God Hears our Prayers and Praises — James 5:13-20

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord (James 5:13, 14).

No matter what happens to us or others, we can go to God in prayer. When believers suffer, prayer comes spontaneously to their minds and often to their lips. When believers experience reasons to rejoice and feel cheerful, they may need to remind themselves to “praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Those who follow Jesus Christ may suffer in a variety of ways for their loyalty to their Lord and their confession of faith in Him. In some places, Christians literally die daily at the hands of their persecutors.

But believers do not, or need not, suffer alone. When they are sick, they can ask the church to pray for them. They can call their pastor, their elders, and other church leaders to come to their sick bed, anoint them with oil, pray for them, and give them counsel. In the early church, elders sometimes served as doctors and gave medical treatment as they prayed. With mass communication today, believers can pray for the oppressed and persecuted around the world the moment they hear of their plight. In this life, we may never learn how many the Lord has healed, delivered, and sustained in faraway lands because believers have prayed the moment they have heard about devastating diseases or disasters. Whatever terrors or tragedies beset us or others, we can still sing with confidence these words of Joseph Scriven: “Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer.”

Thinking Further

1. Compare James 5:13, Philippians 4:4, and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

2. Read James 5:14-15. In what other ways do Christians do this today?

3. When we pray for those who have committed sins, what can we pray for them?

4. Is sickness always the result of sin? Can some sickness be the result of sin? Give reasons for your answer.

5. Is there a relationship between the way we live daily and the way God hears and answers our prayers?

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by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

The Obviously Evil Today

Jesus told them, “You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

When the leaders in Jesus’ day confronted Him and eventually plotted to murder Him, they did so because they hated Jesus and the truths and values that He not only proclaimed but also lived by and encouraged others to live by. Jesus lived for God because Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life that His followers love and joyfully serve.

Today, those known as “the obviously evil” reject Jesus and His teachings in the Bible. They do not love Jesus or want to obey Jesus’ commandments. Actually, some who claim to be good Christians hate Jesus’ followers and His teachings; therefore, they openly express their disdain for them and try to discredit them.

Jesus taught truths to the leaders of His day that they rejected. Then, Jesus told everyone the truth about their spiritual nature. What Jesus taught then is true today. Jesus revealed that their spiritual father was the devil, and they chose to do what the devil wanted them to do. The devil is a murderer, so likewise the spiritual children of the devil want to murder others in a variety of ways. Think of the leaders today who promote murder in so many ways, and how they angrily condemn those who try to save people’s lives.

Today, we can easily recognize those who act obviously evil. They lie without shame or any concern that others might catch them in their deceptions. They refuse to obey any laws that inconvenience them or deny them power over others. They refuse to enforce laws designed to protect the powerless and those who disagree with them. They unjustly and hypocritically punish some for deeds they and their friends openly and shamelessly do themselves. They unjustly imprison some. They refuse to give justice and mercy to those who disagree with them. They feel threatened by different ideas and do their best to silence their critics in every way possible, whether legal or not.

We know from Jesus that the spiritual father of the obviously evil (and those not so obvious) is the devil. The devil inspires lying and the devil influences some to believe lies or be deceived by lies. Satan inspires evil people to promote wars and hatred among nations and people as one way to murder people for the devil’s and their purposes. Today, many leaders in the world, some political and some religious, some in corporations and some in the media, some in almost every profession or job, promote wars, give easy access to death-dealing drugs, bring about or promote the death of children before and after they are born, create deadly viruses, encourage the death of those they deem unworthy to live, demand the death of those they find inconvenient or who have various handicaps or who they deem too old. If they cannot murder someone directly, they encourage the person to murder themselves. These leaders and people are easy to recognize today just by reading the newspaper and internet reports, or by watching any news broadcast (mainstream or otherwise). Many who promote deception and murder may not know that what they are saying and doing is so obviously evil to so many, especially to Jesus’ followers.

