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Bible verses about Holiness
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Worldliness: "the love of beauty—that which one finds attractive, appealing, or desirable—without a corresponding love of righteousness." The product of worldliness is that, rather than "tend and keep" as he was commanded by God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15), man will "use and abuse." Undoubtedly, Eden was gorgeous, the best and most magnificent environment anyone on earth has ever lived in. What did Adam and Eve do? They used and abused it until God was forced to banish them from it, placing cherubim with flaming swords to guard against their return (Genesis 3:24).

The general record of mankind is that wherever he has put his hand, man has not beautified but used and abused the earth. God is more concerned about man's spiritual beautification than He is about the physical earth, but He warns very clearly in Revelation 11:18 that He will "destroy those who destroy the earth." Man does not have the right concept of beauty. He has the wrong standards and ideals because Babylon impressed itself upon him. He uses and abuses virtually everything, and the results show everywhere on earth. This approach to life manifests Babylon's way and illustrates why God commands His people to come out of it.

God is most concerned about how we act toward other people, how we work within our relationships with our mates, our neighbors, and above all, our God. Do we use and abuse our relationships with God and other people? Do we do everything in our power to dress and keep? Do we have a love of beauty along with a love of righteousness? Although righteousness is indeed the keeping of God's commandments, God requires more of us in our lives. Unless we love the beauty of holiness, we will never become holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:13-16). The love of beauty must be encased in a love of righteousness.

The way of the world is 180 degrees removed from the love of beauty and righteousness. In I John 2, the apostle addresses this way of the world within the subject of love. Though keeping the commandments defines love, it includes a great deal more than that. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . ." (John 3:16). Jesus did not avoid suffering because suffering is an act of love. He loved beauty and righteousness so much that He was willing to follow the commands of God right to the cross. Beauty sustained Him, the beauty of holiness, the beauty of helping multitudes of sons and daughters to inherit the Kingdom of God.

Babylon would not do that. Those impressed by the way of Babylon will love beauty as much as we do, but they will not mix it with a love of righteousness. They will not "tend and keep" fellow man and God. The ever-repeating result is warfare on the field of battle, in the family, in the workplace, in society.

The reason for the state of this evil world is the lack of the love of beauty and the love of righteousness. It is simply a lack of the love of God. The love of God is a choice that is open to all Christians. If one does not choose to love, the only alternative is selfishness—self-concern. A selfish person will abuse. That is the worldly system. Worldliness is nothing more than self-centeredness. An individual chooses to be self-centered or show outgoing love—to be worldly or godly.

Laodiceanism is the most subtle form of self-centeredness or worldliness. It is so subtle that it escapes the detection of those who should be most able to see it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Sanctification is a crucial biblical doctrine concerning the way we live our lives before God. As early as Abraham, God's charge is, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me, and be blameless" (Genesis 17:1). This clearly shows that God demands holiness to be essential to any relationship with Him. We who are in Christ are Abraham's seed (Galatians 3:29), and as his children, things required of him are also required of us.

The Greek word hagiamos, translated "sanctification," "holiness," and "consecration," indicates the process of being made, remaining, and progressing in holiness. Just as the Israelites could not free themselves from Egypt, save themselves from the death angel, and part the Red Sea to be ready to make the covenant with God, neither can any man make himself holy. Sanctification is the result of God making someone holy. Notice II Thessalonians 2:13: "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth." I Peter I:2 adds, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."

Though we cannot make ourselves holy, once God has made us holy, we become important players in whether we remain holy and progress in holiness. Once we are consecrated as holy by God, our pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God truly begins in earnest. We are at that critical point which Deuteronomy 30:15-20 describes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
After Pentecost, Then What?


 

The biblical examples of divine justice may anger or offend us. At the very least, they are sometimes confounding in the face of what we have learned about a merciful and patient God of love. Perhaps we have difficulty because we do not understand the linkage between four vital, biblical concepts: holiness, justice, sin, and grace.

We may not grasp the seriousness of holiness by failing to see the purity God requires; we may have an unbalanced perspective of justice; we may misunderstand the deadliness of sin; and we may see little need for grace for ourselves. The stories of Nadab and Abihu, Uzza, and Ananias and Sapphira are clearly not examples of divine mercy.

Before we can understand divine mercy, we must first understand the seriousness of sin and the necessity of divine justice. Divine justice is linked to righteousness: God's justice is according to righteousness. Evil justice in God does not exist because His every judgment is according to His righteousness, for there is absolutely no unrighteousness in Him. The justice of God is always an expression of His perfect, righteous, holy character.

Biblically, justice refers to "conformity to a rule or norm." If life and salvation were a game, we would say that God plays by the rules. He sets them and never deviates from them. The norm of justice is His own holy character. What God does is always consistent with who and what He is. His righteousness is absolutely pure; there is no shadow of turning in Him (James 1:17). He is utterly incapable of an unholy, unrighteous act. We call people "crooks" because they are crooked. God is absolutely "straight." Genesis 18:23-25 speaks of this very issue:

And Abraham came near and said, "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

Never did a man ask a more rhetorical question. Abraham had no idea how far such an act was from God. There was never even the most remote possibility that God would kill the innocent along with the guilty! For God to do that, He would have to cease being holy and righteous—He would have to stop being God! God is the Supreme Judge of all the earth. As man's sordid histories show, if He is unjust, there is no hope that justice will ever prevail.

We know human judges can be corrupt, take bribes, and be partial. God, though, is never corrupt, cannot be bribed, refuses to show partiality, never acts out of ignorance, has every fact necessary for judgment, and never makes mistakes. Nadab, Abihu, Uzza, Saul, and Ananias and Sapphira all got what they deserved. There is no injustice with God.

God's justice is never divorced from His righteousness. He never condemns the innocent; never clears the guilty; never punishes with undue severity; never fails to reward righteousness. His justice is perfect justice.

What Abraham fails to address in his question is sin. Mankind utterly fails to appreciate the seriousness of sin. God's Word clearly states that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and that sin is the transgression of God's law (I John 3:4, KJV). From the beginning in the Garden of Eden, God proclaims to mankind in the persons of Adam and Eve, ". . . in the day that you eat of it [sin], you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17).

He does not say they would die immediately, but die they did. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We have all earned this judgment by the way we live. Is God unjust because He warns Adam and Eve? No, the problem is that man in his pride thinks he deserves better.

However, God does not always act with justice—sometimes He acts with mercy. Mercy is not justice, but neither is it injustice, since injustice violates righteousness. Mercy manifests kindness and grace, doing no violence to righteousness. We may see non-justice in God, which is mercy, but we never see injustice in Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

Holiness is not merely consecration or dedication to a god, but it is both moral and ethical as well. True holiness is what results from His consecration, but the consecration must be combined with our submission to His commands. In pagan religions, a person could be dedicated but not moral, as is clearly shown by the ritual prostitution practiced at their temples. The prostitute was indeed consecrated to her god, but she most certainly was not moral—nor were they who used her services.

Today, a person may claim that his god is the Creator God, but if he is not obedient to the Creator God's commandments, he is merely deluding himself. Sincerity is only part of the picture. We are to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). The closer one is associated with God's work, the more necessary it is to ensure that the relationship with God is not marred by spiritual blemishes. Otherwise, the person cannot function properly as a channel for God to work through. God will not be glorified before the people unless His servants submit to His commands.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

If one is truly being sanctified, it will show itself in a habitual respect for God's law, most specifically the Ten Commandments. Many specious arguments have been devised to convince people that God's law need not be kept for salvation. These arguments are specifically aimed at denying the Christian responsibility of keeping the Sabbath, despite Jesus and the apostle Paul keeping the Sabbath as examples to all.

Was it not our sins that made it necessary for God to give us grace for forgiveness? Is not sin defined in I John 3:4 as transgressing God's law? Does it not defy logic that God would allow His sinless Son's life to be taken, grant us an unearned, unmerited pardon, and then permit us to go right back to sinning as a way of life? Perhaps one who has been taught thus should reread Hebrews 10:26-31.

Contained in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is an exposition of the very spirit of the Ten Commandments, showing that His followers have a more thorough and expansive responsibility to keep them than they ever had before conversion. He even admonishes us not to think that He has "come to destroy the Law or the Prophets" (Matthew 5:17). At just this point in His message, He launches into His expansion on the Ten Commandments.

Similarly, the apostle Paul never made light of God's laws. He writes, God forbid that we should break them and continue in sin (Romans 6:1-2). Do those calling themselves Christian really think that idolatry, lying, hypocrisy, thievery, murder, and adultery have God's approval? He does not approve of breaking His Sabbath either. We must labor not to break them so that we do not lose what our Lord and His Father have so generously and freely given us.

Habitually endeavoring to do Christ's will is a hallmark of one striving for holiness. He understands that Christ's teachings were given for the express purpose of promoting holiness because holiness is what pleases our Father in heaven. Is that not what our life is to be devoted to? In I Peter 1:16, the apostle quotes Leviticus 19:2, where our God commands, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy." It is foolhardy indeed for one to neglect to make practical use of Jesus' teachings, especially those given so plainly and clearly in the Sermon on the Mount.

Will not one committed to glorifying God follow Jesus' example when opportunities present themselves to do good, lessening the sorrow and pains of those around him while increasing happiness and well-being? Will he not exude peace, revealing a caring nature that always looks for ways to make others' lives a bit easier? A truly sanctified person will not exhibit a self-righteous, holier-than-thou, hard-as-nails attitude that cares nothing about whether others sink or swim. A sanctified person will perform good works.

Some works are more passive than those just mentioned, but we must develop and perform them nonetheless. Of the nine fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, three of them - longsuffering, gentleness and meekness (KJV) - are more or less passive qualities that express godly traits. We must work to become more patient and forbearing with the weaknesses of others. Peter recalls of Jesus, "[W]hen He was reviled, [He] did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (I Peter 2:23). In this same context, he commands us to "follow His steps" (verse 21).

In the Lord's prayer, we are reminded of our need to forgive those who trespass against us (Matthew 6:12). Immediately after this, Christ emphasizes how important this work is by telling us that, if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us (verses 14-15)!

Are we given to quick, cross tempers; sharp, sarcastic tongues; or disagreeable, easily offended attitudes? These are hardly godly attributes. It takes considerable work to overcome their presence in one's character.

We must never be ashamed of reaching for high standards of righteousness in our quest for holiness. Just because others do not seem to care is no excuse for us to lower our aim. For example, we cannot allow ourselves to be content with just keeping the Sabbath, somehow thinking that we have pleased God. Much of what passes for religion these days is perfectly useless when compared with the earnestness of God crying out in His Word for us to flee from the wrath to come (see Matthew 3:7; Romans 5:9; I Thessalonians 1:10). How do we flee from this wrath? By submitting to God. Can a person in danger flee in slow-motion or by standing still?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Six)


 

Genesis 1:26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At the very beginning of the Book, God tells us what He is doing. His project, His work, began with the formation of man as a physical being in the bodily form of God, and it will not end until mankind is in the nature and character image of God.

To accomplish this, God gave men free moral agency to enable us to choose to follow His way and assist in the development of His image in us, since we cannot be in His image unless we voluntarily choose to do so. Then the character is truly ours, as well as being truly His, because it is inscribed in us as a result of what we have believed and experienced.

God is not merely eternal. He is supreme in every quality of goodness, and in Him absolutely no evil dwells. In the Bible, this goodness is called holiness, which is transcendent purity. It permeates every aspect, every attribute, of God-life. God's character is holy, and it flows out from Him in acts of love, making it impossible for Him to do anything evil. This is the state towards which He is drawing us.

Law must be seen in this context. If we tear law from the context of God's purpose, then we can come up with anything we want to say about law. We can say, "Oh, it is all done away," or "We do not need to do this." However, we cannot tear it away from the purpose of God, and there is a reason for this.

Does God abide by law? The creation screams at us that He does! Everything He creates operates by law, and it does so because it came from His wonderfully orderly and organized mind. It is a reflection of what His mind is like because this is the way He is. He is a law-abiding God.

However, we cannot see Him - not literally, with our eyes. It is here that faith enters the picture: We can see evidence of Him, and we can believe what He says. His law outlines the way that He lives. It is the way of this holy, law-abiding God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 20)


 

Exodus 20:8-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The fourth commandment links the Sabbath to creation.

God did not rest as a result of tiredness because He does not get weary (Isaiah 40:28). In this, man is unlike God. We need to rest this physical body on the Sabbath. This ties the rhythm of our bodies to the rhythm in which God made the world. God rested from the achievement of the physical creation, but that does not indicate His rest means inactivity because God nurtures what He creates. This is why Jesus said that His Father is working. The Sabbath is especially a time of spiritual activity that the Father spends preparing His children for His Kingdom.

The Bible says He blessed the Sabbath day. To bless is to favor. According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word means "to endue with power for success, prosperity, fecundity, longevity, etc." Does God point out the fact that the proper observance of the Sabbath will go a long way toward promoting success in those who keep it? Yes, because He also sanctified it, consecrated it, hallowed it. He made it HOLY TIME!

It takes a holy God to make holy time, and this holy God made no time holy other than His Sabbaths. God can make man holy, but man cannot make anything holy. All of this is seen within the context of the seventh day, a specific day following the first six days of creation. Using any day other than the seventh day, the Sabbath, for the normal weekly worship of God is man-directed, and is neither blessed nor holy.

That the Sabbath is holy means it is worthy of respect, deference, even devotion not given other periods of time. It is set apart for sacred use because it is derived from God's own acts of creation and commands. The overall idea of the word holy is "different." Its root word means "cut," indicating "cut out," "separate," or in more modern terms, "a cut above." When it applies to God or those persons or objects He declares holy, a thing that is holy is different from the common. It is thus separate from others, cut out from the ordinary, or a cut above, indicating transcendence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Exodus 31:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Hebrew word translated sign means "mark" or "evidence." The Sabbath day is the mark God gave His people to identify them as His own. By it, the folk of Israel would know the Source of their sanctification.

