"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
"I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken." (Psalm 16:8 ESV)
"David said about him: 'I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.'" (Acts 2:25 NIV)
This lesson examines the meaning of the three phrases in Psalm 16:8 -- "I have set the Lord always before me," "Because he is at my right hand," and "I shall not be shaken."
Consider. Do you feel that God is always near you?
When David said, "I have set the Lord always before me," what did he mean?
When David said "I have set the Lord always before me," he felt that he was always in the presence of God -- that God was present with him, always near him, and always before his face (Psalm 16:8, Ref. 1, Ref. 2, Ref.3). David felt God's presence continually -- night and day, in public professions and in private meditations (Ref. 1). God was with him alike in happiness and in trouble (Ref. 4).
The apostle Peter quoted Psalm 16:8 during his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:14-36). The first sentence of Acts 2:25 states, "David said about him: 'I saw the Lord always before me.'" The Greek word for saw in Acts 2:25 means to keep before one's eyes, metaphorically, to be mindful of one always (Ref. 5 Thayer's Greek Lexicon). When we see the Lord always before us, he is our focus, and he is preeminent in our thoughts, words, and deeds -- always.
When Peter quoted Psalm 16:8 in Acts 2:25, Peter was clear that "the Lord" he was referring to was Jesus of Nazareth who God raised from the dead (Acts 2:22-25).
"Because He Is At My Right Hand" Meaning
"At the right hand" is a place of protection and defense. "For he [the Lord] stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death" (Psalm 109:31, brackets added). "The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand" (Psalm 121:5).
Think of the image of a warrior standing at your right side, who in the conflict of battle extends his shield over his comrade on the left hand (you) to guard him (you) from attack (Ref. 6). The Lord's shield is big enough to protect you. David wrote, "But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head" (Psalm 3:3).
Throughout the Bible, "at the right hand" also means the place of honor (Psalm 110:1, Mark 16:19).
"I Shall Not be Shaken" Meaning ("I Will Not be Shaken" Meaning)
David said, "Because he [the Lord] is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken" (Psalm 16:8 ESV, brackets added). The King James Version translates this last phrase of Psalm 16:8 as "I shall not be moved." The New American Standard Bible translates this phrase as "I will not be shaken" (Psalm 16:8 NASB).
The Hebrew word for shaken or moved in Psalm 16:8 is mot (phonetically pronounced as mote). Mot means to totter, shake, or slip (Ref. 7). In Acts 2:25 (Peter's quotation of Psalm 16:8), the Greek word for shaken is saleuó. Saleuó means to agitate, shake, disturb, or to cast down from one's (secure and happy) state (Ref. 8).
David felt the Lord's presence with him continually. Because the Lord was at his right hand, the Lord was close, ready to protect and save. Therefore, David was not shaken or moved (Ref. 4). For David, because the Lord was at his right hand, nothing could cast him down from his trust and confidence in the Lord.
Summary - the Main Principles in this Lesson
As believers in Christ:
1. We should set the Lord always before us -- before our eyes, always preeminent in our thoughts, words, and deeds.
2. The Lord is at our right hand always to protect us and defend us. His shield is big enough to protect us.
3. Because the Lord is at our right hand, we will not totter, slip, be disturbed, or become cast down. In the Lord we trust, and in him we are confident and secure.
Apply. Lord Jesus, show me ways that I can better know your presence with me today and every day. Thank you for being at my right hand to protect me and help me. Thank you that in you I am secure.
"Out of the ground the Lord God caused every tree to grow that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." (Genesis 2:9)
"The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes, I will grant to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7)
This lesson explains the original purpose of the tree of life, where the tree of life is now, that we overcome the world through faith in Christ, and that Jesus will grant to eat from the tree of life.
Consider. What was the original purpose of the tree of life in the garden of Eden? Why did God later prevent Adam from eating of the tree of life?
1. The Original Purpose of the Tree of Life
The original purpose of the tree of life was to preserve life. The tree of life was a special tree in the garden of Eden that God provided for the purpose of preserving life. Genesis 3:22 tells us if Adam had stretched out his hand and taken from the tree of life and eaten its fruit that he would have lived forever.
However, Adam lost access to the life-giving tree of life. Why? Adam sinned against God by disobeying God's command not to eat from the other special tree in the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9, Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3:6-7). After Adam had sinned, God drove him out of the garden of Eden. God stationed cherubim [angelic beings, Ref. 1] to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24).
