he rearranged a section of Handel’s "Messiah" to fit the words of "Joy to the World." That familiar hymn tune we sing today for "Joy to the World" is named Antioch (Ref. 1). Lowell Mason also is known for his hymn tune, "Nearer, My God, to Thee," and for the melody he created for the nursery rhyme, "Mary Had a Little Lamb" (Ref.3).
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) was a German, later British, Baroque composer who spent the bulk of his career in London (Ref. 6). Handel composed his masterpiece oratorio, Messiah, in 1741 (Ref. 7). Lowell Mason's Antioch tune for "Joy to the World" borrows the first four notes from the chorus, "Lift Up Your Heads," in Handel's Messiah (Ref. 1).
Even though Isaac Watts wrote "Joy to the World" about the second coming of Christ, "Joy to the world" applies to us today when we celebrate the first coming of Christ. First, our hearts are to "prepare him room" (Luke 2:7, Verse 1). Second, we are to celebrate the "wonders of his love" (Verse 4). The Bible tells us about God's wonderful love -- "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).
Have you prepared room in your heart for Jesus? (Luke 2:7)
Have you received Jesus who came to save you and me from our sins? (Matthew 1:20-21)
Are you prepared to meet Jesus Christ joyfully when he comes to judge the world? (Psalm 98:4, 9; Psalm 96:11, 13)
"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. (7) If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 4:6-7 The Living Bible)
This scripture is special to me. Philippians 4:6-7 is the first scripture passage I memorized after committing my life to the Lord in 1974. My thirst for the Word began then. My wife and I both memorized this scripture at the urging of our first Adult Bible Study teacher, "Bruce." Bruce continually quipped, "When in a fix, Philippians 4:6."
This article essentially is a reprint of an article I wrote in the 1982 time frame for our church newspaper, "The Good News."
Worry still is a major issue for people. In fact, worry is rampant. Worry is nearly universal in our American lifestyle; it certainly affects non-Christians, but it also affects Christians. Non-Christians do not have the resources to draw upon that we have -- namely, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, His word, and the Christian support community. Oh how miserable it must be to live and not know Jesus Christ!
Pray about everything
First, Paul tells us we are to pray, and not only to pray, but to pray about everything, and that includes praying about everything that worries us. God is not too busy to hear our prayers -- He is always available. Too often we are too busy to avail ourselves of His time. Furthermore, our God is concerned about all of our life, down to the smallest detail. He wants us to cast all of our anxieties on Him, not just the emergencies (1 Peter 5:7 ESV).
Tell God our needs
Second, we are to tell God our needs. I find it interesting that although God knows everything about us, including our thoughts and concerns, Paul instructs us to tell God our needs. There are many fine ways to pray -- in church, in groups -- but I believe the key is to have a foundation of private and personal prayer with God on a frequent and regular basis. Prayer with the body of Christ is uplifting and necessary to our spiritual well-being, but there is no substitute for quality time spent alone with the Lord.
Thank Him for His answers
Third, we are to thank God for His answers. We are to pray with thanksgiving in our hearts. An attitude of thanklessness on our part -- for God's blessings and provisions for us and for His answers to our prayers -- is a major hindrance to an effectual prayer life and hampers the development of a close relationship with God. Each day as we pray it is helpful to recall the things we have previously prayed about, and to thank Him for His answers -- and for those answers which are still "on the way."
Experience God's peace
Fourth, God promises us peace -- a wonderful peace in our hearts. He promises that His peace will guard our hearts (Philippians 4:7 ESV). The Greek word for guard is phroureó, which means to be a watcher in advance, to mount guard as a sentinel, and to protect (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Ref. 1). God's peace guards our hearts and keeps our thoughts quiet.
This peace, God's peace in our hearts, is so precious that man's mind can never produce it -- it is given by God. And, the only way we can receive it is to trust in Christ Jesus. There is no other way to receive the "peace which surpasses understanding" (Philippians 4:7 ESV) than to trust personally in Jesus Christ. We do this by placing our complete reliance upon Him as a person and on His word -- we place the care of our whole being into His hands.