Jesus spoke to deceivers and the deceived; they could have come to know and understand and follow the truth, but many would not. The New Testament speaks to all types of people, but will they come to know and understand and follow the truth? We see lawlessness from top to bottom among and within the nations of the world today, and this open lawlessness seems so mysterious to us because until recently it was so well hidden. The fact that evil and lawlessness is so brazenly defended and promoted by some in places of authority, by those who should know and do what is right, by those who should enforce just laws, is part of what the Bible calls “the mystery of lawlessness.” However, this evil and lawlessness would be far worse if the Holy Spirit did not restrain much of it moment-by-moment. Without God intervening, those who live obviously evil would act in far more evil ways. But there is good news! The Bible also teaches that someday God will remove this lawlessness and those who live lawless from the world.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12, the Apostle Paul explained “the mystery of lawlessness” and why some are deceived by lawlessness: “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.”

Today, we see Satan bringing about “every kind of wicked deception for [or upon] those who are perishing.” And we partially see God’s just judgment working upon the lives of leaders and others who make decisions and act under “a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false;” therefore they act obviously evil and promote what is evil.

Again, why are some leaders deceived and deceiving others, Paul gave the reason, “because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.” When we see people promoting lawlessness without concern for what is just and merciful, and when we see them angrily promoting and defending evil and different ways to murder others of all ages, we see the evidence of God’s just judgment and God’s condemnation coming upon them.

But, also hear more Good News! The Apostle Paul also gave good news to all the followers of Jesus, to those distressed and perhaps discouraged by obvious evil all around them: “But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.”

Now listen to Paul’s prayer for you, if you follow Jesus:

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17).

Learn more Good News for Uncertain Times,
begin a study of the Letter of James.

How Can Sinners be Born from Above?

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (John 3:3).

God changes sinners into believers by the Word of Truth and the power of the Holy Spirit; so, believers are people Jesus called “born again” or “born anew” or “born from above.” In John 3:3, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” We do not completely understand how sinners are born again any more than the people of Jesus’ day understood how or where the wind blew, for Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:8, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Thankfully, the Bible does tell us that God changes believers by grace, by God’s powerful mercy and undeserved favor. Because we have sinned against our Holy God and Creator, we do not deserve the time or energy God gives us. Still, God changes believers through faith and trust in God: God the Father sent Jesus Christ into the world to do all that God knew to be necessary to save believers from their sins, to remove their condemnation and guilt, to cleanse them from all sin, and to freely give them eternal life. When Jesus died as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, Jesus did so because His suffering and death on the cross were necessary. Similarly, our response of faith and trust in God and what God has done for us through Jesus Christ are necessary for us to become believers. As believers in Jesus Christ, God has given and gives us the truth of God’s Word written, the Holy Spirit, the Church, and God’s gifts to the Church to help us follow Jesus Christ and live more like Jesus Christ, to become good examples of what it means to live by faith and trust in Jesus Christ daily.

Before we became believers, we had so damaged our ability to reason, to understand, and to choose to follow Jesus Christ that God graciously changed or enhanced our ability to reason and understand the truth of the Bible, so with the help of the Holy Spirit we became believers in Jesus Christ. As Christians study the Bible and prayerfully teach or preach the truths they know from the Bible, the Holy Spirit helps their listeners believe and act upon the truths they learn. Though we do not understand the process completely, we sometimes call what happens when a sinner becomes a believer the process of being “born again” or “born anew.” Those who are “born from above” by the Word of Truth listen to or read the Bible so they can more closely follow Jesus and live like Jesus commanded and demonstrated, especially in their relationships with God with others.

Begin a FREE  complete Bible study of
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Good News for Uncertain Times
A complete study of the Gospel of John
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Why Believers Worship Jesus

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ ” (Matthew 28:18 ).

