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Bible verses about Submission to God
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Neither of the other two curses contains such a lengthy reason for God's pronouncement.

Why God does this probably lies in the fact that Adam was not deceived when he sinned (I Timothy 2:14). God saw the need to explain to him why he was being cursed so that Adam would not repeat the grievous error again. Events had deteriorated much too far already, and this preamble is an attempt to shore up the damage by pinpointing to Adam the cause of the problem.

God's reason for Adam's curse comes in two parts: 1) He obeyed Eve, and 2) he disobeyed God. He sinned by doing something he should not have done, as well as by not doing what he should have done! Like most sins, his was an act of commission and omission.

God first exposes Adam's abdication of his leadership role in the marriage. Though Ephesians 5:21 says to "[submit] to one another in the fear of God," Adam yielded to his wife in an area he knew God had specifically commanded them to do otherwise. He should have led, not followed.

Genesis 3 provides no explanation for why Adam followed her lead; verse 6 tersely says, "She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate." It suggests he weakly acquiesced to do her bidding with a "whatever you say, dear" attitude. He chose to appease her rather than correct her.

Then God reminds him that he had directly disobeyed His very clear command: "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17). God's words in Genesis 3:17 cut straight to the heart of the matter. However Adam had justified to himself that he could eat the forbidden fruit, he had still committed sin in God's eyes.

As the wording suggests, the two reasons go together; it is an Old Testament pre-statement of Peter's words to the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:29: "We ought to obey God rather than men." God's commands take precedence over any words, acts, or persuasions to the contrary - even if they are delivered by a beautiful, naked woman offering to feed us fruit!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)


 

Genesis 17:6-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In chapter 17, God more formally makes an agreement—a covenant—with Abraham, presenting its terms in a general way.

Abraham was to be perfect. Other Bibles translate this term as "upright," "blameless," or "sincere." Do not be misled by the word "sincere," because its meaning has changed over the years. To us, it simply means that we have good intentions, but that is not really what the word means. It actually means "without flaw," that is, no imperfections.

Under the covenant, Abraham had to meet some conditions. He had to live a life of obedience. He had to submit to God. God raised the standard so high for him, that one would almost think that he had to be without sin.

Perhaps this begins to bring something else to mind, say, Jesus' command in the Sermon on the Mount to be "perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." "Perfect" can also be translated "mature" or "complete." It is very similar to what God said to Abraham. What is Jesus doing? He is beginning to introduce concepts that are part of both the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant.

Abraham is very plainly called "the father of the faithful," as if he were the head of the family of all who have ever lived, with the exception of Jesus Christ, who is the model after which we are to mold ourselves. Jesus was not human in quite the same way as Abraham was and the rest of us are. He was "God in the flesh" while we are just "flesh" who have the gift of God's Spirit. He had the Spirit without measure, but we have to grow in it. He had to grow too, but there is a qualitative difference. Nevertheless, according to Galatians 3, if we are Christ's, we are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 27)


 

Leviticus 23:27-32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The focus in these verses is on the spirit or attitude in which we keep Atonement. Considering verse 29, doing things right on this day is a serious responsibility. For religious Jews, this is the most solemn day of the year.

Three times in this short span of verses God commands us to afflict our souls or be afflicted. Many think that "fast" is derived from the same word as "afflict," but such is not the case. They are not cognate; in the Hebrew they have no etymological connection. They are two different words with distinctly different roots. God probably uses these different words to emphasize the attitude one should have during a fast, rather than the act itself, because it is entirely possible for a person to fast for a day and not be in the right attitude. However, when done properly, fasting can very greatly enhance the lesson of this holy day.

"Fast" is derived from a word meaning "to cover the mouth," implying that no nourishment gets past it into the body.

"Afflict," anah, is an intriguing word, giving us great insight into how God intends us to use this day. According to The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, its primary meaning is "to force or try to force into submission," "to punish or inflict pain upon." When used in contexts involving attitude, it means "to find oneself in a stunted, humble, lowly position; cowed." It is used to describe what one does to an enemy (Numbers 24:24), what Sarah inflicted on Hagar (Genesis 16:6), and what the lawless do to the weak (Exodus 22:22). It is used of the pain inflicted on Joseph's ankles by his chains (Psalm 105:18). Moses describes Egypt's treatment of Israel with this word (Exodus 1:11-12), and in this case, it implies more than the emotional pain of slavery but something that hurt physically. Thus, in Strong's Concordance, the author uses such forceful and painful words as "browbeat," "deal hardly with," "defile," "force," "hurt," and "ravish" to describe it. Anah is a strong, forceful word.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Numbers 16:2-4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Moses must have had a premonition of what was coming, so he called upon God to make a visible choice between him and these men who were the representatives of the complainers.