With the world, there is worry. In contrast, as followers of Jesus Christ, we can pray about everything, tell God our needs, and thank Him for His answers. Then His peace will keep our thoughts and our hearts quiet and at rest as we trust in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7 TLB).
"Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. (14) Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; (15) and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. (16) Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." (James 5:13-16)
This article presents five Biblical keys to effective prayer -- pray with other Christians, pray in faith, confess our sin, pray in the will of God, and pray in the name of Jesus. This article also discusses the results of effective prayer.
Prayer is one of the most important topics we will ever discuss as Christians. Prayer is communication with God. Prayer helps us receive God's peace and healing in the midst of our problems and concerns. Prayer helps us discern God's will for our lives. Prayer encourages others, protects others, and empowers others to further the ministry of Christ in the world.
It is to our advantage to learn to pray effectively. Why? Because "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" (James 5:16).
The Bible gives us guidance in how to pray effectively.
The Keys to Effective Prayer
This section presents five keys to effective prayer. The first two keys are based on James 5:14-15.
1. Pray with other Christians. James 5:14 instructs us, "Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they [third person plural] are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (James 5:14, brackets added).
Of course, God hears our prayers when we are alone and are praying in secret (Matthew 6:5-6). However, Scripture also teaches us that it is advantageous for us to pray with our companions in Christ. Recall that Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs (Mark 6:7). He gave them [third person plural] authority over unclean spirits, with the results that they cast out many demons, anointed sick people with oil, and healed them (Mark 6:13).
2. Pray in faith. James 5:15 tells us, "And the prayer offered in faith [Greek word pistis, which means persuasion, come to trust] will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him" (James 5:15, brackets added, Ref. 1). When we pray in faith, God is pleased because we believe that "He is" and that "He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). Note that faith, "divine persuasion," is a gift that God gives to believers (Ephesians 2:8-9, Ref. 1, Acts 16:14).
3. Confess our sin and receive forgiveness as a prerequisite for effective prayer. This teaching -- that confession of sin is a prerequisite for effective prayer -- may seem strange to some, even Christians. However, this key cannot be overlooked if we are to pray effectively.
John writes about confessing our sins to God, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). When we harbor unforgiven sin, or anger or unforgiveness towards others, that sin can block the channel of God's power through us in our prayers. Refer to Matthew 5:22-24, Matthew 6:14-15, James 1:20, and Psalm 66:18.
To become effective prayer channels for God when we minister to others or pray for ourselves, we should first take time to confess our sins and to receive God's forgiveness through God's Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7, 9).
4. Pray confidently in the will of God. John tells us, "This is the confidence [bold resolve] which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will [God's desire, preferred will], He hears us" (1 John 5:14, brackets added, Ref. 2, Ref. 3).
Praying in God's will includes trusting God with the outcome. Recall that Jesus said to his Father, "Not My will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42).
As believers in Christ and as children of our heavenly Father (John 1:12), we can learn God's will through prayer (speaking with and listening to God), God's word, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). If we do not know God's will in a matter, we should ask him (James 1:5).
5. Pray in the name (character and authority) of Jesus. Jesus said to his disciples (and by extension to us as believers), "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (14) If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:13-14).
When we pray in Jesus' name, we pray representing his character, reputation, and authority. We pray representing Christ, not ourselves (Ref. 4).
Praying in Jesus' name should not be just a religious phrase we tack on at the end of our prayers. We should discern God's will and then pray our entire prayer in Jesus' name -- in his behalf and for his glory.
The Results of Effective Prayer
Before we close this lesson, let's gain further insight by looking at two word definitions in James 5:16. The New American Standard Bible (1995) says, "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" (James 5:16, NASB1995). Let's look at the definitions for the word "effective" and for the words "can accomplish much."
