01 Sep Quarter Two Lesson Three
The Power of the Word—Illustrated
Welcome back to the course, we really hope that you are enjoying your studies and growing closer to the Lord through them.
In our last lesson we saw how the Word of God is the means by which we grow in the Lord; we will continue our study of this today.
If we want to see how studying the Bible grows us and matures us, we can look to an instruction that the Apostle Paul wrote to a young man by the name of Timothy. Paul wrote:
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 1 Timothy 4:13-15 (ESV)
Question 1. What was Timothy to do, so that all would see his progress?
Yes, Timothy was to read the Bible and teach the Scriptures; he was to practice even to “immerse” himself in the Word. And if he did so, all people would see his progress. His growth would become evident to all.
And this is the way it is with us as well. Do you want to grow in your Christian faith? Do you want to mature? To become a young man or woman strong in the Lord and able to overcome the evil one? Then give yourself to the study of the Bible. Meditate on it. Immerse yourself in it. And people around you will see that you are growing in the Lord.
Some people have neglected daily Bible study saying “I don’t want to be legalistic”. (Legalistic simply means trying to win God’s favor by doing something good like obeying God’s law, reading the Bible, doing good works, etc.) This logic is flawed and akin to saying “I don’t want to eat food every day because that’s legalistic.” We must eat in order to stay alive. It is the same with studying our Bibles—we must read the Scriptures to be healthy spiritually (see Jeremiah 15:16).
So we are not talking about reading the Bible to gain God’s favor; we know that we already have God’s favor through what Jesus did for us on the cross. What we are talking about is growing, maturing, and becoming strong in the Lord.
Bible study is designed by God to meet the basic needs of the human heart. As you read you are sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:39) and listening closely to Him. He will minister to your heart and give you grace, He will meet your need and show you true and pure love, and you will get to know Him intimately.
Bible study becomes life changing as we begin to see Jesus in the Scriptures. Our lives change because we become like what we look at (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). This is where we experience tremendous power, life-changing power in God’s Word—looking at Jesus, studying Him, communing with Him.
Before we proceed further, let us remind ourselves that the gospel is the main message of the entire Bible. Jesus made this point when He walked the road to Emmaus with two men and taught them how to see Him in their Bibles. Now let’s consider the following passage of Scripture and answer the questions below:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (ESV)
Question 2. From 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 above, what was the most important thing Paul preached?
Paul says that the gospel is “of first importance.” This good news is the most important message in the Bible, it is of first importance; it is the priority message. Note that Christ died for our sins “according to the Scriptures”, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day “in accordance with the Scriptures.” It is important to understand that the only Scriptures they had at the time of Paul’s writing were those books which we now call the Old Testament. Paul taught the “most important” message that Christ died for our sins and rose again from the Old Testament, just as Jesus did on the road to Emmaus.
This is important. The gospel is the main theme of all the Scriptures. In the Old Testament Scriptures, the gospel is foretold in stories, in Psalms and in prophecies; and in the New Testament, we see the fulfillment, power and application of the gospel.
When you read your Bible, pray and ask God to show you this good news from whatever passage you are reading. It is there, you just have to know to look for it and you will find it. It is like a treasure hunt; when you find the gospel you will rejoice and worship and give thanks.
To get you started with seeing Jesus and the gospel in the Old Testament Scriptures, please read the following passage and answer the questions below, remembering that the message that is “of first importance” is right here:
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. 9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” Genesis 22:1-14 (ESV)
Question 3. God told Abraham to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. Imagine how hard that would be for Abraham. From the above passage, how do we see Abraham’s obedience? List all the things Abraham did.
Can you just imagine how difficult it would be for Abraham to hear God tell him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac? Some people have taken offense at God for requiring this of Abraham; yet they take offense because they do not understand the purpose of the requirement which was to strengthen Abraham’s faith, to reveal Abraham’s love, and most importantly, to display the gospel for the whole world to see.
As we consider this Biblical account, we might notice Abraham’s obedience. Abraham’s obedience came from his faith (see James 2:23), and faith produces action in our lives. That is, if we truly believe the gospel we will demonstrate our faith by obeying God in what He tells us to do. Our works show our righteousness, which we received by faith. “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?” James 2:21 (NIV)
Abraham’s obedience was immediate: he rose “early in the morning” to obey God. He did not delay but quickly set about to obey God, and likewise as believers, we are called to quickly obey what God tells us in His word, no matter how difficult it may seem.
Abraham’s obedience was thorough. He would not stop at anything and was prepared to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.