The Judeans eagerly expected the Messiah to come and fulfill the prophet Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:14 — “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languag es should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” During His earthly ministry, Jesus showed He was the One in Daniel’s vision by His dominion over demons, diseases, and death. He fed thousands and stilled storms. Before His resurrection from the dead, Jesus descended into the underworld and made a “proclamation to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19). After Jesus rose from the tomb, He appeared to many of His followers and proved that He had conquered death and the devil. When His followers went to Galilee as He commanded, He declared that His Father had given Him all authority in heaven and on earth, which fulfilled Daniel’s vision. When Jesus died on the cross, He saved from their sins and the power of sin all who would believe in Him. So, His followers worship Him as their Savior. After Jesus rose from the dead, God revealed that Jesus is the King of the universe. So, His followers worship Him as their Lord. Forty day s after Jesus’ resurrection, He ascended into heaven where He sits on the throne of God and sends the Holy Spirit into all who believe in Him. Therefore, Jesus’ followers worship and serve Him as their God, Savior, and King, and they prayerfully try to believe and live as Paul described in Titus 2:11-13, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

On May 8, begin a new FREE 12 week Bible study!
The Letter of James
Good News for Uncertain Times
at the International Bible Study Commentary.

Study the Letter of James

On Sunday, May 8, 2022, the International Bible Study Commentary and Lesson will begin a FREE 12-week series of Bible Lessons with activities for your class or personal Bible study on the Letter of James: Good News for Uncertain Times. Also available are FREE selected lessons on Matthew and Mark, FREE lessons on the the entire Gospel of John and FREE lessons on the the entire Letters of John. These commentaries and lessons are written for youth and adults, for group or personal Bible study, for large and small Bible classes, and for home Bible study and prayer groups. These commentaries and Bible lessons are written by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. For additional Bible study resources, Christian books and helpful websites, visit The Parkhurst Group.

Jesus’ Disciples: The Temple of God

I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:26—NRSV).

Jesus’ last words in His last prayer, for all who would become His disciples, through His first disciples’ teachings, carry great weight for us. Jesus prayed that we might be His disciples, that we might be in the Father and the Son, that we might be in Them as the Father is in Jesus, and as Jesus is in the Father. In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul wrote that the disciple’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which includes the Father and the Son for they cannot be separated from the Spirit. In Jesus’ prayer, He revealed that the Father loves Jesus’ disciples even as He loves Jesus, and He wants Jesus’ disciples to be the temple of God.

Consider this: the Father loves repentant sinners who believe in Jesus even as He loves His sinless Son! Even more than this, Jesus prayed that the love with which the Father loved Him would be in His disciples, along with His presence within them. Humbly accept the fact that as a disciple of Jesus, He will make you so morally and spiritually clean inside that you are fit for God to love you and live within you, just as the Father and the Son love and live in one another!

From Jesus’ prayer, we learn that Jesus has given all His disciples work to do, and one of their primary purposes is to love and live in such a way that “the world may believe that the Father sent Jesus.” To make His point, Jesus said this twice in John 17:21 and John 17: 23!  In John 17:21, Jesus prayed for His disciples “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” In John 17:23, Jesus prayed, “I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”

From Jesus’ prayer, we know why God made us: The Father wants to love and live within and through Jesus’ disciples as He does Jesus. God wants Jesus’ disciples to be the temple of God. Then, some in this world may come to see and believe that the Father sent Jesus and He loves and lives within all who become disciples of Jesus.

Begin A Study of the Complete
Gospel and Letters of John
by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

Jesus Invites You to Come and See

Jesus said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon (John 1:39).

God sent John the Baptist to prepare people for Jesus’ coming, and when John saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus and remain on Him, he knew Jesus was the Son of God who came to baptize people with the Holy Spirit.

One day John the Baptist saw Jesus and declared, “Behold (See) the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). When two of John’s disciples heard this, they began to follow Jesus. Then, Jesus turned to them and asked, “What are you looking for?” When they said they wanted to know where he was staying, Jesus invited them to “Come and See.” How would you answer Jesus if He invited you to “Come and See” Him? What would you look for if you followed Him to where He stayed?