To sanctify is "to set apart for holy service," or more basically, "to make holy." God's purpose for Israel from the start was to set it apart from other peoples by giving it His laws and His statutes. God has a special relationship with Israel. Speaking through the prophet Amos to "the whole family [i.e., all the tribes] which I brought up from the land of Egypt" (Amos 3:1), God reminds the people that, "you only have I known of all the families of the earth" (verse 2). God revealed His law only to Israel. When He did so, He made it clear that Israel would "be a special treasure to Me above all people, . . . a holy [sanctified, set apart] nation" (Exodus 19:5-6), if the people "obey My voice and keep My covenant" (verse 5). The theme is repeated in Deuteronomy 7:6: "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, . . . [who] has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth." (See also Deuteronomy 14:2.)

God prefaces the "Holiness Code" of Leviticus 18 and 19 by commanding Israel to be separate from other nations. This meant acting in a way different from that of the Gentiles, not walking "in their ordinances." Leviticus 18:3-4:

According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances. . . .

In Leviticus 19:2, He makes His purpose clear: "You shall be holy [set apart], for I the LORD your God am holy." God's purpose, the intent behind all His laws, is to create a people like Himself (Genesis 1:26), a people sharing and reflecting His most salient attribute: holiness.

Sanctification is also the purpose behind God's often-denigrated physical laws. Consider, for example, the reason why God imposed the dietary law, as stated in Leviticus 11. God does not cite the maintenance of health as a reason to obey the dietary laws; the Scriptures do not specify that obedience of these laws will cause good health or prevent disease (though this is a secondary, albeit unmentioned, benefit). Rather, God concludes His dietary laws with a statement of His holiness and a command for His people to be like Him. Leviticus 11:44-45:

For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

Obedience to God's law plays a crucial role in bringing about this sanctification. It is not that a people become sanctified (somehow, by God's grace) and, as a result, start obeying God's law. God's Word does not support the Protestant concept that sanctification imputed by God's grace mysteriously empowers one to obey His commandments. They have it backwards.

Rather, obedience to the law causes sanctification. Law-keeping and sanctification become intrinsically connected: To obey God's law is to be sanctified. By its nature, law-keeping brings about sanctification.

In a national context, God states that obeying His laws creates a people unlike others on the earth, a people set apart from others, a holy nation. National sanctification produces what Balaam saw in Israel: "A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations" (Numbers 23:9).

If commandment-keeping separates people from the nations while connecting them to God, disobedience of God's law has exactly the opposite effect. Commandment-breaking separates a people from God, and connects them to the ways of the nations. Individuals who disobey God's law become like the "world," the kosmos of the New Testament (I John 2:15).

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Twelve): The Sign


 

Exodus 34:5-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God obliged to Moses' request, but how did He do it? How did He show Moses His glory? He preached him a sermon on His name! Or we could say that He expounded before Moses on the third commandment. What we have here is probably just the barest summary of what God said—the notes, as it were, of what He talked about more fully. He likely preached him a sermon on eleven names of God: Yahweh, El, the Merciful One, the Gracious One, the Longsuffering One, the Almighty, the Bountiful One, the True One, the Preserver of Abundance, He Who Takes Away Iniquity, and He Who Visits Iniquity.

What He did before Moses was rehearse His nature. It was so encouraging to Moses, because he knew then that the children of Israel would not be abandoned—that God would be with him—because of what He is. He would not remain with them because Israel deserved His presence in any way, shape, or form, as every single one of them deserved to be dead! But because God is God, He would continue through with His purpose, and these names exemplified what He would be doing.

So God did not give Moses a vision of His majesty and power, but of His character. The glory of God is the manifestation of His nature, of His character, of His way of relating to His creation—especially to His children. His names are signposts of His nature. They are reminders to us of what we can expect Him to do. That is why Moses was so encouraged.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Holiness (Part 1)


 

Leviticus 11:44-47  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Both sanctification and holiness imply being "different" or "set apart" for a special purpose. God instituted His law of clean and unclean to show the difference between His people and the nations around them. Paul calls the church "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). I Peter 1:13-16 shows very clearly that Christians, spiritual Israelites, now have a responsibility to be holy as God is.

Staff
Clean and Unclean Meats


 

Leviticus 19:2-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These introductory verses provide the starting point for more specific commands. It is as though God is saying, "This is the foundation of good family and community relationships. Aim to be holy, to be different from other nations, to be clean in My eyes through your conduct of obeying My laws. This will separate you."

Note an interesting feature. God draws attention to the fifth, the fourth, and to the first and second commandments as His keys to accomplishing the activation and growth of holiness, first in a family setting and then its spread into the community. This indicates that in God's eyes—in terms of holiness and good family and community relationships—keeping these commands are the major guides and regulators, actually necessities, toward producing family and community success. They provide a foundation for regulating social relationships within both family and community.

Of special interest is the order God sets them in. Both honoring parents—and most specifically the mother, as she is mentioned first—and Sabbath-keeping are mentioned before idolatry. In terms of good family relationships, this is the order the child is introduced to them. In an infant or young child's life, mother is primary. Do not forget, God gives all of this instruction with one common goal in mind: to produce holiness and good family relationships.

Why does God say, "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy"? It is His way of pointing out to us, His converted children, that He Himself is the Model, the Standard, we are to follow in our child-training practices. As His children, He is the One we are to imitate.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment


 

Leviticus 22:1-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

I Peter 1:16 says, ". . . because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy,'" which is precisely the lesson contained within Leviticus 22:1-7. Our holy God is clearly saying, "Those who serve Me must also be holy." Holy essentially means "set apart," but it also carries with it the sense of "different," which helps explain why a person or thing is set apart. Certain factors or characteristics distinguish the set-apart one or thing, making it different from persons or things of the same kind.

Holy also has the sense of cleanliness or of being undefiled. God can just as easily be saying to the priests and their children, "I am a clean God, and I want those who serve Me to be clean." In this case, His transcendent purity of intent and character sets Him apart from others or things that people may consider to be god. He is therefore completely undefiled.

The Leviticus passage mentions leprosy, a corpse, and semen. We must not forget that, when this was written, God was addressing a carnal people. Thus, the instruction is couched in physical terms, but we must look for spiritual meaning within the physical instruction.

The Tabernacle, altar, priesthood, furniture, vessels, and all of the rites have spiritual significance, and Paul writes that they are "shadow[s] of good things to come" (Hebrews 10:1). Leprosy is a horrible, dreadful disease, thus it is a type of a spiritual disease. It is externally visible in its disfigurement of its victim's body. At times, there can be running sores. It probably does not parallel any one spiritual disease, but rather it symbolizes any number of sins that disfigure a person's character and/or attitude.

Both a corpse and semen possibly represent carriers of disease. Something causes a person to die, and all too frequently, it is an invisible, internal disease, of which infections and cancers are examples. The widespread AIDS virus is a good example. It can be carried within a man's semen into a woman's body. The carrier may look healthy externally, but a deadly disease is present. Only the carrier may know of its existence within him. A corpse and semen represent sins that are not easily perceived. Withdrawal from participation in the fellowship requires the sinner to exercise discipline, as he may be the only one aware of his problem. Creeping things are also defilements from sins that are less obvious. Perhaps in this case, it might be problems with one's attitudes like resentment, bitterness, envy, jealousy, and lusting.

Regardless of what rendered a person unclean, he was not allowed to participate until he cleaned himself by washing in water, a type of the Holy Spirit. Even then, he was still considered unclean until evening of that same day. This process was a form of excommunication. The unclean person was symbolically excluded from communion with God and held unfit to eat of the holy food of the altar, symbolizing the Word of God, until he had cleaned up his act. Verse 7 distinctly says he was free to eat of the holy things only after the sun went down. Even given this permission, he was still eating in the dark! Though accepted back into fellowship, he was still somewhat removed from full exposure to the light of God's throne until the next day, when complete communication with God was restored.

Taking steps to rid ourselves of uncleanness has awesome ramifications when we grasp how burdened we are with the potential for sin. The apostle Paul labels himself as a wretched man who greatly needed deliverance (Romans 7:24-25). Despite what we can do on our own—and God requires us to strive to do so—complete deliverance can only come through the work of Jesus Christ. It is essential that we know this, yet it is perhaps beyond our full understanding and appreciation that God is so merciful and full of grace to provide the sin offering that precedes us! If it were not for these elements—because we are so full of spiritual creeping things and spiritual leprosy—we would never be permitted to eat from the Lord's table.

I and II Corinthians offers us great comfort by showing that, though one may be cut off from the body, he can return once he has cleaned himself through repentance. It shows that even though he is denied close communion with God because of some spiritual uncleanness, he still remains tied to God through the New Testament priesthood. Disfellowshipping is intended to be a temporary, corrective tool.

I Corinthians 5:4-5 says, "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." The purpose of excommunication is to save the person from his uncleanness that is destroying his communion with God and others in the fellowship. Therefore, if he can still be saved, that person is not completely cut off from God.

II Corinthians 6:14-17 adds more information to this subject. Paul asks four questions that provide comparisons that clearly urge us to avoid or depart from what is unclean so that we can be at peace and in communion with God. Fellowship with God and being allowed to eat spiritual food from His table are clearly conditioned upon our not falling into uncleanness but instead striving to maintain the purity provided by Christ's sacrifice.

Our part in striving to maintain the purity is to follow Christ's example of thorough dedication in fulfilling the requirements of the burnt and meal offerings. Doing so in no way earns us the fellowshipping privileges expressed in the peace offering, but it does show God our understanding of faith, love, sacrifice, thanksgiving, and the links between total devotion to Him, Jesus Christ, our fellow man, and His wonderful purpose. God has invested a great deal to provide this for us. The least we can do is give back to Him full devotion in our life as a living sacrifice.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Five): The Peace Offering, Sacrifice, and Love


 

Psalm 8:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Soncino commentary says: "You who rehearse Your majesty in the heavens."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Holiness (Part 1)


 

Psalm 18:2-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

David knew God's attributes as expressed by His names, and thus, he conducted his life accordingly. He called upon the name of God. By faith, he trusted God to intervene in the affairs of men. He knew what God would do—that is, what He could be trusted to do—by the way that God expressed Himself through His name.

Put this into a simple illustration. You do things like this virtually every day with other human beings. If your car breaks down, do you take it to the dentist? No, you take it to the person who has the name (reputation) of "auto mechanic." You call upon that person when your automobile is in need of repair. When your teeth need fixed, you do not go to a bank teller but to the person who has the name, title, and reputation of being able to take care of your teeth.

It is this same principle that is at work with God. By His names, He illustrates what He is skilled at doing—and not only skilled at doing, but what He will do. Sometimes the name will even describe the perameters of His blessing or the conditions that are imposed on receiving the fulfillment of it.

So that is what David is doing here in his prayers. He is calling upon God as God had revealed Himself by His names. He was confident—just as you are confident in taking your automobile to the person who has the reputation of having the skill to be able to fix it. You would call upon that mechanic. We need to do what David did with God. That is why we need to know the names of God. God is skilled and willing to help. It is through His names that He reveals what He is willing to do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Holiness (Part 1)


 

Psalm 133:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The theme of descending continues from the previous verse. The dew descends from Mount Hermon upon the mountains of Zion. Hermon, in the Ante-Lebanon range, is the highest point in the north of Palestine. Zion, in Judea, is far to the south. As in verse 2, in which the oil runs from the top of Aaron's head all the way down to the hem of his skirt, this is another "top to bottom" image. If we imagine Palestine aso a body, Hermon is at the "head," and the dew flows all the way down to Zion near the "feet," covering the whole land.

The word Hermon means "devoted" or "sanctified"—holy. It was another holy mountain, and it looks like one too. Its 9,000-feet-high peak is perpetually snowcapped and can be seen from miles away. It is a majestic mountain, picture-postcard perfect, a fitting place to represent God. (As an aside, some scholars think Hermon is the mount where Christ was transfigured, where He revealed His glory to His disciples.)

There is another good reason why David chose Hermon as the place from which the water descended down into Zion. Zion, of course, is a pointed, symbolic reference to the church of God. In Zion, members of the church are all brethren, and this dew, a metaphor for unity, symbolic of the Holy Spirit, descends down to us from the majestic heights of the holy mountain, representing the Head, Jesus Christ.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Proverbs 8:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In II Corinthians, Paul stresses the need for believers to separate themselves from what defiles—evil. His concluding instruction is that the fear of God is the means by which we accomplish this perfecting of holiness:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." 'I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,' says the LORD Almighty." Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 6:14–7:1)

We who believe in Christ's name, who have received Him, have been given the right—the authority—to become children of God (John 1:12). If we, as Paul instructs, separate ourselves from what is unclean, we will be His sons and daughters. Children resemble their parents, and one way that we learn to resemble God is by loving the things that He loves and hating the things that He hates. God hates those things that harm the life and liveliness of His current and future children. As we grow in His image, we should also hate what is evil. That is one way that we fear and respect Him.

The more we fear and reverence the holiness of God, the more we grasp our own flaws and defilement. This, in turn, causes us to hate the evil that we find within ourselves (Matthew 5:3-4, 6) and to despise the elements of our nature that would make us miserable or that would cause misery in others if they were allowed to continue forever.

Yet, identifying those things is impossible without allowing the light of truth to shine into our lives. That light comes through knowing God and Jesus Christ. Knowing Them helps us to develop the proper fear of God, and at the same time it helps us to begin to see, by contrast, what things in us cause harm to life and liveliness.

