From the very first preaching of the gospel after Jesus’ ascension, the new believers were “added” to local churches. Once God added them to churches, the believers devoted themselves to simple practices that God used to add even more people both to himself and to the churches. These activities, found in Acts 2:36-47, are marks of a solid church, so make sure that your church has them, and devote yourself to them.
Although the word church appears only three times in all of the gospels, in Matthew 16:13-23 and Matthew 18:15-20. However, the church figured large in the mission of the apostles, who they went out and made disciples by starting churches everywhere. By studying these three instances of the word church, we discover that Christ gave authority to his church to open the kingdom of God to those who receive the gospel. The health of Christianity and our own health depend on our recognition of the church’s kingdom authority.
When we considered the Covenant of Law given through Moses, we detected a major problem that we have with God’s law: we cannot keep it. In light of this fact, in Jeremiah 31:31-34, God announced a New Covenant that would transform our relationship to the law by providing what we all need – complete forgiveness for all our sins.
After Abraham’s family became a great nation, it also became a kingdom, and no one ever equalled the greatness of King David. Even so, in 2 Samuel 7:1-17, God announced to David that he had even greater plans for his offspring. Those plans were so great that even today we are seeing only part of their realization. However, we often miss out on what God is doing, because we are looking for him to do something much smaller than what he is actually doing.
Because God had fulfilled one of his promises to Abraham by making his descendants a great nation, the next announcement of the Covenant of Grace contained laws that were necessary for the life of the nation of Israel. In God’s sealing of this covenant with Moses and the people in Exodus 24:1-11, we discover that the law cannot put us in a right relationship with God, but it can guide us into the best life possible.
Even though you enjoy many good things in life, is there one big thing that is missing? Abram (later called Abraham) was rich, powerful, and famous, but he longed for one key element to complete his life. In Genesis 15, God confirmed his promises to Abram by means of a covenant and a ceremony that apparently put God in a dangerous position but secured all that Abram and we need for our lives.
After the Covenant of Works/Life resulted in failure and death for humans, God dealt with them on the basis of his grace, or free favor toward sinners. The first mention of the Covenant of Grace appears in Genesis 6:17-18 and then receives fuller explanation in Genesis 9:8-17. Every day we are still enjoying the benefits of this covenant that he announced to Noah long ago.
What can help us get a grasp on the whole Bible? There are several good answers to this question, but the idea of covenant is a handy way to understand the whole Bible. More importantly, it is the way for us to relate to God properly. In our new series on the covenants of the Bible, we first looked at Genesis 2:15-25, where we learn about the first covenant between God and humanity: the Covenant of Life.
In our third look at Matthew 6:1-18, which contains the Lord’s Prayer, or the Our Father, we examine the prayer itself, which serves not only as a prayer of Christians of all places and times but also as a model for our praying. It consists of an initial address to God, three requests for God’s glory, and three requests for our more pressing needs.
During three weeks, we are looking at Matthew 6:1-18, moving from the outside toward the Lord’s Prayer in the middle. First we considered Jesus’ warnings about hypocrisy: doing the right things in order to receive human applause. This week we looked at Jesus’ three instructions about how to pray: in secret, with simplicity, and with forgiveness.