Among six key themes (from ESV Global Study Bible) of the book of Amos, two stands out for me.
1. Justice and righteousness in the treatment of other people are the key evidences of a right relationship to the Lord.
2. Religious observances in the absence of social justice are disgusting to God.¹
I find these two key themes present in the verses that follow. God says;
I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen (Amos 5:21-23).
Today, many profess faith but their profession contradicts their conduct. Should that be the case? Where profession of faith and conduct contradicts, there is a justification to question what one professes. Could it be possible that God has rejected many gatherings supposedly assembled in the name of God and yet we are unaware? Could it be that God has turned his ears away from our worship and considers many a congregations singing noise yet they haven’t discerned it?
How would we know if our worship is acceptable to God? I believe the answer is in the next verse: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24). Where our life is not marked by justice and righteousness—a right treatment of one another and right conduct; our salvation may be questionable. Our Lord commands us to love one another and to not love the world (1Jn. 2:9-17). Paul says “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers , and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1cor. 13:1-2).
You see, our faith and conduct are insperable. If we have faith, it must show in our conduct: “But be n doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”!(Jam. 1:22).
1. Introductory notes on Amos from The ESV Global Study Bible (Wheaton, Illinois:Crossway, 2012 ) Kindle edition
Recently, there has been a rise of people in our country–Ghana– openly calling the claims of Christianity into question. Core doctrines such as the virgin birth, Heaven, Hell and the historicity of the person of Christ have all been called to question. The troubling part of this, is that, those involved are people we may consider influential in society and their influence has the ability to lead people astray. Of all the religions of this world, why do these people pick on Christianity and the Bible? Numerous answers may be given. But I will briefly explore two.
If Jesus is wrong, then Christianity is wrong. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we should abandon our faith because he would be no different than anyone else. If Jesus is not God in flesh, then we should denounce him as a madman because you can’t claim to be God and be sane — unless the claim is true. Therefore, if what Jesus said about himself is true, then Christianity is true.
Now, granted Christianity is true (and it is), the devil, an opponent of Truth described by Jesus as the father of all lies; will do everything to attack the Truth of God’s word. Any false religion promoting his agenda will have uninterrupted success. Why will the devil bother to attack false religion? He will waste no ammunition in attacking false religion. It will be harmful to his cause: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” (Luke 12:17-18).
The way out then is to rise against true religion. And what he attacks in Christianity is the very word God has spoken. This is the devil’s oldest weapon—calling the word of God into question. In the Garden of Eden, he asked: “…Did God actually say…” (Genesis 3:1).
Do you see the similarities today? “Did God actually say…sinners will be punished in hell? “Did God actually say Christ is the only way to the Father? Did God actually say Christ will return again? Did God actually say we should live holy lives? Did God actually say Jesus rose from the dead? Did God actually say…?
If you will call anything about Christianity into question, be sure it is a questioning which will lead to a better understanding of the faith. If yours is to question the veracity of the claims of Christianity, be careful you are not taking sides with the devil and questioning what God has said.
They Are Spiritually Dead
One thing we are sure of of those who challenge and refute God’s true word is that they are spiritually dead: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1Corinthians 3:14). It takes hearts regenerated by the Spirit of God to comprehend spiritual truth. And until a person’s heart is regenerated, the word of God is foolishness to them.
In fact the Bible declares “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1). Fool here doesn’t mean the one who questions or call God’s word to question is a dimwit. Far from it. Actually, some of these people are very intelligent. The fool, as used in the text simply means an “impious person who has no perception of ethical or religious truth
We may all not be professionals trained to defend the faith. Yet, in our own small way, the Bible calls us to contend for the faith (Jude 1:3). And to contend for the faith demands we at least know the basics of what we believe. Peter tells us “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1Peter 3:15). We can’t stop people from questioning what we believe. But we must be ready always to defend our faith.
When they ask “Did God Actually Say…? we must be ready to respond gracefully.
In a world of religious plurality, every religion and religious leader makes some claims. Of all the claims, Jesus’ were the most astounding. He made many exclusive claims no religious leader ever made. And that got Him killed.
He claimed to be God.
