"They all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, 'Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.'" (Mark 6:50)
This article is the second in a series on the "'Fear Nots' of the Bible." The first article presented the "'Fear Nots' of the Old Testament" (Ref. 1). In the Old Testament, God assured the Israelites, "Fear not, for I am with you" (Isaiah 41:10). Moses encouraged the Israelites about the Lord's presence with them, "Do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6).
This article presents statements of Jesus where he tells us to "Fear not" or "Do not be afraid." Jesus Christ, the Son of God, assures those who believe in him and follow him that we have no reason to fear.
Consider. In what areas of your life are you afraid? With what circumstances or trials would you like Jesus to give you courage and peace?
Definition. Unless indicated otherwise, the verses in this article use the Greek word phobeó for fear or afraid (Ref. 2). The New Testament uses phobeó to mean put to flight (withdraw from), terrify, frighten, dread, or reverence (Ref. 2).
Jesus Gives Us Courage in the Midst of Our Trials. Recall the event when Jesus walked on the water of Lake Galilee late at night to come to his disciples who were struggling with rowing against the wind (read here, Mark 6:45-52). In Mark 6:48 the Greek language uses a serious word to describe the disciple's situation. The New American Standard Bible says the disciples were straining at the oars for the wind was against them. The Greek word for straining is basanizó, which means a tormenting trial, to examine by using torture (Ref. 3). Wow.
Jesus took the initiative and came to his disciples during their tormenting trial at sea (Mark 6:48). The disciples saw Jesus approaching, but did not recognize him at first. They thought he was a ghost, and they were frightened (Mark 6:49-50). Jesus said to them, and he says to us in our trial, "Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid" (Mark 6:50).
The Greek word for courage is tharseó, which means emboldened from within (Ref. 4). For the believer, bold courage is infused by the Lord and means "living out the inner confidence (inner bolstering) that is Spirit-produced" (Ref. 4).
By faith, Jesus gives us courage (inner boldness and confidence) during our trials. His presence with us calms our storms (Mark 6:51, Mark 4:38-39).
Believing in Jesus is the Remedy for Our Fear. A synagogue official named Jairus came to Jesus and urgently asked Jesus, "My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live" (Mark 5:22-23). While on the way, bad news came from the house of the synagogue official. "Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?" (Mark 5:35). Jesus disagreed with the advice of the bad news bearer to not trust further in Jesus. Jesus immediately said to Jairus, "Fear not, only believe" (Mark 5:36). In the face of bad news, believing in (trusting in, having faith in) Jesus is the only remedy for our grief and fear (Ref. 5, Ref. 6).
Jesus knew that he "had things under control." Jairus only needed to believe. Jesus went on to raise Jairus' daughter from the dead (Mark 5:40-42).
God Knows Us, Values Us, and Cares for Us. Jesus said, "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:29-31). English Theologian John Gill (1697 - 1771) wrote, "If God takes care of sparrows and is concerned for their lives, much more will he take care of his faithful ministers, and not suffer their lives to be taken away, till they have done the will and work of their Lord" (Ref. 7, Ref. 8).
Jesus Gives Us Peace that the World Cannot Give. On the evening before his death, Jesus said to his disciples, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful" (John 14:27). Jesus gives his disciples peace. The peace that Jesus gives dispels our fear.
The Greek word for peace in John 14:27 is eiréné. Eiréné (peace) is God's gift of wholeness including peace of mind (Ref. 9). The invocation of peace (shalom in Hebrew) also was a common Jewish farewell, in the Hebraistic sense of the health (welfare), security, safety, and prosperity of an individual (Ref. 10, 1 Samuel 1:16-18, 1 Samuel 20:42).
The Greek word for fear in John 14:27 is deiliaó, which means to be cowardly (Ref. 11). Deiliaó is used only this one time in the New Testament.
Jesus' presence and his words bring comfort, courage, and peace to his disciples then and now.
Apply. If you do not yet know Jesus, put your faith and trust in him. Believing in Jesus is the only remedy for your fear. If you do know Jesus, and you are going through a difficult time, pray, and put your trust in Jesus. He will provide you the comfort, courage, and peace that you seek.
"Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
This article is the first in a series on the "'Fear Nots' of the Bible." This article presents God's divinely encouraging "Fear not" and "Do not be afraid" statements from the Old Testament.