We have to see God as the Head of His creation—He rules over and governs everything. What is He looking for on earth? He is looking for people who will submit to that rule—once they recognize where the real power and authority in the creation resides. He is looking for people who will submit to it voluntarily, of their own free will—people who will consciously choose to submit to the rule, the way, of God.

These men were not like this. All they saw was Moses, and that he seemed to have a lot of authority.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

Deuteronomy 7:9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God shows His faithfulness in keeping His covenant with those who submit to His will and in forgiving the sins of those who genuinely repent. In addition, His Word is eternally reliable and true.

Martin G. Collins
Faithfulness


 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 16 contains a vital lesson regarding humility, our relationship with God and our ultimate destiny. Here God explains why we have our experiences on our pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. He specifically mentions humbling and testing three times. They are ultimately the means by which He will achieve our birth into His Kingdom. Humility is essential to our character and the out-working of His purpose because humility motivates us to bow before God's sovereignty. Those who submit to God's will have their prayers answered and receive additional blessings from Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

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

This is a command, an exhortation, and an admonition. It puts the responsibility for yielding on us. We are the ones that have to to submit. Circumcision, in this context, is something we must do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)


 

1 Samuel 8:7-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Shortly after the marriage took place on Mount Sinai, even while they were yet in the wilderness, Israel was already deviating from faithfulness. Recorded here is an especially significant event following the marriage, and in it Israel formally rejected God as her ruler, thus taking a major step to being a worldly nation. This occurred somewhere between 1100 BC and 1000 BC, or roughly about 350 to 450 years after the making of the covenant. Except for brief periods when Israel had a judge or a king who did right in the eyes of God, the spiritual harlotry continued unabated, as God testifies here, until He divorced her (Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8) and sent Israel and Judah into captivity.

The truly important part of this is largely glossed over as we read through this, but it helps to point out the real problem in Israel's relationship with God. Having a king is not the real issue, because God had already anticipated Israel having a king (Genesis 17:7; Deuteronomy 17:14-20). Every organization needs or requires a leader. What he is called—what his title is, whether it be judge or king—is of virtually no importance.

God was planning that Israel would have a king, so He laid down regulations in Deuteronomy 17 to show how He expected that the king should conduct himself within the office. These regulations are designed to ensure that the king does not overly elevate himself above the people and rule as an autocratic despot. Instead, he is to be thoroughly familiar with and guided by the attitudes and laws of God. He must comprehensively know that his own nature is just like those he serves and be humbled.

But the key to understanding the significance of what Israel has done in I Samuel 8 is that they wanted a king just like the other nations, not that they should merely have a king. They wanted, not a king as God detailed in Deuteronomy 7, but an autocratic, despotic king like Babylon, Assyria, or Egypt. They thought that, with such a powerful man in control, everything would be great. This is why God has Samuel spell out what will happen as a result of having such a king: The sum and substance is that he would enslave them. What this of course does is confirm Israel's whorish behavior. They wanted to do things just like all the other nations, even to the point of having a ruler like them.

This occasion here in I Samuel 8 is, on Israel's part, a complete rejection of her marriage vow. She wants her benefactor and husband—God—to have no say in her life. She wants be in control (she thinks), and thus she has declared herself "free" of Him, completely and totally a nation of this world and no longer the type of the Kingdom of God on earth.

The issue between God and man is simply a matter of government. This is shown no later than Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve reject God's rule over them and choose Satan. Once God reveals Himself through His calling, this issue of government clearly comes to the fore in our life, and thus it is what we are confronting in decision-making. As the Bible has recorded in great detail, man has shown that he wants to retain this authority to himself. But the naked truth is that we cannot retain sovereignty to ourselves and still have what God offers: entrance into the spiritual Kingdom of God. We cannot have it both ways. Either we will be submissive to God and His will, or we will be submissive to our own fickle drives.