David C. Grabbe
Hating Evil, Fearing God


 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon lists a series of activities, showing that there are times when one should be done and another not done. However, is there ever a time when we should not be holy? Can we at times throw "caution to the wind" and behave any way we desire? Are we allowed to "let our hair down" for short periods in terms of our conduct and witness? Is it allowable to forget for a time our duties to God and man or our goal of being in the Kingdom of God? Can we occasionally take a vacation from our labors to become holy and evermore in Christ's image?

These questions touch all of us regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, position, or years in the church. Holiness must concern us whether we are rich or poor, learned or uneducated, young or old. There is not only no time when one should be unconcerned about holiness, but there is no person, no matter who he or she is, who should be unconcerned about it.

David, in Psalm 10:4, observes a difference between the righteous and wicked: "The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts." We live in a busy and alluring world. Admittedly, there are numerous distractions, each with its attendant pressures, assaulting us from every angle. We must make choices to control the use of our time, and we must never allow God and holiness to slip from the overall highest priority.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Six)


 

Amos 4:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"The Lord God has sworn by His holiness" - Although not in the habit of swearing oaths—His Word is sufficient—God sometimes does so to focus on the seriousness of a pronouncement. As the writer of Hebrews says, "For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself" (Hebrews 6:13).

What does God see in Israel that so affronts Him that He has to swear "by His holiness"? Israel had every opportunity that the Gentiles did not have: His calling, His promises, His Word, His laws. He gave the Israelites these gifts to help them develop into His sons and daughters, but God sees them as diametrically opposite of Himself. Should not God expect to see some of His characteristics in His sons?

A simple illustration from the author's experience in visiting a family may help in understanding this point. Parents often show their pride by prominently displaying a photograph of their children, and these parents were no different. In this case, three of the four children bore a strong resemblance to their parents, but the fourth child was so noticeably different that it was obviously either an adopted child or the product of adultery.

God says, "I have children who bear no spiritual resemblance to me." He shows the cause to have been spiritual adultery—going after other gods and other ways of life.

"I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master's crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider." Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward. (Isaiah 1:2-4)

A dumb ox and donkey show more sense and appreciation to their masters than Israel did to her Father! Instead, she rebelled against Him!

God gave Israel many advantages—His law, His providence, His protection—to allow His people to live His way of life, but they turned their backs on Him and followed the ways of other gods. Paul shows how illogical this is:

For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. (I Corinthians 8:5-6)

Since we have complete dependence upon God for life as our Designer, Lifegiver, and Sustainer, He has complete authority over how we should live. Among the multiple pantheons of gods, only one God lives the way a God ought to live. This particular God—the God of Israel—is holy, that is, He alone is transcendentally different, superior, and separate. He has called His people to be holy (I Peter 1:15-16). It follows that a holy person must be different in the way that God is different.

From God's holiness flows His love—outgoing concern for others, His outstanding attribute. When God looked on Israel, however, He saw a whole nation, from her culture to her government to her religion, organized on the basis of human self-concern. God wanted to see clear evidence of godly living, by which He could verify their claims of being His people. In Israel, He saw no such evidence, but instead a people in opposition to Him in every area of life. Spiritual adultery had occurred.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Amos 5:4-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Beersheba played a role in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Though the event for each was a little different, something was said to each that is significant to our lives, especially in light of the Holy Spirit.

Abraham's incident at Beersheba is written in Genesis 21:22-24:

And it came to pass at that time that Abimelech and Phichol, the commander of his army, spoke to Abraham, saying, "God is with you in all that you do. Now therefore swear to me by God that you will not deal falsely with me, with my offspring, or with my posterity; but that according to the kindness that I have done to you, you will do to me and to the land in which you have sojourned." And Abraham said, "I will swear."

In this event, Abimelech utters the words that become central to what Beersheba came to represent to the Israelites: "God is with you in all that you do." A pagan king observed Abraham's life as one that reflected godliness.

In Isaac's incident at Beersheba, recorded in Genesis 26:23-24, God Himself utters the assurance necessary for Isaac to trust Him: "Then He went up from there to Beersheba. And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, 'I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham's sake.'" Like Isaac, we need assurance, we need to believe, that God is with us.

In Jacob's case, he is on his way to Egypt to meet with Joseph, filled with a stressful mixture of joy and fear, when the event of Genesis 46:1-4 occurs:

So Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, "Jacob, Jacob!" And he said, "Here I am." And He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes."

Thus, at Beersheba, each of the three patriarchs receives assurance of the companionship of God. What might have been the reaction of the Israelites when Amos said, "Don't pass over to Beersheba"?

It is a pastor's responsibility, not only to help to build peoples' trust in God, but also from time to time to sow doubt about their condition or standing before God. This is necessary because we often assume that all is well in our relationship with God. Amos filled not only the role of prophet but also of pastor of these wayward people, who were falsely confident in their standing with God.

An analysis of Paul's writings shows that his tactics at meeting church problems varied. At times, he energetically battered the opposition's position, and at others, he merely asked questions accompanied by some well-placed, incisive, solid, logical reasoning. In Amos 5:5, the prophet uses some strong imperatives, then turns to a recitation of matters the Israelites would have immediately recognized as accurate, even though they might not have accepted the truth of his statements.

Could these people have assumed - because of the general prosperity in Israel - that God was with them in all they did, despite all the evidence of their sinfulness Amos observed during their festival in Beersheba? Were they blind to the fact that prosperity is no guarantee that one is righteous before God?

The essence of the "God is with you" promise is that all is well and peace exists between God and a person; there is no barrier or constraint between them, and harmony reigns. Thus, the two can walk together because they have an understanding (Amos 3:3) - in fact, they may even have a covenant.

Amos had many reasons to believe that their assumption that God was with them was on shaky ground. First, in Amos 5:6, he briefly warns them of the fire of God's judgment, an allusion to the Day of the Lord, soon to fall upon them. He knows they are not seeking God to walk in His steps, so he proceeds to list a number of their sins. Finally, in verses 18-20, he shows them that they had no fear of the consequences of their way of life.

They truly assumed that everything was okay between them and God despite the sorry record of their sins that Amos laid before them! They completely ignored the fact that they, in reality, lived their lives apart from God. They really did not know the God they claimed to be walking with!

Consider the seriousness of verses 14-16:

Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the LORD God of hosts will be with you, as you have spoken. Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. Therefore the LORD God of hosts, the Lord, says this. . . .

Nowhere else in the Bible do three successive verses feature the awesome name, "the LORD God of hosts," underscoring His leading the armies of heaven! Amos is making a very strong point by drawing their attention to the sovereign, omnipotent God of Armies, who is so far above us He is out of sight. These complacent people might choose to believe they were walking with Him, but it begs the question, did this great God want to walk with them as they were?

Adam would have happily remained in the Garden, provided he could hide, but God knew He could not allow such a condition to continue. What good would it do Adam? The Israelites' complacency had been telling them that, when the Day of the Lord arrived, God would side with His people, making it a day of great glory for them. Instead, Amos informs them that it would be just the opposite! It is a time of wailing and disaster (verses 16-17). They had been feeding themselves on false hopes. God says, "I will pass through you"!

In saying, "Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the LORD God of hosts will be with you, as you have spoken" (verse 14), Amos admonishes them to seek holiness. He is urging them to see that it is not just a way or rule of life, but a means of life. Hebrews 12:14 confirms its importance, ". . . without holiness no one will see the Lord." When the people of God follow the way that accords with God's will, they come into possession of life. We must never presume God's grace or take it for granted. We must always fervently seek and submit to the will of God in order to be in His Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Amos 5 and the Feast of Tabernacles


 

Amos 5:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What is Gilgal's significance in Israel's spiritual history? Israel's first experience at Gilgal occurs when the people cross into the Promised Land under Joshua: "Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho" (Joshua 4:19). In Gilgal, they set up the twelve stones taken from the Jordan as a memorial of their crossing (verse 20-24).

Joshua 5:1-12 records that it was in Gilgal that all the Israelite males who had been born during the forty years in the wilderness were circumcised, thus entering into the Old Covenant—in effect, becoming God's nation in the land. Verse 10 shows that they kept the first Passover in the Promised Land in Gilgal, and in verse 12, where they first ate the fruit of the land.

Chapters 9, 10, and 14 show that Joshua launched his military attacks from Gilgal against the people of the land to secure it for Israelite inhabitation. I Samuel 11:14-15 records that Saul was confirmed as Israel's first king in Gilgal. All this early history of Israel's occupation of Canaan made Gilgal a shrine to the Israelites' inheritance and possession of the land.

However, Amos again hits the people with a precisely aimed lightning bolt by saying, "Gilgal shall surely go into captivity [exile]" (Amos 5:5). He then fastens that thought more firmly in their minds by making it personal: "'Therefore I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus,' says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts" (verse 27). In other words, even though they observed a festival in the shrine that commemorated possession of the Promised Land, those prosperous, lukewarm people listening to him would lose the land and be taken into captivity.

From this knowledge, we can begin to understand the attitude that Amos confronted. Generally, complacency or apathy was the problem, but specifically, it was much narrower.

With the Bethel illustration, Amos points out that they were mistaken in believing that God was in this place, and therefore their hope for life was a hollow one. They were assuming that simply because they were there, it would work in their favor.

The Beersheba illustration makes them face the fact that they were assuming God was with them. Their pride was almost boundless. They should have been asking whether God was pleased to walk with them.

The Gilgal illustration deals with their assumption that, because they were not only in the Promised Land but in full possession of it, everything was thus well with them.

Amos 5 highlights three critical assumptions, all of which are factors in a doctrine evangelical Christians term "eternal security." The context of the chapter shows a wealth of religious activity (verses 21-26). Amos mentions religious festivals, animal sacrifices, and music they believed to be glorifying to God, all indicating worship services of some kind. They went in for religion in a big way! Undoubtedly, they were wholehearted about it, so it was probably emotionally satisfying to them. But what good is worship if it does not get through to God? This is what Amos reveals to them. All of their enthusiasm was for naught because their daily lives did not match God's standards.

We are assured of making it into God's Kingdom on the strength of His ability to prepare us. So what is the problem? Verse 24 gives us some insight: "But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

The first phrase can just as easily read, "Let justice [or, judgment] roll down." There is a clever play on a word here, as Gilgal means "the rolling." The people attended the festivals in Gilgal, but before their arrival and after they returned home, justice and righteousness failed to roll down—we might say "trickle down"—into their everyday life. Things went on as before. They had fun at the feast all right, but nothing changed spiritually.

Justice is the fruit of righteousness. When linked as they are in this verse, justice stands for correct moral practice in daily life, and righteousness for the cultivation of correct moral principles. Justice is external, righteousness is internal. The trouble with Gilgal was that the people allowed their human nature to keep their religion in a box with no way for it to influence daily life.

Together, these three illustrations show that our relationship with God is not a game. Each of His festivals has a serious purpose in keeping us oriented toward the completion of His purpose for us as individuals, for His church, for Israel, and in due time, for the whole world. Presently, attention is focused on the church and our part in its life. The church exists to serve Him in witnessing the gospel to the world by our lives, as well as by preaching. We cannot witness well without preparation, and the festivals play an important role in this.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Amos 5 and the Feast of Tabernacles


 

Amos 5:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God threatens to send fire, symbolizing divine rejection and purification (Malachi 4:1), upon Israel because of her false religion. The Bible, though ultimately written for His spiritual children, focuses on ancient Israel because she is comprised of God's chosen people. We can see our own lives in their examples. Amos proves through the Israelites' disobedience and corruption that they had no relationship with God. They had not allowed their privileged position under the covenant to transform them into godly people. Thus, God must send a purifying destruction upon them.

Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba were places of pilgrimage, places people went to observe the feasts. But God says, "I hate, I despise your feast days" (Amos 5:21)! Verses 22-23 show that the Israelites loved all the rituals and entertainments of the feasts, but they did not leave the feasts better people (verse 24). They returned to their homes unchanged, unrepentant, after what was supposed to be a rededication of their lives to God!

Our attitudes in attending the feasts today tell God just as much as the Israelites' did during Amos' ministry. Do we go to the Feast of Tabernacles to seek God and learn to fear Him, as He says in Deuteronomy 14:23? Our reasons for attending God's feasts are very important. Do we go to get love and enjoy ourselves? The feasts should be enjoyable, but those who go there to give love and serve others profit the most from them. Those who go to get love usually become offended and leave the feast, telling anyone who will listen how "cold" others were to them.

From the biblical events that occurred in these places, Bethel pictures reorientation and hope; Gilgal, possession of the promises; and Beersheba, fellowship with God. We can have these things in Christ if we abide under the terms of our covenant with Him. In the example of Israel, we can see that hearing and knowing the way of God intellectually is not enough. The lives of the people of Israel did not match what they knew.

The lesson we can learn from the events in Bethel are particularly illustrative of God's transforming influence. At Bethel, Jacob had his dream of a ladder reaching to heaven and angels walking up and down on it (Genesis 28:12). When he woke up from his dream, Jacob reckoned that God was surely in that place and named it "Bethel" or "house of God." The ascending and descending angels, messengers of God, depict God, not man, initiating communication. In other words, the ladder brought God to Bethel. When God arrives on the scene and descends to communicate with a man, He makes a difference in his life.

Certainly, Jacob's life quickly began to change, especially his attitude. He had been fleeing for his life, but when he got to Bethel, his future changed dramatically because God made contact with him. God reconfirmed to Jacob His promises to Abraham and Isaac. A transformation began then that did not end as long as he lived.