Consider. In our troubles and challenges of life, God comes to us and says, "Fear not," and "Do not be afraid." In addition to telling us, "Do not be afraid," God encourages us because God is with us and blesses us in a variety of ways.
God is Our Shield. Genesis 15:1 - "After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.'" God is our protector and defense.
God Blesses His People. Genesis 26:24 - "And the Lord appeared to him* the same night and said, 'I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.'"
* Isaac, Abraham's son
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines bless as invoke divine care, confer prosperity, protect, and endow with favor (Ref. 1).
God Saves His People. When the Egyptian army was about to overtake the Israelites, and immediately before God divided the sea, Moses said to the Israelites, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today..." (Exodus 14:13).
When the Moabites and Ammonites came to make war against Jehoshaphat, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel and he spoke to the Israelites (2 Chronicles 20:14). "You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you" (2 Chronicles 20:17).
The Hebrew word for salvation in Exodus 14:13 and 2 Chronicles 20:17 is yeshuah, pronounced yesh-oo'-aw (Ref. 2). Yeshua also is the modern Hebrew name for Jesus of Nazareth (Ref. 3). In English, the name Yeshua is extensively used by followers of Messianic Judaism (Ref. 3).
God Goes with His Servants Into Battle. Deuteronomy 20:2-4 - "So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people. And he shall say to them, 'Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.'"
God Never Fails or Forsakes His People. In Moses' last counsel to all the Israelite people, Moses said, "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:1, 6).
Moses then said to his successor, Joshua, "The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed" (Deuteronomy 31:8).
God Strengthens Us, Helps Us, and Supports Us. Isaiah 41:10 - "Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
God is Our Companion in Trials. Isaiah 43:1-2 - "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you."
God indeed has redeemed his people. The Hebrew word for redeem is gaal, which means to act as a kinsman and to buy back a relative's property (Ref. 4).
God has already demonstrated that his promises in Isaiah 43:1-2 are true. God parted the sea for the Israelites to pass through on dry land (Exodus 14:15-16). God caused the Jordan River to rise up in a heap so it would not overflow the Israelites when they crossed on dry ground (Joshua 3:13-17). Recall that King Nebuchadnezzar had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego cast into the blazing furnace of fire because they would not serve Nebuchadnezzar's gods (Daniel 3:16-20). Scripture tells us that King Nebuchadnezzar saw in the fire a divine companion that God provided to be with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego during their trial. "'Look!' he answered, 'I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God'" (Daniel 3:25).
Apply. How do you need God's encouragement today to "Fear not" or "Do not be afraid"? Claim God's promises to be present with you, to bless you, to strengthen you, and to give you courage.
"Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
This article explains the Apostle Paul's exhortation to the Corinthian church to be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong, and be loving (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).
Consider. In what areas of your personal life today are you being challenged to stand firm in your faith in Christ? In what areas do you believe the church of Christ today needs to stand firm against the attacks of the enemy?
Introduction. The Apostle Paul concludes his letter to the Corinthian church with a concise and sharp series of exhortations. The first four exhortations in 1 Corinthians 16:13 - be alert (be watchful), stand firm in the faith, act like men (be courageous), and be strong - are like "pistol shots" or shouted military commands (Ref. 1). In contrast, the last exhortation in 1 Corinthians 16:14 - "Let all that you do be done in love" - is more gentle.
Paul loved the church at Corinth, and he spent much time teaching them (Acts 18:1, 5, 11). Even though Paul loved them and had taught them about Christ, he was concerned that they were "schismatic and factious," "ill-grounded in regard to very fundamental doctrines of the faith," undisciplined, and incapacitated for "vigorous warfare" (Ref. 1). Paul includes these sharp and emotional exhortations at the end of his letter to help them preserve their souls and to stand firm against the enemies of truth.
Be on the alert. The Greek word for be on the alert is grégoreó. Grégoreó means literally, stay awake, and figuratively, be vigilant, responsible, and watchful (Ref. 2). Paul's exhortation to the Corinthian church (to be alert, watchful) applies equally to us as believers in Christ today. Paul urged the Corinthian church to guard constantly against evils such as dissension, erroneous doctrine, false teaching, and temptations, "lest the enemies of truth and of holiness should steal upon them and surprise them" (Ref. 3). "They were to watch with the same vigilance that is required of a sentinel who guards a camp, lest an enemy should suddenly come upon them, and surprise the camp when the army was locked in sleep" (Ref. 3).
