09/18/17

Greetings!

Here are summaries of the two Bible studies on Sunday.

ICF-A: "The Promise & Abraham" (Genesis 12:1-3)

In our current study, we are moving quickly through the Bible as we trace the “big story” of the Bible. We are skipping over many details. Many questions may arise, and many questions may be left unanswered in our Sunday morning times together. Those who are relatively new to the Bible may feel things are moving too fast. I encourage you to do the following:

Stay with us! With repetition and additional information, the “big story” will become more clear.
If you can, read more of the Bible story than we are studying on Sunday mornings. In my emails on Thursdays, I will start listing more verses to read.
Seek answers to your questions! Ask me after class or send me an email. I am happy to try to answer your questions.

God’s Promise for the Nations
Our current Bible study is called “God's Promise for the Nations?” Why? It starts with God's promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). God promised that He would make Abraham into a "great nation" and bless him. God also promised that "all peoples" and "all nations" would be blessed through Abraham's offspring or descendants (Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:17-18). Because we are part of "all peoples" and "all nations," this promise applies to us! How? In what way? To what extent? Stay with us! That is where we are headed in this Bible study.

God's Promise Unfolded
God's promise to Abraham is first recorded in Genesis 12:1-3. It is repeated (in some form, with different details) on at least four other occasions (Genesis 13:14-17; 15:4-5, 8-21; 17:2-8, 15-16; 18:18-19; 22:17-19). The promise is also repeated to Abraham's son Isaac (26:4-5) and grandson Jacob (28:13-15; 35:11-12).

God’s promise to Abraham (and his descendants) is one way to tie the whole Bible together. We can trace the “unfolding” of the Promise through the rest of the Bible, including both the Old Testament and New Testament. The "unfolding" of the Promise involves the story of Abraham's descendants; Israel's formation, rise and fall; and eventually Jesus Christ, “the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). And some of the Promise is yet to be fulfilled. Stay with us!

What is Faith?
This was one of the questions we considered on Sunday. Abraham is one of the greatest examples of "faith." This does not mean Abraham was perfect. He did not perfectly demonstrate faith at all times, but in general, he was a man of strong faith.

The main point of Abraham's faith is this: Abraham trusted and obeyed God because he knew that God was trustworthy and He would fulfill His promise. This is "faith." Biblical faith is confident belief and trust in God and His word. Christian faith is NOT "blind faith." It is a faith based on sufficient evidence to be firmly persuaded, even if some of the things believed are future or unseen. Also, this faith is not based on human intellect alone, but is enabled by God's grace. The ultimate object and basis of Christian faith is God Himself.

Can We Be as Sure as Abraham?
Obviously, God spoke clearly to Abraham. We might say, "If God appeared to me and made a promise in an audible voice, I would believe too!" Should we expect God to speak to us in the same way He spoke to Abraham? Probably not. (We don't have the same job description as Abraham in God's plan of redemption!) However, God still speaks to people.

Today, God primarily speaks through His written Word - the Bible. Like Abraham, we can know God's promise and be firmly persuaded that God is faithful to fulfill His promise. We have already seen much of it fulfilled in the person of Jesus. Like Abraham, we can trust and obey God's instructions with full confidence in God. Maybe this is where you are stuck right now. You are not sure that God has spoken. I encourage you to keep investigating. Keep listening. God still speaks.

God Told Abraham to Do What?!
On Sunday, we considered different examples of Abraham's faith. The most dramatic example was Abraham's willingness to obey God's instruction to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-2). This story presents problems for many of us. Why would God instruct anyone to kill his/her own son? Actually, God never intended that Abraham actually kill his son. Rather, "God "tested" Abraham (22:1).

God did not need to test Abraham for His own benefit. God knew what would happen. However, "testing" proves the genuineness of one's faith, and this testing proved to Abraham and others (including us) that his faith was genuine and well based. Abraham was so certain that God would fulfill his promise through Isaac, he believed that even Isaac's death would not stop it. If necessary, God would raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).

While God never intended that Abraham literally sacrifice Isaac, God did want Abraham to sacrifice. First of all, God wanted Abraham to offer himself and his son Isaac to God's will. Secondly, God provided "a ram" to be sacrificed "instead" of Isaac (Genesis 22:13). It seems that Abraham may have anticipated this (22:8). Anyway, the substitute sacrifice pointed to the ultimate substitute Sacrifice - Jesus Christ, who died on a cross instead of us.

As Michael Card sings in one of his songs, "For God has provided a lamb. He was offered up in your place. What Abraham was asked to do, He's done. He's offered his only Son!"

What About You?

Do you believe the promises of God given in the Bible? Maybe you don't believe in God, or maybe you don't believe that the Bible is God's word. I encourage you to keep investigating and seeking the truth. Maybe you believe on the intellectual level, but you have not responded in faith. I encourage you to respond in faith.

If you are already a believer, consider Abraham's example and ask yourselves these questions: Am I willing to obey God even if it means giving up comfort and so-called security? Do I really trust God to be faithful to His promises even when things look impossible? Am I willing to give up anything that God commands me to give up? Am I willing to do whatever God directs me to do to serve in His program to bring blessing to the world?

As always, if you have any comments or questions, please let me know. (Summary by Jay)

ICF-B: “The Believers Start to Meet” (Acts 2:37-47)

Great evangelistic meetings are wonderful. The gospel is preached, invitations to believe in Christ are issued and people decide to repent of their sins and exercise faith. They are born into the kingdom of God!

But what happens after that?

What happens after that is the church! New believers join with existing believers to encourage one another, pray together and listen to preaching and teaching. In short, a community of faith is formed. The people in that community become the Church of Jesus Christ.

This, of course, is exactly how it happened with the first church, pictured in the book of Acts. The apostle Peter preached a powerful sermon to the Jews assembled in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost. At the conclusion of that message, 3000 people made decisions to become followers of Christ. What happened next showed that the apostles had a clear plan in place to help those new believers grow in their faith.

Within a few days, the followers of Christ were meeting at the Jewish Temple to hear the apostles teach them the things that Jesus had taught them. In addition, there were meals served in homes and celebrations of the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis. All the while, the new church was becoming a praying church as people prayed for one another and for the advance of the gospel message.

At this point in time, opposition had not arisen toward the church, and everywhere in Jerusalem people held the followers of Christ in high esteem. (Summary by Bob Jackson)


Your Servant,
Jay


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