It is a simple thing. It is a matter of government. Who is going to rule: God or us? Israel rejected God's rule. God makes that very plain. Will we? That is the issue.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

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

We must make an effort to "dress and keep" our relationship with God. Despite all that He does as aspects of His grace and favor toward us, in giving us whatever gifts we need to submit to and obey Him, we still have a function in this. We see here that one of the functions is to seek Him.

Here is a flat-out promise that if we do seek Him, He will be found of us. Keep in mind that this promise does not apply to just anyone. It does not happen just because a person thinks to seek God. This promise is made to those who have already made the covenant with Him. They have already been invited by God into it, which is the position Solomon was in. He had already made the covenant with God, as had David. We have to consider this as though David were speaking directly to us.

If we seek Him for the purpose of drawing near to Him, He will be found of us since He has already invited us to draw near to Him by calling us. This reveals a spiritual principle. These things always spring from God's initiative, for He is the Creator and Sovereign Ruler. We can thus take advantage of His invitation and come before Him at any time. It is, frankly, our responsibility.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 7)


 

Psalm 23:1-6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here is a summary of the lessons in this amazing psalm:

Verse 1: Do I really recognize God's right to me? Do I respond to His management?

Verse 2: Sheep must be free from tension within the flock, fear from the outside (e.g., pests, predators), and not hungry.

Verse 3: Though we may become cast down, our Shepherd will seek us out to save us from ourselves.

Verse 4:

  1. Instead of loving myself most, I am willing to love Christ best and others at least as much as myself.
  2. Instead of being one of the crowd, I am willing to be singled out and set apart from it.
  3. Instead of insisting on my own rights, I am willing to forgo them in favor of others.
  4. Instead of being boss, I am willing to be at the bottom of the heap and to eliminate the drive for self-assertion, self-determination, and self-pleasing.
  5. Instead of finding fault with life and always asking why, I am willing to accept every circumstance in life in an attitude of gratitude.
  6. Instead of asserting my will, I am willing to learn to cooperate with God's wishes.

Verse 5: The only way to the tablelands (our goal) is through testing and trial, but we learn through these that He is with us. His rod denotes correction and His staff denotes guidance.

Verse 6: He has gone on before us to prepare the tableland. He thoroughly identifies with us and ensures that we can make it. He anoints us, cares for us continually, and promises that we will be in His flock.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 3)


 

Psalm 34:11-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

David makes an interesting statement here regarding the fear of God. We must learn the fear of the Lord; it is not something we have by nature. We find the evidence of this in the conduct of all who have lived since Adam and Eve. Romans 3:18 is just as true now as it always has been: "There is no fear of God before their eyes." The reason it must be taught becomes obvious once we understand that it arises and grows from one's relationship with God.

The relationship begins with God's calling. Before that, we may have sincerely believed that He exists, but we certainly did not know Him. Respect cannot exist between two parties—especially the quality of respect God desires—when they do not even know each other. Knowing of someone is far different from knowing him. This is certainly true of God, as the world has been flooded with misinformation about Him. Psalm 34:8 supports this: "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!" David exhorts us to experience a relationship with Him, for only then will we know that He is indeed good.

David adds in verses 12-14: "Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." He urges us to understand that the fear of the Lord grows as the relationship develops. The relationship develops when we follow through in submission to God in conforming to His way of life. As we do this, we begin to get a taste of what it would be like to spend eternity as His companion in marriage.

The desires to please Him, not to disappoint Him, and to strive to protect the relationship grow from abject self-concern to preserve one's life to reverential awe for His great goodness and zealous desire to preserve and glorify His name within an increasingly intimate relationship. We can see how this would motivate what we do with our life and time. It would drive and guide us in how we did things. If we truly respect someone, we try very hard to give him the best possible quality in all we do for him.

