January 1 - 7
The Person of Christ: Our Assurance
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Luke 4:16-21; John 3:16; 17:3; Exod. 6:1-3; Mark 8:31-33; Rom. 5:8.
MEMORY TEXT: "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life" (John 5:39, 40, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: Christ redeems us from sin, death, and Satan as revealed through the Scriptures.
CHRIST: THE ASSURANCE OF ETERNAL LIFE. The person of Christ and His work are so closely connected that we cannot understand the One without the other. One scholar stated: "Not to know who he is means: not to understand what his work is; and not to see his work in the right perspective is not to understand his person."—G. C. Berkouwer, The Person of Christ (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1973), p. 105.
We receive the benefits of Christ's redemptive work not as blessings that can be separated from His person, or through debates and speculations about His nature, but only through communion with His person. Peter declares that "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12, NIV).
The lesson for this week gives special attention to the person of Christ. As we study this vital subject, we must always keep in mind the intimate and inseparable connection between who He is and what He does for us.
How did Jesus try to convince His listeners that He was sent to fulfill all His covenant promises? Luke 4:16-21.
"While the Jews desired the advent of the Messiah, they had no true conception of His mission. They did not seek redemption from sin, but deliverance from the Romans. They looked for the Messiah to come as a conqueror, to break the oppressor's power, and exalt Israel to universal dominion. Thus the way was prepared for them to reject the Saviour. . . . They interpreted prophecy in accordance with their selfish desires."—The Desire of Ages, pp. 29, 30.
How did Jesus point out in the Scripture that which had been overlooked regarding the Messiah? Luke 24:25-27, 44.
Jesus' way of enlightening His disciples through the Holy Scripture teaches us a vital lesson. He does not want us to believe in Him merely on the basis of His wonders and miraculous acts. He wants to establish our in Him on the predictive prophecies and types of the Scriptures and on His appeal to the truth they contain. Such a faith can bring the assurance of salvation. When the disciples finally understood how the biblical promises were fulfilled in Christ's life, death, and resurrection, their hearts burned with conviction and joy (Luke 24:32, 45).
When we unite the Old and New Testaments as promise and fulfillment, our hearts can also burn with personal assurance that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah of prophecy. Through the Scriptures Christ speaks to us still. Through His testimony we, like the Samaritans, may "know that this man really is the Savior of the world" (John 4:42, NIV).
How did Christ indicate that He was greater than all of Israel's prophets, kings, and priests? Matt. 12:41, 42.
"He announced Himself greater than the temple, and stood forth proclaiming, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.' He was the one in whom all the Jewish ceremony and typical service was to find its fulfillment. He stood forth in the place of the temple; all the offices of the church centered in Himself alone."—Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 399.
Jesus' teaching about Himself leaves no room for doubt concerning His divinity. He clearly declared that He was preexistent with God the Father as His beloved Son. He said in His high-priestly prayer: "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began" (John 17:5, NIV). Only One equal with God could claim a direct firsthand knowledge of the Father: "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Matt. 11:27).
How did Jesus make the point that eternal life is dependent on a living connection with Him? John 3:16; 17:3.
One of the most mysterious yet reassuring declarations of Christ was: "For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself' (John 5:26). Christ is our assurance from God the Father that every sinner is called to life eternal. Of infinite comfort are these words of Jesus: "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away" (John 6:37, emphasis supplied). "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44, emphasis supplied). Christ expressed His consciousness of deity, stating: "I am the way and the truth and the life. . . . Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:6-9).
However, Jesus did not merely make claims to divinity. He confirmed these claims by His character and deeds. The most convincing miracle of His ministry was the raising of Lazarus from the tomb. Also Jesus experienced His own victory over death. This shows that He can fulfill our hope for eternal life and that He alone is the certainty of our faith and hope. He demonstrated His deity in this supreme act of redeeming love. He alone can therefore say: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies" (John 11:25).
How did some disciples of Jesus confess His deity?
Peter: Matt. 16:16 _________________________________________________
John: John 1:14, 18 _________________________________________________
Thomas: John 20:28 ________________________________________________
Jesus used the phrase "I AM" [Greek: ego eimi] in a variety of settings. In some of these settings it contained a shocking meaning to all whose dogma is a rigid monotheism. Jesus often used the phrase with a clarifying noun (nine times), such as "I am the bread of life", "I am the light of the world", "I am the good shepherd," or "I am the true vine." On some occasions, however, Jesus employed the expression "I am" in an absolute sense, as a distinct, self-contained phrase, without any further clarification.
