GOD WITH US

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True Bible Teaching - About You and God and Your Hope of Salvation

GOD WITH US

God With Us

God With USFirst Century Christians, predominantly Jews, were steeped in the teachings of the ancient Holy Scriptures. They believed God to be in control of the world – a very real presence in their daily lives, and this perception held true through many centuries.

God’s People

Before he set out to deliver the descendants of Jacob from bondage in Egypt, Moses asked God: What shall I say to the children of Israel? What is your name? And God gave him this reply:

“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14).

In view of what the people had seen, both in Egypt and in the wilderness, they approached God with awe and fear. The Old Testament is the record of a close knit family, headed by a God who commanded perfect obedience, the absence of which brought immediate punishment. Now, 2,000 years after Christ, this perception has gradually changed. Grace abounds. The New Testament God of love, compassion, forgiveness and mercy takes precedence over the Old Testament because of what we have seen as a result of the life and death of Jesus Christ.  And yet it is the same God.

The Hope of Israel

Presiding over the building of His earthly kingdom which began with the Exodus from Egypt (c.1447 BC), the ever-present God directed, guided and punished His people. All this was carefully documented for the benefit of truth-seekers both then and now. To ignore these historic books and to discount the Old Testament God is to sever any possible relationship. The option does not exist to prefer the New Testament God – full of love and compassion – as though He is not responsible for the judgments that sweep across the pages of the Old.

For, to many believers, it seems the two Gods – of the Old and New Testaments − can never meet. But meet they must.

The tie that binds the Old to the New Testaments rests in a statement made by the apostle Paul from prison in Rome where he awaited trial. He was then free to preach, and preach he did for two whole years. Calling together the chief Jews, he explained why he had appealed to Caesar:

“For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain” (Acts 28:20).

Jesus is the Bridge

The record in the Acts shows how the apostle continued to expound the Kingdom of God, persuading the Jews concerning Jesus, both out of the Law of Moses, and out of the prophets (Acts 28:23). He was trying to convince them that the life and sacrificial death of Jesus were central to both Testaments. Paul’s expectation and the hope of every Christian is the gospel or good news of the kingdom of God. An understanding of this fundamental truth leads us back to the Old Testament, 2,400 years after the creation, when God made a promise to Abraham, the father of the faithful:

“The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are − northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you” (Genesis 13:14–17).

Paul explains the vital importance of this theme to Christians in Galatia telling them that those people or nations of faith, will be blessed with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:8). This is the hope of Israel; the hope to live eternally in God’s promised kingdom to come, with Abraham, and all people of faith up to this day (see Hebrews chapter 11). The Jews for the most part were blind to this truth, and because of it, the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, giving us the opportunity to join the family of God (Acts 28:28).

Free to Worship

When we try to discern the character of God, analysis proves both Testaments to emanate from the same source. The God of the Bible is an unchanging God, everywhere present by His spirit, or power. He controls the earth He has created and sustains the universe. His purpose with the earth is a plan which proceeds from embryo (the seed of the woman Genesis 3:15) to full birth (Revelation 21:3). An immortal God, He is not subject to any rules of behaviour, but He always acts in a way which is consistent with His holiness and His great love for mankind.

The New Testament explains that Christians have been freed from the Law of Moses and have been given the responsibility of following Christ’s teaching, exercising their own free will.

God intervened in the life of Cornelius, the first Gentile Christian, and in visions to Cornelius and Peter (Acts 10), to bring together Jews and Gentiles in support of His purpose. But in the New Testament, as opposed to the Old, God acts behind the scenes, as it were, with Christ front and centre.

God continues to demand obedience, requiring all believers − as He did Israel − to hold themselves separate and holy. Israel failed, lapsing into idol worship and unfaithfulness of many kinds, and the opportunity has now passed to others, for the time being. The New Testament emphasizes that we should concentrate on developing the inner man – the spiritual side of our natures − exemplified in the Beatitudes. Christ’s children are treated like grown-ups, although God’s punishment will continue to condemn sin and disobedience, but in a different way.

The difference is that we ourselves must handle the matter. The challenge is to bring our bodies into subjection, with the help of Christ, and to prepare ourselves for his Coming and his Kingdom:

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20–21).

By Marian Canoles