“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).
The Bible teaches truths about the universe and us that science cannot discover from inside a test tube, under a microscope, or at the end of a telescope no matter how advanced. Modern science excludes God from its experiments, investigations, and conclusions. From the Bible, we learn that God creates everyone in the image of God. From the Bible, we learn that God creates everyone with awesome potential; people such as Moses whom God used to free the Hebrews from slavery. From the Bible, we learn that God can fill a tiny unborn baby with the Holy Spirit and babies can respond to their surroundings, for as an unborn baby John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit, leaped for joy in his mother’s womb. Then when full grown, the Holy Spirit in John empowered him to preach and prepare people for the coming of God’s Son into the world. From the Bible, we learn that through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit God could conceive a baby in a virgin that would be fully God and fully human before He was born. Then, unlike the false gods and demigods of mythologies and novels that are capricious and immoral, Jesus, the Son of God, lived a perfect moral and spiritual life. He taught the truth about God and reality. Because He loved the world, He died a sacrificial death to save believers in Him from Satan and sin. The Bible teaches us the most important truths about God and ourselves; truths that do not change but reveal deeper meaning with study and prayer; truths that will make an eternal difference if we live according to them.
“For no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37).
After the angel Gabriel told Mary that even though she was a virgin she would conceive Jesus the Messiah after the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, he assured her that what he said was true by saying, “For no word from God will ever fail.” As people read the Bible, they can remind themselves that no word from God has ever failed or will ever fail. Also, they can find a multitude of examples of this fact as they read the Bible. Sarah conceived Isaac in her old age as God said she would. Hannah conceived Samuel in her old age as God said she would. Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist in her old age as God said she would. And though Mary had never known a man, she conceived Jesus the Messiah as God said she would. God has made many promises in the Bible, and His word has never failed. If we were to ask why, a more familiar translation of Luke 1:37 provides the answer, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Both translations accurately represent the ancient Greek text, and both translations emphasize similar truths: “God’s word will never fail, because nothing will be impossible for God.” As we think about the future regarding the promises God has made to us about the future in the Book of Revelation and other books of the Bible, we have very good reasons to believe that based on God’s promises and past performances, His future performances are assured. As we read the Bible, we also have good reasons to say to God as Mary said to the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”
“The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God’” (Luke 1:35).
Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were too old for Elizabeth to conceive and bear John the Baptist; therefore, God used supernatural means to help them. Even though John had human parents, the Holy Spirit supernaturally indwelt him before he was born (Luke 1:15). For this reason, the Holy Spirit called John “the prophet of the Most High,” and John prepared the way for Jesus and His successful ministry (see Luke 1:76). Unlike John, the angel Gabriel told Mary that Jesus would be called “the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). When Mary asked how this could happen because she was not yet married to Joseph, the angel explained that the Holy Spirit would achieve this miracle when the power of the Most High overshadowed her. Just as the presence of God overshadowed the tabernacle Moses set up and later the temple King Solomon built, so the presence of God would conceive Mary’s child without the need for human intervention. She only needed to wait in a way similar to how Jesus would tell His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them. The Spirit of God actively participated in the creation of the world, in the conception of Jesus the Messiah, and in the new creation of everyone who trusts in Jesus as the Son of God and their personal Lord and Savior. Because of the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit all believers can now serve God “without fear, in holiness and righteousness” (Luke 1:75).
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:25-26).
It wasn’t just luck! Shortly after Jesus was born, Simeon saw Jesus in the temple. Situations like this happen quite often to some people. Are they simply lucky? No. Look closely at Simeon. The Bible says he was righteous and devout. Simeon had the habit of doing what was good, right, and according to the Law of God. Simeon also had the habit of showing the LORD how much he loved Him by regular worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Though he never saw the Messiah until the moment he saw the infant Jesus, he waited patiently for the LORD’s Messiah, called “the consolation of Israel” to come and be revealed. Like many of the saints in the Hebrew Scriptures, Simeon lived by faith in the Messiah who was to come according to the LORD’s promises to the prophets. As he held the baby Jesus, he proclaimed, “my eyes have seen your salvation.” Simeon wasn’t “lucky” to see Jesus; rather, his life of devotion to the LORD and his expectant faith had prepared him to see Jesus when He came. In addition, the Bible says the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon and the Holy Spirit had promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. It wasn’t luck; rather, as Simeon worshiped in the temple the Holy Spirit led Simeon to Jesus, where he blessed Him and His family. We should prepare ourselves to see Jesus at His appearing by trusting in and serving Jesus now.