On the run from Esau, a man to be feared, Jacob felt at any moment his brother would appear around the next rock. He arrived at Bethel hopeless, but he left a man with a future—God said that He would be with him. So Jacob arose and made a covenant with God that if He would bless him, then he would give a tenth, a tithe, to God (Genesis 28:18-22).

When Jacob returned to Bethel after serving Laban for some twenty years, God appeared to him again, changing his name to Israel (Genesis 35:1-15). In the biblical record, a name change, normally occurring during a period of crisis in a person's conversion, signifies a change in his heart. Undoubtedly, a significant change happened here and another at Peniel where Jacob wrestled with Christ (Genesis 32:24-30). Peniel was a stepping stone to what occurred at his return to Bethel and between them, we see Jacob's spiritual conversion.

To Israel and Amos, then, Bethel represented reorientation and hope. There the old life and the old man became new. This idea is later reflected in New Testament teaching about our spiritual transformation into the image of God (II Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:12-15, 20-24; I John 3:2).

Contact with God causes transformation, and Bethel represents this hopeful reorientation. Israelites may have journeyed to Bethel, but Amos shows that no transformation occurred. There was no change in holiness or morality. They enjoyed the fellowship and good times of the feasts, but they returned to their homes, and it was "business as usual." Unlike Jacob, they had not repented.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Amos 5:14-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

How can this calamity be averted? The solution is so simple and obvious that God seems to spend very little time on it within the book of Amos. In reality, every word of the book screams what Israel needed to do then - and needs to do today.

"Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the LORD God of hosts will be with you, as you have spoken. Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate." A person does not need to seek God if He has already revealed Himself to him. Thus, seek means "to turn" to Him in repentance, not necessarily "to look for." This is a way of saying, "Set aside your time and life for God."

Seek in the Hebrew is imperative and has the force of a command. Seeking good, or seeking God (verse 4), is an act that we have to set ourselves to do; it is not a natural inclination (Romans 8:7). But it is worth the effort, for its product is life - not just physical existence, but life as God lives it (John 17:3). If we determine to seek good, and continue in it, the result - truly living! - will follow. Seeking the Lord produces godly life.

In living by every word of God, we should notice the order in which He lists these commands: "Seek good and not evil. . . . Hate evil, love good." The action of turning to good precedes the emotions of hating evil and loving good. Holiness involves action and emotion: seeking and shunning, loving good and hating evil. He wants us to turn to the good and make it a target in our daily life. If we wait for God to infuse us with the right kind of feeling before we try to do good, then we will wait a long time because it will never come. We have to take action first by faith and the corresponding right feeling will follow.

If holiness does not involve both action and emotion, it becomes something that we can put on and take off. We could hypocritically live one kind of life during the week, and on the Sabbath put on our holy look and go to services. Action and emotion combine to make a whole way of life.

Holiness is not just a way of life or a rule to live by. It also produces the very best quality of life - the way God lives eternally. God's people have to think constantly of holiness, appreciating that He has chosen us out of this world and given us grace to be holy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Amos 6:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's complaint against Israel's religion is that it had form but no substance. The people made pilgrimages to their shrines, but they did not grieve for their nation's sins (Amos 6:6). They went to church, but they continued to cheat and steal and lie (Amos 8:5-6). They made a great show of being religious, but their religion caused no changes in their conduct.

God's Word shows that true religion is having concern for and helping the weak, as well as showing hospitality and generosity to those who cannot return the favor (James 1:27). It is sacrificing oneself in service; as Christ said, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). It is speaking the truth and being honest—even swearing to one's own hurt (Psalm 15:4)—not backbiting or gossiping. True religion is not exacting the last cent on a deal, or impatiently watching the sun go down on the Sabbath to do one's business or pleasure. It is not taking usury and so on. To use a cliché, Israel talked the talk but did not walk the walk.

Even after giving them His law, God did not leave the people of Israel without a witness—a right example—of how to live. While they were drifting away, He gave them the Nazirites, people who had consecrated themselves to God (Amos 2:11; see Numbers 6:1-21). A Nazirite, a "separated one," was anyone from a tribe other than Levi who dedicated himself to God for a special period of time. Nazirites were separate because of their holiness; they vowed not to drink wine, cut their hair, or touch dead bodies.

God apparently called enough Nazirites within Israel to exemplify pure living before His people. Additionally, He sent prophets to testify against the nation and expose the direction she was going. How did Israel react? Probably through some kind of persecution, they forced the Nazirites to break their vow and muzzled the prophets (Amos 2:12).

The more holy we become, the greater the contrast between us and the world—and the more likely the world will seek to persecute us. When Jesus Christ, the most holy, moral, and different human being who ever lived, walked this earth, His own people killed Him. They could not tolerate His holiness. Thus, He warned His disciples, "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Amos 8:4-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To enlarge their coffers, merchants opened their shops for business the minute the Sabbath and holy days passed. They used nonstandard weights and measures to cheat their customers of a few ounces of grain. Some cheated the people to the point that they had to sell themselves into slavery to pay their debts! At the end of the day, the businessman would sweep up the bad wheat berries left on the floor, and sell them to the poor as first-quality wheat when business resumed in the morning!

Their problem lay in their personal attitude toward sin and holiness. God looked at their hearts and saw nothing of His righteousness and holiness. Whenever He finds a lack of these elements in His people, He becomes very concerned. The Israelites manifested their godless attitude in their domineering ways, their penchant to exploit, and their insatiable feeding of their own indulgences. Although God appears to attack mainly the rich and powerful throughout the book, the poor and needy probably had the same attitude but lacked the power to carry it out. Thus, God will punish both "the great house"—the rich—and "the little house"—the poor (Amos 6:11).

Israel's attitude toward the things of God was one of total disrespect and indifference. When Jesus cleansed the Temple (John 2:13-16), one thing that angered Him was how the priests disqualified the peoples' sacrifices without legitimate grounds, forcing them to buy animals far above fair market value. Sincere worshippers would have no choice but to pay fifteen or twenty times the normal price for another sacrificial animal that the priests had already proclaimed acceptable. The Israelites of Amos' day exhibited the same attitudes in their normal business practices.

The sin that underpinned these attitudes is covetousness, causing them to turn everything in life to self-advantage. As in America, competition was the lifeblood of the people, the vitality of the nation, and they felt they had no alternative but to lie, cheat, and steal to keep their "competitive edge." "The end justifies the means" was their motto. God says that they did not have to approach business this way. The nation was very wealthy—there was enough for everyone.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 8:7-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Amos 4:2 God swore by His holiness, all of His moral integrity, His very nature. He also swore by Himself (Amos 6:8), indicating everything that He is and His sovereignty over all creation. Israel was not impressed. So God says, "Look, I have sworn by My holiness and by Myself, and that didn't carry any weight with you. So now I will swear by something so great—your own pride—that you can't refuse!" What irony! God says if He swears by something of theirs, it may mean more to them than if He swears by something of His!

This passage also shows that when man gets out of step with God, then nature too begins to suffer. Beauty begins to be replaced by ugliness. We begin to see huge piles of slag, polluted rivers, foul-smelling garbage dumps, expanding deserts, and denuded forests. Finally, when the land begins to vomit the people out (Leviticus 18:24-28), they may show a belated interest in God and His truth, but it will be too late to stop the destruction. The time is right—the fruit is ripe, so God will punish them.

Consider what is currently happening in our Western nations of Israel. God shows a connection between nature and human morality; "natural" disasters are acts of God in response to the moral condition of the people. If men will treat other men, created in the image of God, in an immoral way, how will they treat the land, forests, rivers, lakes, and oceans? Because these things seemingly cannot fight back, man will abuse them with no fear of reprisal. But God says that the environment will fight back and vomit them out!

Instead of rain falling in a gentle mist, it will roar like an avalanche until the inhabitants cannot cope with it. The rivers will swell and flood the land in anger, washing the topsoil into the sea. In other areas, fire will sweep over forests and farmlands, destroying everything in its path. Windstorms like hurricanes and tornadoes will devastate the cities and countryside, endangering the lives and livelihoods of the people. Earthquakes will increase in both frequency and power, costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars of damage. These disasters will mount to such an intensity that the people of modern Israel may seek repentance, but it will be too late. God will not pass by anymore.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Habakkuk 1:12-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse begins a section that leads up to Habakkuk's second question. He begins immediately with asking, "Is this really the holy God of Israel? Am I talking to the very God of the universe, the One who lives forever? Can this really be God, if He will punish His own people by the hands of these terrible Chaldeans?" This verse shows how much his faith was shaken.

"We shall not die" is an emendation by the Jews. They think that God should never be linked with death. But Habakkuk actually says, "You shall not die." He is reaffirming to himself just who is speaking to him—the Eternal God! He is desperately trying to square what God had just told him in verses 5-11 with what He understood of God's nature.

"You are of purer eyes than to behold evil." Habakkuk understood God to be pure and holy, so he wonders, "How can God do this evil thing to His people? He is purer than that." God has revealed something about Himself that the prophet has not yet grasped. His understanding is being stretched. He thought he knew what God's character was like, but God had just thrown him a curve ball.

Habakkuk asks God, "How can You restrain Yourself from just simply annihilating these Chaldeans? Look how wicked they are!" In verses 6-11, God Himself had described all of their evil doings. They take what is not theirs. They march through the breadth of the earth and gobble up town after town after town. They eat what they want. They take the jewels, the gold, the silver, the people themselves, and they transport them back to their own lands. Habakkuk cries, "These are terrible people, God, and You are going to let them punish Your own special people? This is not the God I remember learning about as a child."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Haggai 2:11-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To both questions the priests give a correct answer. Using the laws of clean and unclean, God points out a principle that applies to Christians today. Very simply, God says that it is impossible for God's holiness, in us because of our relationship with Him and the indwelling of His Spirit, to pass from us to the world. In other words, if a holy thing touches a profane thing, the profane item does not become holy.

On the other hand, the attitude of the world, if it comes in contact with His people, can pass from the world into us. Using the above wording, if a profane thing touches a holy thing, the holy item is contaminated. The spiritual principle for today's Christian is obvious: The world will contaminate your holiness, if you are not on guard against it.

Reading these verses from The Living Bible makes God's meaning very clear. Though it is not an exact translation, but a thought-for-thought paraphrase, the point is correct.

Ask the priests this question about the law: "If one of you is carrying a holy sacrifice in his robes, and happens to brush against some bread or wine or meat, will it too become holy?" "No," the priests replied. "Holiness does not pass to other things that way." Then Haggai asked, "But if someone touches a dead person, and so becomes ceremonially impure, and then brushes against something, does it become contaminated?" And the priests answered, "Yes." Haggai then made his meaning clear. "You people," he said (speaking for the Lord), "were contaminating your sacrifices by living with selfish attitudes and evil hearts—and not only your sacrifices, but everything else that you did as a 'service' to me." (Haggai 2:11-14)

The people, having absorbed the prevalent attitude of the world, became infected by it. As we have seen repeatedly, their relationship with God quickly deteriorated into estrangement—just as the Laodicean's does.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Haggai 2:11-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Haggai 2:11-14 illustrates the impossibility of holiness being transferred from one to another, and by contrast, how easily defilement is transmitted. The sanctity of something or someone dedicated to God cannot be transferred merely by contact with another. However, the defilement of an unclean thing transfers easily to the clean, defiling it!

Washing is the primary means of ceremonial purity. From these biblical examples, John Wesley's well-known comment, "Cleanliness is next to godliness," arose. He realized that cleanliness is somehow related to what God is like and that personal hygiene has a spiritual dimension. Indeed, the very first mention of washing in Scripture is when Abraham's hospitality to his three visitors includes providing water to wash their feet (Genesis 18:4). This symbol of hospitality and servanthood reaches its zenith when Jesus includes it as part of the New Covenant Passover ritual.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Haggai 2:11-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God is teaching us through Haggai that the uncleanness of this world can be transferred from one person to another, but holiness cannot!

In like manner, preparedness for God's Kingdom cannot be transferred from person to person, because in this lesson, it represents something internal—a matter of the heart. It is an intangible spiritual thing that accrues as a result of spending long periods of time learning, understanding, and honing one's spiritual skills. It is too late when a skill is needed immediately, and it is not there.

The same is true of character. It cannot be borrowed or lent. We cannot borrow a relationship with God. It is non-transferable as holiness is non-transferable. This teaches us that opportunity knocks, and then it passes.

The foolish virgins of Matthew 25 failed to face the possibility that the bridegroom might come later than expected. When they were awakened by the shout, there was no time to do anything except to fill their lamps.

Nobody can deliver his brother. Each person within his relationship with God determines his own destiny. The Laodicean's faith has become perfunctory (Revelation 3:15-19). He attends church and is involved socially with brethren, but in daily life and private times, he merely goes through the motion in much the same manner as the Israelites in Amos' day (see, for instance, Amos 5:1-27).

God shows that those unprepared are not admitted to His Kingdom, but this should not be construed as a callous rejection of a person's perhaps lifelong desire. For, unless the Laodicean repents, he has rejected the Kingdom of God on a daily basis—day after day declining to do God's will, even though it is in his mind to desire the Kingdom. He is not taking care of business, so God gives the Laodicean what he shows by his life what he really wants.

This is the principle of reciprocity. It is similar to an unmarried person who, despite surface appearances to the contrary, never makes preparations for his or her coming marriage. Suppose a man meets a woman who could become his future mate, but even though there may be admiration on his part, the relationship never develops because the woman does little or nothing to show her own admiration. A Laodicean is like this woman, rarely showing any affection for God, too busy to deepen the relationship.