So Abraham’s obedience came from His faith in God; it was immediate and, it was full and thorough. This is how we are called to obey God as well (see Romans 16:26). All good and true statements, right?
But the discussion of Abraham’s obedience is not the primary purpose of this passage. It’s not wrong to highlight it; in fact, it’s good to teach on obedience; but it’s not the main message. We would not have presented the Scriptures correctly if we were to only focus on Abraham’s obedience.
Question 4. Up to this point in our discussion of the story of Abraham and Isaac, what have we left out? What is the main subject of the Bible to which every passage points?
Yes, the gospel is the main subject of every passage of Scripture. Let’s look for it now:
Question 5. According to the above passage, how many days’ journey did Abraham and Isaac go to get to the mountain that God told them about?
Question 6. Who carried the wood of the altar up the hill of sacrifice?
Question 7. How was Isaac restored back to his father?
Question 8. How does this story point us to that which is “most important”; the gospel? What are your thoughts?
From this story in Genesis 22, we can see that God was illustrating the gospel. God had Abraham take his son, his only son whom he loved, to a specific mountain. This mountain was “in the land of Moriah” and was on the very ridge of mountains where there was a hill called “Golgotha” (which means “place of the skull.”) Yes, it is true that God had Abraham take his only son to the very place where many years later God would take His only Son, Jesus.
And there, Abraham laid the wood of the altar on his son, Isaac. Can you see Isaac carrying the wood up the hill? Isaac carried the very wood on which he was to die up the hill of sacrifice.
The New Testament tells us that after the Roman soldiers beat Jesus and put a crown of thorns on him, they made him carry His own cross:
“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).” John 19:17 (NIV)
And did you notice how long of a journey it was for Abraham and Isaac? The Bible says “on the third day” they saw the place. It was a three day journey, so Isaac was literally under the death sentence for three days.
But on the third day, the father received his son back. That is, God spared Isaac’s life and returned him to Abraham, his father. Since Abraham was fully convinced in his mind that Isaac was as good as dead, receiving him back was like getting his son back from the dead. The New Testament says about this event:
“Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” Hebrews 11:19 (NIV)
Isn’t it amazing how God revealed the gospel to the whole world through this story in the Old Testament? God so loved this world that He gave His only Son to us. He laid the cross on His Son, and Jesus carried that cross up Golgotha’s hill.
And there He died as a sacrifice for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). There He was buried with our sins on Him, making an end of sin (Daniel 9:24) so that you would never see your sins again.
We believe the Bible writer Paul had this very story of Abraham and Isaac in mind when he wrote: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32 (NIV). God spared Abraham’s son, but He did not spare His own Son; God offered Jesus up as a sacrifice for us all.
But then Jesus rose on the third day, victorious over sin and death. He was raised and restored to His Father on the third day, having accomplished our eternal salvation, purchasing us by His blood, forgiving our sins and making us righteous.
And, friend, this story was told thousands of years in advance of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.
Oh, how this causes my heart to worship and love Jesus. Does it do the same for you? God gave up His only Son for us, because He loves us so much. Jesus carried a heavy cross up a dusty hill, the very cross He would die on, because He loves us.
Question 9. Please review the passage in Genesis 22one last time. How does verse 14 leave us looking toward the future? What does it say that points us to an event that was yet to come?
This passage closes with these words that point us to the future: 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
Wait a minute, I thought the sacrifice had already been provided. God provided a ram as a substitute for Isaac. Why does Abraham say it would be provided?
The answer is clear if you keep the main story of the Bible in mind. It was on that mountain that the Lord would provide the greatest sacrifice in the world for you—the Lord Jesus, God’s only Son. Even as Isaac was saved by the substitute so we too are all saved by our Substitute, our Savior, our Jesus!
Dear friend, this is how we grow in the Word of God. We see the good news over and over. We read our Bibles, in fact, we immerse ourselves in the Scripture, meditating on the passages we read and we should see Jesus. Sometimes you’ll find that the sight of Him might drop you to your knees in humble worship, adoration, and gratitude for what He has done for you.
I’ve found myself praying many times, “Oh Father, how amazing You are. Oh how can I ever thank you enough for giving up your only Son for me? Jesus, how can I ever express my thankfulness to You for going to the cross in my place? I’m not sure I can, but I do worship You right now.”
Question 10. If you would like to, take a moment just now and pray about what you have read. If you wish to pray a prayer of thankfulness for what God has done for you feel free to write it out here: