"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)
This lesson is intended primarily for young people -- youth and young adults. You are considering the path or direction for your life. You may be feeling the call from Jesus Christ to commit your life, your way, to him. Yet, the world is attractive to you; its ways are enticing you (1 John 2:15-17). You may be feeling the world pulling you in opposition to the call of commitment to Jesus Christ. You are at a "fork in the road." Which way will you choose?
This lesson encourages you to enter through the narrow gate which is Jesus Christ and to follow Jesus on the path that leads to life.
1. Choose Jesus Christ instead of the world
Make the decision. Choose to enter the kingdom of God by the narrow gate which is Jesus Christ himself.
The broad way of the world may be attractive to you - for example, desire for "success" in the world's eyes, accumulating wealth, and prestige. Yet, Jesus says the broad way leads to destruction -- life cut off from Christ, ruin, or loss (Ref. 1). That ruin or loss can occur during this earthly life, for example, from love of money (1 Timothy 6:9, Matthew 6:24), or at the final judgment (Revelation 20:15). Even though God does love the people of the world and sent his Son to save us (John 3:16), Jesus' disciple John warns us not to love the things of the world such as pride and lust (1 John 2:15-17).
2. Search for and find the narrow gate
Jesus said, "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:14, italics added). The implication from this verse is that instead of our choosing the broad way of the world, we should actively search for and find the narrow gate which is Christ. The Greek word for find in Matthew 7:14 means find, learn, discover, especially after searching (Ref. 2). Jesus said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7).
3. Enter through the narrow gate by faith in Christ
Enter through the narrow gate by placing your faith and trust in God's Son, Jesus Christ. God has ordained that the path to life and the way to God the Father is through his Son. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6). Jesus also said, "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).
4. Follow Jesus -- the way that leads to life
Jesus himself is the way that leads to life (John 14:6, Matthew 7:14). The life that Jesus leads us to is full in both the physical and spiritual sense (Ref. 3). Jesus promises believers an abundant life (John 10:10) -- a life filled with purpose, growth, work, and service.
Note that as we follow Jesus on the path that leads to life, the path is not easy. In Matthew 7:14 Jesus said "the way is narrow that leads to life." The word narrow in narrow way in Matthew 7:14 means constricted by pressure, and implies trouble and affliction (Ref. 4). Despite the obstacles that we will encounter on the way that leads to life, Jesus promises to be with us always (Matthew 28:20); he gives us the Holy Spirit to help us (John 14:16, John 16:13). Jesus promises that he will lead us as we follow him on the way to our heavenly Father and to our heavenly destination (John 14:6, John 14:2-3).
Apply. Make the decision. Choose the way of Christ instead of the way of the world. Search for and find the narrow gate which is Jesus Christ himself. Enter through the narrow gate by placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Choose to follow Jesus on the path that leads to life and to our Father in heaven.
"Jesus is the Door" - John 10:7, John 10:9
"Jesus is the Way to the Father" - John 14:6
"Do Not Love the World" - 1 John 2:15
"Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.'" (John 4:10)
This lesson explains the meaning of living water in the Bible, and provides examples of living water -- physical and spiritual -- from the Old and New Testaments.
Consider. What does "living water" mean to you? How would you explain "living water" to someone else?
"Living water" in the Bible refers both to flowing, fresh, pure water that satisfies our thirst in the physical sense and to perpetual, God-given spiritual blessing and life-giving power that satisfies our thirst in the spiritual sense.
1. Living water is flowing and fresh
"Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of flowing [living] water" (Genesis 26:19, brackets added, Ref. 1). Read Genesis 36:18-22 for context.
"Living water" in the physical sense is water that is flowing and fresh as from a running stream or a perennial spring. Its motion and freshness resembles life, in contrast with stagnant water or water that is turbid (muddy or sediment-filled) or salty.