This claim sets Him apart from all other religious leader who ever lived. And if the claim to be God is false, then, it is blasphemous and Jesus cannot be trusted. Looking therefore at the gravity of His claims, either Jesus is God or He is not. There is no middle ground as C.S. Lewis says in his popular work, Mere Christianity:
Either this man[Jesus] was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God
Lord Over The Sabbath
In the opening text, a controversy over the identity of Christ occurred when He healed a man on the Sabbath (vv. 1-9). In verse 16, John tells us this miracle “…was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath“. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day added their own human traditions to the law and with these they sought to keep God’s people in bondage. Their interpretation of the Sabbath forbided doing good to our neighbour. They overlooked God’s command of love towards ones neighbour. Jesus elsewhere asked them: “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:11-12).
Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5) and His words “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17) brings that out in clear terms. God doesn’t cease working because of the Sabbath. He is actively involved in running His world and taking care of people. The world is not on auto pilot. There is a God at work in sustaining and directing the course of the world. Christ says He is this God.
When Jesus said “My Father is working until now, and I am working”, the Jews who heard Him clearly understood what He meant when He called God His Father and this exacerbated their resolve to kill Him:
This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (v.18).
Now, apart from the charge of breaking the Sabbath, Jesus was also charged with “making himself equal with God” and they understood His claim to be a claim of Deity. Church history is littered with many controversies over the person of Jesus Christ. The Nicea council, for example, in opposition to the arianian heresy which claims Jesus was a created being; stated that “Jesus is begotten, not made, and that His divine nature is of the same essence (homo ousios) with the Father”. ¹ R.C. Sproul explains that
This affirmation declared that the Second Person of the Trinity is one in essence with God the Father. That is, the “being” of Christ is the being of God. He is not merely similar to Deity, but He is Deity”²
One place we see the divinity of Jesus in the text is His assertion of His worthiness of honour just as the Father is worthy of honour: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him”. (vv. 22-24). Jesus is worthy of our worship–honour, just as we honour the Father. You can’t claim to honour or worship God and yet claim to not honour Jesus Christ or accept the claims He made about Himself. To honour God, you must also acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God who was sent by God to die for the salvation of sinners (John 3:16). Again, to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God is to acknowledge Jesus as God. He is God who was manifested in the flesh (John 1:14)
The Unity of the Godhead.
The doctrine of the Trinity is a fundamental Christian doctrine which speaks of God in three persons who are co-equal and co-eternal in existence. While defending Himself, Christ reveals to us the unity which exists in the Trinity: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise (v.19).
Divine work is Trinitarian in nature and the Godhead is in agreement in all they do. The Father works and Christ works. We see this from creation and in the work of Salvation. In Salvation, we see the active participation of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Salvation is Trinitarian: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). As we read further on in Ephesians, we see the Father predestined those who will be saved in the Son. The Son dies for those the Father predestined and then the work of the Son is applied to the heart of the elect into Salvation. Christ tells us He doesn’t work alone. What the Father, who is God does; the Son, who is equally God also does. Christ doesn’t work independently of the Father neither does the Father or the Holy Spirit. Because they are One, they always work in unison.
No claim offends religious people than the claim of Christ’s Deity. But for the Christian, any departure from the Deity of Christ is a departure from truth and from Biblical Christianity.
1: R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith ( Kindle Edition)
The bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ which we celebrate today as resurrection sunday is one of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. He died and rose again thus reconciling sinful humanity to the Father through the efficacy of the finished work on Calvary. He died in our place as a ransom for our sins. He appeased God’s wrath for the punishment of our sins. (See Isaiah 53:4-6). His death and resurrection paved the way for everyone who will believe in Him to have a relationship with the father and to have eternal life.
As has been said already, the resurrection is a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection of Christ, there will be no Christianity. Paul says “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1Corinthians 15:17). That is a very categorical statement. What Paul is saying is that, without the resurrection, we are still sinners living in sin and everything we have believed in the name of Christ is a hoax—if there was no resurrection.
Paul went further to say, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. These words speaks to us of the import of the resurrection in Christian doctrine. Randy Alcorn, in the book Heaven wrote that
“The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of redemption…. Indeed, without Christ’s resurrection and what it means–an everlasting future for fully restored human beings…there is no Christianity”.
I will say that, if there is no resurrection, we better pack bag and baggage and walk away from the Christian faith. But thank God He “raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by [death] ( Acts 2:24). This is a wonderful testimony. Death couldn’t hold him captive. “God, His Father, heard His cry; Raised from the dead, He reigns on high”–Isaac Watts
The events leading to the resurrection points to one intriguing fact. The disciples disbelieved Him when He spoke about His resurrection all the while He was with them. John tells us that it was when Christ was raised from the dead that they remembered and believed what He had told them about His resurrection (John 2:22).
