In Lesson One we
will make a brief comparison between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
To get a "snapshot" of the events and characters of the Old Testament, we can turn to Psalms 106 and 107.
In these two chapters the writer, David, fairly well summarizes Old Testament events. Much of the two chapters tell the familiar story of God opening the Red Sea and leading the Hebrews out of Egypt and through the wilderness into their Promised Land.
Rather than read all of Psalms 106 and 107, let's read selected portions to get a general overview of the Old Testament.
PSA 106:9-14 He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he
led them through the depths, as through the wilderness.
And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.
And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left.
Then believed they his words; they sang his praise.
They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel:
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.
PSA 106:41-44 And he gave them into the hand of the heathen; and they
that hated them ruled over them.
Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand.
Many times did he deliver them; but they provoked him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity.
Nevertheless he regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry:
PSA 107:4-7 They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they
found no city to dwell in.
Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.
Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.
And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.
PSA 107:11-13 Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned
the counsel of the most High:
Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help.
Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses.
PSA 107:17-20 Fools because of their transgression, and because of their
iniquities, are afflicted.
Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.
He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
PSA 107:26-28 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the
depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end.
Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
This portion of
scripture is a clear example of the "bad news" that was described in the
introduction of this Bible study.
The Hebrews, God's chosen people, got themselves into a vicious cycle. God would deliver them from their enemies. They would be faithful to God for a while, but would inevitably rebel and provoke God to anger.
He would again judge their rebellion and punish them by permitting enemies to capture them. They would again cry out to God, who would again deliver them.
This vicious cycle is summarized by the verse that is repeated so often in Ps. 106 and 107: "Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses."
This pattern of rebellion-judgment-deliverance/rebellion-judgment-deliverance, etc. is repeated over and over again throughout the Old Testament.
Why did the Hebrews repeatedly fail God, even when He continued to bless them?
Why were they trapped in a vicious cycle? Why couldn't they learn from their past mistakes and live the way God intended for them to live?
One word provides the answer to these questions: SIN.
During the period of the Old Testament, man just did not have the power to overcome his inherent sinful nature.
Nothing illustrates this truth more clearly than the story about Cain, the first man born to human parents, killing his own brother. Let's read about this terrible murder in Gen. 4: 3 to 11.
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain
brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.
And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?
And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;
God, the Creator,
issued a warning to Cain. God told him "sin lies at your doorstep" (Gen.
4:7). God was warning Cain that sin was like a fierce lion crouching beside
Cain ignored God's warning and yielded to sin and murdered his own brother. When God confronted Cain about the wicked act, Cain expressed no regrets or remorse. Instead, Cain tried to justify his wrongdoing.
It is quite evident that Cain had an evil, sinful nature.
Down through the ages the descendants of Cain -- all of mankind -- have demonstrated time and again the same natural inclination toward sin.
Let's examine some other Old Testament scriptures that describe man's inherent sinful nature.
PSA 14:1-3 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are
corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
PSA 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
PSA 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
ISA 64:6, 7 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses
are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like
the wind, have taken us away.
And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.
JER 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
We may not like
to admit it, but if we will take an open, honest look at ourselves we are
not very godly or holy beings by nature. Our nature is to be selfish and
seek after our own pleasure.
In unmistakable language, the Bible declares we are all sinners by nature. It is difficult for us to accept that and even more difficult for us to admit it openly. But, like it or not, it is true.
Fortunately, though, there is one chapter
in particular in the Old Testament that shines as a promising ray of hope
when compared to the sin and sorrow so prevalent in many of the familiar
Old Testament stories.
This chapter, Isaiah 53, predicts that some day there would be someone who would reconcile sinful man to a holy God. In the chapter, we read about someone who bears man's sin, someone who takes the punishment we deserve and dies as a substitute for sinful man.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our
sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
...and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
MAT 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. But he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
JOH 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
Remember that man's inherent sinful nature was the root cause of all the violence and trouble -- all the "bad news" that we read about in the Old Testament. The New Testament begins with John directing people to someone who he said would "take away" that sinful nature.
As important as John the Baptist was, he himself stressed repeatedly that his divine mission was only to prepare the way of the Lord.
This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man
which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not:
but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing
Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 1:30, 31 and 3:29, 30).
So, let's get right into the "good news" about the Lord Jesus Christ. Even the story of his birth is filled with wonder and joy.
