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Bible verses about Faith
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Whether our faith will ever be practical in translating mere knowledge of God and His purpose into everyday use hinges on three major factors:

1. That we absolutely recognize the true God of the Bible as sovereign over His creation.
2. That we believe and accept that Jesus Christ is the payment for our sins. Therefore, because the Father owns us in a Master/slave relationship, He has every right to do with us as He pleases.
3. That we believe that through His calling He has predestined us to eternal life, demonstrating that He is personally concerned for us and working in us and through us individually.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Seven


 

Genesis 3:4-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Through distrust, Satan seduced Adam and Eve away from submitting to the most wonderful, lovable, giving, concerned, sensitive, and helpful Personality in all creation—God. Can you imagine that? The Devil convinced them that God could not be trusted!

Distrust is a powerful incentive whose fruit is divorce. Our first parents sinned and division began. The world has not been united since. When there is distrust, faith evaporates. Fear, anxiety, and depression escalate, and the motivation to be personally secure and free from the hassles of coping intensifies. The "fight or flight" mechanism kicks in.

John W. Ritenbaugh
In the Grip of Distrust


 

Genesis 3:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The first humans failed their test of faith. They trusted what they "saw" rather than believing what God said—His words—and became the first example of man choosing to walk by sight rather than by faith. Humanity has followed this example ever since, proving that Adam and Eve's faithlessness was not an aberration but a trait of every human heart, including ours.

What were the consequences of this sin, this act of faithlessness? The answer is in Genesis 3:24: "So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life."

Adam and Eve's sin of faithlessness destroyed the close relationship they had with God. Because they did not trust Him, their lack of faith put a barrier between themselves and God. The broken trust, faithlessness, ruined that relationship just as it does in our human relationships.

Adam and Eve chose to follow the faithless Satan rather than the faithful God. Satan persuaded them to focus on what they could see rather than what God said. The strategy was so successful that Satan has consistently used it on humanity.

Satan is the prime example of faithlessness. Satan believes God exists, but his is a dead faith because it does not lead to right action. James 2:19-20, from the New Living Translation, forcefully points out the futility and foolishness of Satan's faith: "Do you still think it's enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror! Fool! When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is useless?"

Pat Higgins
Faith—What Is It?


 

Genesis 13:10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What is the least important aspect of faith? Eyesight. God is telling us that Lot lived by sight, not by faith. Even though God saved him, the man was what we would call today "carnal." Converted, but carnal, just as Paul told the Corinthians in I Corinthians 3, "You are yet carnal." They were converted people, just as Lot was. Lot saw the beauty of the land and realized that it would produce wealth, chosing to ignore the evil that was plainly visible to anyone who cared to notice it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 3)


 

Genesis 19:26   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Lot's wife did not merely look back—she dragged her heels from Sodom to Zoar, dawdling and wasting time. By conducting herself in this way, she gave unmistakable evidence that her heart did not believe what the angel had said to her—God would not really destroy all of their possessions. So she reluctantly left Sodom because she loved the world, not having the faith.

This has two direct applications to our lives. In Luke 17:32, Jesus said, "Remember Lot's wife." He says that she sought to save her life but lost it. The first lesson is that when the time comes to flee, flee! Do not look back. This is corroborated by Matthew 24:17 and Mark 13:15, in Jesus' Olivet prophecy. He said, “Let him who is on the housetop not come down.” Jesus meant, “Get out of the city. Flee. Do not look back. Do not get any of your possessions. Leave!”

This is not to minimize the gut-wrenching choices that this requires of us. Scripture implies that when this occurs, our family might be spread all over the city, county, state, nation, or globe. Will we have the faith to leave the city, not just without our material possessions, but without our children? Are we going to trust God that He will protect them and get them out, too? Though this is not easy, the word of our Lord says, “Remember Lot's wife.”

The second lesson is that saving one's life also pertains to one's way of life and manner of living. It includes one's hopes, dreams, aspirations, traditions, attitudes, and relationships. All of these have come from this world, which forms and makes us what we are, often in opposition to God (Romans 8:7). This is why John warns in I John 2:15 to “love not the world.” The world is cosmos, a system apart from God, being organized and regulated upon false principles and false values. It has made us what we are before God calls us, requiring our repentance and conversion.

Like science, conversion tells us there cannot be a vacuum in life. When we are swept clean by God's forgiveness and His Holy Spirit, something must be done to keep it clean, holy, and separated from the world. No man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), and therefore, loyalty cannot be given with neutrality. It will either be God or the world.

The way to God was open to Lot's wife because of her husband's conversion (I Corinthians 7:13-14). The problem was that she failed to take advantage of all the privileges that were given to her. She dropped the ball. The lesson is to whom much is given, much is required.

We must remember Lot's wife, for never has so much opportunity been given to really know God through His Word than has been given to the end-time church. Yet, when Christ asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8). The question requires each of us to answer individually. Will He find faith in us?

He will find faith if we take seriously His admonition to remember Lot's wife, who was totally unprepared because she had no faith. We need to be working diligently to build our faith in God by yielding to Him in loyalty in every opportunity life presents.

Remember Lot's wife.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 4)


 

Exodus 2:9-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In this long process of faith- and conviction-building in Moses, God was laying a foundation in him, in that people of faith parented him during his most formative years. One should never conclude that the first several years of a child's life are unimportant; in fact, it is in those first couple of years that he is started down the path of the rest of his life. What path will it be?

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

Train means "to hedge in," "to put walls around," "to narrow the way." God was doing this through Amram and Jochebed: They were starting Moses down the right path.

We do not know for sure how long Moses was with his real parents. It was at least until he was weaned. In those days, it seems to have been customary for a child to be on the breast for about two years before he was weaned. It is possible, some commentators say, understanding the culture of Egypt, it is likely that Moses was with Amram and Jochebed until he was about six years old. The reason, they say, was to get the child through those "bad years," for instance, "the terrible twos," because they had them too. By the time he was turned over to Pharaoh's daughter, he was over the hump, and she would not have such a hard time taking care of him. So, he may actually have lived with Amram and Jochebed through what we could call the pre-school years.

In verses 9-10, there is an ironic twist. God worked it out that the child who, by order of Pharaoh, should have been killed at birth is now under the secure protection of the powerful family that ordered his death. God has a sense of humor, does He not?

Not only that, the family of Moses not only received their precious baby back, but they were paid wages for doing something that they would gladly have done for free had the situation been different. It is examples like this that caused later writers to comment that God knows how to deliver the godly out of their temptations and trials. For instance, in Ephesians 3:20, Paul says that God can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us, the Holy Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction and Moses


 

Exodus 4:27   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This episode takes place when the forty years that Moses spent in the wilderness tending Jethro's sheep has come to an end, and God has sent him back to Egypt. However, Moses' faith is not really all that strong, so he complains to God that he does not know how to speak, which is interesting because, when Moses was in Egypt, he was a leader, a champion of men, apparently a general of the armies, and in line to become Pharaoh. Those responsibilities would entail that he communicate to others and maybe give speeches before thousands of people.

Yet now, suddenly, he does not know how to speak. Perhaps during that forty years, God had worked on him in such a way that, not that he had really forgotten how to speak, but he had learned enough about himself that he was no longer as self-confident as he had been in Egypt. Now he would have to put his confidence in somebody else. He may not have felt all that confident that God would be with him. So God came to his aid by providing his brother, Aaron, to do the speaking.

We all have failings of faith, but we should not feel overly bad about this because God supplies the need to overcome them in some way. He does not dump us as too weak but works things out another way. It is for experiences like this that the concept in I Corinthians 10:13 comes into play. God will make a way of escape that we may be able to bear, overcome, or endure our trials. In Moses' case, the way out was provided in the person of Aaron, who, apparently, had no fear of public speaking.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 1)


 

Exodus 6:5-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Then you shall know . . ." indicates that God expects that when He begins to speak to us, though we may believe Him, we may not be able to translate His commands into the kind of action that we will someday be able to. We will really not know the Lord until after He has fulfilled what He has promised to do. Thus, He expects there to be weakness in us; He knows that we will not always do things correctly in faith.

We begin to see here, then, that the people were once again strengthened through God's Word. They bucked themselves up, one might say, and they decided to be encouraged and to resist however they could.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 1)


 

Exodus 14:5-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Israelites accuse Moses of not dealing with them fairly, murmuring that he should not have led them out of Egypt. This occurs just days after they went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians, joyful that they were free. How quickly their faith evaporated when fear began closing in on them!

The Egyptians, their horses, their chariots, all the shining army and might of Egypt were represented there. The Israelites' backs were up against the sea, and they could see the death sentence approaching them as fast as a horse could pull a chariot. They thought their lives were hanging in a balance when they saw the army. The end of their lives was quickly coming within view.

Had not God given them enough evidence through all His plagues against Egypt? Had He not given them enough evidence to impact their thinking, clearly dividing the Israelites from the Egyptians, beginning with the fourth plague? All of the plagues fell on Egypt, but none of them after that fell on the Israelites. Had He not impressed their minds enough on Passover when the blood of the Lamb enabled their firstborn to live while the Egyptians' died?

We can learn and grow from this lesson. In principle, we all come to our own personal Red Sea. Every one of us fails repeatedly, just as Israel did when they lost their faith for a while. What we go through when we come up against our personal Red Sea is very similar to what Israel went through.

God rescued and chastened them, but He did not dump them. He shows that He will continue to work patiently with us just as a teacher continues to work with students, even though some fail and rarely do anything well. A teacher is faced with the same principle that we are involved in with God. The teacher does not want to fail students, so he uses all of his time, energy, and efforts to encourage and instruct so that those who are failing will turn around, catch the vision, and begin to apply the right teaching.

God thinks of time in the same way a teacher does: “There is still time to catch this person's interest and turn them around.” Therefore, God gave the Israelites forty years in the wilderness.

Hebrews 11:29 shows that these people did recover their faith in time to go through the Red Sea. The major reason that they turned themselves around may have largely been because of faithful leadership, primarily by Moses and possibly by others as well. They exhibited some measure of faith, and God faithfully and duly records it.

This ought to encourage those of us who fail from time to time. Many times our faith has failed, but God patiently continues to work with us. We cannot become discouraged, but must keep going on, because God will not stop. He will keep working with us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 1)


 

Numbers 12:4-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

How would we like to be accused as Moses was, then witness God Himself make a dramatic entrance and hear His voice boom out in poetry in our defense, saying that we are without peer amongst all the people? God says to Moses, "There is no one like you." He was without peer among the holy. That is pretty impressive! It has not happened very often in mankind's history.

But, on the other hand, there has only been one Moses. There were a number of ordinary prophets, who had to be content with visions and dreams, but God spoke to Moses personally. Moses was in a class by himself. Nobody on earth was more intimate with God than Moses, and, as a result, Moses was entrusted with God's estate. And Hebrews 3:2 comments, "Moses also was faithful in all His house."

"All His house" is a figure of speech, indicating that "house" is put for itself (that is, the building) and everything in it. What is normally in a house is a family. Moses, then, was faithful—he was without peer—in all of God's Household, God's Family.

Nobody was faithful like Moses was faithful, therefore he could interpret God's will to Israel with full authority. God backed His prophet up, saying that Miriam and Aaron were completely out of line. This is why He says, "Why were you not afraid to speak against [or, accuse] My servant Moses?"

It is clear what set Moses apart from others: He was faithful. This can be seen when he is contrasted to the rest of Israel, the very people that he was leading, who comprised God's Family at that time. They were anything but faithful! In fact, the reason that the Israelites failed was because of their lack of faith. And without faith, of course, one cannot be faithful.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction and Moses


 

Psalm 11:4-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is good to remember that, just because He makes something available to us—even things that might ordinarily be considered "good"—it does not mean it is good for us! God is continually testing us to see whether we understand how intimately He is working with us.

We are to be self-controlled people, our conduct motivated by faith, because we are a distinct people summoned by the great God for His purposes and His purposes only. God is drawing us into oneness with Him, which is why His Word so frequently stresses His one way.

A man was once asked why he risked life and limb to climb a mountain. He replied, "Because it was there." This illustration is supposed to indicate that he rose to the challenges of life and overcame them. What is not often explored is that he did not need to risk life and limb to climb the mountain. He took this risk, this gamble, on himself; God did not require it. His vanity drove him to do it so he could be personally satisfied and tell others he did it.

Exercising faith in God and His Word is not a gamble. Babylon's system is a way of life that promotes gambling, betting that one will be able to beat the odds. It began with Adam and Eve in the Garden and today contaminates virtually every area of life.

Despite our wealth of knowledge concerning nutrition, we gamble with our health in what and how much we choose to eat. How can smokers not know they are gambling with their health when statistics show that each cigarette takes about seven minutes from one's life? Consider the AIDS epidemic. In spite of all the information regarding the dangerous potential of this disease, people willfully continue in their hedonistic lifestyles, gambling that a cure will be found before it strikes them down.

We often gamble in the way we drive our automobiles. People sky dive from airplanes or bungee jump from high bridges spanning deep canyons. Men and women involve themselves in a whole host of life-threatening experiences, risking their survival for the sake of a thrill.

Many have gone heavily into debt wagering that the nation's economy, their employment, and their health will continue to be positive and that they can somehow manage to keep their noses above the financial waters. Yet, the nation's economy, which affects jobs, never stays the same for long. Various factors are in constant flux, making financial speculation risky business.

The solution to each of these gambles is to control ourselves through faith in God and His purpose. We must stop indulging ourselves and begin making whatever sacrifices are necessary to keep to the strait-and-narrow course God has placed before us. It is our responsibility to glorify Him, and we most certainly will not glorify Him by gambling on some other way of life!

But Israel does not want to sacrifice. She wants satisfaction—her way—which so frequently comes at the expense of godly conduct. We cannot allow ourselves to be dragged along in her self-centered depravity, as seen in her boast, "I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow" (Revelation 18:7).

Albert Einstein was once asked for his definition of insanity. He replied, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." This entire creation works according to laws, and those laws cannot work any other way than they do. They always bring the same results.

The solution is to quit disbelieving God and to begin obeying the laws He counsels us will produce the abundance, satisfaction, and peace we so desire. Israel would not and will not do this. It remains to be seen whether we, after being given the opportunity, will follow Israel's fickle example or that of the heroes of faith.

Israel's sin is driven by an overweening self-concern, which forgets that God is working out a purpose and plan that oversees everything in our lives. He bought and paid for us with Christ's sacrifice, and we vowed to submit to His authority when we gave Him our lives. God's track record is clear, and what He is providing is more than fair. He promises to supply our every need, but in Israel's fearful and fickle discontent, she did not seek Him to understand what He was doing. Instead, she sought for something different from the experiences He was providing to prepare her for His Kingdom.

Psalm 11:4 could be rendered, "His eyes behold the children of men; testing and proving the upright in heart." Israel failed when He tested her. What is He testing in us? As He tested Israel, God is testing our loyalty, our faithfulness to Him, to see if we will keep the covenant across a wide spectrum of situations. These tests never come at a convenient time, do they? Do they not always seem to hit when we are in a bind of some kind, making the choices all the more difficult? They make us decide who comes first in our life—God and faithfulness or our own nature and flesh?

What are we to do when the issue is whether to break the Sabbath by working or keep it by refusing? What should we do when we are in a financial bind and in debt—submit to men or pay God His tithes first? Can God, will God, provide our needs in such a tight financial situation? What will we do when we desire to cover a failure—brag and lie or tell the truth? What should we do when we are sexually enticed—flee or commit sexual immorality?

What will we do in any case when submitting and the glorification of God are at issue? Should we expect God to bless us when we choose to take sovereignty to ourselves? When we take sovereignty to ourselves, we introduce idolatry into the relationship.

Once we are no longer ignorant of the choices before us and choose to take sovereignty to ourselves, sin becomes exceedingly more serious in its consequences—we become our own idol because that is whom we are serving.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?


 

Ecclesiastes 11:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here is a call to faith. Solomon advises us that the use of faith will always contain an element of risk of loss because we do not know the end from the beginning. We can only vaguely conceive the future. We have a desire for eternity within us. We wish to have insight into how our present situations will be resolved, but we do not know the complete answer.

Therefore, Solomon says it will never work out right unless we decisively commit ourselves to live by faith: "Cast your bread upon the water." Cast your lot with God; take the risk.

If we do this, it will demand commitment in the same way a businessman must commit to his investment if he wants to make a profit. What if a businessman commits his capital to some investment and fails to ensure the business makes a profit by devoting his time and energies to it's success? The endeavor will fail.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Isaiah 14:12-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Probably all of us have thought that we know better than those in charge. Watch out! Thinking like this is not wrong in itself, but it is something that lodged itself in Lucifer's mind: "I know better than the one in charge," and in this case, it was God.

We can begin to see how his pride was beginning to exalt itself against God. It was moving to break the relationship between them. It was coming between Lucifer and God so that their relationship could not continue. Lucifer could not continue to serve God.

Most have felt that we have been overlooked, neglected, or abused. Most of us have felt rejected a time or two. Of and by themselves, these feelings are not wrong. But, again, we must beware, because these feelings can begin to generate pride. Such a thing fed Lucifer's feelings about himself. They simmered in him and made him angry, and he desired to assert his will to control the governance of all that was happening. "I will ascend to heaven," he said, and he tried to. We see the pattern here; we can see the process involved from beginning to end.

It ends in warfare against God, which is why a person of pride cannot have a good relationship with Him. A proud person cannot have faith in God, at least not very much. A small amount of faith can be there, but pride will definitely be a hindrance. This is why the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18:9-14 follows immediately after of the Parable of the Importunate Widow (Luke 18:1-8), which Jesus ends with, "When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on earth?"—because humility is essential to faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

Isaiah 55:8-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When we do not think like God, we are not in His image. We cannot say as Jesus did, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). God, in His wisdom, has willed that we grow in His image through exercising faith in what He says, buttressed by what He reveals of Himself in His creation.

The fundamental difference between the person of faith and the unbeliever is revealed by the way they judge things. The unbeliever, of the world, judges things by worldly standards, by his senses, and by time. The person learning to think like God brings God into everything, viewing things from His perspective, by His values. He ascertains how the activity, event, or thing looks in terms of eternity. He seriously meditates on God's sovereignty over all things. At times, doing this puts the screws to his trust because the Bible says that God's judgments are "unsearchable . . . and his ways past finding out" (Romans 11:33). Faith holds a person steady.

Because we often do not think like Him, and because we do not have His perfect perspective, we often do not exactly know what God is doing. Only in hindsight do we understand what is occurring in our personal life, to the church, or in the world in the outworking of prophecy. So we must trust Him, and in the meantime weigh what is happening and its possible outcome.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

Jeremiah 17:5-6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The subject in which Jeremiah 17:9 appears is faith. God is pointing out why we allow our deceitful heart to get away with evading truth. It is a matter of faith—trust. Verse 6 shows that the person who does not live by faith will not grow. He will be like a shrub in the desert that only receives water every so often, not near often enough to grow.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception


 

Jeremiah 25:3-4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This passage, along with verses 8-9, gives a simple, clear, and graphic example of why hearing God's Word, believing it, and understanding God's sovereignty is important to practical applications in our life. This is why Jesus admonishes us to listen. The Jews certainly heard Jeremiah's voice proclaim God's warning, but it did not motivate them to act. They did not fear God's sovereignty over their lives. The direct result was disruption in society, the pain of warfare, and the captivity that followed. As almost any parent would say to his child in a similar situation, God is saying, "I told you not to do that. If you had listened to me, this would not have happened."

Why did they not listen? The words spoken by God's prophets carried no authority in their minds because they had no faith in God's sovereignty. If asked, these people would have asserted they believed in God. In reality, they had no faith that God was even anywhere around, that He had the power to do what He said, or that He cared enough for them to do it. They lacked living faith.

Why is it so important to listen to God's message? Because God's summons comes to those who listen to and believe the message, and through them His work is done. Notice John 6:29: "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.'" God is working salvation in all the earth (Psalm 74:12), and He is doing it in and through those who believe the Son. Only those who believe the Son will willingly submit to God's sovereignty because they look to Him as their Ruler.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

Daniel 3:16-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

They could see the rage in Nebuchadnezzar's face, but they also saw God. Where did their powerful conviction come? This kind of conviction does not arise "on command," at the spur of the moment. It is the product of the demonstration of God in the lives of these three young men before this time, before their lives were on the line. Their faith had grown and matured over a period of time.

God is always the same. What God says through Paul in I Corinthians 10:13 applied to them just as it applies to us. God knew what they could endure. They also knew that He would provide a "way of escape." Because of this, they told the king, despite his threats, "Even if God does not choose to protect us, we still are not going to bow down to your image."

Have we ever considered why more "mighty deliverances" do not occur to us? It is because we spend so little time fellowshipping with God that we do not see Him as an immediate and vitally important part of our lives. As a result, the physical "evidence" we see around us overwhelms us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Do You See God? (Part Two)


 

Habakkuk 2:3-4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Terrible times, God says, are coming, and the proud will be caught in that time. If we want to be spared, if we want to be saved, if we want to witness these things and live eternally beyond it, then we must live by faith and wait for it. It will require perseverance and endurance.

The word translated as "faith" is not the normal Hebrew word for faith. It has a meaning more akin to "fairness": The just shall live by his fairness. By extension, we could say, he shall live by his stability, certainty, reliability, personal character, or integrity.

A person is faithful to God only because he trusts Him, and therefore, to help us to understand, the translators decided to insert the word "faith" here. Human faithfulness ultimately rests on his trust in God. If a person is going to be faithful, it is because he believes what God says, and he is motivated to have a genuine commitment to righteousness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 2)


 

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

God, in this verse, sets out the two universal sides. The proud are on one side. Their deeds are not upright. On the other side are the just, those who live by faith. In a way, He is asking Habakkuk—and us, "Which side are you on? Can I count you among the proud, who will be destroyed, or the just, the faithful, who will be rewarded? Choose your side."

This verse is quoted three times in the New Testament, all by the apostle Paul. In Romans 1:16-17, he shows that the gospel Christ brought reveals God's righteousness, the way we are to live, which is by faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, he writes, "The just shall live by faith." It is a common misconception that the gospel is merely the announcement of the Kingdom of God. But it is much more than that: It is the instruction of God on how we are to live. It is the faith we must live. We are to live the gospel, the way Christ revealed in His life and teaching. We can live confidently according to God's Word because we trust God—we have faith in Him and His revelation.

A second quotation of this verse is Galatians 3:11, a usage slightly different: as a proof that God does not justify us by the law but by faith. To paraphrase, he says that God has granted us eternal life because of our faith in Christ not by our adherence to the law. The apostle makes this verse say, "The just shall have eternal life by faith, or because of faith"—our faith in Christ, and so we will live.

Finally, Paul quotes this verse in Hebrews 10:38-39: "Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition [or to destruction], but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." Paul uses the quotation from Habakkuk much like Habakkuk himself does, showing the two sides of the issue: the just on the one hand, who go forward to reward, and on the other side the proud, those who draw back and are destroyed. If we desire to enter into His Kingdom and live eternally, we must believe God and live our lives accordingly. The proud draw back from God, and they receive destruction. If we live by faith, we go forward to perfection (Hebrews 6:1-2) and thus to salvation, not to destruction. Paul says in II Corinthians 5:7, "We walk by faith, not by sight." The lesson is, whatever the circumstances, we must obey God and let the chips fall where they may. We must always be faithful to be counted among the just.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 3:1-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Chapter 3 is Habakkuk's prayer. The best part of this song is that it shows that Habakkuk truly grasped what God was teaching him. The song is a prayer, the response that he promised God in Habakkuk 2:1. After being greatly chastened, he tells God that he understood what He was saying.

One commentator called this section "the greatest expression of faith in all the Bible." Habakkuk is a good example of what a person of true faith does. He obeys God by listening. He waits patiently for God's answer to his dilemma, and he receives understanding. Then, he expresses his faith in this song.

We could almost compare it with Job's expression of faith in Job 42:2-6. Habakkuk finally sees God as He really is, and he expresses his joy and his faith that God is on his and Judah's side. In the same way, we could express our faith and joy that He is on our side and the church's side because we know Him.

The prophet goes through all the ways that God has worked on behalf of His people, particularly the Exodus. He admits that he had forgotten all these things. He realizes that, though they were not understood at the time, all these acts of God worked to bring about what He had planned. God's acts brought Israel into the Promised Land and made them into a nation. No matter how much we fail to understand, God is still wonderful and working hard to bring us blessing. So he tells God, "I am sorry that I forgot all your power and that I let my fears get in the way."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Malachi 3:16-18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God listens to what we say. He wants to hear us speak to and help each other during these stressful times. He does not like to hear judgmental and condemning conversations among His people, but words of encouragement that spur others into standing fast in God. He likes to hear brethren urging each other to fix their attention on the true teachings of God and to have faith in what He is doing.

Soon, God will make us His jewels, a special treasure for Himself, and those who have conducted themselves wisely will be most prized by Him. We need to realize the dangerous times and attitudes into which we can be dragged. We must stay focused upon what God is working out in our lives and in the lives of others—wherever they may be fellowshipping. By doing so, we can fight against Satan's influences and overcome them in faith. God is preparing His own special, peculiar people (I Peter 2:9), and He will bring them all to a full and wonderful salvation!

John O. Reid
The Whirlpool of War


 

Matthew 8:5-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There are several discernible character traits in the centurion as described by Matthew and Luke:

First, he cares for and is concerned about his servant. Although the servant is a slave, he does not treat him as one. In fact, he is dear to the centurion, and so his suffering moves the centurion to compassion.

Second, he is humble and sees himself as unworthy as a Gentile to approach the Jew Jesus, whether personally or through the intercession of others. Luke describes this humility more vividly than Matthew does. Christ respects the humble and acts accordingly. The centurion's humility is seen in his consciousness of his own sins and the recognition of Jesus' holiness and excellence.

Third, he has obvious faith in Christ's ability to heal. He knows not to expect a "magical" cure—rubbing an idol or touching a charm. Nor does he ask for a sign that a miracle would be performed. His humility shows his out-going concern for another human being, and it is outstanding because of his rank—people with status are rarely humble. When people are given even a low position or title, they often become inflated with pride, valuing themselves of more importance and worth than is realistic.

The centurion's humility is also unusual due to his ethnicity. Roman soldiers were trained to think of themselves as superior to those whom they conquered and presided over, especially in regard to the Jews, whom they scorned. However, the centurion humbles himself significantly before the Jewish rabbi, Jesus, giving Him great honor by abasing himself to the point that he says he is not worthy even of being in His presence.

The centurion's humility teaches us that the most faithful people frequently consider themselves the most unworthy before God. In contrast, the weakest of people often deem themselves the most worthy. Likewise, a righteous person will readily admit his sinfulness, but the sinner will justify himself.