The Hebrew word for flowing in Genesis 26:19 is chay (pronounced khah'-ee). Chay is an adjective which means alive or living (Strong's Concordance - Ref. 1). When chay describes water, it means flowing and fresh (Brown-Driver-Briggs - Ref. 1). Also see Zechariah 14:8.
In the Bible, living water in the physical sense implies freshness, movement, and life.
2. Living water is spiritual blessing and life-giving power
Living water in the spiritual sense is spiritual blessing and life-giving power. God is the source -- the fountain -- of living water for his people. Jesus, the Son of God, is the giver of living water. Unlike the idols, lusts, and material things the world seeks to satisfy its thirsts, the living water that Jesus gives us satisfies our thirsts perpetually and springs up in us to eternal life. The living water that Jesus gives us overflows in us and blesses others.
a. God is the source -- the fountain -- of living water
"For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13). Also read Jeremiah 17:13, and Psalm 36:9.
In Jeremiah 2:13, Jeremiah 17:13, and Psalm 36:9, the Hebrew word for fountain is maqor (pronounced maw-kore') and means figuratively a spring (Ref. 2).
God, the fountain [or spring] of living water, provided the Israelites every blessing they needed. Yet, the Israelites deserted God, practiced idolatry, and sought after gods that would not profit them (Jeremiah 2:8-11). Today, God, the fountain of living water, provides us every blessing we need. That brings up the question -- Are you seeking God who can truly satisfy your thirst, or are you trusting in "broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13)?
b. Jesus Christ -- the Son of God -- is the giver of living water
"Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water'" (John 4:10). Read John 4:1-15 for context.
Jesus Christ -- the Son of God, the Messiah -- is the giver of living water (John 4:10, John 4:14). However, in John 4:10, early in his conversation with the woman at the well, there were two impediments preventing the woman from receiving the living water that Jesus gives. First, she did not know [Greek word eidó means perceive] who it was who was speaking to her (Ref. 3). At first she thought Jesus was an ordinary Jew (John 4:9). Later in the conversation she did understand who Jesus was -- the Messiah, the Christ -- and she proclaimed Jesus to the people of her town (John 4:25-26, John 4:28-29) resulting in their coming to Christ (John 4:39-42).
Second, when Jesus began the conversation with the woman at the well, she did not know [perceive] what the gift of living water really was (and still is). When Jesus first mentioned living water to her (John 4:10), she thought of living water only in the physical, flowing sense (John 4:11). Moments later in the conversation, Jesus helped her to think of living water in the spiritual sense. In John 4:13, Jesus said (referring to the physical well water), "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again." Jesus then explained the spiritual benefits of living water. "Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14).
When Jesus described the spiritual meaning of living water -- perpetual, life-giving power that springs up to eternal life (John 4:14) -- the woman then expressed her desire to have that living water. She said, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water" (John 4:15).
So, note the two conditions from John 4:10-15 for receiving the life-giving living water that Jesus gives:
1) Perceive who Jesus really is (the Messiah, the Christ), and
2) Desire to have the living water that Jesus is willing to give.
c. The living water that Jesus gives us satisfies our thirsts perpetually and springs up in us to eternal life
"Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty; but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life" (John 4:14).
(1). The living water that Jesus gives us is eternal in its duration and satisfies our thirsts completely
Jesus said to the woman, "Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty" (John 4:14). Jesus recognized that the Samaritan woman was thirsty; however, she was seeking to satisfy her thirst in the ways of the world (John 4:16-18, 1 John 2:15-17). In contrast with the ways of the world which are temporary and cannot satisfy our spiritual thirst (broken cisterns that can hold no water), the living water that Jesus Christ gives us eternally satisfies our thirst.
(2). The living water that Jesus gives us becomes in us a fountain springing up to eternal life
Jesus said, "The water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life" (John 4:14). The living water that Jesus gives us as believers -- spiritual blessing and life-giving power -- is a perpetually flowing fountain within us that is active, dynamic, and vigorous. The Greek word that John uses for springing is hallomai (pronounced hal'-lom-ahee) which means leaping, springing, gushing (Ref. 4). The living water that Jesus gives us provides us abundant life (John 10:10). The living water that Jesus gives us helps us to enjoy the quality of eternal life now with him while we are on earth and as we anticipate being in heaven with him.
d. The living water that Jesus gives us flows from us and blesses others
Jesus said, "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:38).