What did Christ mean by His self-designation as the "I AM" in the texts below?
John 8:58 ___________________________________________________________
John 13:19 __________________________________________________________
The last verse implies that this self-testimony of Jesus is part of our faith in Christ. Jesus made this testimony a matter of life and death for His contemporary Jews, when He declared: "I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the English versions add some explanatory words, like "the one I claim to be," NIV], you will indeed die in your sins" (John 8:24).
Why did the Jews pick up stones to stone Jesus to death? John 8:59; 10:31, 33.
"I AM" was the divine name that Yahweh had revealed of Himself to Moses at the burning bush. "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you"' (Exod. 3:14, NIV). This divine title Jesus applied to Himself as His own identity. He declared, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). He pointed to His works of salvation to confirm His divine nature: "that you may learn and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father" (John 10:38). In this exalted claim Jesus expressed the mystery that He and the Father were mutually indwelling. This union implied that Christ is one with God "in nature, in will, and in purpose."—The Desire of Ages, p. 208.
|What important meaning did the name "I AM" have for ancient Israel? Exod. 6:1-3, 6, 7; Isa. 41:4; 43:10-13. What does it mean to you personally when Christ assures you that "I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End"? (Rev. 22:13, NIV).|
The phrase "Son of Man" is used only by Jesus in the four Gospels. It was His favorite self-designation. He mentioned it 65 times. Its significance becomes clear if we grasp it as the prophetic description of the heavenly Being who receives from God all authority and power and dominion as evident in the judgment scene of Daniel 7:13, 14. He was described in appearance as "One like the Son of Man." This understanding of the phrase as a Messianic title, instead of a reference to Jesus' humanity, has been widely accepted in contemporary biblical scholarship.
George E. Ladd distinguishes three categories in Jesus' use of "Son of Man": the Son of Man serving on earth (Mark 2:10; Luke 19:10); the Son of Man in suffering and death (Mark 8:31; 10:45); the Son of Man in eschatological glory (Mark 8:38; 14:62)—See A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1974), chap. 11.
Considering the background in Daniel 7, what was the reaction of the Jews when they heard that the Son of Man must suffer and die and thus be "glorified"? What was Peter's reaction? Mark 8:31-33; John 12:32-34. Explain the meaning of Jesus' promise to Nathanael found in John 1:51; compare Gen. 28:12.
Jesus came to reestablish communication between heaven and earth, for He was with God, at the Father's side from eternity. He came to reveal God's true character and will, which was distorted by many religious teachers. But above all, He was sent by the Father to draw all peoples to Himself for their salvation. Humans' relation to God would be determined, from now on, by their relation to Christ! Jesus encircles us with His human arm, and with His divine arm He reaches divinity. That is why "the humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God."—Selected Messages, book 1, p. 244.
"There are thousands today who need to learn the same truth that was taught to Nicodemus by the uplifted serpent. They depend on their obedience to the law of God to commend them to His favor. When they are bidden to look to Jesus, and believe that He saves them solely through His grace, they exclaim, 'How can these things be?'"—The Desire of Ages, p. 175.
|What is the meaning of Jesus' words to Nicodemus about the Son of Man? John 3:14, 15. Compare Num. 21:8, 9. What do you depend on to commend you to God's favor?|
The Scripture is never an end in itself, but the means to know Christ, of whom the Scriptures testify. Faith and assurance of salvation cannot exist for one moment without their root in the living God and Savior of the Scripture.
What is the nature of faith that connects us with the living God and Christ? Rom. 10:9-13, 17.
"A nominal faith in Christ, which accepts Him merely as the Saviour of the world, can never bring healing to the soul. The faith that is unto salvation is not a mere intellectual assent to the truth. . . . It is not enough to believe about Christ; we must believe in Him. The only faith that will benefit us is that which embraces Him as a personal Saviour; which appropriates His merits to ourselves. Many hold faith as an opinion. Saving faith is a transaction, by which those who receive Christ join themselves in covenant relation with God. Genuine faith is life."—The Desire of Ages, p. 347.
Where does saving faith in Christ originate? Who takes the initiative in our salvation? John 6:44, 65; 12:32; Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 2:12-14.