When Jesus died, the world of the disciples was shattered. All hope was lost (Luke 24:21). On the first day after the burial, Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James and other women (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1, 10; John 20:1) went to the tomb to give Jesus’ dead body a befitting burial with spices prepared the previous day (Luke 23:56). The narrative clearly gives us an indication they were not expecting a resurrection either. When they got to the tomb and didn’t find Jesus, their first thought was not that He had resurrected. Rather, “they were perplexed” (v.4). It was there; the truth of Christ’s resurrection was revealed to them:
Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen (vv.5-6)
These are words of great hope. Christ is alive! Christ didn’t remain in the grave. He rose to give hope to those who will believe in Him for the forgiveness of their sins. Now, when the women told the disciples; they also didn’t believe: “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (v.11). All these ‘disbeliefs’ clearly indicates to us that the resurrection was not expected and couldn’t have been staged or fabricated by the followers of Jesus.
Why will they make up something they didn’t even believe or anticipated? Peter, we are told run to the tomb and and when he saw the tomb empty, he “went home marveling at what had happened.”(v.12).
Today, we have the testimony of Scripture telling us Christ is alive. We have no reason to doubt God’s word. Christ is alive!
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures … he was buried … he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1Corinthians 15:3-4)
Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It is also the book of beginnings because it tells us the origins of life and accurately explains the main problem of the world–Sin. From the first two chapters of Genesis, we are told of a Creator ―God― Who created the world and all that dwells in it (Genesis 1:1, 31, 2:26-27). After creation, God saw that everything He had created was good (Genesis 1:31).
But today, in contrast to Genesis 1:31, the world in its current state is not good. It is a world filled with pain, tragedy, wickedness, cruelty and every horror imaginable. How do we reconcile the current state of the world with God’s proclamation that “everything that he had made…was very good”. The answer is that sin entered the world. So;
What Is Sin?
Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God [a].Lev 5:17; Jas 4:17; 1 John 3:4
~Westminster Shorter Catechism Q14
In these words we see what sin is. Sin is breaking God’s law by omission or commission. In modern English, the words, “want of conformity” will read as “inability to conform to the law of God” or “failure to measure up to or obey God’s command”. In Greek, the word hamartia is used in explaining what sin is. Sin is “missing the mark” just like when an archer or bowman misses their target. And rightly so, we are all sinners because we have missed the mark of God’s righteous standard (Romans 3:23).
How did sin enter the perfect world God created one may ask? Again, we turn to the book of origins. In Genesis 2:16-17, we read of a commandment God gave Adam, the first created man, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”.
Fast forward to Genesis 3, Adam disobeyed God; he ate of the forbidden tree and by that act of disobedience, sin entered the world. Adam in the garden of Eden was acting as a federal head for all of humankind therefore his fall became the fall of all who will ever walk this earth: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”(Romans 5:12).
Except Jesus who lived a perfect life without sin, all humankind inherited the consequences and effects of Adam’s fall; physical and spiritual death. Our nature was badly corrupted and we were alienated from God. The Psalmist said “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).
What he means here is that he was born with a sin problem. He inherited sin. We are by ourselves unable to please God: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:11-12). These words describe the helpless state of humankind without Christ. They are enemies of God, separated from Him and guilty of eternal damnation.
However God didn’t leave sinners to our fate to try to work our way to Him. God made the first move towards reconciling sinful humankind to Himself. If you read Genesis 3 again, we see that though Adam and Eve sinned, God’s mercy was manifested.
Firstly, God proclaimed what theologians refer to as protoevangelium–the first gospel. God announced His plans towards reconciliation. A curse was pronounced and a remedy for that curse was also revealed: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
The seed of the woman referred to here is Christ who the Bible speaks of by saying “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil”(1John 3:8). The works of the devil is sin that separated us from God. And it is this, Jesus died to destroy. He took the punishment that belonged to sinners. He died in our place to appease for our sins and reconcile us to the Father. Our sin was imputed to Him. He became our substitutionary atonement (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 1:29).