Jesus calls the centurion's act of faith "great" because he does not ask for any sign but believes in Christ's spiritual, supernatural ability. He does not expect anything visible. Jesus twice refers to a person having "great faith," and in both cases, the person is a Gentile: this Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman who appeals for her daughter's healing (Matthew 15:28). These two miracles show that faith transcends such things as race and birth privileges.

Since the centurion is a Gentile, he has no promise by covenant of God's mercy, as do the Israelites. Thus, for him to have this kind of faith is a rare and great thing. His faith sees Christ's power, and he declares His holiness as a witness to other Gentiles. His faith shows his acceptance and respect of Christ as Savior and his submission to His will. He even believes that no direct contact is necessary for Jesus to perform the miracle! The centurion sees no restrictions on Christ's power and ability to heal his servant. He understands that nothing limits God.

It is interesting that Christ marvels over the magnitude of the centurion's faith. He understands the difficulty with which humans struggle with faith—that we are visually oriented, seeing the physical first and the spiritual second. Indeed, with most, the physical is more real than the spiritual. Yet, the reality is that true power, glory, and love are spiritual. These spiritual things are more real than the physical world that we see and hear. This material world will one day pass away, but the spiritual Kingdom of God will last forever and ever (Luke 21:33; II Peter 3:10; Daniel 7:18).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Centurion's Servant (Part Two)


 

Matthew 8:26   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus rebukes His disciples for fearfulness and little faith. They have not lost complete confidence in Christ, but neither have they learned nor fully developed trust in Him. They are at ease only when they hear Him speak and see Him taking care of them. They have so little faith that, when the moment of need comes, it is not enough to give them peace and calm.

The disciples are not totally faithless in this incident, as they called for Christ to save them. They know from what they had seen of His supernatural power that He is able to calm the storm, but they fall short in failing to realize and fully believe that it makes no difference whether Christ is asleep or awake—He is still the Son of God. They should have considered that the Father would not allow His faithful Son to drown in a sinking boat. After all, He is the One who, ages before, had "shut in the sea with doors, . . . [and] said, 'This far you may come but no farther'" (Job 38:8, 11). His followers do not apply their little faith. Faith and fear cannot exist together, for fear paralyzes faith.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Stilling a Storm


 

Matthew 9:21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The woman's genuine faith in touching Jesus' clothing is from a human standpoint, for, in reality, the power to heal is in Christ Himself (Mark 5:30-34). In touching Him, she is not thinking of His merciful and compassionate will, but of a physical healing power passing from His body to His clothing and then to the hand that touched it. She has a material conception of His healing power, a confidence that something magical flows through His clothes.

However, as physical and imperfect as the woman's faith is, Jesus does not scorn her and her limited belief. He uses His supernatural knowledge to identify with her, even though in the Jews' eyes this meant that He had contracted ritual uncleanness. Using what faith she has to glorify His Father, He heals her by an act of His divine will, bringing her to a higher, spiritual faith. Though imperfect, her faith is essentially genuine and accepted by God because, as soon as she touches the hem of Jesus' clothes, her flow of blood dries up, and she feels her diseased body heal.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Woman With a Flow of Blood


 

Matthew 9:28   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Matthew 9:28, Jesus asks the two blind men seeking healing, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" Christ's challenge concerns their faith. If faith is present, miraculous healing will occur according to God's will. If it is absent, God will grant no healing. A person of faith receives preferential treatment, and in fact, faith is so important to God that His Word declares, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

The blind men answer Christ's challenge with outstanding, genuine faith, saying, "Yes, Lord." In the Greek, this is a strong affirmation, carrying a tone of certainty. The men had no doubt that Christ could heal them, unlike many people today. They believed Jesus was the son of David, indicating that, though they were blind, God had begun to open their minds.

These men faced many disadvantages that worked against producing faith, but they still trusted Christ in impressive ways. Those who—unjustifiably—excuse their lack of faith because of life's difficulties hinder their spiritual growth. Many with handicaps and weaknesses have come to have faithful relationships with Christ.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing Two Blind Men (Part Two)


 

Matthew 10:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What did He give "these twelve [whom] Jesus sent forth"? What is an apostle? It is one sent forth with a message. Thinking about the principle in Romans 10:17, that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, Jesus gave the same words to those He sent forth! They are the ones who have the message that will produce saving faith!

When we read about fracturing of the church during the first century—in the books of James, I and II Peter, I, II, and III John, and Jude—we find direct and indirect references, sometimes very strong, in which the apostle writes, "Remember what we have taught you." Other messages were coming into the church, and people were falling for them because they were susceptible to them—they were too weak to reject them and to discern the deceit in them. They believed them, and then what was the result? Disobedience. This factor separates those who believe from those who do not. Those who believe will obey God. Those who do not believe will not obey Him because "the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7).

We find ourselves in a battle, a struggle, between the carnality that remains, which is attracted by false messages, and the truth of God, which is the right message, the proper faith. Paul describes it in Galatians 5:17 as a war going on in us (see also I Peter 2:11). By the power of God's spirit, we have to make the choice as to which one we will submit to.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wisdom of Men and Faith


 

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

Jesus asks the man to do what had seemed impossible a moment before. At His command, the man places himself in full view of the synagogue's audience so that everyone present can witness it, and without even touching him, Jesus immediately heals him. When the man stretches out his hand for all to see, the crowd witnesses positive proof of Christ's power and holiness.

Despite the shame of his withered hand, the man still attends Sabbath services at the synagogue. He places a higher priority on worshipping God than on his personal discomfort. The principle illustrated here is that people should not use physical problems as an excuse for not going to church. A person should attend services when able.

The downside of missing services is that, eventually, spiritual problems with far more serious consequences will develop. No one can do much in service to God if he allows physical problems or handicaps to impede his worship and service of his Creator. In a sense, many of us suffer from withered hands. Sin so paralyzes us that we cannot serve God as we would like. Yet, anyone in God's church can be empowered to do the needed things for our Healer.

The real issue is faith. Jesus fulfills God's intention for the Sabbath day by restoring this man to health and strength. In answering Christ's call to step forward, the man shows what a little faith and obedience can do. This tests his courage and faith as he rises above his human fears. He entirely trusts Christ, and his healing is God's response.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Withered Hand (Part Two)


 

Matthew 15:28   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The woman receives a two-fold reward: She is commended for her great faith and receives healing for her child. Christ shows that He approves of her boldness and honors her faith, which—along with her persistence and humility—earn her blessings. She keeps knocking at the door of opportunity until it is opened.

From this, we should learn a lesson about prayer. Initially, she seems to be rejected and denied access to Christ's power, but then, having seen her faith, Jesus opens His grace to her. Christ commends her for "great" faith. She takes the lowliest place, but her faith in Christ earns her His highest praise.

Her faith is tested by His silence and then by His discouraging reply, but it is necessary for Him to see the strength of her faith, as well as for her to realize what it takes to follow Him. He is pleased with what He finds in her.

Ultimately, the Lord sustains our faith and gives us hope to strengthen it (Psalm 138:3). Her faith was built on hope of good things to come, and what she had heard of Christ and seen of His power motivated her. Her unparalleled trust in Him proves that it is not blood lineage through Abraham that identifies his children in the faith, but faith itself. Although a Gentile by birth, she would become a spiritual Israelite through belief and conviction (Galatians 6:16). The strength of her faith is manifested in what she overcame—not physical obstacles, but mental and emotional barriers.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Exorcising a Syro-Phoenician (Part Two)


 

Matthew 15:33   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The skepticism of the disciples is quite shameful. A short time earlier, they had witnessed Christ miraculously feed the 5,000. They had seen His power multiply a few loaves and fish to fill the hungry crowd. Yet, confronted with an identical problem, they throw up their hands and say that it cannot be done.

Is that not what all of us do when faced with a new but similar trial? Each new difficulty appears as one from which there is no rescue. Why do we become so perplexed and discouraged? We know God heals and intervenes on behalf of believers. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, we seem to forget previous deliverances. What short memories we have! The person with true faith develops confidence from God's former interventions of faithfulness and love.

There is no excuse for such skepticism. All of us have expressed similar skepticism in our failures in trusting God. The biblical words for doubt suggest being "suspended," "driven by gusts," or "fluctuating in mid-air." Doubt does not necessarily indicate a lack of faith, but rather a state of qualified faith—weakness but not its total absence. Hebrews 11:6 asserts, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Like us, Christ's disciples obviously pleased God often, yet they sometimes displayed weak faith.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Feeding the Four Thousand


 

Matthew 17:19-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A lack of faith is a sign of a weak prayer life. Jesus Christ advises us how to address unbelief—prayer and fasting.

On a human level, how do we build trust, faith, and loyalty? Will we have faith in someone we do not know? Can we be loyal to a stranger? We build confidence in others through repeated contact with them over time—close and frequent communication. As we get to know them, to see them in action, to see their characters, we eventually reach a point where we can have trust and faith in them and in their behavior. Is it any different with God?

Prayer provides the repeated and continual contact with God that we need to get to know Him. This sets in motion the process that will lead to faith, to God being willing to give us the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8). The prayerful person becomes the faithful person, not the other way around. Hebrews 11:6 illustrates this point: "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Notice the condition in this verse: God is not the rewarder of everyone, but "of those who diligently seek Him." The gift of living faith comes from diligently, actively seeking Him, consistently and with zeal. Prayer is a major tool in seeking God, along with study, fasting, and using the knowledge gained to conform to His will—practical Christian living and overcoming. Those who prove their diligence by doing these things are the ones rewarded with the faith to overcome (I John 5:4).

The Sabbath is an external sign that identifies God's people (Exodus 31:13, 17). Yet a person may be a nominal Sabbath-keeper without having a true relationship with God. Is there another sign—a less visible one—that perhaps only God sees? Yes, and Zechariah 13:9 shows it is prayer: "They will pray in my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'You are my people,' and they will reply, 'You, LORD, are our God!'" (Contemporary English Version).

Those with a weak prayer life have weak faith (Matthew 17:19-21). Those with weak faith are sinful (Romans 14:23) and are promised death (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23). That is just how important earnest prayer is as part of a solid foundation, especially during the end time. As I Peter 4:7 instructs, "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers."

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Two)


 

Matthew 23:23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The real problem with the scribes and Pharisees is that they were totally selfish. They weighted their judgment toward themselves, and so they had no room for mercy for others. Nothing about them resembled Christ—no fidelity. They did not see a need for faith in the forgiveness in Christ, for they felt they needed none.

Christ gave them the answer to their problem. If they would render proper judgment, without partiality, emphasis on self would diminish. Their mercy would allow people to make mistakes and have space to repent rather than fear being destroyed financially or otherwise. Finally, with true fidelity, they would treat everyone as Christ did. Their faith would increase, as would the faith of those under their influence.

Had they properly applied these three qualities—judgment, mercy, and faith—their attitudes would have turned from selfish carnal goals to outgoing concern for others. They would have begun displaying the real love of God. If we apply them, we will have the confidence and boldness of which Paul spoke—the kind of faith required for salvation. The scribes and Pharisees lacked it. Being alive, we still have the chance to obtain it.

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 4) : Faith and Fidelity


 

Matthew 23:23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Judgment, mercy, and faith" can be paraphrased to make them easier to understand. Judgment means "being fair and even-handed in judgment." Mercy means "being compassionate and kind in action," and faith means "being loyal to God in keeping His law." Justice is a more accurate, modern translation of "judgment," and "faith" might be better rendered faithfulness or trust. Thus, Jesus is speaking about justice, compassion, and faithfulness (or loyalty).

Jesus applied these concepts in confronting the Pharisees because they had reached a tragically wrong conclusion regarding the intent of God's laws.

Weightier means "more important," "central," or "more decisive" as compared to what is peripheral or secondary. Thus, the intent of God's law is to produce justice, compassion and kindness, and loyalty to God. Of course, the major thing that will be produced is a right relationship with God and men, and character will be built.

The Pharisees were guilty of a massive distortion of God's will, or what could even be called God's pleasure, and in their zeal to be absolutely correct, they corrupted those they were leading. Their problem was their attitude toward law, one opposite from most people's. Most people tend to become looser and more liberal in their application of law, but for some strange reason, the Pharisees corrupted the law in the complete other direction. God felt it necessary to correct this corruption so that we would understand that it is equally perverse.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 4)


 

Matthew 24:12-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Bible shows us the damage caused when God's people do not believe how special we are to Him. How do we keep our love from going cold? We must go to the source to replenish it. Where is that source? Where does real love come from? The answer is found in I John 4:19: "We love Him because He first loved us."

The next verse, Matthew 24:13, reinforces this thought: "But he who endures to the end shall be saved." Jesus sets up a contrast. Verse 12 describes people without faith in God's love for us growing cold and not enduring. In verse 13, "but" suggests that those with faith in His love will endure and be saved.

What happened over the past decade or so is nothing compared to what is ahead for some of us. The time of Jacob's trouble will be terrible. Many will face famine, pestilence, and persecution. Friends and family may turn on us. Church members will die. When all this happens, there may be no physical evidence to see how much God loves us. How will we endure those times? We will, but only if we absolutely believe in how special we are to God, how much He loves us. That is the faith we will need to endure any trial.

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials


 

Matthew 24:37   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God told Noah that He would destroy the earth by a flood, and He gave him instructions on how to be prepared so he and his family could survive. God told him what He would do but not when. What did Noah do? He prepared, though nobody else did. Noah believed God and acted according to his belief. When the Flood came, he was ready, even though he did not know when it would come.

The parallel to today is astounding. Noah's actions define a Christian's responsibilities. Putting the lesson into his life, one can also "[b]y faith . . . being divinely warned of things not yet seen, [move] with godly fear . . . and [become] heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (Hebrews 11:7). Not putting this lesson to work is the attitude that leads to spiritual disaster, saying by one's conduct that there is plenty of time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 24:45-51   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The parable of the faithful and evil servants admonishes us to be faithful and wise in carrying out responsibilities and relationships with our fellow servants, our brothers in the body of Christ.

A faithful person is trustworthy, scrupulous, honest, upright, and truthful. Without specifically stating it, Christ is saying that we have to be keeping the first of the two great commandments: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37).

In this context "wise" means judicious, prudent, sensible, showing sound judgment. It suggests an understanding of people and situations, showing unusual discernment and judgment in dealing with them. Just as Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:6 about being self-controlled, Christ's use of "wise" indicates an exercising of restraint, using sound, practical wisdom and discretion, and acting in good sense and godly rationality. In short, Christ means exercising love. He tells us that we should be faithful in keeping the second of the two great commandments: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39).

Since this parable applies to everyone, Christ admonishes us to lead in a way that unites and inspires others to be faithful. We do this by giving them the truth, a good example, and encouragement. In this way, we become wise and faithful stewards of the trust God has given us.

In these verses, Christ strongly links belief with behavior in both examples. If we believe in His return, we will not live as we would like carnally. It is as simple as that. If we really believe He will return soon, this parable shows that our belief will regulate our lives, keeping us from extremes of conduct.

This faithful attitude is opposed to that of the scornful servant, who says his master delays His coming and beats his fellows. His conduct turns for the worse as he eats and drinks with the drunkards. From the description Christ provides, the evil servant's attitude is arrogant, violent, self-indulgent, gluttonous, and hypocritical. Because he believes he has plenty of time to square his relationship with God, his conduct becomes evil.

In summary, whoever is entrusted with duties must perform them faithfully, prepared at all times to account for what he has done. The key words in this parable are faithful, wise, and ready.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 25:1-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Parable of the Ten Virgins pictures the church waiting for the Bridegroom's return. Because of an unexpectedly long delay, He finds half the virgins unprepared when He finally arrives.

In weddings of that time, the bridegroom traditionally led a procession of bridesmaids from where they waited to his home. Since the procession almost invariably took place at night, each bridesmaid was expected to supply her own torch or lamp. If the bridegroom came later than expected, the bridesmaid needed to be prepared with extra torches or oil for her lamp.

The difference between the wise and the foolish virgins in the parable is not that one group did not have oil, but that one group did not have enough for the unexpectedly long delay. When the cry went out, their lamps were still burning, but they were sputtering and going out. Oil, of course, represents God's Holy Spirit. The wise virgins, like the faithful and wise servant of Matthew 24:45-51, are prepared. They make sure that they remain in contact with the dispenser of oil, as is implied when they say to the foolish virgins, "No, . . . go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves" (verse 9). The wise had been in recent contact with the dispenser of oil, whereas the others apparently had dallied around. Going frequently to the dispenser, the wise, when the bridegroom arrived, had an adequate supply to trim their lamps and go into the marriage supper. The lesson is preparedness through vision and foresight.

Because it is an internal state, preparedness cannot be transferred. That is evident in the reaction of the virgins. It is a matter of the heart, an intangible that accrues by spending long periods of time under many circumstances with the Dispenser of the Holy Spirit. What cannot be transferred to those who are unprepared are matters of attitude, character, skill, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. They are personal attributes that are built and honed over months and years.

When one needs a skill immediately, how much time does it take to learn it? If a man suddenly needed the skill to repair an automobile, and he had never done any work on one, he may as well have no hands at all! It works the same way with spiritual attributes. Preparing for eventualities is the lesson of this parable. The wise virgins prepared for the eventuality that it might take longer for the bridegroom to come—they showed foresight and vision, and they entered the wedding feast. The others did not.

The oil cannot be borrowed either. In no way can it be passed from one person to another. We cannot borrow character or a relationship with God. The parable teaches us that opportunity comes, opportunity knocks, and then opportunity leaves. The foolish failed to face the possibility that the bridegroom would come later than expected, and when they were awakened, they had no time to fetch any oil and fill their lamps.

No one can deliver his brother. Each person determines his own destiny. No matter how close we are, even if we are one in flesh as in marriage, a husband cannot deliver his wife, and a wife cannot deliver her husband. Nor can we deliver our children. Everyone stands on his own in his relationship with God. God makes this clear in Ezekiel 14:14: "'Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,' says the Lord God." Though it is a hard lesson, it should motivate us to discipline ourselves, to exercise self-control, to be alert, and to give our attention to our spiritual priorities. Thus, each person determines his own destiny.

Equating the foolish virgins with their modern counterparts, the Laodiceans, their faith is perfunctory. Their church membership is routine, merely going through the motions. They have enough faith that they at least show up for church services. They have beliefs and character and motivation—but not enough!

The Bridegroom's refusal to admit the five foolish virgins (verse 12) must not be construed as a callous rejection of their lifelong desire to enter the Kingdom. Far from callous, Christ's rejection is entirely justified because these people never make preparations for their marriage to Him. In the analogy, though they realize they have met their future mate and admire Him, they never develop the relationship. In a sense, they have already rejected Him. Thus, an additional lesson in this parable is that our relationship with God must be worked on continually.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Mark 1:40-42   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice the man's faith: "If You will, You can do it." God had revealed to him Christ's power to do this. He was confident that Christ had the power to do what he asked Him to do. The only question that remained was, "Is he willing to do it?" which is why he worded his request as he did. "If You will, I have the confidence that You can do it." Christ found this appeal within His will and the will of God. Jesus reached out and touched him.

There was a great deal in that act. The very act of reaching out and touching the man indicated that his request would be fulfilled because the law that He gave to the Israelites in the Old Testament forbade a person from touching a leper (Leviticus 5:3). In a sense, His act violated the very law that He gave to Israel, but His mind was made up He to do it to perform an act of mercy and deliverance. That quickly, He reacted to the man's appeal. At this juncture, the important fact is that the man clearly believed that Jesus Christ had the power to heal him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith and Prayer


 

Mark 2:3-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Four men arrive late, carrying a paralyzed man on his bed. When they realize that they cannot possibly get him through the door, they carry their helpless paralytic friend upstairs to the roof and lower the bed in front of Jesus as He is speaking. Their determination to place him before Jesus displays their faith that he would be healed. Instead of being deterred by the problem of the crowds, they see the possibilities for solving it. If they could only involve God, they thought, things would go well. The persevering efforts of the four friends pay off for their paralytic friend as they help make possible his spiritual healing as well as his physical healing. Their actions are an example of the apostle James' statement in James 2:18: "I will show you my faith by my works."

Christ finds faith in the friends, and He honors their faith, rather than any faith the sufferer has. Of course, no one can be saved by another's faith. Yet, another or others can help him along to Christ since only He can deliver him from the bondage of sin. Being pleased with their works, which exhibited their faith, Christ responds to their resourcefulness and perseverance in behalf of their suffering friend. Their faith in Christ, then, is the catalyst in His performing this miracle. Our Savior works where faith is present (Luke 5:20). Obviously, He can perform His work anywhere regardless of human faith, but He often chooses not to act when people lack faith in Him, as happened in Nazareth (Matthew 13:58).

Hope motivates the paralytic's friends to manifest faith. First, their faith is a wise faith in that it brought the paralytic to the only One who could heal. Second, it is a persistent faith because it is undeterred by seemingly overwhelming obstacles. Third, it is a sacrificial faith in that it gives of its time and effort to bring the paralytic before Christ. Fourth, it is an unintimidated faith because it is unashamedly displayed in public. Fifth, it is a humble faith since the friends do not ask Jesus to come to him but take him to Jesus. Sixth, it is a loving faith because the friends willingly expend great effort to get him real help. Finally, it is an active faith in that they take the man to Christ rather than sit around complaining and grumbling about their friend's woeful condition.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Paralytic (Part One)


 

Luke 9:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At this point in His ministry, Jesus tells them not to be concerned with procuring extra provisions for their journeys as they went to preach the gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons. He specifically instructed them, "Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece" (Luke 9:3). A short time later, He gave similar instructions: "Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road" (Luke 10:4). The parallel account in Matthew 10:7-10 mirrors these directives:

And as you go, preach, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.

Jesus Christ was not issuing a blanket prohibition against sandals, or against money, or against owning more than one shirt. However, for a limited interval of time, He directed them to travel lightly, for a number of reasons.

First, for these initial activities, Christ did not want His disciples to be concerned about physical preparations. He wanted them to focus on the job that He had given them to do—preach the gospel and report back to Him—rather than on worrying about obtaining extra clothing or footwear. His emphasis was on the mission He was sending them on, but He knew human nature's tendency to worry about the details of its own comfort and existence. He did not want the disciples caught up in any preparations that would delay or distract them from His work through them.

Second, Christ was helping them to build faith in God as their Provider. He was teaching them to live and do His work without concern for their physical lives. He states clearly that if we are seeking His Kingdom first, and all that it entails, God will provide for all of our real needs (Matthew 6:33). The Father provides for even the birds and flowers, and we are of much greater worth than these (verses 25-32). God even has a name that reflects this: YHWH-Jireh, the Lord will provide as He thinks fit.

There is an alleged contradiction between the accounts given by Matthew and Mark. In Mark 6:8-9, Jesus says, "Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts—but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics." In Matthew 10:9-10, He instructs, "Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs." This problem is easily resolved when we realize that He is really talking about two different things. In Matthew's account, Jesus does not forbid wearing sandals or carrying a staff, but only forbids their providing themselves with more—getting extra ones. Instead of being concerned when their current trappings wore out, they should trust God to supply their need and go just as they were. On this verse Albert Barnes comments, "The meaning of the two evangelists may be thus expressed: 'Do not procure anything more for your journey than you have on. Go as you are, shod with sandals, without making any more preparation.'"

Third, Christ did not want His disciples caught up in the spirit of materialism. Certain elements within the culture of the day would "preach" for money, either religiously or philosophically. Charlatans would sell "snake oil" cures. Mediums and spiritists could do seemingly miraculous things—for a price. People in this society would do anything to turn a quick penny just like today.

Christ's words in Matthew 10:8 are meant to counteract this mindset. He had given the disciples miraculous power to heal and cleanse, as well as authority over demons. Yet, because He had given these spiritual gifts to them freely, Christ told them to carry out His instructions without seeking monetary or material compensation. God's workers are worthy of their hire but should not build personal fortunes through the services they render for Him. God is certainly generous, and provides for His servants as He sees fit, but He prohibits them from using His gifts for their own gain. He will bless them as it pleases Him!

David C. Grabbe
Living By the Sword


 

Luke 17:5-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verse 10 contains the key to increased faith: the word "say." The principle boils down to working with a specific attitude. Christ tells us to do everything possible to be as profitable as this servant (verses 7-8), without expecting any recognition for it (verse 9). Then we can present the sincere, humble attitude: "We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do."

Humanly, the servant could have taken the attitude, "You owe me! Didn't I go 'above and beyond'?" No! "Above and beyond" is not applicable to our relationship with God. We could never do enough to put God in our debt.

I Corinthians 4:7 asks, "What do you have that you did not receive?" We have no room to boast that we have done anything without God's oversight (Daniel 4:28-35). I Corinthians 6:20 tells us we owe God everything, as He has redeemed us by the most precious blood of His own Son. Paul commands us not to grow weary but do good to all (Galatians 6:9-10). James echoes him: "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). God has backed us into a corner. Where do we have any room for "above and beyond"?

In both the planning and action stages of works of goodness or faith, we decide how much to give, how far to go. But in hindsight, what good thing have we ever done that qualifies for "above and beyond" our duty to God? Whatever it was, the Scriptures plainly show we were commanded to do it! It was our duty because we found it in our power to do it (Proverbs 3:27). We cannot take the attitude that, "We did these good things, so that makes us profitable to God." If we do, we have no basis for faith. Our faith would be in ourselves, not in God.

Staff
Beware of Faith Blockers!


 

Luke 17:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostles wanted more faith so they could meet the challenges of God's demands, but Jesus knew that it was not quantity they needed but quality. They did not need an increase of faith that would bring some reward following its use, but a faith that, although small like a mustard seed, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). The disciple with this type of living faith is convinced of the fact that God exists (Romans 4:16-22; Hebrews 11:1-3), conscious of his intimate relationship with God (Romans 5:1-2), and concerned about absolute submission to His will (Romans 12:2).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unprofitable Servants


 

Luke 18:1-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8) teaches the necessity of patient, persistent, and persevering prayer, much like the Parable of the Persistent Friend (Luke 11:5-13). A mention of prayer precedes both parables. Though delivered in different situations, they both show the absolute, immeasurable contrast between God and men, and provide evidence that God yields to the saints' pleading and urging. Both parables depict a person granting a request because of his selfish motives. The Persistent Friend's persevering prayer is for necessities, while the Persistent Widow's is for protection. Both parables conclude that God will not fail us as friends and acquaintances often do.

