"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:8)
"When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, 'Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.' " (Revelation 1:17-18)
"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." (Revelation 22:12-13)
This lesson is the seventh and final in the series on the "I AM" statements of Christ. Today's lesson discusses Jesus' statements, "I am the Alpha and the Omega" and "I am the first and the last."
Consider. Jesus said, "Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last, and the living One" (Revelation 1:17-18). Consider these comforting words.
Revelation defined. The writer begins, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John ..." (Revelation 1:1). The Greek word for revelation is apokalupsis. Apokalupsis means uncovering or unveiling of truth and divine things previously unknown (Ref. 1). The One who is providing the revelation of things to come is Jesus Christ. The Apostle John is the writer, Jesus Christ the author, of the book (Ref. 2).
"I am the Alpha and the Omega." Revelation 1:8 begins with the words, "I am." The words "I am" refer to the name of God. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Moses asked God his name. God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM" (Exodus 3:13-14). Then God said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you' " (Exodus 3:14). Jesus used the same language in John 8:58, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." Jesus, the speaker of "I am the Alpha and the Omega" in Revelation 1:8, is the same God who appeared visibly to Moses in the burning bush and said "I AM WHO I AM." Jesus used the same "I am" language when he spoke "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12) and his other "I AM" statements we have studied in this series. For more information about who Jesus is, click on "Who is Jesus?" - Ref. 3. To see a list of the "I AM" statements of Christ, click on Ref. 4.
Alpha (Α) is the first letter, and Omega (Ω) is the last letter in the Greek alphabet. The use of these letters signifies that Christ is the first and last (Ref. 5). In Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." The language in these verses denotes eternity in the being to whom it is applied (Ref. 6). That language can be used only in reference to the true God. "It means that he is the beginning and the end of all things; that he was at the commencement, and he will be at the close" (Ref. 6).
"Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last." Jesus appeared to John in a vision when John was on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9-16). John describes the being that he sees as one "like a son of man" (Revelation 1:13). "His face was like the sun shining in its strength" (Revelation 1:16). In the vision, Jesus said to John, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades" (Revelation 1:17-18).
Jesus' statement in Revelation 1:17 makes the divine claim, "I am the first and the last." Think about who Jesus is stating he is when he says "I am the first and the last." Read these divine claims in Isaiah:
When Jesus spoke to John in Revelation 1:17, he placed his right hand on John and comforted John with the words, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last." The words, "Do not be afraid," are translated as "Fear not" in the King James Version (Revelation 1:17 KJV). "Fear not" is Jesus' comforting message to us. We are to fear not, that is, not be afraid, because for those who believe in Jesus, there is life beyond the grave. Jesus said, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death" (Revelation 1:18 KJV).
Apply. Jesus said, "Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last, and the living One" (Revelation 1:17-18). Believe that Jesus is who he says he is. Put your faith and trust in him. Receive the comfort and assurance that only Jesus provides.
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser." (John 15:1)
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)
This lesson is the sixth in the series on the "I AM" statements of Christ. Today's lesson discusses Jesus' statements, "I am the true vine" in John 15:1, and "I am the vine" in John 15:5.
Consider. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the true vine? Are you staying in close relationship with him? Are you bearing much fruit for him?
"I am the true vine." Jesus had just concluded celebrating Passover with his disciples (John 13:1, 4). The same evening, Jesus said to his disciples, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser" (John 15:1). Jesus' disciples likely already knew the vine as the image of Israel from the Old Testament scriptures. Jesus added new meaning to a familiar figure when he said, "I am the true vine" (Ref. 1).
In the Old Testament, the scriptures describe Israel as a vine and as a vineyard which God had planted. The psalmist describes God's people, Israel, as a vine that God removed from Egypt (Psalm 80:1-13). Further, the psalmist asks God to "Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine, even the shoot which Your right hand has planted" (Psalm 80:14-15).
The prophet Isaiah describes a song in which my "well-beloved" plants a vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-2). The "well-beloved" is the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 5:7). The transliteration of the Hebrew word for Lord is YHVH, the proper name of the God of Israel (Ref. 2). The vineyard is the house of Israel (Isaiah 5:7). Isaiah states that God planted the vineyard with "the choicest vine," and that God expected it to produce "good grapes," but "It only produced worthless ones" (Isaiah 5:2). God "looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed." God looked "for righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress" (Isaiah 5:7).