We have to seek God—that is our part. It cannot be casual. It has to be zealous. Is that not what God says to the Laodicean? "Be zealous and repent" (Revelation 3:19).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year


 

Haggai 2:11-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Uncleanness, or the defilement of this world, can be transferred from one person to another, but holiness cannot. Likewise, righteousness, character, and preparedness for God's Kingdom cannot be transferred from person to person because they represent internal qualities, matters of the heart.

Holy character and righteousness are personal matters, intangibles that accrue from spending long periods of time learning, applying, and honing spiritual skills in the daily experiences of life. It is too late when one needs a skill immediately, and it is not there. The same is true of character: It cannot be borrowed. Perhaps more importantly, we cannot borrow a relationship with God.

This ought to teach us that opportunity knocks and then passes. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the foolish virgins fail to anticipate the possibility that the Bridegroom might come later than they expect. When they are awakened, there is no time to do anything except fill their own lamps. This proves that nobody can deliver his brother. Each person, within his relationship with God, determines his own destiny.

The Laodicean's faith, however, has become perfunctory. He attends church and is involved with brethren socially, but privately, he merely goes through the motions in much the same way as the Israelites did in Amos' day. Absent is the fervency that develops through careful analysis and evaluation of the world and its corrupt promises against God and His holy promises.

God shows that the unprepared will not be admitted to His Kingdom. We should not construe this as a calloused rejection of a person's perhaps lifelong desire, but we should realize that the Laodicean has rejected the Kingdom of God on a daily basis over a long time! God is not unfair in His judgment. He gives the Laodicean what he showed he wanted. God reciprocates in kind.

Perhaps we can understand God's judgment if we imagine what ours would be if we were engaged to someone who never prepares for our upcoming marriage. What person would want a wife or a husband who had no enthusiasm for the marriage? Or perhaps we can compare it to a person who meets someone who would make a wonderful mate, but despite having ample opportunity and mutual admiration, the relationship never develops due to the other's being constantly distracted.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year


 

Malachi 2:10-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God wants us to learn to honor our parents because the family is not only the basic building block of society, but also of the Kingdom of God. The godly principles learned and the character built within the human family unit is transferable into the spiritual family relationship of the Kingdom of God. God expects a transference from parents to Him of the character and manner of living derived from keeping this commandment.

Parents are His representatives, His agents, to begin preparations for the Kingdom of God. Thus the creative majesty and power of God is honored and revered in the parents when children obey them.

This passage is directed toward Judah generally and toward the priests specifically at a time when the institution of marriage was under attack. Idolatrous marriages with foreign women were common, as was divorce. Today, marriage is under attack generally, but specifically from perverse same-sex unions. The Jews of Malachi's day wondered why, despite giving their offerings to God, they were receiving no blessings from Him. His answer: their idolatrous marriages and covenant-breaking divorces. He specifically states that a purpose of marriage is that He wants godly children to be produced. These marriages were not producing godly children.

The Hebrew word that is translated as "godly" is elohim, used here as an adjective. It means "filled with reverence and love for God; devout, pious; belonging to or emanating from God." Godliness and holiness are not specifically the same: Godliness is a respectful, reverential attitude, while holiness indicates living as God does. As attributes, as qualities of character, they are absolutely inseparable.

The conclusion is inescapable. After creating Adam and Eve and announcing that He had created them in His image, God immediately establishes the family through marriage. Marriage, therefore, plays an important role in God's overall purpose of creating man in His image. This fact provides the fifth commandment with its greatest degree of significance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment


 

Matthew 8:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Knowing the gruesome details of leprosy, one can easily imagine the crowd hastily parting as this man worked his way toward Jesus. Yet, He, in contrast, reaches out to touch the leper, signaling His willingness and power to heal. In Exodus 15:25-26, God reveals Himself as Yahweh Ropheka, or "the Eternal-Who-Heals," at the incident at Marah. Nathan Stone writes in his book, Names of God, that this name means "to restore, to heal, to cure . . . not only in the physical sense but in the moral and spiritual sense also" (p. 72). Dying to sin and living for righteousness are a kind of healing through Jesus Christ.

Ordinarily, uncleanness is transferred among men, but holiness is not (Haggai 2:10-14). This scene of the leper coming to Christ pictures divine reconciliation, since what is holy and what is profane usually do not mix. This is overcome through the work of our Savior. Jesus stretches out His hand and commands the leper to be cleansed, showing God in action as the Eternal-Who-Heals. This is why the leper's uncleanness does not transfer to Jesus - at first.

Later, however, the death penalty for sin was transferred to Jesus. A price had to be paid for the leper's cleansing. "Clean" has a sense of purity and holiness, so to be cleansed was to be made pure. Proverbs 20:9 says, "Who can say, 'I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin'?" The leper could no more pronounce himself clean than we can pronounce ourselves sinless (I John 1:10). Proverbs 20:30 adds, "Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart." Comparing these two verses from Proverbs suggests that a certain chastening is required for cleansing.

Isaiah 53:4-5 adds another piece to the picture:

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

These verses place the emphasis of our cleansing from spiritual impurity on Christ: He paid the price to heal us and restore us to fellowship with God.

Thus, when Jesus Christ became sin for us, on Him was transferred all uncleanness. For those who have repented and accepted His sacrifice, there is increasingly more responsibility to continue this cleansing process in cooperation with and submission to Him. Peter summarizes this idea in I Peter 2:24, "[He] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed."

Staff
The Gift of a Leper


 

Mark 5:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ was met by the unclean men coming out of the tombs. These rock-hewn tombs were repulsive to the Jews and to dwell in them was deemed a sign of insanity. Because of the remains of the dead they contained, they were shunned by the Jews as unclean (Matthew 23:27). Under the Old Covenant, one could be physically defiled by touching a dead body. Even when a person died in a tent, the whole tent was regarded as unclean (Numbers 19:11, 14).

Unclean in Scripture means "to be defiled, polluted, unhealthy, or unfit," and refers to foods that are unfit, defilement of religious character, and moral or spiritual impurity. The word "defilement" describes a sinful and unfit condition (Isaiah 6:5). The Old Testament distinguishes between what is clean and helpful and what is unclean and unacceptable (Leviticus 10:10). The New Testament deals more with the spiritual application and lists uncleanness or moral defilement along with fornication and other sins as "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19-21).

In the gospels, "unclean" describes those who are possessed by demonic spirits through constant submission to evil. Uncleanness represents sin, and sin separates man from God. Because of sin, "we are all like an unclean thing" (Isaiah 64:6). Believers are not called to uncleanness but to live in holiness (I Thessalonians 4:7). We are not to yield our members to uncleanness but to righteousness and holiness (Romans 6:19).

The teaching about uncleanness springs from the concept of God's holiness (Leviticus 11:44-45). It is a miracle in itself that freedom from uncleanness and guilt is possible through God's grace. Holiness within, purity of heart, is possible through the exercise of faith in Christ's redemptive work and obedience to His truth.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Two-Demon Possessed Men Healed (Part Two)


 

Luke 18:9-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Pharisee's prayer manifests his mindset (II Peter 2:3). People like him trust in their own works to gain salvation and eternal life, not trusting in Jesus Christ for them. They do not really think they need His sacrifice or help because they think they are good enough in themselves. So, they toot their own horns, making sure God knows how righteous they are. While kneeling before Him, they tell Him all the good things they are always doing, and believe that He is impressed. They act as if God owes them salvation because of their good works.

This attitude shows how little they understand of the true holiness of God and the lowliness of our spiritual state. While on earth, Jesus worked more easily with tax collectors and sinners than with the Pharisees, though the latter were more dedicated to adhering strictly to the letter of the law. The Pharisees, knowing they were more righteous, made sure others knew it. In their self-delusion and self-righteousness, they could learn little from Christ.

The Pharisee, considering others as nothing, treats them accordingly. It is typical of human nature to elevate itself while putting down others, and some believe that this is the only way to elevate themselves above their peers. Isaiah writes about such people: ". . . who say, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!' These are smoke in [God's] nostrils, a fire that burns all the day" (Isaiah 65:5).

The Pharisee compares his own flaws, not with God's infinite perfections, but with the imagined greater flaws of others. His pride has made him bankrupt of genuine compassion and concern (James 2:13). He presumptuously errs in his prayer in that it is neither his duty nor his right as a sinner to point out another's sins. In trusting in Christ for righteousness, our inadequacies and guilt are revealed, and we become willing to admit that others may be much better than we are.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


 

John 1:18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The glory of God has been declared in the person of Jesus Christ. Did Jesus come radiating beauty everywhere He went? Was there a heavenly aura about Him, a halo over His head? Did He glow like burnished bronze, so that anybody could point and say, "Hey, there goes God"? No. He revealed the glory of God by what He did and by what He said. And much of what He said is recorded in this Book—for you and me.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Holiness (Part 1)


 

John 5:28-29  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Teachers who say that works are unimportant are spreading lies—by confusing the issues, by blunting the incentive to keep the commandments of God and to make the right kind of choices, by making people think that they do not have to do any works. Understand, however, that works are not required to save us but to ensure that we are changed!

What does God want to see when we come before the judgment bar, as we are now during our Christian lives? He wants to see evidence to prove that we are indeed His children. His judgment is based upon what we have done; the Bible says repeatedly that judgment is according to our works.

I am not qualifying here the quantity or the quality of our works. God is so merciful! Paul tells us in I Corinthians 3:15 that, even though our works are burned up, we ourselves will be saved. Even though the works are of poor quality, at least we have worked! We did not just sit there, dead in the water. We apparently pleased God enough to show that we wanted to be in His Kingdom.

That judgment is in His hands. But we should recognize that He does require works. The works are not for justification but for sanctification. The works aid in the transformation of our character to the image of God. The works aid in our growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. The works help to produce change. It is a cooperative effort that we do with God.

And I can guarantee you that, if a person does not make the efforts to change, they would be totally unhappy in the Kingdom of God. They would be like a fish out of water, because everybody in that Kingdom is going to be holy. Everybody in that Kingdom is going to do—they are going to live holy lives. (They wouldn't fit, and so they won't be there.)

Satan is trying to destroy God's purpose by subtly confusing the necessity of good works, and therefore stopping the process of sanctification through a perverted teaching on grace, on law, and covenants. But remember this: Hebrews 12:14 tells us that without holiness—a holiness that we have to strive for—"no man shall see the Lord."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 9)


 

John 17:26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Does knowing the name of God have anything to do with salvation? Or, to put it another way, does the third commandment have anything to do with salvation? It has everything to do with the quality of the way that we do things, which is directly attached to knowing the name of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Holiness (Part 1)


 

Romans 1:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice that in both verses the verb form "to be" appears: in verse 1, "called to be an apostle," and in verse 7, "called to be saints." Neither "to be" is in the Greek text. While their insertion by the translators is not entirely wrong, they tend to give a misleading impression that can easily result in misunderstanding.

"To be" can give a person the impression of something resulting in the future or of something that must be earned. The Greek, however, does not imply either. In verse 1, Paul is clearly saying that his apostleship coincided with or was simultaneous with his calling! Acts 9:15-16 emphatically proves this. God had already determined what Paul would do at the time He called him. The same is true of our sainthood. The beloved of God are saints, and He loved us when He called us. He did not wait until later to begin loving us. In the same way, our sainthood began at our calling because God was already setting us apart.

The word translated "called" more specifically means "summoned." It does not imply "named" or "designated." It does not describe a name by which we are known but the thing we are summoned to be. The calling is our vocation, our work, and our work is to keep God's commandments and to witness for Him (Isaiah 43:11-12).

"Saint" and "holy" express the same general concept, though they entered the English from different languages. Both imply separation, consecration, or dedication. The common idea is "belonging to God." A saint, then, is one who has been summoned to be dedicated or consecrated as belonging to God.

Therefore, we are not our own but have been placed into an exclusive group. God has summoned us to glorify Him with our lives, and it is from this that the witness of Him shines forth. The glory of the witness arises entirely from a saint's striving for a purity of life that matches our Savior's. Without striving, the consecration derived from God's summons would not amount to a thing. What we see here is our tremendous privilege of being the called of God.

Amos 3:1-2 declares, "Hear this word that the LORD, has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying: 'You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.'" The Israelites failed in their calling, but ours is exceedingly higher! Virtue, goodness, purity, righteousness, mercy, joy, and peace all express noble things we love to embrace, but they all go to naught unless we see who we are. For at the foundation of what we need to produce these wonderful qualities is holiness—what God has summoned us to be and do.

If we do not grasp the awesome privilege and purpose of this high calling, we will not aim high enough with our lives. We will not make the effort to produce because we will not see that this is our life. I Peter 4:17 admonishes us, "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" Brethren, this is it for us! We will have no second chance to grab the brass ring!

Every branch of our armed forces has a special elite group like the Army Rangers or Navy Seals to which is given both honor and weighty responsibility. A similar civilian group would be the SWAT Team of a municipal police force. To be chosen as a member is an exceedingly great privilege. The implications of the Marine Corp's former advertising motto is appropriate if altered somewhat to apply to the called. About the Marines, it proclaims, "The few, the proud, the Marines." For us, it might say, "The few, the humbled, the called."

Far too many in the church of God have been deluded into believing in some slightly modified form of the worldly notion that all one has to do is to accept Christ. However, God is creating, and He has called us for the express purpose of giving us the opportunity to yield to His creative efforts. Yielding is the work of submitting to His will. This is how purity of life is produced; this is how character is built and how the witness is made.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Five): Who We Are


 

Romans 2:17-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul was speaking to those Jews who were not yet converted. At least, we hope that they were not yet converted and that they had opportunity yet to repent of those things. But this makes it very plain that God's name is hallowed—or profaned—by our conduct. The third commandment is kept—or broken—by the same. This is the commandment that tests the quality of our witness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Holiness (Part 1)


 

Romans 14:19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This seems so obvious that it need not be said, but God includes it in His Word because Christians within the church do not hold in check some of the very things that cause so much disunity in this world. The apostle entreats us to lay aside the causes of contention so we can live in harmony.