The Parable of the Persistent Widow is especially linked with the final crisis of the last days and the painful circumstances the faithful remnant will face. Prayer will be a major resource for them. Since vengeance is God's alone, they know He will judge their oppressors, but as they wait for deliverance, persevering prayer will be their refreshment and supply of patience. The parable is preceded by Jesus' exhortation on the Christian duty to pray, dedication in prayer, and resisting the temptation to discontinue prayer. It concludes by indicating that prayer is a matter of faith.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Widow


 

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

Concerning our habits of prayer, "always" does not mean we should pray every single minute of the day. If this were so, the faith involved in prayer would be a dead one, as we would never have time to do the works required with it (James 2:17-18, 20, 26). "Always" means that we should be faithful to our regular times of prayer. Concerning the time of prayer, "always" includes the fact that we should pray in both good and bad times. Sadly, some pray only in a crisis, and others forget to offer a prayer of thanksgiving when God has intervened to solve a problem or provide a blessing (I Thessalonians 5:17-18). Regarding the spirit of prayer, "always" means we should be continually ready to pray, praying whenever a crisis hits or a need arises. Because they reveal our priorities, good habits of prayer show dedication to God and strengthen our relationship with Him.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Widow


 

Luke 18:7-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Since Christ questions whether even the elect will have the kind of faith He requires, it should be obvious we must grow in faith. Our initial faith toward God has to expand from a tender trust to full-blown conviction. Though we begin by being faithful in little things, we begin to develop the absolute trust required to submit our lives to our Sovereign and Provider without question, equivocation, or wavering.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Faith Toward God


 

Luke 18:7-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus ends verse 7 with the phrase "though He bears long with them." This seems to imply that God bears long with His people's cries for help. But this is not the sense. The pronoun "them" refers, not to God's elect, but to their oppressors, whom God endures far longer than we do. The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary states: "[T]he meaning is, that although He tolerates these oppressions for a long time, He will at length interpose in behalf of His own elect."

Then, Jesus states emphatically in verse 8, "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily"! "Speedily" is probably another poor choice of words; it is better rendered "suddenly" or "unexpectedly." When God's tolerance of these oppressors has run its course, He will promptly act at the right time—"out of the blue," as it were—to deliver His people.

Then at the end of verse 8 comes the question that pertains to each one of us now, today, in this season. Based on the above parable promising God's faithfulness, Jesus asks the question, "Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"

The implication seems to be that very few will have the strength of faith that Jesus is talking about. As the God of the Old Testament, Jesus, having looked into man's heart from Creation and seeing humanity's trajectory to our day, had every reason to ask if there would be faith at the end time! Even the Jews of His lifetime, full of Messianic fervor, did not have the faith He is seeking! Would even His chosen people—Christians, the followers of Christ—have saving faith?

Do we have this faith? What, then, is the evidence Jesus is looking for that will establish that we have the faith He is looking for? Some might view this "faith" as a powerful individual faith to move mountains or to perform some other great miracle. Yet, what Jesus is looking for are those who completely trust Him as God, and based on that trust, are living by faith according to God's revealed truth despite all of the pulls and pressures from the world.

John O. Reid
Will Christ Find Faith?


 

Luke 18:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This sobering scripture aims directly at anyone who is left standing, so to speak, at His coming. Christ looked down through the millennia, and saw us—looked into our hearts—and wondered, "Where is the faith?"

What faith is Jesus talking about? It cannot be in His existence because even the demons believe that (James 2:19). Demons also have a great deal of respect for God's power and sovereignty. What the demons do not believe in is God's love and all that springs from it. For instance, how could Satan have rebelled if he really believed in God's love for him? Perhaps the original iniquity found in Satan, the start of all trouble, was his lack of faith in God's love for him—"for whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). That faithlessness led to pride and vanity and ultimately to rebellion.

When Christ returns, will He find a people who believe how much God loves them and therefore will trust in Him no matter what the physical evidence looks like? That is the faith Christ is talking about in verse 8.

In the preceding verses, Christ contrasts the unjust judge, who could not care less, to the true God, who could not care or love more. The underlying subject of the parable is God's faithfulness and love, and Jesus gave it to encourage our faith in the Father's love.

Then, in verse 8, Christ says, "I tell you that [the Father] will avenge [the elect] speedily," followed immediately by, "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" A definition for nevertheless is "in spite of that." God will act speedily in His great love for us, yet in spite of that fact, people in the end time will still have difficulty believing in the depth of His love.

Our salvation depends on believing how special we are to God—how much He loves us. Jesus says in verse 1, "Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart." Along with prayer, this parable teaches us about not losing heart—enduring to the end. Knowing how much God loves us can give us the courage and hope we need to face and endure what is ahead.

Lamentations 3:21-23 (RSV) tells us what we have to remember and believe if we are to have the right kind of hope: "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness."

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials


 

Luke 18:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The churches of this world generally teach that all a person has to do is to believe on Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, intellectual and even emotional beliefs on their own produce the static, idle faith that James speaks about—dead faith. However, in one who is truly called by God—an individual who has living faith—his belief galvanizes into a conviction that will produce righteous works. These works ultimately produce the "much fruit" that will glorify God the Father (John 15:8).

Just what is the faith that Jesus Christ is looking for? It is a faith far greater than we might imagine. It is faith, not just in individual truths or doctrines, but in an entire way of life—the righteous, holy way that God Himself lives. God wants us to accept and follow the whole package of Christian living that He reveals in His Word.

Granted, it is very hard to do. We live in one of the most sinful, evil, corrupt, self-centered societies of all times, and our patience and conversion are being severely tested. The world wants us to come out of the narrow way that protects us, teaches us, and prepares us for our future. It is pushing and enticing us to accept the broad way that will pull us down to failure and destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).

But the life that God has called us to is truly awesome! In John 17:3, Jesus declares the kind of life we have been chosen to live by faith: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Living this eternal life gives us the ability to know God: how He thinks, makes decisions, shows His love, feels for others, extends mercy and forgives, etc. In other words, living God's way now allows us—as much as is humanly possible—to know the mind and ways of God. It is in God and His incredible way that we must have faith.

Because our calling and potential are so tremendous, God gives us a warning to consider in II Peter 2:20-21:

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.

Once we start down this road, we have committed ourselves to following it to the very end.

For this reason, Paul challenges us in II Corinthians 13:5 to examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith. He tells us to test ourselves to prove that Christ lives in us. We will not fail the test if we draw close to Him and truly work to make the changes we need to make as individuals to take on the very nature and life of God.

Then, when the question arises, "When the Son of man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" the answer will be a resounding, "Yes!"

John O. Reid
Will Christ Find Faith?


 

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

Consider "trusted in themselves" in relation to the instruction concerning enduring, persevering faith in the previous parable. It concluded, "When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on earth?" He is speaking about people who trust in themselves rather than God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

Luke 22:31   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus asks His Father to strengthen Peter's faith. But notice Jesus' perception: He could see that Peter would stumble—and stumble very badly. He had such confidence that God would turn Peter around that He says, "When you return, when you are converted and come back to Me, strengthen your brethren." That is how confident Jesus was that God would hear His prayers.

Faith is the foundation of Christian character. Without it, we have no access to God. "He who comes to God must believe that He is" (Hebrews 11:6). Satan was out to destroy Peter's trust in God, and Jesus acted to guard him. "That your faith should not fail" means that it should not come to an end or disappear completely. Peter did stumble badly, but he also got up and went on. It is entirely possible that Peter had a lot of confidence (remember that he says in verse 33, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death"), but that confidence was in himself.

For Peter to have the right kind of faith, God had almost to smash the man where he could easily see his faith, his confidence in himself, as absolutely nothing, and that if he were going to have a good relationship with God, it would have to be on the basis of his confidence in God, not in Peter. Peter had to stumble in order to have true faith in God. When faith is broken down, the foundations of true spiritual life give away. That is why Satan wanted to destroy Peter's faith. If he could do that, the entire structure of the man's relationship with God would collapse, but God did not allow it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith and Prayer


 

Luke 22:35-38   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At first glance, Jesus Christ seems to be commanding His followers to sell even their clothing, if necessary, to buy weapons. But if we examine this scripture more closely, as well as the preceding and following events, we can better understand His instruction.

Christ first asks the disciples if they were provided for when He sent them out. His reference to an earlier event provides the background for the commands in Luke 22 (see the notes at Matthew 10:7-10). Jesus' earlier instructions—when the disciples were sent out as ambassadors to announce the presence of a King and a Kingdom—are distinctly different from these later instructions just before His death and resurrection, when He would no longer be with them in person.

With this background in mind, we can see the contrast in Christ's instructions, and how His death would require a change in approach for the disciples as they conducted His work.

In Luke 22, Jesus first calls to their attention that they were divinely provided for during His earthly ministry. They did not lack anything. He is reiterating that they will still be provided for, but their circumstances would not be as comfortable as before. They would have to trust even more and perhaps be satisfied with less. God would still provide for them, simply because it is a fundamental part of His nature, but things would not be as easy.

We can see this principle at work in the account of the first Pentecost after Christ's ascension. There were many signs and miracles, and undoubtedly every person present remembered that day for the rest of his life! As the church started out, there were miraculous healings and other gifts of the Spirit being manifested seemingly on a regular basis. However, when we read the accounts of the apostles later in their lives, there are no records of the same public miracles or healings.

Had God left them? Was He displeased with their work? Had they lost their faith? Was He limiting their supply of His Holy Spirit? On the contrary, the apostles were maturing spiritually, and God did not need to bolster their faith in the same way through astounding manifestations of His Spirit. "Elementary school" was over. Now they were growing up spiritually and had more serious work to do.

In the same way, Christ warned the disciples in Luke 22:36 that their responsibilities would be increased, their journeys lengthened, the dangers greater, and the physical costs higher. God would still be with them, but they would begin to be more acutely aware of their physical circumstances and have to trust in Him to an even greater degree.

Christ's instructions in verse 36 are primarily spiritual, but there are true physical principles in them as well. The disciples would be going on much longer and more arduous missions now, and they would have need of a moneybag and knapsack. But shortly after His original instructions to the disciples in Luke 9:3 and Luke 10:4, He showed them that material wealth is of little importance:

Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:33-34)

Yes, they would have need of bags to carry their provisions, but again, Christ teaches them not to be limited to the physical and temporal in their contemplations. It was exceedingly more important that the "bags" the disciples carried with them be spiritual moneybags, symbolizing good works that would never decay or be stolen. While there was a physical application of His instruction, the real lesson was a spiritual one.

In the same way, Christ's instruction to buy a sword had an immediate application in that it would fulfill in part the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12: By carrying weapons, the disciples would be classified by others as transgressors or criminals. In this instance also, the spiritual application far outweighs the physical.

The disciples' reaction shows that they did not really grasp His intent. Their response is, "Lord, look, here are two swords," to which He replies, "It is enough." He is not saying that two swords would be enough to defend twelve men. If that were His intent, He would have said, "They are enough." Instead, He is showing that the discussion was over. It was a mild rebuke showing that the matter was closed, as in "Enough of this!"

Through His capture and trial, Jesus Christ demonstrates that neither He, nor the disciples, nor anyone following Him, needs to take up a weapon:

But Jesus said to [Judas], "Friend, why have you come?" Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus [Peter (John 18:10)] stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:50-53)

The parallel account in Luke 22:49-51 shows that Christ was so opposed to this sort of violent reaction by Peter that He miraculously undid what Peter had done!

Peter was walking by sight. He did not yet grasp that God was completely in control; nothing would happen to him or to Jesus that was not according to God's ultimate plan. God's plan entails so much more than just length of days or freedom from injury! This physical life is the training ground, not the end. One who stays faithful to his commitment to God will not die until God's purpose for him is complete!

It is given that all men die (Hebrews 9:27), and our death may even be a violent one—of all of the apostles, only John died a natural death. As servants of God, we can expect to be persecuted in the same way our Master was (II Timothy 3:12). But that does not give us cause to take up arms if it means harming someone else! Christ shows that those who trust in physical protection will be let down, while those who trust in God to defend them will never suffer anything that does not ultimately fulfill His purpose.

Jesus Christ's words in Luke 22:35-37 are not instructions for us to be physically armed or to trust in our own might for our physical defense. There will always be a weapon or a foe that is stronger than any physical defense we could muster. God tells us to stay above the fray and to trust in Him for our defense.

If He sees fit to let persecution or injury befall us as a consequence of our own foolishness or sin, we should learn from our mistake and continue on. However, if we are reviled, slandered, or even physically persecuted for righteousness' sake, and we take it patiently—that is, if we endure it without reaching for a sword—this is commendable before God (I Peter 2:19).

David C. Grabbe
Living By the Sword


 

Luke 24:13-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Luke 24 contains a noteworthy episode that occurred immediately after Christ's resurrection. It becomes even more interesting in light of a Christian living after his own symbolic resurrection, baptism. Once we commit our lives to God, we are supposed to "walk the walk." We are supposed to "walk with God" and "walk with Jesus Christ." The two men described in Luke 24 literally do this just hours after the resurrection.

Luke emphasizes the fact that movement was taking place. Reading this centuries later, we can apply it to life itself. Our life is not a static process; our lives "move" from the moment of birth to the time God calls us and we are converted and then to our last breath. When we die, we stop "walking." However, from the time of our calling, we do not walk alone—God is with us. He leads and guides us by His Spirit. He convicts us of things that will be important for His spiritual creation and for our salvation. Once this process of conviction begins, we repent and are converted. God comes to live in us by means of His Spirit—then we really are "walking with Christ." We have Christ in us!

Are we walking with Him or not?

In Luke 24, He was literally with them, walking right beside them. And they did not recognize Him (verses 15-16)! Luke specifically says "their eyes were restrained."

Even someone who had associated with Christ for a fairly long period of time, possibly even the full length of His ministry, could fail to see. We have to realize that they did not expect to see. Humans see what they expect to see. People see what they want to see and are educated to see. Unless a person makes the effort to be discerning, to think consciously about other aspects of what he is looking at, it is likely that he will not see.

Christians must consciously process the truths that they receive from God as they are involved in the circumstances of their walk with Christ. We might be walking with Christ, and He is there walking beside us, but we do not see Him. This can happen if we fail to identify the circumstances that we are experiencing in our lives with Him. The spiritual, not perceived with the five senses, is often overlooked!

So, were these disciples "blinded"? One might think so but for what Jesus Himself says in verse 25: "Then He said to them, 'O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!'"

The Greek word rendered "fool," anoeetos, means "inconsiderate" in its original sense: They failed to consider or think! Another definition is "to reason improperly." It is very similar to the Hebrew nabal of the Old Testament. Jesus is telling them that they are not properly applying their minds. His rebuke also carries with it a moral reproach, describing "one who does not govern his mind."

When we read Christ's next rebuke, it becomes crystal clear that they simply did not believe! Even though they had been taught, they did not believe the things that appeared in the Old Testament describing the Messiah and His resurrection. They did not see the Christ, who stood right next to them, because they did not expect to see Him! Thus, Christ not only calls them "fools," suggesting that He expected them to be able to identify Him, but He also calls them "slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken," which intensifies His judgment that they were not spiritually alert. Thus, He feels it necessary to teach them the basics once again (verses 26-27).

In verse 21, the two men are in the midst of giving their explanation of the events of the preceding week to Christ. They say, "But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel." Their hope was really nothing more than a wish. It is significant that their response mentions nothing about having their trust in Him. The reason for this is that they were not using their faith or belief. A wide gulf separates "hoping" and "trusting." While hoping may consist of just a desire for something, trusting requires a person to believe confidently, make choices, and patiently endure.

When these two disciples finally saw Jesus, when they perceived who was with them, everything that they had experienced—including the crucifixion and resurrection—made sense (verses 31-32). The point is this: If we see God working in our lives, then everything God is doing with us will begin to "come together." It may not happen all at once as with these men, but if we can see God involved in the circumstances of our lives as we walk with Jesus Christ, then it will give shape and form to our lives in a way that we would never have otherwise! Things will make sense, and we will see them in their proper perspective.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Do You See God? (Part Two)


 

John 3:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

On the surface, it appears that God will save people on the basis of simply accepting of Jesus Christ as Savior. But now look at verses 31-36.

He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth [the worldly person]. He who comes from heaven [Christ] is above all. And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony [no one believes it]. He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure [Jesus perfectly knew and understood the truth of God and taught it to these people in the power of His Spirit, and they should have believed what He said]. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:31-36)

These are very ominous words. In terms of faith, John's words give this chapter a quite different perspective. Everyone hearing God's Word is confronted with a choice: believe and obey it, or take the chance of dying the eternal death.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 4)


 

John 4:46-50   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The nobleman must have had a bud of faith, for his urgent need moved him to seek Christ. At least a glimmer of faith was necessary to believe that, if he could only convince Jesus the Healer to go to his dying child, his son would be healed. This first example of Jesus' healing miracles is important, as it emphasizes the link between miracles and faith. Those who desire to be healed or to have a loved one healed must exhibit faith.

Jesus miracles of healing are instructive in that they give us kinds and actions of faith. By refusing to go with the nobleman, Jesus emphasizes and illustrates the potency of strong faith. Another time, Jesus teaches that a miracle is not the cause of faith as much as its reward (Matthew 9:22). Belief in Christ as Healer leads people to faith in Him as Savior.

We all desire divine intervention when we are in dire need; "there are no atheists in a foxhole," it is said. Though the nobleman's human faith was limited and weak, it was still real. Jesus helped him to develop it, leading to deeper belief. However, no matter how strong our faith is, if it is in a wrong object, it will do nothing to relieve suffering, but if our faith is properly directed, despite being weak, it will bring deliverance and comfort. Note, however, that faith itself does not relieve affliction, but the power of the One in whom we believe does.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Nobleman's Son


 

John 4:53   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Following Jesus' assurance that his son would live, the nobleman never doubted again. The text gives no indication of an emotional reaction or that he pressed Jesus for instructions; he simply started his return trip to Capernaum. He accepted Jesus' word that his son was healed, and apparently, this knowledge comforted him to the point that he felt little need to rush home. The bud of faith that led him to Christ came to full blossom as he left Jesus.

When the nobleman is met by his servants with the wonderful news that his son had been healed at the exact time Jesus had said he was, the miracle is seen to have had a double effect - the sick boy was healed of his deadly fever, and the father was convicted of his belief in Jesus. In order to have faith, we must believe that Jesus' words are true. Too often, we possess a vague faith, a blurred longing for His promises to be true. In reality, we must cling to what Jesus says like a man gripping a cliff face over a deep chasm.

The conviction of the father and the startling result of Jesus' miracle helped to begin the process of conversion of the nobleman's entire household. Convinced that Jesus was the Christ by personally witnessing this healing, they had the opportunity to grow in their belief to full faith if they continued to seek and believe Him (Colossians 1:21-23).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Nobleman's Son


 

John 6:28-29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The purpose of the manifestation of the works of God in Christ—the miracles, the feeding of 5,000, of 4,000, the healing of people, restoring sight, giving people hearing—were all done by God to produce faith so that we would believe. If God did these things for all of those people, would He not do the same for us? God is shaping and molding events in our lives so that our faith is continually strengthened. God wants us to trust Him and His Word and to respond in faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 3)


 

John 6:29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God works to create in His children faith in Jesus Christ because He has decreed salvation is by grace through faith. Faith is absolutely essential, and so He works to create in us a strong trust His Son. This is done through "feeding the flock." Only a small portion of it is done in the initial conversion. We have to live by faith, not merely profess Jesus Christ. It is necessary that faith be built in us because our choices should be made on the basis of faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)


 

John 6:29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There are at least two possible ways to understand what He means. The first is that God is always working to produce faith in His people so they can properly use their free moral agency. The second, however, is the primary meaning because they ask what they had to do. Jesus replies that godly work for the individual is believing in or on Him as Messiah.

In other words, as Jesus uses it, faith is itself a work. Labor is involved in faith because living faith requires activity to meet the definition given in James 2. As the apostle says, faith without works is dead, and such "faith" is in realty not even faith. Some, especially evangelical Protestants, object to this because they feel it creates a "works" salvation.

Their objections, though, are so much sound and fury without biblical substance. Jesus says at least a dozen times in different ways that salvation is by grace. Biblically, merely believing or agreeing with God or some biblical doctrine is of itself no better than being dead. Dead things produce nothing because nothing is working to produce anything. This is why Paul in Hebrews 3 can use "unbelief" and "disobedience" interchangeably. In other words, if a person only agrees, he merely has a preference, and his works will be at best inconsistent and sporadic. If a person has living faith, however, his belief will be a conviction, and works will occur.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Four)


 

John 6:36-37   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

He understands that those standing before Him and listening to the very words of life do not have this kind of faith. Thus, they have no commitment. However, verse 37 makes a first encouraging step, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out." He is speaking of those whom the Father would give Him as disciples from that time forward, including us, and all these can have this faith and commitment. The Father Himself elects, chooses, each one, giving each the necessary gift of faith, as Ephesians 2:8 shows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Four)


 

John 6:44   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is the work of God to open our minds to enable us to respond in a godly way - that is, by faith - to the manifestation of Himself through His Word, the manifestation of Christ through His Word, the manifestation of God's works through His Word. He does this so that we can see the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, which means that God has given to each one of us the capacity to do what Moses did (Hebrews 11:26-27). Maybe not as well, not having to trust in exactly the same way or to the same degree, but nonetheless, we can follow the same principle.

So, even though we have a spiritual capacity by nature because of the spirit in man within us - all of mankind has this spiritual capacity - a true spiritual relationship can really be made only by those whom God calls. We have been given a gift of God that enables us to have the kind of faith that Moses and the apostle Paul had.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 3)


 

John 6:44   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Not a single person can come to God for salvation unless God draws him through Jesus Christ. Saving faith is a very special faith, existing in an individual only because of a miraculous gift from God. It is not generated internally by logical human reason, common sense, or human experience. If faith were not a graciously and freely given gift of God, but rather our own internally generated response to hearing the gospel, God would be indebted to us. In other words, He would owe us because we, on our own, provided the faith to begin and continue in His way.

Notice the conversation Jesus had just moments before what is recorded in John 6:44:

"Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you. . . ." Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do?" (John 6:27-30)

Jesus clearly says that believing in the One God sent—Jesus Christ—is God's work! He clarifies this in verse 44, declaring that God is that specific belief's Originator and Source; otherwise, we would not have the faith of which He speaks. As usual, the Jews did not completely understand.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

John 11:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus. The text indicates that His love for them was more than a passing friendship but something far closer. The scriptures suggest that when Jesus traveled to Jerusalem, He stayed at their home. He slept in their house, ate meals with them, and undoubtedly conversed with them a great deal.

Consider their being that close to Him, spending long hours talking with Him, sharing their lives with Him. They had a closeness that other people (other than the apostles) did not have. They really knew and trusted Him. They relied on Him in a way that few people could.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith and Prayer


 

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

Truth indeed does mean "factual," something that is right and good. However, we need to understand it in a slightly different way. The Greek word that is translated as "truth" is also equally well translated into "real" or "reality." God's Word is reality. Another English equivalent is the word "genuine"—God's Word is genuine.

Let us consider a few contrasts at this point. God's Word is factual as contrasted to flawed. Man's word is flawed; some of it is true, some is not true. Man's word is corrupted by the fact that, even though he may have good intentions, even though he may be sincere in wanting to tell the truth, his experience just does not support his ability to give us the whole truth. God sees all things, hears all things, knows all things. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal, "having neither beginning of days nor end of life (Hebrews 7:3). He is the sum total of everything, and if He tells us something, it has behind it the weight of everything that He is. His Word, then, is not flawed because it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18). Thus, God's Word is factual, as contrasted to the flawed word of man.

In addition, God's Word is pure (Psalm 119:140; Proverbs 30:5; I Peter 2:2), as contrasted to that which is contaminated. God's Word is genuine in contrast with what is hypocritical. The word of man may look good on the outside, but it is not all that good all the way through. God's Word is reality, as contrasted to fantasy or vanity.

It is good to understand this because, if we are going to use the Word of God in the right way, we have to believe it. We not only have to believe it, we must trust it. When Jesus says that God's Word is truth, and that we are sanctified by that Word, we need to understand it from the point of view, the perspective, of God: that His Word is pure, genuine, factual, and reality—and all these are contrasted to man's word. Despite having the best of intentions and sincerity, man cannot even begin to come close to ultimate truth of the Word of God.

Whose word will we use as evidence on which to base our lives if we desire to live by faith, by trust?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 3)


 

Acts 5:32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Peter is saying that those who heed the gospel message of repentance from sin and faith in the sacrifice of Christ will begin to live lives of obedience to God's commandments, and thus He gives them His Spirit. However, some contend that it is not that simple.

One of the objections that has been raised to this understanding of this verse is that it is impossible to obey God before receiving His Spirit. Therefore, it would be impossible to receive God's Spirit if obedience were a requirement.

Acts 2:38 gives two basic requirements for receiving the Holy Spirit: 1) repentance and 2) faith in the sacrifice of Christ. (Baptism is an outward confession of this faith in Christ's sacrifice.) Repentance is a deep and genuine feeling of remorse over having committed sins, bringing about the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It is accompanied by an urgent desire to make the necessary changes in our life so we avoid committing the same sins again. In other words, true repentance brings about an earnest desire to obey God. In turn, this earnest desire causes us to begin to make changes in our lifestyle to conform to God's commandments.

When John the Baptist preached a message of repentance to prepare the way for Jesus Christ, he demanded that his followers make changes in their lives (Luke 3:8). When John was preaching, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given, but John made it clear that God expected the people to begin changing their lives to demonstrate that their repentance was genuine. Paul preached the exact same message regarding repentance before King Agrippa (Acts 26:20).

A truly repentant person will immediately begin striving to obey God. The changes that the individual makes in his life are the "fruits" that demonstrate that his repentance is genuine. This does not mean that the repentant sinner obeys God perfectly. Even those who have received the Holy Spirit do not obey God perfectly. It means that the individual has turned his life around and is oriented toward obeying God. Upon producing the fruits of repentance and demonstrating faith in the sacrifice of Christ through baptism, God gives him His Holy Spirit. As Peter simply stated, God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him!

Some contend that the obedience mentioned in this scripture is that of obeying God's command to preach the gospel, not obeying God's laws. Proponents of this explanation argue that Peter's statement came about because the authorities called the apostles into account for disobeying their command not to preach about Jesus. This derives from Peter's comment in verse 29, "We ought to obey God rather than men."

There are a number of problems with this interpretation. First, it ignores the clear requirements God lays down for receipt of the Holy Spirit—repentance and faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Nowhere in the Scripture does God require the preaching of the gospel as a prerequisite for receiving His Spirit. Rather, the power of the indwelling Spirit of God inspired and motivated the apostles to preach the gospel after they had received the Spirit (Acts 2:4). Furthermore, this interpretation ignores the overall thrust and context of Peter's statement (Acts 5:30-31).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Is Obedience Required Before Receiving God's Holy Spirit?


 

Acts 13:48   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God selectively imparts the ability to believe.

Charles Whitaker
Servant of God, Act II: God's Gift of Faith


 

Acts 15:8-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Gentiles' conversion resulted in a serious controversy in the church over whether they should be required to be circumcised. This major issue resulted in the convening of the first ministerial conference in the history of God's church (Acts 15). At this conference, the ministry was led to decide that the Gentiles do not need to be circumcised.