The entire Gospel of John invites you to “Come and See” Jesus. Come and see who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, what Jesus can do, and what Jesus will do. Jesus Christ is the true Light that enlightens everyone, but not everyone wants the understanding that Jesus Christ alone can give everyone. Do you want to have the knowledge, understanding, and truth that Jesus gives those who “Come and See” Him? The true Light that enlightens everyone shines through the Gospel of John. John encourages you to learn more about Jesus. It is the will of God for people to become children of God by believing in the name of Jesus (believing in who Jesus is according to the Scriptures) and by receiving Jesus into their life, into their heart, to remain in their life as the Lord of their life forever. When you “Come and See” Jesus and truly come to know Jesus, you will truly love

Jesus, and you will want to follow Jesus wherever He leads. Become like Philip. He invited Nathanael to meet Jesus with the very words, “Come and See.” Keep reading the Gospel of John. “Come and See” Jesus. By seeing and believing in Jesus you can become a child of God. — L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

Begin a study of the Gospel of John, with verse-by-verse commentaries, Bible Lessons, Study Questions, Study Hints, Applications, Crossword Puzzles, True and False Tests, and Word Search Puzzles, and Prayers. — L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

Twelve Reasons to Follow Jesus

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus (John 1:35-37).

Andrew and John (the John who wrote the Gospel of John) became the first two disciples to follow Jesus. They first began to follow Jesus based on the facts John wrote about in the first chapter of his  gospel (John even recorded the fact that they first talked with Jesus at about four o’clock in the afternoon). A disciple was expected to learn what their teacher taught and do what their teacher said. Andrew and John were obedient servants of John the Baptist, a mighty servant and prophet of God. They eventually became disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Son of God, who taught them the truth about God and who led them to love and obey God as Jesus revealed the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to them.

Andrew and John prepared themselves to see and recognize Jesus was the Messiah by first becoming disciples of John the Baptist (no one needs to do that today). As disciples of John, they may have known that the Holy Spirit indwelt John the Baptist before John was born; if not, they recognized the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in John as a mighty prophet of God. In Luke 1:14-17, an angel told Zechariah, John’s father, some facts about John’s future before John was born: “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” The Jews expected Elijah to come before the Messiah came, and the angel told Zechariah that his son, who became John the Baptist, would come “with the spirit and power of Elijah.” Andrew and John saw the spirit and power of Elijah in John the Baptist because the Holy Spirit indwelt John the Baptist.

As disciples of John the Baptist, Andrew and John prepared themselves spiritually to look for and meet the Messiah. They knew from the Hebrew Scriptures that they should expect the Messiah to come, but no one knew when He would come until John the Baptist began preaching as a prophet sent from God. John’s preaching and baptizing in water prepared repentant people to expect the Messiah to come very soon so they could follow Him joyfully. The Gospel of John relates many facts and reasons why Andrew and John began to follow Jesus when they did. These facts can also give us good reasons to follow Jesus too. As we read more of the Gospel of John and begin following Jesus, we will learn even more facts about Jesus and build a stronger trust in Him as our Lord and Savior. Knowing the facts will strengthen our faith and trust in Jesus.

As we follow and obey Jesus more closely, as Andrew and John did, we will learn personally what John learned about Jesus when he described Jesus as “full of grace and truth.” In John 1:14, 16 and 17, John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s only son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

In the Gospel of John, carefully and slowly read chapter 1, verses 1-37, (or better, read the complete chapter). Consider closely the testimony of John the Baptist in John 1:19-36. As you read the testimony of John, look for the 12 facts noted below (you may find more facts than I have found). As you later begin to read and study the complete Gospel of John, you will find even more facts that give good reasons to follow Jesus and tell others about Jesus. John does give his readers more reasons to believe in and trust Jesus throughout his gospel. These 12 facts in John the Baptist’s testimony, that John recorded in chapter one of his gospel, gave Andrew and John good and sufficient reasons to leave John the Baptist and follow Jesus. Likewise, all the facts that John described in the first chapter of John are good and sufficient reasons for us to begin following Jesus now (if we are not already following Him) and keep following Jesus forever as our Lord and Savior.

The Twelve Facts

1. Andrew and John knew that John the Baptist had been sent from God because John taught and baptized them, and they became disciples (students) of John. They probably baptized some of the multitudes of repentant sinners who came to see and hear John at the Jordan River. They trusted John and what John taught as words inspired by God. They knew John was preparing people to receive the Messiah when He came. They knew the Messiah would come very soon, and they too wanted to be prepared when the Messiah came.

