James Beaubelle acknowledges that we have all asked God to increase our faith, realizing that without faith it is impossible to please Him. From time to time, we exhibit a measure of faithlessness, perhaps because we have viewed faith too narrowly, thinking in terms of what we do rather than what God does through His spiritual gifting to us. Faith supports what we know of God, and if it is genuine, faith is the greatest motivator for good works. God increases our faith according to His working in us. Godly faith cannot stand on intellect alone, because it has spiritual and emotional qualities as well. Four progressive steps will strengthen our Godly faith: (1.) Belief in God's Word, which (2.) leads to obedience to duty, which can only be accomplished by (3.) a relationship with God through the indwelling of His Spirit (the mind of Christ), which in turn (4.) produces a repertoire of experience on which we incrementally build faith.
The Catholic Church places great importance on Mary—to the point that many Catholics, both lay and clergy, are pushing for Mary to be recognized as "Co-Redemptrix"! David Grabbe points out that the Bible makes no such claims for her. She may be "blessed among women," but she is in no way to be deified!
To some, the virgin birth is a major teaching. However, Richard Ritenbaugh shows that it is only one of several signs that prove Jesus is the promised Messiah. Moreover, its major purpose is not to glorify Mary but her divine Son!
Though the church of God has traditionally emphasized His death over His birth, the prophecies concerning Christ's first advent are vitally important in establishing our faith in His second coming. Richard Ritenbaugh summarizes twelve Old Testament prophecies and their significance to us.
Richard Ritenbaugh asserts that the world with all its Christmas celebration, has depleted all the precious meaning from the actual event, depriving us of the glory of what really happened in the announcement of Christ's birth. Luke, having incredible literary skills, gives us the journalistic "who," "what," "when," "where," and "why" of Christ's birth in a concise and palatable form. A fresh reading of Luke's account reveals the rich prophetic significance of this event, unraveling some doctrinal heresies of the world's religions (Mary worship, nature of Holy Spirit, and time of Christ's birth) and the comfort of the overshadowing presence of God. Mary's and Joseph's thoughtful, reflective, humble, obedient, and submissive examples provide a sterling pattern for us to emulate.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that Jesus was placed on trial not for what He did, but for what He claimed about Himself. John has provided at least eight separate forms of witness, establishing the veracity of Jesus Christ's identity as God in the flesh. Fulfilled prophecy from the Old Testament (over 300 separate prophecies) concerning Christ's identity and the events of His life is overwhelming, compelling, and mathematically irrefutable (The chance of fulfilling only eight of those prophecies would be 1 in 10 to the 17th power or 100 quadrillion). John makes a compelling proposal for belief and faith. The last part of the first chapter of John focuses upon the work of John the Baptist, a physical cousin of Jesus, the forerunner of Christ, who witnessed the Holy Spirit descending upon Christ at His baptism, again establishing Christ's identity as the Lamb of God.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates the startling uniqueness of John's message that God could become flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. In order for Christ to be our savior, He had to become subject to the pulls of the flesh in order to empathize with those He would later serve as High Priest and Advocate. Those who would become sons of God (qualifying for roles as kings and priests) must learn to trust or rely on Him, conducting their lives according to His name, conforming to the character that name represents. If we follow the living example of Jesus Christ, using the gifts of God's Holy Spirit, we will find inexhaustible resources for overcoming, serving, and growing in grace and knowledge, conforming to Christ's righteous and genuine character. Those who wrote the Gospels were eyewitnesses to the spectacular events (none of them done in a corner) in the life of Jesus Christ, providing a testimony that we may believe and develop iron-clad faith. Many extra-biblical sources such as Tacitus, Seconius, Justin Martyr, Pliny, and Josephus substantiate, corroborate, and validate the veracity of the biblical accounts of the historicity, identity, and divinity of Jesus.
John Ritenbaugh explains that Matthew is part of the synoptic ("seeing together") gospels, largely an embellishment of the more terse outline of basic events found in Mark. Both Matthew and Luke were evidently intended for different audiences, intended to expound or enlarge on specific tenets of doctrine. Matthew, a meticulous, well-educated, well-organized publican, appeared to be largely responsible for gathering and systematizing the specific sayings of Jesus. Matthew wrote his account with the Jewish people in mind, repeatedly saying, "This was done to fulfill the prophets," emphasizing the law and the Kingdom of God, as well as a detailed genealogy demonstrating his lineage from King David and Abraham, including Gentiles and women ancestors, legitimatizing the kingship of Jesus and His virgin birth, conceived of the Holy Spirit—the creative power of God. Jesus had at least seven siblings, half-brothers and -sisters. Luke, a Gentile, never included these details. [NB: This series of Bible Studies from 1981-82 is incomplete.]
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