God revealed to the apostles that, under the New Covenant, He makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile. Regardless of race or ethnic origin, He extends the promises of salvation to any and all whom He chooses to call. Under the New Covenant, physical descent from Abraham no longer matters because God is concerned only over the person's repentance and faith in Christ. Those who receive the Holy Spirit after repentance and baptism become "the seed of Abraham." Additionally, because the purpose and meaning of physical circumcision have been superseded by the New Covenant, there is no need to inflict pain and possible psychological distress on an adult male through this operation.

Peter emphasizes that God looked upon the hearts of the Gentiles and saw their repentance. Although they were not circumcised, God forgave their sins because of their repentance and faith in Christ and granted them the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were, therefore, justified by faith and spiritually circumcised, that is, in heart and mind (Romans 2:28-29). During the Jerusalem conference, God revealed to the apostles that justification fulfilled the spiritual symbolism of circumcision.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Why We Must Put Out Leaven


 

Romans 2:1-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 1, Paul says that anybody participating even in some of the more easily mastered practices of human nature is putting himself on dangerous spiritual quicksand. Today, in the wake of the breakup of the Worldwide Church of God, a common judgment is to call Herbert Armstrong into account yet say at the end, "But I loved him." Those who do this have overlooked how vulnerable and subject to God's judgment this makes them.

Verse 2 carries Paul's warning a step further by reminding us that God judges according to truth. Those who judge and act as Paul describes in verse 1 have precious little truth. However, this major element gives God the right to judge. He alone knows all the facts and can arrange them all in the light of perfect righteousness.

He reveals in verse 3 the weak position of those judging: They are guilty of committing the same sins, or ones just as bad, as those they are judging! Paul is saying that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones! In fact, their judgment of others may be one of those sins! In verse 4, he counsels them to lay aside their pride and concentrate on making the best use of God's patience by repenting of their sins.

In verse 5, the apostle plays on the word "riches" in the previous verse. Physical wealth is something one normally sets aside and treasures, but those who persist in evil works are "treasuring up" judgment for themselves! Verses 6 through 11 are a classic argument for the doing of good works after justification from the mind and pen of the very man most often accused of saying no works are necessary.

Within the context of the entire book, Paul is saying here that, while a person is justified by grace through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, establishing a relationship with God that because of sin never before existed, good works should result from justification. Good works are the concrete, open, and public expression of the reality of our relationship with God. They are its witness.

Just as surely as day follows night, if our faith truly is in God, the works that follow will be according to God's will. Living by God's will should be the natural consequence of faith in God. Though we are justified by faith, II Corinthians 5:10 spells out that we are judged according to our works. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." Is it not logical, then, for a person, knowing he will be judged according to his works, to want at least some clearly stated absolutes to show him what is expected of him rather than a fuzzy and vague statement about loving one another? Would not such a person want to know more specifically what constitutes love?

In Romans 2:7, Paul is not saying using one's faith will be easy, but that those who have that faith will use it to work. "Patient continuance" presupposes a measure of hardship, and "seek" implies pursuing something not yet attained. Together, they indicate a persistent quest of God's righteousness. In verse 10, the apostle uses the phrase "to everyone who works what is good." He does not define what "good" is at this point, but whatever it is, work is necessary to accomplish it. In verses 11-12, he reiterates that we will be judged, introducing a word that many seem to find so repulsive: law!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

Romans 3:21-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here Paul explains that God has provided a means whereby we may receive forgiveness of sins and be accounted righteous in His sight. It is separate and distinct from obedience to the law. This forgiveness comes by having faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 3:24-25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Justification is not something that one earns by any kind of lawkeeping or good works, but God freely gives it to those who repent—turn from their sinful ways—and have faith in His Son's sacrifice.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 3:27   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul further drives home the point that no one can earn justification or boast about having received it through his own effort. "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith." No one can ever brag about having been so obedient or having done so many good works that God just had to grant him eternal life. No one will ever be able to boast that he "earned" his way into the Kingdom of God! All those who enter the Kingdom will have done so solely because God extended His mercy to them and forgave their sins through their faith in the sacrifice of Christ.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 3:28   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This concludes Paul's entire discussion begun in Romans 3:10. The only way we can be justified—that is, have our sins forgiven and be brought into a right relationship with God—is through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. This justification is something that is imputed to us once we meet God's conditions of repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). We cannot earn it through lawkeeping or doing good works.

However, what many do not understand is that being justified is not the same as being saved. Justification is only one step on the road to salvation. Someone who has been justified cannot break God's laws with impunity and expect to receive salvation anyway. To have our sins forgiven, we must repent from having broken the laws of God (Acts 3:19). To repent means "to turn around"—to stop sinning and orient our lives to obeying God's law. Paul explains it plainly in Romans 3:31: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law."

The true Christian, having repented from sin, has been given the gift of God's Holy Spirit, which is the love of God that enables him to keep His laws in their full spiritual intent and purpose. He has been justified and has received God's undeserved pardon. He realizes his sins caused Jesus Christ to have to suffer and die. Because of all of these things, the true Christian strives with all his might to resist the pulls of the flesh and to put sin out of his life.

Paul makes it very clear that the true Christian must not continue to live a life of sin. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). The true Christian understands that the way he lives and conducts his life has a great bearing upon whether he will inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

To receive salvation, we must not only be justified, but we must live a life of obedience to the laws of God, developing the fruits of His Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Then—and only then—will God give us the gift of eternal life.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 3:31   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul has employed these terms—faith, grace, and justification—interchangeably. He uses one word here, another there, depending on which nuance he wants to bring to the fore, so that we get a complete picture of what is happening. Here, he is talking about faith, and within the subject of justification, he says, "No, faith in the blood of Jesus Christ establishes the law!" not "does away with" it. Faith in no way invalidates God's law. None of it!

Notice that your Bible very likely reads "the law." However, it does not say that in the Greek; the definite article does not precede "law" either time it appears in this verse. The Interlinear Bible, which is a literal translation, reads: "Law then do we nullify through faith? Not let it be! But law do we establish." Establish means "cause to stand, confirm."

One might argue, "What difference does the lack of an article make?" In this case, if it read "the law," Paul would have been referring to either the entire Pentateuch or to a specific law. But writing it as he did, he means law in general as a legal argument. Any law! Man's law, God's law, the Ten Commandments, the sacrifices—everything is included under that blanket statement. He says, "Faith establishes law." It remains for other passages to tell us about a specific law or body of laws that might be set aside. So, then,  faith—used here in connection with grace and justification—establishes law. It does NOT do away with it; such an interpretation is the exact opposite of what is written!

When a person is justified, it is for the very reason that he is out of alignment with what he is being measured against. So after justification, the standard is not just thrown away! Indeed, the standard becomes more important than ever because we do not want to get out of alignment ever again. We need the law's guidance to help us in what we must do and to warn us when we are veering from the way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 4)


 

Romans 4:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"What does scripture say? 'Abraham took God at his word, and that act of faith was accepted as putting him into a right relationship with God'" (The New Testament: A Translation by William Barclay).

Abraham's "act of faith" was to believe the words of God. Simply, faith is believing what God says. That belief, that faith, is what pleases God, putting us in a position to have a right relationship with Him. A right relationship, even on a human level, must have trust as its foundation.

Abraham's example also shows us that this belief, this faith, is not just intellectual agreement but rather a deep conviction that motivates our core and changes how we think. The evidence of this change is an action. True belief and faith must have action to complete it, or else it is dead and useless faith (James 2:20).

Pat Higgins
Faith—What Is It?


 

Romans 8:28   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse captures the essence of what a Christian absolutely must have faith in if he wants to conduct his life without falling into the same state of mind that Solomon did as shown in the book of Ecclesiastes. We, too, are subject to our own unstable convictions, opinions, and decisions.

In addition, we are subject to decisions and circumstances that others make and over which we have no control, yet which cause us to descend into a blue funk. We seem to be powerless over people making these decisions, so life seems unfair that such things should happen.

But we Christians cannot lose our perspective! Romans 8:28 is the right perspective for a Christian, a wonderfully encouraging and comforting promise. However, it does not automatically apply to everyone. Two conditions must be met.

First, we must respond to God's grace, to His gift, to His calling, to His gift of Christ, to His gift of the Holy Spirit, to His gift of revealing to us knowledge and understanding of what is happening. We must respond - that is, love God in return.

Second, we must be one of "the called according to His purpose," one of the elect. This does not apply to those who have merely received an invitation from God, because that summons goes out to many more than actually respond to it. Just as in advertising, the call, the invitation, may go out over radio, television, or through the newspaper to millions of people, but few respond as compared to the mass of invitees. The calling of God is similar: The invitation goes out to many, but few become part of the elect (Matthew 22:14).

If we meet these conditions, God is with us, and we can be encouraged and take comfort in that assurance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 1)


 

Romans 9:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God chose Abraham, and his family after him, to receive promises, while reserving the prerogative to deny grace to others. This means, then, that individuals, at their will, cannot marshal faith toward God!

Charles Whitaker
Servant of God, Act II: God's Gift of Faith


 

Romans 9:19-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The question Paul poses is natural for those who do not have the faith and thus have not really submitted to God. The far more important question for the converted is, "Does He not have the right to do as He pleases with us, since He is not only our Creator, but He has also purchased us from our spiritual bondage to sin through the payment of His sinless Son's lifeblood?" We therefore belong to Him, and He sees us now as both sons and slaves. God fully expects us to be slaves of righteousness even as we were once slaves to sin (Romans 6:15-23). A slave is one whose master makes his choices.

The majority of us have been born into cultures where literal, physical slavery is no longer practiced. We have no direct experience with it, though most of us have at least an intellectual understanding of some aspects of it. Consider, then, the relationship between master and slave. The apostles had a good reason to use the word that means "slave" (doulos). They wanted us to understand that in our relationship with God we not only experience the joys of freedom as His children but also the serious requirement to obey as His slaves.

Suppose the Master summons a slave to meet with him every seventh day for instruction and fellowship with Him and His other slaves, and the slave refuses, saying he has something more important to do. This "something more important" does not necessarily have to be working for pay. Perhaps his justification for staying away is, "I learn more studying by myself at home," or "So many 'unspiritual' people are there that I no longer feel comfortable." Suppose the Master says the slave is to pay back ten percent of his increase to Him, but the slave says, "I have other, more important things to do with my money."

Once we understand this, it becomes apparent where our parent church headed in regard to sovereignty. The leaders quickly changed many doctrines—and thus the theology of the entire institution—subtly turning the tables in the relationship. They made the slave the master by giving him the right to decide what is law and what is not, as well as permission to change established priorities. This is virtually the same ploy Satan used on Adam and Eve when he said, "You will be as God."

Who is the sovereign and who is the slave is one of the points Paul makes in Romans 9. Understanding that God is sovereign and we are the slaves and translating this into loving submission are essential to our relationship with Him. This absolutely requires trusting Him. Those without the faith cannot do this because they do not believe as God does. To have the faith of Christ, we must believe what Christ believes. Will anyone be in God's Kingdom who does not believe as God does?

As we have experienced this life, most of us at one time or another have considered whether God is fair. Our Creator has designed experiences to bring this question to mind so we might consider as many ramifications of it as possible. We usually glean most of our information from the disasters and tragedies of human life. What we often lack are His perspective and truth. As He gives these through the revelation of Himself, we begin to perceive His loving grace, abundant generosity, infinite patience, ready forgiveness, stable oversight, and unswerving commitment to concluding His wonderful purpose successfully.

Those who see Him as unfair are usually ignorant of what is really going on because they have not yet been given eyes to see that they are included in His plan. Mankind's disasters and tragedies have their roots in sin, but God did not will man to sin. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 7:29, "Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes." Mankind has chosen to bring disaster and tragedy upon himself. God is gradually removing the ignorance that holds mankind in thrall to choices that kill him. He has removed this ignorance from us already, and we are therefore free to choose life, as God commands in Deuteronomy 30:19.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

Romans 10:14-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Faith comes by hearing—hearing the Word of God. Those words contain the evidence by which one can reason, judge, and choose what one will do with his life. God's Word is truth (John 17:17). He cannot lie. He has never gone back on a promise. If He did, He would cease to be God. God expects us to reason with His truth as our foundation. Understand that God's Word is not everything in terms of life, but His Word is the foundation against which we evaluate all the other words that we have heard and been taught all through the years.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 1)


 

Romans 10:14-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word of Christ is what brought us out of the world and that to which we were converted. When we drift away from it, we become confused, and we begin dividing, bickering and fighting among ourselves. The solution is given elsewhere in the Bible: Get back to what brought us together in the first place—the combination of the word of Christ and devotion to Him, to the love that we had at the beginning (Revelation 2:4-5).

Genuine ignorance may be a defense before God, but neglect never is. We need to remember Hebrews 2:3, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" God can forgive ignorance because we cannot believe what we did not know, and even though we may be punished in our ignorance, it is far different from being punished when we know better. Yet, "to whom much is given, from him much will be required" (Luke 12:48). We are not in ignorance. If we are slipping away, it is because of neglect.

One way we can be unworthy at Passover time (I Corinthians 11:27) is by neglecting or forgetting what we are now. We need to evaluate faith in light of the Passover and the state of our minds and our hearts as we approach it. Moffatt translates Romans 10:17 as, "Faith must come from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the word of Christ." We are saved by grace through faith, and faith comes from knowledge of God and His Word, so the importance of studying His Word, meditating on it, seeking practical applications for our life, cannot be overstated.

Along with obedience, practical application of God's Word is a must if we want to have saving faith. We must check ourselves before Passover to see whether we have passed up or neglected opportunities to make practical use of our faith. This means so much to our attitude, the way we approach life on a daily basis.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Pre-Passover Look


 

Romans 10:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, the Bible. Unless the words spoken conform to it, they are merely doctrines of men and do not reflect the true God, for those that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. This requires searching the Scripture as the Bereans did to verify if the preacher's words are true (Acts 17:11). One cannot know the true God unless one knows the truth of God.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Faith Toward God


 

Romans 10:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Faith does not "come" through natural genetic processes. Faith truly has a vital link with blood—the blood of Christ, "whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith" (Romans 3:25). But an individual does not inherit faith through a natural bloodline; God did not see fit to encode faith in human DNA, so that it could be passed to offspring.

Christ's disciples, in asking Him to "increase our faith" (Luke 17:5), exhibit their understanding that God, not genetics, is the ultimate source of faith. Because "God shows no partiality" (Acts 10:34; see Romans 2:11), He has no proclivity to limit His giving and increasing of faith to a particular racial stock. For that reason, faith as a characteristic does not "belong" to a particular race as, say, a set of facial features is peculiar to a given race.

In His time, then, God made faith available to the Gentiles and with it, spiritual salvation, which has its taproot in faith:

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, . . . [so] that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:13-14).

Peter says as much to the church gathered in Jerusalem. In Acts 11:17-18, he connects "the gift" given to the Gentiles with belief—faith—in Christ:

"If therefore God gave them [Gentiles] the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" When they heard these things they became silent: and they glorified God, saying, "Then has God also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life."

God's Israel crosses natural racial or ethnic distinctions; the faithful of any race make up the Israel of God. These are the faithful who receive "the blessing of Abraham" (Galatians 3:14).

Charles Whitaker
Servant of God, Act II: God's Gift of Faith


 

Romans 10:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

First, in the spiritual sense, "eating" occurs primarily when one hears and reads. A person ingests messages and concepts into the mind through words, which establish and nourish his pattern of life. Those words, if one permits it, create a faith upon which one bases the way he lives. This faith is almost entirely dependent upon the quality of what is heard and whether a person believes it enough to follow it. These verses reveal only the words of God or Christ, His gospel, His truths, will form the faith that leads to salvation because they will form the correct beliefs and thus the correct way of life. This is the faith of Christ; the person who has it believes what Christ believes. This is a simple, understandable, true formula.

Zephaniah 3:1-2 shows what happens when a person rejects or disbelieves His words: "Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city! She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction; she has not trusted in the LORD; she has not drawn near to her God." That person comes to great dismay. This does not mean we cannot have words other than God's in our mind, but the children of God must filter everything through God's words to test their validity before they allow themselves to believe them firmly enough to make them part of their belief system.

Put another way, there is faith and then there is the faith, the faith that brings salvation. This faith arises from believing God's words. What we believe will determine our conduct and attitudes whether or not we stop to think about those beliefs because what is contained in the heart will come out (Matthew 12:34-35). Only God's words truly produce spiritual strength. In our recent past, "eating" and believing the wrong words set the church up for the scattering that has occurred. For quite a while, worldly things gradually corrupted the spiritual health of God's children, weakening them through spiritual malnourishment and changing their faith.

I Corinthians 1:10 provides a first-century account of a congregation suffering from this process of ingesting the wrong words: "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." Division troubled this congregation because the members held dissimilar views on beliefs that are basic to spiritual unity. I Corinthians shows disorder, confusion, argument, and offense as symptoms of spiritual weakness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Seven)


 

Romans 10:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What is being heard (in the phrase "faith comes by hearing") is not specified. If we lift it from its context, without considering the rest of what Paul says, we still get a truism: Faith, or belief, follows hearing (or reading). However, the rest of the verse says, ". . . and hearing by the word of God." This relates directly to faith. The faith, the belief, that God is interested in will come from a specific message—one that has its origin in God, not the world.

Therefore, it is the message of the Bible because it is the Word of God. It is not limited merely to the gospel—or even to the New Testament—but the whole Book is part of the gospel! A number of commentators say they believe that it is more understandable if the very last word of verse 17 is translated into the word "Christ." "Word of God" is not wrong, but they feel it is more specifically correct as "Christ" because He is God.

In the context of the book of Romans, the gospel is called the "gospel of Christ," because Paul says, for instance, in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ." In other words, it is the message that He brought.

It is His message that produces the faith that will save.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wisdom of Men and Faith


 

Romans 12:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul's exhortation is especially interesting in light of what precedes it. Chapter 11 concludes a lengthy dissertation on the doctrinal foundation of Christianity, showing the central importance of faith and grace. Instruction in the practical aspect of Christianity begins with chapter 12. The two sections are linked by the word "therefore." By this, Paul demonstrates that Christian living is inseparably bound to Christian belief. Faith without works is dead, and works without the correct belief system is vanity. Wrong thinking cannot lead to right doing.

If a person drinks in the spirit of Paul's doctrinal teaching in the first eleven chapters, he will present his body a living sacrifice and renew the spirit of his mind. Thus, outwardly and inwardly he will be on his way toward God's ideal for human conduct. All the virtues produced from this change will begin to grow and manifest themselves in his life. Self-surrender and its companion, self-control, are inseparable parts of this command.

Paul uses the metaphor of sacrifice throughout verse 1 to reinforce both similarities with and contrasts between Israel's Old Covenant sacrificial system and the Christian's sacrifice of His life in service to God. "Present" is a technical expression from the sacrificial terminology. Under the Old Covenant, the offerer's gift was presented to God and became His property. Similarly, the gift of our life is set apart for God's use as He determines. When we are bought with a price, we belong to ourselves no longer.

The Old Covenant sacrifices produced a sweet smell that God declares in Leviticus 1:17; 2:2; and 3:5 to be a fragrant aroma in His nostrils. In the same way, the gift of our life is "acceptable to God." Then Paul says that giving our lives in this way is "reasonable," that is, of sound judgment, moderate, sensible, or as many modern translations say, rational or spiritual. The outward acts of a son of God spring logically from what has changed in the inner man. His mind is being renewed, and he is thus controlling himself to live according to God's will rather than in conformity to the insanity of this world.

The last word in verse 1, "service," is as important as any, for within this context it describes the service, not of a domestic slave, but of a priest in complete self-surrender performing his duties before God's altar (I Peter 2:5). It means that we must, first of all, be priests by our inward consecration and then we must lay our outward life on the altar in God's service. This is what our works accomplish.

Almost from the beginning of the Bible, sacrifice is one of the great keywords of God's way. God clearly alludes to Christ's sacrifice in Genesis 3, and the first sacrifices occur in Genesis 4. The principle of sacrifice is then woven into the fabric of virtually every book until beginning with Christ, the Founder of Christianity, it becomes perhaps the master-word for the outward life of His followers.

Sacrifices are inherently costly to the giver, or there is no real sacrifice in the offering. David explains in II Samuel 24:24, "Then the king said to Araunah, 'No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.'" Jesus amplifies this principle with a statement of far reaching day-to-day consequences: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). What could be more costly than a person giving his life in service by living a way of the very highest of standards that his mind and body do not by nature and habit want to live? It requires a decision that will from time to time bring intense pressure upon him to control himself against strong drives to go in an entirely different direction. But he must control himself if he is to work in the service of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control


 

Romans 12:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The faith through which we please God and receive salvation is God's gift (I Corinthians 12:4, 9). Those in His true church have the faith of Jesus. It is not just our faith in Him, but His faith placed in us. Faithfulness, therefore, is a gift of God produced through the Holy Spirit.

Martin G. Collins
Faithfulness


 

1 Corinthians 1:26-29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Nobody will ever come before God and say, "I did it by the strength of my own hands." Though this person may have faith and a strong will, he is certainly not perfect. Many times, when the Israelites' faith broke down, God had to intervene in some way to save them. Whether it is Israel at the Red Sea or Israel out in the wilderness, time and again He had to intervene and spare them, even in times when they showed a measure of faith.

Since man's creation, humans have been exalting themselves against God by choosing to do things their own way. However, there is only one way that works eternally, and every human being will be led to see his weaknesses and know that it is by grace that we are saved. This realization does wonders to a person's feelings about himself, making humility possible. This, in turn, makes it possible for him to yield to God, which makes it possible for him to deal with other human beings, not with a high hand or as a master to a slave, but as a friend—as an understanding brother or sister who has gone through similar experiences and seen their own failures, and who can commiserate, sympathize, show compassion and mercy, encourage, and inspire the one who has failed.

God will work in each person and will do it in such a way that he will come to realize that merely knowing the truth—and even believing the truth and acting on it—are not enough. God must save them by grace.

This is not to say that works are unimportant. They are vital to maintaining and developing a relationship with God. They are important in building character, and in this sense, without works we will have a difficult time being saved. If nothing else, doing good works shows that a relationship exists between a person and God. So works are important to earning rewards, to building character, to providing a witness for God, but they still will not save us of and by themselves because, since we are imperfect, they are also terribly flawed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 12:1-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In I Corinthians 13, the Bible reveals love's supreme importance to life. Paul directly compares love's value to faith, hope, prophecy, sacrifice, knowledge, and the gift of tongues and indirectly with all other gifts of God mentioned in chapter 12. He in no way denigrates the others' usefulness to life and God's purpose, but none can compare in importance to love.

The Corinthians took great pleasure in their gifts, just as we would, but a gift's relative importance is shown in its temporal quality. That is, there are times when a gift is of no use. But love will never end; it will always be of use.

Indeed, the receiving of gifts from God - unless accompanied by and used with love - have the potential to corrupt the one receiving them. God's gifts are powers given to enhance a person's ability to serve God in the church. However, we have all heard the cliché, "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." If gifts are not received and used with love, they will play a part in corrupting the recipient, just as they were corrupting the Corinthians. Love is the attribute of God that enables us to receive and use His gifts without corruption.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 

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

Paul penned these immortal words, which one commentator called "the eternal trinity": faith, hope, and love. We continuously need these three factors, which is what "abide" implies. Our need for them never ends; we need them throughout life, every day without end. We live by faith, and the other two are directly connected to faith. They are, in fact, the three building blocks of a successful, abundant life. They are inextricably bound, tied to our relationship with God, and they are the qualities that make us run or work correctly.

Think of it this way. We are God's invention. He built us, and as our manufacturer, He designed us to function and produce. Automobiles run on gasoline. They do what they do because of the way they were designed and built, and they move only when fueled by gasoline. Movement is a key here: We run—move—on faith, hope, and love. These qualities nourish us, giving us strength to function as God intends. Every living human being, or who has ever lived, was intended to function by these qualities, but only the faith, hope, and love that comes from God will work to produce true success.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Perseverance and Hope


 

2 Corinthians 13:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse applies at all times, not just during the spring festival season. Here, "faith" is used in the sense of the truth. Those who are in the truth live by faith. They live according to their beliefs in God. The truth is the center of their lives, and by it they direct and choose the course of their lives. The Feast of Tabernacles involves seeing if we are living by faith or sight. It shows whether we are led by God's Spirit or carnality. It reveals whether we can separate temporal vanity from spiritual reality.

God is very concerned, not only with what we do, but also why we do it. This makes fearing God vitally important. Doing everything in relation to Him and His purpose converts ordinary, mundane acts to ones of spiritual significance. If we have a deep and abiding respect for Him and His Word—arising from an awareness that He personally is a part of our lives and has great, awe-inspiring plans for us—we have a powerful motivation to make choices based on faith in Him.

We can easily make the acceptance of Christian faith a substitute for living it. Jesus says, "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Each person must do his own examination. One may hear a sermon that affects him and be shown where he is wrong, but true conviction of wrong is not reached until one sees his sin and condemns himself. The fear of God works this in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing for the Feast


 

2 Corinthians 13:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God, through Paul, commands us to examine our faith and to test ourselves. How can we know the strength of our faith—our belief in the words of God? One of the ways is to examine our fears and worries.

Nehemiah writes, "For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me" (Nehemiah 6:13). Why did Nehemiah call being afraid a sin? Because fear and worry call God a liar, insinuating that His words about His sovereignty, love, power, and faithfulness are not to be trusted. Fear and worry mirror the attitudes of a faithless Satan who believes God exists but does not believe what He says.

Philippians 4:6 tells us, "Be anxious for nothing." In other words, we are commanded, "Don't worry about anything," another of God's absolutes. To have fear, worry, anxiety, or forebodings question God's goodness and care. They display a lack of faith in His promises of wise and gracious providence and cast doubts on the depth of the love God and Christ have for us. If we cannot trust God, how can He ever trust us? Why would Christ marry forever someone who doubts His love?

Rather than give in to fear and worry, we can choose—an action—to believe God and His love. If we believe in the depth of the love God (John 17:23) and Christ (John 15:13) have for us, believing those words, faith in that perfect love will cast out fear (I John 4:18) so that we can say as David did: "I will fear no evil; for You are with me" (Psalm 23:4).

In Psalm 78:22 (New Living Translation—NLT), David succinctly cuts to the heart of Israel's problem, and by extension, ours: ". . . for they did not believe God or trust him to care for them." Doubting God's love for us is at the core of the sin of faithlessness. This doubt was a major characteristic of our ancestors, ancient Israel. ". . . because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, 'Is the Lord going to take care of us or not?'" [Exodus 17:7 (NLT)] They never overcame this sin of faithlessness. We must. The stakes are so much higher.

It is sobering to consider the fate of the fearful and unbelieving and the rank they are given in the list found in Revelation 21:8: "But the cowardly [fearful, KJV], unbelieving [faithless, RSV], abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

God tested the faith of Adam and Eve and of Abraham. The former failed, the latter succeeded. Eventually, God will put every human being to the same test.