Consider this in light of the dating process and the feelings that bring couples together in marriage. As Christians, we are now in the courtship period preceding marriage to our Savior. Access to and fellowship with Him, coupled with submission within the relationship, feeds a growing respect for Him and His way. By this, we come to know Him, and we are motivated to reciprocate His loving respect and to produce growth and the fruit of God's Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part One): Fear


 

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

When one has a relationship with God, humility precedes honor, riches, and eternal life itself. Humility is a prerequisite to receiving the blessings only God can give, the kind that will prepare and equip us for His service now and in the Kingdom to come. If we are not humbled, we will not submit. No submission means no obedience; no obedience, no preparation; no preparation, no honor, exaltation, or glory. One would have lived life in vain.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Proverbs 24:21-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is an overall principle: "Do not rebel! Do not associate with revolutionaries. Have respect for God. Have respect for the authority that He has constituted to rule over the land—the king!" The warning can be taken two ways. One, when one rebels, the ruler and the rebel are ruined: "who knows the ruin those two can bring?" Two, the rebel may be ruined by the both of them. God wants us to realize that there is no real liberty in rebellion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Isaiah 1:11-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The separation is not real in the sense of distance. It exists because these people who are bearing God's name—they are His people, having covenanted with Him—have offended Him through acts of disloyalty in their breaking of His commands, and as far as He is concerned the covenant is broken. This separation therefore has to be rectified.

Thus, He can hear, but He will not hear because His mind is made up. Men are giving no indication that, even though they are practicing aspects of His way, they want to be reconciled. Does it not seem logical that, if they really wanted to be reconciled, they would submit to Him? that they would be obedient to Him? that they would come to Him in an attitude of humility, seeking forgiveness?

There is no indication of that in either case where the separation is directly addressed. They are not upholding their end of the covenant.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Azazel Goat


 

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

When anah ("afflicted") is used in what is called the niphal stem, it means the pain, trouble, or discomfort is reflexive and thus self-inflicted. In English grammar, "reflexive" means the action of the verb is directed back at the subject. One of the things Isaiah 53:4 is saying, then, is that Christ voluntarily submitted Himself to this affliction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Isaiah 53:4-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus shows us that meekness is not a mere contemplative virtue; it is maintaining peace and patience in the midst of pelting provocations. In II Corinthians Paul realizes that the meek and gentle approach can easily appear as weakness to those unfamiliar with Jesus' example, so he calls it "the meekness . . . of Christ." True meekness is always measured by Christ's meekness. His humility, patience, and total submission of His own will to the will of the Father exemplifies meekness.

Martin G. Collins
Meekness


 

Isaiah 58:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Fasting puts us in a proper attitude to submit to God. When we deprive ourselves of the necessities of life, we see how dependent we are upon God's providence. This is why in a true, spiritual fast we neither eat nor drink anything for the whole 24 hours of the day (Deuteronomy 9:18; Esther 4:16). God desires such a humble spirit in us so that we can walk in harmony with Him (Micah 6:8; Isaiah 66:2).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Holy Days: Atonement


 

Isaiah 66:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We could paraphrase this as, "Somebody who believes Me and somebody who does what I say—that impresses Me." Do we want to impress God? It may be hard to do. It is certainly not hard to understand. Humility impresses Him and humility, as I Peter 5:5-7 and James 4:7-10 clearly show, is a choice. We choose to submit to God. That is what Christ did: He humbly submitted to God even to death (Philippians 2:8).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Ezekiel 11:19-20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We once said in our carnal ignorance, "I will not have this One to rule over me." We may not have uttered these exact words, but our conduct in breaking God's commandments and being conformed to this world spoke as if we were literally saying them. That has changed to some degree, has it not? If it happened to us, why can it not happen to anybody? It can, but only if God gives the same things to them as He has given to us. To understand and appreciate properly what He has given us, we must recall our lives before conversion and honestly recognize what we lacked compared to what we now have because of God's calling.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

Daniel 7:27   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Daniel 7:27 promises rulership to the saints in God's government, which is why an essential decision in our lives revolves around government. Government is the overriding issue in the Bible. Who will rule in our lives, God or Satan? It is that simple.

Israel rejected God's rule. When Israel desired a king, it was because they did not want God to rule them (I Samuel 8:7). Will we do the same? That is the critical issue that must be resolved in our lives. How can we reject God's rule? By insisting on being our own general—by putting ourselves, not God, at the forefront of the battles we fight every day. We simply do not allow Him to be our King and Commander.

The examples of the first and second Adam prove how vital the subject of government is. In the Garden of Eden, the test that Adam and Eve failed was the test of government. To whose rule would they submit—God's or Satan's? The Devil's temptation of Christ (Matthew 4; Luke 4) was the same test: Would He submit to God's or Satan's government? Jesus passed the test, rejecting Satan's offers for personal gain. Because God neither changes nor varies, He is a God of patterns. We, then, have the same test to pass. To which government will we submit?