Sometimes we do not understand how competitive human nature is. It is proud. It feels it has to win, be vindicated, and if possible, elevated over others. These attitudes do not make peace. Rather than pursuing the things that cause contention, Paul says, pursue the things that cause peace. It is a Christian's responsibility, part of his vocation. Emphasizing the positive is an incomplete, but nonetheless fairly accurate, description of what can be done.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 13:10, "By pride comes only contention, but with the well-advised is wisdom." Contention divides. Much of the strife and disunity in the church is promoted by those who seem bent on "majoring in the minors." This is the overall subject of Romans 14. Church members were becoming "bent out of shape" over things that irritated them but had little or nothing to do with salvation. They blew these irritants out of proportion to their real importance, creating disruption in the congregation.

Essentially, Paul tells these people to change their focus, to turn the direction of their thinking, because we agree on far more that is of real, major importance to salvation than what we disagree on. If we will cooperate on these major things rather than on private ends and prejudices, peace and unity will tend to emerge rather than strife and disunity. Paul further admonishes the irritated members to have faith in God's power to change the other: "Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4).

Why can we not cultivate a spirit of peace by striving for holiness? Holiness is a major issue leading to preparation for God's Kingdom and salvation. Peace is one of its fruits. Why can we not show love for the brethren and strive to do good for them "as we have opportunity, . . . especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10)? Why can we not spend more serious time studying God's Word getting to know Him? These admirable pursuits are humbling and serving. They produce peace and put other, less important matters into a proper perspective and priority. If pursued sincerely, they keep the "minors" right where they belong because they tend to erode one's pride.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 7: Blessed Are the Peacemakers


 

Romans 14:19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This seems so obvious that it need not be said, but God includes it in His Word because Christians within the church do not hold in check some of the very things that cause so much disunity in this world. The apostle entreats us to lay aside the causes of contention so we can live in harmony.

Sometimes we do not understand how competitive human nature is. It is proud. It feels it has to win, be vindicated, and if possible, elevated over others. These attitudes do not make peace. Rather than pursuing the things that cause contention, Paul says, pursue the things that cause peace. It is a Christian's responsibility, part of his vocation. Emphasizing the positive is an incomplete, but nonetheless fairly accurate, description of what can be done.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 13:10, "By pride comes only contention, but with the well-advised is wisdom." Contention divides. Much of the strife and disunity in the church is promoted by those who seem bent on "majoring in the minors." This is the overall subject of Romans 14. Church members were becoming "bent out of shape" over things that irritated them but had little or nothing to do with salvation. They blew these irritants out of proportion to their real importance, creating disruption in the congregation.

Essentially, Paul tells these people to change their focus, to turn the direction of their thinking, because we agree on far more that is of real, major importance to salvation than what we disagree on. If we will cooperate on these major things rather than on private ends and prejudices, peace and unity will tend to emerge rather than strife and disunity. Paul further admonishes the irritated members to have faith in God's power to change the other: "Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4).

Why can we not cultivate a spirit of peace by striving for holiness? Holiness is a major issue leading to preparation for God's Kingdom and salvation. Peace is one of its fruits. Why can we not show love for the brethren and strive to do good for them "as we have opportunity, . . . especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10)? Why can we not spend more serious time studying God's Word getting to know Him? These admirable pursuits are humbling and serving. They produce peace and put other, less important matters into a proper perspective and priority. If pursued sincerely, they keep the "minors" right where they belong because they tend to erode one's pride.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 7: Blessed Are the Peacemakers


 

Romans 15:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Could we call ourselves out of spiritual Egypt? Can we forgive ourselves through our works? Can we give ourselves the Holy Spirit? Can we give ourselves the gifts needed to achieve God's purpose? Do we begin to see that it is He who should be our hope? Everything, including hope, flows from this real, literal, personal Being with whom we must develop a relationship so that we truly know Him.

Jesus utters a great profundity when He says that "eternal life is to know God" (John 17:3). It is profound because this God—Jesus' God—is God, and He can fulfill His promises. Promises are not worth a thing, not even the paper they are written on, except for the holiness, the power, and the integrity of the one who gives them. Can God be trusted? If He can, we can have hope. Our hope is in Him. If we put our trust in the promises, we are putting our hope in the wrong place because they are just added benefits.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Perseverance and Hope


 

1 Corinthians 7:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The children of believing parents are "holy," meaning "set apart." God considers such a child to be "clean." That does not mean "sinless," but they are still legally clean in His sight. They are therefore acceptable in His presence and have the opportunity to have true success in life as a result. They have the chance to believe God, to cast their lot with Him, and to be spared the horror of having to face many of the evils in this world.

But, just as parents can lose their sanctification, so children who are set apart can also lose their status. Law plays no favorites. It does not care whether one is male or female, or thirteen, nineteen, or ninety-three. If a ninety-three year old male jumps off the 80th floor of the Empire State Building, which direction will he go? What if a 16-year old girl does the same thing? The law of gravity does not play favorites.

Law does not care what one's race, sex, or age are. If parents who are sanctified break the laws of God persistently, they will lose their sanctification. If a seventeen-year-old does the same thing, even though his parents are sanctified and a child is held to be clean because of God's judgment, he can lose his too.

For a child who is sanctified, even though unconverted, there is still a great deal that he will be held accountable for. "To whom much is given, much is also required." Jesus does not say that this only applies to converted parents.

The child's sanctification gives him the advantage of access to God. Because of that access, he has the guidance of God available to him, and from that guidance he can form a proper vision of what he wants to do with his life (Proverbs 29:18). This allows him to see what he wants to do in terms of conductwhat he wants to pursue, the way he wants to do work, the attitude he has toward other people, parents, neighbors, fellow-employees, etc.

We can tell from the conduct of people in this world that they do not have this guidance. But a sanctifed child has access to the knowledge of what God expects, and from that he can make it his goal in life to act that way. He can set his will to do the right thing. He is sanctified, and divine guidance is what he gains from it.

He has access to truth. Even if his parents fail to give it to him directly, every Sabbath that he attends church services he is receiving it through one of God's ministers. It is available, but he still must make choices. He must discipline himself to follow the information, the true knowledge, given to him. The advantage lies in the fact that he has access to truth about the way life is to be conducted and how he can please God. He can do it because he is not cut off from God. His lamp is not put out (Proverbs 20:20).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens


 

2 Corinthians 6:14-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This series of verses in II Corinthians 6 is not an appeal for us to break all of our worldly associations. Recall that Paul urges the Christian partner in a divided marriage to strive to maintain the relationship as long as possible. This, instead, is an appeal to avoid too close associations. He says not to go into the world, but come out of it (see Revelation 18:4). We should not deliberately make close associations with the peoples of the world. It is all right to do business with them and to work with them, but avoid becoming harnessed together with them.

That last couple of lines, "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters," seems to hinge on whether or not we are allowing ourselves to become yoked into these associations. God does not want us in these close associations with the world because it almost inevitably leads to compromise with His standards. It jeopardizes the consistency of the Christian's witness for God because there is a spiritual force in the world that undermines the Christian because the unbeliever does not share the Christian's standards, sympathies, or goals in life.

Is it unfair that God should ask this of us? Remember, He has bought us with a price (I Corinthians 6:20). The price was the life of His Son, which obligates us to a life of purity and holiness. Once we accept that sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin, we belong to Him. He is our Master, and He says, "Come out of the world and be separate." That is a demand that He puts on us.

Does God ever ask us for something that is not for our good? Of course not! And how is this for our good? Because He knows that it is likely that His people, though they have the Spirit of God, will have an extremely difficult time resisting the spiritual force that wants to lead them to compromise on the standards of His Kingdom. He thus obligates us to purity of life, to holiness, to separation from evil. We owe our allegiance to Him alone, and we cannot allow ourselves not to be a fit vessel for Him to live in.

There is no surer way to go backward in our spirituality, to blunt our feelings about sin, to dull our spiritual discernment until we can scarcely tell evil from good, and to dry up the source of our spiritual strength than by needless mingling with the world. We should stress the word "needless" because Paul writes in I Corinthians 5:9-10 that to avoid all contact with the immoral, one would have to go out of the world. There is nothing in the New Testament to indicate separating oneself by moving into a commune of believers or living alone like a hermit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part 2)


 

2 Corinthians 6:16-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

As the spiritual temple of God, as God's sons and daughters, we have a duty to make ourselves as "clean," "pure," or "holy" as possible. This "perfecting holiness" includes all areas of life, not just the spiritual. Paul makes an unmistakable distinction between flesh and spirit (II Corinthians 7:1) only two verses after he paraphrases Isaiah 52:11: "Do not touch what is unclean."

Staff
Clean and Unclean Meats


 

2 Corinthians 7:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This helps us to understand what holiness is. It is the opposite of the filthiness of the flesh and spirit, a transcendent cleanliness, a transcendent purity of heart and spirit. It is what God is—God is transcendent. He is otherly. There is no one like Him, yet He wants all to be like Him. Life, then, becomes a journey toward holiness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?


 

Ephesians 1:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We have been invited to be holy—to be holy as God is holy—to be without blame before Him in love.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 6): Ephesians 4 (C)


 

Ephesians 1:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God says that we have been called to be holy and without blame before Him. One could also say we have been called to be sanctified. Becoming holy is sanctification. Sanctification is just a fancy term that means "becoming holy," which is growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. It implies overcoming. We might avoid a word like "sanctification" because it is not part of our normal vocabulary, but all it means is "to become holy."

Paul says in Hebrews 12:14 that "without [holiness] no one will see the Lord." This is serious stuff! We have been invited—called—to become holy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 6): Ephesians 4 (C)


 

Ephesians 1:13-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This chapter extols the uniqueness of the church, which Paul refers to as "the purchased possession." Israel became God's personal possession through the destruction of Egypt, and more importantly, with the killing of Egypt's firstborn as the price for Israel's liberty. God "purchased" Israel and its liberties by this means.

What we see taking form is a separate and unique people. Even though all mankind owes its existence to God as their Creator, Israel and the church are both separate and unique because they belong to God in a way other people and nations do not. Amos 3:2 declares, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth." God purchased these people at awesome cost and thus came into possession of them.

When Israel became His property, it gave them certain liberties. So it is with us, but we receive more besides. Among other things regarding the uniqueness of the church, Paul explains that its members have been set apart (redeemed and freed from the rest of mankind and its ways) and sealed through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The term sealed is important because it embraces, not only the sense of ownership, but also security and guarantee. Individual seals were unique, used on documents to identify the sender and to render the content secure from prying eyes and theft, and so they were a guarantee that the contents would reach the intended destination.

God's children may look no different on the outside, but they have been given something inside, something spiritual, that makes them different from others and special to God. They are different only because of something God has done, which also makes them His personal, treasured possession.

John 1:12-13 declares, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." That "something" is the right or power (KJV) to believe the Word of God, which opens our minds and imparts to us the knowledge of God and His purpose, faith, the fear of God, the love of God, and so much more.

Billions of people have access to the Bible. They read it and may even attend church and call themselves Christian, but they then ignore and disobey huge amounts of it, thus not living by every Word of God. This is actual evidence that those who are part of God's special treasure do indeed possess something that sets them apart and motivates them to obey more completely.

Deuteronomy 7:6 begins a section that reveals one of the major reasons why God has done this. "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth." Segullah appears again as "special treasure," but along with segullah is another, more familiar term that identifies being a special treasure as an aspect of a larger subject: the blessings and responsibilities of holiness.

Holy literally means "set apart." Being a special treasure has set us apart from other people. Others, without this advantage, are not set apart. When this principle from the Old Testament is combined with Ephesians 1:13-14, we can understand that the blessing of having the Spirit of God makes us special, different, and holy (Romans 8:9).

This occurs because, in God's self-revelation, His Spirit imparts faith and the love of God beyond what the natural mind is capable. It is becoming clear that being blessed as a special, holy people imposes responsibilities on us that we are required—indeed commanded—to meet. The standards within this relationship are high, requiring gifts and growth to meet them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift


 

Ephesians 2:8-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Along with a multitude of other verses, Ephesians 2:8-10 makes it abundantly clear that, though works do not save a person, they are nonetheless required by God. Since works are required, understanding this aspect of the works issue comes down to comprehending when they are required and the reasons God requires them. While being called of God and led to faith in Jesus Christ and repentance toward God, every person is performing some measure of work to reach those states. We are, after all, called upon to present fruit fit for repentance even before being baptized! We work to bear fruit that provides evidence that we believe God by turning toward giving our lives to Him.

As a means of producing that fruit, we study God's Word diligently and meditate to grasp and arrange our accumulation of truth in its proper order. We begin to keep the Sabbath and perhaps to clean up our language and to tithe as well. We might also set in motion making many other changes in our marriages or our labors on the job.

Nevertheless, even though we may work to make many changes as a direct result of the new information God reveals, none of it will justify us before God. No change of conduct or attitude can erase the stain of our conduct before His calling. We cannot "make up" for what we have done in the past any more than a young man or woman can erase the loss of virginity once it is given away. We may do a multitude of works before baptism, but nothing can erase our past record before God - except the blood of Jesus Christ.

The works done at that time are good, even necessary, to give evidence of belief and repentance. Yet, what carries the day and provides forgiveness and entrance into God's presence is His grace in allowing Christ's sacrifice to prevail before Him.