The prophet Jeremiah spoke of the house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel (Jeremiah 2:4). "For long ago I broke your yoke and tore off your bonds; but you said, 'I will not serve!' For on every high hill and under every green tree you have lain down as a harlot. Yet I planted you a choice vine, a completely faithful seed. How then have you turned yourself before Me into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine? (Jeremiah 2:20-21).
When Jesus says, "I am the true vine," in John 15:1, he contrasts himself with the degenerate vine which had not fulfilled the purpose God desired. Jesus is the full revelation of God's faithfulness (Ref. 3). "Jesus is the fullest realization of the hope of Israel, of her expectations, of what God had intended her to be" (Ref. 4).
"I am the vine, you are the branches." Note that Jesus repeats his statement, "I am the vine" (John 15:1, John 15:5). Good teachers repeat important principles for their students. The second time, in John 15:5, Jesus adds the application. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
The Greek word for abide is menó, which means to stay in a given place, state, relation or expectancy (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance - Ref. 5). A branch of a natural grapevine must remain part of the vine in order to live, grow, and bring forth fruit. Likewise, we, as Jesus' disciples, must abide continually in him so that we live, grow, and bring forth fruit. Jesus said that we abide in him by having his word in us (John 15:7), by keeping his commandments (John 15:10), and by abiding in his love (John 15:10). Jesus also said that God prunes us so we will bear more fruit (John 15:2).
Fruitfulness is the product of a godly life living in union with Christ. Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit" (Matthew 7:16-17). The Apostle Paul described the fruit of godly character that the Spirit develops in us when we abide in Christ. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23).
The key to bearing fruit in our Christian life is to abide in close relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the true vine.
Apply. Are you abiding in Christ? Are you bearing fruit for him?
Jesus told Martha, ‘Your brother will come back to life again. I am the one who raises the dead and gives them life again. Anyone who believes in me, even though he dies like anyone else, shall live again. He is given eternal life for believing in me and shall never perish. Do you believe this, Martha?’ ‘Yes, Master,’ Martha replied. ‘I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’
"If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle I will wait
until my change comes." (Job 14:14)
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?' " (John 11:25-26)
This is the fifth lesson in this series in 2019 on the "I AM" statements of Christ. Recent lessons include: "Jesus is The Light of the World" (Ref. 1), "Jesus is The Bread of Life" (Ref. 2), "Jesus is the Door" (Ref. 3), and "Jesus is the Good Shepherd (Ref. 4). In 2018, this ScriptureWay.com site published two related lessons based on John 14:6, "Jesus is the Way to Heaven" (Ref. 5) and "Jesus is the Truth" (Ref. 6). Today's lesson discusses Jesus' statement to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25).
Consider Job's question. "If a man dies, will he live again?" (Job 14:14). Do you, like Job, hope to live after death? Do you, like Martha, believe in a resurrection? Are you seeking assurance and calmness about life after death?
Resurrection - Old Testament Perspective. Jesus' Jewish listeners likely knew the concept of a resurrection after death. In the Old Testament scriptures, Job said that he hoped for physical resurrection (being made alive again) after his death. "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God" (Job 19:25-26). David likewise hoped that God would redeem him from the grave (Psalm 49:15). Daniel expressed hope in life after death, "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2).
"I am the resurrection and the life." Martha's beloved brother, Lazarus, had died (John 11:1-15). When Jesus comes to Bethany and meets Martha, Martha says, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21). Jesus assures her, "Your brother will rise again" (John 11:23). Martha replies to Jesus, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day" (John 11:24). Martha believed in a resurrection - as a future event.
Jesus then turns Martha's thoughts to himself and to the present. Jesus tells Martha these words of calm assurance, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die" (John 11:25-26, Ref. 7).
The key to understanding the resurrection is to understand who Jesus is (Ref. 8). Jesus is the same God who appeared to Moses and said, "I AM WHO I AM" (John 8:58, Exodus 3:14). Jesus himself also is the fulfillment of mankind's hope for life beyond death. The key to having life eternal is to know him, trust him, and to believe in him (John 3:16, Ref. 7).
Jesus asks Martha, "Do you believe this?" (John 11:26) Martha replies to Jesus, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world" (John 11:27).
