Life-Changing Themes from the Bible - God Is

, by Christopher D. Hudson

"Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. 

One major idea that permeates the Bible is the reality of God. The Bible begins with God. When nothing else is, God is: “In the beginning God . . .” (Genesis 1:1). In the first verse of the Bible, God is revealed as Creator. If you flip to the very end of the Bible—the book of Revelation, the apostle John’s vision of heaven and eternity—God is revealed as King, Lord, and Judge of all the earth (Revelation 15:3; 20:12–13).

In between Genesis and Revelation, the words God and Lord are mentioned thousands of times. Clearly, from beginning to end, the reality of God is a dominating idea in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God is often perceived as invisible or hidden in dramatic displays of fire and smoke (Exodus 19:18). His power, wisdom, and holiness caused people to tremble with fear and awe at his presence (Exodus 20:18; Psalms 96:9; 119:120; Proverbs 28:14). But people who enjoyed a close relationship with God also experienced him and his love in extremely personal ways. Adam and Eve, for example, spent time with God in the garden; after their fateful choice to disobey him, they tried to physically hide from God’s presence (Genesis 3:8). The Bible describes Abraham as God’s “friend” (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). Moses is a great example of someone who experienced God’s presence, love, and friendship firsthand (Exodus 34:5–6). God himself “would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11).

In the New Testament, we are introduced to Jesus, the Son of God. Though this carpenter-turned-teacher from Nazareth claimed repeatedly to be God, he was visible and approachable (John 8:56–59; 10:30–33)! He came close enough to be seen, heard, and touched (1 John 1:1–3).

After his death, burial, resurrection, and return to heaven, Jesus sent the very Spirit of God to live in the hearts and souls of his followers (Acts 2). What a jaw-dropping reality! Think about it: The Gospels in the New Testament show God among us (John 1:14). Jesus was “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, emphasis added). The book of Acts in the New Testament shows that the Spirit is God in us.

If the Bible is true (and, of course, we believe it is), then God is. God exists. We’re not alone in the universe. The world and the human race are not cosmic accidents, the result of eons of time + chance + nothing. We were designed. We were made for a purpose. The world is not random; it is going somewhere. We have meaning and significance.

This blog post has been adapted from my new book, Self-Guided Tour of the Bible. You can read more about it here.


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Great Men of the Bible: Paul

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.

Paul’s life displays God’s ability to transform a person from a persecutor of the church to one of its most effective missionaries. Paul’s ministry spans many years, geographically covering almost the entire Roman Empire and thirteen books of the New Testament (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Titus, and 1 and 2 Timothy) are attributed to Paul.

Paul, known as Saul before his repentance, is born in Tarsus (Acts 22:3), an important city in the Roman Empire. Paul is thoroughly Jewish, but his birthplace affords him the privileges of Roman citizenship, something he later uses to his advantage in sharing the gospel (Acts 16:12 – 40; 22:24 – 29; 23:23 – 24; 25:11 – 12).

As a young man, Paul is actively involved in persecuting the early church and imprisoning Christians for their faith (Acts 8:3; 9:1 – 2; Philippians 3:6). He is present and complicit when the first Christian martyr, Stephen, is stoned to death (Acts 7:58). As a member of the conservative Pharisee sect of Jews (Acts 23:6; Philippians 3:5), Paul attains a high level of theological education studying under Gamaliel, a well-known rabbi (Acts 22:3).

As Paul travels to the city of Damascus to arrest Christians, a light from heaven flashes around him. He hears a voice from heaven ask, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” This encounter with Christ leaves Paul blinded. When a Christian named Ananias prays for Paul, his sight is restored. Paul is then baptized and spends time with the disciples in Damascus (Acts 9:2 – 19).

Shortly after his repentance, Paul goes to the desert area of Arabia and returns to Damascus (Galatians 1:15 – 20). He spends three years there before returning to the cities of Asia Minor. Paul’s bold preaching and his repentance from persecuting Christians becomes widely known in the region, making him a target for church persecutors. A group of Jews attempts to kill him in Damascus (Acts 9:23 – 25), causing him to flee to Jerusalem.

When Paul arrives in Jerusalem, many Christians fear and do not trust him. Then Barnabas, a well-respected disciple who would later accompany Paul on his first mission, meets Paul and convinces the church that his repentance is genuine (Acts 9:27).

Paul goes on to become the greatest missionary of the early church. He takes four missionary journeys, founding, establishing, and teaching churches throughout the Roman Empire. As such, he becomes the apostle to the Gentiles, or the non-Jews. His letters instructing, correcting, and encouraging these churches and the leaders he appoints over them comprise a large percentage of the New Testament.

Paul endures many hardships during his ministry. He is persecuted, stoned, arrested, beaten, shipwrecked, and imprisoned. He preaches the gospel both when he is free and when he is imprisoned. He is ultimately sent to Rome, where, according to church tradition, he is executed by beheading because of his faith in Jesus Christ. 

This blog post has been adapted from The Most Significant People, Places, and Events in the Bible. You can learn more about it here.


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Great Men of the Bible: Simon Peter

, by Christopher D. Hudson

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Simon Peter is a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee when he meets Jesus. Peter’s brother, Andrew, first hears John the Baptist declare Jesus as “God’s Chosen One” (John 1:34). Andrew immediately runs to find Peter and tells him they have found the Messiah. Jesus then meets them on the shore and calls Peter to leave behind his fishing nets and follow him to “fish for people” (John 1:35 – 42; Luke 5:1 – 11).

During his ministry, Jesus often travels with only Peter, James, and John. Because of this, Peter  experiences many miracles. For example, Peter is present when Jesus raises a synagogue leader’s daughter from the dead (Luke 8:51 – 56). Peter is one of the few to witness Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah. During this experience, Peter also hears God affirm that Jesus is his Son (Mark 9:2 – 7).

In many instances, Peter acts as a courageous disciple. When the disciples see Jesus walking on the water and mistake him for a ghost, Peter has the boldness to come when Christ calls him. He begins to walk on the water, too (Matthew 14:22 – 31). When Jesus asks his disciples who they believe he is, Peter is the first to answer. He proclaims that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). It is here that Jesus gives Simon the name Cephas (in Hebrew) or Peter (in Greek), meaning “rock” (Matthew 16:18).

While Peter is a key leader in Jesus’ inner circle, he also has his struggles. For example, Peter debates with Jesus about whether the Messiah must suffer and die (Matthew 16:21 – 23). In addition, though Peter says he will never forsake Jesus, he denies Jesus three times after Jesus is arrested (Mark 14:27 – 31, 69 – 72).

After Jesus dies and rises from the dead, he speaks with Peter. Though Peter feels great shame for denying Jesus, Jesus forgives him and reaffirms Peter’s calling to tend and feed God’s flock (John 21:15 – 19) before ascending to heaven.

Later, Peter is with the other disciples on the day of Pentecost as the Holy Spirit is released. That day, Peter preaches a message that leads 3,000 people to follow Christ (Acts 2). Peter’s ministry is marked by miracles, including healings (Acts 3:1 – 10; 5:12 – 16; 9:32 – 35) and raising a girl from the dead (Acts 9:36 – 41). Peter is arrested twice for preaching about Jesus (Acts 4:1 – 4; 12:3 – 5) and is freed from his second imprisonment by an angel (Acts 12:3 – 19).

This blog post has been adapted from The Most Significant People, Places, and Events in the Bible. You can learn more about the book here.


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