Approximately two thousand years ago Jesus said of himself, "I am the Truth." (John 14:6) His most beloved disciple wrote of the Nazarene, "Truth came by means of Jesus." His greatest evangelizing missionary preached, "Truth is in Jesus." (John 14:16; John 1:17; Ephesians 4:21) One of the reasons for these statements was because Jesus was the greatest spiritual teacher who ever lived. Not only did he teach the truth, he also lived the truth.
The great Indian social revolutionary Mohandas K. Gandhi once said: "When (nations) shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems not only of our countries but those of the whole world." Thus, it is recognized by some that much of the world's troubles would be healed by the application of what Jesus taught.
However, regardless that one third of humanity approaching the year 2,000 claim some form of belief in Jesus the Nazarene, very few have actually read what this most famous of teacher taught. What would we learn if we read all of his words and sayings in what are called the Four Gospels? What are the basic, essential, or fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ?
The Christian missionary of the first century, Paul of Tarsus, spoke of "the principles of the doctrine Jesus Christ." (Hebrews 6:1 KJV) Seven of these Nazarene principles may be found in what has come to be known as the Lord's Prayer, or the Pater Nostra. Some also call it the Model Prayer for by it Jesus taught his disciples how to pray and what to pray for.
Using this prayer as a format or outline one can remember these fundamental teachings. For our own enlightenment let us consider these seven Nazarene principles as they occur in this mountain prayer found in the Gospel of Matthew 6:9-13. [For a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount see the online publication Nazarene Mountain Teachings or the Gospel of Matthew at: <http://www.nazarene-friends.org/>.
The First Nazarene Principle is found in the opening address to Jesus' prayer, "Our Father in the heavens ... " (Matthew 6:9) By these simple words Jesus introduced to his followers the possibility of becoming a child of God. Though many people think all persons are born as children of God, Jesus did not teach that. Jesus taught about two fatherhoods and he condemned the religious hierarchy of his day when he told them, "You men originated with your father the Devil!" (John 8:44)
Jesus and his inspired disciples taught that there were certain steps one had to take before being consider a child of God. For example, John 1:12, 13 reads: "Everyone who accepted him Jesus gave to them the authority to become children of God -- to all those believing in his name." Also, Paul wrote: "Everyone who allows the spirit of God to lead them, these are sons of God. You received a spirit of adoption as sons in which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!' We have the spiritual evidence within ourselves that we are children of God." (Romans 8:14-16)
This grand family of God is not limited in number but is open to all persons. Jesus most beloved apostle wrote: "Everyone who believes Jesus is the Christ has been God-born." (1 John 5:1) You are encouraged to read this letter called First John for it enumerates half a dozen characteristics which would identify such a child of God. (1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4) Premier among these attributes that one is a child of God are deep conviction and neighborly love. (1 John 3:23)
Jesus also taught that total immersion in water baptism was one way to "fulfill all that is righteous." (Matthew 3:15) He gave command to his apostles to go teaching and baptizing (Mathew 28:19) and this they did. (Acts 2:37-38, 41; 8:14-16, 35-38; 9:17-19; 10:44-48; 16:27-33; 19:1-5) Baptism was to be preceded by repentance, confession, and a conversion from a past lifestyle that displeased God. (Acts 2:38; Romans 12:2)
The Second Nazarene Principle is the sanctifying of the Name of God. Jesus believed that he " ... came from God and was returning to God." (John 13:3) When some of the religious hierarchy accused him of claiming to be God or equal to God, the Nazarene's answer was simply, "The Son of God can do nothing of himself," and, "I only call myself the 'Son of God'." (John 5:19, 30; John 10:36) No where did Jesus ever claim to be God himself. Rather, he taught the obvious, 'The Father is greater than I." (John 14:28) [For details on the Trinity see the online publication: De Trinitatis Erroribus ]
Jesus the Nazarene taught that his Father had a name. He does that right in his prayer when he says, "Father ... let your Name be sanctified." (Matthew 6:9) On a later occasion Jesus received an audible answer to his prayer: "'Father, glorify your name.' Therefore a voice came from the sky, 'I have glorified (my Name) and I shall glorify it again.' " (John 12:28) In his prayer just before his death, Jesus prayed: "I manifested your name to the men whom you gave me." (John 17:6)
Jesus the Nazarene knew from his own experience and knowledge of the Hebrew Bible that his Father's name was represented by the Hebrew letters YHWH. Those four letters of the Tetragram are understood by some as meaning Yehowah (Jehovah) or Yahweh in English.
