TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

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Chapter 18  Part I


God transforms his people by giving them the invaluable gift of spiritual life, in which they are “reborn” in a spiritual sense. Additionally, God makes them holy and accordingly begins to transform them to be like Jesus Christ and himself. God does this through such things as teaching and disciplining them.

God Makes His People Spiritually Alive

God’s people have spiritual life

John 6:63  [Jesus, to his followers:] The Spirit is the one who gives life; human nature is of no help! The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.  NET

Jesus’ words together with the Holy Spirit bring life. This spiritual life involves being “alive to God” (Romans 6:11) and comes through having God’s Holy Spirit. Each believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, renewing and nourishing them spiritually. Consequently believers have a spiritual consciousness that enables them to live in communion with and in dependence on God. As such they are “alive to God”.

One could make a parallel with a person’s own spirit enabling them to have physical life (for without one’s spirit indwelling one’s physical body, the body is dead). Somewhat similarly, having the Holy Spirit enables a person to have spiritual life.

They have passed from their former state of spiritual death to spiritual life

1Jn 3:14  [John, to believers:] We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.  ESV

In union with Jesus Christ, their sinful selves have “died” and they are now spiritually alive

Rom 6:6-8, 11  [Paul, to believers:] We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  ESV

In our union with Jesus Christ we are identified with him in his death and resurrection. In a spiritual sense our old sinful selves have died with him in his death and we have been made alive spiritually with him in his post-resurrection life.

God’s people are spiritually reborn of God . . .

John 1:12-13  But to all who have received him [Jesus] – those who believe in his name – he has given the right to become God’s children 13children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.  NET

References to being born by God (v. 13) – or born again – refer to the spiritual rebirth people undergo when they come to faith, and by which they have spiritual life. It is accomplished by God through the work of the Holy Spirit within a person’s heart or mind, along with exposure to God’s word. This spiritual birth means that believers are in a real sense children of God. It also begins a process of growing more like God, as believers share in his Spirit which transforms them.

. . . They are born again of the Holy Spirit and through God’s word

John 3:6-7  [Jesus:] A person is born physically of human parents, but is born spiritually of the Spirit. 7Do not be surprised because I tell you that you must all be born again.  GNT

James 1:18  [James, to believers:] By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.  NET

God’s people are a new creation

2Cor 5:17  So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!  NET

 Questions for Section A

God Makes His People Holy

See also:

The concept of being made holy concerns God’s people being set apart for God, as dedicated to him – for such purposes as doing his work and worshiping him. This involves them being made pure from sin.

Being made holy has a couple of phases or facets. Firstly, when a person comes to faith their sins are forgiven and as such they are holy. Secondly, believers are made holy in that they are continually being transformed by God, becoming more like Jesus Christ and increasingly devoid of sin – a process often referred to as sanctification (though this term is sometimes also used of the first phase).

Note that in this second facet, believers are spoken of both as being passive and as being active in their sanctification. It is primarily a work of God through the Holy Spirit, but also something that believers are to strive towards (cf. Avoiding Sin and Being Holy).

God makes his people holy . . .

Ex 31:13  [God, to Moses:] Tell the Israelites, ‘Surely you must keep my Sabbaths, for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.  NET

1Thes 5:23-24  [Paul, to believers:] Now may the God of peace himself make you completely holy and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this.  NET

. . . God’s people are a holy people

1Cor 3:17b  For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.  ESV

God’s “temple” is the church.

God’s people are primarily made holy through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice

Heb 13:12  So Jesus also suffered outside the city to make his people holy with his own blood.  NCV™

God’s people are being made like God . . .

Col 3:9-10  [Paul, to the Colossian believers:] Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.  ESV

. . . God’s people are being transformed to be like Jesus Christ

2Cor 3:18b  [Paul, to believers:] We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him.  NCV™

Paul has the development of the believer’s sanctification in view, with their characters growing more like Christ. As such believers increasingly reflect and even manifest Christ’s glory.

Note: God’s people are his workmanship

Eph 2:10  [Paul, to believers:] For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.  NET

 Questions for Section B

God Teaches His People

See also:

God teaches his people

John 6:45  [Jesus:] It is written in the prophets, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.  NCV™

Phil 3:15  [Paul, to believers:] All of us who are spiritually mature should think this way, too. And if there are things you do not agree with, God will make them clear to you.  NCV™

God teaches his people how to live

Ps 25:9  He shows those who are humble how to do right, and he teaches them his ways.  NCV™

Ps 32:8  [God:] I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.  ESV

God enables his people to know the truth

John 8:31-32  Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  NET

God makes known things about himself to his people . . .

Ps 103:7  He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.  ESV

Isa 43:10  The Lord says [to Israel], “You are my witnesses and the servant I chose. I chose you so you would know and believe me, so you would understand that I am the true God. There was no God before me, and there will be no God after me.  NCV™

. . . and God makes known other things of his to his people

Eph 1:17-19  [Paul, to believers:] I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him, 18– since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened – so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength.  NET

The fact that Paul prays that the Ephesians would know these things is indicative that he saw God as ultimately the source of such knowledge.

God reveals unknown and concealed things to his people

Isa 48:6b  [God, to his people:] From this point on I am announcing to you new events that are previously unrevealed and you do not know about.  NET

1Cor 2:9-10  [Paul, to believers:] But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” 10God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  NET

 Questions for Section C

God Disciplines His People (I): Reasons

When his people turn to sin, God punishes and disciplines them . . .

