26 Sep Quarter Four Lesson One
Growing into Fatherhood
Welcome back to the fourth quarter of your lessons here with us at Gospel Growth Ministries.
The theme verses for our studies here at Gospel Growth Ministries are 1 John 2:12-14: “I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. 13I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” 1 John 2:12-14 (NIV)
Question 1. Please write down each level of Christian maturity, and state what each one is known for:
You have just studied through three quarters of learning; we’ve tried to show how spiritual “little children” grow into “young men” who then become “fathers.” This is the normal and expected progression of life in the natural realm, and so it should be in the spiritual realm as well.
Our fourth quarter is designed to help us grow into fatherhood; that is, into people who have spiritual sons and daughters and who are characterized by our intimate relationship with God. As an example, the apostle Paul was a “father” to many young men. One was a young man by the name of Timothy whom Paul called “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Another was Onesimus, of whom Paul wrote to Philemon: “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.” Philemon 1:10-11 (NIV)
Question 2. What did Paul call Onesimus? What transformation happened to Onesimus when he became Paul’s son in the faith?
Clearly Paul had given Onesimus the gospel and led him to Jesus, and in so doing, he became Onesimus’ spiritual father. Onesimus was Philemon’s slave who had likely stolen something from his master and then run away. At some point after running away, Onesimus was put into prison—the same prison in which the Apostle Paul was being held on false charges. This is where Paul gave Onesimus the gospel, and Onesimus believed it and became Paul’s son in the faith. In Onesimus’ life of sin and selfishness he was “useless”, but through repentance and believing the gospel he became “useful.”
Paul had many “sons” (and daughters) in the faith. How does this happen? How can we have spiritual children in our lives as Paul did? What personal characteristics do we need to have, and what message do we need to give in order to become fathers and mothers to young children in the faith? These are the questions we want to answer in this quarter.
So let us begin our study of growing into fatherhood (we use “fatherhood” synonymously with “parenthood” in these lessons). In this lesson, we will focus on the importance of the gospel in our work of ministering to others. Indeed, there is no spiritual parentage apart from the gospel. Let us look at this passage together:
“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 (NIV)
Question 3. How do we learn, from this passage, that using the gospel in our ministry is the most important truth?
Question 4. Please define the two points of the gospel from this passage:
The gospel is that Christ died for our sins and rose on the third day according to the Scriptures. That Jesus died and rose again make up the two points of the gospel. In this passage Jesus’ death is confirmed by the fact that He was buried, and His resurrection is confirmed by the fact that He was seen by many people after He rose. But the gospel itself, the gospel proper, contains just two points; Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead.
Question 5. When Paul said above that the gospel is “according to the Scriptures”, which Scriptures did he mean? Think carefully about which Scriptures would have been available at the time Paul was writing:
Yes, God revealed the gospel to Paul in the Old Testament Scriptures as those were the only Scriptures available to the early Christians. In Romans 16:25 he calls the gospel a “hidden mystery” in the Old Testament. This confirms what Jesus said to His disciples in Luke 24:
“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,” Luke 24:45-46 (NIV).
Question 6. What did Jesus have to do with the disciples so that they would see the gospel in the Old Testament?
The fact that Christ would suffer and die, and rise from the dead on the third day, is what “is written” throughout the Old Testament. But Jesus had to open the minds of the disciples so that they could understand the Scriptures and see the gospel hidden there. Otherwise they would merely have seen creation, history, the law and their duty to obey, the prophecies against nations, etc. But this is not what the Scriptures are mainly about; that which is “most important”, which is on every page of our Old Testament Bibles, is the truth that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification (see Romans 4:25).
Consider then, that our objective as mature Christians is to give people the most important message, and to do so over and over, just as God has done with us in the Bible.
In a moment we’re going to look at an Old Testament passage, where we will ask Jesus to do with us just what He did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus and open our minds so that we can understand the Scriptures.
But before we do, I want to dispel a long standing misunderstanding that is prevalent in the body of Christ which is that the gospel is merely a “salvation message” for unbelievers. This misunderstanding is detrimental because it limits the power of the gospel as only for unbelievers. Friend, the gospel is not to be a short message at the end of a sermon followed by an altar call. The gospel is the most important message in all the Bible, and it is not only powerful to bring salvation to those who are unbelieving but also for bringing sanctification and stabilization to believers (please see Galatians 3:1 and Romans 16:25). Let’s notice a few passages that teach us this:
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 (NIV
Question 7. According to Romans 1:16-17 above, for what is the gospel the power of God?