What His name means was explained by God to Moses when that Egyptian shepherd was before the burning bush:
"And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations." (Exodus 3:13-16 ASV)
According to the Hebrew Bible this name YHWH occurs nearly 7,000 times in the Old Testament. Some Bibles versions, such as the American Standard Version and the New Jerusalem Bible, use either Jehovah or Yahweh in most all of its proper occurrences from Genesis 2:4 (Yehwah) to Malachi 4:5 (Yehowah). Throughout the Hebrew Bible the need to "sanctify" (or, hallow) God's Name is stressed over and over -- 60 times in the prophet Ezekiel alone. The Old Testament also describes those who would try to make "His people forget His Name." (Jeremiah 23:27) The name Jesus in Hebrew itself means "Yehowah Saves."
How can the divine name be "sanctified"? One way is by keeping faith in God, just as a child may honor a parent's name or reputation. Note how Moses failed to do this on one occasion: "And Jehovah said unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed not in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel." (Numbers 20:12 ASV) A lack of faith led to a failure to sanctify God. This single error by Moses became a national problem in Israel so that over a thousand years of reproach was brought on God's name. God Himself said by his prophet: "...my name continually all the day is blasphemed. Therefore my people shall know my name..." (Isaiah 52:5 ASV) Since God's people knew the Name to be YHWH in what manner was God going to 'make them know His name'?
There is no evidence in any of the 10,000 ancient manuscripts and parchments of the Christian Bible where Jesus ever used God's name YHWH. In Jesus' day the Jews did not mention the divine Name. There is no place in the Gospels where Jesus ever used YHWH in conversational speech or in his prayers. So, in what way did Jesus mean God's Name was to be "sanctified"?
The word "name" according to some scholars may mean more than just the literal name of a person. It may also mean the reputation or character of a person. Thus, when Jesus prayed before his apostles, "I have made your name known to them," he was speaking of men who already knew that God's name was YHWH. (John 17:6) So, some feel that what Jesus meant was that he had revealed and manifest God's character as the Father as well as declaring His purpose. When God's purposes are fulfilled then His Name will be sanctified completely. How this is to be done involves the next two Nazarene principles in the Lord's Prayer.
The Third Nazarene Principle is stated in the words of Jesus, "Let Your Kingdom come." What is this "kingdom" and when would it "come"? Jesus knew the answer because he was a student of the prophet Daniel.
Daniel foretold that God's Kingdom was a real government by Messiah and would come when the Son of God was enthroned in heaven. This was to occur during the history of the world power, Rome. Note the following in Daniel chapters two and seven.
"Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom [ROME], strong as iron--for iron breaks and smashes everything--and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. ... In the time of those kings [BABYLON, PERSIA, GREECE, ROME], the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. ... In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." (Daniel 2:40, 44; 7:13, 14 NIV)
A reading of the context in Daniel chapter 2 and 7 will show that during the history of the Roman Empire "someone like a son of man (a human being)" would ascend to heaven accompanied by angels and thereupon receive his kingship as the seat of his heavenly government. The extent of the Christ's power is described by Paul in words similar to those above in Daniel 7:14,
"That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church." (Ephesians 1:19-22 NIV; see 1 Corinthians 15:24)
When did this kingdom "come" in the sense of Jesus "sitting down at the right hand of God"? This phrase "sitting down at the right hand of God" is taken from Psalm 110:1. Paul writes that Jesus was first to be enthroned and then wait for all his enemies to be conquered. (1 Corinthians 15:24; Hebrews 10:12, 13; compare also Psalm 2:6, 7 with Acts 13:33) In this manner the Kingdom did "come" in the year 33 AD when Jesus returned to heaven. (Acts 1:9-11)
However, Jesus himself taught that he would return in glorious victory to gather his entire Church who would then share in his kingdom government. (John 14:1-3; Matthew 24:29-31; 1 Corinthians 6:2; Daniel 7:27) Such a reunion with Jesus and his disciples would mean the kingdom "comes" in a larger sense. Then the kingdom of the whole world would become subjects of God and His King. Note the words of the prophecy in Revelation:
"Breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here.' And they went up to heaven in a cloud [1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17], while their enemies looked on. ... The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever. ... You have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great-- and for destroying those who destroy the earth." (Revelation 11:12, 15-18 NIV)
In order for his whole Church to join him in his heavenly rule all the members of his Church must be resurrected to "inherit the kingdom." Note how Paul describes this "change" --
"But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. ... I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the [Christian] dead will be raised imperishable, and we [Christians] will be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:23, 50-52 NIV)
Those Christians living on the earth at this historical moment will experience a simultaneous "change" by being caught away or raptured directly from earth to heaven. Paul explains this mystery:
"According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 NIV)
In this manner the Nazarene's words in John 14:1-3 will be fulfilled and the kingdom will have "come" in the fullest sense of its governmental rule. (Isaiah 9:6, 7) Read the words of Jesus:
"In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. ... If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (John 14:1-3, 23 NIV)
The Fourth Nazarene Principle involves the fulfillment of the Father's will for the earth. (Matthew 6:10; Isaiah 45:18; Isaiah 55:11) God's original and unchanging purpose was for perfect humanity to enjoy life in a global Eden, living at peace with the environment, with one another, and with their God. Nothing in the great cosmos would be impossible for them as a single united family. (Genesis 1:28)
Rebellion in heaven and earth brought upon humankind wickedness and death. (Genesis 3:1-19; John 8:44; Romans 5:12-14) God foresaw this possibility and immediately His purpose went to work "to gather all things together again -- the celestial and terrestrial." (Ephesians 1:4, 5, 9-11; Colossians 1:20) However, God's "eternal purpose" did its work to provide a means to restore what was lost. (Ephesians 3:9; Acts 3:20, 21)
This involved a demonstration of the Father's love and His own Son's obedient example of submission to His will. This resulted in a life and death example of humble service to God resulting in a complete liberation for humankind. (Philippians 2:5-11; Romans 8:18-25) This involved "a ransom for all." (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:4-6)
There is one more feature or phrase to this "coming of the Kingdom." Once the Church is gathered to heaven, the King will cleanse this earth of all those unwilling to submit to his reign. Some call this Armageddon, or the Day of Wrath. (Revelation 6:17; 16:14, 16) Whatever name one wishes to use the result will be the end of greedy commercialism, political tyranny, and controlling religions. (See Revelation chapters 18, 19) However, perhaps the most important feature of that New Age to come is the absence of the Devil. (Revelation 20:3; Revelation 12:9)
This kind of new world under Messiah's just and benevolent reign will encourage the vast majority of mankind to turn this earth into an environment conducive to living a long and full life with the prospect of eternity. (Revelation 20:4, 6; Isaiah 11:1-9; Isaiah 26:9; Isaiah 65:17-25) For one thousand years Jesus Christ and his Church will rule the earth as an example of why God's sovereignty is the most blessed form of government. (Proverbs 29:2; Ephesians 2:5-7; 3:9, 10) Following the millennial reign of Christ, Satan will be destroyed, mankind will be raised on Judgment Day, and the "last enemy, death, will be destroyed." (1 Corinthians 15:24-26; Revelation 20:5, 10-14; Matthew 12:36, 37; Acts 17:31; Romans 2:6, 16) God's original purpose for an Edenic global paradise, peopled with His perfect human family, will come to complete realization. (Psalm 37:10, 11, 29) [For a full commentary on the Book of Revelation see the online publication Nazarene Apocalypse: [<http://www.nazarene-friends.org/pubs/apocalypse/>]
While we wait for the blessed fulfillment of the Creator's grand purpose -- what should we do? What is expected of us? The next three Nazarene principles give us some kind of idea.
The Fifth Nazarene Principle is found in the revolutionary but simple words: "Give us today our daily bread." (Matthew 6:11) Locked in this lovely phrase is a life-style encouraged by Jesus Christ the Nazarene. A life completely lacking materialism and asking only for today's bread -- not tomorrow -- not ten years from now. Today. (Matthew 6:33, 34)
If one reads the entire body of the Nazarene's teachings and note such words as: riches, possessions, things, the poor, money -- it becomes very clear that Jesus encouraged a life that emphasized spirituality and put material concerns (along with their attendant worries and anxieties) in the background.