The Greek word for effective in "effective prayer" is the verb energeó. Energeó means energizing, working, and displaying activity (Ref. 5). HELPS Word-studies illustrates this term by the example of "an electrical current energizing a wire, bringing it to a shining light bulb" (Ref. 5). Like the wire that brings electrical energy to turn on a light bulb, our effective prayers are channels for God's energy and power to work change in situations for others.
The James 5:16 scripture also tells us our effective prayers can accomplish much. The Greek word translated as can accomplish much is ischuó. Ischuó means to prevail, to engage the resistance with combative, confrontive force to achieve what the Lord gives us faith to achieve (Ref. 6). The idea of our prayers engaging the resistance reminds me of the verse, "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses" (2 Corinthians 10:4, italics added).
Finally, a word about trusting God. Many times when we pray fervently for others we will see improvements including peace and healing. However, sometimes when we pray in faith and apply all the keys that God has given to us in prayer, the results may not come quickly or turn out the way we hope. In those situations we must continue to trust God. God loves us. God cares for us. God is with us and never forsakes us. God helps us through all of life's difficulties, and for believers in Jesus Christ, God will ultimately bring us into his presence in heaven.
Photo source: FreeBibleImages.org
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." (Colossians 1:15)
"And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power." (Hebrews 1:3)
This lesson teaches that when God has been visible to people in the Old and New Testaments, it was God the Son, the timeless second person of the Trinity.
Consider. Although the Father is unseen, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the visible expression of God throughout the Old and New Testaments.
1. No one has seen the Father except Jesus Christ, God's Son.
In John 6:46, Jesus said, "Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father."
2. The Son was with God from the beginning and was God.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).
3. In the Old Testament, when God visibly appeared to people it was God the Son.
In the Old Testament, when God visibly appeared to people it was God the Son, the timeless, pre-incarnate second person of the trinity. Consider the following examples from scripture. Note where the One appearing is interchangably called the "Angel of the Lord," "Lord," and "God."
Hagar -- Genesis 16:7-13
Abraham -- Genesis 17:1-22, Genesis 18:1-33
Moses -- Exodus 3:1-6, 13-15 (burning bush, John 8:58), Exodus 13:17-22 (pillars of cloud and fire), Exodus 33:9-11 (face to face), Exodus 33:17-23 (Moses sees the Lord's back)
Gideon -- Judges 6:11-24
Manoah and his wife (Sampson's parents) -- Judges 13:2-24
Elijah -- 1 Kings 19:9-18 (the Lord speaks with Elijah)
4. In the New Testament, God the Son was visible as a man, fully God and fully human.
He became flesh ("Incarnation"). "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:1).
He was fully God and fully human. "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (9) For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, (10) and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority" (Colossians 2:8-10, italics added).
He was and is the visible image of God. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15).
Helps Word-studies tells us, "Image then exactly reflects its source (what it directly corresponds to). For example, Christ is the very image, (supreme expression) of the Godhead (see 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15)" (Ref. 1).
Jesus said to Philip, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (John 14:9)
He was seen, heard, and touched by mankind. "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— (2) and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us" (1 John 1:1-2, italics added).
He was and is the exact representation (character) of God. "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, (2) in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (3) And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:1-3, italics added).
The Greek word translated as exact representation in Hebrews 1:3 is charaktér (Ref. 2). Christ exactly represents and reflects the character of God because he is God.
Let us be thankful that we have a God who has visibly revealed himself to us in his Son, Jesus Christ. Out of God's great love for us, Jesus the Son of God, fully God and fully human, gave his life as a sacrifice to atone for our sins. Let us listen to him that we may understand God's character. Let us believe in him that we may have eternal life (John 3:16).
Apply. Believe in (put your faith in, put your confidence in) the Lord Jesus Christ, who was and is the visible expression of God to mankind.
"But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.' 'You have said so,' Jesus replied. 'But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'" (Matthew 26:63-64 NIV)
This article presents the eyewitness testimonies and Bible verse references that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
If you are searching to know who Jesus Christ is, consider these eyewitness accounts.