Stand firm in the faith. The Greek word for stand firm in 1 Corinthians 16:13 is stékó which means to persist, persevere, and stand fast (Ref. 4). The Greek word for faith is pistis which means belief, trust, faith, and confidence (Ref. 5). As believers in Christ, in addition to being watchful, we are to stand firm in the faith - that is, stand firm in our belief, trust, and confidence in Christ and in the word of God. I suggest these examples for standing firm in the faith:
Act like men (be courageous and brave). Paul uses the Greek word andrizó, which the 1995 New American Standard Bible translates as act like men (Ref. 7). Andrizó means "properly, to act as a full-grown, mature man; (figuratively) to be responsible and courageous by taking the initiatives God reveals through faith" (HELPS Word-studies, Ref. 8). Note the connection in the Greek definition between God providing the Christian believer faith and the Christian believer being courageous and brave to stand firm. The Greek word andrizó (act like men) occurs only once in the New Testament - here in 1 Corinthians 16:13 (Englishman's Concordance, Ref. 8).
Paul's message applies to both male and female believers today. We are to be spiritually mature, courageous, and brave as we stand firm in the faith.
Be strong. In 1 Corinthians 16:13 Paul uses an unusual word which is translated as be strong. The Greek word used here for be strong is krataioó. Krataioó (be strong) means to prevail by God's dominating strength working in the believer through faith (Ref. 9). Paul uses the same Greek word krataioó in his prayer for the church at Ephesus. "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man ..." (Ephesians 3:14-16, italics added).
Let all that you do be done in love. Paul transitions from the captain's words of command in 1 Corinthians 16:13 to the gentler exhortation, "Let all that you do be done in love" (1 Corinthians 16:14). The Greek word for love in this verse is agapé, which means divine love (what God prefers) (Ref. 10). As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, when we stand firm in the faith, we are to show God's divine love to others in everything that we say and do. Paul describes the love we are to show others when he wrote, "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered ..." (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
Apply. In what area of your personal life do you need God's strength to help you stand firm? What can you do to help the church of Christ today to stand firm against the enemies of God's truth?
"And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, 'Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?' And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Hush, be still.' And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, 'Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?' They became very much afraid and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?' " (Mark 4:37-41)
"When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me (stand by me);
When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me (stand by me);
When the world is tossing me Like a ship upon the sea
Thou who rulest wind and water, Stand by me (stand by me)."
-- Charles Albert Tindley, 1905
This article describes the background and scripture allusions for the gospel hymn, "Stand by Me," by Rev. Dr. Charles A. Tindley.
Consider. Are you going through a personal storm today? The same Jesus who rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still," can calm your personal storms.
Hymn Author and Composer. The Reverend Dr. Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933) was an American Methodist minister and was one of the founding fathers of American gospel music (Ref. 1, Ref. 2). He was the son of a slave, and he taught himself to read and write. After the American Civil War he moved to Philadelphia as a young person where he found employment as a hod carrier (brick carrier) (Ref. 1). He and his wife Daisy attended the Bainbridge Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia where Charles became the sexton (janitor) (Ref. 1, Ref. 3).
Tindley was never able to go to school (Ref. 1). He was self-taught, never graduating from college or seminary, yet he acquired and read more than 8,000 books (Ref. 4). Tindley learned Hebrew through the help of a Philadelphia synagogue, and he learned Greek by taking a correspondence course through the Boston Theological School. Tindley qualified for ordination in the Methodist Episcopal Church by examination (Ref. 1). After serving churches in Delaware, New Jersey, and Maryland, Tindley later became the pastor at the same church in Philadelphia where he had been a janitor (Ref. 1, Ref. 4). Under his leadership and powerful preaching, the multi-racial congregation grew from 130 members to more than 10,000 members (Ref. 1, Ref. 3). Tindley was awarded honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees by Bennett College (North Carolina) and Morgan College (Maryland) (Ref. 1).
Life was not easy for people in the northeastern United States at the turn of the 20th century. The area near Tindley's church was economically depressed, especially for African Americans during this time (Ref. 4). The hymn "Stand By Me" speaks to the difficulties that many of Tindley's parishioners faced (Ref. 4).