2. They knew that the one coming after John ranked higher than John because John taught that fact instead of pointing people to himself.

3. They did not understand all that John taught, but they understood enough. They knew that the Messiah, the one to come, was before John and would come after him. Perhaps John explained what he meant to them.

4. They knew that John had come to prepare the way for the Lord. “To make straight the way of the Lord” in fulfillment of the words of Isaiah the prophet (see John 1:23 and Fact 5 below).

5. They knew that the one to come after John would be the LORD. Briefly, in Isaiah 40:3, the Hebrew name for Yahweh was spoken aloud as LORD out of reverence for the name of God, a God and a name so holy that the Hebrews would not pronounce God’s name aloud when they read the Hebrew Scriptures; so, they said the name LORD instead of pronouncing the name Yahweh. We are not able to recognize easily this fact in the New Testament Greek text of John’s gospel (see John 1:23). Andrew and John would need to follow Jesus longer in order to learn more about the Messiah and His nature and character (which John learned later and wrote more about in the early verses of John 1 and throughout his gospel. Remember what John wrote in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

6. They knew John the Baptist had said that the Messiah to come was so great that John himself was not even worthy to untie His sandal.

7. They were present when John baptized Jesus at the Jordan River and when he pointed to Jesus and said, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (see John 1:29 and Matthew 3:13-17).

8. They knew John baptized in water so repentant people would be prepared to recognize and receive the Messiah, for that reason they had been baptized, and for that reason they recognized the Messiah when they first saw Him and heard what John said about Him.

9. They knew that when John baptized Jesus that John saw the Holy Spirit descend as a dove and remain on Jesus (John 1:32-33).

10. They knew that the one upon whom the Spirit descended and remained was one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

11. They knew that John had testified that Jesus “is the Son of God” (John 1:34). In Matthew 3:17, we learn how God spoke from heaven after Jesus was baptized: “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”

12. They heard John say “Look, here is the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). When they heard what John said as he pointed to Jesus, they followed Jesus. As they followed Jesus, they would eventually learn what the title “Lamb of God” meant and many more truths about Jesus and His sacrifice for them.

As you read and study the Gospel of John, you will travel with Andrew and John and the other disciples of Jesus. You will learn as they learned step-by-step that Jesus is the Savior of the world, how He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and why He will return someday as He promised. You can become ready for His Second Coming even as Andrew and John were ready for His First Coming.

Begin a study of the Gospel of John, with verse-by-verse commentaries, Bible Lessons, Study Questions, Study Hints, Applications, Crossword Puzzles, True and False Tests, and Word Search Puzzles, and Prayers. — L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

The Great Mercies of God Toward Us

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known (John 1:16-18).

God showed His great mercy to the Hebrew people when after 400 years of slavery in Egypt He led them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. During their slavery, every moment of every day they had to do what Pharaoh and their overlords told them to do. After 400 years of servitude, the Hebrews knew nothing of what it meant to live free and independent or how to govern themselves under just laws instead of a tyrant’s whims. Therefore, in His great mercy, God gave the Hebrews the law through Moses so they could know right from wrong and know how to live in a joyful and loving relationship with God and others.

If they disobeyed God’s law, in God’s great mercy the LORD gave them festivals and sacrifices that would assure them of God’s love and forgiveness, restore their love for God and one another, and point them toward their Savior to come—the Messiah, the Anointed One, the King of the universe. For these reasons and others, we read in Psalms 145:8-9, “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.” For these and other good reasons, the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 145:10, “All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your faithful shall bless you;” that is, all Your faithful will bring You joy by how they live and by the way they love You and others.

Unhappily, the Hebrews and everyone everywhere have disobeyed the law of God in many ways. If they have not known God’s law given through Moses, they have broken the law of God written on their hearts by God. None of us can unbreak a law we have broken. We can ask for someone’s forgiveness and try to make amends, but even that will not unbreak a broken law. Therefore, God sent His only begotten Son into the world to save the world and to save us from the true moral guilt that we have. Jesus Christ came into the world to give us the grace (mercy) of God that we need. Through Jesus, we have received truth and grace upon grace. In the Old Testament, the word grace is often translated mercy. Through Jesus Christ, God has given us the assurance that we can receive grace, mercy, forgiveness, and cleansing through faith in His Son. Only Jesus can make us into people who are totally forgiven and cleansed from all sin just as though we have never broken one of God’s laws.