God is merciful in that he prevented Adam (and prevents us as Adam's descendants) from living forever in a state of disobedience and sin.
2. Where is the Tree of Life Now?
The tree of life now is in the Paradise of God (Revelation 2:7). Paradise is where believers will be with Jesus after death. This is the same Paradise that Jesus spoke about to the penitent thief on the cross. "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43; "Paradise, Jesus, and the Penitent Thief" -- Ref. 2).
In the future heavenly holy city, new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-2, Revelation 21:10), the tree of life will be on both sides of the river of the water of life (Revelation 22:1-2, Ezekiel 47:12).
3. We Overcome the World through Faith in Christ
In Revelation 2:7, Jesus said, "The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes, I will grant to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God."
Jesus promises he will grant to eat from the tree of life to the one who overcomes. To overcome means to conquer and to come off victorious (HELPS Word-studies, Ref. 3).
We overcome the world through faith in Jesus, faith in the One who has already overcome the world. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
The apostle John confirms that we overcome by faith in God's Son, Jesus Christ. "For whoever has been born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5). Faith in Christ means believing in, trusting in, and having confidence in Christ (Ref. 4).
4. Eat from the Tree of Life
To the one who overcomes through faith in Christ, Jesus promises to grant (give, Ref. 5) to eat from the tree of life (Revelation 2:7). To eat from the tree of life is a gracious gift from God. Compare Revelation 2:7 with Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Adam, through disobedience to God, lost access to the tree of life. As Adam's descendants, we overcome the world through faith in Jesus, and he will grant us to eat from the tree of life.
Apply. Put your faith in God's Son, Jesus Christ. Believe in, trust in, and have confidence in him. Overcome the world through your faith in Christ, and he will grant you to eat from the tree of life.
"What is Eternal Life?"(John 17:3)
"Paradise, Jesus, and the Penitent Thief"(Luke 23:43)
"Biblical Definition of 'The World'" (John 1:10)
1. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3742.htm - Strong's Exhaustive Concordance
"For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5)
Consider. Do you understand the meaning of God's favor?
This lesson explains the two meanings of God's favor in the Old Testament and the meaning of God's favor in the New Testament.
The Scripture references below are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) (Ref. 1) unless noted otherwise.
1. God's Favor is Grace (First Meaning in the Old Testament)
The Bible often speaks about God's servants finding God's favor. "Noah found favor [Hebrew word chen - Ref. 2] in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:8, brackets added). Abraham, Moses, and Gideon found favor with the Lord, and the Lord granted their requests (Genesis 18:3, Exodus 33:12-17, Judges 6:17). When David and his servants fled Jerusalem because of Absalom's conspiracy, David, the king, said to Zadok, "Return the ark of God to the city. If I find favor in the sight of the Lord, then He will bring me back and show me both it and His habitation" (2 Samuel 15:25).
In the Old Testament verses above, the Hebrew word for favor is chen, which means grace (Ref. 2). So, in the Old Testament, the first definition of God's favor is God's grace. When God's servants found God's favor, they found God's grace.
2. God's Favor is Acceptance and Delight (Second Meaning in the Old Testament)
The Old Testament Hebrew has a second word, ratson, that the NASB and King James Version (KJV) translate as favor, delight, acceptable, or acceptance (Ref. 3). The following verses provide us additional insights into God's favor. These verses teach us that God's favor and delight are available to God's people.
a. God's favor is durable, lasting a lifetime and beyond - Psalm 30:4-5
b. God's favor surrounds the righteous as a shield - Psalm 5:12
c. Those who seek wisdom find life and obtain favor from the Lord - Proverbs 8:35
d. A good person will obtain favor from the Lord - Proverbs 12:2
e. People who deal faithfully are God's delight - Proverbs 12:22
f. The prayer of the upright is God's delight - Proverbs 15:8
g. When people are obedient to God, God makes them joyful in his house of prayer, and their offerings and sacrifices are acceptable to God (Isaiah 56:6-7)
h. God's Servant will proclaim the favorable (acceptable in the KJV) year of the Lord (Isaiah 61:2 NASB, Isaiah 61:2 KJV). Luke 4:14-21 describes the Sabbath day when Jesus quoted this Scripture. Jesus said, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
3. God's Favor is Grace and Kindness (Meaning in the New Testament)
In the New Testament, the meaning of God's favor is grace and kindness (Ref. 4). This meaning of God's favor in the New Testament closely aligns with the "grace" definition of God's favor in the Old Testament (section 1 above).
