TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

I.  Getting Right with God

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Chapter 21  Part I

Getting Right with God

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The Bible does not simply repeat one basic formula as to how to get “right with God”. However there are two prominent themes, which basically encompass the other things that the Bible mentions. These two fundamental themes are repentance and belief in Jesus Christ.

Bear in mind that in using the expression “right with God”, this chapter largely has in view being deemed righteous in God’s eyes, which involves the forgiveness of one’s sins. As such, it also means that we are at peace with God.

Note the topic of Baptism cross-referenced above, for it is also relevant to the subject of getting right with God, as basically it signifies that one has become “right with God”.

God’s Invitation

God invites all people to come to him and be saved . . .

Isa 45:22  [God:] Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.  ESV

. . . For God wants all people to be saved

1Tim 2:3-4  This is good and it pleases God our Saviour, 4who wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth.  GNT

God wants us to earnestly seek him – and so find him

Acts 17:26-27  [Paul, preaching to the Athenians:] God began by making one person, and from him came all the different people who live everywhere in the world. God decided exactly when and where they must live. 27God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him and find him, though he is not far from any of us: …  NCV™

Deut 4:29  [Moses, to the Israelites:] If from there you will seek the Lord your God, then you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and soul.  ISV

The reference is actually to God’s people seeking him again after being unfaithful, but it is also applicable to people initially seeking him.

We must believe in God and what he says

Heb 11:6  Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  NET

John 5:24  [Jesus:] I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life.  NET

Jesus’ words were from God, who sent him. It is critical that we believe God’s words.

We must be open to believing and responding to God

Matt 18:2-4  He [Jesus] called a child, had him stand among them, 3and said [to his disciples], “I tell you the truth, unless you turn around and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven! 4Whoever then humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  NET

Similarly in Mark 10:15 Jesus says, “…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” These verses refer to the humility, openness and receptiveness of little children. These characteristics are required to believe and respond to Jesus’ message – and so enter God’s kingdom.

Now is the time to seek God and to respond to him

Isa 55:6  Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call on him while he is near.  GW

2Cor 6:2  [Paul:] God says, “At the right time I heard your prayers. On the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you that the “right time” is now, and the “day of salvation” is now.  NCV™

To underline the urgent need to respond to God’s salvation – or to secure it (cf. v. 1) – Paul cites Isaiah 49:8, applying it to the present time.

 Questions for Section A

Repentance

The words in the Bible that are translated as “repent” speak of: changing one’s mind, regret and consequently turning around. When people are called to repent, they are called to change their mindset and turn away from sin to God.

Repentance and belief (or faith) are inextricably linked. Prior to repentance we must believe that God exists and that he requires us to turn to him. On repenting we must believe in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of the sin that we have turned away from.

We must repent

Acts 17:30  Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, …  NET

Confess your sins . . .

1Jn 1:9  But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.  NET

. . . and turn from sinful ways

John 8:11  She [a woman caught committing adultery] replied, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”  NET

In turning from sin, do what is right . . .

Ps 34:14  Turn away from evil and do what is right! Strive for peace and promote it!  NET

. . . and turn to God

Acts 20:21  [Paul:] To Jews and Gentiles alike I gave solemn warning that they should turn from their sins to God and believe in our Lord Jesus.  GNT

Repentance is required for the forgiveness of sins

Acts 3:19  Therefore repent and turn back so that your sins may be wiped out, …  NET

Repentance leads to life

Acts 11:18b  “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles.”  NET

Not repenting will result in judgment

Rom 2:5  [Paul, to any unrepentant readers:] But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed!  NET

 Questions for Section B

Belief in Jesus Christ (I): General

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Believe in Jesus Christ

John 6:29  Jesus replied, “This is the deed God requires – to believe in the one whom he sent.”  NET

Believing in Jesus Christ involves believing what the Bible says about: who he is; what he taught and did; his death and resurrection; and the results of his death and resurrection. Regarding the results of his death and resurrection, we are to believe that as a result of his death and resurrection Jesus Christ provides the things discussed below in Belief in Jesus Christ (III): Outcomes.

Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God

See also:

John 11:27b  [Martha, to Jesus:] Martha said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who was expected to come into the world.”  GW

“Christ” and “Messiah” are Greek and Hebrew terms respectively, meaning the “anointed” or the “Anointed One”. The OT tells of a coming anointed one of God, and on occasions speaks of him as God’s Son (cf. 2Sam 7:11b-14a; Ps 2:6-7; Ps 89:27).

Further key things to know and believe about Jesus Christ

John 4:42  They said to the woman, “No longer do we believe because of your words, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this one really is the Savior of the world.”  NET

Rom 10:9  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved.  NCV™

The confession “Jesus is Lord” indicates that one believes Jesus is Lord over all creation.

One’s response to Jesus Christ is one’s response to God, who sent him

John 13:20  I tell you the solemn truth, whoever accepts the one I send accepts me, and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.  NET

Luke 10:16  “The one who listens to you listens to me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”  NET

Superficial belief is not enough . . .

Luke 8:13  [Jesus, explaining the meaning of a parable:] Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in a time of testing fall away.  NET

Such belief is superficial rather than deep-rooted. It is not entrenched in one’s thoughts, persistently influencing one’s behaviour. Moreover, it does not last.

. . . We are to both believe and repent

Acts 20:21  To Jews and Gentiles alike I gave solemn warning that they should turn from their sins to God and believe in our Lord Jesus.  GNT

 Questions for Section C

Belief in Jesus Christ (II): Reasons to Believe

Jesus Christ’s words and knowledge

John 4:41  And many more believed because of the things he said.  NCV™

John 16:30  Now we know that you know everything and do not need anyone to ask you anything. Because of this we believe that you have come from God.  NET

The clause “do not need anyone to question you” may be meaning that Jesus had the capacity to answer a person’s question even before it was asked (cf. NCV).