God could not fully display—disobedient as we have been—His grace, mercy, and love through the law that He gave Moses. Try as we might, we have not obeyed God’s law in every situation. We deserve punishment for refusing to govern ourselves according to just and good laws given to us by our loving God for our benefit. The law shows us that we have not obeyed it, that we deserve punishment, and we need God’s mercy and forgiveness.

God can fully display His justice by punishing those who have hurt others and dishonored God by their disobedience. God can fully display His grace by forgiving those who believe in and receive Jesus Christ as the Bible teaches. A just punishment will bring pain and eternal suffering to those who hate God and hurt others, but the pain and suffering of Jesus can substitute for the pain and suffering we deserve for our sins—grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. If we receive Jesus’ suffering sacrifice in our behalf, we will not need to suffer forever to display God’s justice.

To solve our most basic problems, God sent Jesus Christ to sacrifice His life for us. God the Father substituted the suffering and sacrifice of His Son for the just punishment we deserve so They could forgive us and do so with love, with justice and mercy. Together, justice and mercy express the love of God for those who have hurt others and for those they have hurt. Unhappily, all of us have hurt others and disgraced God, but God’s love can heal those we have hurt, and God’s grace can forgive us and restore us to sanity through the mercy of Jesus Christ.

Jesus died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to bestow upon us even more mercies. He confirmed His promises and the truths He revealed about His Father, Himself and Their purposes when He rose from the dead. Now, Jesus gives great mercies from heaven to all who follow Him. From heaven, He has poured the Holy Spirit into everyone who believes in Him and receives Him as their personal Lord and Savior. He cleanses from sin all who trust in Him. He gives His power to His followers so they can live according to the law of God—so they can love God with all our heart, mind, soul, strength, and their neighbors as themselves.

We cannot love God, others, or ourselves without the love of God abiding in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives within all who follow Jesus. The Father gives us great mercy through Jesus, and God gave Jesus, the Son of God, the power to make us children of God. As the Father’s adopted children, we can love God and others like Jesus did. In addition, through faith in Jesus we have received the gift of eternal life. The love and joy we receive from knowing God will remain within us forever. God will be with us and will love us and care for us forever. Yes. What the Psalmist revealed about God in Psalm 145:9, the Son of God revealed in human flesh, in the Gospel of John, through His Apostles, and throughout the New Testament: “The LORD is good to all, and His compassion is over all that He has made.” Every word Jesus spoke was everlasting truth. In His every word and work, Jesus showed forth the love and grace of God because Jesus is our loving Savior. He came to save us from our sins, and He will someday completely save the world from sin when He returns as He promised.

We know that everything Jesus taught and everything Jesus did showed forth the true character and nature of God, whose love includes justice and mercy for all who will believe in and receive His Son as their Lord and Savior. As John reminds us, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:16-18). We can trust Jesus and follow Him joyfully forever, because He is still close to the Father’s heart and our heart. From Jesus, we have learned the truth about God, for Jesus is the Son of God, and Jesus has made us—those who believe in Him—children of God. ─ L. G. Parkhurst, Jr.

Begin a study of the Gospel of John, with verse-by-verse commentaries, Bible Lessons, Study Questions, Study Hints, Applications, Crossword Puzzles, True and False Tests, and Word Search Puzzles, and Prayers. — L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

The Difference in Jesus and the Difference Jesus Makes

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God (John 1:12).

The gospel of John will teach us more about Jesus as we study. John tells us who Jesus is, and we will better understand who Jesus is as we read, think, and pray. Because of Jesus and the kind of people Jesus will make us, the longer we live the more we will learn and the more we will love God.