To discuss this verse, let's consider "three directions" -- to us, in us, and from us to others.
To us -- God is the source, the fountain of living water (Jeremiah 2:13). That living water -- God's blessing and spiritual power -- flows from God to us (Isaiah 44:3).
In us -- The living water that Jesus gives us is a life-giving fountain that springs up in us (John 4:14). The living water that Jesus gives us completely satisfies our thirsts and endures to eternal life.
From us to others -- Jesus said that for those that believe in him, from our innermost being "will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38). From God we shall receive an abundance of spiritual blessings not only to refresh us, but also so we can be instrumental in refreshing and comforting others (Ref. 5). As believers, we do not "end" at satisfying our own thirsts, but we become a fount, using the spiritual gifts God has given us, so others may derive refreshment (Ref. 6). As faithful stewards of God's grace, we are to use the gifts, spiritual blessings, and life-giving power that God has given us to bless others (1 Peter 4:10).
Apply. Know "the thirst of your soul, the readiness of the Giver, and the sweetness of the living water that Jesus offers. Fall at his feet and ask, and get the water of life" (Alexander MacLaren - Ref. 7, John 4:15).
"Come to the Waters (Isaiah 55:1)"
"What is Eternal Life?" (John 17:3)
"Do Not Love the World" (1 John 2:15)
Commentary on John 7:38
Commentary on John 7:38
Commentary on John 4:10
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"This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil." (Hebrews 6:19)
"When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay." -- Edward Mote (1797-1874), writer of the hymn, "My Hope is Built" (Ref. 1, Ref. 2).
Consider. When the storms of life come, in whom or in what is your soul secure, even when tossed by waves of trouble, grief, or loss? What is the anchor for your soul?
Hope Is an Anchor for the Soul
"This hope [this confident assurance] we have as an anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whatever pressure bears upon it]—a safe and steadfast hope that enters within the veil [of the heavenly temple, that most Holy Place in which the very presence of God dwells]." (Hebrews 6:19 AMP)
For believers in Jesus Christ, our hope -- our expectation for the future and our confident assurance for the present -- is an anchor for our soul (Hebrews 6:19). Hope accomplishes for our soul the same thing an anchor does for a ship (Ref. 3). In the same way that an anchor holds a ship sure and steadfast through a storm, our hope of heaven and eternal life with Christ holds us firmly and keeps us calm through the difficult storms of life. Our hope of heaven and eternal life with Christ cannot slip and it cannot break down under whatever pressure bears upon it (Hebrews 6:19 AMP). Edward Mote referred to Christ and to hope when he wrote the hymn line, "When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay" (Ref. 1, Ref. 2).
Which enters within the veil
The writer of Hebrews adds that this hope set before us is "one which enters within the veil" (Hebrews 6:19). The Amplified Bible describes the veil as "the heavenly temple, that most Holy Place in which the very presence of God dwells" (Hebrews 6:19 AMP).
Recall that under the Old Testament system, the Most Holy Place, the innermost and most sacred place in the tabernacle and later the temple, was separated from the Holy Place by a veil (a curtain) (Exodus 26:31-33, 1 Kings 6:14-19, Hebrews 9:3). The Most Holy Place contained the ark of the covenant which was the symbol for the presence of God (1 Kings 8:6, 10-11). Only one person, the high priest, entered the Most Holy Place one day a year taking blood to atone for the sins of himself and the people (Hebrews 9:3, 6-7).