Jesus then provides evidence that he is who he says he is when he raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44). As the result, many of the Jews who were eyewitnesses to what Jesus had done believed in (put their faith and trust in) him (John 11:45).
To see more scriptures about God's promise of eternal life, refer to Bible Verses about Eternal Life - Ref. 9.
Apply. Do you believe that Jesus is who he said he is? Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? (John 11:25) Put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and you will have eternal life (John 3:16). In Jesus you will find assurance and calmness about life after death.
1. http://www.ScriptureWay.com/home/jesus-is-the-light-of-the world
The Good Shepherd. Photo Copyright David Padfield. Used under license. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14). Jesus told a parable about a good shepherd who went searching for one of his sheep that was lost (Luke 15:1-7). Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." (John 10:11)
"I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me." (John 10:14)
"Our Lord not only declares that He is the reality of which the earthly shepherd is the shadow, and that He as the flawless, perfect One, but that He alone is the reality. 'I am the Good Shepherd; in Me and in Me alone is that which men need.' " -- Alexander MacLaren (1826-1910) (Ref. 1, Ref. 2)
This lesson is the fourth in a series on the "I AM" statements of Christ. This lesson discusses Jesus' statements, "I am the good shepherd," in John 10:11 and John 10:14.
Consider. Are you like a lost sheep? Have you gone astray (Isaiah 53:6)? Are you living outside of the sheepfold? Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd, the one who loves us, seeks us, saves us, and protects us. He is the one who laid down his life for his sheep. He is the one who knows us.
God is our shepherd (Old Testament perspective). The Old Testament describes God as the shepherd for his people. God is the one who cares for the total well-being of his sheep. David wrote, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake" (Psalm 23:1-3).
In a perhaps less widely-known passage, Ezekiel also described the characteristics of the Lord God as the shepherd of Israel (Ezekiel 34:11-16):
Hundreds of years before Jesus came, Isaiah spoke of Jesus. "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isaiah 40:11).
"I am the good shepherd." The Greek word for good means beautiful, as an outward sign of inward good, noble, honorable character (Ref. 3). Think of the greatness and the immensity of the claim that Jesus makes upon our faith in John 10:11 and John 10:14. Jesus claims to be the divine shepherd witnessed to and described by the psalmist and the prophets.
Jesus states that in him alone is everything that we need - sustenance, protection, care, restoration, direction, and eternal life (Luke 15:4, Luke 19:10, Psalm 23:1-3, John 10:3-4, John 10:9, John 10:27-28, Ref. 1). The Greek text in John 10:11 and John 10:14 uses the definite article "the" before "good shepherd" (Ref. 4, Ref. 5). "The definite article claims this ['I am the good shepherd'] as a description applicable to Himself alone" (Expositor's Greek Testament - Ref. 6, brackets added).
"The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." Jesus states two features by which he as the good shepherd would be known. The first feature is his giving his life for the sheep (John 10:11, Ref. 6). Recall the personal risk of life that David faced because he was a shepherd. David himself rescued the lamb of his father's flock from the mouth of the lion and the bear (1 Samuel 17:34-36, Ref. 7). "That self-sacrifice that would lead the shepherd to risk his own life for that of the flock has its ideal fulfillment in Him who is the Good Shepherd, and will give His life for mankind" (Ref. 7).
"The death of the Shepherd is the security of the sheep; and I say to you, the flock, that for every soul the entrance into the flock of God is through the door of the dying Christ, who laid down His life for the sheep, and makes them His sheep who trust in Him" (Ref. 1, Ref. 8).
"I know My own and My own know Me." Jesus stated a second feature by which he would be known as the good shepherd. That feature is the reciprocal knowledge of the sheep and the shepherd (John 10:14, Ref. 6). The Greek word for know in John 10:14 is ginóskó, which means to know, especially through personal experience (Ref. 9). However, the language for know in John 10:14 describes more than a dictionary lookup alone conveys. Jesus describes closest communion between himself as the good shepherd and his sheep (Ref. 7). Jesus describes the relationship as loving regard, affection, and recognition between the shepherd and his sheep (Ref. 1). He knows us because he loves us. As his sheep, we know him as our shepherd, and we love him and trust him. We know his voice and we follow him (John 10:4, John 10:27-28).