If you are a follower of religions or religious philosophies that teach that Jesus Christ was just a great moral teacher or a great prophet, but not the divine Son of God, then consider the truth of these testimonies.
All of the scripture references below are from the New American Standard Bible translation on the Bible Gateway website (Ref. 1).
Testimony of God the Father at Jesus' Baptism
Mark 1:9-11 - "In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. (10) Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; (11) and a voice came out of the heavens: 'You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.'" Also see Matthew 3:13-17 and Luke 3:21-22).
Testimony of John the Baptist about Jesus' Baptism
John 1:32-34 - "John testified saying, 'I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. (33) I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, "He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit." (34) I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.'"
Testimony of God the Father at Jesus' Transfiguration
Mark 9:2-7 - "Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; (3) and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. (4) Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. (5) Peter said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' (6) For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. (7) Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, 'This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!'" Also see Matthew 17:1-5 and Luke 9:28-35.
Testimony of the Apostle Peter about Jesus' Transfiguration
2 Peter 1:16-18 - "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. (17) For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased'-- (18) and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain."
Explanation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Luke 1:30-35 - "The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. (31) And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. (32) He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; (33) and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.' (34) Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I am a virgin?' (35) The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.'"
Testimony of Jesus' Disciples in the Boat
Matthew 14:22-33 - "Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. (23) After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. (24) But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. (25) And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. (26) When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, 'It is a ghost!' And they cried out in fear. (27) But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.' (28) Peter said to Him, 'Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.' (29) And He said, 'Come!' And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. (30) But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' (31) Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt?' (32) When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. (33) And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, 'You are certainly God’s Son!'"
Testimony of Jesus at His Trial
Luke 22:66-71 - "When it was day, the Council of elders of the people assembled, both chief priests and scribes, and they led Him away to their council chamber, saying, (67) 'If You are the Christ, tell us.' But He said to them, 'If I tell you, you will not believe; (68) and if I ask a question, you will not answer. (69) But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.' (70) And they all said, 'Are You the Son of God, then?' And He said to them, 'Yes, I am.' (71) Then they said, 'What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.'"
Testimony of the Roman Centurion and Soldiers Upon Jesus' Death
Mark 15:39 - "When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, 'Truly this man was the Son of God!'"
Matthew 27:54 - "Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, 'Truly this was the Son of God!'"
It's really simple. Either you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God or you don't believe it. If you believe Jesus was just a great teacher, or a great prophet, but not the Son of God, then you are calling the witnesses and Jesus himself liars - in which case, his being a "great teacher" is not an option. Once you do believe that Jesus is who he says he is, then the great truths of the Bible will fall into place for you, and your life will be changed for the better - eternally.
Believe in (put your faith in, trust in, put your confidence in) Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Believe that Jesus is who he said he is. Believe the eyewitness accounts that Jesus is the Son of God.
For Additional Reading
"When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things." (Mark 6:34, underline added)
This lesson explains Jesus' attribute of compassion towards people – multitudes and individuals. Jesus not only sympathizes with people, but also acts to alleviate their distress.
Consider. As Jesus' followers, we, too, should show compassion to people, including those outside the faith community.
Definition of Compassion. Before we dive into the scriptures, let's take a look at the meaning of the word, compassion.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines compassion as "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it" (Ref. 1). Note the combination of sympathetic awareness of other's distress coupled with action to do something to help them.
In the New Testament, the words, feel compassion, literally mean "to have the bowels yearn" (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Ref. 2). In the New Testament time of Jesus' ministry, people thought that our "nobler entrails" (such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys) were the seat of our affections (Ref. 2).
Jesus Feels Compassion for the Multitudes. The scriptures tell us that when Jesus saw the multitudes of people coming to him he felt compassion for them. Why? Jesus was moved with compassion for them because he saw them "as sheep without a shepherd." Mark 6:34 tells us, "When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things." Matthew 9:36 is similar, and tells us, "Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd."