During Jesus' earthly life, he did not enter the Most Holy Place in the human-made temple in Jerusalem. However, when Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God died sacrificially to atone for our sins, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Mark 15:37-39). Jesus Christ gained direct access for us to the holy place in heaven, the presence of God (Hebrews 9:24, Hebrews 10:19-21). Now, as believers in Christ, our hope has entered within the veil and is surely anchored in heaven, in the presence of God.
Edward Mote wrote the hymn line, "In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil" (Ref. 1, Ref. 2).
A Living Hope (1 Peter 1:3)
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).
Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there would be no anchor for our soul -- no hope, no eternal life. However, because of God's great mercy, and because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we do have an anchor for our soul. God has given us a secure living hope through believing in his Son and in his resurrection (John 11:25-26, 1 Peter 1:3). Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life; the one 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).
A Hope that Abounds (Romans 15:13)
"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).
The Apostle Paul prays for us as believers that God will fill us with joy and peace not just that we will have hope, but that we will abound in hope (Romans 15:13). The Greek word for abound means to overflow beyond measure (Ref. 4). The power of the Holy Spirit fills us with joy and peace, and our hope does abound -- a full assurance of hope until the end (Hebrews 6:11). Our abounding hope in Christ and eternal life is the anchor for our soul that keeps us steady and calm through the storms and trials of life.
Apply. Through whatever storm or trial you are going through, Jesus Christ and his gift of eternal life is your hope, the hope that is an anchor for your soul. Trust him, believe him, have confidence in him. Ask him to fill you with joy and peace by the power of the Holy Spirit so that your hope abounds, overflows without measure, and keeps you steady and calm, with full assurance of hope until the day you are with him in heaven.
"What is Eternal Life?" (John 17:3)
"Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life (Job's Question, Jesus' Answer)" (Job 14:14, John 11:25-26)
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"For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:17)
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10)
This lesson explains 11 biblical reasons why Jesus Christ came into the world. Ten of these reasons are in the words of Jesus himself.
Consider. If an unbeliever or an inquisitive new believer were to ask you, "Why did Jesus come?," what would you say?
1. Jesus Came to Fulfill the Law and the Prophets
Early in his ministry, it was important for Jesus to establish why he came (Ref. 1). Jesus said to his hearers, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). To Jesus, the scriptures were absolutely authoritative (Luke 24:44). Jesus came to cause God's will in the law (the first five books of the Old Testament) to be obeyed as it should be. Jesus also came to fulfill the prophecies and promises in the writings of the prophets, Psalms, and the other books of the Old Testament (Thayer's Greek Lexicon - Ref. 2).
2. Jesus Came to Save the World
Jesus spoke the following famous words in John 3:16, "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." Then Jesus continued the thought in John 3:17. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him" (John 3:17). The Greek word for saved is sózó (pronounced sode'-zo) and means deliver out of danger and into safety; used principally of God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin – and into His provisions (safety) (Ref. 3). Because God in love sent his Son to save the world, Jesus has already delivered you and me -- all those who believe in him -- out of danger into his safety.
3. Jesus Came to Save Sinners
The Apostle Paul wrote, "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all" (1 Timothy 1:15). Sinners are hamartólos -- people who "fall short of what God approves, i.e. what is 'wide of the mark'" (Ref. 4). That category, "sinners," actually includes all of us -- "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
4. Jesus Came to Preach the Kingdom of God
When Jesus went out from Capernum to a solitary place (Luke 4:31, Luke 4:42), he told the multitudes who were searching for him, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose" (Luke 4:43). Jesus also used the same word for preach when he quoted Isaiah 61:1 -- "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor" (Luke 4:18). In Luke 4:18 and Luke 4:43, the Greek word for preach is euaggelizó (pronounced yoo-ang-ghel-id'-zo) which means to "proclaim the good news" (Ref. 5).
5. Jesus Came Down from Heaven to Do the Father's Will
Jesus said to the people, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:37-38).
