How do we know there’s a God?
Firstly, He speaks through creation. The beauty, order and complexity of our world points to the fact that there must have been a wise and powerful Designer. There is no other adequate explanation for how the world got here in the first place. The Bible says that “since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20).
God also speaks through our conscience. All human beings have an inner sense of right and wrong. We have a moral compass built inside us, which tells us that certain things are morally unacceptable. According to the Bible, humans have God’s “law written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness.” (Romans 2:15)
A third way God speaks to us is through experience. Millions of human beings all over the world have come to know and experience God for themselves. They have had their lives changed by His power and have enjoyed a personal relationship with Him. The Bible invites us to “taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” (Psalm 34:8)
God has definitively spoken by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. God has actually come into our world as a human being and revealed Himself to us. There is no other explanation for who Jesus is – a man who could heal any sickness, control the weather and come back from the dead. The Bible says: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18)
Ultimately, God reveals Himself through the Bible, an incredible book of wisdom, truth and life-changing power. It is the book through which God speaks authoritatively to human beings even today. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16) – if we want to know the truth about God, this is the book that we must go to: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17)
The wonderful reality is that God can be known and experienced by each and every one of us. God promises: “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Through the Lord Jesus Christ, we can be brought into a personal, day-to-day relationship with the Almighty God of heaven and know Him for ourselves. The Bible says: “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)
What is God like?
He is unique. There is only one God and there is no-one else like Him. He is completely distinct from all creation. (Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 44:6, 1 Timothy 2:5)
He is personal. This one God has always existed as three distinct Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each Person is fully and equally God and all three share the same nature and essence. (Matthew 28:19, John 1:1, Acts 5:3-4)
He is Spirit. God does not have a physical body or shape or form. He is not made of any material. He is an invisible Spirit. (John 4:24, 1 Timothy 6:16, Hebrews 11:27)
He is infinite. God has no limitations or boundaries whatever. He is not restricted in any way at all. (Job 11:7, Psalm 145:3, Romans 11:33)
He is eternal. God had no beginning and He will never have an end. He is timeless and immortal. (Psalm 90:2, Isaiah 40:28, 1 Timothy 1:17)
He is unchanging. God always remains exactly the same. He does not alter in any way. (Psalm 102:25-27, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17)
He is everywhere. God is present in all His fullness at every point in space. There is no place where He is absent. He fills the entire universe. (Psalm 139:7-12, Jeremiah 23:23-34, Ephesians 4:6)
He is all-powerful. God can do anything He wants. His power is unlimited and nothing is impossible for Him. (Job 42:2, Mark 10:27, Luke 1:37)
He is all-knowing. God has an exhaustive knowledge of absolutely everything – past, present and future. He sees all things and nothing escapes His attention. (Psalm 139:1-6, Psalm 147:5, Hebrews 4:13)
He is wise. God always knows how to do the best thing in the best way. He never makes mistakes and never needs to change His plans. (Job 12:13, Romans 16:27, Ephesians 3:10-11)
He is holy. God is completely separate from all that is evil. He is morally perfect – entirely pure and sinless. (Leviticus 19:2, Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8)
He is just. God always does what is right and He is always fair. He punishes evil and rewards goodness. He shows righteous anger towards sin. (Deuteronomy 32:4, Jeremiah 9:24, 2 Thessalonians 1:6)
He is good. God is good in every way. He is kind and merciful and gracious. He is extremely generous towards His creatures. (Exodus 34:6-7, Psalm 34:8, Mark 10:18)
He is loving. God is full of love and compassion. He cares for all His creatures and desires their welfare. (Psalm 103:11, John 3:16, 1 John 4:8-10)
He is patient. God is slow to anger. He delays punishing sinners to give them the opportunity to repent. He is gentle and tender with us when we make mistakes. (Psalm 145:6, Romans 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9)
He is faithful. God is always true to His word. He keeps all His promises and is utterly trustworthy and dependable. (Deuteronomy 7:9, Lamentations 3:23, 1 Corinthians 10:13)
He is jealous. Because He is the only Being worthy of worship, God always seeks His own glory and honour. This is not a wrong kind of jealousy, because it is morally acceptable to be jealous over things that rightly belong to us. (Exodus 20:5, Deuteronomy 4:24, Isaiah 42:8)
He is blessed. God is happy and content. He is not a miserable Being, but is full of joy and gladness. (Zephaniah 3:17, 1 Timothy 1:11, 1 Timothy 6:15)
He is self-sufficient. God does not need anything at all. He is self-existent and does not require anything to sustain Him. He has life in Himself. (Exodus 3:14, John 5:26, Acts 17:25)
He is sovereign. God is in complete control over the entire universe. He rules over everything. He carefully planned everything that was going to happen before the world even began, though He is not the author of sin. (Psalm 103:19, Daniel 4:34-35, Ephesians 1:11)
The good news is that this wonderful, glorious, praiseworthy God can be known and experienced by us all. Knowing God is the reason why we were made and is the only thing that can truly satisfy the human heart. Although God’s justice means that we deserve to be punished for our sins, in His love He sent His Son to pay for those sins and reconcile us to Himself. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we can be brought into a living relationship with the God of heaven. We can only enter this relationship through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Why does God allow suffering?