In Genesis 1, we learn that God spoke the world into existence. In John 1:1 and 3, we learn that the Word was with God, the Word was God, and all things came into being through the Word. We exist and remain in existence because of the Word of God. The entire created universe exists and remains in existence because of the Word of God. In John 1:14, we learn “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” Jesus came into the world fully human and fully God. Jesus walked and talked to make the true God known and to make THE difference in our lives.

How do we know God and the characteristics of God that mean the most to us? In John 1:18, we learn, “It is God the only Son who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made Him known.” As an eyewitness, John saw and recorded how Jesus walked and talked. As we study John’s gospel we see and come to know God and the nature and characteristics of God. We see Jesus and understand many truths about the true God. As we study the Gospel of John, we will learn by experience the meaning of John 1:9, that Jesus is “the true light, which enlightens everyone.” In John 1, we learn that the Father and the Son (Jesus Christ) are one true God in two Persons. As we study and learn more from Jesus in John’s gospel, we will learn about the Holy Spirit who is the third Person in the one true God. The Bible reveals the fact that the one true God we trust and worship is three Persons who work perfectly together in us and in the world in different ways.

In his first chapter, John tells us three truths about Jesus that may mean more to us personally than many other truths. In John 1:14, 16, and 17, we learn that Jesus is “full of grace and truth,” that “we can receive from Jesus grace upon grace,” and “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” In his gospel, John will show and tell what these truths mean in the life of Jesus.

Someone may ask “What difference does all this make?” Jesus makes the difference. Jesus makes THE difference in our lives because He is full of grace and truth. All who believe in Jesus as the Bible reveals Jesus have received from His fullness “grace upon grace;” this means we receive ever increasing outpourings of God’s grace into our lives. Those who trust in Jesus have received the grace (mercy and unmerited favor) of the forgiveness of all our sins, the grace of cleansing from all our sins, the grace of Jesus sending the Holy Spirit (our Comforter, Guide, Helper, Power, and Advocate) to live and remain within us, and the gracious gift of eternal life in the presence of our holy and loving God forever—a new life that begins the moment we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. We can learn more about the grace of God as we read the Bible, but we will never be able to completely describe or explain every grace that we have received and will receive from Jesus day-by-day as we await His return.

In addition to receiving grace and the many gifts of grace from Jesus, we receive truth from Jesus, for Jesus is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). As we study John’s gospel, we will see that Jesus has told us the truth. Jesus declared that He is the Truth. The followers of Jesus can live with the grace and power of Jesus trusting the truth of Jesus, experiencing the love of Jesus for them, and knowing the reality of Jesus in the world as it is today. To understand the truth deeply, we must read the Gospel of John prayerfully and with the intention of living according to all the truth as quickly as we learn the truth.

In John 1:17, we learn, “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Everyone except Jesus has broken the law of God given through Moses: the law of love that commands us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. No matter what we do, we cannot unbreak a broken law or remove our guilt and shame, but Jesus can remove our guilt and make us new creatures who can live before God the Father and Jesus as those who have never broken a law of God. In Jesus Christ, grace and truth came into our world to make us acceptable to God and acceptable to ourselves by forgiving us, cleansing us, and filling us with the Holy Spirit.

We will only live (and want to live) with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit now and forever, if we become children of God. Jesus came to make sinners into children of God, into new people, into people fit for God to indwell. How does He make this difference in us? John explained briefly in John 1:12 (we will learn more about this and how we do this as we learn more about Jesus from John): “To all who received Him, who believed in His name, he gave power to become children of God.” As you study the Gospel of John, you will receive grace upon grace, love upon love, truth upon truth, reason upon reason, and the fullness of God’s grace to believe in Jesus as the Bible reveals Jesus. God wills that when you receive Jesus and believe in the name of Jesus that Jesus will give you the power to become a child of God. As a child of God, you will be able to show and tell others: “The Difference in Jesus and the Difference Jesus Makes.” — L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

Begin a study of the Gospel of John, with verse-by-verse commentaries, Bible Lessons, Study Questions, Study Hints, Applications, Crossword Puzzles, True and False Tests, and Word Search Puzzles, and Prayers. — L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.