Jesus not only preached the simple, non-materialistic life, but he lived it. (Matthew 8:20) He also taught his personal disciples to divest themselves of their possessions and devote themselves to what turned about to be the greatest revolution in human history: Christianity. (Luke 12:32, 33; Matthew 28:19) Charity, giving, and hospitality -- not to just friends, but also to enemies -- are at the pinnacle of his teachings. Indeed, he goes so far as to teach that everlasting life in the kingdom of heaven depends on that love and kindness shown to those in need; while those who refrain, or ignore the needy, are doomed to everlasting extinction. (Matthew 5:31-46) Yes, Jesus taught, "Practice giving." (Luke 6:38)
The fact that his disciples understood what the Nazarene preached, is demonstrated in what thousands of them did in the early years of Christianity. (Acts 2:44, 45; Acts 4:32, 34, 36, 37) Later Jesus' greatest missionary Paul was to write that he was "homeless." (1 Corinthians 4:11) Paul also encouraged Timothy to give orders to the rich to "be liberal and ready to share" (1 Timothy 6:17-19), and exhorted Christians to seek the ideal of an economic "equality" within the Nazarene community. (2 Corinthians 8:14, 15)
However, living a simple spiritual life sharing with others was not enough. Something just as important was also required from the disciple of Jesus.
The Sixth Nazarene Principle states, "Forgive us our trespasses just as we have forgiven those who trespass against us." (Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4) The very first commentary on this thought is given by Jesus himself in the verse following the Lord's Prayer: "For if you forgive men their sins against you, your heavenly Father will forgive yours. However, if you refuse to forgive the trespasses of others, your Father will not forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14-15)
It is true that to accept or receive Jesus Christ one must repent of ones sins, confess them to God, convert to a life of faith, and be baptized in the name of Jesus. However, more is required in this context of forgiveness.
This stress on forgiveness is at the very root of love, for love requires a forgiving disposition. "Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity." (Colossians 3:10, 11 TEV)
When Peter asked about this matter of forgiveness and how many times one had to be forgiving, the Nazarene told him: "So watch what you do! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in one day, and each time he comes to you saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him." (Luke 17:3, 4 TEV) A Christian community filled with forgiveness will be characterized by peace and unity.
Finally, there is one more principle and it is the one which concludes the Lord's Prayer.
The Seventh Nazarene Principle is stated by Jesus: "Keep us clear of temptation and save us from evil." (Matthew 6:13 PME) Jesus knew something about this subject of temptation for he was tempted himself. (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13)
One of Jesus' inspired disciples, James, explains how temptation works: "If we are tempted by such trials, we must not say, 'This temptation comes from God.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. But we are tempted when we are drawn away and trapped by our own evil desires. Then our evil desires conceive and give birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:14, 15 TEV) Obviously one way to avoid temptation is to avoid those situations and circumstances where one may be tempted. (2 Timothy 2:22)
Jesus himself relied on two things in his own temptations: the Scriptures and prayer. (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 22:39-46) Though in our hearts and minds we may always want to do good and avoid bad, we may find this is a constant battle. In such cases it is comforting to read Romans 7:13-25. Never give up in the struggle against our own weaknesses and temptations.
The above seven Nazarene principles are just elementary and basic teachings. Paul encourages us to, "Press on to maturity." (Hebrews 6:1) We all start out as baby Christians but our goal should be to become mature in imitation of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 4:13) We should continue to grow in faith, love, and complete knowledge of Bible truth. (Colossians 1:6, 9,10)
Daily meditation on the teachings of Jesus the Nazarene will lead to becoming a Friend of the Nazarene. For Jesus himself taught, "My friends are those who observe my commandments." (John 15:14) These Nazarene friends are determined to "follow the Lamb no matter where he goes." (Revelation 14:4; 1 Peter 2:21)
This begins with a study of the Nazarene's teachings. Several Bible study aids have been prepared by the Friends of the Nazarene and are available free on the Internet. To know all of the commandments of Jesus read Nazarene Commandments. The book Nazarene Principles is designed as a Bible primer for personal study or group discussions. Nazarene Apocalypse is a commentary on Revelation. Nazarene Community is a manual for starting a home church and maintaining Christian unity. Where Are the Dead? is a complete study of what the Bible teaches on the after-life. The Error of the Trinity is a comprehensive consideration of the doctrine and its roots. Nazarene CommentaryŠ contains two hundred Biblical articles and a new rendering of most of the books of the Christian Bible.
For information on printed material you may write:
c/o Shawn Mark Miller
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The God of our Lord Jesus bless your path as you "follow the Lamb no matter where he goes." (Revelation 14:4)
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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