Apply. Jesus loves you and already knows you. Jesus wants to have a close reciprocal relationship with you. Are you loving him, trusting him, and following him today?
Permanent Sheepfold Enclosure - Holy Land. Photo Copyright David Padfield. Used under license. Permanent sheepfolds were built on the sunny side of valleys where there is protection from cold winds. These had stone walls, 4-5ft high and one entrance guarded by the shepherd. Thorns were often put on the top of walls to deter wild animals. Jesus referred to such a sheepfold and to thieves and robbers climbing over the wall (John 10:1-3).
"So Jesus said to them again, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.' " (John 10:7, Ref. 1)
"I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." (John 10:9)
"Christ is the Door. And what greater security has the church of God than that the Lord Jesus is between it and all its enemies? ... Here are plain directions how to come into the fold; we must come in by Jesus Christ as the Door." -- Matthew Henry (Ref. 2)
This lesson is the third in a series on the "I AM" statements of Christ. This lesson discusses Jesus' statements, "I am the door" in John 10:7 and John 10:9.
Consider. Have you entered into the church of God by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you experiencing spiritual nourishment in Christ?
"If anyone enters through Me." (John 10:9) We enter the sheepfold, the church of God, through Jesus Christ (and only through Jesus Christ). Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep" (John 10:7). We enter that door when we place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. "As the only proper way of entering the fold was by the door, so the only way of entering the church of God is by believing on him and obeying his commandments" (Ref. 3).
Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).
"He will be saved." Once we have entered the door by faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we are saved. Jesus delivers us from perils such as ravenous wolves and false shepherds (Ref. 4, John 10:1-2). Jesus frees us from the power, guilt, and penalty of sin (Romans 8:1-2, Ephesians 2:1-9). Jesus gives us eternal security. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28).
HELPS Word-Studies defines saved as rescued from destruction and brought into divine safety (Ref. 5).
"And will go in and out and find pasture." To go "in and out" is the common Old Testament expression to denote free activity of daily life (Ref. 6). When Moses charged the Israelites at Mount Gerizim to obey the Lord, he said, "Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out" (Deuteronomy 28:6, Deuteronomy 27:11-12, Deuteronomy 28:1-2). David wrote about the Lord, the Keeper of Israel (Psalm 121:5). David said, "The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever" (Psalm 121:8).
Through Jesus (because he is the door), we have security for our daily needs and nourishment for our souls. Under the care of Jesus, we find pasture - food for our souls (Ref. 7). David wrote, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters" (Psalm 23:1-2 KJV).
Apply. Have you entered the sheepfold of Christ by believing in him? If not, then put your faith and trust in him today. Are you spending time with Jesus daily to receive spiritual nourishment? How can you improve in this area?
"Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.' " (John 6:35)
"Christ shows that he is the true Bread; he is to the soul what bread is to the body." -- Matthew Henry (Ref. 1)
This lesson is the second in a series on the "I AM" statements of Christ. This lesson discusses Jesus' statement, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35).
Consider. Have you come to Jesus, the Source of sustenance and strength for your spiritual life?
God-provided bread from heaven. Jesus' Jewish listeners knew that God had provided bread from heaven (also called "manna") to the Israelites. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction' " (Exodus 16:4). The manna that God provided was essential for the Israelite's survival (Exodus 16:35). Note, however, at that time God did not provide the manna universally to all people. Exodus tells us that God provided the manna only for the Israelites, and the manna was temporary (Exodus 16:35). The people who ate the manna eventually died (John 6:49).
"I am the bread of life." In contrast with the manna that God provided temporarily to the Israelites, Jesus states emphatically, "I am the bread of life."
"He who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst." Before the manna could benefit the Israelites, they had to eat it. In the same way, for Christ to provide us spiritual sustenance and eternal life, we must come to him and believe in him. When we come to Christ and believe in Christ, he alone satisfies the hunger and thirst of our souls (Matthew 5:6, John 7:37).
The Samaritan woman at the well responded to Jesus. She said, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw" (John 4:15). The multitude responded to Jesus when he described the bread of heaven (John 6:33). They said, "Lord, always give us this bread" (John 6:34).
Apply. What is your response to Jesus? Will you come to him and believe in him? Come to him, believe in him, and you will receive the bread of life that your soul craves.
"Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.' " (John 8:12)
"I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness." (John 12:46)
"Christ is the Light of the world. God is light, and Christ is the image of the invisible God. One sun enlightens the whole world; so does one Christ, and there needs no more." -- Matthew Henry (1662-1714) (Ref. 1, Ref. 2)
This lesson is the first in a series on the "I AM" statements of Christ. This lesson discusses Jesus' statement, "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12).
Consider. What does it mean to you that Jesus is the Light of the world? Do you have the Light of life?
God is Light. The teaching that God is Light begins in the Old Testament and continues through the New Testament. David wrote, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?" (Psalm 27:1). The prophet Micah said, "Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me" (Micah 7:8). The disciple John, wrote, "God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5).
God's Light purposely illumines mankind. Jesus' Jewish listeners would recall Exodus 13:21 - "The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night." The psalmist wrote, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). The author of 2 Samuel 22:29 tells us "For You are my lamp, O Lord; And the Lord illumines my darkness."
"I am the Light of the world." Jesus, the Eternal One, is the Light of the world because:
"He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness." Let's discuss this phrase in three parts:
a) "He who follows Me" - The Greek word for follow is akoloutheó, which means to join as a disciple (Ref. 5). In John 8:12, Jesus "likens himself to a torch which the disciple follows" (Ref. 5). Jesus frequently spoke about what it means to follow him as a disciple (for example, Luke 14:27).
b) "Will not walk" - The Greek word for walk is peripateó. Peripateó means (in the ethical sense) how I conduct my life (Ref. 6).
c) "In the darkness" - The Greek word for darkness is scotia (Ref. 7). Scotia has a dual meaning. In the literal sense, scotia (darkness) is the absence of daylight (John 6:17). In the figurative sense, scotia (darkness) is the state we are in before we believe in Christ, that is, a state of ignorance, guilt, and sin (Ref. 8).
Putting these three parts together - "He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness" means He who follows Me [Jesus] as a disciple will no longer conduct his life in a state of ignorance, guilt, and sin.
Note that Jesus also said, "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness" (John 12:46, italics added). Being in darkness is our (mankind's) default condition. Jesus has come so that when we believe in him, God the Father transfers us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of the Son of God (Colossians 1:13).
"But will have the Light of life." Just as sight is a function of physical life, Christ is the Light for our spiritual life. John says, referring to Christ, "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men" (John 1:4). When we believe in Jesus Christ, the divine light of Christ continually shines in us, guiding us to life everlasting (Ref. 9).
Apply. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Light of the world? If not, then pray and put your trust in him today.
Are you a disciple of Christ? Are you following him?
Do you have the Light of life?
(Matthew Poole's Commentary on John 12:46)
"For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18)
"Those who receive the gospel, and are enlightened by the Spirit of God, see more of God's wisdom and power in the doctrine of Christ crucified, than in all his other works." -- Matthew Henry (1662-1714) (Ref. 1, Ref. 2)
This lesson describes what the Apostle Paul meant by the phrase, "the word of the cross." God loves us so much that Jesus Christ died on the cross for us, and purchased the forgiveness of our sins. We will also study why for some people, the word of the cross is foolishness and for others, it is the power of God.
Consider. When the Apostle Paul wrote the phrase, "the word of the cross" (1 Corinthians 1:18), what did he mean? In your own words, how would you explain "the word of the cross" to someone else?
Definition of "word." The Greek word for word in 1 Corinthians 1:18 is logos. Logos means something said, a message, reasoning expressed by words, and instruction (Ref. 3). Acts 13:26 and 2 Corinthians 5:19 provide examples where logos is translated as message.
Definition of "cross." The Greek word for cross is staurós. Staurós has both a literal meaning and a figurative meaning. Christ was crucified on a literal Roman cross (Ref. 4). According to HELPS Word-Studies, "Staurós was the crosspiece of a Roman cross; the cross-beam was placed at the top of the vertical member to form a capital 'T' (Ref. 4). "This transverse beam was the one carried by the criminal" (Ref. 4, Matthew 27:31-32, John 19:17). In addition to the shape of a capital "T," researchers also discuss the cross in the shape of a cruciform ("†" or "✚") and as a vertical stake (Ref. 5). Most Christian denominations present the Christian cross in the shape of a cruciform (Ref. 5, Ref. 6).