As we cope with these tests we need to stir up (II Timothy 1:6) and exercise that gift of faith God gave us at the beginning, to get back to that first love and dedication to the words and promises God has given us.

We have the same choice as Adam and Eve, ancient Israel, and Abraham had. It is our decision to make: to believe God or to believe what we see—the visible circumstances we face. Faith is life (Habakkuk 2:4), and faithlessness is sin (Romans 14:23) and therefore death (Romans 6:23). God entreats us to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Pat Higgins
Faith—What Is It?


 

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

The account of Acts 15 shows that it is not necessary for salvation for Christians to be physically circumcised. Salvation is by grace through faith, and faith without works is dead. We cannot "work" or "earn" our way into the Kingdom of God. The privilege to be a part of the eternal Kingdom is one that God bestows according to His will. Nothing we can do will make God indebted to us or require Him to do something for us, such as grant us admission into His Kingdom.

But at the same time, if we are within the salvation process, we must show forth works, or fruits, that demonstrate our repentance, our attitude, and our desire to live by the rules of His Kingdom. We must live now in the same way that we will be living for eternity—by the laws of God's Kingdom. Our works do not save us; they demonstrate that we are being saved.

Under the Old Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances were primarily physical, and the spiritual aspects were implied. Under the New Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances are primarily spiritual, and the physical aspects are implied. For example, there is no record of Christ ever performing an animal sacrifice, even though the Old Testament requires one in the morning and in the evening. Under the New Covenant, the physical rite is not required, yet the basic law is still there, and is thus manifested in morning and evening prayer, a sacrifice of our time and energy.

In the same regard, the council of Acts 15 shows that circumcision is not one of the works that is required to demonstrate the salvation/sanctification process. When considering eternity and the spiritual bodies that we will have at that time, circumcision is almost insignificant. What is truly important is whether or not the heart has been circumcised. The physical rite was a reminder to the children of Israel that they were separate and distinct, but even in this God was looking for a change of heart so much more so than a modification of the flesh.

David C. Grabbe


 

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

Paul, Peter, and the other Jews, because of their familiarity with Scripture (the Old Testament), would have known that a man could not be justified in God's eyes through the "works of the law"—by his own righteousness (Psalm 130:3; 143:2; Exodus 34:7; Job 4:17; 9:2-3,29; 15:14; 25:4; Ecclesiastes 7:20).

It is impossible for us, once we have sinned even once, to be in alignment with God of our own volition. Justification is an act of God by which He declares a person acceptable before Him because Christ has borne the sinner's guilt. However, this is the beginning of the common misconception that faith and works are mutually exclusive. In that view, works are of no avail at all, and all one has to do is "believe." But that notion is refuted in Matthew 7:21-23 and James 2:19-20, among other places.

The common interpretation of this verse—that belief is all that is required—cannot be correct, for it is contradicted in James 2:21 and Romans 2:13. Given that Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), all three of these verses must complement rather than contradict each other. It should be remembered that in Galatians 2:6, 9, Paul met with the leaders in Jerusalem—including James—and there was no disagreement between them! Verse 6 shows that they did not have anything to "add" to what Paul was preaching to the Gentiles, and by extension, there was nothing to be taken away, changed, etc. Verse 9 shows they agreed on their respective responsibilities, but there is no indication of any doctrinal disagreement between them. In this light, it can be concluded that the verse in question here will not only agree with, but will also complement what James wrote, as well as what Paul wrote in Romans 2:13 (or else Paul would have been double-minded, and thus "unstable in all his ways"; James 1:8).

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (James 2:21-24)

This section by James appears to contradict directly what Paul says in Galatians. If we go by the common interpretation, these verses are diametrically opposed to each other. Given that Scripture cannot be broken, however, these passages must complement one another. The interpretation of one or both of them is wrong when the conclusion is reached that one is justified by faith only.

The faith that is mentioned in either one of those verses is given without qualification as to when the faith is used—whether for justification or sanctification. The context of Galatians 2:16 seems to indicate it is talking about justification (being brought into alignment with God and His law after He has called us out of the world; John 6:44). However, in James 2:24 it is not clear whether he is referring to justification or sanctification, but it seems to be a little bit more weighted toward sanctification (the process one goes through after entering into the covenant with God).

James 2:20 shows plainly that faith without works is dead at any time during a Christian's calling and conversion—whether for justification or sanctification.

The picture begins to form that works indeed may play a part in a person's justification. To look at it another way: Does repentance play a part in God's forgiveness of our sins, and thus justification? Repentance is not merely feeling sorrow and crying out to God, as II Corinthians 7:1 shows (where we are commanded to cleanse ourselves). Repentance also includes a change of mind and heart, and at the very least, the beginning of turning to God in obedience. Repentance is not genuine if one is merely sorry; one has to begin to change his ways to show how deep the sorrow goes. All too often we are sorry that we are caught, or that we have to pay the consequences, rather than truly being sorry for sinning (falling short of the glory of God). True repentance will be a deep conviction that what we have done is wrong, and it will be deep enough to motivate us to change from our past behavior—and this change qualifies as "works." As it has been said, "God saves us from our sins, not in our sins." There is a difference, and this gives an indication that there may indeed be a measure of works involved in Galatians 2:16, small though it may be.

Galatians 2:16 does not say in the Greek exactly what it says in the English, and it sheds light on our understanding of the relationship between faith and works when we understand it as it is written in the Greek. The phrase in question here is: "A man is not justified by works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ." In the Greek it says, "A man is not justified by the works of the law: [he is not justified] except through faith in Jesus Christ."

This is a very significant difference. "Except through" points to the means by which justification is accomplished without nullifying or canceling out the importance of works. The verse is not saying that works are of no avail or are unimportant. Clearly, they are important in the example of repentance. It is saying that works without faith in the blood of Jesus Christ are of no avail. Works, coupled with faith in Jesus Christ, are just fine. But all the works in the world, if they are not coupled with faith in Jesus Christ are of absolutely no avail!

This makes Galatians 2:16 agree perfectly with James 2:20-24: "Faith without works is dead." Living faith and works go together, in terms of either justification or sanctification, if the works are combined with faith in Jesus Christ. Faith and works are not contradictory, but complementary, IF Christ is part of the mix. Works of the law do not justify a man, except through faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul is saying that any amount of lawkeeping—it does not matter if it is Gnostic law, Judaic law, the statutes or judgments of God, the Ten Commandments—if it is not connected to faith in Jesus Christ, accomplishes nothing in terms of justification. Even keeping the Ten Commandments must be coupled with faith in Jesus Christ. Paul is not saying the law is done away; he is tying the two of them together, and it is a positive combination—if the faith in Jesus Christ is the main ingredient.

Galatians 2:16 makes even more sense when it is compared to Romans 2:13: "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." The keeping of God's law alone will not justify them, but God expects that someone who has faith in Christ will keep His law, and therefore it is good to do that, because works are evidence in what one has faith. Without works, God would never be sure of what we really believe.

Staff


 

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

A much better translation that catches the essence of what Paul says is, ". . . a man is not justified through works of the law except through faith in Jesus Christ," or "but by means of faith in Jesus Christ." Paul is saying that works are of value when joined with faith in Jesus Christ, clearly showing that when works are combined with faith, they have positive value.

Since righteousness comes by faith in Jesus Christ, in reality it comes by the faith of Jesus Christ because it is His righteousness that is imputed to us for the purpose of justification. He achieved that righteousness by perfect lawkeeping through His faith in God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

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

The word translated here "foolish" means unintelligent or unwise, and by implication sensual. This implication is very interesting when considered in light of what the letter to the Galatians is fundamentally about: The Galatians were trying to use the rites and ceremonies and physical requirements of Gnostic Judaism to "work" their way into God's Kingdom. Their emphasis was on what they were doing, rather than on God's work in them. Their focus was on things dealing with the senses; things that would be, by definition, sensual—not in terms of being sexual or provocative, but rather indicating the emphasis on the physical senses.

This word (anoeetoi — Strong's #453) is a derivative of a negative participle and noeo (Strong's #3539), which means to exercise the mind, observe, to comprehend, heed, consider, perceive, think, or understand. So the word foolish is the opposite (because of the negative participle) of all these things. The Galatians, then, were not exercising their minds; they were unobservant, uncomprehending, unheeding, inconsiderate, imperceptive, non-thinking, and non-understanding. They were not thinking things all the way through, and not fully considering all of the aspects of the way they were living. They were unable to see that their ideas and views did not add up—that there were some obvious gaps in their understanding that had brought them to the condition they were in.

Paul here is continuing with a theme from Galatians 1:4-9 — namely, that the Galatians were falling away ("so soon removed") from the original teaching that had been given to them by God through His human servants. The very foundation of the New Covenant with God is that we can build a relationship with God directly—because of the sacrifice of Christ. For them even to make the covenant with God properly, it was a requirement that they understand that justification by means of a sinless sacrifice was the only way it is possible for us to come into God's presence! Our own righteousness is as "filthy rags" in comparison to God's; our works simply do not amount to enough to even out the scales. But this does not negate the necessity of working! The Galatians' problem was that they thought their personal righteousness was sufficient—and if that was the case, then truly there was no need for Christ to die.

Paul refers to the Galatians being "bewitched." This word means "to malign," or "to fascinate by false representation." The Galatians were drawn in—their fascination was piqued by these Jewish and Gnostic ideas. It did not take long for them to begin slipping spiritually, and a large part of this was because of their misplaced faith. They had more faith in themselves, in their own works, to save them than they had in Christ's crucifixion, resurrection, and intercession! They did not see or know God clearly enough, and the absence of Him in their lives created a void that was quickly and easily filled by these false ideas.

This is the only place in the New Testament where this word ("bewitched") is used (Strong's #940), but numerous other verses speak of this principle. Paul is speaking of this principle when he says in Galatians 1:7-9 not to deviate from this gospel message even if an "angel" from heaven gave them different instructions! The Galatians were weak enough in the faith that they could be easily deceived and drawn away if one of Satan's angels were to appear before them.

Matthew 24:24 speaks of false Christs—false ideas, pictures, impressions about Christ—arising, as well as false prophets, who will be able to manifest terrific signs and wonders to the extent that even the elect of God could be deceived if God allowed it! This is why we have to have such a concrete picture in our minds of what "Christ" is comprised of so that when we begin to hear about or see miraculous things, our faith will not be shaken as the Galatians' was.

David C. Grabbe


 

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

Those who say that Paul's words mean that one does not have to obey God in order to receive His Spirit simply do not understand what he was talking about. They also do not understand the circumstances that the apostle was addressing. The main problem in the churches in Galatia was that people were being taught that they could be justified—have their sins forgiven and be brought into a right relationship with God—by lawkeeping. The people's minds were being turned away from faith in Jesus Christ. Paul was reminding them that the only way anyone can receive forgiveness of sins is through faith in Christ's sacrifice.

To drive his point home, Paul reminds the Galatians that they did not receive God's Holy Spirit by lawkeeping while ignoring faith in the sacrifice of Christ. He points out that, without faith in the sacrifice of Christ, no one can be justified, no one can be forgiven of sins, and no one can be given the gift of God's Holy Spirit.

This does not negate the fact that there are still basically two requirements for receiving God's Spirit, namely, repentance and faith in Christ. Both of these requirements must be met before one can receive the Spirit. Repentance involves turning from sin and turning toward obedience to God's commandments.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Is Obedience Required Before Receiving God's Holy Spirit?


 

Galatians 3:5-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul approaches the faith and works question from yet another angle. This time, he uses Abraham as the model by which all his "children in the faith" also become "children of God." He begins by posing a question, which can be paraphrased as, "Do miracles come by ritual?" There is in this a veiled illusion to magic. Do miracles come by incantation? Do they come by knowing certain formulas that may include even such things as cutting the flesh or going through long periods of fasting or sufferings to get God's attention? Will God respond with a miracle out of pity once we show Him how humble and righteous we are? No, it does not work that way. Miracles come by a living God, who is actively working in our lives because He called us and we have faith in Him.

With that foundation, Paul begins what turns into the preamble for a very controversial section of Galatians. He proceeds to state that it was through faith that Abraham was justified. It is good to remember that Abraham not only believed who God is, but he also believed what God said. This is what set him apart from everybody else. His faith was not merely an intellectual agreement, but he also lived His faith.

Abraham's works did not win him acceptance by God, but they did prove to God that Abraham really did believe Him. So Paul says in verses 10-11 that those who rely on their works to justify them are under the curse of the law. What is "the curse of the law"? The death penalty! When one sins, he brings on himself the curse of the law he broke, which is death. In effect, he says that those who seek justifcation through works are still under the curse because justification by this means is impossible.

So powerful is the curse of the law that, when our sins were laid on the sinless Jesus Christ, the law claimed its due. Jesus died! Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26 to counteract those who were troubling the church, because they were saying that their asceticism, magic, and similar things (like keeping Halakah, the oral law and traditions of Judaism) could justify.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

Galatians 3:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In God's mind, true faith or living faith is virtually synonymous with obedience and works. Faith and obedience are interchangeable, even though they are not specifically the same thing. This is just like the Bible's usage of mind, heart, and spirit—they are not specifically the same thing, yet they are so interconnected that they really cannot be separated.

This verse is a quotation of Genesis 15:6. There is a parallel quotation in Romans 4:1-3:

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."

This verse in essence says that Abraham was justified because he believed. He was legally righteous before God because of his faith. This becomes the basis for Paul's teaching that justification is by faith and not by works. What Paul does not mention here is that Abraham's justification (Genesis 15:6) occurred 14 years before Abraham was circumcised. Paul's conclusion is that, based on Genesis 15:6, Abraham was justified by faith. The "work" of circumcision did not come for another 14 years! The circumcision did not justify him—the faith did. See the notes at Galatians 2:16.

Paul explains further in verses 21-25:

And being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness." Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

Paul shows that we are also justified (cleared of guilt, have our sins wiped away) by belief in the blood of Jesus Christ. What God did for Abraham, He will also do for us. Paul's conclusion then is that justification is by faith.

But like Galatians 2:16, this seemingly sets up a paradox, because faith does not stand alone:

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (James 2:20-24)

Paul also points out that there is more to the equation of justification than just faith in Romans 2:13: "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified."

These last two scriptures show that living faith cannot be separated from obedience—from works. Faith and works go together; where there is living faith, there will always be good works. If no works are produced, there is no living faith. What we truly and deeply believe will determine the actions we take in our lives. If we truly believe something, our "works"—what we do in our lives—will always point to that. "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7)—a man lives and acts according to what his core is.

As discussed previously (Galatians 2:16), these verses are in fact complementary, not contradictory. Each of these passages has a different context and purpose, and so we do not get the whole answer from any one of them individually. James' purpose is to show that there are two kinds of faith—living and dead, genuine and professing.

James says that a person's faith is perfected or completed by the kind of works that the faith produces. He shows that it is the kind of faith that Abraham had that made the real difference and brought about justification. Justification is entirely an act on God's part, but the kind of faith that brings about justification is the same kind that also brings about good works. It is not our works that save us, but only those who are "working" in the right way will be saved because their works will be indicative of what they truly believe in. Living faith, which James talks about, cannot be separated from works.

Paul backs this up in his second letter to the Corinthian church:

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim [work; labor], whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him [our acceptance by Him after being justified is dependent on what we do!]. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:6-10)

Paul lived by faith, but he worked (labored) so that he would be acceptable to God. If he did not work, he would not have been acceptable to God even though he professed God, said he believed in Christ, had faith that He could save, etc. His works were an indicator to God of what he had faith in—what he believed.

Paul's faith was the same faith that James was talking about—a living, active faith which produces good things—good works. Dead faith is inactive (toward the things of God). It does not produce anything profitable. It is the particular kind and quality of works that separates the Christian from the world, giving evidence of what a person believes.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is clear from the scriptures that at no time has a man been justified by his own works. Neither the Old Covenant nor the New Covenant provides a way for a man to be in alignment with God because of his own acts. It simply is not possible for a man's own righteousness to bring him into alignment with God and His law, character, etc., because every man has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The phrase "the just shall live by faith" is both a statement of fact as well as a command. Those who are justified will have eternal life—that is, they will "live"—because of their faith in God's redemptive plan. But it is also a command: If God has justified a man, it is then his responsibility to respond to that justification by living his life in faith. As James illustrates clearly, the way one lives his life is the only true indicator of what one has faith in. Again, we are neither justified nor saved by our own deeds or righteousness, but the things that we do and the rules that we live by are a beacon of what we believe in.

(See the notes at Galatians 2:16.)

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Old Testament has "included" or "enclosed" or "shut up" all of humanity under the umbrella of sin. Not a single person can appear before God on the basis of his own merit or righteousness. The totality of mankind is enslaved by sin and does not have the means to break free from its grasp. By "concluding" that everyone is under the bondage of sin, or under the curse of sin, the scripture shows that something external to mankind has to act to provide a solution that can save man from himself and his sinful nature. This "conclusion" also demonstrates that none of the paths that man has embarked on—primarily justification on the basis of one's own works—are of any lasting worth.

Because all other paths are shown to be futile, the only option for salvation and glorification is the way that Jesus Christ has set forth. There are no other alternatives. Faith in what Christ has done, is doing, and will do is mankind's only hope.

The story of the Israelites is a record of a people whom God chose, set apart, and blessed with incredible blessings and opportunities. But it is also a record of mankind's sinful nature, and how illogical it is that a man could stand before God on account of his own innate righteousness. God revealed just a portion of His will and character—the letter of the law—to Israel, and its history powerfully demonstrates that, by himself, man is unable to live up to God's standards.

This should be a glaring testimony that some other means is required for man to have a relationship with his Creator. The solution is justification—being brought into alignment with God and His law—on the basis of belief in the Savior and His perfect sacrifice. This marks the beginning of the relationship. But because faith without works is dead, the way a man lives his life demonstrates who and what he believes in. If he has been justified before God and is being saved, his life will reflect God's mercy, providence, and sovereignty. We are not justified or saved by our works, but if we are justified our works will demonstrate that we are being saved. "Belief" in Christ will be an everyday, continual reality, and true belief will shape every thought, word, and deed.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Old Covenant - the agreement between God and ancient Israel - was a "guardian" or "custodian" for the children of Israel. It provided a means by which the Israelites could have health and wealth and many of the good things this life has to offer - if they would have followed the laws contained within that covenant. For example, the law of the Sabbath has tremendous physical benefits, for man, animals, and even the land. The law of tithing teaches good financial handling, and when it is done in faith it ensures financial stability. The laws which were a part of the covenant agreement would have kept Israel heading in the right direction, and would have helped prepare a people who should have recognized and accepted their rightful Ruler when He was born a man - except their hearts were not changed. God wants a change of action that proceeds from a change of heart - not a change of action just for the sake of the action.

The Old Covenant was a legitimate system, ordained by God, with fantastic physical benefits - if Israel had obeyed. That contractual agreement was meant to be a means to an end, and not the end in itself. It was meant to teach the people and hedge them in, to prepare them for the next stage of their existence - just like a guardian teaches and prepares a child to take over a business or inherit an estate. The covenant - not God's holy, spiritual law - was a step in the process, but that agreement became obsolete when the Master arrived and began His instruction. However, many of the laws contained within that covenant pre-dated the agreement with Israel, and thus are just as relevant today as they were for Israel.

Even though God's law is eternal and thus still required to be kept, justification has always been by faith. Abraham was justified by faith, even though God says he also "obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws." (Genesis 26:5) His obedience to God's law did not justify him, for his obedience was not perfect. Justification has always been on the basis of faith, because the instant a man sins - as all men have (Romans 3:23) - it becomes impossible to come before God on the basis of sinless perfection. Faith in the Savior is thus required for justification, and the law then lights the path the repentant and justified sinner must walk in order to keep from sinning further.

The Old Covenant was a system ordained by God to include His "royal law" (James 2:8) for the purpose of teaching Israel how to live. Even though the Old Covenant is obsolete, that same royal law is at the core of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13) because it teaches us how to live. But since we have transgressed that law, faith in the Savior is required for our sins to be forgiven and for us to be justified before God.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:26-29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

True Christians exhibit the faith and righteousness of Abraham. God considers them to be the patriarch's spiritual descendants regardless of their race or sex. Consequently, they will inherit the same promises made to Abraham.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Reward of the Saved


 

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

Paul makes another contrast. What avails a person is faith working through love. These three verses are important because they introduce "Spirit" and that "faith works through love." Faith works. It works through - meaning "by means of" - love. In other words, if a person really has faith in the right things and the right Person, he will produce what? Love!

What is the Bible definition of love? "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments" (I John 5:3). That is beautiful! Similarly, Paul is saying that, if we really believe in the right things and the right Person (that is, have faith), then it will produce the keeping of the commandments.

The evidence of our faith, then, is in whether or not we keep His commandments. John tells us that the basis of love is commandment-keeping. It is not the whole picture, because emotion, feeling, is also tied to it, but we have to begin somewhere, and the bottom line is keeping the commandments.

Another statement that proves that Paul was not doing away with law keeping comes right from this context. The word "Spirit" reflects on a subject he dealt with earlier. The enemy - Judaistic Gnostics - believed that their calling and election by God came because they had the law and kept it. But Paul is saying, "No. We are drawn to God by His Spirit," which is what Jesus says in John 6:44.

Also, truth is revealed by God's Spirit (I Corinthians 2:10-16; John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13), so our calling has nothing to do with our works. Romans 9:16 tells us that it is not of him who wills or of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. Thus, we are in this position because God, by His Spirit, has drawn us. He, by His Spirit, has revealed Himself, His Word, and the purpose of life to us. Our calling and election are completely a work of grace. At the point of our calling, law-keeping has nothing to do with it, but comes into play later when our faith works through love.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 28)


 

Galatians 5:22-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These qualities are aspects of God's character that we all need to have and use:

Love: Outgoing concern for others. True concern for all of mankind. Not being self-centered. Doing for others what is right, despite their character, appearance, social status, etc. (I Corinthians 13).

Joy: Related to happiness, only happiness requires right circumstances where joy does not. Jesus Christ felt joy though He faced heavy trials (Hebrews 12:2). We should all be joyful having been called by God.

Peace: Peace of mind and peace with God (Philippians 4:6-7).

Longsuffering: Bearing with others who are working out their salvation. Being slow to anger (Romans 15:1; Luke 21:19).

Kindness: Behaving toward others kindly, as God has behaved toward us (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Goodness: Generosity of spirit that springs from imitating Jesus Christ (Psalm 33:4-5).

Faithfulness: Being reliable. This describes a person who is trustworthy and will always stand up for God's way. We can count on, and should work at imitating, the faithfulness of God (Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 13:5).

Gentleness: Considerate and tactful in conduct and correction. Never angry at the wrong time (Matthew 5:22-24; Ephesians 4:26).

Self-Control: Discipline which gives us victory over the wrong pulls of our mind and body (I John 2:15-17).

John O. Reid
Time for Self-Evaluation


 

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

Faith's importance to salvation is accentuated by this verse. Faith plays a role in the entire process until we enter the Kingdom of God. It is the sum of what God is doing in our lives: "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent'" (John 6:29). In the fourth and fifth chapters of Romans, Paul mentions faith a dozen times, almost all concerning justification, being made righteous or having access to grace, and thus, having the hope of the glory of God.

The faith that saves has its beginning when God, on His own initiative, calls us (John 6:44) and leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). He does this by His Spirit guiding us into all truth (John 16:7-14). Stirring up our minds to knowledge, His Spirit enables us to perceive from a perspective we never before seriously considered. This, combined with the confrontation that occurs with the carnal mind when we are forced to choose what to do with this precious truth, gives birth to a living faith, a faith that works, a faith that walks in godliness.

This would never occur if God did not first do His part. We would never find the true God on our own or understand His gospel of the Kingdom of God. We would never be able to choose the real Jesus, our Savior and Elder Brother, from the mass of false christs created in the minds of men. Not knowing what to repent of or toward, we would never repent.

As miraculous and powerful as God's liberation of Israel from bondage was, even more so and of greater importance is the breaking of our bondage to Satan, this world, and human nature. This is why Ephesians 2:8 says the faith that saves is "the gift of God." Israel's release from Egypt was God's gift too. Regardless of how much they cried out to Him, the Israelites would never have left Egypt without Him. If God had not been merciful and faithful, if He had not been trustworthy, they would never have been freed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Wandering the Wilderness in Faith


 

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

A simple illustration will help us understand. Imagine being the root of a tree. The root does a tremendous amount of work in producing the tree's fruit. It draws moisture and nourishment in the form of minerals from the soil, processes them to some degree, then passes them on to the rest of the tree. However, the root could do none of this unless the minerals and water were freely given and available for it to do its work.

Similarly, faith is a gift, like the water and minerals, freely given by God to produce certain works. Like a tree root, we have a measure of control because we have a part to play—working to believe and use what God has given—in producing the fruit of the Spirit. Thus, faith is simultaneously a gift and a work. It is a gift because the Son of Man gives it to us (John 6:27) and a work because we must exercise it (John 6:29). As a food, faith is very nourishing for the mind, necessary for mental soundness and an abundant life. It will not be present in us unless we work to assimilate it by believing it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Four)


 

Ephesians 2:8-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When we first turn to Ephesians 2:8-9, the first thing we notice is that we are confronted with a whole list of spiritual-sounding words: grace, saved, faith, gift, works. Even those of us who have been in God's church for many years and who may clearly understand each of these words individually, are slowed down in our comprehension of these verses when faced with such terms presented one after the other.

So let us take a very brief Greek lesson. Please take the time to study these words in more detail. Here are the key terms contained in this scripture in English and Greek, the Strong's Concordance reference number, and, to make the meanings clearer, other English terms translated in the New Testament from the same Greek words:

  • Grace (#5485): charis (khar'-ece). Also translated as favor, thanks, thank, pleasure.
  • Saved (#4982): sozo (sode'-zo). Also translated as make whole, heal, be whole.
  • Faith (#4102): pistis. Also translated as assurance, believe, belief, those who believe, fidelity.
  • Gift (#1435): doron. Also translated as present, offering.
  • Works (#2041): ergon. Also translated as deed, doing, labor.

We have just learned that ergon is the original Greek for the English word "works." It does not appear to be a very difficult, ambiguous, or confusing term. But what do the many people and churches who claim that works are not required perceive "works" to be?

Opinions vary. One group perceives works to mean the whole law in general. A second group perceives works as specific portions of God's law, which they look upon as being "Jewish" or "Old Covenant," or that they are just not willing to keep and teach. A third group, amazingly enough in their rejection of it, perceives this term as meaning works of charity in general!