Secondly, God covered the nakedness (guilt and shame) of Adam and Eve revealing a type of Christ’s imputed righteousness to those who will come to Faith through Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:21). Paul aptly captures this saying, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Corinthians 5:21).
Christ was murdered on the cross because of the sins of you and I. And He resurrected to give eternal life to all who will come to Him in Faith. This is the essence of what we celebrate as Easter. Christ dying for the sins of the world (John1:29). If you have not come to saving faith through Christ, you are condemned to eternal damnation and an enemy of God. One day, you will have to answer for your sins before a Holy God and nothing you will present will measure up to God’s Holy standard. Your good works outside of Christ are like filthy rags. Repent from your sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness.
In John 5:1-9 , we are introduced to a miracle Jesus performed on a man, who the Scripture tells us has “been an invalid for thirty-eight years”. He has been waiting for a miracle that long. There was, then, a popular belief among the Jews, of an event where an angel stirs up a pool and anyone who steps in first receives a miracle. This however is discounted not to be a part of Scripture but a myth people believed:
The material about an angel of the Lord stirring the water and bringing healing appears in some early manuscripts, but not the earliest. Thus v. 4 should not be considered part of Scripture. Still, v. 7 (which is in all manuscripts) shows that people believed something like what v. 4 reports.¹
This invalid, we are told, has been waiting to enter the pool when it is stirred. But there is a challenge. Because of his paralysis, others always step ahead of him. Remember according to the myth, it is the first sick person who steps into the pool that gets healed when the pool is stirred. This miracle, as we will see shortly points us to some truths about how God works in the salvation of sinners.
Firstly, we see the helplessness of sinners to save themselves. The Bible teaches that all human beings are sinners. Naturally, we are dead in sin and separated from God. Because of our spiritual death, we are bereft of the ability to draw close to God by ourselves. We are dead in sin and dead people cannot give themselves life. They can only remain dead (Psalm 51:5, Ephesians 2:1, Romans 3:10-19, John 6:44). The picture we see clearly points us to the truth of humankind’s inability to save themselves.
Note that the man’s sickness was a result of sin: “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”(v.14). This is true in a general sense: All sicknesses have their root from sin. Sin brought the punishment of death on the human race ( Genesis 3:16-19, Romans 8:18-23 ). It is also true in a particular sense in that some sicknesses are directly related to particular sins and are God’s way of discipline and chastisement of his children (1Corinthians 11:27-32). Not all sicknesses are a result of particular sins (John 9:1-3).
As the story unfolds, the man’s inability emerges clearly. While Jesus extends a hand of healing, the invalid man utters a statement pointing to His inability: “Sir , I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” (v.7). That invalid is like us. Without Christ, we can do nothing. Without Christ, we are dead in sin deprived of eternal life.
Secondly, we come face to face with the reality of God’s sovereignty in salvation. We are told when Jesus saw the invalid man, He knew the man has been at the pool for a protracted length of time (v.6). This speaks of a divine attribute. Christ is Omniscient. He knows all things. He knew the invalid has been there for long. Of great interest also is the “…multitude of invalids— blind, lame, and paralyzed [ lying by the pool] (v.3). In spite of this, Jesus attended particularly to this one man. He didn’t heal everyone though He could have. God saves sinners according to His divine prerogative ( John 1:12-13, Romans 9:11-16).
Finally, the narrative teaches us that God brings sinners to faith through His word. In John 6:63, Jesus said “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life”. There is life in Christ’s words. The narrative records that, Jesus commanded the invalid “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” (v.8). There is power in Christ’s word. It has life. The effect of Jesus’ command—His word— is worth noting:
…at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked (v.9).
The invalid by Christ’s word was healed. But more than a need for physical healing; what we need most is spiritual healing—forgiveness of our sin and reconciliation to God. Like the man in this story, Christ asks you: “Do you want to be healed?”(v. 6).
1: The ESV Global Study Bible (Crossways, 2012) study note on John 5:3 [kindle edition]
There are many so called gospels out there. But many of these miss what the gospel actually is. The Gospel is not God will heal you. The Gospel is not about wealth or your well-being. The Gospel is about our salvation. It is a good news that cancels a bad news of our separation and rebellion towards God in our sins.
Here is a short tract that tells us succinctly what the gospel is. You can download a PDF copy here :Gospel Tract (PDF)
If you need a hard copy for your personal use or outreach, kindly contact email@example.com