Staurós also has a figurative meaning. Jesus spoke about the cross each believer bears to be his true follower (Ref. 4, Matthew 10:38, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). Thayer's Greek Lexicon describes the figurative cross as an expression used by "those who, on behalf of God's cause, do not hesitate cheerfully and manfully [courageously] to bear persecutions, troubles, distresses — thus recalling the fate of Christ and the spirit in which he encountered it" (Ref. 4, brackets added).
What is meant by the expression, "the word of the cross"? The word, or message, of the cross is that God loves us so much that his Son, Jesus Christ, was crucified and died on the cross for us. Through his sacrifice, Jesus Christ has purchased the forgiveness of our sins. Through Jesus Christ, those who believe in him receive salvation and eternal life.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Foolishness to those who are perishing. The Greek word for foolishness is mória. Mória means folly, absurdity, foolishness (Ref. 7). The Greek word for perish is apollumi which means destroy utterly (Ref. 8). HELPS Word-Studies further defines apollumi as "to die, with the implication of ruin and destruction" (Ref. 8).
Why would Paul write that the message of the cross "is foolishness to those who are perishing" in 1 Corinthians 1:18?
1. "To the Jews 'the cross' was the tree of shame and horror; and a crucified person was 'accursed of God' " (Ref. 9, Deuteronomy 21:23). To the Jews, the thought of "a crucified Messiah" seemed "a revolting folly" (Ref. 9).
2. To Paul's Greek audience, the cross was the punishment for slaves and murderers (Ref. 9). The cross meant shame and agony. To the Greeks, worshiping "a crucified malefactor" was superstitious (Ref. 9).
3. Paul explains, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Corinthians 2:14). The natural man, who is "not truly enlightened and renewed by the Word and Spirit of God, and therefore has no other way of obtaining knowledge but by his senses and natural understanding … does not understand or apprehend the things of the Spirit of God" (Ref. 10).
To us who are being saved it is the power of God. The Greek word for saved is sózó, which means rescued from destruction and brought into divine safety (Ref. 11). The Greek word for power in 1 Corinthians 1:18 is dunamis. Dunamis means (miraculous) power, might, strength (Ref. 12).
The cross is much more than a decoration. "The cross is God's saving power" (Expositor's Greek Testament, Ref. 13). For us who are being saved, the cross is the means by which Jesus has forgiven our sins and rescued us from the path of destruction. By the cross, God offers us the gift of eternal life when we believe in Jesus Christ, God's Son. When we share the "word of the cross" with others, we share not a fable but God's mighty plan for saving people.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).
Apply. God gives us only two choices. Either we are on the path of perishing or we are on the path of salvation. On which path are you? If you do not know Christ, put your faith in him today, and receive from him forgiveness of your sins and the gift of eternal life. If you do know Christ, thank him for his sacrificial death on the cross to forgive your sins, and for his power working in you each day.
5. (Ref. 5 begins on the next line)
"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak." (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7)
"Speak little, because for one sin which we may commit by keeping silence where it would be well to speak, we commit a hundred by speaking upon all occasions" (Pinart, Ref. 1).
This lesson is the fourth and final lesson in the series on Biblical Principles of Sound Speech.
Consider. What times or examples can you think of where the Bible says we should be silent instead of speaking?
When circumstances demand. "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7). In Ecclesiastes 3:7, the Hebrew word for silent is chashah, which means to hush, keep quiet, hold peace, keep silence, be silent, be still (Ref. 2).
English Theologian John Gill (1697 - 1771) (Ref. 3, Ref. 4) described three circumstances when we should be silent:
1. During an evil time or a time of national calamity (Amos 5:10-13)
2. To express sympathy - "When a particular friend or relation is in distress, as in the case of Job and his friends" (Ref. 4, Job 2:13). Note that Job's friends showed support for Job by visiting Job and sitting with him silently for seven days. Sitting on the ground "marked mourning" (Ref. 5, Lamentations 2:10). "Seven days was the usual length of it" (Ref. 5, Genesis 50:10, 1 Samuel 31:13).
3. "When in the presence of wicked men, who make a jest of everything serious and religious" (Ref. 4, Psalm 39:1)
To listen to God. "Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few" (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2).