Jesus felt compassion for the crowds coming to him because they were a flock that had no protection, no "pasture," no spiritual teaching or guidance, and were in a distressing, painful condition (Ref. 3). They were uncared-for souls, outside of the synagogues of their time. They were weary and hopeless without the Guide and Shepherd who alone can lead them in the way (Ref. 4).
Likewise today, Jesus feels compassion for people who are outside of the faith community, who do not know him as their Good Shepherd, and who are suffering through spiritual misery (John 10:1, 9, 11; Ref. 5). People need to know the compassion of Jesus Christ for them, to have their needs met, and to come to Jesus as their Good Shepherd. That's where we as Jesus' followers can help them.
Jesus Shows Us Specific Ways To Act with Compassion Towards Groups of People. The gospel writers give us examples of how Jesus acted when he was moved with compassion for the multitudes. We, as Jesus' followers, can and should do the same.
He welcomed them - "But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing" (Luke 9:11).
He fed them - "And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, 'I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way'" (Matthew 15:32). "And He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. (37) And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full" (Matthew 15:36-37).
He healed the sick - "When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick" (Matthew 14:14).
He taught them many things - "When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things" (Mark 6:34).
Jesus Feels Compassion for Individuals. The following accounts describe the compassion Jesus felt for specific people, and the action he took to heal or comfort them.
Jesus touches and cleanses a man from leprosy - "And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, 'If You are willing, You can make me clean.' (41) Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed.' (42) Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed" (Mark 1:40-42).
Jesus touches and provides sight to blind men - "And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, 'Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!' (31) The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!' (32) And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, 'What do you want Me to do for you?' (33) They said to Him, 'Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.' (34) Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him" (Matthew 20:30-34).
Jesus comforts a grieving mother - "Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. (12) Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. (13) When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, 'Do not weep.' (14) And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise!' (15) The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother" (Luke 7:11-15).
Summary - Main Principles in this Lesson.
1. Compassion not only includes feeling sympathy for people, but also a desire to take action to alleviate their distress.
2. Jesus modeled compassion for us - in his interaction with crowds of distressed people and with individuals in need. Often, the people Jesus helped were outside of the "faith community" of Jesus' day.
3. Jesus showed his compassion for people by his actions. Specifically:
Apply. As a follower of Jesus, what are ways that you will show the compassion of Jesus to others through your actions?
"Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit." (Psalm 32:1-2)
"Pardoning mercy is of all things in the world most to be prized, for it is the only and sure way to happiness." -- Treasury of David (Ref. 1)
This article teaches the seriousness of transgression, sin, and iniquity from Psalm 32:1-2 as well as the blessedness of forgiveness through the atonement of Christ.
Consider. True happiness comes not from the world, nor through "self help," but from God's forgiveness of our sins through the atonement of Christ.
The Blessedness of Forgiveness
Psalm 32:1 begins with an exclamation in the form of an interjection. The opening phrase could be translated "Oh! How blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven!" (Ref. 2) The Hebrew word for blessed is esher, which is a forceful interjection that means "How happy!" (Ref. 3) David is so joyful that he repeats the exclamation, "Oh! How blessed," again in verse 2. "Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Psalm 32:2). Note that true happiness of forgiveness comes from God, not from man.
The word for "man" in Psalm 32:2 is adam, which means mankind, including men, women, and children (Ref. 4).
The Threefold Picture of Sin
Psalm 32:1-2 employs three words for sin -- "transgression," "sin," and "iniquity." All three are serious. These words describe the compass of sin and its foulness (Ref. 2). Let's take them in the order described by David, the psalmist.
Transgression. Psalm 32:1 says "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven." The Hebrew word for transgression means rebellion (Ref. 5). We commit a transgression against God when we know, or our conscience knows, what God's law teaches, and we go ahead and do the deed anyway.
Sin. The Hebrew word for sin written in Psalm 32:1, chataah, means great sin. Chataah occurs only eight times in the Old Testament (Ref. 6, Genesis 20:1-9; Exodus 32:1-4, 19-21).
