foundations of faith

“Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9)
“He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Peter 1:20)

From before time, God knew He would be sending Jesus to save us. Because of that, throughout the Old Testament, He inserted glimpses of the salvation He would provide.

In the garden of Eden

After Adam and Eve sinned, God provided them animal skins as coverings (Genesis 3:21). This was a picture of Christ’s blood shed to cover our sins.

“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22b)

Abraham's test

Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, and by faith he proceeded toward this. As he set up the alter, Isaac exclaimed, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”And Abraham said, “my son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:7b-8a) Once God saw Abraham’s obedience, He sent an angel to instruct him not to harm his son. As Abraham looked up, he saw a ram caught with it’s horns in a thicket and this became his sacrifice instead. In the New Testament, John the Baptist (led by the Holy Spirit) calls Jesus the lamb of God.

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

The last plague in Egypt

In the process of using Moses to deliver the Israelites from the bondage in Egypt, the last plague God sent was to kill the first born in every family. God instructed Moses to have each Israelite household slay a lamb without blemish (Exodus 12:5) and put the blood on the doorposts of each house. “Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13). They weren’t spared because of who they were, but because of the blood.

From that point on, the Israelites were instructed to annually perform the ceremony of the spotless lamb as a reminder of how God passed over them because of the blood. This is called “Passover”.Going forward, God instructed Moses that if anyone did not perform the ceremony they should be cut off from the others. “That man shall bear his sin” (Numbers 9:13b)

When a person understands their need for Christ’s payment, and believes that Jesus is in fact God, you might say Christ’s blood is applied to the doorpost of their heart. They are saved not because of who they are but because of what God did through Christ. He who does not believe “shall bear his sin”.

We were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1:19)

Moses lifted up a serpent

As God used Moses to lead the Israelites through the desert, they grumbled and complained against God’s provisions. God then sent fiery (venomous) snakes among the people, who’s bite killed many. Repentant, the people asked Moses to pray to God asking Him to deliver them from the snakes. Moses prayed and the Lord instructed him, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 8b-9)

During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He referred to the bronze serpent on a pole. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:14-15) He was referring to when He would be crucified on a cross. The Israelites that looked upon the serpent on a pole had their earthly lives saved, but those who consider what Christ did on the cross and believe will be saved for eternity.

The purpose of the law

We‘re all familiar with the 10 commandments, but in total God gave Moses 613 laws for His people to follow. When Jesus showed up on the scene many years later He let them know it’s even harder to be perfect than they thought.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

The ultimate purpose of the law was to show each of us our sinfulness and therefore our need for Christ‘s perfect payment on our behalf.

“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

Once saved, we no longer look to the laws God gave through Moses to guide us but through grace we are led by the Holy Spirit.

“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14)

“I say then: walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians 5:16,18)

“I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, they shall be My people.” (Hebrews 8:10b)

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

The tabernacle points to God’s holiness and how we can access Him

As Moses and the Israelites wandered through the desert, God instructed them, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all it’s furnishings, just so you shall make it.” (Exodus 25:8-9) It was a detailed picture of things in heaven (Hebrews 9:23-34). They would worship Him and have priests offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. The most inner part of the tabernacle was called the holy of holies, where God’s Spirit dwelt. It was set apart from the people because of their sin. It had the barrier of a veil (a heavy curtain made of 10 layers of fabric) and no one was able to enter except the high priest and only once a year. When he entered, he had a rope tied around his waist and bells that jingled. If he had any sin that he hadn’t dealt with he would be struck dead when he entered and would need to be pulled out by the rope. Years later Solomon had a more permanent temple built that still stood when Jesus walked the earth.

“And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:37-38) Jesus’ death on the cross as a complete payment for our sins opened the door giving access to the Father. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) The same holy, all-powerful God that would cause someone to die if they entered His presence wrongly can now be freely approached through what Christ as done. And what do we experience when we approach Him through Christ? Mercy, grace and help in time of need.

(See Hebrews 9:1-15 for more helpful details).

Old testament priests were mediators and a picture of Christ

During the time in the desert, it was priests that offered sacrifices to God on behalf of the people‘s sins. They were referred to as mediators. A mediator is a go-between - a third party to assist two parties to reach a settlement. The people had sinned against God, and it was the priests job to offer sacrifices to Him on their behalf. Throughout the years, there were many priests, but Jesus became the final priest and mediator.

“Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.” (Hebrews 7:23-28)

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)

Sacrifice put simply

Scripture states that the priests offered sacrifices on behalf of the people. What is a sacrifice? It’s the loss of something valuable for the sake of an important cause. In this case, it was a payment for sin. Sacrifices were made throughout the Old Testament. They were a picture of the final sacrifice to come, but because only a picture, they were repeated continually.

“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4)

Jesus was the final sacrifice that the repeated sacrifices pointed to.

“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.” (Hebrews 10:5b)

“He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.” (Hebrews 9:26b, 28a)

“By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)

It is finished

“He said, ”It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30)

When Jesus died on the cross, the debt owed to God for the sins of all mankind had been paid in full.

“Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

Though He died for everyone and the payment is sufficient for all, it’s only applied to you when you believe.

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)

The importance of Christ’s resurrection

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over 500 brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that he was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as one born out of due time.” (1 Corinthians 15:3b-8)

“And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! But now Christ is risen from the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:17,20a)

“Our destiny can become a reality only if the resurrection of Christ literally took place. Because if Christ did not actually rise from the dead, it would be a strong indication that the sacrifice of sin was unacceptable to God and that Christ had not broken the power of death. For if Jesus didn’t break the power of death over his own body, how could he cancel our death sentence?” - Josh McDowell

In both the Star Wars movies “A New Hope” and “Return of the Jedi”, a ship was depending on an individual or group of individuals to disarm the enemy’s weapon. As the ship neared the danger of the weapon, statements were made like, “I hope the old man got that tractor beam out of commission, or this is going to be a real short trip” and “Don't worry, my friend's down there. He'll have that shield down in time - or this'll be the shortest offensive of all time.” If Jesus hadn’t been resurrected, when each of us died and went to face our Maker, it would be an unknown if the payment He made was sufficient. As it was, after 3 days He WAS resurrected - we know He conquered death and successfully paid our sin debt in full.