There comes a time in Christian life, though, when works have a far different and exceedingly more important application. Hebrews 12:14 says, "Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." Is this not our goal in life? Do we not want to spend all eternity working with and under God and our Lord Jesus Christ in God's Kingdom as He proceeds with His plans to expand his rule throughout all He has made?

Without holiness, we will not be fit for living within that Kingdom. We would be miserable round pegs in square holes, intensely disliking the pattern of life necessary for God's plans to be carried out. We would be as the demons are today, constantly fighting to impede God's work and making everybody else as miserable as possible. In God's mercy, He will not condemn any of us to that. We must be holy as He and His Son are holy. That is why we must work with the Father and Son now by yielding to Their purpose for us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Four)


 

Ephesians 2:19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

He is gathering everybody into the household of God, and we are forerunners in the process He is working out.

One of the major keys to the unity God is creating is understanding that it is through Christ that we are reconciled to God. Much of the responsibility for maintaining that reconciliation with God has fallen upon us. Christ is still involved, because He is our High Priest. He is working with us to maintain the reconciliation that He made, so that our contact with God is not broken through disobedience. Thus, each person contributes in the maintenance of this reconciliation by working on himself to become holy—by living a life worthy of God's calling.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 6): Ephesians 4 (C)


 

Ephesians 4:22-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This occurrence of "holy" (verse 24) is a different word from the other word that is most frequently translated as "holy." This word means "to be without contamination." If one becomes dirty because of work - say there is dirt on one's face, hands, arms, and perhaps some of it is grease - it is very difficult to get it off. Will that dirt that contaminates one come off just because one wishes it so?

No, we become uncontaminated, clean, because we work at it. The analogy is being followed through here. Paul's illustration explains that effort must be made to become holy, to be transformed into the image of God. There is action required on our part.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Works


 

Philippians 1:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christians are clearly identified as saints in Scripture. A saint is a "holy one," separated from the unconverted, who do not have God's Spirit. We must not confuse righteousness and holiness. Though they function together in the salvation process, they are specifically not the same qualities. Righteousness is the practical and consistent application, the right doing, of God's way of life. At its foundation, holiness is being cleaned, purified, and set apart, distinguished from others, for God's uses. Holiness is notable by a life as free from the defiling acts of sin as the convert can achieve as he overcomes and grows. Holiness is godliness.

So essential is holiness that the author of Hebrews declares, "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). Holiness must be pursued. Thus, God's legal declaration of holiness, which we receive through Christ's righteousness as we begin converted life, is not the end of our pursuit of glorifying God. I Peter 1:13-16 charges us with this responsibility:

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

Holiness reflects the attitude and way that God conducts His life. Peter's charge to us is not to add to the righteousness conferred on us by receiving Christ's righteousness. Never in our human lives will we ever be more righteous than at that moment. The purpose of the pursuit of holiness through living God's way in our daily lives is to engrain His way into our pattern of living so thoroughly that it becomes habitual, or as we might say, first nature. This effort as a living sacrifice is our contribution that helps transform us into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1).

II Corinthians 5:17 describes what we presently are in God's purpose: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away; behold all things have become new." II Corinthians 3:17-18 more specifically defines where God's creative process is headed:

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

J.C. Ryle, the author of Holiness, writes:

Sanctification is the same with regeneration, the same with the renovation of the whole man. Sanctification is the forming and the framing of the new creature; it is the implanting and engraving of the image of Christ upon the poor soul. It is what the apostle [Paul] breathed after. (p. 317)

In Galatians 4:19, Paul writes, "My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you. . . ." He also says in I Corinthians 15:49, "And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man."

Just as surely as Christ's sacrifice is absolutely vital to our justification before God, so His labor in support of our sanctification forms the reflected image of Him within our very beings, our "hearts," in preparation for life in the Kingdom of God. There would be no salvation, no entrance into that Kingdom, without His efforts because we would be unprepared to live in that sinless environment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is God's True Church Today?


 

Colossians 1:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Colossians 1:15 and 2:9 are two of the strongest statements in the entire Bible about the divine nature of Jesus Christ. He is not only "equal to" God, He is God! Jesus not only reflects God, He reveals God. He was not a mere statue, a close representation of or likeness of God. He was not like the moon, which reflects the glory of something greater, the sun. He was certainly a channel for God's glory, completely and totally. Being completely holy, He has the authority to judge the world. In Him is no clearer view of what God is like!

Now what did He do when He became a man? As the full revelation of God, the complete expression of God in a human body, He is unique. Yet, He imposed on Himself all the time and space limitations that are imposed on all other human beings. He had every opportunity to waste time, to get drunk, to be a glutton, to get angry, embittered, depressed, upset, frustrated, to have headaches, or to strike out at others.

He had to work, just like other men did. He ran a business. He was a builder, a contractor. Did He have to meet a payroll? Very likely. Did He have to make sure that people paid Him? Very likely. Did He ever have to deal with people who did not pay their bills? Very likely. He imposed on Himself these kinds of things.

Maybe He even had the opportunity to be an in-law, as a brother-in-law to the wives of his brothers. He had to learn to live without a father in the family. Tradition says that His father died fairly early in His life—at least, His father was not around when He began preaching. He is not mentioned at all when Jesus was crucified. His human father's absence gave Christ the opportunity to be the head of a family, as well, and to take care of a widowed mother. He had the opportunity to live through the deaths of loved ones and to face His own death as well.

So, in the life of Jesus Christ, we see God coping with life on the same terms as other people. In Him, we are able to see the kind of character that God possesses. If we will just dare to meditate on these kinds of things, we can see how God acts in actual, real, everyday experiences.

In the gospels, we see God teaching. We see God healing. We see God laying down His life. We see God correcting in love. We see God patiently counseling. We see God reacting to others around Him. We can gather firsthand information about how we ought to react to similar situations in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Holiness (Part 1)


 

2 Thessalonians 2:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sanctification is also known as becoming holy (Ephesians 1:4) and being conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). It cannot be left out of God's purpose because it is the step whereby we are transformed into the image of His Son, as well as into the image of the Father. It is in this step that we begin to take on the characteristics of the Family—where we begin to think and act like the current members of the Family of God. The character, the mindset, the attitudes, the perspective, the way we think, the way we look at things begins to become just like the God's.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:14, 16 that "a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works." Sanctification—if it is taking place in a person—cannot be hidden. Why is God so concerned about sanctification? Because 1) this is the step in His purpose in which the major portion of the transformation takes place, and 2) it can be seen—this is how we make a witness! Thus, when Paul sees the working faith, the laboring love, and the patient hope of the Thessalonians, he writes:

. . . remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. (I Thessalonians 1:3-4)

Seeing the fruits of their lives, he knew that they had been begotten by God—that they had God's Spirit—because they had begun "looking" like the Family. Therefore, if a person claims to be a son of God but habitually lives in sin—he is deceiving himself. Those qualities that identify his "spiritual ancestry" begin to show. "Family ties" can be seen.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 9)


 

Titus 2:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Listed fifth is godliness or piety. In Acts 10:2, 7, the word is translated as "devout." This Greek word means "to render to God the reverence and worship emanating from a holy life." To do this, the holy life must come first, and then giving this kind of devotion to God is made possible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Titus 2:11-14


 

Hebrews 12:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are to pursue peace and holiness. We are to pursue peace because there is no peace. There is no peace because of the communication we have had with Satan. Humanity reflects his nature, and the earth is filled with violence. Peace must be pursued.

Likewise, we have to pursue holiness. The work of God on earth is to produce holiness in His children. Without that holiness in us, we will not see the Lord.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?


 

Hebrews 12:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle Paul charges us to "pursue peace . . . and holiness." Pursuing anything requires the expending of energy; it is often very hard work. Pursuing holiness especially goes strongly against the grain of the carnal, anti-God nature residing within us, leftover from following the course of this world.

Further, Paul adds that we must pursue holiness because "without [it] no one will see the Lord." It is true that, while we are justified, we are also sanctified. Being set apart is an aspect of holiness. However, the responsibility of pursuing remains because God wants our holiness to be, not a static state, but a dynamic, living, practical, and working part of our character. This character is built through experience after we have been given access to Him. We must seek and build it through cooperative association with and because of Him and our Lord and Savior.

A number of motivations exist for doing so. The first - a no-brainer - is because we love Him. Jesus says in John 14:15, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." Another motivation springs from friendship. Jesus explains in John 15:14, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you."

Do we want to please God? Jesus remarks in John 8:29, "I always do those things that please Him." Do we want to be in God's Kingdom enough to walk His way of life entirely, regardless of what God may demand of us? Joshua and Caleb did on the journey to the Promised Land. Jesus declares in John 17:4, "I have finished the work which You have given Me to do." He paid a huge price, and He made it.

We are told to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in every circumstance because both of these are part of God's will (I Thessalonians 5:17-18). We are also to study "to present [ourselves] approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed" (II Timothy 2:15). Each of these is a labor that falls upon anyone who appreciates God for what He has done and for what He so generously and freely provides.

Do we want to witness for God, bringing Him glory by our labors of love? Is this not what all the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 accomplished? According to Hebrews 12:1, they constitute a great cloud of witnesses. Abel's work of faith still speaks (Hebrews 11:4); Noah's witness condemned the world (verse 7), and Abraham's faith drove him to seek "the city . . . whose builder and maker is God" (verses 8-10). Hebrews 11:39 declares that all of those named or implied in the chapter obtained a good testimony through faith.

They worked in various ways, and they will be in the Kingdom. Undoubtedly, God included in His Book the witness of the shining examples of their labors so that their lives might prod us to do likewise in our own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Six)


 

Hebrews 12:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Holiness starts in one's relationship with the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Justification through God's merciful act of grace opens the door of access to Him, as well as the door to the Kingdom of God. Justification is entirely an act of God, a legal action on our behalf that we accept by faith because He does not lie. Others do not easily discern our justification, since in most cases it has no outward manifestation.

While sanctification unto holiness begins at the same moment as justification, it is a progressive, creative, time-consuming work of God within us. Unlike justification, sanctification cannot be hidden because it appears in our godly conduct. By it, a witness is made that God dwells in us. Where there is no holiness, there is no witness to glorify God.

So we see that justification and sanctification are two separate matters. They are related - indeed, they cannot be separated - but we should never confuse them. If one partakes in either, he is a partaker of both, but we should not overlook the distinctions between them.

Christians cannot take sanctification for granted. We must pursue it until we are assured that we are sanctified. Our course is clear: We must go to Christ as forgiven sinners, offering our lives to Him by faith, crying out to Him for the grace we need to enable us to overcome all the flaws in our characters.

The apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:19, "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." The same apostle adds in Ephesians 4:15-16:

. . . but, speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Close communication with Christ is the source of the perception, motivation, and energy to discern flaws and overcome them. It is a biblical principle that whatever God requires, He provides what we need to accomplish it. Thus, we are to draw from this inexhaustible well and be renewed every day in the spirit of our minds (verses 23-24). In John 17:17, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus asked the Father to sanctify us by His truth. Will God not answer that prayer, especially when we desire to be sanctified to be like His Son? He most certainly will answer it so that our sanctification will continue.

Perhaps a word of caution is in order, and with it an admonishment that we also ask for patience. Growth does not always come quickly. In addition, as we grow in knowledge, at the same time we become more perceptive of our flaws. The more we know, the more flaws we see, and this can become humiliating and discouraging. The humility it produces is good, but the discouragement is not so good if it halts our growth.

Paul faced this, writing of it in Romans 7, but he most certainly did not let it stop him. By the time he finishes his discourse, he declares resoundingly that he knows he will be delivered by Jesus Christ. Sinners we are when we begin, and sinners we find ourselves to be as we continue - we will be sinners to the very end. Salvation is by grace, is it not? Our absolute perfection will not occur until we are changed "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" (I Corinthians 15:52).

While reaching for God's holiness, we should not let our goals ever be anything but the highest. We should never let Satan convince us that we can be satisfied with what we are right now.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Six)


 

Hebrews 12:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Of what does holiness consist? Is it the accumulation of religious knowledge? Many people have labored long to research material for commentaries and other tomes on religious subjects, but does that accumulated knowledge translate into holiness? After three and a half years with Jesus, Judas had undoubtedly accumulated much knowledge, but it did not stop him from betraying his Master. Would Jesus, the Holy One, have betrayed Judas?

The Bible shows that many had long contact with truly godly people, yet never became holy. Joab had an almost lifelong association with David, but he remained a scoundrel to his dying day (I Kings 2:5-6, 28-34). For years, Gehazi served Elisha, but he ended up cursed because of greed (II Kings 5:20-27). Paul reports that Demas had forsaken him because he loved the world (II Timothy 4:10). The rich young ruler, who appears to have been moral and respectable in conduct, asked Jesus what he should do to have eternal life, yet his rejection of His counsel proves that he was not holy at the time (Matthew 19:16-22).

Were the Jews made holy due to their claim that the Temple of the Lord was in the capital of their nation and God dwelled there (see Jeremiah 7)? Does this equate to some taking comfort because they are "in the church" and are therefore holy? Later Jews claimed that Abraham was their father, and that they had "never been in bondage to anyone" (John 8:33). They were indeed "related" to someone of renown who was holy, but this did not stop Jesus from telling them that their spiritual father was Satan the Devil!

Demographic categories may play their parts in one's sanctification, but none of them guarantees or makes one holy on its own merits. Holiness is not transferred via a group. Each must work with God on achieving it himself.

John Charles Ryle gives the following definition in his book, Holiness:

Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God's judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is the most holy man. (p. 34)

We must understand more to appreciate more fully what he wrote. Ryle's is only an overall definition because he reveals as he continues that it defines only the overall mindset, foundation, and trigger of the holy person's conduct. Holiness includes both one's mindset and conduct. What good is a mindset without the conduct to give evidence of it?