Charles A. Tindley composed and published over 40 gospel songs (Ref. 1, Ref. 2). His best-known gospel songs include "Stand by Me" (Ref. 5), "Leave it There" (Ref. 6), and "We'll Understand It Better By and By" (Ref. 7). His song, "I’ll Overcome Some Day" (Ref. 8) was the basis for the American civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome," popularized in the 1960s (Ref. 2).
"Stand By Me" Scripture Allusions. Below I describe several phrases from the "Stand by Me" hymn text and their scripture allusions. To see the complete set of all five verses of the hymn text, please click either on the attached lyric sheet or hymn sheet.
Listen. The music for "Stand By Me" will encourage you. Watch one or both of the music videos below.
Apply. Thank Jesus for the times he has stood by you during the challenges you have faced in life. Ask Jesus to stand by you, to give you strength and courage, and to calm the storm you are going through today.
"But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God." (Galatians 4:4-7)
This lesson is the fourth and final lesson in the series about the "Children of God" (Ref. 1, Ref. 2, Ref. 3). This article explains the nature and benefits of our adoption as children of God. This article also describes the Roman adoption process. If you are not sure that you are a child of God, please refer first to the article, "Becoming a Child of God" (John 1:12-13, Ref. 1).
Consider. As an adopted child of God, how would you describe your relationship with your heavenly Father? What do you consider to be the benefits of being a child of God?
Definition. Let's begin by examining the definition of adoption. The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary defines adopt as "to take by choice into a relationship, especially: to take voluntarily (a child of other parents) as one's own child" (Ref. 4).
The Greek word for adoption in the New Testament is huiothesia (Ref. 5). The word huiothesia is a combination of two words, hyiós ("son") and títhēmi ("to place") – "properly, sonship (legally made a son); adoption" (Ref. 5). The word adoption (huiothesia) occurs five times in the New Testament (Romans 8:15, Romans 8:23, Romans 9:4, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5, Ref. 5).
Roman Adoption - Process. In ancient Rome, adoption of boys was a fairly common procedure, particularly in the upper senatorial class (Ref. 6). Every senator's duty was to produce sons to inherit the estate, family name, and political tradition. Roman families typically restricted their families to three children. For families with too many sons and the ones with no boys at all, adoption was the only solution (Ref. 6). Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire, is possibly the most famous example of an adopted son in ancient Rome (Ref. 6, Luke 2:1).
In Roman society, accomplishing an adoption began with the process where the father sold his child to the adopting father twice and bought back his child twice. On the third sale of the child, the "selling" father did not buy back the child. The adopting father went to the Roman magistrate and made the case for the child to become part of his family and to be under his protection. When the magistrate approved, the adoption was complete (Ref. 7).
Roman Adoption - Benefits. William Barclay's Daily Study Bible (Ref. 7) describes below the benefits for the adopted person in ancient Rome.
Now let's turn our attention to the scriptures that the Apostle Paul wrote about the nature and benefits of our adoption as children of God.
God planned in advance for our adoption. Our adoption as God's children was God's idea and God's initiative. Paul wrote about God the Father, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will ..." (Ephesians 1:4-5, italics added). The Greek word for predestine is proorizó, which means to pre-establish boundaries or to mark out beforehand (Ref. 10).
Our adoption as God's children is made possible through the redeeming work of God's Son, Jesus Christ. "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4-5, italics added). The Greek word for redeem is exagorazó, which means buy away from, purchase out from, or rescue from (Ref. 11).
The redeeming work of Christ has provided us (who believe in him) these benefits:
Apply. In prayer, thank God for planning for your adoption and reaching out to redeem you through the saving work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Thank God for giving you his blessings and favor as a child of God. Thank God for providing you an inheritance - eternal life.
7. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/romans-8.html (public domain)
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him." (1 John 5:1)
"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16)
This lesson is the third lesson in the series, "The Children of God" (Ref. 1, Ref. 2). This lesson is the second of two lessons on the Characteristics of a Child of God (Ref. 2). To learn more about "Becoming a Child of God," please review Ref. 1.
Consider. If someone asked you to describe the characteristics of a child of God, what would you say?
A child of God illumines others with the light of Christ. Jesus Christ himself is the light of the world (John 1:9, John 8:12). When Jesus said to his disciples, "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14), Jesus described their (our) role to shine with his light, the light of Christ, upon the world. The light of Christ that we shine enlightens people and leads them to salvation and eternal life. When we are a child of God, we share the light of Christ upon the world effectively because the Holy Spirit indwells us and empowers us (John 14:16-17, Acts 1:8, Ref. 3).
