(Note to presenters: this lesson contains four graphics [Figures 1-4]. Consider projecting each figure when appropriate as an overhead if your facilities can accommodate such projection, or consider handing the printed graphics to people to refer to as you speak.) Click here to download the PowerPoint file.
This lesson begins a series of lessons which will seek to focus on what God does for us in Christ so He can re-establish relationship with all who are guilty of sin. To approach this series, we need to begin with some background. Our objective is to understand the problem as it existed when Christianity began. Our objective is NOT to be defined by (a) imposing twenty-first century questions on first-century problems, or (b) imposing twenty-first century problems on first-century problems, or (c) or seeking to understand twenty-first century answers to twenty-first century concerns.
Think as we consider--do not just react prior to considering all the information even if the information requires you to think about your concepts. Genesis chapters 1-6 introduce us to the problem. In chapter 1 when creation is completed, God is so pleased with His creation that He calls the creation good (Genesis 1:31). People are in 100% relationship with God. In only 6 chapters, human sin produced such total rebellion against God that He is sorry that He made people (Genesis 6:5, 6). Consider that in only 6 chapters we go from 100% relationship with God to 0% relationship with God! The result: God decided to destroy most of His creation with a flood (Genesis 6:7) At the moment God made His decision, there were no humans in relationship with God. In the first book of our Bible, the first 6 chapters declared people went from total relationship with God to no relationship with God, and the Bible message has hardly begun.
The problem: how will God re-establish relationship with people who have yielded to sin? Will that solution exist on a foundation of human acts or on a foundation of divine acts? Will humans place their trust in what they do, or place their trust in what God does?
Most of us are familiar with the fact that God worked through
the nation of Israel to bring His planned Christ or Messiah to the world.
(See Figure #1)
Do not allow the use of the words "Christ" and "Messiah" to confuse you.
Both words refer to the same act of God.
The only difference in the two words is that they come from two different
languages--"Christ" comes from a Greek word and "Messiah" comes from a Hebrew
word. The two words merely reflect two different languages.
The meaning of both words focus on the fact that the person sent by God is
anointed by God.
The Bible is not a record of all acts of God, but a record of God's acts as He
worked in Israel to bring the Christ to the earth.
You are asked to note two things.
First, you are asked to note that it was God's beginning purpose to bring a
blessing to all mankind through the Christ. (God's intent to produce a Savior
through Jesus Christ was in God's intent in His promises to Abraham--the
solution is ancient, pre-Israel!)
Genesis 12:3b, 'And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
Second, you are asked to note that renewed relationship with God would be
possible with "all families of the earth" because God sent the Christ.
The nation of Israel was merely a means (or a
vehicle) to achieve God's
objective, not the objective itself.
Israel is a single nation, a single people.
God's objective is to provide a blessing that had the potential of benefiting
all families of this world. That is God's beginning objective. (See Figure
It is essential for everyone to understand that God's plan
from the beginning of His efforts through Abraham was to re-establish
relationship with sinful humanity through faith.
God's intent: to work through a man who trusted God, through that man produce a
nation who trusted God, through that nation send the Christ or Messiah, and
through that Christ or Messiah produce a blessing that could be extended to all
Stated in another way, God would work through a man of faith, to produce a
nation of faith, to produce God's Savior, and to grant the possibility of
salvation to all.
Or, by faith Abraham would be righteous before God, by faith Israel would be
righteous before God, the Savior would come, and anyone could be righteous
before God if they placed their faith in what God did in the Christ or Messiah.
Consider this statement:
Genesis 15:6, "Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness."
God promised Abraham again that He would protect and reward Abraham.
Abraham was an old man with an old wife, and they had no children.
God's promised blessings must begin with Abraham having a son--without a son
there could be no nation.
Abraham begged God to accept Eliezer, his chief servant to be his heir (a
solution that was acceptable in Abraham's time).
God said, "No! Your heir will come from you, and your descendants will be
Childless Abraham believed (trusted) God in this matter, and it was this trust
(faith) that God accepted to consider Abraham a righteous person.
Was it an inactive trust? No!
Abraham continued to be a nomad in a dangerous place.
Later, He even was willing to kill Isaac as a sacrifice to God to
his deep trust in God (Abraham trusted the God who gave the gift of Isaac rather
than trusting the gift that God gave him).