1. God made everything good.
He didn’t create a world full of suffering, but a flawless world of peace and harmony. Originally, there was no death, sickness or pain; there were no natural disasters, conflicts or dangers. God made a world that was entirely unblemished: “God saw everything that He had made and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
2. Sin has spoiled everything.
The world would have continued to be like this, if only human beings had obeyed their Creator and followed His instructions. Tragically, however, our first parents decided that they knew better and chose to rebel against their Maker’s authority. God had clearly warned them that death would follow if they broke His commandment, but they did not heed Him. Consequently, death came into our world, as well as every other form of suffering. It is humanity that is to blame for the existence of suffering in the world. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” (Romans 5:12)
3. God will stop all the suffering.
Death and suffering will not be allowed to blight our world forever. One day, God has promised to eliminate all pain and trouble from our world. He will create a new heaven and a new earth, in which there is no more tragedy or distress. “God will wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
4. God waits because of His patience.
Why doesn’t God get rid of the suffering now? Why is He waiting? Well, if God were to eliminate all suffering here and now, He would actually have to destroy each and every one of us. All of us contribute to the world’s brokenness in one way or another – by our selfishness, greed, unkindness, malice and deceit. We all ruin the world by our sin. The reason why God hasn’t destroyed every one of us is because of His patience. He wants to give us ample opportunity to repent and thereby avoid His punishment. God is “long-suffering towards us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
5. God has shown how much He cares
In the mean time, God has shown how much He cares about the suffering we face. In order to free us from it, He actually came into the world as a man and identified with our sufferings. In His human nature, the eternal Son of God actually experienced pain, agony and death for Himself. God went to extreme lengths to liberate the human race from suffering and death. By dying on the cross and bearing the punishment we deserve, the Lord Jesus Christ has saved every believer from eternal misery and secured a glorious future for them. “Christ also has suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)
6. The Christian knows that there is a purpose for suffering
Becoming a follower of Jesus will not free us from suffering in this life, but Christians are assured that there is a good and wise purpose behind their afflictions. God uses them to strengthen our faith, increase our patience, develop our character and prepare us for heaven. “Tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4) The Christian draws comfort from knowing that a wise and loving heavenly Father is working all things for the good of those who love Him, those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Although the Bible teaches all of this, we cannot fully understand the reason for every instance of suffering in our world. There remains an element of mystery. One man in the Bible, Job, was afflicted with a multitude of sufferings and was never given a full explanation as to why. Instead, the LORD reminded Job of his smallness and limited understanding: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if you have understanding.” (Job 38:4). We must humbly accept that our minds are restricted and cannot fully fathom the reason for all suffering. What we do know is that death and suffering grieve the heart of our God (Ezekiel 33:11) and that He has done something spectacular to save us. Because of the sufferings of Jesus on the cross, we can be fully forgiven for all our sins and can inherit eternal life. If we repent of our sin and trust Jesus for acceptance with God, we can look forward with certainty and confidence to “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13)
What is the purpose of life?
In one part of the Bible, we read of a king who had everything that this world could offer. He had wealth, wisdom, power and fame. He had all the popularity, possessions and pleasures he could possibly wish for. But how did he feel about it all? “Vanity of vanities,” he said, “all is vanity!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). As he surveyed all his achievements and successes, everything seemed futile, empty and inadequate. Although he had all the things that this world could throw at him, he still lacked the fulfilment he longed for. His life had no meaning and His heart was not satisfied. In the end, he came to this perceptive conclusion: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” and “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:1,13). In all his pursuit of happiness and pleasure, he had neglected the only One who could truly provide it: his Creator, the LORD God Almighty.
1. We were made to glorify Him
There is one ultimate reason why everything exists – everything is here for the glory of God. God’s overarching purpose in all things is to display His own excellence and majesty. His work of creating displays His power and wisdom; His work of judging shows His holiness and justice; His work of saving sinners reveals His mercy and love. Until we realise this, we will never find true fulfilment. We were specifically made in such a way that we can only find lasting satisfaction when we live for the glory to God. “Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory” (Isaiah 43:6).