A similar Hebrew word for sin, chata, occurs more than 200 times in the Old Testament and means do wrong, commit a mistake, or miss the mark or goal (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance Ref. 7, Exodus 20:18-20, Psalm 4:4).
Iniquity. The Hebrew word for iniquity is avon, which means moral evil (Ref. 8). "'Iniquity' is defined as being wicked or immoral in nature or character. Primarily, it indicates 'not an action, but the character of an action,' and is so distinguished from 'sin'" (Ref. 9). We commit iniquity when we not only rebel against God and miss the mark, but also waver or diverge from the straight path manifest in God's law (Ref. 2).
The Threefold Picture of Forgiveness
Psalm 32 verses one and two describe three aspects of forgiveness - "forgiven," "covered," and "not counted (not imputed)." Let's take each aspect in the order presented.
Forgiven. Psalm 32:1 begins, "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven ..." When God forgives our sins, he lifts them up and carries them away. The Hebrew word for forgiven means to lift, carry away, and bear (Ref. 10).
In the Old Testament, on the annual day of atonement, the scapegoat (literally, goat of removal) carried away the sins of the people into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:7-10, Leviticus 16:29-30, Ref. 11). In the New Testament, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is the one who takes away our sin (John 1:29). Jesus Christ takes away our sin not just annually but once and for all time (Hebrews 9:11-12). "He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24).
Covered. "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered" (Psalm 32:1, italics added). The Hebrew word for cover means to hide or conceal (Ref. 12). For the believer in Christ, God hides our sin, covers it with a merciful veil, so it no longer comes into his view as evidence against us (Ref. 2). Christ's atonement is the covering for our sin (Ref. 2).
Not Counted (Not Imputed). Psalm 32 verse 2 in the English Standard Version (ESV) begins, "Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity ..." The Hebrew word for count means impute, charge, or reckon (Ref. 13). Even though our iniquity (moral evil) has been ugly, when we believe in and trust our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, he does not impute to us (charge us for, take into account, or reckon) that iniquity (Ref. 13).
How Do We Receive The Blessedness of Forgiveness?
The blessedness of forgiveness can be known only through the atonement of Christ.
Isaiah 53:5 - "But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed."
1 Peter 1:18-19 - " ... knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot."
1 John 2:2 - "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."
We receive forgiveness by acknowledging our sin and confessing our sin to God.
Psalm 32:5 - "I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,' And You forgave the iniquity of my sin."
1 John 1:8-9 - "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
True happiness (blessedness) comes only through the forgiveness and removal of our sin by Christ, not from anything the world provides.
Apply. Do you want to receive the blessedness of forgiveness for your sins? Acknowledge your sins, and confess your sins to Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9). He will lift away the guilt and pain of your sin and will heal you. You will receive the true happiness of knowing by faith that you are pardoned forever by Christ.
"Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them'" (Luke 15:1-2)
Jesus receives people outside the faith community, treats them with tenderness, and calls them to repentance and faith in God who loves them.
First, some definitions. Who were these people in Luke 15:1-2?
Tax Collectors. Tax collectors were people who collected various taxes for the Romans who occupied Palestine. They often charged much more than they should to make themselves rich (Ref. 1). The Jewish people despised the tax collectors and considered any Jew a traitor who was a tax collector for the Romans. Jesus called Matthew (Levi), a tax collector, to be his disciple (Matthew 9:9, Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27-28).
Sinners. The synoptic gospel writers often lumped together "tax collectors" and "sinners" (Matthew 9:10-11, Mark 2:15-16, Luke 5:30, Luke 15:1). The Pharisees shunned both tax collectors and people that the Pharisees deemed "sinners," including:
1) People who lived blatantly in contradiction to the law - such as murderers, robbers, and prostitutes (Luke 7:37, Matthew 21:31, Ref. 2 below).
2) "The people of the land" (am ha-aretz) who did not observe the Pharisees' strict interpretation of the law (Matthew 23:1-5, Ref. 3). This category included almost everybody, so many "sinners" were in the daily company of Jesus (Matthew 11:18-19, Mark 2:15, Luke 15:1, Ref. 2, Ref. 3).