Luke chapter 1 provides the first New Testament mention of a person finding favor with God (Luke 1:30). Luke 1:26-27 tells us that God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary. When Gabriel greeted her, he said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). Mary was "very perplexed at this statement, and was pondering what kind of greeting this was" (Luke 1:29). Then, the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God" (Luke 1:30).
In Luke 1:30 the Greek word for favor is charis, which means grace and kindness (Ref. 4). According to Thayer's Greek Lexicon, charis "is used of the kindness of a master toward his inferiors or servants, and so especially of God toward men" (Ref. 4).
Mary did not earn God's favor through her works. Mary was highly favored because she was receptive to God's grace (HELPS Word-studies, Ref. 5). Through her faith and trust in God, Mary believed that God would accomplish through her what God had promised (Luke 1:31-38).
Luke 2:52 also mentions God's favor. "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52 NIV).
God's favor (grace, kindness) is not something we can earn through our own efforts. As a result of Christ's sacrifice for us, we now receive God's favor (grace) through faith in Christ as God's Son. The Apostle Paul teaches, "For by grace [Greek charis] you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9, brackets added).
Prayer. Thank you, God, for your favor. Thank you for accepting us and blessing us each day with your kindness not based on our own merits but on the merits of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Consider. Jesus came to be the Great Physician for people afflicted with the greatest disease -- sin. Jesus calls sinners -- then and now -- to repentance.
Read Luke 5:27-32
Jesus Calls Levi (Matthew)
"27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, 'Follow me.' 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?' 31 And Jesus answered them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.'"
The Luke 5:27-32 scripture includes "tax collectors," "sinners," "Pharisees," and "scribes." A related lesson defines who these people groups were. For an explanation, please refer to "Jesus Receives Sinners - Then and Now" (Ref. 1, Luke 15:1-2).
1. Who needs the Great Physician?
Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" (Luke 5:31).
As the spiritual Physician, Jesus gracefully went about his work with the people who needed him the most -- people who were diseased with sin. God draws such people -- then and now -- to Jesus (Luke 15:1). Jesus came to be with sinful people -- people the Pharisees and scribes held in contempt. Jesus conversed with them, instructed them, and called them to repentance (will discuss more in Section 3).
In contrast with the tax collectors and sinners who welcomed Jesus, the Pharisees and scribes did not see their need for Jesus. In their own opinion of themselves, they were free from the taint of sin. Thus, they thought (falsely) that they were well. When a person -- then and now -- thinks they are free from sin, they deceive themselves. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).
2. Who does Jesus call to repentance?
Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32).
Jesus said that he had come to call sinners to repentance. "Sinners," in the Biblical technical sense, are hamartólos, people who miss the mark of what God approves (Ref. 2). That actually includes all of us. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
In the eyes of the Pharisees and scribes, sinners not only were those with blatant moral problems (such as prostitutes), but also those who did not observe the Pharisees' and scribes' strict and rule-oriented interpretation of the law -- which was most everybody else (Mark 7:5-7).
3. What is repentance?
Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32, italics added for emphasis).
The biblical definition of repentance means to turn about, to have a change of mind, to express regret (Greek: metanoia, Ref. 2, Ref. 3). Thus, repentance is much more than being superficially sorry for one's sins. Repentance includes a sincere heart change that turns from sin towards God and purposes to lead a more righteous and holy life. The prophet Joel says, "'Yet even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 and rend your hearts and not your garments'” (Joel 2:12-13, italics added for emphasis).
God says through the prophet Isaiah, "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other" (Isaiah 45:22). John, the apostle and disciple of Jesus, wrote to believers, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
4. Repentance and belief go together.
Repenting and believing go together. Repentance is integral to our believing in Christ. Note what Jesus said early in his ministry. "Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15). Not just "repent." Not just "believe." Jesus said, "Repent and believe."
Both repenting of our sins and believing in Christ should be ongoing in our walk with Christ and not just a one-time occasion. Even as believers, when we sin (in thought, word, or deed), we should repent of that sin, receive God's forgiveness already provided for us in Christ's sacrificial death, and continue to walk in the newness of life that God gives us through his Son (1 John 1:9, Matthew 5:21-22, Matthew 5:27-28, Romans 6:4).
Apply. Are you up to date on repenting from any sin that may be affecting your relationship with the Lord? Consider the main principles in this lesson:
"Jesus Receives Sinners - Then and Now" (Luke 15:1-2)
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Mr. Whitney V. Myers. Christian. For more information, please visit the Author Page.
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