There is a direct connection between prayer and submission to God's government. When we pray, we are prostrating ourselves before Him, calling on His great name, and recognizing His power, omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, wisdom, mercy, and grace. Interestingly, Jesus called the Temple, in which God dwelt, "a house of prayer" (Luke 19:46). We now are temples of His Holy Spirit in which He dwells (I Corinthians 3:16), so we, too, should be houses of prayer.

Prayer is a spiritual blessing God gives to us as a major tool for growth. Prayer at any time is an exercise in humbling ourselves, as it forces us to admit our humanity, inadequacy, dependence, and need. It is an admission that we are not self-sufficient. Those who humble themselves before His sovereignty are those to whom He gives His attention (Isaiah 66:2).

We desperately need a vital relationship with God and all that He will give to us by His grace to achieve His purpose for us. His gifts flow to the humble because they will submit to His government and His will, and for that reason, God will withhold no good gift from them (Romans 8:32; Psalm 84:11). By prayer, and especially by striving to pray always, we are submitting every thought, word, and action to the scrutiny and governance of the great God.

The Israelites did not want God to rule their lives directly; they did not want to submit to His rule. If we are not striving to pray always, we are making the same mistake. Their decision put them in the position of having to fight their own battles. If we make the same mistake, we get the same results—but worse. Why would God want anyone in His eternal Family who demonstrates an unwillingness to submit to His governance on every occasion?

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Six)


 

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

This verse is often quoted when speaking of doing the work of God, and doing so follows a correct spiritual principle. When God does something, it is not done through physical strength. It is interesting that might literally means "arms," and power refers to physical activity. The work of God is not going to be done through feats of arms, military victories, or anything that requires physical fighting or contention. Nor can it be accomplished by any amount of physical activity.

As much work and effort as men put into it, they are not what will get God's work done properly. They will be helpful, certainly, because God works though men, and men must exert themselves in order to do God's will. Nevertheless, He says clearly here that all the credit goes to His Spirit. God Himself is at work! Our job is to submit, to do the things that must be done. We must do what the Spirit directs us to do, but God will receive the credit, not us. We could do none of these works by our own means.

God gives the ability. He gives the inspiration, the strength, and the endurance. He opens the doors. He supplies the manpower, the money, and the other resources to go through those doors. He supplies favor so that the doors can be opened. We merely walk through them.

We could say that God's work is an act of grace. It is a kind of oxymoron to say that work is done by grace, since we think of work and grace as two extremes, but they are not! What comes first? The grace comes first: God grants favor and gives gifts, then the work is done. So where is the glory? It appears in the grace. The effort comes afterward and accomplishes God's will.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

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

Arthur W. Pink, in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, writes, "Poverty of spirit may be termed the negative side of faith" (p. 17). Similarly, Charles H. Spurgeon, a Protestant preacher of the nineteenth century, comments, "The way to rise in the kingdom is to sink in ourselves" (The Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 21). It is this realization of our utter unworthiness, a sense of spiritual need and destitution, that drives us to seek Christ to lift it. The economically poor gravitate to where they can have their needs met. Recognizing one's spiritual poverty parallels this, motivating us to seek to have that need supplied through a relationship with God. Poor in spirit, therefore, describes a fundamental trait found in every son of God who earnestly seeks Him.

Jesus says in Matthew 11:29, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." This is how to cultivate this God-honoring attitude. We must do this because, while merely feeling lowly before God is insufficient, it nevertheless opens the doors to the awesome beneficence only God can give and indeed yearns to give. He says in Isaiah 66:2: "'For all these things [in creation] My hand has made, and all those things exist,' says the LORD. 'But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.'"