In John 6:40, Jesus explained what the will of his Father was in sending him. "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." It is the Father's will that everyone who believes in his Son may have eternal life. If you would like to read more about eternal life, please see "What Is Eternal Life?" (Ref. 6)
6. Jesus Came into this World so that Those Who Do Not See May See
In John 9:1-12 Jesus healed the sight of a man who had been blind from birth. The formerly blind man testified to the Pharisees about Jesus, but they refused to "see" and believe in Jesus (John 9:13-34). The Pharisees then put the formerly blind man out of the synagogue (John 9:22, John 9:34). After the formerly blind man had been put out of the synagogue, Jesus found him, and the man who could now see physically and spiritually worshiped Jesus as Lord (John 9:35-38). Jesus then said in the presence of the Pharisees, "For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind" (John 9:39).
7. Jesus Came that We May Have Life and Have it Abundantly
In John 10:8-10 Jesus said, "All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." The Greek word for abundantly is perissos (pronounced per-is-sos') and means all-around, beyond what is anticipated, exceeding expectation, "more than enough" (Ref. 7). In the words of the Amplified Bible, Jesus said, "The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]" (John 10:10 AMP).
8. Jesus Came to Serve and to Give His Life as a Ransom for Many
Jesus said about himself, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). When Jesus said he came to serve, the word in the Greek text is diakoneó which means to minister and to care for the needs of others, for example, as a slave waiting on table for guests (Ref. 8). When Jesus said that he came to give his life as a ransom for many, the word in the Greek text for ransom is lutron (pronounced loo'-tron) which was the price to free a slave (Ref. 9). The ransom price that Jesus paid to free us from slavery to sin was his blood (1 Peter 1:18-19, Hebrews 9:11-12).
9. Jesus Came to Seek and Save that which Was Lost
Notice in Luke 19:1-2 that Zaccheus was a tax gatherer, a person despised by the Jews and the religious leaders of Jesus' day. Yet, God gave Zaccheus the desire to see Jesus (Luke 19:3-4). Jesus extended his grace to Zaccheus and said he wanted to stay at Zaccheus' home (Luke 19:5). Zaccheus indicated his conversion, his turning away from sin when he stated that he would repay anyone he had defrauded (Luke 19:8). Jesus then said, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:9-10).
The Greek word for lost, apollumi (pronounced ap-ol'-loo-mee), has a severe meaning, and we need to pay attention. Apollumi (being lost) implies to die with the implication of ruin and permanent (absolute) destruction by experiencing a miserable end (HELPS Word-studies - Ref. 10). "Jesus Christ came to save Zaccheus, you, and me from experiencing ruin, permanent destruction, and a miserable end" (Ref. 11).
For further study on the nature of God to seek and save the lost, read the parables of The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son in Luke 15:1-32.
10. Jesus Came as Light into the World
Jesus said, "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness" (John 12:46). Jesus came as light into the world so that everyone who believes in (has faith in, trusts in - Ref. 12) him shall not remain in (abide in, stay in - Ref. 13) darkness (moral and spiritual obscurity which blocks the light of God when faith is lacking - Ref. 14). Without Christ, man is in darkness. When we believe in Christ, God transfers us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His Son (Colossians 1:13).
11. Jesus Came into the World to Bear Witness to the Truth
Early in the morning on the day he was to be crucified, Jesus stood before Pilate. Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" (John 18:37). Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice" (John 18:37). The Greek noun for truth, alétheia, means reality — the opposite of what is false or illusion (HELPS Word-studies - Ref. 15). Jesus came to testify, to be a witness to us about the reality of God's truth. Listen to his voice. He is the Truth (John 14:6).
Apply. Which of these reasons for Jesus' coming would you share with others? Bear witness to others of the truth of Jesus and why he came into the world.
"Biblical Definition of the World" (John 1:10)
"What is Eternal Life?" (John 17:3)
"What is Redemption?" (Ephesians 1:7)
"What Does 'To Be Saved' Mean in the New Testament?" (Acts 16:31)
"Jesus - Witness to the Truth" (John 18:37)
"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17)
This lesson teaches the important role of spiritual hearing in the steps leading to faith and salvation.