Note two things:
First, Abraham was accepted as righteous before God because he trusted (had
faith in) God before the nation of Israel existed.
The principle of being righteous by faith in God is older than the Jewish
Second, after Jesus was crucified and resurrected, all non-Jews were relying on
an ancient truth older than the nation of Israel when they trusted what God did
in Jesus in order to be a part of God's people, God's kingdom.
Galatians 3:28-29, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.
Thus, Jews and gentiles would be a part of God's people or God's kingdom by the
same means: all of them would trust (have faith in) what God did and does in
Jesus Christ to restore relationship with God.
When Paul, the Christ-appointed apostle to the gentiles,
presented this message (the understanding that any non-Jewish person from any
nation outside of Israel had access to God through Jesus Christ), Paul was
quickly labeled as Israel's enemy (though Paul had been a prominent, devout
Israelite--see Galatians 1:13, 14 and 1 Timothy 1:12-16). (See Figure #3)
Among the Jewish attacks on Paul by Jewish people, these two were prominent.
First, Paul was not one of the twelve apostles and never had been.
This was basically an attack on Paul's credibility.
The argument seems to have been, "If Paul is not credible, anything he teaches
is false, lacking in credibility."
Second, Paul was presenting new ideas about the gospel.
What Paul taught was Paul's ideas and nothing more.
Everyone knew from scripture that God worked through Israel.
Gentiles certainly were welcome to come to God through Christ, but only if they
surrendered first to be a part of Israel (by becoming proselytes)--gentiles were
not qualified to come to Christ unless they first came to Israel.
Paul said that gentiles could come to Christ by trusting what God did in the
death and resurrection of Jesus--no gentile had to be accepted by Israel to come
Just as Abraham was made righteous by trusting God (which occurred before Israel
existed), gentiles were made righteous by God by trusting what God did in Jesus'
death and resurrection.
Gentiles did not have to come to Christ and God the Father through the nation of
The argument was basically this:
The Jewish argument: gentiles must keep the Jewish law or they cannot be saved.
Acts 15:1-5, Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses."
God made an agreement of promise to Abraham over 400 years before the Jewish law
came into existence.
Abraham was made righteous by God's promise, not by the Law given by God to the
While the Law surely came from God, it was not the basis of
Neither is the Law the basis of any gentile's salvation--gentiles are saved by
trusting what God did in Jesus Christ.
Listen to these words Paul wrote to gentile Christians in Galatia, and you
should be able to see the problem that existed between the Jewish Christian Paul
and many of the Jews of his day.
Galatians 3:15-18, Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man's covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ. What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.
The big argument in Christianity in the first-century
focused on God's work in Israel (the nation) versus God's work in Jesus Christ.
(See Figure #4)
Paul declared that God made a person righteous when the person placed his or her
trust (faith) in God's promises (which produced in time God's works or acts).
Most Jewish people said God saves by Jewish Law and Jewish practices
This argument can be expressed in this way: is salvation (being made righteous
before God) the result of performing human acts or the result of divine acts.
Today many miss the focus of the argument by thinking the argument was and is
That is not true!
Paul never suggested a person should refuse to obey God.
The Jews who opposed Paul's teachings never suggested a person should refuse to
They both obeyed!
They both were doers!
They both would have taken the disobedient to task!
The issue did not focus on obedience, but on the why of obedience.
First, be certain your obedience is a response to God's priorities, not your own
Second, be certain that your obedience is not an attempt to manipulate God
through your acts, but be certain that your obedience is an expression of
appreciation for what God has done and will do for you.
Third, never place your trust (faith) in what you have done, but place your
trust (faith) in what God has done and does for you.
Fourth, you never obey in an attempt to place God in your debt.
Fifth, you always obey because you acknowledge your debt to God.
The struggle in early Christianity did not focus on the necessity of obedience,
but on the motivation for obedience.
Gentiles were not second class citizens in God's kingdom.
Jews were not first class citizens in God's kingdom.
Differences in knowledge or ability do not equate to differences in God's love
for those He saves through Jesus Christ.
Several times we have declared or recognized God did something phenomenal in Jesus Christ. It is in Jesus Christ that God saves. What phenomenal things did God plan and do through Jesus' death and resurrection? This will be the focus of our future thoughts.
Link to other Writings of David Chadwell