The fact that God does everything for His own glory may sound arrogant and egotistical to some. But we must remember that God is the only Being who truly deserves praise and honour. He is perfect in every way and His beauty and splendour are infinite. When we were promote ourselves, it is arrogant in the extreme, because we don’t deserve praise and glory. But God does deserve it, so it is only right and proper that He displays His own magnificence. Besides, the fact that everything exists for God’s glory is actually beneficial for us – for it is only in knowing and appreciating God’s glory that our hearts can be truly satisfied. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
2. We were made to know Him
According to the Bible, humans were created to enjoy a personal relationship with the living God of heaven. This is the highest privilege that there is – finite, sinful human beings can enter a living, dynamic, day-to-day friendship with the One who rules the universe. Knowing God is the source of all true joy, peace and comfort – and through Jesus Christ, we can know Him for all eternity. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3)
3. We were made to love Him
Someone once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus replied with the following words: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5). It is the LORD God who must be central and foremost in every aspect of our lives. It is only when we treasure and value Him that we are truly fulfilling our life’s purpose. If anything else is supreme in our affections, we have gone far astray from the real meaning of life.
4. We were made to enjoy Him
Knowing and loving God should not be thought of as a dull drudgery or an unpleasant, burdensome task. It is not the tyrannical demand of a cruel and horrible dictator. On the contrary, it is the greatest blessing that we could ever experience, and it’s the secret to true and eternal happiness. The Bible says, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4); “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
This, then, is the true purpose of our lives. We are here to know and enjoy the all-glorious God who created us. And the only way that we can come to know Him is through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Only Jesus Christ can remove the great barrier that cuts us off from God – the barrier of our sin. By dying on the cross, Jesus paid the price for the sins of His people and reconciled them to God. If we want to experience an eternal friendship with our Creator, we must repent of our sin and put our trust in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. “He who believes in Me,” said Jesus, “has everlasting life” (John 6:47).
What happens when we die?
1. There is a judgment to face
According to the Bible, each one of us will have to give an account to God for the lives that we have lived. He is the One who gave us our lives in the first place, and He has been watching our every moment. He has seen our every action, heard our every word, read our every thought and discerned our every motive. At the end of our lives, God will thoroughly assess us in accordance with His perfect justice. As the Bible puts it, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
2. There is a hell to avoid
When God measures us against His own perfect standards, He will find us all to be deficient. We have all disobeyed Him in many different ways – in our rejection of His authority, in our mistreatment of others, in our malice, our lust and our deceit. Consequently, we all deserve to be excluded from His presence and punished for our sins. Jesus spoke often of a terrible place of torment, where guilty sinners pay the price for their disobedience. He described it as “the fire that shall never be quenched” (Mark 9:45), “outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12) and “the condemnation of hell” (Matthew 23:33). God takes no pleasure in sending people to this awful place. But if we haven’t obtained forgiveness for our sins, it will be our certain destiny.
3. There is a heaven to gain
Thankfully, there is an alternative to this terrible place of punishment: a place of happiness, peace and rest – the place where Jesus Himself has gone. Although none of us deserve to go to heaven, it is still possible for us to go there. God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, came into this world and died upon the cross, so that sinners like us could be forgiven and receive eternal life. Because He paid the price for all their sins, those who trust in Jesus will go immediately into His presence when they leave this world. There will be fullness of joy, eternal pleasures and everlasting glory. Jesus said to His followers, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:6). He even made this promise to a dying thief: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Heaven is guaranteed for all who repent and put their faith in God’s Son.
4. There is a future resurrection to await
At death, it is only our soul that will enter into heaven or hell. But there is a future for our body too. One day, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to this earth and will raise everyone from the dead. “There will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15). The bodies of unbelievers will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death (Revelation 20:14-15). There, they will receive eternal punishment in both body and soul for all the sins they have committed. Thankfully, this is a destiny that can be avoided – through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The bodies of all who trust in Him will be wonderfully transformed – they will be raised incorruptible, glorious and powerful. In these new bodies, God’s people will enjoy a new heaven and a new earth, where there will be no more weeping, sorrow or pain.
With two such stark alternatives ahead of us, it is extremely important how we respond to the Lord Jesus Christ. If we ignore Him, reject Him and leave Him out of our lives, there is no way for us to escape the condemnation of hell. But if we recognise our sin, turn away from it and entrust ourselves to the Saviour of the world, we have nothing to fear. For those who believe in Jesus, death has lost its sting and will merely usher us into His own glorious presence. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31)
Do all religions lead to God?