Individuals or groups who choose to substitute the word "law" for the word "works" in Ephesians 2:8-9, and who thus say that New Testament Christians do not have to keep God's law, do not appear to mean it totally and literally. Instead, most of them reserve the right to choose which parts of the law they wish to keep ("You shall not kill," "You shall not steal," etc.) and those that they do not wish to keep ("Remember the Sabbath," holy days, tithing, clean and unclean meats, etc.). God has nowhere given authority to His people to be selective in these matters, thus this stance toward the law is inconsistent and even hypocritical.

The church of God has always agreed one hundred percent with those who say that salvation is a gift, and that a Christian cannot earn salvation by charitable works or by obedience to God's law. However, obedience is a condition we must meet before God will give us His free gift of salvation. New Testament evidence is overwhelming on the matter. Here are just a few verses:

· And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit, which God has given to those who obey him. (Acts 5:32)

· He who says, "I know him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (I John 2:4)

· So He said to [the rich young ruler], "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." (Matthew 19:17)

· If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15)

The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 2:8-9, does not say that works are not required at all. The purpose of his statement is to show that works do not save us, but that grace and faith do! In fact, the very next verse, verse 10, shows that God calls members of His church for the very purpose of performing good works: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

The apostle's language is very clear. God desires us to walk in good works, and He has prepared our spiritual educational process so that we will learn to do them. Doing good works in the name of Jesus Christ is a major part of the purpose for the life of each true Christian. We cannot truly be Christians without them!

Staff
Faith Without Works


 

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

Is there any contradiction between the opinions of Paul and James on this matter?

Simply, no! Paul, in Ephesians 2:8 says that faith is required and, as we have seen, in verse 10, says that good works are also required. James, in the second chapter of his epistle, says that faith and works are inseparable:

· Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (verse 17)

· But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (verse 20)

· For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (verse 26)

In his Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley states that:

Paul's doctrine of Justification by Faith, and James' doctrine of Justification by Works, are supplementary, not contradictory. Neither was opposing the teaching of the other—they were devoted friends and co-workers. James fully endorsed Paul's work (Acts 15:13-29; 21:17-26).

Paul preached Faith as the basis of justification before God, but insisted that it must issue in the right kind of Life. James was writing to those who had accepted the doctrine of Justification by Faith but were not Living Right, telling them that such Faith was No Faith at all. (p. 659, capitalization as in original)

The Revised Standard Version translates James 2:20 in a very interesting and appropriate way: "Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren?" It is barren that is so intriguing. In the Bible, several women—for example, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth—could not have children. In the physical realm, a fertile male and a fertile female are both required conditions for reproduction for most forms of life. Spiritually, active faith and active works are both required conditions to reproduce godly, spiritual life in us. In both cases, life, whether spiritual or physical, is a gift of God, the Creator and Life-giver. If either condition is absent or inactive, barrenness or lack of new life results.

Another meaning of barren common in English is that of a land without vegetation, a desolate place. The Greek word James uses is argos (instead of nekra, "dead," as in verses 17 and 26), meaning "lazy," "unproductive," "unprofitable," "idle," "ineffective." Its literal meaning is "no work" [a (negative) + ergon (work)]! The word picture that develops is of an area of land that receives plenty of sunshine but too little rain, and hence, it is barren, desolate. Such a land cannot be worked because it will not produce anything profitable. In the same way, a person having only faith will produce nothing profitable; he needs a steady "rain" of work to grow and mature.

So there is no contradiction. Faith is required. Works are required. Works toward God are to do His will and His work and, yes, to obey His laws. Works toward our neighbors are to serve them and to do good for them. Doing them promotes growth of godly character and provides a shining example of true Christian living.

Faith without works is dead. Faith with works is life—eternal life!

Staff
Faith Without Works


 

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

Where do we get the faith that is required for salvation? Ephesians 2:8 answers: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." We cannot work it up—that would be our effort (Isaiah 64:6).

Consider when God first started working with us. One year we were clueless, the next year things were making sense. We read the Bible and understood it, but more importantly, we believed it.

Where did that belief come from? It was, as Ephesians 2:8 says, a gift from God. The real miracle is not that we understood, but rather that we now believed those words we understood. And this happened only because God made it possible.

What was the evidence that we believed those words? We began living by them. Our new works and actions were the evidence of our faith: keeping the Sabbath, tithing, eating habits, etc.

Just like Abraham, our actions showed our desire to begin a right relationship with God motivated by His gift of faith. "Don't you remember that our ancestor Abraham was declared right with God because of what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, he was trusting God so much that he was willing to do whatever God told him to do. His faith was made complete by what he did—by his actions" (James 2:21-22, New Living Translation).

To complete our faith, are we willing to believe and do whatever God tells us? Consider those first experiences as we began to believe. We faced family pressure, work pressure, peer pressure, etc., to obey what we now believed. What evidence did we have to back up our actions? All we had were God's words. Armed with only those words, we willingly faced any opposition to act on what God commands. Just like Abraham, it was our faith in those words that encouraged us to obey and begin our journey, not knowing where we were going (Hebrews 11:8).

At our baptism, could we have predicted all the twists and turns our lives have taken since? Just like Israel's journey after baptism in the Red Sea, God has taken us in a zigzag route across this wilderness we call life. What was our evidence of things not seen? Only the words of God. That was the only evidence we had then, and it is the only sure evidence we have now.

As we deal with our trials, do we remember that first love? Do we remember the challenges we were willing to confront with only the words of God as our evidence? It is no different today. Will we believe God or what we can see? God needs to find out just as He did with Abraham—to "know" we will obey, no matter what, until the end (Matthew 10:22).

To test our faith, God's pattern is to bring us to a point—a brick wall or a Red Sea—that seemingly allows no escape. That is where He can find out what is truly in our hearts—hearts of belief or evil unbelief (Hebrews 3:12). Will we believe Him or our eyes?

Pat Higgins
Faith—What Is It?


 

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

Adam Clarke comments that the word "it" in "it is the gift of God" can be more accurately translated "this." But "it" and "faith" are of different genders. In the Greek language, as in many others, the gender of the pronoun has to match the gender of its antecedent. The antecedent, then, cannot possibly be "faith" because "it" is neuter and "faith" is feminine. "It" must refer to another neuter word, the word "saved." Faith indeed is a gift of God, but it cannot be proved so by this verse.

Faith is produced by the grace of God given to us. God's grace empowers us to believe. The power to believe and the act of believing are two very different things. Without the power to believe, no one has ever believed with the kind of belief that is necessary for salvation, but once a person has that power, once he is enabled, once the grace, the gift, has been given to him, then the act of faith is the person's own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 5)


 

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

Notice first how this chapter begins: He has made us alive (Ephesians 2:1). Paul makes sure that we understand that it is God who gives what we spiritually possess. As for verse 8, it does not matter whether we believe that the pronoun "it" refers to grace or faith; both are gifts of God.

Grace is God's kindness to us, shown or demonstrated by His revealing Himself to us. It might help to think of this in reference to God revealing Himself to Moses in the burning bush before He sent him to Egypt. If God did not freely purpose on the strength of His own sovereign will to reveal Himself, neither Moses nor we would ever find Him. If a person cannot find God on his own, how could he possibly have faith in Him? Satan has deceived us so well that men have only the foggiest idea of what to look for.

Faith—with God as its object—begins and continues as part of His gift of kindness. The gift includes His calling, the granting of repentance, the sacrifice of Christ for our forgiveness, and His giving of His Spirit. It is a complete package of many individual gifts. The gospel is the medium that provides knowledge of the objects of the faith He gives, that is, what we believe and trust in. Paul, perceiving these gifts as a package, uses "grace" as its label. In verses 9-10, he advances to the logical "next step" in God's purpose.

Our works in no way jump-start the process of justification, sanctification, and glorification. All our works, beginning with repentance and continuing through our period of sanctification, depend directly on the freely given kindness and faith God provides. Our God-ordained good works are the result of our response to the gift of faith that God gives. Works, then, are the external evidence of the unseen, internal faith that motivates them. A person could not do them unless God had given the gift of faith beforehand. Good works follow, they do not precede.

II Corinthians 5:17-18 confirms this: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." This corroborates that it is God working in the person. His work is termed a "new creation." Since nothing new creates itself, we are the workmanship of another. We are God's workmanship. In sum, because of what God does, we cooperate and produce works that He ordains.

The apostle Paul adds to our understanding in Philippians 2:12-13: "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." He is not saying that we should work in order to obtain salvation. These verses indicate the continuing use of something one already possesses. They suggest carrying something to its logical conclusion, which is for us to live lives worthy of the gospel, doing the works God ordained, as in Ephesians 2:10.

In Romans 9:9-19, Paul, using Jacob and Esau's pre-birth circumstances as a foundation, provides a clear illustration to show that from beginning to end, the whole salvation process depends upon God's involvement. Jacob, representing those called into the church, received God's love in the form of gifts designed to prepare him for the Kingdom of God. To Esau, representing the uncalled, God has simply withheld His love for the time being.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

Ephesians 6:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When writing about putting on "the whole armor of God" in Ephesians 6, Paul begins to conclude the passage by repeating the concepts in Luke 21:36—praying always and watching (verse 18). He says in verse 16: ". . . above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one."

Albert Barnes' New Testament Commentary explains these fiery darts:

Paul here refers, probably, to the temptations of the great adversary, which are like fiery darts; or those furious suggestions of evil, and excitements to sin, which he may throw into the mind like fiery darts. They are blasphemous thoughts, unbelief, sudden temptation to do wrong, or thoughts that wound and torment the soul. In regard to them, we may observe:

(1) that they come suddenly, like arrows sped from a bow;

(2) they come from unexpected quarters, like arrows shot suddenly from an enemy in ambush;

(3) they pierce, and penetrate, and torment the soul, as arrows would that are on fire;

(4) they set the soul on fire, and enkindle the worst passions, as fiery darts do a ship or camp against which they are sent.

What happens when these fiery darts hit their target? The answer appears in James 1:13-15 (Contemporary English Version, CEV):

Don't blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn't use evil to tempt others. We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead.

As Barnes says, these darts "enkindle the worst passions," or as James says, "our desires." Actually, these darts have been flying since the day we were born, doing their damage. Where is it better for us to deal with these darts: at the point of the shield or after they have hit their mark? Of course, at the shield!

II Samuel 22:31 tells us what our shield is: "As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him" (see also Genesis 15:1; Psalm 33:20; Proverbs 2:7). We are not the shield. Our faith is not the shield. God is the shield, using the same faith Jesus Christ had. If we let Him, God will protect us in our battles.

How do we erect this "shield of faith?" Notice these verses:

Matthew 17:19-21: Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."

Psalm 18:30 (CEV): Your way is perfect, Lord, and your word is correct. You are a shield for those who run to you for help.

Along with fasting, Christ gives prayer as one of the antidotes to unbelief. David says that running to God for help, of which striving to pray always is the essence, will allow Him to be our shield, our source of power and strength (II Corinthians 3:5; 4:7).

Notice the first part of Matthew 26:41 from the New Life Bible: "Watch and pray so that you will not be tempted. . . ." Jesus repeats the instruction in Luke 21:36 but shows that the same process will build the shield of faith to protect us from the fiery darts of temptation.

Notice that the shield mentioned in Ephesians 6:16 can quench all the fiery darts—not some, not most, but all. Consider the great peace we would have if none of Satan's fiery darts ever reached their intended target! This sheds light on why Christ says in Matthew 11:30: "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." We know He used every spiritual tool God makes available.

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Six)


 

Philippians 4:6-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We need to pay careful attention to this sequence of instructions because it contains much that can help us attain both good spiritual and physical health. In the past fifty years, men have come to understand how deteriorating and destructive stress is to life. Paul's counsel, written nearly two thousand years ago, tells us not to be driven by anxiety or fearfulness about life. Even earlier, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus admonishes us to "take no anxious thought." The stress of anxiety is wearying, setting us up for multiple afflictions. If we really "see" God, we should know that He is with us. Should we not feel great assurance in His promise never to allow us to be tempted above what we can bear? Faith is a prime solution for anxiety.

Paul continues, urging us to let God know our needs in every matter of life. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, He already knows our needs, but He wants us to recognize, evaluate, and communicate them to Him, accompanied by thoughtful expressions of thanksgiving for what He has already given, as well as His promises of blessings in the future. Do we see what this process achieves? It disciplines us to think within certain well-defined parameters that have Him and His way at the center of our life.

Paul then asserts that one benefit of this is tranquility of mind, respite from the restlessness so common to the carnal mind, which is constantly searching for new stimulation to satisfy its insatiable longings. This peace of God will stand guard over our minds like a sentinel, allowing us to meet and cope with the problems of life.

Verse 8 begins with the word "finally." While not technically wrong, it does not adequately convey Paul's intent. We can understand it better as "in this connection" or "in this regard as I close this letter." In relation to anxiety, the peace of God, and coping with the problems of life, our minds should be occupied with things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Through this discipline, we program our minds with the right things; what goes into the mind determines what comes out in words, actions, and attitudes.

This is a biblical version of the "garbage in, garbage out; wholesome in, wholesome out" cliché. It specifically expands on Jesus' statement, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). We could take this further and say that out of the abundance of the heart the mind thinks and feels, and the body acts.

In verse 9, Paul defines what is wholesome specifically as what they had learned, received, heard, and seen in him. He is indirectly telling them to eat Jesus Christ because he, Paul, as His apostle to the Gentiles, was His agent to them and their teacher of His way of life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)


 

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

When we really mature in our spiritual life, we see more, we know more, we feel more, we do more, and we repent more. It is all in proportion to our closeness to God! We are, in short, growing in grace (as Peter said in II Peter 3:18).

No one who neglects the spiritual big four—Bible study, prayer, meditation, and occasional fasting—can expect to make much progress in sanctification because these are the channels through which spiritual strength flows from God. This is why having access to God through Jesus Christ is so important. These efforts produce faith and then obedience, and fresh supplies of His grace flows.

There are no spiritual gains without pains. Would we expect a crop from a farmer who never even looked at his fields until harvest time? That is ridiculous! The farmer has to get out in his fields and sow the seeds. Does not God say in James 3:18 that "the fruit of righteousness are sown in peace by those who make peace"? The fruits of righteousness have to be sown! That is work.

What are the fruits of righteousness? They are love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, meekness, kindness, faith, self-control—but they have to be sown, fertilized, cultivated, and pruned. We see a process. As those fruits begin to be produced, sanctification cannot be hidden any more than the fruit on a tree can be hidden. We will never attain to holiness without Bible study, prayer, fasting, meditation, and obedience because through them is how spiritual life is sown, cultivated, fertilized, and tended so that fruit is produced.

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


 

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

The New King James Version and the King James Version translate this verse similarly. In both, however, there is a mistake. An interlinear Bible will clearly show that the definite article "the" should appear before "faith," making this faith a specific kind or level of faith distinct from others. Anybody can have a spiritual faith in somebody or something—even in the Creator God—and still not have saving faith, the faith to which Paul refers here. Many believe in a Creator God yet do not know Him, do not understand His purpose, do not understand the extent of Satan's influence on them or the world, and do not obey God's commands. They are, in short, uncalled by the sovereign God and not as yet appointed to eternal life.

This saving faith appears frequently in Scripture:

» Colossians 2:7: ". . . established in the faith."
» I Timothy 1:2: "To Timothy, my true son in the faith."
» I Timothy 4:1: ". . . some will depart from the faith."
» I Timothy 5:8: ". . . he has denied the faith."
» Titus 1:1: ". . . according to the faith of God's elect."
» Titus 1:13: ". . . that they may be sound in the faith."
» Titus 3:15: "Greet those who love us in the faith."
» Jude 3: ". . . contend earnestly for the faith."

In each case "the faith" indicates not only a specific kind or level of faith but also a specific body of beliefs or knowledge from which faith arises. Paul states this in Romans 10:17, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," dovetailing perfectly with the knowledge mentioned in I John 5:19-20. Saving faith arises from the knowledge God so graciously gives us through His sovereign will. This means that only those whose hearts and minds God opens can believe to salvation. Even the faith that saves is a gift of God!

So on the one hand, there is faith, but on the other hand is the faith. There is a faith that will believe, yet James describes it as "dead" (James 2:14-26). It is dead, though the person possessing it lives, because all of his labors produce death. They produce death because his faith does not conform to God's will. The faith, given to those ordained to salvation, not only believes but also works in conformity with God's will because it trusts in and relies upon the truth of the salvation message and God's purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

1 Timothy 4:6-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul's repeated emphasis on sound doctrine implies that the body of teaching in the church is more than just a gospel about Christ. It is the gospel of Christ—what He taught and lived in His own life, and what He expects us to follow as well. His doctrine is "the pattern of sound words," the body of truth, once for all delivered to the saints. God inspired the writers of the New Testament to warn us that His church must have a solid foundation in the truth of Christ to defend and contend for the faith because of the constant bombardment of false doctrines.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Doctrine


 

Hebrews 3:7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verses 7 and 15 focus on "Today," meaning "right now"—the subject must not be put off. In this way, "Today," injects a sense of urgency as well as the thought of "as long as the opportunity exists," implying that now is our time of salvation. It must not be wasted because God calls one only once.

At the same time, he is suggesting that the Israelites failed because they did not use their faith as a day-to-day function of life. Faith is not something to be held in reserve for the really big trials of life, but it is the solid foundation of daily living. It is this level of faith that Jesus was concerned about when He asked, "When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" Living faith motivates every thought meant to produce action, beginning with what God requires before all else. Paul is urging believers to work toward using faith in God as the driving force of everything we do each day.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty (Part Two)


 

Hebrews 3:12-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We all need to guard against unbelief as we would against an enemy. Paul is not speaking about a heart in which unbelief is merely present, but a heart that is controlled by unbelief, the kind of heart that will drag a person down even as Peter was dragged down into Galilee's water when he took his eyes off of Jesus. The peril of unbelief is that it breaks the trust on which our relationship with God is based. Unbelief leads to falling away, which is the opposite of drawing near. "Drawing near" is a major theme of Hebrews.

Falling away is the supreme disaster of life, the ultimate defeat, because it completely thwarts God's purpose for creation. It is essential we remember that when a person falls away, he is not merely falling away from a doctrine or even a set of doctrines, but from a living, dynamic Personality.

Faith needs to be cultivated. It grows by reading and studying God's Word, and by meditating on it. It grows in an atmosphere of trial or experience because it is exercised through use. It also grows, as we find here in these three verses, in an atmosphere of exhortation from others who are fellowshipping with us. Exhortation is a preventative of falling away, which is a major reason why fellowship is so necessary. Without it, a person may hold his own, and perhaps his faith will not slip very much, but one who is not fellowshipping with others of like mind will rarely ever grow.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith and Prayer


 

Hebrews 3:15-18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In regard to faith, we must understand what the Bible means by its frequent admonitions to "hear." Paul writes in Hebrews 3:15, "Today, if you will hear His voice." He is not pressing us to hear the sound of His voice, but to understand what God wants us to learn through what Paul, the preacher, is expounding in his epistle. Paul is urging us to take the time now to "get" it, to "see" or "grasp" what God is teaching.

Hebrews 3:17-18; 4:2 will help us reach a conclusion about what God intends regarding hearing. Whether a person physically hears the actual voice of God Himself is of little importance. Whether "hearing" in our personal reading or "hearing" the preaching of a minister, what is critical is that we obey the godly instruction, because unless we actually obey, we have not yet truly heard. If a person continues to sin, he has not really heard, in the biblical sense, what God has taught.

Put in another way, if a person continues to sin because God's Word does not motivate him to obedience to what He teaches, then he, in a worst-case scenario, either does not believe God or at this point his belief is so weak that he cannot bring himself to trust Him. Such are the ones who died in the wilderness. The weakness is not that people do not believe that He exists, but that they do not trust what He says because, in reality, they do not know Him. Thus, in the biblical sense, they have not yet truly heard.

In Hebrews 4:2, Paul uses the Greek word pistis for the first time in his letter. He will use it 31 more times. Pistis is translated either as "faith" or as "faithfulness." I believe that "faithfulness" is better here because that is what the Israelites lacked. Faithfulness is trusting God in continuous fashion as shown by conduct. God has given us a great deal, but it is our responsibility to hold firmly to His instructions by living them. Living them engrains them into our characters as habits, and this is good. Through habitual use, they become so entrenched in our behavior that we do not even have to call them to mind.

The unbelief that Paul is speaking of here is that our weak trust results in weak Christian living because we do not know and "see" God with the clarity that we should have. It can be rectified, but that is not always easy and at times may seem costly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty (Part Two)


 

Hebrews 3:16-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle Paul equates faith and obedience, or conversely, unbelief and disobedience. Unbelief and disobedience are directly linked. Unless faith motivates a person to obedience, it is not faith but merely an esoteric opinion. James corroborates exactly what the apostle Paul says: "Show me your faith without your works, and I will you show you my faith by my works. Faith without works is dead" (see James 2:17-18). It does not even exist.

What was Lot's wife's sin? She did not believe. It is that simple. She died for her lack of faith, which was revealed in her direct rebellion against the messengers of God. She looked back. The root cause of her rebellion, of her worldliness, was her unbelief. Due to her unbelief, she was not prepared to leave Sodom and did not really obey the command to leave.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 4)


 

Hebrews 3:19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul puts his finger on the source of the Israelites' problem, why their heart could not be changed, why they consistently and persistently sinned and rebelled: "So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." Paul later turns this thought into an admonition for us:

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. (Hebrews 4:1-2)

Not only did Israel have the witness of numerous demonstrations of God's presence and power among them to provide a foundation for faith, but they were also given the Word of God by His servants Moses and Aaron. In addition, they had living examples of faith in Moses, Aaron (most of the time), Joshua, Caleb, and others. God supplied these men with gifts by His Spirit as a testimony that should have provided more incentive for the Israelites to believe Him. But Hebrews 3:17 says He was angry with them forty years! If ever a people almost drove God to the point of exasperation, it was Israel in the wilderness.

We must not allow such a powerful lesson to pass by unheeded. Paul agrees, "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4).

The lesson is clear. Those who believe God reveal their faith by obeying Him. Those who do not believe, disobey. Hebrews 3:12 warns, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God." Unbelief is evidence of an evil heart, and an evil heart departs from God. Like Hebrews 3:16—4:2, this verse equates unbelief with disobedience.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Wandering the Wilderness in Faith


 

Hebrews 4:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Consider these Israelites. They saw a multitude of miracles performed by God through His servant Moses and on occasion through Aaron. They experienced the water turn to blood and frogs hop all over the place. They experienced the eerie, penetrating darkness that pervaded all of Egypt. They experienced the division between Goshen and Egypt, and they knew God spared them from the remaining plagues.

They knew something was "working" in their lives. They could see it occurring when the flies were all over Egypt except in Goshen. They saw it happen through five other plagues. They experienced it again on Passover night when the firstborn of Egypt were killed, but the firstborn of Israel, shielded by the blood on their doorposts and lintels, were not. Did they not see that?

Did they not spoil the Egyptians? Did they not leave Egypt? Did not God part the Red Sea before their eyes and drown all the Egyptian army in its waters? Did they not eat manna supplied from heaven every day for forty years in the wilderness? Did they not see water flow like a river out of solid rock? Did they not see quail blown toward them so that they had all the meat they could eat?

They saw the glory of God descend on Mount Sinai. They felt the earth shake under their feet. They saw the pillar of fire and cloud. They saw the glory of God rest upon the Tabernacle when it was set up. Nevertheless, every single one of them, except for two men and their families, perished!

Is seeing believing?

The Israelites never really saw God in those works. What they physically saw did not produce the spiritual faith that enables one to see God, because, as these verses explain, the one whose eyes are opened must voluntarily respond. The Israelites never responded positively to God.

The Christian's responsibility is to respond to God's calling through acts of faith. The apostle reminds the Hebrews of the deadly seriousness of their situation. God's calling is not indiscriminately handed out to anyone who might happen to see or read. It is a personal invitation (John 6:44). God has addressed it specifically to us!

These verses also contain a warning: Since Israel did not enter into God's rest, someone else will, because God will fulfill His purpose. The Christian ought not to think that he will automatically enter it in Israel's place.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Do You See God? (Part One)


 

Hebrews 4:14-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is faith that clears the way to the mercy seat. Faith, first of all, gives the assurance that there even is a mercy seat and a High Priest that waits to hear our petitions and our confession and those of our brothers and sisters. The Revised Standard Version translates verse 16, "Let us then with confidence draw near." It is an interesting approach. "Confidence" has the overtone of speaking freely. What are we doing in prayer? We are fellowshipping with God. We are in His company communicating with Him, and faith is plowing the way before us—because prayer grows out of faith! We would not even be praying if we did not have faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency


 

Hebrews 6:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Eternal judgment is one of the basic doctrines of the church of God, equal in importance to repentance, faith, baptism, etc. Webster's New World Dictionary defines judgment as "a legal decision, order or sentence given by a judge." In eternal judgment, God decides a person's reward or punishment for all eternity.

Staff
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment


 

Hebrews 10:22-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The first thing Paul lays out in this transition is a three-step trigger to prime the Hebrew Christians' latent memories so they will be armed with foundational incentives to rouse themselves spiritually and start moving forward. In verses 22-24, he makes three exhortations.

First, "let us draw near." In other words, get moving! He says, "Take advantage of this privilege of coming before God, and believe without doubting, knowing your sins are forgiven and remembering that God is faithful and merciful to forgive." Recall that in the performance of their duties, the priests had to wash their hands and feet before entering the holy place. This is why Paul mentions water. He is alluding to the Hebrews' need to become clean. He urges them to repent of their lackadaisical attitudes and to meet with their Maker in prayer.

Second, he commands them to "hold fast your profession." Paul uses a similar phrase five times before this. Apparently, lackadaisical drifting was a particularly common problem for them. He wants them to show by their conduct that they believe in what God has promised in the resurrection from the dead. In short, he advises, "Remember your conviction in the awesome hope of our calling." These people were allowing the world to get them down; they were succumbing to a "what's the use" resignation. They were not busy confirming their souls. Paul exhorts them to continue, to persevere in the grace God had already shown them, not wanting them to waste it by failing to look ahead and be persistent. He presses them to yield to God and to allow themselves to be reassured that He is faithful to His promises.

Pay special attention to the third exhortation in verse 24. The word "consider" is very emphatic. He urges them to think upon and to strive for unity by giving conscientious care to each other. He wants the Hebrews to give special attention to their brethren's circumstances, trials, temptations, weaknesses, and needs. They need to "fire each other up" to promote love for God and for each other and to carry out our common responsibilities. Christians do this by setting a good example, by occasional suitable exhortations, by acts of kindness, and by expressions of appreciation.