The Holy Spirit is sent

While Jesus was still with His disciples, He told them that after He returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit would be sent to them.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-14)

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Shortly after Jesus ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent to the disciples.

“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?” (Acts 2:1-8)

Twelve men who spoke Galilean were now speaking in such a way so that people from 15 different languages all at the same time could hear in their own tongue the wonderful works of God! God gave them this sign to confirm that all that Peter was explaining to them was true (Acts 2:14-39) and that He was now sending His Spirit to those who believe. Any time God was doing a new thing, He supported it with great signs and wonders. Now that the church has been long established, we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we are saved. While you may immediately benefit from the peace He gives you and the awareness of the new life within you, don’t look for signs such as “speaking in tongues” to confirm it.

“Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”(Romans 8:9b)

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16)

“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Abide in Christ

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:4-8)

If you’ve ever pulled a branch off a tree, you’ve seen that for a short time the leaves look just fine but before long, everything withers. If there had been a blossom on that removed branch, it certainly would not have continued to develop into fruit. If there had been a small, immature piece of fruit on the removed branch, that fruit would not continue to grow in size. As believers in Christ, we need to daily remain plugged in to Him through prayer and through His Word so that we can grow and ultimately bear fruit. If God begins to do a work through us (fruit), we need to continue to look to Him as He develops it, rather than saying, “well, I’ll take it from here!”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him,and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Bearing fruit

“He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5b)

“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)

I don’t know who first said it, but there’s an interesting expression: “Saved for service.” Too many of us that get saved enjoy the peace that comes from knowing we’re forgiven and that we’ll go to Heaven when we die, but then just kind of live for ourselves. I’m guilty of this. In saving us, it’s His desire that we are used by Him to lead others to Christ and to build up and bless other believers. This would be a fruitful life.

Consider the variety of actual fruit that exists. On the small side there’s a number of berry types and grapes. On the big side of the spectrum there’s pineapples and watermelons. In between there a wonderful variety including oranges, apples, plums, pears, apricots, bananas, mangos, papaya, kiwi, pomegranates, star fruit, etc. What we can learn from this is that the spiritual fruit God produces in us might seem large or small, but all fruit is good. Also the fruit He produces in us likely won’t look like the fruit produced by other believers around us. He is a God that loves to create variety. We trust Him with the results and know that whatever He produces in us is for His glory and good pleasure. Whether you go on mission trips into the jungles of Africa or you quietly fold bulletins for church, be faithful to do it with a willing heart and in a manner that others may see His love reflected through you.

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Reflect Christ

While the moon itself is a lifeless rock, because of the position God placed it in, it reflects the sun for those in the darkness of night. Similarly, because we have experienced God’s loving salvation and His Holy Spirit indwells us, as we look to Him we might reflect some of His qualities to the lost who are still in darkness (and to fellow believers, for that matter). As the darkness around us increases, His light in us will be seen all the more.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)

There must be love

As we will see in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, no matter what good we may do in life, if we don’t have love, it’s all in vain. After all, God IS love. “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) It might be like saying you have the sun inside of you. What qualities does the sun have? Tremendous light and warmth. If you have zero light coming from you and zero warmth, where is the evidence that the sun is in you? Likewise if God dwells in us through the Holy Spirit and He is tremendously loving, yet we are not, where is the evidence that He is in us?

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is [d]perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13)

The body of Christ

“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

As believers in Christ, we are considered members of His body. It’s a helpful picture of the unity God desires for the church.

“But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” (1 Corinthians 12:18)

Our placement in the body is according to God’s perfect plan.

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

While true believers will have different things going on, we all belong to the same God who works in us.

“So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

As believers we can’t live for ourselves and we can’t be divided. We should concern ourselves with the needs of other believers.

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:4-8)

If the members of your physical body didn’t yet know what they were, they could ask themselves, “what do I continue to see happen?” A hand might observe that it’s frequently called upon to pick up tools and put them to use. A foot would see that it regularly travels. A white blood cell would recall the many times it was employed to deal with an invading enemy of the body. As you go through life as a believer, I believe you will see patterns of what God calls you to do or sends your way. As you come to learn your place in the body, embrace it and do it will all the might God gives you - for His glory and for the good of other believers.

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

Christ is the head of the church (His body). As all members of our physical body obey what our brain tells them to do, we as part of Christ’s body need to listen to and obey Him.

The bride of Christ

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

In addition to being referred to as the body of Christ, believers are also known as the bride of Christ. From this we are reminded of His love for us. It also tells us that throughout our lifetime He will work to transform us to be more like Him. In the verses above, it says He uses His word to accomplish this. It’s our job to make sure we are regularly in His word. Also, as His bride, He will return for us.

He will return

“The bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.” (Matthew 25:10b)

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:3)

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

“Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:40-42)

There’s much to learn about the future from the book of Revelation, from Jesus’ words and other prophetic books of the Bible. What’s clear is the rapture (as described above) will come as a surprise - this is when believers will be taken up to meet the Lord in the air. Following this will be 7 years of tribulations for those left on the earth. Then Jesus will return to the earth and reign for 1000 years. Satan will be judged. All people who did not believe in Christ will be judged and suffer the same fate as the devil. Then a new heaven and a new earth will appear and God and His people will continue together for eternity.