A child of God should have the proper motive in doing good works. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16, italics added). We are to avoid doing good deeds for ostentatious ("look at me") purposes. Jesus criticized people who do good works to bring praise to themselves rather than to God (Matthew 6:1-6). Our motive as a child of God should always be to glorify God, not ourselves.
A child of God must love all people.
The Greek word for love in these verses above is agapaó, which means to have a preference for, wish well to, regard the welfare of (Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Ref. 4).
A child of God has the witness of the Spirit. The Apostle Paul writes, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16). The Greek word for bears witness with is summartureó which means to testify jointly, i.e. corroborate by (concurrent) evidence (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Ref. 5). When we are born of God, the Holy Spirit jointly testifies with our human spirit that God is our heavenly Father and that we are his child (Romans 8:15, Ref. 6 below).
A child of God should be alert (watchful) and sober (free from illusion). The Apostle Paul begins 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 with "Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). Then Paul says, "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day ..." (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5, italics added).
Paul then states a characteristic of children of God, "so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober" (1 Thessalonians 5:6, italics added.) As a child of God:
Apply. In self-examination, consider each of the characteristics of a child of God covered in this lesson.
In the next, and final, lesson in this series, we will discuss the nature and benefits of our adoption as children of God.
6. Kenneth S. Wuest, "Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament," Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973
"You will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:16)
"By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother." (1 John 3:10)
"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." (Romans 8:14)
This lesson is the second in a series on "The Children of God." The first lesson in the series discussed "Becoming a Child of God" (Ref. 1). Today's lesson is the first of two lessons on the Characteristics of a Child of God.
Consider. The Bible describes the children of God as having certain characteristics. How do you know a child of God when you see one? What are the distinguishing marks of a child of God?
A child of God bears spiritual fruit. A child of God passes the fruit test. Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?" (Matthew 7:16) A child of God is recognized by the fruit that he or she bears.
Jesus said that in order to bear much fruit, we must abide in (remain in, stay connected to) him. "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, Ref. 2). Bearing spiritual fruit is the natural outgrowth of being attached to the vine, Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23).
The first characteristic of a child of God is a person who is bearing spiritual fruit.
A child of God practices obedience, righteousness, and godliness.
A child of God is led by the Spirit. When we are a child of God, the Holy Spirit is our guide for life (Romans 8:14). The Holy Spirit guides us into all the truth and helps us understand the scriptures (John 16:13, John 14:26, Ref. 6). The Holy Spirit helps us to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13). The Holy Spirit guides us in making decisions (James 1:5), what to do (Acts 10:19-20), and where to go (Acts 16:6-10). A child of God has an active, dynamic relationship with God, and follows the leading of the Holy Spirit in his/her life.
Apply. Are you exhibiting the distinguishing characteristics of a child of God? Consider the main points in this lesson:
In the next lesson, we will continue our study of the Characteristics of a Child of God.
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13 NKJV)
This lesson explains that becoming a child of God is both a starting point - when a person receives Christ - and a process of spiritual growth and maturity.
This lesson is the first in a series on "The Children of God."
Consider. What is the scriptural requirement for becoming a child of God? Are you experiencing growth and increasing maturity as a child of God?
Introduction. John begins his gospel writing about Jesus Christ. John describes Jesus as the "Word" (John 1:1), and as "life" (John 1:4). John describes Jesus as the "true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man" (John 1:9). Note the Greek word for man in this verse is anthrópos which means the human race including women and men (Ref. 1). Even though Jesus is the true Light, many people reject Jesus. John writes, "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11).
Becoming a child of God has a starting point - receiving Christ. John, writing about Jesus, begins verse 12 with the words, "But as many as received Him..." The Greek word for receive in John 1:12 is lambanó. Lambanó means to lay hold by aggressively (actively) accepting what is available (offered) (Helps WORD-studies, Ref. 2). In contrast to the great number of people who reject Christ, John writes that Jesus gives the right to become children of God to those who receive (accept) him. John explains in the last part of John 1:12 that we receive Christ when we believe in (trust in, have faith in) him (Figure 1).