Notice that as this exhortation begins, Paul calls upon the "big three" Christian virtues: faith, hope, and love. These would form the foundation of what the Hebrews must do if they were to reverse their slide toward the Lake of Fire. These virtues must be implemented because they affect the quality of a person's relationship with God. Because a Christian has God's Spirit, these virtues are already part of him. However, each individual must himself choose to use them to turn his life around; no one can do this for another. Of course, it is understood that God is always there to help a person do this.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Power: Our Shield Against Apostasy


 

Hebrews 10:24-25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The New Testament stresses that Christians need the fellowship of others of like mind. An identifying mark of the true church is that the members have love for one another (John 13:35). Indeed, one of the criteria by which Christ will judge us is how we treat our brethren in the church (Matthew 25:31-46). How can we love and serve one another if we do not fellowship with and get to know each other?

God has given us ample instruction regarding how we should relate to other Christians. It is His purpose to teach us how to get along with each other so we can teach others about these things in the Millennium. We are to be unselfish and concerned for the needs of others (Philippians 2:4). God wants us to learn patience and forgiveness (Colossians 3:13), striving to be "kindly affectionate," humble, and self-effacing in our dealings with one another (Romans 12:10). We should be giving and hospitable to our brethren (verse 13).

The New Testament is replete with various admonitions on how we should interact with our brothers and sisters in the church. Obviously, God views our interaction with other Christians as vital to our training to become members of the God Family and qualifying for a position in His Kingdom. He wants us to develop interpersonal skills that equip us to deal with occasional differences of opinion and offenses.

Our fellowship should be a source of encouragement to one another. We should use this time to show love to our brethren and to motivate them to perform acts of kindness and service for others. All of these exhortations show a clear need for us to be part of an organization of God's people. God's Sabbath service is like a weekly training school for Christians. The spiritual food that God's true ministers prepare for us is vitally important for our spiritual growth and development. In discussing the relationship of the ministry to the church member, Paul explains that the ministry is given

for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12-13)

The interaction that we have with one another when we fellowship at church services helps us to develop the fruit of God's Spirit—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul shows that the church is truly Christ's body, and like the human body, each part depends upon the other parts.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
For the Perfecting of the Saints


 

Hebrews 10:35-39   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is not the first time faith or its opposite, unbelief, is mentioned in Hebrews. The very purpose of the entire epistle is to recapture, build, and sustain in its recipients their faith in the superiority of Jesus Christ Himself and in His message, the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

Notice the strong, earlier statements Paul makes regarding unbelief:

» Hebrews 3:12, 19: Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. . . . So we see that [the Israelites in the wilderness] could not enter in[to the Promised Land] because of unbelief.

» Hebrews 4:2: For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.

These are weighty statements. The Israelites failed to accomplish their responsibility of walking from Egypt to the Promised Land primarily because of one weak element in their character. They did not believe God or His messenger Moses. They did not listen thoughtfully or yieldingly.

Because of the warning contained within Hebrews 10:35-39, chapter 11 places the virtue of faith in direct contrast to the sin of unbelief by exposing what unbelief caused to occur. The Israelites drew back in fear rather than trusting God and boldly going forward. Thus, the main point of the epistle of Hebrews is that they will be destroyed who, by failing to put their trust in the living God, shrink back from this Christian war we have been called to fight, whereas those who believe will be saved.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Three)


 

Hebrews 10:36   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The King James Version uses the word "patience," which is not a wrong translation. However, for better understanding, more specific words should be used. Today, we generally think of "patience" as passive, whereas "persevere" or "endure" are more dynamic. The Greek word used in Hebrews 10:36 is hupomone. In his Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates comments that it means "constancy under suffering in faith and duty." "Constancy" indicates that persistent effort is being made, in this case against a pressing trouble. In light of this series, he perhaps describes it even better by defining it as a "quality of character that does not allow one to surrender."

"Perseverance," "endurance," "constancy," and "steadfastness" all have a sense of activity, of actively straining against some pressure. Thus, as Hebrews 11 begins, the author approaches two related subjects: one directly, faith or strong conviction; and the other, perseverance, less directly. Hupomone, however, does not appear again until Hebrews 12:1.

The Hebrews badly needed both conviction and perseverance to meet and overcome their problems. These virtues go hand in hand, and they really cannot be separated because we operate on a different concept of time than does God. Compared to God, we operate on fast time. Almost everything in our lives seems to have to be done or received right now, or faith begins to evaporate and we lose heart. True faith, though, operates in a rhythm closer to what God does because, due to conviction, it is more in tune with Him.

Therefore, a convicted person not only believes that what God says is true, but he also trusts and willingly endures trials in an attitude of realistic hopefulness. He does not restlessly complain to God to fix things right away on his schedule. A person develops conviction by thoughtfully processing a great deal of God's truth and yielding to the evidence He provides.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Three)


 

Hebrews 10:37-38   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"The just shall live by faith" is both a statement of fact about the basis of a Christian's life and a command. It is so important that it appears once in the Old Testament and three times in the New (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). In each case, the context is somewhat different, but its importance to a Christian's salvation is not lost.

The concept is not difficult to understand. Paul further clarifies it in II Corinthians 5:7: "For we walk by faith, and not by sight." A simple definition of faith in Webster's New World Dictionary is "complete trust, confidence, or reliance." At the end of the definitions, "belief" is listed as a synonym. Belief means "faith, esp. religious faith; trust or confidence." The dictionary definitions show that the two words are virtually synonymous. However, in the Bible and in practical application a very wide difference separates merely believing and living by faith.

The practical application of faith is more than simply acknowledging the reality of God. Living by faith involves qualities that are better expressed by the word "trust." This kind of faith produces loyalty or faithfulness expressed in the Christian's life by works of obedience.

Do you think for a moment that the Israelites in the wilderness disbelieved that God existed? Some few may have argued that the miracles they had experienced from the arrival of Moses in Egypt until they died in the wilderness were nothing more than natural phenomena. There are always some doubters and scoffers of that sort (II Peter 3:3-7).

But the vast majority of Israelites could not deny to themselves God's mighty acts on their behalf. They had heard the voice of God at Mount Sinai, had seen a wind from God part the Red Sea, and had escaped death on Passover while the Egyptian firstborn had died. But when God required a higher level of obedience to follow His cloud across the wilderness and depend on Him to supply their every need, the record shows they did not trust Him. Their loyalty dissolved, and they rebelled! They did not have it within them to live, or walk, by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Wandering the Wilderness in Faith


 

Hebrews 11:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can tell whether we have the right kind of faith. Hebrews 11:1 provides a definition: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hupostasis, the word translated "substance," means "that which underlies the apparent; that which is the basis of something, hence, assurance, guarantee and confidence" (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, p. 1426). The English "substance" is built from a prefix and a root which together mean "that which stands under." Webster's defines it as "the real or essential part or element of anything; essence, reality, or basic matter." It is very similar in meaning to hupostasis.

Paul is saying that, for Christians, faith underlies what is seen externally in the conduct of their lives. Underlying a building is its foundation, and in most buildings, the foundation is rarely seen. If it is seen at all, usually only a small portion is visible, but it is there. If no foundation exists, the building soon becomes crooked and warped. In most cases, it will collapse and be completely unusable.

Since Paul says, "We walk by faith, not by sight," we understand that underlying the conduct of a Christian's life is not merely believing that God is, but a constant and abiding trust in Him. Since it is impossible for God to lie, we trust that what God has recorded for us to live by is absolute and must be obeyed, and that it will work in our lives regardless of what may be apparent to the senses.

How much of what we do is really motivated by an implicit trust in God's Word? This is how we can tell whether we are living by faith. We must be honest in our evaluation though. We find it very easy to shade the truth through self-deception. We justify disobedience by rationalizing around God's clear commands or examples, saying that our circumstance is special because . . . (fill in the blank).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Wandering the Wilderness in Faith


 

Hebrews 11:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Faith is the confidence we have in possessing the things we hope for because of the promises of God. Faithfulness is adhering unswervingly to God and His covenant. To be faithful we need to be loyal (steadfastly affectionate and allegiant to God), conscientious (scrupulous in doing God's will), dedicated (zealously devoted to God), and truthful (true to God's Word and standard of righteousness).

Martin G. Collins
Faithfulness


 

Hebrews 11:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the second phrase, faith is what others see in the conduct of a faithful person's life. Evidence of the unseen things gives a person conviction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Two): Vision


 

Hebrews 11:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What is the "evidence of things not seen?" God's words. The rest of the chapter with its examples of faith illustrates that the faithful had only His words as evidence.

Pat Higgins
Faith—What Is It?


 

Hebrews 11:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the phrase "faith is the substance of things hoped for," Paul is not really defining what faith is, but rather he is showing what faith does in an operative sense: Faith undergirds what we hope for. Substance means "that which stands under." Faith is the foundation for what we hope, the foundation for our relationship with God and everything that it implies within His purpose. Faith is the very beginning of everything that really matters spiritually.

By saying that it is the "evidence" or "assurance" (the word can literally be translated "title deed," but "assurance" seems to be the best all-around word) of things hoped for, the author comes much closer to defining what faith is. In its simplest form, faith is merely belief. As our understanding becomes more complex and operative, when we begin to put faith to work, it becomes "confidence," and finally, in its best form, when it becomes fully operational, it is "trust." This trust, this full measure of faith, is alive and works within our relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Pre-Passover Look


 

Hebrews 11:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Understanding this verse is essential to deriving the most from this chapter. It establishes a good, practical definition of faith, but it is not the only one, since the Bible uses the term "faith" in several other ways. We have to be thinking as we read, or we may get an idea about faith other than the one God intends within a given context.

Galatians 1:23 uses "faith" in a somewhat different manner. "He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy." In context with "preaching," faith, as used in religious parlance, means "a confession," thus "a creed," "a body of religious beliefs," or "a statement of the principles of one's way of life." The New Testament often uses "faith" in this manner. Its usage in Jude 3 is similar but a bit clearer, as a body of beliefs to which we must cling steadfastly and apply to life's challenges.

In John 20:29, the apostle relates, "Jesus said to him, 'Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" Here, with Jesus Christ as faith's object, believing indicates a personal trust or confidence in Him. Paul, in Romans 3:22, puts it in different light: ". . . even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe." Here, in a legal context, it indicates a level of personal confidence or trust in what Christ did as a means of justification and therefore access to God.

Romans 10:17 imparts vital understanding on how faith in God becomes part of our thinking and conduct: "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Faith becomes an element of our thinking by our hearing words that concern the objects of faith: our Father in heaven; His Son, Jesus Christ; and their message, the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Interestingly, Paul emphasizes hearing rather then merely reading, though reading is included in the sense of hearing. Jesus declares in John 6:63, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." Hearing—or more correctly, listening—is probably Jesus' most frequent and consistent exhortation during His ministry.

If we do not listen thoughtfully, we will not have faith in the right object. Regardless of the context, faith always contains a mixture of believing, knowing, understanding, trusting, and sometimes even bold conviction—all locked together and pointed toward a specific object. Within the Bible, that object is almost always either God, Jesus Christ, the Word of God, or a messenger sent by God, whether angel, prophet, or minister.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Three)


 

Hebrews 11:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A clear understanding of faith in Hebrews 11 largely depends on how we perceive the word "substance" in verse 1. In Greek, it is hypostasis, literally "a standing under." A more complex definition is "that which underlies what is apparent." Amplified a bit further, it is that which, though unseen, exists beneath what is visible. It, then, has the sense of a foundation. Even as the foundation of a building is unseen, but the building above ground is apparent, the foundation, the hypostasis, is nonetheless real, supporting the building. Hypostasis is the unseen support of what is standing in clear view.

Spiritually, then, invisible faith underlies, supports, and thus motivates the visible action. However, that does not end the discussion of how hypostasis is to be understood. Should it be understood subjectively or objectively? In other words, should we consider faith to be a quality, a virtue within us (that is, subjectively), or should we understand it as something not a part of us but on which we can rely (that is, objectively)? Neither of these usages is wrong, but one seems better than the other within the context of the entire book.

If the translators believed it should be understood subjectively, then the first phrase in Hebrews 11:1 will be translated similar to, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see." Another subjective variation might be, "In faith, things hoped for become a reality." This emphasizes conviction, an internal certainty about what we believe.

If the translators believed it should be understood objectively, then the same phrase will be translated, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for" or "Faith is the title deed of things hoped for." This emphasizes something outside the person that he can rely upon.

This issue is not an easy matter. However, the subjective perspective, conviction within us, is better, given the tenor of the entire epistle.

Certainly, Paul spends a great deal of time reminding the Hebrews of how great what they believe in is—that things pertaining to Christ are far better than anything ever before offered to mankind. This by itself would require an objective point of view. However, the real problem was within these Hebrews' hearts. Paul was exhorting people who were letting the things of God slip away from them through personal neglect. It was not that they did not have something to believe in, for the epistle clearly states they had formerly done much better. Rather, through their lack of conviction, and thus their neglectful personal application, they were slip-sliding away. The real issue is subjective.

Several times, Paul urges them to recall former days and recapture the bold confidence they once had. Thus, though neither of these approaches is wrong, the subjective perspective is better, meaning Hebrews 11:1 is better translated, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see." The believer is convinced that the things he cannot see regarding God are real, and so, from that perspective, he will act in fullness of hope.

Many claim to believe God, but what influence does this belief have on their behavior? If it wields little or no influence, they are unconvinced people, people without conviction who are seeking only an intellectual righteousness. Such belief is without certainty, and so it lackadaisically, gradually retreats instead of going forward in growth. These Hebrews had become this way under the pressure of time and trial.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Three)


 

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

At our calling we were excited about having found God and His truth. We may have even thought we were ready to face the lion's den, crucifixion, the fiery furnace, or boiling oil. In retrospect, however, our failure to follow all God's instructions, our weakness in trials, our impotence in tests of faith are mute testimony that our zealous, early faith, though encouraging, was not the kind Christ is looking for in His elect. He seeks mature faith as we see in these Christians of Hebrews 11. They were faithful in little and followed through when everything was on the line. This is the mature, living, unwavering faith required for salvation that allows us to please Him.

Have we reached the point where we do not fear those who can destroy the body, but He who can destroy both body and soul? Do we practice this living faith in our daily walk? The just—those who are righteous—shall live by faith, and in doing so, will inherit the Kingdom of God!

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Faith Toward God


 

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

It was by faith that the elders, meaning those who lived long ago, the ancients, received God's approval and made a good testimony. Because of faith, they were enabled to become good witnesses. We need to connect this word "testimony" or "witness" with Hebrews 12:1, where it is said that we are "surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses." The author does not mean that these people are watching us as unseen spirits, but that they witnessed through their lives that they had faith in God, and we see them now in our mind's eye.

These heroes of faith are dead and still in their graves. However, we can look at the record of their lives in Scripture, and it is as though they yet live. It is similar to Paul saying that the blood of Abel crying out from the ground yet speaks, for that story tells us a great deal about Cain and Abel. This great cloud of witnesses is there in the Bible for us to observe so that we can examine the testimony that they left—how that they used their faith, how they endured, how they glorified God by the things they said and did.

It was faith that strengthened them and enabled them to overcome. It enabled them to suffer and to endure the privations of their lives. This patient waiting under trial is the primary object, teaching, or subject of this wonderful chapter.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 2)


 

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

This sets the stage for the remainder of the chapter by showing its importance: Others we respect have lived by faith before us, and as a result, God approved of their lives.

The apostle implies that, if they could do it, why can we not do as well, since the same factors that existed for them are still working? Namely, God is still on His throne, and His truth stands firm. We should desire to please and trust no one else in the entire world above God. This is an important point regarding faith because this faith must be lived toward God.

Remember, God as a personal Being and His message given through Jesus Christ are the objects of our trust. It is easy for our attitude to be oriented toward pleasing other people. God does not deny this to us, but pleasing Him must dominate our attitude. We must choose pleasing Him as the primary desire of our lives, or conviction has little chance of growing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Three)


 

Hebrews 11:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We have generally understood this verse to mean that the material creation, which we can clearly see, was produced from invisible spirit. It is certainly a possible meaning, but it is probably not its primary one. In his book, Great Cloud of Witnesses (pp. 12-14), E. W. Bullinger provides an alternative that appears more accurate and fitting within the context of Hebrews 11.

The word "worlds" is translated from the Greek aion, meaning "age," in the sense of a period of time or a dispensation. It derives from a root that means "continued," and it is used as "world" only when "world" gives a better sense of a period of time, not the physical creation. It could be used if one said "the world that then was" or "the world to come."

"Framed" also appears in Hebrews 10:5, where it is more clearly and accurately translated "prepared." It means "to complete thoroughly," "to rule" (even "overrule"), or "to order" (by God in this case). "Word" is not logos but rhema, meaning "revealed words." Finally, "made" is ginomai, which means "to generate," "to cause to be," "to happen," or "to come to pass." It is not the word normally used to indicate God is creating.

Using these definitions, we could translate the verse as, "By faith we perceive by the revealed words of God that the ages were prepared, so that the things we see come to pass not from things that appear." Those of us who walk by faith know that a great Unseen Hand guides, indeed overrules, events on this earth. This verse means that the historical events we read of in God's Word were not chance occurrences, but God was working behind the scenes to bring His purpose to the conclusion He has foreordained. In short, it says, "God controls the march of history." The great men and women listed in Hebrews 11 lived their lives firmly knowing this truth. That is why they could live in faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Promises Are Sure!


 

Hebrews 11:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Faith operates within the mental processes. It enables understanding of events that occurred in times past, providing a perspective that we would otherwise lack.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Two): Vision


 

Hebrews 11:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse is rather difficult in most of our modern English translations. It literally says, "By faith we understand the ages to have been prepared by a saying of God, in regard to the things seen not having come out of things appearing" (Young's Literal Translation).

The key to understanding this verse is the word translated "worlds" in modern Bibles. In the Greek, it is aioonas, which primarily means "ages" or long periods of time whose sum is eternity. For modern translations to understand this to be "worlds" distorts what the author was trying to explain. He is not talking about physical creation of the earth or matter, which "worlds" implies, but about God's sovereignty over the ages of mankind's civilizations. "Framed" is the Greek kateertisthai, meaning prepared, arranged, constituted, set in order—generally, to put a thing in its proper condition.

The Bible speaks of three distinct ages: the time before the Flood, the present, and the age to come (see II Peter 3:6; Galatians 1:4; Matthew 12:32; Luke 18:30; etc.). Other periods of time can be divided into distinct ages: The Babylonian, the Persian, the Greek, the Roman, the Medieval, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Modern, the Postmodern, etc. The author is telling us that the word of God "prepares," "orders," or "arranges" the ages of mankind—in other words, God is sovereignly guiding the affairs of men to bring about His ultimate purpose. As is said to Daniel, "The Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whoever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men" (Daniel 4:17).

We know this by faith—that is, if we truly believe and trust God, that He is almighty, that He is bringing us to perfection, and that He has a purpose He is working out, we know that He is in control. We understand by what we read in His Word that He is working toward His ends, and what goes from His mouth (in terms of law, direction, and prophecy) will come to pass (Isaiah 55:10-11). When God speaks, things happen: It was by God speaking that the earth and everything in it was created (Genesis 1). The same is true of the migrations of nations, their rise and fall, the installation and removal of leaders, as well as the circumstances of His people in the church. God is on His throne, and He is governing His creation.

The last half of Hebrews 11:3 is our "proof": What we see going on in the world (during our age) has not been brought to pass by men but by the invisible God. Men think they are movers and shakers; they think they are in control. But God says here that events on this earth have their ultimate design in the invisible God; He rules over the kingdom of men.

There is an unseen hand manipulating events so that the person of faith can understand that history is not an endless cycle of repetition; it is going somewhere. God is drawing things to a conclusion. We are coming to the end of an age, and God is framing and manipulating events in preparation for this age to climax and end so a new and better age can begin. This verse tells us that we can see the hand of God working, not only in the big events of this world, but also in our lives if we are living by faith (II Corinthians 5:7).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh


 

Hebrews 11:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We need to understand three words here. The first is "worlds," which is the Greek aion meaning "ages," "periods of time," or "dispensations." The author is not referring at all to the created world—the earth. He means periods of time.

The second word is "framed," which gives the impression of a person building something, but that is not the author's intent. The same word appears in Hebrews 10:5, "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared." This translation points to a different connotation.

The third word is "word." Normally, a Bible student would probably immediately think of logos as being the Greek for "word," but such is not the case here. It is instead the Greek word rhema, which means "the revealed word."

A good paraphrase of verse 3, then, would be: "By faith we understand that the ages were prepared by the revealed word of God." This verse is telling us that there is an unseen hand somewhere that is guiding the course of the periods through which mankind has lived! In other words, God is working out a purpose! People with faith look to the purpose He is working out and what He has revealed, and they see His hand guiding the destiny of nations as well as individuals.

This is an interesting, encouraging, faith-building concept because God is never far from the thoughts of a faithful person. Such a person, because he has had the mystery of God revealed to him—the purpose He is working out—begins to see God in everything that is happening because God is his companion. He has a relationship with Him. Because of his fellowship with God, he tries to see everything through God's eyes, as it were.

When God calls, one of the miracles He works in us by His Spirit gives us insight into His movements in the history of man. The Christian begins to see God in his environment, the earth—and discovers that it is all under God's control.

We can see where God says, "I raise up kings. I put down kings." Sometimes these are "the basest of men," but because we are beginning to think like God, we understand why He does such things. In Romans 13:1-2, we find out that all governments are ordained of God. He at least permits them to govern, and sometimes He directly installs them.

God is guiding and controlling events. Men think they are in control of what is happening, and some even think Satan is in control. No, God is in control. He is working out a purpose, and Satan is subject to Him and can only do what He allows him to do.

The psalmist says that God is not in all of the ungodly man's thoughts (Psalm 10:4). Andre Maurois, a French philosopher and writer, once said, "The universe is indifferent. Who created it? Why are we here on this puny mud heap, spinning in an infinite space? I have not the slightest idea, and I am quite convinced that no one has the least idea." This is the way man looks at things, but Christians had better not look at them like this because they will not operate by faith. If we are operating by faith, we can begin to see events and circumstances in their fuller scope, as well as how they fit and how important they are to the purpose God is working out.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

Hebrews 11:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The King James and New King James provide a woefully poor translation of this verse. Worlds means "aions" or "ages." We are living at the end of an age. The Bible speaks of an age that runs from the creation of Adam to the Flood. This present evil world is another age, and the world to come is another age. Other periods of time can be divided into periods of time in which God is shepherding events in a certain direction.

What the author means is, "By faith we understand that the ages were framed, or prepared, by the Word of God." God is guiding and directing affairs on earth. An invisible hand is manipulating events so that the person of faith can understand that history is not an endless cycle of repetition, even though the history of men is full of humanity's repeated mistakes. History is not circular but linear; it is headed somewhere. God is drawing matters to a conclusion; His purpose is building to a climax, though not the ultimate climax yet. That ultimate climax will not come until New Jerusalem is on earth and we are in that Last Great Day, as that is as far as the Bible takes the age of mankind.

Nevertheless, we are coming to the end of an age, and God is framing things. Time and history are moving linearly to the goal that God is bringing about. He is manipulating the course of events, preparing for its consummation. When that conclusion is reached, if by faith we are yielding to God, we will be prepared as He wants us to be because Hebrews 11:3 is part of our operating agenda. We see the hand of God working, not only in the big events of this world, but also in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 2)


 

Hebrews 11:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This concept reveals the solid base of faith toward God: that He is Creator and Ruler. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?" God Himself demanded of Job. The answer to this question is why we can understand the existence of things by faith.

E.W. Bullinger has an additional thought on this verse that is worth considering. He takes this beyond creation, as the word translated "worlds" is literally aiones or "ages." Thus, the verse is literally stating that God framed or put into order the ages. Zodhiates agrees that aiones indicates ages or times, in contrast with kosmos, often translated as "world," which indicates people as a society. Bullinger shows that God, unseen and sovereign, is not only Creator, but also actively shapes events within the expanses of time. As Jesus says in John 5:17, God is always working, directing the movement of history to bring about His desired ends. Bullinger's approach is to be preferred as more appropriate to the entire epistle.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Three)


 

Hebrews 11:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

As the Bible records history, Abel is the first human to offer a sacrifice to God. The Bible gives no indication that he was following what was then popular among the children of Adam and Eve, nor that he was following "common sense," human reason, or his feelings. Undoubtedly, God had instructed Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and maybe others in His truth. Abel stands out because he offered by faith. He believed the specific instruction given to him, while neither Cain nor anybody else did. His motivation is what set Abel apart; he believed without twisting what God taught.

Recall that Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Faith in God must have a foundation, and listening is the means by which that foundation is formed. At this point, it is important to understand what Paul—and of course, God—mean by "faith." There are two general kinds of faith: "dead" and "living," as James terms them.

When James calls the one "dead," he is in no way saying that whoever has that faith is stupid. In fact, they may be quite intellectual—"smart," as we might say. He means that, in relation to God, they do not have living or active faith. We can illustrate the difference this way: Suppose two people receive exactly the same instruction from the Word of God; both have been informed as to what He requires. The difference between the person with dead faith and the one with living faith is that the latter is influenced to submit to what he has learned. The one with dead faith remains only informed.

Thus, the person with dead faith may enjoy using his biblical knowledge to discuss and even to argue for or against a given concept. However, it remains only information because the influences to submit and do something in relation to God are lacking. He cannot honestly be said to believe, even though the information he has may be quite extensive and true. By contrast, the person with living faith believes and submits, making active use of the godly information to change his life.

The person with dead faith hears outwardly; the person with living faith hears outwardly and inwardly and yields to it, believing it. This latter person also has what the Bible calls "the faith." Paul writes in Galatians 5:6 that this faith works by or through love. What is love? I John 5:3 declares, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." Love is obedience to God.

Thus, living faith is belief in God that keeps the commandments. Living faith produces growth. It is this faith that is in view throughout Hebrews 11. In the case of Abel, the Word of God that he heard is most likely what God spoke to Adam and Eve. Abel, in turn, heard it from them and believed it. Cain heard the same words and was merely informed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Three)


 

Hebrews 11:5-6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The author writes, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him." Despite this plain statement, many through the ages have attempted to do so through mere religiosity. Cain is the Bible's first example of this. Nothing in Scripture indicates that he was not religious. Genesis 4:3 shows that he and Abel met with God at a set time, giving the sense of an occasion previously appointed and agreed upon. Cain is a type of the typical worldly religious person. He has God somewhat in mind, but he does not believe God really means all that He says. He chooses what he will believe, revealing the major, unbridgeable gaps in his faith.

Below are fourteen biblical statements on faith's importance. All of them apply during the sanctification period of a Christian's life:

» Romans 5:1-2 says that faith gains a person acceptance before God.

» Romans 4:20 declares that faith glorifies God.

» Hebrews 11:6 reveals that faith pleases God, and He will reward it.

» Isaiah 38:3 states that faith is expressed in humble and loyal sincerity.

» Ephesians 2:8 announces that by grace through faith a convicted and repentant sinner is saved.

» Ephesians 3:17 affirms that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith.

» Galatians 2:20 proclaims that we live by faith.

» Romans 11:20 asserts that we stand before God by faith.

» II Corinthians 5:7 confirms that we walk by faith.