Consider. Recall the person or persons who shared with you the word of Christ and helped you to have faith in Christ.
"Faith Comes from Hearing"
The type of hearing that results in faith
The Apostle Paul begins Romans 10:17 with the phrase, "So faith comes from hearing." What, then, is the type of hearing that results in faith?
In Romans 10:17 Paul refers to inner spiritual hearing -- hearing that goes with receiving faith from God (HELPS Word-studies - Ref. 1). (Faith itself is a gift from God - Ephesians 2:8, Ref. 2). Inner spiritual hearing is not just the physical sense of hearing or the organ of the ear (Mark 7:35, Acts 17:20). Inner spiritual hearing is hearing that perceives, understands, accepts, and acts upon the message that the preacher (or teacher, parent, or friend) is telling us about Christ (Ref. 1, Matthew 13:14-15, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Matthew 7:24).
"And Hearing through the Word of Christ"
Paul concludes Romans 10:17 with the phrase, "and hearing through the word of Christ." What, then, is the "word of Christ" that results in spiritual hearing and faith?
In Romans 10:17 Paul uses the Greek word rhéma (pronounced hray'-mah) for "word" in "word of Christ" (Ref. 3). Rhéma means spoken words, sayings, commands, and promises (Ref. 3).
The "word of Christ" that results in our spiritual hearing and faith is the rhéma of Christ -- the spoken words, sayings, commands, and promises of Christ. For example, Jesus spoke these words, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus also commanded his disciples, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15).
Spiritual Hearing and Faith Result in Salvation and Eternal Life
When we spiritually hear the words of Christ -- the sayings, commands, and promises of Christ -- and believe them, God "continuously births faith" in us so we "can know what He prefers" (Ref. 2). Faith includes belief in Christ (having confidence in and trusting in Christ), and adds action. Jesus said, "Everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matthew 7:24, italics added).
Faith is a gift of God, and results in our salvation. In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul says, "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."
When we spiritually hear the words of Jesus and believe in him, God gives us eternal life. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24).
Apply. Tune your ears to the words of Jesus. Spiritually hear, believe, and act upon the words of Jesus. Share the words of Jesus with others for their benefit -- faith in Christ, salvation, and eternal life.
"What Does 'To Be Saved' Mean in the New Testament?" (Acts 16:31)
"What Does 'To Be Saved' Mean in the Old Testament?" (Psalm 18:3)
"What is Eternal Life?" (John 17:3)
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord ..." (Ephesians 2:19-21)
This lesson provides the hymn story and principal biblical allusions for "Christ is Made the Sure Foundation" written by John Mason Neale.
Consider. Consider these words translated from 7th century Latin:
"Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone;
chosen of the Lord and precious,
binding all the church in one;
holy Zion's help forever,
and her confidence alone."
-- John Mason Neale (Ref. 1, Ref. 2, Ref. 3 below)
John Mason Neale (1818-1866) was an English Anglican priest, scholar, and hymn writer (Ref. 4). Neale is best known as a hymn writer and translator, having enriched English hymnody with many ancient and medieval hymns translated from Latin and Greek (Ref. 4). Neale's best-known translations of hymns and Christmas songs include: "All Glory, Laud, and Honor," "Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain," "Of the Father's Love Begotten," "Christ is Made the Sure Foundation," "Good Christian Men, Rejoice," and "Good King Wenceslas" (Ref. 5).
John Mason Neale translated "Christ is Made the Sure Foundation" in 1851 from the second part of the 6th or 7th century Latin monastic hymn, "Urbs beata Jerusalem" (Ref. 2). This hymn now is commonly sung to the tune of Westminster Abbey by Henry Purcell (1659-1695) (Ref. 2, Ref. 6) or the tune of Regent Square composed by Henry Thomas Smart (1813-1879) (Ref. 2, Ref. 7).