“And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time” (Luke 1:20).
Zechariah unexpectedly met an angel in the temple who said that Elizabeth would bear a son who would be filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born, and after he grew up his son would prepare people for the coming of the Messiah. Unhappily, Zechariah did not believe the angel’s words; therefore, the angel Gabriel gave him some reasons to believe the good news he brought from God. One reason for Zechariah to believe the angel’s message involved God’s punishment of Zechariah for his unbelief. When the angel disciplined Zechariah, he could not speak until after the birth of his son, John the Baptist. Zechariah’s punishment served as a sign of God’s power and a warning to others of what God can do to encourage those who refuse to believe His words. When someone does not believe God, consequences follow, but God will still achieve His purposes. Another reason to believe is: whether people believe God’s words or not, God has the power to do His will. God’s ability to keep His promises and warnings do not depend on people believing Him and His words. Although Zechariah did not believe the angel’s words, he left the temple unable to speak until his son was born at the appointed time; furthermore, the Holy Spirit indwelt John while in his mother’s womb as the angel said. Then, at the appointed time, John began preaching a message of repentance, and when he saw Jesus he proclaimed: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life (Romans 5:10).
In Romans chapter 5, we learn that Jesus died for people described as powerless, ungodly, sinners, and God’s enemies. Paul explained why Jesus died for such people, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Most Christians will admit that they have done things that were sinful and ungodly and though forgiven they still need God’s help to overcome temptations; therefore, Paul assured believers that Jesus Christ lives and will save them through His life. Earlier in his letter, Paul wrote that those who have placed their faith in Jesus and His death for them will be declared justified or right with God. On the Day of Judgment, God will declare they are justified and free to live forever in His Kingdom, similar to a human judge in a court of law judging a defendant not guilty and free to live in human society. A human judge probably does not desire a close personal relationship with every person who comes to trial in their courtroom, but God loves us and wants a loving personal relationship with everyone who repents and believes in Jesus. To be reconciled by God through faith in Jesus Christ means we stop being God’s enemy with Jesus bringing us into a close, loving, personal relationship with God the Father, Himself, and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Because Jesus lives, He will graciously save from sin, judgment, and eternal death those justified by God and reconciled to God and freely give them eternal life.
1. What kind of peace do believers in Jesus Christ have through faith in Him?
2. When is boasting wrong and when is it right?
3. Give one reason the followers of Christ can glory in their sufferings?
4. What reason did Paul give for our hope as believers not putting us to shame?
5. What were we like when Christ died for us?
It was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).
Jesus Christ perfectly demonstrated the righteousness of God—that everything God does is right. By His words and works, Jesus showed that everything God has done, does, and ever will do is truthful, loving, and ethical. Therefore, those who have faith in Jesus know that even though they may not always understand everything in the Bible or God’s reasons for everything, that what God has done and will do is always righteous and best for everyone concerned. Jesus Christ died as an acceptable sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, and by doing so God the Father and God the Son were just. God is love; therefore, God treated Noah, Abraham, Moses, and all who had faith in God as righteous because He planned to send Jesus to die for their sins. Because Jesus Christ died and rose again from the dead, God is just and the justifier when God considers and makes right everyone who comes to faith in Jesus. As the justifier, God does what is legal, just, right, and reasonable when God forgives the sins of those who turn from their sins and trust in Jesus for their salvation. Through His life and death, Jesus did all that was necessary to show God was right in everything He did to make a way for sinners to be made clean and whole again through faith in Jesus. In Romans 3:30, Paul wrote that God’s extends the offer of forgiveness to everyone: “Since God is one, he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.”
1. What are some of the ways God reveals His righteousness?
2. What is another way to refer to or define the Law of God or the moral law?
3. In addition to revealing His Law in the Bible, why did God need to send Jesus Christ into the world?
4. Why do you think God either needed to punish sinners or send Jesus, His Son, to die in order to forgive sinners?
5. How important is faith in Jesus?
For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).
In Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, he showed that everyone needs faith in Jesus Christ to be freed from the consequences and power of sin. First, he showed that those without the Bible were accountable to God because God had given them reason, evidence from creation, and a conscience that revealed to them that God exists and what God requires for people to be right with Him, others, and themselves. Next, he showed that those with the Bible (the Old Testament) were also accountable to God for their actions. Having the Hebrew Scriptures while disobeying God did not give the Jews an advantage over others but revealed their responsibility and guilt. Whether the law of God is revealed through reason, nature, conscience, or the Bible, people know they do not act perfectly toward others or themselves—sometimes they realize they have not behaved perfectly toward God, all of which is sin. As the Holy Spirit works through the law of God, people become conscious of the fact that they need God to free them from the controlling power of sin in their lives and save them from the other consequences of their disobedience. When they see how wrong they have been in their treatment of God, others, and themselves, they know that if they lived perfectly from that moment forward (which is humanly impossible), they could never make themselves right with God. They know they need God to remove from them the crushing baggage of their sins; so, Paul shows people how God will make believers right through faith in Jesus Christ.
1. What are some advantages of having the Bible to read?
2. What does it mean to be under the power of sin?
3. How do most people live when they refuse to repent and turn to God, preferring instead to live the way they want?
4. What did Paul say happens to someone when they turn away from God?
5. Do you think sincere followers of Jesus Christ should still study the law of God? Give a reason for your answer.
No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God (Romans 2:29).
The rite of circumcision showed that God had set apart the Jews to obey Him and teach His law to others. Whereas the Jews had the law of God written for them by Moses, if the Gentiles were not taught God’s law, they had to learn it from using their reason, from observing natural laws, and from their conscience. However, Paul showed that neither the Jews, who had the written law, nor the Gentiles, who had reason, nature, and conscience, perfectly did everything they knew they should do. To truly obey God, people need a circumcised heart, a commitment to obey God and the divine power to do so. A rabbi can perform an outward circumcision, but only the Holy Spirit can perform an inward circumcision of the heart that will empower and teach people how to serve God and others. No law can give anyone the power to do what God’s law says. Laws will not fill people with love for the lawgiver. God’s law shows people how much they deserve to be punished by the King of the universe. However, when someone knows they are condemned by the law of God and then learns that the King of the universe sent His only Son to die as a sacrifice so He could mercifully forgive them, adopt them into His family, make Jesus their elder brother, and fill them with the Holy Spirit, their King wins their love. Their new lives may not please everyone, but they will receive praise from God.
1. If you do not rely on the law, what do you rely on for your salvation. Describe your answer.
2. The Jews thought that in the law they had the embodiment of knowledge and truth (Romans 2:20). Do you agree or disagree? Give a reason for your answer.
3. Read Romans 2:23 again. How might you rephrase that verse to teach it to a persistently disobedient Christian?
4. Would you agree or disagree with the rephrasing or application of Romans 2:25 below?
“Baptism has value if you love and follow Jesus Christ, but if you walk away from Christ you are acting like one who was never baptized.”
5. Do you think Romans 2:29 could refer to both Gentile and Jewish Christians? Why?
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4).
When Paul wrote his Letter to the Romans, he proved that everyone has sinned against God. When John wrote one of his letters, he defined sin: “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). I think everyone who has read the Bible must admit that they have disobeyed at least one of God’s revealed laws during their lifetime. Even worse, sometimes we have practiced lawlessness by doing what we have wanted to do irrespective of what God’s laws demand. Imagine what our world would be like if no local, state, or national governments enforced their laws; or, if they enforced some laws, but not others; or if privileged people never received just punishment for their lawlessness, but those who broke minor laws received extreme punishments immediately? God does not govern our world with partiality or show favoritism toward some, for God enforces all His laws equally and justly. In God’s kingdom, there is equal justice for all, whether Jew or Gentile. So, why does it seem to us that God does not equally enforce all His laws? In this life, God does not immediately punish us every time we break one of His laws because God intends His patience and kindness to lead us to repentance. The Bible says we deserve death for breaking God’s laws, and the fact that we still live indicates God is giving us yet another opportunity to turn around and follow Him. Happily, God sent Jesus to die as a sacrifice; therefore, we can place our faith in Jesus and receive eternal life.
1. What are some consequences for us when we pass judgment on someone else?
2. On what does God base His just judgments?
3. What are some of the riches God bestows on all people in this life? What is the purpose of God when giving people these riches?
4. How can people store up God’s wrath for themselves in the future?
5. What did Paul say people should seek? How should they seek it? What will they receive?