LUKE 2:7-11 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him
in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room
for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
to note that the angel who announced the birth of the Lord Jesus said he
had "good tidings." From the start, the story of Jesus Christ is good news
to sinful man.
Now let us examine the beginning of Jesus Christ's ministry as described in Matthew 4:23-25 and Luke 4:14-19:
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their
synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing
all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into
Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round
And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
There is one important
word in these verses of scripture -- the word "gospel." Do you know what
the word "gospel" means? It means "good news." Jesus said His mission
in life was to preach the gospel -- to bring good news.
Let's read a few accounts of some of the amazing miracles Jesus performed during His earthly ministry to get a better picture of this gospel -- this "good news" -- of the Lord Jesus Christ:
MAT 8:1-17 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes
And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever.
And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.
When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.
MAR 8:1-9 In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing
to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them,
I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat:
And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.
And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?
And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.
And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.
And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.
So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.
And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.
LUKE 8: 22-25 Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into
a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the
other side of the lake. And they launched forth.
But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.
And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.
And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.
Most of Matthew,
Mark, Luke and John describe the many miracles Jesus performed to help
the troubled, sin-stricken souls around Him.
However, His greatest accomplishment was not performed during His life, but rather through His death.
Although He helped many people during His earthly ministry, only through death could He deliver mankind from the inherent sinful nature that was the root cause of the many troubles described in the Old Testament. He is the one who Isaiah had predicted would come and die as a substitute for sinful man and reconcile man to God.
The following are a few of the many scriptures that illustrate this truth:
MAT 20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
1PE 2:24-25 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,
that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes
ye were healed.
For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
ROM 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
HEB 9:26-28 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation
of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to
away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
It is especially
important to understand that the Lord Jesus not only took the punishment
for man's sins (plural), but that He also put away -- or broke the power
of -- man's sin (singular) through His death.
This is very good news, because it means He makes it possible for us to overcome our inherent nature to sin.
During the time of the Old Testament, there were God-ordained animal sacrifices to make temporary atonement for the many sins committed by God's people. But nothing was done to destroy man's inherent sinful nature, so man kept going back to his sinful ways.
A farmer can clean his hog, apply perfume and dress the animal in pretty clothes. The hog may look and smell real nice (compared to other hogs, anyway), but the hog is still a hog and it's got two things on its mind -- wallowing in the mud and eating slop.
In like manner, God can atone for the sins committed by mankind, but something must be done to change man's nature or he will continue sinning, just as surely as a perfumed hog will just naturally return to the mire.
Good news: man's inherent sinful nature was destroyed when Jesus Christ died on the cross.
MAR 16:15-18 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach
gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
JOH 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
LUKE 24:46-49 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved
Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
And ye are witnesses of these things.
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
ACT 1:4-5 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that
they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the
Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
In these scriptures,
Jesus was telling His disciples that although He was leaving them physically,
the same power -- the same Spirit -- that was on Him and in Him was about
to be made available to them.
Now let's read the good news of this actually happening:
ACT 2:1-4 And when the day of Pentecost was 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 all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
We can also read of the disciples spreading the good news:
ACT 2:36-39 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that
God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
Now let's read
the accounts of people becoming Christians as recorded in the book of Acts
to find out what kind of gospel (good news) the first Christian church
offered the world:
From ACTS 8: Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and
preached Christ unto them.
And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.
And there was great joy in that city.
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying,
Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem
unto Gaza, which is desert.
And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia...was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me?
Then Philip.... preached unto him Jesus.
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
From ACTS 9: And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said,
I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house;
and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus,
that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou
mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
From ACTS 10: There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius,
a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth
I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
To him give all the prophets witness, that through
his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.
From ACTS 19: And...Paul having passed through the upper coasts
came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues.
There are three important steps that
are described in plain, simple language in each of these accounts of conversion.
These steps are:
1. Repentance -- turning away from sin and calling on the Lord Jesus for salvation.
2. Water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission (cleansing) of sins. The word "baptism" means complete immersion in water (Acts 8:38).
3. Receiving the Holy Ghost. This experience is always verified by the supernatural sign of speaking in other tongues.
"Repent, and be baptized every one
of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall
receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
It is evident that this gospel message is still in effect today, because Acts 2:39 states that it is for whoever God calls.
Are you ready now to obey this gospel and share this good news?
The Lord stands ready at this moment to cleanse you from sin and fill you with His Spirit.