The Doctrine of Faith According to Paul…

It is in Paul’s letters that the meaning of faith is most clearly and fully set forth.  In essence, faith is trust in the person of Jesus, the truth of his teaching, and the redemptive work he accomplished at Calvary, and, as a result, a total submission to him and his message, which are accepted as from God.  Faith in his person is faith in him as the eternal Son of God who died in the sinner’s stead, making possible justification with God, adoption into his family, sanctification, and ultimately, glorification upon our death.

His death brings redemption from sin in all of its aspects, which is verified when God raised Jesus from the dead.

Faith is NOT an intellectual assent to Christianity albeit this is necessary.  Faith is a radical and total commitment to Christ as the Lord of one’s own life.

Unbelief or lack of faith in the Christian gospel, appears everywhere in the New Testament as the supreme evil.  Not to make a decisive response to God’s offer in Christ means an individual remains in sin and is eternally lost.  Faith alone saves.

Taken from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J.D. Douglas and Merrill C Tenney

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BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 27, Day 2 Isaiah 60:1-9

Summary of passage:  Isaiah says:  Arise and shine for your light (the Redeemer) has come along with the glory of the Lord.  Darkness covers the earth but the Lord shines over that with His glory.  Nations and kings come to God’s light.  All will assemble from afar.  You will be radiant with joy.  Wealth will be brought from far and wide.  Camels will cover the land (prosperity).  All from Sheba and Nebaioth will come, serve and praise the Lord.  All offerings will be accepted.  The temple will be adorned.  Ships, including those of Tarshish, will bring your sons, silver, and gold to the honor of the Lord.

Questions:

3a)  The light is the Redeemer (from Isaiah 59:20) or can also be the Lord as He rises upon us and His glory appears over us.  It has come to Israel, the peoples, Nations, kings–come for all.

b)  Isaiah 59:9-10:  Deep shadows where we grope along the wall  and feel our way without eyes.  We stumble as if it were twilight and we are like the dead.

4a)  Nations and kings will come.  All will assemble including your sons and daughters from afar.  You will be radiant.  All the wealth on the seas will be brought and all the wealth of the nations.  Camels will cover the land (a sign of prosperity) and all from Sheba will bring gold and praise (all nations will praise the Lord and bring gifts).  All offerings will be accepted.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I came back to church after college when I had my first daughter.  It was time.  I wanted her to know Jesus.  Recently, my friend who is a missionary has led by example as I watched her consult the Lord in every decision, listen, and obey unquestioningly.  She has been an example I can only hope to one day replicate.

Conclusions:  This passage has a lot of geographical references.

According to my Bible Atlas (Zondervan Atlas of the Bible by Carl G Rasmussen), Midian was a descendant of Abraham and Keturah and the ancestor of an Arabian tribe that bore his name.  Midian is mentioned 57 times in the OT.  They were a nomadic people but believed to have its center in NW Arabia.

Midian was also a part of Sheba: http://bibleatlas.org/full/midian.htm

Ephah is believed to be a separate tribe of Sheba like Midian but is unknown exactly where it was located:

http://bibleatlas.org/regional/ephah.htm

Sheba was on the Arabian peninsula now Yemen: http://bibleatlas.org/regional/sheba.htm

According to Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J.D. Douglas and Merrill C Tenney, the camels mentioned carried trade goods from Sheba northward to the Mediterranean countries. Sheba was very wealthy through the control of the trade in perfumes and incense.  The Queen of Sheba visited Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-13; 2 Chronicles 9:1-12), riding a camel as well bearing just such gifts.

Kedar is another name for Arabia: http://bibleatlas.org/regional/kedar.htm

According to Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Kedar is mentioned numerous times in the Bible (Isaiah mentions it in:  Isaiah 21:17, Isaiah 42:11).  Kedar also had great wealth and Zondervan infers due to the number of references in the Bible that Kedar must have been well-known to the Israelites from 1000-500 BC.  Kedar was also one of the distant lands.

Nebaioth is in Northern Arabia: http://bibleatlas.org/full/nebaioth.htm

According to Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Tarshish’s location is debated but many scholars place it in Spain.  It is mentioned many times in reference to ships and ports but it was a very distant place as well.  It was on a ship headed to Tarshish that Jonah sought to flee from the Lord (Jonah 1:3; 4:2).

Map of Tarshish: http://bibleatlas.org/regional/tarshish.htm

We must remember the New World had not been discovered yet.  The people’s knowledge of the world was limited so these places represented the far reaches of the known world.

Camels were the people’s primary mode of transportation in Isaiah’s time (still are in parts of the Middle East).  Having many camels could be akin to having many cars today:  a sign of wealth and a means of their livelihood.

End Note:  It is fascinating to see how these locations crop up in the Bible.  I love Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by JD Douglas and Merrill C Tenney which gives Bible references and lists all the places these locations are in the Bible.