» I Peter 5:8-9 shows that we can successfully resist Satan by faith.

» Acts 26:18 establishes that we are experientially sanctified by faith.

» Ephesians 3:11-12 insists that by faith we have boldness to access God.

» I Timothy 6:12 explains that faith sustains us to fight the good fight.

» I John 5:4 demonstrates that we can overcome the world by faith.

The overall lesson of Enoch's life is that, as important as it is, justification is merely a beginning—it is another thing altogether to continue living by faith. The sanctification period and the costs of being a living sacrifice to God drive human nature to devise theological lies like the "Eternal Security" doctrine, also known as "once saved, always saved."

Enoch literally lived a life in which the central issue, its driving force, was his faith in God. Looking at this entirely spiritually, a truth that is important to humility emerges. Just as Enoch's physical translation from one geographical area to another was supernatural, so was his spiritual translation from a carnal, earthy, self-centered person to a God/Christ/Kingdom of God-centered person.

The Bible shows that the heart is the source of our motivations (Matthew 15:17-20). For our hearts to function by faith, we need what God makes possible only through His calling: Our hearts must change. The Bible refers to this as "circumcision made without hands." Living by faith is what pleases God. However, we can have that faith only when God supernaturally translates us into the beginning stages of His realm of living, called in the Bible "eternal life."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)


 

Hebrews 11:5-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Hebrews 11:5-8 clearly teaches that God chooses to bless with rewards those who by faith choose to cooperate with Him in His spiritual creation. Abel, Enoch, and Noah are proofs of this fact. Thus, three major factors are linked in the spiritual creation process leading to salvation: grace, works, and rewards.

We can watch this unfold in Noah's experience with God. This is of particular importance to us living in the end time because both Jesus and Peter state that the end time would bear a similarity to Noah's day. Peter specifically shows in II Peter 2:5-6 that the Flood is a strong witness against the doctrine of uniformitarianism, the idea that earth's history has passed without variation through the ages:

. . . and [God] did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly. . . .

If God is the Savior and Rewarder of those who obey Him, then the opposite must be true: that He is the Punisher of those who despise Him. The Flood and Sodom are witnesses of this truth. Not all things have continued as they always have. The godly lived; the ungodly died. Despite what men say and think, God moved to punish mankind's sins in the days of Noah. That punishment came in the form of the Flood, which wiped out all land-based mammal and bird life except for Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark.

Genesis 6:8 reveals the beginning of Noah's salvation. It began in God's mind. It was absolutely unearned, being an act of God's kindness. This is step one.

Hebrews 11:7 says that Noah believed God's warning. This, combined with God's grace, becomes the foundation for Noah's reaction. Noah's belief is step two.

Next comes the effect of this combination: Internally, Noah "moved with fear." He was motivated—he felt an urge—due to his deep respect for God. The external effect was that he built the ark. This is step three.

The consequences of his foundation of grace and faith plus the impulse to move with fear comprise step four. He and his house were saved from the Flood, the world was condemned by his witness, and he became an heir of the righteousness that is by faith.

Did Noah's works save him? The answer is both yes and no. Consider: If Noah, not believing, had failed to prepare the ark, would he not have perished in the Flood along with everyone else? Certainly. Did his own efforts in building the ark, then, save him from the Deluge? No, they did not, because we have not yet considered all the parts God played in this scenario. He did far more than just warn Noah to build an ark.

Philippians 4:19 promises, "God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." This does not at all mean that we can do anything we want to, and that God will take up the slack. It means that God will supply all our needs within the project He has us working on.

Genesis 6:13-16; 7:14-16; 8:1; and other verses show God's oversight, guidance, and providence. Genesis 8:1 is especially important: "Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided."

"Remembered" indicates His special attention during the entire project, but it especially focuses on the time following the shutting of the door when those in the ark were helpless before the overwhelming onslaught of water. Huge torrents of water gushed from the earth, as well as fell from the heavens. This must have created huge waves. There is no indication that the ark had mast, sail, rudder, or wheel for navigation. Nevertheless, God was with them from beginning to end, giving them His special attention to preserve them and see His purpose accomplished.

This illustrates God working in them both to will and to do as they cooperated in their human, weak ways. This combination of God's grace and human cooperation produced their salvation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)


 

Hebrews 11:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Because faith is indispensable to a good relationship with God, its importance cannot be overemphasized. But notice the condition in this verse. It does not say that God is the rewarder of everyone but "of those who diligently seek Him." Living faith is direct; it has its foundation in diligently, actively, consistently, zealously seeking Him in study and prayer and in conforming to His will. Those who are doing these things are encouraged that they will be rewarded. The reward is to find Him. This, in turn, increases faith.

The biblical word "faith" is most synonymous with the English word "trust." "Faith" can be a mere agreement with a cold, hard fact. This is fine as far as it goes, but it loses a great deal of meaning when we consider that this One with whom we are dealing is a warm, dynamic, powerful, loving Personality. Biblical faith, trust, is firm. It is faith in full flower, acting consciously and with agreeable feeling - we might call it "conviction."

This faith is not done coldly and calculatedly - simply because a thing is right. It is not done with a "perhaps" or a "maybe," but with joy and with firm conviction, with a consciousness that one is in agreement with this dynamic and loving personality. We should be aware of our unity with Him just as we are aware of our sense of touch - our strongest sense in terms of evoking emotion: consider a punch in the nose compared to a kiss. But faith, trust, is sensitive in the same way. It is conscious of the things of God; it sees God. In addition, faith not only evokes the hard, cold facts (it has "a remembrance of truth"), but also responds emotionally to a wonderful, dynamic, gracious, and powerful Personality, who is our Friend.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency


 

Hebrews 11:17-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice our example of faith, Abraham, the "Father of the Faithful." As Abraham had the knife raised to sacrifice his son, the only evidence he had was the words of God. Abraham could believe God—take Him at His word—or believe all the evidence he could see that the son of promise would die before God fulfilled His promises. Abraham could not "see" what God was going to do. As far as Abraham was concerned, Isaac was dead. The only "evidence" he had that it all would work out was God's words—the promises God made to him.

God also needed evidence. God did not know for sure what was in Abraham's heart (Genesis 22:12) until Abraham made the decision to trust God rather than all the physical evidence around him. The patriarch's actions proved he would walk by faith and not by sight.

To walk is an action. So even the phrase "walk by faith" demonstrates that living faith requires action. Our evidence is God's words. God's evidence is our actions.

We are in the same boat as Abraham. So says Galatians 3:6: "You have exactly the same experience as Abraham. Abraham took God at his word, and that act of faith was accepted as putting him into a right relationship with God" (William Barclay). Just as Abraham had to choose between believing God and believing the circumstances he could see, God also has to put us into exactly the same position. He must find out what is the true intent of our hearts—the depth of our faith. God needs to "know" that we will trust Him, no matter what, before He commits to a permanent, eternal relationship with us.

Pat Higgins
Faith—What Is It?


 

Hebrews 11:19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What did Abraham do? The word "accounting" (KJV) or "concluding" (NKJV) tells us a great deal. In Greek, it is an accounting term. An accountant adds up figures. He puts them all in a ledger. He writes down all of the receipts in one column and all the expenditures in another. He adds each column to get their totals. Then, he has an accounting of his or his company's financial health. The numbers are evidence of his own or the company's state.

Abraham did this too, only instead of adding numbers, he added up evidence. His evidence came from the words that God told him: "You shall have a son." It took 25 years, but he did indeed have a son.

A number of years later, God said to him, "Abraham, I want you to go out and sacrifice your son." Abraham could have said, "Uh oh, there's evidence that I didn't count on." But, instead, Abraham left for Mount Moriah early the next morning. What evidence did he have to motivate him to do in faith what God commanded him to do? The Word of God. God had earlier told Abraham that the promise would come through his son, Isaac—not through Ishmael, not through any future son that he might have, but through Isaac, the promised son.

What did Abraham do with this evidence? He knew that there could be only two possible outcomes. If God required Abraham to put Isaac to death, then He would resurrect him, or if God was not going to require Abraham to kill Isaac, then God would give him a substitute sacrifice. Either way, Isaac would live. Abraham added up the evidence, and it produced the motivation to do what he had to do in faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 3)


 

Hebrews 11:23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Moses was born into a terrible situation. We may think we were born into unfortunate circumstances, but our situations pale in comparison to Moses' start. However, he had one thing going for him humanly: his parents, Amram and Jochebed.

Moses, of course, was unaware of these things, but God supplied the saving grace in the form of Amram and Jochebed. The Exodus account focuses on the part of Jochebed because it was she, undoubtedly, along with Miriam, who actually carried out the casting of Moses on the Nile. Hebrews 11:23, though, uses the term "parents," so that we understand that Amram was also involved—with his faith.

Notice that they were not afraid of the king's command. The Bible does not say what strengthened their faith, but they did a pretty dangerous thing. They put their lives on the line, as well as Moses' life, by putting him out on the water. Did God speak to them in a dream? Did God give them a vision? Did God send an angel? Or did they rely on the promise given to Abraham, knowing that they were coming to the end of an age? We cannot know because God does not say.

Whatever it was, in a way it does not matter. All that matters is that, somehow, they believed it and followed through by doing this thing that, at least on the surface, appears to have been very risky. Were they convicted that what they were doing was right? Certainly! Even the power of Egypt could not turn them aside from their conviction. Even the fear or the threat of losing their lives could not dissuade them. They did not have a preference—they were convicted! They put their lives, and their son's life, on the line because they trusted the word of their God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction and Moses


 

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

James addresses his book, "To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad." Since the breadth of this address does not indicate that the people were enduring any common experience, James is likely giving counsel of timeless and general application that is indispensable to growth in godly character to all sorts of people under every circumstance. At the very beginning he writes,

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (1:2-4)

Is patience that important? How important is it that we grow to be perfect and entire? James is clearly saying that patience is a vital ingredient to achieving this. Notice that he does not perceive patience as passive. It works! The fruit of its work can be either another virtue it is producing or in preserving itself, for that, too, is sometimes necessary.

Patience is not merely a fixed determination to hold our place in the teeth of the wind, but to make actual progress in spite of it. A ship may ride out a strong wind with a snug anchor and strong chains, yet another may set the sails to take advantage of the wind to bring it closer to its destination. It is this latter attitude that James is bidding us have and use.

Christ is a good example of this. Luke 9:51 says, "He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem." All His life the shadow of His crucifixion hung over Him, yet without faltering, swerving, or resisting, He took every step of His path and nothing turned Him aside because He came into the world for that hour. His resolve never broke. He would not blench from carrying out His duty.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

James 1:5-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Since we do not naturally have the wisdom from above—spiritual wisdom—then we must ask God for it in faith. We must be sure that our faith is in accordance with His will, and we must come to Him with the utmost confidence that He will grant it. When we go to God with a request, His answer, whether yes or no, will be for our ultimate good. Our faith is not believing that God will give us what we want regardless of our request, but that His answer will always be the wisest answer for our ultimate good.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unjust Steward


 

1 Peter 4:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are commanded to arm ourselves with the same mindset and attitude of Christ. He had the entire host of heaven at His disposal yet never lifted a finger in His own defense! He threw the moneychangers out of the Temple, not because they were threatening Him, but because they were desecrating His Father's house. When it came to His own security, He always chose to remove Himself from the situation—until His earthly ministry was over, when He humbly submitted to the most unfair treatment that has ever been imposed on a human being.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10 to "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." In the next several verses, He shows that we are involved in a war, one in which no sword, gun, or any other human weapon can help us. Our battles are spiritual battles, and even when those battles involve human instruments, our articles of defense are still spiritual: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and of course, the "sword" of the Spirit—the Word of God (verses 14-17). This is the sword that we should carry with us constantly and look to for defense.

David C. Grabbe
Living By the Sword


 

2 Peter 1:5-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This passage builds on the implication of grace, that is, the gifts of God alluded to in the previous verses. Grace both enables or empowers us and makes demands on us by putting us under obligation. Titus 2:11-12 tells us that the grace of God teaches us that "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly." Receiving the grace of God puts us under obligation to respond.

Peter is teaching that the grace of God demands diligence or effort. Verse 5 reads, "giving all diligence [effort]." In addition, it is helpful to understand that Peter is saying in the word translated as "add" that we are to bring this diligence, this effort, alongside or in cooperation with what God has already given. God freely extends His grace, but it obligates us to respond. We are then to do our part in cooperating with what He has given to us—and He inspired Peter to tell us to do it diligently and with a great deal of effort.

We ministers almost constantly speak of growth. Yet, notice where Peter begins his list of traits we are to become fruitful in: He writes, "Add to your faith." "Add" is woefully mistranslated into the English. Yes, it can mean "add," but it is actually much more expansive than that. "Generously supplement" is a more literally correct rendering, which brings it into harmony with "diligence." In other words, make great effort to supplement your faith generously.

Peter sees faith as the starting point for all the other qualities or attributes. He does not mean to imply in any way that faith is elementary, but rather that it is fundamental or foundational—that the other things will not exist as aspects of godliness without faith undergirding them. In the Greek, it is written as though each one of these qualities flows from the previous ones. We could also say that faith is like the central or dominant theme in a symphony, and the other qualities amplify or embellish it.

How much and what we accomplish depend on where we begin. Peter is showing us that there is a divine order for growth, and it begins with faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 5)


 

2 Peter 3:14-18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Peter ends the epistle with the same thought with which he began: We live in spiritually dangerous times, and the way to stay on the beam is to keep on growing. If we grow, our salvation is assured. God is faithful; He has promised us salvation, and He will give it to us if we are faithful.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Do We Have 'Eternal Security'?


 

1 John 4:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

John wants us to understand how much God loves us and to believe how special we are to God—our faith in how much He loves us. The fact that God is love is repeated from verse 8 to emphasize how complete God's love is toward us. The verse ends with the fruit of this kind of love—unity.

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials


 

1 John 4:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If we have this faith in God's love for us mentioned in verse 16, its purpose is to give us the confidence, courage, and hope we need as we face our trials in our day of judgment, which is now (I Peter 4:17), whatever and whenever they may be. By exercising this faith, we will be exactly like Christ.

Christ had absolute faith in God's love for Him, and He used that faith to triumph in His trials and endure. We must use the exact same faith in following the example He set for us.

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials


 

1 John 4:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The phrase, "As He is so are we in this world," merits a second look. Ephesians 1:3 provides a similar illustration, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ." Both statements say that Christ stands in place of us, another astounding aspect of God's grace. This is especially astonishing in that, if we consider ourselves soberly, we see weak, sinful human beings who have experienced many failures. By contrast, Christ was perfect in every aspect of life.

God is realistic in His perception of us. He does not fantasize when observing Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones, deluding Himself into thinking that He is looking at Christ. No, He literally sees Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones, but the converted are only accepted before Him because of Jesus Christ, because they bear His righteousness and because He lives in them. No man is accepted before Him on the basis of his own works of righteousness. Paul writes of the righteousness that enables us to be accepted before God in Philippians 3:8-9:

But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.

Paul comments on this righteousness again in Romans 3:21-22: "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe." This faith is imputed, accounted to us because of our faith in Jesus Christ when we possess no righteousness to gain us entrance or acceptance before God.

We can thus enter God's throne room and talk to Him because of Jesus Christ, and He accepts us before Him as if we were Jesus. If we extend this principle out into other aspects of Christian life, we can see that we always have the life and sacrifice of Christ preceding us as we walk the path to the Kingdom of God. This is why we can be bold: God accepts us on the basis of Christ's life and sacrifice.

We are all very concerned about sin. The concern to avoid it is good, but to be in great anxiety over it is not good. Some would be astonished to learn that God is less concerned about individual sins than He is about the overall trajectory of our lives. Showing consistent growth has a higher priority with Him than any individual sin committed out of weakness.

Galatians 5:6 says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." Consistent growth will be shown in the lives of those who live by love motivated by faith. The unstated but nonetheless overriding purpose of the offerings of Leviticus is to teach us the qualities needed to love God and fellow man. It is total devotion and sacrifice in keeping the commandments of God.

We cannot do this unless the closeness of our identification and union with Christ is a day-to-day reality and thoroughly understood by us. Our union with Him is incredibly close, as God perceives it. If anything can give us confidence in living life before God and the world, it ought to be our ability to perceive how we stand before Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Eight): Conclusion (Part One)


 

1 John 4:18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In some ways, love and fear are opposites, enemies. Love's closest companion and ally is confidence. When we are completely confident, we do not fear that we can do what is required of us. Our problem is that we have not perfected love in us, and so, we fear.

Staff
Standing Up for God


 

1 John 4:18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If understanding how much God loves us and believing in it are so important, how can we tell where we stand in the strength of that belief? Verse 18 begins to answer that question. Fear and worry signal that we are not yet perfect in our belief in how much God loves us. If we believe that the God of infinite power and wisdom loves no one in the universe more than us, what do we have to fear or worry about?

What good parent does not use all the resources available to ensure the well being of his or her children? We are in the minute-by-minute care of the great God (Matthew 10:29-31). "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). Similarly, Isaiah 43:13 (CEV) records an important promise from God: "I am God now and forever. No one can snatch you from me or stand in my way."

Nothing outside of us can stand in His way of accomplishing His purpose to save except ourselves (John 6:39-40; 10:28; Philippians 1:6). As difficult as Job was, God knew exactly what trial was necessary—in his case, a quite painful one—to get the right result. He knows the buttons to push and the pressures to apply to set each of us straight. Job 36:15 (Today's English Version) tells us, "But God teaches men through suffering and uses distress to open their eyes."

A second sign of our lack of faith in His love is how we respond to trials. If we believe in how much He loves us, then we know the trial is for our good. Because of His love, we should know that a trial is not just an arbitrary act without rhyme or reason. Because He is God, it cannot be an accidental circumstance happening without His awareness or concern. It definitely cannot be an act just to make our lives more difficult. These might be the thoughts of a child while receiving a spanking, but they should not be ours.

A third way to measure the strength of our faith is to list the things that would make our lives better yet seem to be out of reach. For some, it is money; others, a job; and still others, a mate. Psalm 84:11 is a verse we can use to get the right perspective: "No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly."

If we are walking uprightly, our lack of a desired thing is in itself a good indication that at this time it is not good for us, no matter what we might think to the contrary. Otherwise, this verse cannot be true. Getting what we want rather than what we need can be spiritually lethal (Revelation 3:17).

A final way to measure our faith is to examine if we ever feel we love ourselves more than God does. A person with this attitude begins to take things into his own hands because he cannot trust God to do it—he does not believe how good God is and how much He loves him. To doubt the depth of God's love for us is to deny God and the very essence of who He is—love.

This describes Satan's attitude, one that could be considered insanity. Human nature, which mimics Satan's spirit (Ephesians 2:2) is suicidal, wanting to sin even though it knows the result is death. Thus, because human nature contains this spirit of self-destruction, God always loves us more than we love ourselves.

It is vital that we build our faith in God's love for us and realize just how special we are to Him. He loves no one else in the universe more. I John 4:17 promises that perfecting our faith in God's love for us gives us the power we need to face our trials, our day of judgment, boldly. In doing so, we will be imitating the faith Jesus Christ exercised in facing His trails, showing absolute faith in God's love for us.

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials


 

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

We tend to think of the Philadelphians as being without fault because Christ does not make a pointed and detailed listing of their sins. Notice, however, that they have "a little strength"—they are weak. This is not a put-down but an honest appraisal. He is in fact commending them for doing as well as they have.

We need to consider this in terms of our recent lives in the church. The evidence shows that the Philadelphia group lacks the spiritual strength of the beginning of the Ephesian group. We have not seen many mountains moving out of their places.

We are among the generation addressed by Jesus: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). A careful scrutiny of these verses shows something is missing that almost all assume is there: They do not say the church at Philadelphia is full of brotherly love. Philadelphia is the name of the city, and we draw an assumption that Christ calls them "Philadelphians" because they exhibit remarkable love for one another. To be honest, we would have to make the same assumption for each of the groups, and no one has been able to make a significant conclusion in this vein for the Ephesian group in regard to the name "Ephesus," or for the Thyatiran group with "Thyatira," or for the others. Perhaps only one name does fit somewhat: Laodicea, which means "judgment of the people."

The Philadelphians have one fine quality—they are faithful. This is what He compliments them for being, meaning they have a commendable measure of obedience. Nevertheless, the Philadelphians, though faithful, are somewhat weak. The Laodiceans are largely derived from a base that came from the Philadelphians, making them weaker still, due to their lackadaisical inattention to their relationships with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 5)


 

Revelation 3:10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word translated "kept" or "keep," used twice, plays into this. This word means "to attend to carefully; to maintain; to guard; to hold fast," and the way that it is used indicates reciprocity. We certainly want God to guard, hold fast, and carefully attend to us. We would prefer that He guard us and hold us fast far away from the destruction and torment that will come upon the world! But the flipside is that He wants us to do the same thing—keep, guard, hold fast—with regard to our responsibilities to the covenant.

In other words, if we want God to take an active interest in our well-being during that time, we should understand the principle of reciprocity and take an active interest in Him at this time. If we diligently guard the things He has committed to our trust, He will do the same for us.

Jesus' brother, James, provides insight into the perseverance that Christ wants us to have: "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2-4).

The perseverance that we will increasingly need as the end approaches cannot be developed all at once. Goofing off all semester and then cramming for the final exam rarely works in college, and it certainly will not work where our covenant and relationship with God is concerned. James counsels us to be thankful when our faith is tested, because all of those little exercises of faith not only prepare us for substantial trials, but also make us spiritually complete.

The upshot is that no man, by himself, has the strength to endure and persevere through what lies ahead. Without God, we are all dead men, physically and spiritually, but because "power belongs to God" (Psalm 62:11), we can tap into the source of true strength through our relationship with Him. He decides the circumstances of our lives. He alone knows what we need to survive the trials and temptations at the end. More importantly, He knows what we need to be prepared for eternal life.

Remember that God desires godly offspring (Malachi 2:15). He is creating sons and daughters in His image (Genesis 1:26; Romans 8:29). He is using His perfect creative genius to engineer the experiences and circumstances that we need to take on His image and have His eternal character formed in us.

For some, walking with God through the very depths of the end time is what they will need to become "perfect and complete, lacking nothing." A large part of that may be a result of the choices that they make now, and their tendencies toward apathy, complacency, or compromise.

For others who are already keeping His command to persevere, He will keep them from the hour of trial. It does not mean they will not see hardship: They must see hardship to endure courageously. But because of their constancy under duress—because God is not a stranger, and they are already accustomed to walking through life with Him and drawing upon His strength—they will be given a blessing of protection.

David C. Grabbe
Who Will Be Kept from the Hour of Trial?


 

Revelation 3:15-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ admits the truth about them. "I know your works [obedience and service], that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot" (Revelation 3:15). Why does He wish this? Because if they were either cold or hot, they would be useful to Him. Lukewarm Christians send confusing messages. In this state, being useless to Him, He spews them out of His mouth. All the messages to these seven churches highlight works because they are evidence of how Christians conduct their relationships with God. Works reveal the heart. They are a gauge of one's witness and spiritual state.

Metaphorically, what does lukewarmness signify here? To define it to this point, a rough definition might be "that which gives no refreshment, or that which has neither the cleansing properties of hot water nor the refreshing properties of cold." Modern synonyms of the word "lukewarm" give illuminating insights into its use in this letter: lacking ardor, enthusiasm or conviction; moderate; mild; unemotional; halfhearted; hesitant; indecisive; irresolute; uncertain; uncommitted; unresponsive; indifferent; impassive; languid; phlegmatic; apathetic; nonchalant; lackadaisical.

Recall the hallmarks of Babylon: pride, self-glorification, reliance on wealth, satiety, complacency, avoidance of suffering. Although he has the abilities and resources to be a great witness, the Laodicean is complacent, self-satisfied, bored with or indifferent to the real issues of life. For a Christian, the real issues are faith in Christ and our Christian responsibility. And to do the work Christ has called us to, our loyalty and devotion must be to Him, first and foremost!

A problem arises, however, in "spotting" a Laodicean—these qualities do not necessarily show on the outside. Why? Remember Christ describes a spiritual condition. This is a matter of the heart. What does He want to see in him? He wants the Laodicean to get off the fence—to be one way or the other, cold or hot. Conversely, the Laodicean judges that he is balanced, right in the middle. But his concept of balance is skewed. Why will he not move off the middle? He feels he has it good there! If he moves left or right, he fears that he will suffer! Thus, he has no desire to move.

Then what happens? The Laodicean must compromise. This is interesting in light of what the history books record. Ancient Laodicea's main line of defense was conciliation and compromise! Why? Again, the answer lies in the city's inadequate water supply, making it very susceptible to the siege of an invading army. By having its tenuous water supply cut off, the city was at the mercy of its attacker. With no water, it could hold out for only a short while. The Laodicean solution? They became masters of appeasement, accommodation, conciliation, and diplomacy. Peace at any cost! How did they appease? They bought their enemies off! Laodicea used its wealth to conciliate and compromise.

Christ uses the attitude of the surrounding environment to illustrate that those in the church of Laodicea are affected by the attitudes of the world. Without even realizing it, they behave exactly like their unconverted neighbors. They are worldly. Though they are not out on the streets robbing banks, raping, looting, murdering, mugging old grandmothers, or abusing children, in their hearts they have the same general approach to life as Babylon has. Theologically, spiritually, they hold the same values as Babylon, proved by their works. Spiritually, they become very adept in avoiding the sacrifices that might be necessary to overcome and grow in character, wisdom, and understanding. In other words, they are skilled in appeasing Satan and their own consciences.

Christ says He will spew, or vomit, the Laodicean from His mouth! That is how He views this attitude of compromise with principles, ideals, standards, and truth!

Some may expect Laodiceans to be lazy, but on the contrary they are often workaholics. Satan has foisted this false concept of Laodiceanism onto the church. One cannot become "rich and increased with goods" by being lazy! Their problem is a faulty setting of priorities. They are very vigorous people, but they are vigorous in areas that fail miserably to impress their Judge, Christ. Vigorous in conducting business and other carnal affairs, they are lackadaisical in pursuing the beauty of holiness, which is their calling. They are not vigorous or zealous in maintaining their prayer life with God or in studying. They are not energetic in making the sacrifices necessary to love their brethren or in developing their relationships with others. Nor are they enthusiastic about guarding the standards and principles of God. By erring in the setting of priorities, they victimize themselves.

Over the last fifteen years of his life, Herbert Armstrong expressed deep concern about the church becoming Laodicean. Because of the plethora of activities this world offers, he saw that ultimately they distract us, cause us to set wrong priorities, and keep us from putting our time, energy, and vigor into godly things. He often cited Daniel 12:4 as a telltale sign of the last days: "Seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." Are we busy in this age? Satan is a slick strategist, and he really deceives anyone who allows himself to believe that busyness and prosperity are signs of righteousness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

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




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