Pharisees. The Pharisees were a Jewish religious sect. "Pharisee" is derived from the Aramaic term, peras ("to divide and separate"). Hence, a Pharisee was someone "separated from sin" (Ref. 4). The Pharisees separated themselves from the great mass of the populace—the "people of the land" (am ha-aretz)—by their "strict adherence to the minutia of their legal tradition" (Ref. 5).
The Pharisees believed the deception that they earned merit before God based on religious works (Luke 18:10-13, Ref. 5). In contrast, true believers in Christ recognize "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Pharisees appeared in the gospels as the chief antagonists of Jesus (Matthew 19:3, Matthew 22:15, Mark 8:11-12, Ref. 5).
The Pharisees largely were members of the middle class—businessmen, merchants, and tradesmen of their day (Ref. 5). In legal matters, the Pharisees had recourse to the professionals in the law, the scribes (described below).
Scribes. The scribes were educated teachers and authorities in the Mosaic law (Ref. 6). In Jesus' day, the scribes were legal professionals who drafted documents such as contracts for marriage, loans, or sale of land (Ref. 7). The scribes questioned Jesus' authority, "By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?" (Mark 11:28). The scribes participated with the Pharisees in criticizing Jesus and his disciples (Mark 7:5-8). Jesus pronounced multiple woes against the practices of the scribes and Pharisees (interesting reading, Matthew 23:13-36).
What are the main principles in Luke 15:1-2?
God Draws Sinners to Jesus. Luke 15:1 is remarkable because not only does Jesus seek people who are lost (Luke 19:10), but also that God draws people who are sinners to seek Jesus. Luke, the gospel writer, says, "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him" (Luke 15:1).
At the time of the event that Luke describes in Luke 15:1-2, Jesus was in the last months of his earthly ministry (Ref. 8 below). Many people whom the Pharisees shunned as sinners recognized their need for Jesus and came to him. These were people through home and family associations or through their occupations or immoral living were looked upon with disfavor by the Pharisees and scribes. Often they were indifferent or had little to do with their more religious and orthodox countrymen. "The religious people, Pharisees in heart, despised them and looked on them as hopelessly lost" (Ref. 9).
No one spoke to these people like Jesus. To these people who were "outside of the synagogues" of their time Jesus brought hope. Jesus spoke to them with tenderness. Sinners came to Jesus as their Great Physician to find healing for their spiritual, emotional, and physical ailments. Jesus did not overlook their sin, but called these people to repentance (Luke 5:29-32, Mark 1:14-15).
Jesus Receives Sinners - Then and Now. Luke 15:2 tells us, "And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" The Pharisees, the religious establishment of Jesus' day, were indignant that Jesus associated with people outside the synagogue community who did not keep the rules the Pharisees believed necessary for merit with God. In contrast, Jesus deliberately showed people the true nature of God. He reached out in kindness to people outside the religious establishment. He treated them with tenderness, and he called them to repentance and faith in God who loves them. Jesus does the same today.
The Pharisees accused Jesus of receiving sinners. That was (and is) a true accusation. Jesus does receive sinners - then and now. The Greek work for receive means actively look for, expectantly wait, and warmly receive (Ref. 10). Jesus is like the excellent example of the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The father expectantly waited for his son to return to him. When the prodigal son returned, the son repented of his sin, and the father received him with great joy.
Jesus expectantly waits to receive you.
Apply. Come to Jesus. He will warmly receive you. Come to Jesus. He will heal you of your spiritual, emotional, and physical sickness. Jesus will forgive your sin and will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
(refer to "Story Planner")
2. A Theological Word Book of the Bible, Alan Richardson, Editor, MacMillan Publishing Company, 1978
8. Key to the Tree of Jesus' Life and Harmony of the Gospels, The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Fourth Improved Edition, B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Company, Inc., 1964
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