Jer 30:14b  [God, to Israel:] I have attacked you like an enemy; your punishment has been harsh because your sins are many and your wickedness is great.  GNT

Ps 39:11  [David, to God:] You correct and punish people for their sins …  NCV™

. . . By punishment and discipline God causes his people to seek him again

Hos 5:14-15  [God:] I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a young lion to the house of Judah. I myself will tear them to pieces, then I will carry them off, and no one will be able to rescue them! 15Then I will return again to my lair until they have suffered their punishment. Then they will seek me; in their distress they will earnestly seek me.  NET

God disciplines his people to rid them of sin

Ps 119:67  [A psalmist, to God:] Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.  ESV

God disciplines them to save them from sin’s consequences

1Cor 11:32  [Paul, to believers:] But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world.  NET

Isa 38:17  [Hezekiah, to God:] Look, the grief I experienced was for my benefit. You delivered me from the pit of oblivion. For you removed all my sins from your sight.  NET

Here Hezekiah speaks of a time of intense suffering, which he attributes to God’s punishment or discipline for sin. His words point to the fact that those who respond appropriately to God’s discipline are forgiven for their sins and no longer face destruction.

However, hard times from God are not always due to sin

Ps 44:14, 17, 22  [A psalmist, to God:] You have made us an object of contempt among the nations; they shake their heads at us in scorn.17All this has happened to us, even though we have not forgotten you or broken the covenant you made with us.22But it is on your account that we are being killed all the time, that we are treated like sheep to be slaughtered.  GNT

Not only was the people’s suffering from God not due to sin, but it was because of their faithfulness to him that they were looked upon as objects suitable for abuse and even death (v. 22). This illustrates that discipline or suffering is not necessarily due to sin. Often the reason may in fact not be apparent.

God also tests his people to show if they will obey him

Deut 8:2  [Moses, to the Israelites:] Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way these 40 years in the desert, to humble and test you in order to make known what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.  ISV

Further reasons why God disciplines and tests his people

Heb 12:9-11  [The writer, to believers:] On earth we have fathers who disciplined us, and we respect them. Shouldn’t we place ourselves under the authority of God, the father of spirits, so that we will live? 10For a short time our fathers disciplined us as they thought best. Yet, God disciplines us for our own good so that we can become holy like him. 11We don’t enjoy being disciplined. It always seems to cause more pain than joy. But later on, those who learn from that discipline have peace that comes from doing what is right.  GW

James 1:2-3  [James, to believers:] My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  NET

 Questions for Section D

God Disciplines His People (II): Insights

God disciplines his people as his children, who he loves

Heb 12:5-8  [The writer, to believers:] And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons? “My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline or give up when he corrects you. 6“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.” 7Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons.  NET

God’s discipline is characterized by righteousness and faithfulness

Neh 9:30-31, 33  [Levites, praying to God and making reference to their forefathers:] You prolonged your kindness with them for many years, and you solemnly admonished them by your Spirit through your prophets. Still they paid no attention, so you delivered them into the hands of the neighboring peoples. 31However, due to your abundant mercy you did not do away with them altogether; you did not abandon them. For you are a merciful and compassionate God. … 33You are righteous with regard to all that has happened to us, for you have acted faithfully. It is we who have been in the wrong!  NET

As well as speaking of his patience and mercy, vv. 30-31 beautifully illustrate God’s righteousness and faithfulness in his discipline and dealings with his people, affirmed in v. 33.

God’s punishment of his people is warranted . . .

Ezek 16:59  Jerusalem, you deserve to be punished, because you broke your promises and ignored our agreement.  CEV

Ezek 14:23  [God, to Ezekiel:] They will console you when you see their behavior and their deeds, because you will know that it was not without reason that I have done everything which I have done in it, declares the sovereign Lord.  NET

God assured Ezekiel that when he saw the ungodliness of those who had remained in Jerusalem, he would realize that God had done nothing in his destruction of it without good reason.

. . . and God’s punishment is often less than what his people’s sins really deserve

Ezra 9:13  [Ezra, to God:] After all that has happened to us because of our evil behavior, and because of our great sin—considering that you our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve  and have given us this deliverance— …  ISV

God’s discipline is temporary . . .

Ps 30:5  His anger lasts only a moment, but his kindness lasts for a lifetime. Crying may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.  NCV™

The reference to God’s anger speaks of his discipline and punishment.

. . . Due to his compassion, God limits his people’s punishment

Neh 9:28  [Levites, praying to God and making reference to their forefathers:] But after they had gained relief, they returned to doing evil before you. Therefore you abandoned them to the control of their enemies, who continued to oppress them. But when they came back and cried out to you, you listened from heaven and delivered them in your compassion on many occasions.  ISV

Lam 3:31-32  [Jeremiah, reflecting on the plight of his people:] For the Lord will not reject us forever. 32Though he causes us grief, he then has compassion on us according to the abundance of his loyal kindness.  NET

God’s discipline and testing can be intense, but God brings his people through

Ps 66:10-12  [A psalmist, to God:] You have put us to the test, God; as silver is purified by fire so you have tested us. 11You let us fall into a trap and placed heavy burdens on our backs. 12You let our enemies trample over us; we went through fire and flood, but now you have brought us to a place of safety.  GNT

 Questions for Section E

Pray for persecuted Christians