Jesus Christ’s deeds

John 2:23  Now while Jesus was in Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover, many people believed in his name because they saw the miraculous signs he was doing.  NET

Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection

Matt 27:50-52, 54  Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. 51Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart. 52And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised.54Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!”  NET

John 13:19  [Jesus:] I am telling you this now, before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I am he.  NET

It appears that “before it happens” refers to Jesus’ death – with the preceding events, including his betrayal (cf. v. 18) – and to his subsequent resurrection. In addition to the importance of his death and resurrection themselves in showing who Jesus was, the fact that he predicted them also proved his claims. The phrase “I am he” is probably meaning that he is the Messiah, the one for whom the Jews were waiting.

Testimonies about Jesus Christ . . .

John 4:39  Now many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the report of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I ever did.”  NET

. . . God himself testified to Jesus and his claims

Matt 3:16-17  After Jesus was baptized, just as he was coming up out of the water, the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my one dear Son; in him I take great delight.”  NET

As well as God’s voice (v. 17), the Holy Spirit’s descent on Jesus “like a dove” (Luke 3:22) was effectively a testimony from God, being apparent not only to Jesus but also to John (cf. John 1:32) and so presumably also to others present.

 Questions for Section D

Belief in Jesus Christ (III): Outcomes

Note that in conjunction with the following things being outcomes of believing in Jesus Christ, we are to believe in Jesus Christ for these things being granted to us, believing that he has made them possible by what he did. (This is reflected in some of the comments.)

We are forgiven of our sins

Acts 10:43  About him [Jesus] all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.  NET

We are to believe in Jesus Christ for God’s forgiveness of our sins. As such we are to believe Jesus Christ to be (with what he has accomplished) the means of forgiveness – and trust in him for the forgiveness of our own sins.

We are granted righteousness and justified before God

Rom 3:21-22a  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  ESV

Rom 10:10  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  ESV

We are saved

Acts 16:30b-31  [A jailer, to Paul and Silas:] “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.”  NET

Rom 10:9  If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved.  GNT

We have eternal life

John 3:16  For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  NET

We become a child of God

John 1:12-13  But to all who did accept him [Jesus] and believe in him he gave the right to become children of God. 13They did not become his children in any human way—by any human parents or human desire. They were born of God.  NCV™

When we are “born of God” we are made alive spiritually, and begin a process of growing into God’s likeness.

We are given God’s Holy Spirit

John 7:38-39  [Jesus:] Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  ESV

Note: Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ are condemned and do not have life

John 3:18, 36  The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.36The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him.  NET

 Questions for Section E

Reasons for Assurance

The verses in this section give reasons for assurance of things such as being saved and being in a close relationship with God – and as a consequence give assurance of being made right with God. Reasons for assurance of such things can also be found in the other sections of this chapter (particularly in Repentance and Belief in Jesus Christ (III): Outcomes) and in a number of parts of other chapters – notably in 13. Salvation through Jesus Christ; and in chapters 16-20 (e.g. God protects his people from Satan and all evil; God and Jesus Christ keep their people as their own – until the end; and God strengthens them spiritually, until Jesus Christ’s return).

God’s word

1Jn 5:13  [John:] I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  NET

John speaks of things he wrote to assure his readers that they had eternal life. His writings are part of God’s word, and accepting them – as with other things in God’s word – brings great assurance.

Jesus Christ’s death and his ministry in his risen life

Heb 10:19-22  [The writer, to believers:] Therefore, my brothers, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21and since we have a great high priest over the household of God, 22let us continue to come near with sincere hearts in the full assurance that faith provides, because our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies have been washed with pure water.  ISV

The “sanctuary” (v. 19) speaks of God’s presence. The phrase “our hearts have been sprinkled” (v. 22) alludes to the sprinkling of blood to ceremonially cleanse under the old covenant; in parallel Jesus Christ’s blood has in a sense “sprinkled” our hearts to cleanse us. A key aspect of his role as our priest (v. 21) is that “he always lives to intercede” (7:25) for us before God. Being cleansed as such by Christ’s death and having him as our priest – coupled with faith about the reality of these things – gives great assurance of being accepted into God’s presence.

Having the Holy Spirit

Rom 8:15-16  [Paul, to believers:] For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children.  NET

1Jn 4:13  By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit.  NET

Note that we can be confident that God has given the Holy Spirit to us through evidence such as: indications of the “fruits” of the Holy Spirit in our lives (cf. Gal 5:22); having a spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit (some of which are more obvious than others); and recognition of the Holy Spirit’s help, such as his empowerment or guidance. Moreover, we can sense or have an inner awareness of God, which is constant evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

Obeying God

1Jn 2:3-6  We can be sure that we know God if we obey his commands. 4Anyone who says, “I know God,” but does not obey God’s commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5But if someone obeys God’s teaching, then in that person God’s love has truly reached its goal. This is how we can be sure we are living in God: 6Whoever says that he lives in God must live as Jesus lived.  NCV™

Loving other Christians

1Jn 3:14, 18-19  [John, to believers:] We know that we have left death and come over into life; we know it because we love our brothers and sisters. Whoever does not love is still under the power of death. … 18My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. 19This, then, is how we will know that we belong to the truth; this is how we will be confident in God’s presence.  GNT

Further reasons

1Jn 1:9  But if we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.  NET

John 6:37  [Jesus:] Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away.  NET

Jesus assures us that he will not reject anyone who comes to him.

 Questions for Section F

Pray for persecuted Christians