For the following discussion of the biblical allusions in "Christ is Made the Sure Foundation," please refer to the text of the four hymn verses in the attached hymn sheet (Ref. 3 below, Ref. 8).
"Christ is made the sure foundation" (hymn, verse 1)
The foundation of the church and our lives is Jesus Christ himself. John Mason Neale likely had Ephesians 2:20 and 1 Corinthians 3:11 in mind. In 1 Corinthians 3:11, the Apostle Paul writes, "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." In Ephesians 2:19-20, Paul writes, "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone."
Jesus Christ is the sure foundation of the church and of our lives as believers in Christ. All of God's truth about salvation and the teachings of the Apostles are firmly based on him (1 Corinthians 3:10-11, Ephesians 2:19-21, Thayer's Greek Lexicon - Ref. 9).
"Christ the head and cornerstone" (hymn, verse 1)
Christ at the same time is both the head of the church and the cornerstone of God's household. Paul describes our Lord Jesus Christ as the head of the church in both Ephesians 1:22 and Colossians 1:18. "And He [God the Father - Ephesians 1:17] put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:22, brackets added). "He is also head of the body, the church ..." (Colossians 1:18).
Jesus Christ also is the cornerstone of God's household [literally, God's family] (Ref. 10). "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone ..." (Ephesians 2:19-20).
"Chosen of the Lord and precious" (hymn, verse 1)
Both 1 Peter 2:4 and 1 Peter 2:6 describe Christ as chosen and precious. 1 Peter 2:4 tells us that even though Christ was rejected by men, he was "choice and precious in the sight of God." 1 Peter 2:6 goes on to say that the Lord Jesus is the chosen and precious cornerstone described by the prophet Isaiah. "Behold, I am laying in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, And the one who believes in Him will not be put to shame" (1 Peter 2:6 quoting Isaiah 28:16).
"Binding all the church in one" (hymn, verse 1)
"Binding the church in one" is a great theme of Ephesians 2:11-22. By the blood of Christ, our Lord Jesus has made both groups (Jews and Gentiles) into one, breaking down the barrier of the dividing wall (Ephesians 2:13-14). Jesus Christ himself has reconciled Christian believers of all demographic characteristics into one body through the cross (Ephesians 2:16, Ephesians 4:4-6).
"Laud and Honor to the Father" (hymn, verse 4)
John Mason Neale concludes the hymn with these joyous words of praise to our triune God:
"Laud and honor to the Father,
laud and honor to the Son,
laud and honor to the Spirit,
ever three and ever one;
one in might and one in glory,
while unending ages run."
-- John Mason Neale (Ref. 3 below; Ref. 8)
Praise God that Jesus is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).
Thank you, Father, for providing your Son to be the foundation of our lives. Thank you, Jesus, for being the cornerstone of your church, uniting all believers in you into one body through your blood shed on the cross. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for fitting us together as living stones into one holy temple where we worship you and give you -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- all the praise and glory. Amen.
Listen and Sing Along
Listen to and sing along with "Christ is Made the Sure Foundation" (Westminster Abbey tune) sung at St Machar's Cathedral, Aberdeen, Scotland.
3. The United Methodist Hymnal, The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989
"Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith ..." (Hebrews 12:1-2)
This lesson explains the meaning of the phrases "let us run with endurance," "the race that is set before us," and "fixing our eyes on Jesus" in Hebrews 12:1-2.
Consider. As a believer in Christ, are you enduring, remaining steadfast through the challenges in the spiritual race course that God has set before you?
In today's lesson, the writer of the letter of Hebrews compares the Christian life to athletes running in the contests of the ancient Greek games. The writer begins Hebrews 12:1 with "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us ..." The witnesses surrounding us inspire us not as spectators but by their examples (Ref. 1 below). The writer of Hebrews describes many Old Testament saints who were faithful in their witness for God (see Hebrews 11:1-40).
In Hebrews 12:1-2 the writer encourages believers to "run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus." Let's examine each phrase to understand the rich meaning that the Greek words convey.