Becoming a child of God also is a growth process. In addition to the starting point of when we receive Christ, becoming a child of God includes our growth process from spiritual infancy to spiritual adulthood (Figure 1). The Greek word for become in John 1:12 is ginomai, which means to transition from one point (realm, condition) to another. The word, become, implies motion, movement, or growth (Helps WORD-studies, Ref. 3). Becoming a mature child of God requires growth.
Growing, increasing in maturity, is key to authentic discipleship (Ref. 4).
Indeed, the Lord requires non-stop progress (development) in the life of faith (Ref. 4). The Apostle Peter writes, "Long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Peter 2:2). Hebrews 5:13-14 states, "For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." The Apostle Paul writes, "Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15, italics added). BibleStudyTools says it well, "As you spend time in Scripture and pray, you will experience growth and blessings as you pursue righteousness!" (Ref. 5)
Becoming a child of God is a privilege. John writes "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). The Greek word for right is exousia. Exousia means privilege, authority, power, and right (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Ref. 6). Becoming a child of God is a privilege far more so than being the child of any human being (Ref. 7). Jesus gives this favor, this privilege, to those who believe in his name (John 1:12). Becoming a child of God is God's blessing; it is not something we earn (Ephesians 2:8).
Becoming a child of God results when we are born of God, not because of our human lineage. Are all human beings created in the image of God? (Genesis 1:26) Yes. Are all human beings children of God? No, not in the reborn sense described in the Gospel of John. John describes the children of God, "Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13).
Jesus' opposers claimed they were descendants of Abraham and that God was their Father (John 8:39-41). Jesus, God's Son, told them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me" (Luke 1:31-35, John 8:42). Jesus also told them, "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father" (John 8:44).
Some of us are blessed to have had parents who were Christians during their earthly lifetimes. However, we become children of God not because of our human lineage, or because our parents are Christians, but because of God's work in us. We must be born of God and believe in Jesus ourselves to become a child of God (John 1:13, John 3:3, Galatians 3:26).
Apply. Are you a child of God? If not, put your faith and trust in Christ. If you are a child of God, are you experiencing spiritual growth and increased spiritual maturity? Seek God's guidance through prayer and his word.
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." (John 14:16-17)
This lesson is the fifth and final lesson in the series on "Christians and the World" (Ref. 1, Ref. 2, Ref. 3, Ref. 4). This lesson describes the role of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised to give to his disciples who will be living in the world.
Consider. How did the Holy Spirit help the disciples of Jesus in an unfriendly world? How does the Holy Spirit help you?
Let's set the stage. Jesus the Son of God and his disciples had walked together for three years. They had left homes, families, and businesses to follow him. Jesus had led them while he was with them. Jesus had loved them and instructed them. Jesus had sent the twelve and the seventy on training missions to proclaim the kingdom of God and heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2, Luke 10:1-2).
Now it is the last evening before Jesus' crucifixion and death. When the scene unfolds in John chapter 14 Jesus is preparing his disciples for his departure. He has told his disciples that he is about to leave them (John 13:33). Jesus tells them that he is going to the Father's house to prepare a place for them and that he would come again to receive them to himself (John 14:2-3). Jesus knows that he will be leaving the disciples in an unfriendly world. He explains that he will ask the Father, and the Father will give them another Helper to be with them.
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper." The Greek word for Helper in John 14:16 is paraklétos (Ref. 5). Paraklétos means one called alongside to help (Bible Gateway note, Ref. 6). The King James Version translates paraklétos as Comforter in John 14:16. Paraklétos occurs five times in the New Testament, all in the writings of John - John 14:16, John 14:26, John 15:26, John 16:7, and 1 John 2:1. Titles for the Paraclete include Advocate (1 John 2:1), Comforter, Helper, Spirit of Truth (John 14:17, John 16:13) and the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).
The work of the Holy Spirit applied to Jesus' disciples then, to the early church, and to those who believe in and follow Jesus today. The work of the Holy Spirit includes:
1. Comforting, encouraging, and strengthening us. Luke the physician wrote about the comfort of the Holy Spirit in the early church. "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase" (Acts 9:31). The Apostle Paul wrote about the role of the Holy Spirit to the believers at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1). "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man ..." (Ephesians 3:14-16, italics added).
2. Teaching us and guiding us into all the truth. Jesus told his disciples that the Helper "will teach you all things" (John 14:26). Jesus also said, "When He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). John wrote that the Holy Spirit helps us to discern truth and error (1 John 4:1, 6). For more information about the Spirit of Truth, please refer to the lesson, "Spirit of Truth" (Ref. 7).