"Must the sinner wait until he is filled with remorse for his sin before he can come to Christ? The very first step to Christ is taken through the drawing of the Spirit of God; as man responds to this drawing, he advances toward Christ in order that he may repent. The sinner is represented as a lost sheep, and a lost sheep never returns to the fold unless he is sought after and brought back to the fold by the shepherd."—Selected Messages, book 1, p. 390.
The gospel of God about His Son must be proclaimed in all the world, so that all peoples may hear the message from heaven and begin to know God and to trust His Word. Jesus asked His Father: "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word" (John 17:20, NKJV). Thus both God the Father and His Son are the object of our faith. Peter confessed: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16, NIV). "The truth which Peter had confessed is the foundation of the believer's faith. It is that which Christ Himself has declared to be eternal life."—The Desire of Ages, p. 412.
|In what way did you come to know Christ as your personal Savior and Lord? Share your personal testimony with a friend.|
FURTHER STUDY: Study the following texts from Acts to see the relationship between the Messianic prophecies and the apostolic gospel. Acts 2:22-36; 9:22; 13:23, 30-39; 17:2, 3; 18:5, 28. Study also Deut. 32:39; Matt. 16:13, 17, 21-23; John 1:3, 4, 45; 5:39; 11:25, 26; 2 Cor. 8:9; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6.
In order to receive a new appreciation of the breathtaking sweep of Messianic promises, from Genesis 3:15 through Malachi 4:2, and their fulfillment in the life, death, resurrection, and royal priesthood of Jesus Christ, read Prophets and Kings, chap. 58, "The Coming of a Deliverer."
The story of Nicodemus and his growing conviction that Jesus was the Messiah of prophecy is told with profound insights in The Desire of Ages, chap. 17. Here we read: "Through faith we receive the grace of God; but faith is not our Saviour. It earns nothing. It is the hand by which we lay hold upon Christ, and appropriate His merits, the remedy for sin."—Page 175.
"In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. 'He that hath the Son has life' (1 John 5:12). The divinity of Christ is the believer's assurance of eternal life."—The Desire of Ages, p. 530.
SUMMARY: The divine promise of a Redeemer was made as soon as there was sin. Thus God took the initiative for our salvation. All the Messianic prophecies merely unfold and develop the first promise in Genesis 3:15. The four Gospels are written so "that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31, NIV). The Messiah of prophecy is more than a glorified king, priest, or prophet. He is the Son of God, the One and Only. Our salvation is based on His solid promises and on the unassailable facts of history.
J. H. Zachary
Roberto Azucena of Leyte, Philippines, longed for a personal experience with God and a deeper knowledge of the Bible. But the church to which he belonged left him feeling uncomfortable and unfulfilled. Then two Adventist laymen offered to hold Bible studies in Roberto's home. Roberto realized that these two men based their faith on the Bible alone. The more he learned about God, the more excited he became. When he discovered the Sabbath, he closed his bakery on Sabbaths, in spite of his wife's protests. She wanted nothing to do with this new religion. When Roberto decided to be baptized, she threatened to take the children and go to live with her parents.
Roberto needed assurance from God that he was doing the right thing to keep the Sabbath and be baptized. He went off by himself to pray. For years Roberto had struggled with a strong tobacco habit. He knew that smoking was a sin and had tried to quit several times. But each attempt had ended in failure. He asked God for victory over smoking as well as spiritual wisdom to make the right choices. As he ended his prayer, he threw away his tobacco.
The next few days were busy ones as he worked in the bakery and attended the Bible studies. Six days later Roberto realized that he had not smoked once in almost a week. His craving for tobacco was gone. He knew that his victory over tobacco was an answer to prayer. He was convinced that God was guiding him in his spiritual journey as well.
Roberto has found the close walk with God that he craved. He knows that following Christ is the right decision to make, regardless of what others do. As The Quiet Hour evangelistic meetings closed, Roberto invited the group of new believers to worship in the room in his home. He prays that soon his family will join him in worshiping God on the Sabbath day.
Update: Word has just been received that Roberto's wife has changed her mind about his new religion. She and two of their daughters are preparing to be baptized. Continue to pray for this family, who is learning to trust God even when the way is not clear before them.
J. H. Zachary is international evangelist coordinator for The Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California.
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