To respect God and to be in awe of God. The prophet Habakkuk said, "The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him" (Habakkuk 2:20). Habakkuk was comparing the profit-less act of speaking to false idols with the reverential awe we should have for the living, true God (Habakkuk 2:18-19).
To guard our soul from troubles. "He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles" (Proverbs 21:23).
To avoid transgression. "When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise" (Proverbs 10:19). "Loquacity leads to exaggeration and untruthfulness, slander, and uncharitableness" (Ref. 1).
When we're feeling angry. "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice" (Ephesians 4:31). "Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20).
To be counted as wise. "He who restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent" (Proverbs 17:27-28, italics added). When I was a youth, my father quoted this saying to me - "It is better to keep silent and have people think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." Researchers disagree whether to attribute this quote to American author Mark Twain or to President Abraham Lincoln, or to someone else. However, the concept is clear.
Apply. Think about this topic. In what personal situations or circumstances would it be better for you to remain silent instead of speaking?
"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man" (Matthew 15:18).
Today's lesson is the third in a series on Biblical Principles of Sound Speech.
Consider. Think for a moment. Do you agree with Jesus' statement in Matthew 15:18 that what we say comes from what is in our heart?
Read - Matthew 15:1-20. This passage will provide the context for today's lesson.
What we say defiles us in God's sight. When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew 15:1-20, Jesus was speaking to people who did not (yet) believe in him or accept his authority. The concept of the relationship between our heart and our mouth still applies to us today as believers in Christ and also applies to non-believers. What we take into our hearts, or allow into our hearts, determines the quality of our speech.
Jesus turned the discussion from handwashing (Matthew 15:2) to the more important subject of being clean in our hearts, speech, and thinking. "After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, 'Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man' " (Matthew 15:10-11). The Greek word for defile is koinoó, which means unclean, pollute, or desecrate (Ref. 1). "Jesus replaced the normal Jewish understandings of defilement with the truth that defilement comes from an impure heart, not the violation of external rules" (Ref. 2 below).
In Matthew 15:11 and Matthew 15:18, the Greek word for man is anthrópos, which is the generic term for mankind; the human race; people, including women and men (Ref. 3).
Our heart is the source of the evil and the good we speak. When Jesus spoke about the heart of man in Matthew 15:15-20, he spoke a concept that was familiar to his Jewish listeners. The Hebrew word for heart is leb, which means inner man, mind, will, heart (Ref. 4). The Hebrew word, leb (heart), occurs over 500 times in the Old Testament (Ref. 4). The prophet Jeremiah said, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).
In the New Testament, the Greek word for heart in Matthew 15:18 and in almost all New Testament occurrences is kardia (Ref. 5). Kardia occurs over 150 times in the New Testament (Ref. 5). Kardia means the heart; mind, character, inner self, will, intention (Ref. 5). In Matthew 15:18, Jesus is saying that the evil that comes out of our mouth comes from what is in our heart.
Jesus also said, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart" (Luke 6:45).
Below I have included a "HIPO" (Hierarchical Input Process Output) chart that I prepared many years ago when I first taught this lesson on Sound Speech to my Adult Sunday School class at church. At the time, I was working as a computer programmer for a large company. The chart illustrates examples of healthy and unhealthy inputs we take into our hearts. Our senses also can influence our heart. Our mouths are our primary output device (Matthew 15:11, 18). In today's culture, with texting, tweeting, instant messaging, and email, we should include our "fingers" as output devices as well. The concept still applies.
It is important to guard what we take into our heart. The purity of what we take into or allow into our heart affects the quality of what we say. As per the examples in Figure 1 above, we need to be careful about our entertainment choices and being around unwholesome speech because these can contaminate our thinking.
The apostle Paul was quite clear when he described what we should think about. "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things" (Philippians 4:8, italics added).
David said, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word" (Psalm 119:9).
Solomon wrote, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (Proverbs 4:23).
Apply. Pray and ask God to bring to your mind the steps you should take to guard your heart and to improve the purity of your thinking (Philippians 4:8). As part of your action plan, read and meditate upon God's word daily (Psalm 119:9).
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Mr. Whitney V. Myers. Christian. For more information, please visit the Author Page.
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18Nov18 - "Four Characteristics of Sound Speech" (Ephesians 4:29)