3. Empowering us for service and witness. Jesus told his disciples before his ascension and departure, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Jesus also told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would give them words to speak when they encountered arrest and persecution in the hostile world. "When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit" (Mark 13:11).
"That He may be with you forever." Jesus was with his disciples for a few years. He was about to separate from them. He would come to them again in the form of the Paraclete (Holy Spirit), and this spiritual presence would remain with them and future disciples forever (Matthew 28:19-20). For those whose love Christ and keep his commandments, the Holy Spirit is our constant guide, companion, and gift giver, even to the end of the world.
"Whom the world cannot receive." Jesus said, "... the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him ..." (John 14:17). The Greek word for see is theóreó, which means to look at, gaze, discern (Ref. 8). The Greek word for know is ginóskó, which means to know through personal experience (Ref. 9). The world has no eyes with which it can see and no heart to know spiritual things so it cannot receive its (the Holy Spirit's) presence and power (Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Ref. 8). The Apostle Paul wrote, "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 2:14).
"You know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." God provides the gift of the Holy Spirit to all persons who believe in (trust in, put their faith in) Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke of the future coming of Spirit to believers. "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37-39).
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to fill and empower the disciples of Jesus (Acts 2:1-4). The Apostle Peter provided a Holy Spirit-inspired sermon (Acts 2:14-36). Peter concluded his sermon with this call to action, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself' " (Acts 2:38-39, italics added). God provides the same gift of the Holy Spirit to believers today when we trust in and follow Jesus Christ.
Apply. Jesus said that he would send the Holy Spirit to those who believe in him (John 7:39). Have you received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39)? How is the Holy Spirit helping you to live in an unfriendly world?
"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15)
This lesson is the fourth in the series on "Christians and the World" (Ref. 1, Ref. 2, Ref. 3). This lesson explains what John meant in his command that Christians should not love the world. This lesson also explains why love for the world rivals our love for God.
Consider. John wrote to Christian believers, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world." What aspects or characteristics of the world are we not to love? Why is loving the world harmful to our relationship with God?
Christian believers should not prefer the world over God. John, Jesus' disciple, instructs Christian believers, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). This verse uses the English word love three times. However, there are nuances of meaning in Greek that are not translated by the word love in English. The first two occurrences of the English word love in 1 John 2:15 are the Greek word agapaó, which means to prefer or esteem (Ref. 4). The third occurrence of the English word love in 1 John 2:15 is agapé, which means divine love, what God prefers (Ref. 5). By adding these meanings in parentheses, 1 John 2:15 reads, "Do not love (prefer) the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves (prefers) the world, the love (divine love) of the Father is not in him."
What aspects of the world does John command us not to love (prefer)? In 1 John 2:15, "the world" that John commands believers in Christ not to love is the world's culture that is alienated from God and is hostile to the cause of Christ (Ref. 1). Nor should we love those affairs of the world which seduce us from God and are rivals for our love for God. In 1 John 2:16, John describes three evil tendencies of the world that we as Christians should be careful to avoid - lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and boastful pride of life. Satan used these three types of sins to tempt Eve (Genesis 3:6) and to tempt Christ (Luke 4:1-12, Ref. 6).
John's command, "Do not love the world," does not apply to the other definitions of the world that I discussed in the prior lessons, "Biblical Definition of the World" (Ref. 1) and "The World Hates Jesus and His Disciples" (Ref. 3). It is not wrong to enjoy God's creation, to have godly affection for people (John 13:35), and to work for a living so we have the material things that we need for daily life. However, we are not to place people or things above our love for God. We are to worship God, not the world's goods.
Why is loving the world harmful to our relationship with God? Love (preference) for the worldly culture alienated from God pushes out our love for God. Love for worldly culture and love for God are mutually exclusive. John said, "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). James writes, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
God will have no rival (Exodus 20:3). We cannot simultaneously serve two masters. We cannot be a slave simultaneously to both God and riches (Matthew 6:24, Ref. 7, Ref. 8).
In the next and final lesson in this series on "Christians and the World," we will focus on God's provision and promises for Christians living in the world.
Apply. Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24). What aspects of the world's culture tempt you and rival your love for and commitment to God?
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