I would have never remembered the ship Jonah boarded was headed to Tarshish.  Knowing Tarshish’s estimated location really cements in my mind how much Jonah wanted to “escape” from God (not that he could escape from God).  Jonah wanted to go to the far ends of the Earth, the edge of the known world–that’s how bad he didn’t want to go to Ninevah.  Ninevah must have been a really, really bad place!  I cannot recommend this Dictionary enough.

What does this have to do with Isaiah?  Nothing.  And that’s why I love BSF.  It leads you to discover things you otherwise never would have.

BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 25, Day 4 Isaiah 56:1-8; Exodus 31:12-17; Deuteronomy 23:1-8

Summary of passages:  Isaiah 56:1-8:  The Lord says to maintain justice and do what is right for salvation and righteousness are close.  Blessed is he who does this, keeps the Sabbath, and does not do evil.  No foreigner can say the Lord excludes them from His people for foreigners and eunuchs who keep the Sabbaths, pleases the Lord, and keeps the covenant, the Lord will give them everlasting life.  If foreigners serve, love, worship the Lord, keep the Sabbaths and the covenant, then the Lord will bring those to his holy mountain and give them joy in the temple.  Their sacrifices will be accepted and the Lord’s house will be a house of prayer for all nations.  Others will be gathered besides Israel.

Exodus 31: 12-17:  The Lord says to observe the Sabbaths because it is His holy day and so it extends to His people as a holy day.  Anyone who desecrates the Sabbath must be put to death and anyone who does work on that day must be cut off from his people.  The Sabbath shall be a sign between the Lord and the Israelites forever as a symbol of the six days God worked and the one day He rested.

Deuteronomy 23:1-8:  No one emasculated by crushing or cutting (made a eunuch) may enter the assembly of the Lord.  No one born of a forbidden marriage (would be foreign blood if an Israelite married a foreigner) nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord.  No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord as punishment when they did not help as the Lord led His people to the promised land.  Do not be friends with them as long as you live (harsh punishment, huh?).  An Edomite is your brother (Edom being founded by Esau, Jacob’s twin brother) as is Egypt since you abided in his country.  After three generations have passed, they may enter the assembly of the Lord.

Questions:

8a)  “In the gospel, a righteousness goes forth–a righteousness that God delights to see and accept.  This righteousness is the provision of a right relationship with himself through the saving work of Jesus.”  The salvation is the salvation Jesus brought us when he died on the cross.  The righteousness is the gift of righteousness Jesus gave us when he died on the cross.  Through his death we were made righteous (a right relationship with God) through Jesus.  This righteousness is by faith alone from the first to the last (essentially from the beginning of time to eternity).  If you believe in Jesus and accept he died for you then you are made righteous in God’s eyes, which is an act of faith.  To be righteous is to have a right relationship to God.  Essentially, through Jesus’s death, we can have a relationship with God.

“To receive this gift of righteousness is to be justified by faith.  And those who receive the gift then are to live as righteous people, devoted to the service of what God declares to be right.”

All quotes are from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by Douglas and Tenney.

b)  Verse 7.  The outer courts were the only place the Gentiles could come and pray. They were not allowed inside the inner courts of the temple.  It was not holy ground and non-Jews were not permitted there.  Buying and selling were permitted as well but mainly for sacrificial animals and money exchanges for tithes.  Jesus got mad because the outer court had become more of a market motivated by profit than for religious purposes.  Also, the market had grown so big that the merchants were pushing out those who had just come to pray.  The religious intentions had turned into a bazaar of exchanging goods and services; whereas God’s expectations had been for worship only.  (Some phrases summarized from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary).

9a)  All foreigners and eunuchs–all nations.  Traditionally, foreigners and eunuchs were excluded from worshiping God (Exodus 12:43, Deuteronomy 23:1, 3, 7-8, Leviticus 21:18-20).  Israel had come to be arrogant as God’s chosen people during their exile, thinking only of themselves and how God was only for them.  But here God says no–I love all people.

b)  In John 10:14-16, Jesus explains He has other sheep (the Gentiles) whom He will bring also.  They listen to Him and shall be one flock (shall be as equal as the Jews on the same footing).  Acts 8:26-40 tells how an angel of the Lord sent Philip to explain the Bible and baptize an Ethiopian eunuch (so both a foreigner and a eunuch).  The Spirit of the Lord was present.  In Acts 10:34-38 Peter realizes Jesus’s death was for all.  Jesus himself never discriminated while on earth.  While Peter was talking the Holy Spirit came on all circumcised believers and he baptized them all.

c) Personal Question.  My answer:  Unbelieving family members

Conclusions:  I LOVED Acts 8: 30-31 “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.  “How can I,” he said (the Ethiopian eunuch), “unless someone explains it to me?”  Awesome!  I am so excited BSF has embraced such a goal.  I wish other churches and bible studies would be as effective.  Explaining the Bible so we can understand and when we understand we can do better, be better, and share the gospel as Jesus instructed.  Great stuff!  Sometimes I wonder if my church has this at its heart when it’s mission statement is to bring others into a growing relationship with Jesus.  I think they forget the growing part of it and just focus on accepting Jesus and then you’re on your own.