1. Only Jesus is God-in-the-flesh
All other religious leaders were merely human beings – most of them didn’t even claim to be anything higher. But Jesus Christ is much more than just a man – He is Almighty God. That’s what He claimed (so he’s either deluded, lying or telling the truth) and He backed it up with impossible deeds, supernatural abilities and an impeccable life. In the words of the Bible, “God was manifested in the flesh.” (1 Timothy 3:16)
2. Only Jesus is completely sinless
Unlike all other religious leaders, Jesus of Nazareth was morally perfect. Not even His enemies could point out any flaws or defects in His character. His entire life was free from every form of sin and He exhibited every moral virtue and quality. This cannot be said of any other human in history – it sets Jesus apart from everyone else. He “committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22)
3. Only Jesus dealt with our fundamental problem
Other religious leaders may give moral teaching, guidelines for life and various rites and rituals, but only Jesus Christ actually takes away human sin. This is the fundamental problem that faces the human race – we all have a fallen, sinful nature and break God’s commandments every day of our lives. Other religions do not tackle this problem. The Bible says that “without shedding of blood there is no remission” of sins (Hebrews 9:22). Only Jesus Christ has provided the necessary sacrifice for human sin – the sacrifice of Himself upon the cross, where He removed the penalty for our sins. He also gives us a new nature through the supernatural work of His Holy Spirit. According to the Bible, “He was manifested to take away our sins” (1 John 3:5)
4. Only Jesus actually rose from the dead
All other historical religious figures are dead and buried, but Jesus continues to be alive today. He was put to death by the Romans, buried and sealed in a guarded tomb, yet was seen alive again by hundreds of eye witnesses (and no-one could produce his dead body to disprove it). This shows that only Jesus has power over death and it puts Him in a completely different league from all other religious leaders. “He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures … After that, he was seen by over five hundred brethren at once” (1 Corinthians 15:4,6)
5. Only Jesus brings salvation by grace
All other religions teach that we have to do something ourselves to achieve future bliss. Whether it’s heaven, paradise, nirvana or a better reincarnation, the world’s religions tell us that it’s our effort, goodness, merit or obedience that secures our future happiness. By contrast, only Jesus Christ brings a salvation that is based entirely on God’s grace. According to the Bible, it’s the work of Jesus Christ, not our own work, that secures eternal life for His followers. The Bible teaches that we cannot reach heaven by our own merit or activity, but only as a result of God’s undeserved kindness, received through faith in Jesus Christ. This makes Biblical Christianity utterly different from all the world’s religions: salvation is not down to us, but we must depend entirely on someone else’s achievements – the achievements of the Lord Jesus Christ. ”By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Only someone like Jesus can bring sinful human beings to God. And there is no-one else even remotely like Him – He is utterly unique. Only Jesus Christ qualifies to be a Saviour for the human race. Only He can forgive our sins, bring us to God and give us eternal glory. Instead of relying upon ourselves or upon anyone else, we must rely on Jesus alone to bring us acceptance with God and everlasting life: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36)
Is Jesus really God?
1. Jesus’ own testimony
The words of Jesus Himself show that He claimed to be God. For example, in John 8:58, Jesus breaks the rules of grammar to make this very point. He says, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” “I AM” was the divine name by which God had made Himself known to Moses (Exodus 3:14). Jesus deliberately uses this expression to teach that He is Yahweh, the eternal God. The crowds certainly knew what He was claiming – “they took up stones to throw at Him” (John 8:59) – the punishment for blasphemy. If they had misunderstood Jesus’ meaning, why didn’t Jesus clarify the situation and assure them He wasn’t claiming to be God?
2. The testimony of Scripture writers
Christians do not base their beliefs solely on the direct words of Jesus. We believe that every word of the Scriptures is the infallible Word of God. This means that the words of Scriptural authors carry the same authority as the words of Jesus Himself. As far as the New Testament is concerned, it was Jesus who actually commissioned His apostles to teach in His name. He would hardly have done so, if they were going to misrepresent Him! Yet in their writings, the apostles consistently present Jesus as God. For example, in John 1:1, we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The same word is used in the last part of the verse (‘the Word was God’) as in the middle (‘the Word was with God’), so it must have the same meaning – otherwise, the Apostle John is making a very misleading and ambiguous statement right at the beginning of his Gospel! John is teaching that the Word (Jesus Christ) is God!
Consider also the following verses:
“Christ, who is over all, the eternally blessed God.” (Romans 9:5);
“Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God…” (Philippians 2:6);
“In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9);
“God was manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16);
“the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13);
“the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1);
“We are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
The Apostles boldly and freely ascribe Deity to the Lord Jesus!
3. Divine Names and Titles
Names and titles of the one true God are frequently given to the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, the title “The Alpha and Omega” is given both to the Almighty (Revelation 1:8) and to Jesus (Revelation 1:11). The title “The First and the Last” is given both to the LORD (Isaiah 44:6) and to Jesus (Revelation 1:17). The LORD says “beside Me there is no Saviour” (Isaiah 43:11, Hosea 13:4), yet Jesus is repeatedly called the “Saviour” as a formal title (Titus 1:4, 3:6, 2 Peter 1:11, 2:20, 3:18). If Jesus is not God, is this not blasphemously ambiguous?