1. Let Us Run with Endurance
Run -- The Greek word for run [trechó] (trekh'-o) means to run or walk hastily (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance - Ref. 2). Figuratively, trechó means to advance speedily, like an athlete moving forward with full effort and directed purpose (HELPS Word-studies - Ref. 2). Also see 1 Corinthians 9:24.
Like the athletes in the ancient Greek games, we are to advance with full effort in our Christian lives towards the goals that God sets for us (Philippians 3:13-14).
Endurance -- The Greek word for endurance [hupomoné] (hoop-om-on-ay') means patience, and steadfastness under the challenges that God allots in our lives (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance and HELPS Word-studies - Ref. 3).
As believers in Christ, as spiritual athletes, we are to endure, to remain steadfast, unswerved from our faith by even the greatest trials and sufferings (Ref. 3, James 1:2-4). Jesus himself endured the cross - for the joy that was set before him (Hebrews 12:2 italics added, Ref. 4).
God promises to give us the strength to endure. "They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
2. The Race that is Set Before Us
Race -- The Greek word for race [agón] (ag-one') in Hebrews 12:1 means "a contest (struggle), a grueling conflict (fight)" (HELPS Word-studies - Ref. 5). The Apostle Paul uses the same Greek word in 1 Timothy 6:12, "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:12, italics added). At the conclusion of his ministry, Paul refers to the race he has run as a fight, "I have fought the good fight [agón], I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7, italics and brackets added).
Like Paul's experience, the race that God sets before us may be a struggle or a fight (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). However, God promises he is with us always through those struggles. Moses said to his people, "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 31:6). Jesus said to his disciples and says to us today, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
Set before -- The Greek word for set before is prokeimai, which means to place before, in front of, and to be appointed (Thayer's Greek Lexicon - Ref. 6).
God is the One who sets the race course before us, and not we ourselves. Secular texts and self-help books may teach us to set goals without input from God. However, as believers in God and disciples of Christ, we should seek to know the goals that God has appointed for us, and then we press on to reach those God-given goals with the skills and endurance that God supplies us. The Apostle Paul gives us his example. "Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14).
If you don't know what goals or "next steps" God has in mind for you to accomplish, ask him. "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5). "The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).
3. Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus
The Greek word for fixing [aphoraó] (af-or-ah'-o) in Hebrews 12:2 means looking away from all else, to fix one's gaze upon (HELPS Word-studies - Ref. 7). Fixing our eyes on Jesus requires not only looking to Jesus but also turning away from all else that distracts our eyes including worldly lusts (1 John 2:15-17) and the sin that entangles us (Hebrews 12:1).
Hymn writer Helen H. Lemmel captures the meaning of fixing our eyes on Jesus in the hymn, "Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus" (Ref. 8):
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."
As believers in Christ saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), we are to turn away from all worldly lusts and sins that distract our eyes and turn our eyes exclusively to Jesus who is the author and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2).
Summary - the Main Principles in this Lesson
1. Like the athletes in the ancient Greek games, as believers in Christ, we are to advance with full effort in our Christian lives towards the goals that God sets for us.
2. As spiritual athletes, we are to endure, to remain steadfast, unswerved from our faith by even the greatest trials and sufferings. God promises to give us the strength to endure.
3. The race that God sets before us may be a struggle or a fight. However, God promises he is with us always through those struggles.
4. God is the One who sets the race course before us, and not we ourselves. If you don't know what goals or "next steps" God has in mind for you to accomplish, ask him.
5. As believers in Christ saved by grace, we are to turn away from all worldly lusts and sins that distract us and turn our eyes exclusively to Jesus who is the author and perfecter of faith.
Apply. Be a spiritual athlete. Run with endurance the race that God has set before you. Complete your race faithfully with your eyes fixed on Jesus.
"Do Not Love the World" (1 John 2:15-16)
1. The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1985, note on Hebrews 12:1
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