This was a rough lesson for me in many ways.  Question 8a once again challenged my thinking on what is righteousness (something I’m still trying to get a grasp of in my mind).  Romans is such a key passage in all the Bible that I’m still struggling to get.  I had to read about the inner and outer courts to make sure I understood why Jesus was so upset and make sure I had it straight who eunuchs were in the Bible.  It took me two days to do this lesson.

I’m not for sure how Exodus ties in here (since no question points to it) besides to make the point of keeping the Sabbath holy and how Isaiah repeatedly stated if foreigners keep the Sabbath holy, then they are accepted by God.  I’m assuming this is for emphasis and to show its importance to God.  Therefore, it is a requirement to be accepted by God in the Old Covenant as Isaiah records in Isaiah 56.

End Note:  Traditionally, eunuchs are castrated males, usually slaves turned into servants who serve for a king and tend his harem of women so no adultery can occur.  They also attend the king as well.  Castration was also a form of punishment for rape in ancient China.  It was also used for religious purposes.

Biblically speaking, the term eunuch could have referred not only to castrated men but also to a male official or confidant.  The Hebrew word had both meanings.  The context must be taken into account to get the full picture.  Here, I’m thinking Isaiah is referring to the castrated male since no one with imperfections could enter the inner courts (which included those cut–Deuteronomy 23:1).

What Does “Self-Righteousness” Mean?

I think there’s a lot of confusion when this term is thrown around by others and many don’t know what it means.  I think many equate self-righteousness with thinking you are better than others, morally or in other ways.

Webster’s definition of self-righteous is this:  convinced of one’s own righteousness especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others; narrow-mindedly moralistic.

Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary gives the theological definition:  belief, attitude, or behavior of persons who seek God’s acceptance by their own efforts, that is, by doing good works and keeping divine statues.

Bible passages where the concept of self-righteousness is discussed:  Luke 18:9, Romans 10:1-3, and Philippians 3:9.

Zondervan continues, “A self-righteous person is righteous neither in the religious nor moral sense.  Those who trust in themselves do not have right standing with God through self-effort nor are they morally upright since their attitudes are not affected.”

From my understanding, righteousness is a gift from God that we received from Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.  The “self” goes directly against righteousness since we humans have nothing to do with God’s grace.

If someone is being self-righteous, they are basically being self-reliant and in relation to others portray a smug and prideful attitude which is where superiority creeps in.  They waste precious energy, time, and resources trying to earn God’s grace and mercy when it was freely given.  And because they are striving so hard to earn God’s love they create a feeling inside of themselves that they are better than others because of their good works.  It becomes a numbers game and they end up judging themselves against others–again, something God should only be doing.

Self-righteousness is a sin because we are relying on ourselves and not accepting what Jesus has done for us on the cross.  And when coupled with others it is an act of judging others and only God can do that.

Self before righteousness is like putting you before God–self-reliant instead of God-reliant.

Examples of self-righteousness:  thinking you are better than others because–you believe in God, do more good things than others, are a better person in your view, etc.

Self-righteousness is another form of the wrong kind of pride and as Jesus says, “…he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14

End Note:  Definitions and examples of Bible passage are from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by JD Douglas and Merrill C Tenney.  I would not have been able to explain this concept without this help!  Thank you!

I would love any other ideas or clarification points added!

What Does Righteousness Mean?

Our BSF lecture focused on righteousness and our third principle stated, “God’s way of salvation is the only way to turn from sin and turn to righteousness.”

Well, I was stumped.  I had always thought of righteousness as being right.  But this obviously isn’t the case in this sense so I decided to find out what I was missing.

Webster’s says righteousness is “acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin; morally right or justifiable; or arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality”

The synonym listed is moral.

So in my upbringing I had missed the “God” in the sense of the word.

In the statement above, God’s salvation allows us to be righteous (or free from guilt).  Jesus erased our sins. And being righteous means to act in accordance with God’s law–to continually strive to be like Jesus.

God is righteous because He is free from sin.  Isaiah 46:12-13: God says “…you who are far from righteousness, I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed.”

I made the mistake of going to Sam’s Club again (I really need to stay away from that place.  I think I would be a fiend if I went to the Bible BookStore as regularly) and I bought Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J.D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney.  I had seen it before but decided to wait–until I looked up righteousness and it had the definition I had been seeking!  So, I bought it!

This Dictionary says righteousness is “any conformity to a standard, whether that standard has to do with inner character of a person or the objective standard of accepted law….Lord God always acts in righteousness because He always has a right relationship with people.”

This also explains righteousness in terms of Jesus.  Fascinating stuff and I’d highly recommend it.  I can’t wait to dive more into it.

In essence, being righteous is being like Jesus or being like God.