4. Divine Attributes
Attributes and characteristics which belong to God alone are ascribed to Jesus Christ. For example, Jesus is said to have omniscience: “He knew all men” (John 2:24), “Lord, You know all things” (John 21:17), omnipotence: “All power has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18) and omnipresence: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18).
5. Divine Acts
Acts that belong properly only to Deity are also ascribed to Jesus. For example, the work of creation is attributed to Jesus (Colossians 1:16, John 1:3), as is the work of sustaining the universe (Hebrews 1:3), judging the world (John 5:22) and forgiving sins (Mark 2:5). Surely only the Author of life has the right and ability to perform these tasks? Even the Pharisees realised this: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” they asked. Jesus taught with divine authority too: while all the prophets would say “Thus says the LORD”, Jesus said “I say unto you”. He spoke and conducted Himself in a manner that would have been thoroughly blasphemous, if He were not the true and living God.
6. Worship given to Him
If Jesus were a righteous and honourable man, He would have rebuked people for doing this and told them to worship only God – unless Jesus is God Himself! For example, people worship Him in the Gospels (Matthew 2:11, 8:2, 9:18, 14:33, 15:25, 28:9,17, Luke 24:52, John 9:38). When the Apostle Peter received worship from Cornelius in Acts 10:25, he rebuked him, saying “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” If Jesus isn’t God, surely He should have done the same when people worshipped Him? Why didn’t He? Thomas even said to Jesus, “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28). Shouldn’t Jesus have corrected him? Jesus also receives worship alongside the Father in heaven: “Blessing and honour and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, for ever and ever!” (Rev 5:13). Surely it is blasphemous to give worship to the Father and Son in one breath – unless both are equally God! Especially when the LORD says: “My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8). God even commands the angels to worship His Son (Hebrews 1:6). Yet elsewhere, we read: “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10).
7. Old Testament references applied to Him
Finally, Old Testament references that clearly refer to the one true God are applied to Jesus in the New Testament. For example, Psalm 46:6 addresses God directly (“Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever”), yet it is applied to Jesus in Hebrews 1:8. In Psalm 102:10, the LORD is addressed (“You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth”), yet in Hebrews 1:10 this is applied to Christ. In Isaiah 6:5, the prophet says he has seen “the King, the LORD of hosts”, but in John 12:41 we read that Isaiah saw Jesus. Isaiah 8:14 speaks of the LORD of hosts as “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence” and this is applied to Christ in 1 Peter 2:8. The New Testament writers freely apply references about the LORD in the Old Testament to the Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah 9:6 even gives Jesus the title “Mighty God”.
The testimony of the Scriptures is clear and consistent: Jesus of Nazareth is God in the flesh. This doesn’t mean that He is the same person as God the Father (otherwise He would be praying to Himself in the Gospels!). No, He is a distinct Person from the Father, yet He is fully, equally and eternally God. In a mysterious way which we cannot properly understand, God exists as three distinct yet equal Persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The second Person, God the Son, took human nature and lived for a time in our world.
Since Jesus really is God, it has huge implications for each and every one of us. If He is God, we must submit to His authority and accept Him as our Lord, repenting from all our sinful rebellion. And if He is God, it means we can rely on completely. We can trust Him to take away our sins, bring us to the Father and give us eternal life. Only Jesus Christ can save men and women from their sins. “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The Saviour of the world had to be fully man, so that He could represent the human race and bear their sins. The Saviour of the world had to be fully God, so that His death would have infinite value and so that He could atone for the sins of millions of people all at once. By dying on the cross in His human nature, Jesus paid the price for the sins of human beings. He “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). This means that we can be fully forgiven and can receive everlasting life. The same Jesus rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father, where He reigns as Lord of all.
Why did Jesus have to die?
1. He died to remove our guilt
The first problem is our guilt. We are all born with a fallen, sinful nature and break God’s commandments every day of our lives. We lie and deceive, hate and steal, lust and envy, gossip and blaspheme. These things are unacceptable in God’s sight and make us legally guilty before Him. The only solution to this problem is a SACRIFICE. God cannot just ignore our guilt, because He is a just and righteous Judge. There must be full and proper payment for our sins. The Bible says, “without shedding of blood, there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Thankfully, God has provided a perfect sacrifice for all our many sins. In offering up His own sinless life upon the cross, Jesus provided a sacrifice that fully removes our guilt. In the words of the Bible, He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
2. He died to remove God’s wrath
A second problem we face is the wrath of God. Because of our sin, God is rightly angry with us and His holy displeasure rests upon us. We justly deserve His punishment and condemnation. Without a Saviour, we face a terrible eternity in hell under the judgment of God. What we desperately need is a PROPITIATION – something that will turn God’s anger away from us. In His amazing love for us, God has provided exactly what we need. In suffering upon the cross, Jesus not only removed our guilt, but also appeased the righteous wrath of God. Instead of it falling upon guilty sinners, God’s judgment fell upon His own sinless Son. Jesus endured the full punishment that was due to everyone who will ever believe in Him. This means that we can escape the wrath and judgment of God: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
3. He died to remove our alienation
Another problem we have is alienation from God. Sin has created an enormous barrier between God and humanity – we are cut off from His presence and cannot enjoy a personal relationship with Him. In the words of the Bible, “your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you” (Isaiah 59:2). Once again, it is the death of Jesus Christ that provides the solution to this problem. Through His death, Jesus brought RECONCILIATION between God and His people. He has made peace between them, re-established friendship and given them permanent access into His presence. The Bible says, “When we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10).
4. He died to remove our spiritual bondage
Finally, there is the problem of our bondage. According to the Bible, we are all born in a state of captivity to sin, Satan and the law of God. Instead of being free, we are slaves to our own sinful nature, we are under the dominion of the devil, and we are unable to keep the requirements of God’s law. However hard we try, we will never be able to break free from this captivity. Only the death of the Lord Jesus releases people from this state of bondage. According to the Bible, Jesus gave up His life as a RANSOM – a payment that brings freedom. By dying on the cross, Jesus has freed all His people from the power of sin, the dominion of Satan and the curse of God’s law. In Jesus’ own words, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45).
The death of Jesus is the most glorious demonstration of God’s love that has ever been displayed. Instead of punishing the guilty, God punished His own beloved Son, so that the guilty could go free. It is impossible for us to imagine what agonies and torments Jesus had to endure, as He drank up the wrath of God in our place. But He did endure them, He paid the full price for all our sin, and this is the only reason we can avoid hell and enter heaven.
Only the death of the Lord Jesus Christ can solve humanity’s greatest problems. That is why it is so important to be personally united to Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can remove our guilt, turn away God’s wrath, reconcile us to our Creator and release us from spiritual captivity. There is no other hope for the human race – only the Son of God can deliver us from our sins. Wonderful blessings will be ours if we turn from our sin and rely fully upon Jesus to save us. We will receive complete forgiveness for every sin; we will come under the favour and approval of God; we will enter an eternal friendship with the One who created us; and we’ll be set free from spiritual bondage and will walk in newness of life. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Can we trust the Bible?
To answer these questions, it is important to remember that the Bible is not merely one Book, written by the same person at the same time. It is actually a collection of over sixty separate documents, written by about 40 different people over a period of 1,500 years. It is very superficial, therefore, to dismiss an entire collection of historical documents in one sweeping statement. The documents ought to be carefully examined and studied before coming to any hasty conclusion. The best way to determine whether the Bible is God’s Word is to read and study it for yourself with an open mind. Nevertheless, here are a few relevant points that may prove helpful:
1. It is textually reliable
How can we be sure that the Biblical text we have today is the same as what was originally written hundreds of years ago? Many claim that the Bible has been changed and altered over the years. This objection is easily answered by the fact that there are many ancient copies of the Biblical text which are still in existence today. In fact, we have far more ancient copies of the Biblical documents than most other important historical writings. For example, for Caesar’s Gallic War, we only have 10 ancient copies, while for Tactitus’ Histories and Annals we have just 2. How many ancient copies of the New Testament do we have? Approximately 14,000! It is possible for these ancient copies to be carefully examined today and compared with our modern Bibles. The conclusion? The original text of the Bible has not been altered or changed.
2. It is factually accurate
Is the Bible grossly inaccurate when it comes to science, geography and history? Far from disproving the Bible, modern archaeology consistently confirms the Biblical record. People that were once thought to be entirely fictitious (such as Pontius Pilate and the Hittites) have now had their existence confirmed through modern discoveries. In the words of one archaeologist, “it may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference” (Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert: History of Neteg). Another scholar studied the Bible’s record of various ancient kings and concluded that, while other historical documents had errors, the Bible was 100% accurate. He said: “Mathematically, it is one chance in 750,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 that this accuracy is mere circumstance” (Robert Dick Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament). Regarding science, it is true that the Bible does not agree with every modern conjecture and hypothesis (such as Evolution and the Big Bang Theory, both of which remain unproven). However, there is no proven scientific fact that contradicts any of the Biblical record. The weight of evidence points to the complete factual accuracy of the entire Bible.
3. It has fulfilled prophecies
One remarkable feature of the Bible is the number of fulfilled prophecies that it contains. These are not just a few, vague, general prophecies, but hundreds of specific predictions that have been fulfilled with pinpoint accuracy. Speaking of just eleven Old Testament prophecies which have all been precisely fulfilled, one scholar calculated the probability of this happening as being 1 in 8,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000! Examples of fulfilled prophecies include the following:
– In about 700 BC, the prophet Micah predicted the birthplace of the Messiah as the village of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
– In the 5th Century BC, the prophet Zechariah predicted that the Messiah would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13)
– King David and the prophet Zechariah predicted that the Messiah’s body would be pierced but that none of His bones would be broken, contrary to what would normally happen in crucifixion (Psalm 22, 34:20, Zechariah 12:10)
– The prophet Isaiah foretold the name, rise and conquests of a man called Cyrus 150 years before his birth (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1,13)
– The destruction and ruin of Babylon was accurately predicted in Isaiah 13:17-22 and Jeremiah 51:26,43, despite the seemingly impregnable nature of the city.