So here we see that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation”. It gets people saved. What amazing power it has; power to break down people’s resistance, to overcome their unbelief, to cast down their idols and to invade their heart and set up King Jesus on the throne. This is what the gospel has the power to do when someone comes to believe it. Amazing!
Since the above passage told us that the gospel is the power of God for salvation, let’s next notice that the gospel is also for believers:
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)
Notice that the gospel is the power of God for “us who are being saved”, as well as being the power of God for salvation itself. The gospel is the most important message for every single person.
It should follow, then, that the gospel is our message. Whether we use it to help someone to salvation or we use it to help someone to sanctification and stabilization—the same gospel message is effective for both types of ministry.
At Gospel Growth Ministries our call is to minister the gospel to each and every person who takes our course. We ask all ministry volunteers to share the gospel with their students in every lesson response. This is the way to spiritual parenthood: believe in the importance and power of the gospel and share the gospel at every opportunity with believers and nonbelievers alike.
So let’s finish out this lesson by examining a passage of Scripture, and seeing the gospel in it. Here it is:
“The company of the prophets said to Elisha, “Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. 2 Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live.” And he said, “Go.” 3 Then one of them said, “Won’t you please come with your servants?” “I will,” Elisha replied. 4 And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. 5 As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. “Oh, my lord,” he cried out, “it was borrowed!” 6 The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float.” 2 Kings 6:1-6 (NIV)
Since we know the gospel is the most important message in all of Scripture, and since we know it takes God opening our minds to see and understand it, please pray that God would open your mind to understand the gospel in this passage of the Bible.
Question 8. Please show how the above passage illustrates the gospel.
To recap the account given in 2 Kings 6 above, men were out cutting down trees by the Jordan river, when all of a sudden one of the men’s ax-head flew off the ax handle and fell into the water, where it was promptly sunk and lost. This was distressing to the man because the ax was borrowed, so he cried out to Prophet Elisha. The prophet had a very strange solution: he cut a stick (a piece of wood) and threw it in where the ax head had fallen, and that stick somehow made the iron ax-head defy the laws of physics and float to the surface.
Now typically this Bible passage might be interpreted to mean that God cares about even the small things in our lives, like a lost ax-head, or lost car keys, etc. Even though He governs the whole universe He cares about us as individuals and about our personal trials and struggles. And while it is true, that is not the main point of this passage. Remember, the gospel is the most important message that is woven into these Old Testament Scriptures; the gospel is the main point. Everything else is merely application.
So here is how we would interpret the above story in light of the most important message in the Bible: The problem was that the ax-head was sunk and lost. It belonged to someone else, but it seemed that there was little hope of ever finding it and returning it to its original owner. Yet God through Elisha provided a solution: a stick of wood was cut off and thrown into the water.
And if you think about it that is a very strange solution because wood is not a magnet. By nature, wood has no power to attract metal. Why didn’t Elisha use something else? What is the significance of the stick in this account?
The ax-head that was borrowed, that was sunk and lost, was found and raised by the power of the wood. The stick was miraculously given magnetic properties to find and raise that which was sunk and lost. Do we not see the power of the cross of Jesus Christ here? And especially when remembering what Jesus said about His death: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” John 12:32 (NIV)
The cross is the greatest magnet this world has ever known; it is so powerful that through it Jesus will draw all people to Himself. He draws those who have sinned and are guilty and need forgiveness and a new start, and He shows them that He became sin for them, was treated as guilty in their place and died to forgive them. He draws those who feel condemned and cursed and shows them that on the cross, He was condemned and cursed in their place that they might be justified and blessed. And through these wonderful truths about the cross, and literally hundreds more, He begins to draw people out of the deep waters of sin, out of the muddy water of unbelief and rebellion, and returns us to our rightful Owner, God Himself.
Sure, we can get all kinds of applications from this (and every) Scripture, but we are not to first apply the Scripture we are to first interpret the Scripture, according to what God means for the passage to say. And the first interpretation of every Scripture passage should lead us directly to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the “most important” message of the Bible.
Question 9. Can you see that the gospel is that which is of “first importance” and is a “hidden mystery” in every historical narrative of Scripture? Explain.
God knows that the cross of Jesus Christ is the most powerful message this world has ever heard or known, and He has put that simple message that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, on every page of His Book.
Question 10. Will you commit to looking for the gospel in every passage of Scripture you read, asking God to open your mind to understand it?
Our next lesson will continue this theme as we seek to gather much gospel centered knowledge for sharing with others. Good parents provide for their children, but they cannot share what they do not have. We must seek to know God and to have a storehouse of rich gospel food for feeding to those who would become our spiritual sons and daughters. He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” Yes, in order to be an effective witness to others we are to bring the gospel out of the entire Bible, both Old Testament and New.