To paraphrase Ryle's conclusion, a holy person will strive to shun every sin known to him and to keep every known commandment whether required physically or in spirit. He will have an enthusiastic desire to perform God's will combined with a greater fear of displeasing God than displeasing the world. Paul writes in Romans 7:22, "I delight in the law of God according to the inward man." David, too, says, "Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way" (Psalm 119:128).

Why will this combination of attitude and action exist? Because the holy person will be striving to be like Christ. He will labor to have Christ's mind in him, as Paul admonishes in Philippians 2:5. He will deeply desire to be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). Thus, the holy person will bear with others and forgive them, even as Christ bears with and forgives us. He will make every effort to be unselfish, just as Christ did not please Himself, sacrificing Himself for our sakes.

The holy person will endeavor to humble himself and walk in love, as Christ served and made Himself of no reputation. The holy person will remember that Christ was a faithful witness for the truth, that He came not to do His own will but His Father's. He will deny himself in order to minister to others and will be meek and patient when receiving undeserved insults. On the other hand, Jesus was bold and uncompromising when denouncing sin, yet full of compassion toward the weak.

The holy person will separate himself from the world and be instant in prayer. Christ would not even allow His closest relatives to stand in the way of doing the work He had been given to accomplish. In sum, the holy person will shape his life to walk in the footsteps of His Savior, as the apostle John advises in I John 2:6, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Six)


 

James 1:2-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The trying of our faith seems to be happening a great deal. Our faith is being tested, but it produces patience or puts patience to work. This verse suggests that the trials, of and by themselves, do not produce spiritual maturity. In fact, they may turn people bitter or cause them to be envious, jealous of others who do not seem to have any trials, sailing right through life without problem. It can be difficult to see the contentment of others when we feel as if we have the weight of the world on our shoulders, or we are burdened with sorrows, we are perhaps sick, a family member is giving us problems, or we are about to lose our jobs. Under such a strain, it would be easy to become bitter.

Did Jonah's trial produce a great deal of patience in him? At least at first, he was angry with God. His is a good example of trials, of and by themselves, not producing good things, particularly spiritual maturity. It is faith plus the test plus patience that complete the process of coming to holiness, because that is what the trial is designed to do. The trial of our faith is to bring us to holiness, but if we lack patience, the process is going to be short circuited.

The natural reaction to trials is to want to escape them, and that is understandable. But God says, "No, don't do that. Patiently bear with Me. Let Me work out what I want to accomplish through this trial." Our job is to let our faith produce patience. While bearing with it, what are the patient expending their energies on? They are straining against the self, for that is where the real burden lies.

In humility and meekness, the faithful Christian does not feel it is incumbent upon him to change others, but rather he emphasizes his responsibility to change himself. He patiently works through the trial, working on himself, his attitude, his relationship with God and with other people, and the factors that have caused the problem. He cannot change the other person, but he can change himself. If he does, then patience has accomplished its perfect work or its complete work.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)


 

1 Peter 1:13-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle Peter provides the practical implications of this wonderful hope. Hope can go to work for us and do wonders. God's calling and purpose are certainly wonderful, but He does not intend that they set us off on a daydream. Peter is declaring a call to arms: "Pull yourself together!" "Roll up your sleeves!" "Give hard thought and wrestle with the practical implications of salvation."

Remember that the church is the community where God's truth is taken seriously, and His mind is being formed in its members. To paraphrase and expand, Peter is saying, "Look, brothers, we should not be superficial about this. Keep cool. Do not be impetuous. Avoid excesses. Live a plain life. Work hard, but set your hope in God's grace, not in your own willpower.

"Remember always that your obedience is to a gracious Person, not to a coldly calculating judge or to society. Holiness is not sanctimoniousness. It is being separated for a special purpose by special instructions and discipline. We have been called to perform a unique purpose. We have been called to glorify God by our lives as a witness to all who observe, and at the same time being prepared for His Kingdom. God wants us to have a passionate love for goodness, so in your mind give Him a unique place.

"Do not fear the enemy, as we would Christ. Use your hope to think about Him, His power, justice, wisdom, goodness, truth, omnipotence, and omniscience. Remember always that He has wisdom without error, power without limit, love without hatred. Our hope is in One who is great in every respect. Quit thinking of God in fleshly terms. He is not a limited man nor even a superman. He is GOD! He is with us, and so who can permanently harm us? Concentrate on being completely devoted to Him, and if we do this, we have every reason to hope. God is not a man that He should lie. His promises are sure."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Trumpets Is a Day of Hope


 

1 Peter 1:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When a person swears by a thing greater than himself, it lends weight to what he says. He means that his word is as certain as the existence and power of the one by whom he is swearing. When one takes an oath by God or on the Bible, such as in a court of law, men recognize that God Himself makes the oath binding.

God swore by His holiness. "As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct." We find here that we are to be holy because He is holy. Holiness, like righteousness, is both imputed by God and achieved by us. Just as the vessels of the Tabernacle and Temple were holy, so are we when we are consecrated, set apart, for God's use upon conversion (I Corinthians 3:16; Colossians 1:22). Holiness, however, is more than an imputed state of being. It is a process that we must pursue throughout our Christian lives (Hebrews 12:14). That is why God admonishes us to become holy, to be holy in our conduct (Romans 12:1; II Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:24; II Peter 3:11; I John 3:3).

The laws written in Leviticus 19, from which Peter quoted, are injunctions against defiling the mind, character, personality, and attitudes of a person through sins like idolatry and breaking the Sabbath. God also speaks of taking care of the poor, of not reaping the corners of the fields, and of being just in judgment. He warns against respecting persons and always siding with the disadvantaged (who may be wrong in his cause). He also mentions not eating anything with blood, practicing divination, or soothsaying and so forth. These and other defilements make one unholy, impure, and defiled.

He wants us to be holy because He is with us and in us. He does not want to be contaminated by the impurities of His people. God wants to have close contact with His people. "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be My people" (II Corinthians 6:16). If we want to have a fellowship with Him, we must start to become holy as He is. "'Come out from among them and be separate,' says the Lord. 'Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you'" (II Corinthians 6:17).

Israelites, God's people, are advised to be separate so they can avoid every possibility of defilement: "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (II Corinthians 7:1). Flesh and spirit indicates "physical and spiritual" or "body and mind"—one's total personality—outwardly and inwardly in all relations with God and fellow man. Our sanctification, part of which we do, sets us apart to walk the way of holiness.

Holiness is what makes God what He is. It is not an attribute of God like love, joy, or omnipotence. Holiness is the ground, basis, and foundation of God. It is His uniqueness and totality, His deity, and divinity itself. It is the perfect purity of God.

His holiness is symbolized in the construction of the Tabernacle: "The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy" (Exodus 26:33). A curtain separated the two chambers, and only the high priest could pass through the veil—and then only once a year. The phrase Most Holy is literally "holiness of holinesses." It represents the height, the top, the very pinnacle of morality. God was isolated from Israel, not because He was unapproachable, but because He wanted us to see the difference between us and Him. He really is approachable; no one in the universe is more approachable than God. But He is transcendently superior.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

1 Peter 1:15-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God demands that those who are associated with Him, those set apart by Him to be a dwelling place for His Spirit, be holy as He is holy. This means that we must become, not merely set apart, but set apart and clean. We are entering the area of Chrisitian conduct, and our separation is away from those who are not clean, not pure spiritually as God is.

We see the implied meaning of sanctification coming into play, because in order to be a suitable dwelling place for God, we have to become holy as He is holy. We have to become holy, then, in the sense of clean—a clean life, as well as clean in our sacrifices. I Peter 2:5 says that we are "to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

We have to be holy in the sense of clean living, and our sacrifices need to be acceptable. This deals with being made holy by Jesus Christ, that is, through His work made possible by means of the blood of His sacrifice as a man, as well as His continuing work of sacrifice as our High Priest before God as our Mediator and Intercessor.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and Holiness (Part 1)


 

1 John 1:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"The light" is the truth. God's Word is truth (John 17:17). We have to walk in the light "as He is in the light." He lives in us, and we in Him. We are in union with Him.

John is telling us how we become clean: We become clean as we apply God's Word. It gets in us and begins to clarify and purify our thinking. But it does not become a real cleansing until it begins to be used. Then, it begins to clean up our bad habits and thinking processes. The thinking processes change according to our action, our behavior. If we keep doing the same things all the time, nothing changes. We are resisting. "Walking" denotes living. If we live as He lived, then we become cleansed. This is what holiness is. If we do that, then we will produce fruit—it is impossible not to!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 8)


 

1 John 2:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Propitiation is "an appeasing force." The law spells out the perpetual requirements of obedience to God, and blood pays for sin.

God desires sacrifice and obedience, not a religious game. It must be emphasized that our obedience is not for the purpose of saving us—salvation is by grace—but to assist us in perfecting holiness (II Corinthians 7:1) and to provide a witness of God working in our lives (Matthew 5:16).

Israel's purely ceremonial religion could never safeguard the truth because the people were not living it. By being used in the worship of manmade deities, not the Creator God, the rituals of their shrines were completely divorced from the truth found in the law. God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7). The evidence of true religion is that through His correction in mercy and love, it will touch and purify every area of life. If we are really in contact with the true God, change will take place gradually as we grow.

To determine if our profession and practice of religion is pleasing to God, we must consider two questions: 1) Are we covered by the blood of Jesus Christ? and 2) Are we obeying God to the best of our understanding?

We never obey to the extent of our knowledge because knowledge, knowing what God expects, always outpaces ability. We gather knowledge before we have the ability to live it, and that makes us feel guilty because we realize we are not applying what we know. This guilty feeling is not really wrong, for without guilt we would not change. It is good if it makes us change, but when guilt becomes neurotic, it becomes destructive and wrong.

Today, psychologists are trying to remove guilt from our every thought, word, and deed—a sure sign of widespread spiritual poverty and complacency. But God says we can worship Him with a pure conscience because we know we have been cleansed of our past sins through Christ's sacrifice, and because we know God is faithful to us as we live by faith in Him (Hebrews 10:19-23).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

1 John 3:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Our hope is to be like Christ and to see Him as He is. Our hope is to enter the Kingdom of God. What does having such hope do? It motivates a person to purify himself. He does this by living life as Christ lived it. The whole issue of sanctification revolves around the receiving of God's Holy Spirit and then the study, belief, and putting into practice of God's Word. If we do those things, Christ is in us, and we then cannot help but to produce fruit, just as He did.

If we receive God's Holy Spirit, and it joins with our spirit, converting us, then sanctification—spiritual growth toward perfection—begins. It cannot be stopped unless we choose to stop it. Paul says, "Do not quench the Spirit" (I Thessalonians 5:19). We have the power to do that, but if we will just yield to it, fruit will be produced. How much and of what quality is up to the individual, but it will be growth taking place. The process will begin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 8)


 

Revelation 2:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The manna that fed Israel was spread on the ground for all to see and gather (Exodus 16:4, 35). Hidden manna, symbolizing God's Word, is concealed from the rest of the world; it is special insight from God that feeds the soul and sustains spiritual life. In the ancient world, a white stone was given to one under judgment as an absolution from guilt, a black stone to the condemned. A white stone signifies innocence through forgiveness and grace to enter the Kingdom of God. The new name reflects the holy character built by the repentant overcomer. These gifts, though certainly special and wonderful, are available to every true child of God.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Pergamos


 

Revelation 20:12-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Since all are to be judged according to their works, what if one claiming to be Christian has no works to show when God clearly expects them? James 2:19-20 clinches the argument: "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?"

This entire issue is actually quite simple. No amount of works can justify us before God. Justification by faith in Christ's atoning blood makes one legally free to access God and to begin a relationship with Him. However, from that point on, works are absolutely required for sanctification unto holiness - to the extent that, not only is one's reward contingent upon them, but also salvation itself. Will God reward one who can show no works at all, or provide salvation to one whose faith is so weak it produces bad works? Such a person would be totally out of place, unfit for living eternally in the Kingdom of God.

Ephesians 2:8-10 makes this reality even stronger. Even though we are saved by grace through faith, the very reason we are created is for good works that God Himself prepared beforehand for us to walk in. The gospel of the Kingdom of God provides the reasons for which works are required - the major one being to prepare us for living in God's Kingdom.

God intended Israel's forty-year journey through the wilderness to prepare them for living in the Promised Land. However, even though Israel had the gospel preached to them and had godly leadership provided by the likes of Moses, Aaron, and Joshua, in their stiff-necked unbelief they refused to submit in obedience to God's commands. They thus failed to receive the necessary preparation for using the Promised Land rightly, becoming an eternal example of why works of preparation are needed (Hebrews 4:1-2).

Can we learn a lesson from their examples? When God brings us out of spiritual Egypt, He is not done with us yet. In fact, a great deal of spiritual creating within us remains to be accomplished before we will be fit to live and occupy a working position in God's Kingdom. We are being created in Christ Jesus, created in His image. Can we honestly say we are already in His image when we are merely legally cleared of sin? Absolutely not! As great as this is, it is not the end of God's creative process. God is not merely "saving" us. His purpose is far greater than that.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Six)


 

Revelation 21:8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's law will still be in effect once His Kingdom is established. Even after the Millennium, when New Jerusalem comes down, no lawbreaker will be allowed in the city. In Revelation 22, the last chapter of the Bible, obedience to God's law is the central issue. This is very clear proof that the law of God, which reflects the holy conduct of the Almighty, will be the standard for all eternity!

Martin G. Collins
The Ten Commandments


 

Find more Bible verses about Holiness:
Holiness {Nave's}
Holiness {Torrey's}
 




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