There are numerous other examples of fulfilled prophecies in the Bible. There is no explanation for this, other than that the Bible is the supernatural Word of an all-knowing God.
4. It has life-changing power
Another extraordinary feature of the Bible is the supernatural power and influence it has exerted over the lives of millions of people from diverse cultures and times. Multitudes of people have had their lives changed by it, their characters transformed and have come into a personal experience of God through its pages. Liars have been made honest, adulterers have become faithful, blasphemers have become worshippers and enemies have been reconciled through the powerful influence of this Book. Millions of people from all walks of life have discerned and recognised the authoritative, soul-searching voice of the living God and have been radically converted. Ultimately, faith that the Bible is God’s Word does not come through persuasive arguments or eloquent reasoning. It comes by being exposed to its powerful message and being enlightened by God’s Spirit: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). If you have doubts about the authenticity of the Bible, read and study it for yourself, asking God to reveal Himself to you personally. Seek Him diligently and you will find Him, and you will find Him in His Word.
How can a God of love send people to hell?
1. It is only guilty sinners who go to hell
Nobody innocent will ever go to hell. The only people who will go there are those who justly deserve it. God will never condemn anyone who is guiltless. It is “the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars” who “shall have their part in the lake of fire which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). The trouble is, the Bible teaches that we are all guilty of sin. Every single one of us has rebelled against God and broken His commandments. None of us is truly innocent, for we sin every day of our lives. On the day of judgment, God will find much in our lives that deserves His punishment: our selfishness, hatred, lying, unclean thoughts, blasphemy, pride, envy and cruelty. The reason hell seems unfair is that we fail to see the seriousness and ugliness of our own sin.
2. God is a God of justice as well as love
It is a mistake to think that love is the only characteristic that God has. The Bible reveals a whole range of attributes and qualities that belong to God. One of these is His justice, for which we should be very glad. Who would want God to be unjust and unfair? Just as a good human judge must sentence the guilty (even if the judge is kind and tender-hearted), so God must punish all who have disobeyed His holy commandments. God is not being cruel when He sentences sinners to their punishment – He is merely carrying out justice and doing what is fair and fitting. The Bible says, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4); “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments” (Revelation 16:7).
3. There are different degrees of punishment
Nowhere does the Bible teach that everybody will be punished to the same degree. It is not true that the sincere philanthropist will be treated exactly the same as the brutal, murderous dictator. God’s punishment will be measured out fairly, in accordance with the degree of a person’s sin. Nobody will be punished above what they deserve, and nobody will be punished too leniently. God will take into account the entire course of a person’s life (including our motives, desires, thoughts and attitudes) and judge us accordingly. In particular, He will take into account how much we knew about what God required from us. Jesus said, “The servant who knew his master’s will … shall be beaten with many blows. But he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few” (Luke 12:47-48). Jesus taught that it will be more tolerable for some on the day of judgment than for others (Matthew 11:23-24, Mark 6:11, Luke 10:12-14) and that some will receive “greater condemnation” than the rest (Matthew 23:14).
4. God has provided a way of escape
If the reality of hell makes us doubt God’s love, we must remember the extreme lengths He has taken to save us from this awful doom. Out of intense love and compassion for us, God sent us a Saviour, so that we could escape the terrible punishment we deserve. How far did this Saviour go in order to rescue us? He actually gave up His life for us. He voluntarily assumed the guilt for our sin and took our punishment upon Himself. On the cross, He effectively endured the torments of hell in our place. What amazing love! If God was willing to do that for guilty sinners, how can anyone accuse Him of being unloving? God has given us a wondeful way to escape the horrors of hell – “Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
5. Anyone may avoid hell if they want to
Although we all deserve God’s punishment, the good news is that we don’t have to endure it if we don’t want to! The way of salvation is open to us all. God sincerely offers forgiveness of sins to anyone who will receive it. Everyone who sincerely repents of their sin and trusts Jesus as Saviour and Lord will be gloriously pardoned. Our sins must be punished in one way or another – either we can bear the punishment ourselves, or we can entrust ourselves to Jesus, who lovingly bore the punishment in place of the guilty. The Bible says that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) If we stubbornly refuse this gracious invitation, how can we blame God if we end up under His judgment?
The subject of hell is a difficult and distressing one – but it in no way tarnishes the love of Almighty God. In His love, He offers to save us from this terrible reality. In His love, He gave His own Son so that we could be forgiven. God takes no delight in sending sinners to their condemnation: “‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live’” (Ezekiel 33:11). If we refuse God’s offer of forgiveness, there is no way of escape from His punishment. But if we turn away from our old sinful life and put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be saved from God’s wrath and enjoy eternal glory instead!
What is a Christian?
1. A Christian is a sinful person
Christians are not naturally better or more moral than anybody else. Like all human beings, Christians are people who were born with a sinful nature and who have broken the commandments of God. True Christians will readily admit that they are far from perfect – they have failed to live a life that pleases God and are guilty of all kinds of sinful attitudes and behaviour. Like everyone else, Christians have earned God’s disapproval and deserve His just punishment for sin. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “There is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).
2. A Christian is a forgiven person
Because they are sinful, Christians realise that they can never gain God’s approval through their own merits or achievements. They know that their own good deeds, church attendance, religious service and acts of sacrifice will never be able to put them right with God. Instead, a Christian is someone who relies entirely on the achievements of someone else – namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible promises that everyone who has faith in Jesus is ‘justified’ – that is, they are acquitted from all their guilt and counted as 100% righteous by God. This is because Jesus took the punishment for all their sins when He died upon the cross. He has taken away their sin and cancelled it out forever. Christians are sinners like everyone else – but they have found complete forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ. Their sins are no longer counted against them and they are fully accepted by God. The Bible says that in Christ “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7) and that “whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).
3. A Christian is a changed person
If Christians have been forgiven for all their sins, does this mean that they can live however they like? Certainly not! For as well as being fully forgiven, a Christian is someone who has been inwardly changed by the power of God. A real Christian is someone who has been supernaturally reborn by God’s Holy Spirit. Christians have been given a new nature, a new heart, new desires and a whole new life. Because of this inward transformation, true Christians do not want to live the way they did before – they want to please the wonderful God who forgave them all their sins. Christians still make mistakes and fall into sin, but they have a deep inward longing to live in a way that is pleasing to God. There is no such thing as a true Christian who hasn’t been inwardly changed by the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
There are many other things that could be said about the identity of Christians. Christians are people who have repented and trusted in Jesus, who have been adopted into God’s family and who are destined for eternal glory. They are people who know God personally, who follow the Lord Jesus Christ and who are indwelt by God’s Spirit. In fact, Christians are the most blessed and privileged people in the world. This is not because of anything they have achieved, but because of the undeserved kindness and grace that God has shown towards them. “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy … For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy towards those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:8,11-12).
How do I become a Christian?
The Bible consistently uses two words to describe how a person becomes a Christian: “repent” and “believe”. For example, the first recorded words of Jesus’ public ministry are these: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Again and again, Jesus spoke about the need for repentance (e.g. Luke 13:3,5; 15:10; 24:46-47) and for personal faith (e.g. John 3:16, 3:36, 6:47). Likewise, in the Book of Acts, Jesus’ followers consistently told people they must repent (e.g. Acts 2:38, 3:19, 17:30) and believe in Jesus (e.g. Acts 10:43; 13:39; 16:31). The Apostle Paul summed up the necessary response to God’s message as: “repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). But what does it really mean to repent and believe?
1. We must repent
Repentance involves a complete turnaround in our lives. It means we turn away from our sinful life and turn towards God. True repentance involves a change of mind – we must recognise that we are sinners and agree that we are guilty before a holy God. It involves a change of heart – in sorrow and hatred for all our sin, we are willing to leave it behind and renounce it. And it involves a change of direction – instead of continuing in our rebellion against God, we submit to the authority of Jesus Christ and embrace Him as our Lord and King. Only those who repent will avoid God’s wrath and enter into heaven.
2. We must believe
When the Bible tells us to believe, it means more than simply agreeing that certain things are true. Real faith involves actually putting our trust in a Person – placing our full confidence in Someone who is better than ourselves. The Person we need to believe in is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the eternal Son of God, the Saviour of the world, the One who died for our sins and rose from the dead. He is the only Person who can save us from condemnation and bring us back to God. Believing in Him means that we abandon all hope of gaining God’s acceptance through our efforts, and we rely solely upon Jesus to put us right with God. Only those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will escape eternal punishment and receive eternal life.
The Bible uses several other phrases to illustrate what it means to become a Christian. For example, it speaks about coming to Jesus, receiving Him, confessing Him and calling to Him (Matthew 11:28, Colossians 2:6, Romans 10:9,13). The point is clear: only the Lord Jesus Christ can save us from our sin, so we must become personally united to Him through faith. Nothing else can remove our sins or win us God’s approval – we must forsake all efforts to get right with God by ourselves and depend entirely on His Son to save us.
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19)
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31)