Poor in spirit is one thing, contrition is another, and humility is yet a third quality. They are all related, but they are not specifically the same attitude. To be contrite is to be sorry or remorseful because of guilt, equating to "Blessed are those who mourn" in Matthew 5:4. Humility is more active than either of the other two, involving consciously choosing submission in obedience. It equates more with "Blessed are the meek" in Matthew 5:5. Poverty of spirit, then, precedes contrition, remorse, humility, and meekness because it is a major factor involved in producing them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Two: Poor in Spirit


 

Matthew 7:21-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Most assuredly, neither Jesus' teaching nor His manner of living conformed to this world. His warning is that many will use His name and authority to do marvelous works, but in their personal lives they will not submit to the very instructions that would develop their relationship with God and work to produce His image in them! The only conclusion we can draw is that, despite receiving the instruction, they nonetheless conformed to the world.

Clearly, if we do not know God because we are not really walking in His shoes, as it were, if He does not recognize us or see in us any family resemblance to Him because we are not at one with Him, He will command us to depart, to leave the Marriage Supper! We will not spend eternity with Him. We will have built our house on sandy ground despite all the privileges and warnings given to us!

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


 

Matthew 16:24-26   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus calls upon His followers to reject the natural human inclination toward self. The first step is to submit and surrender to God our will, our affections, our bodies, and our lives. Our own pleasures and happiness can no longer be primary goals. Instead, we must be willing to renounce all and lay down our lives, if required. Peter admonishes us to "no longer live . . . in the flesh for the lusts of men," meaning we should no longer pursue wrong desires. Are we willing to forsake all, to give up everything including our lives? Our Christian duty is to deny our lust of the flesh.

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 5): Self-Denial


 

Matthew 28:18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Let us consider the issue of power with respect to Jesus Christ. He says of Himself in Matthew 28:18, "All authority [power, KJV] has been given to Me in heaven and earth." "Authority" is translated from exousia, which has wide usage in the Greek language. It can be used to indicate jurisdiction, privilege, capacity, freedom, influence, force, and right, besides authority and power. Obviously, its usage is not restricted to sheer, brute strength. Jesus, then, is perfectly equipped to handle our needs in the widest variety of situations.

Notice that Jesus says authority has been given to Him. For this to be true, a greater Being must be the Giver. In this vein, I Corinthians 15:25-28 transports us into the future, revealing the source of His powers:

For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

The Giver in Matthew 28:18 must be the Father, so the word "all" in that verse excludes the Father, who is supreme in authority. The resurrected Son is the channel through which the Father's every purpose and plan are being worked out.

How extensive is Jesus' given authority? Colossians 1:14-19 explains some of His authority more specifically:

. . . in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell. . . .

Paul stresses Christ's positional authority, that is, where Christ stands in relation to all other beings, whether human or spirit. "Firstborn" in verses 15 and 18 does not refer to His being created, as other verses clearly show that He has eternally existed. Here, the word indicates primacy of rank, since the apostle is showing Christ's status in relation to all other beings and institutions.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)


 

Luke 5:39   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Our responsibility is to step out in faith, trusting Him, yielding to His truths taught to us. We do this by putting it to work in our lives, but it is not always easily done. What we are, what we have become since birth, is deeply entrenched in our character, and our nature does not cede control easily. Notice the example of Israel: "And the LORD said to Moses, 'I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!'" (Exodus 32:9). "Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people" (Exodus 33:3). "But they did not obey nor incline their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear nor receive instruction" (Jeremiah 17:23).

This theme runs throughout the Bible. When Hebrews 4:1-2 says that the Israelites failed in the wilderness because "the word which they heard . . . [was not] mixed with faith," Paul is referring to this principle. They simply would not yield their mind to admit that He was right. They seized upon their own opinions, observing them rather than what God commanded. Each individual Israelite may not have actually gone through the process of rejecting each command, but simply keeping their habitual attitudes and conduct produced the same end. Their actions and attitudes, then, like the basketball players who never "buy" the coach's system, spoke for them, revealing what they, in their heart of hearts, really believed.

In Luke 5:39, Jesus uses an illustration to help us understand this rejection syndrome. He teaches that man has a natural resistance to the things of God. A wider and equally true application is that we humans almost immediately resist anything different from what we believe at the time. This is both good and bad. The important thing is whether we honestly consider and appraise behaviors and ideas before rejecting them.

Are our minds honest enough that, when hearing God's Word truthfully expounded, we will consciously and promptly take action to change when wrong? The Israelites appear to have had an automatic negative reaction to God's Word. They definitely did not have a childlike, submissive attitude! The Bible records that their conduct never changed, nor did their attitudes. In the game of life, they kept right on doing things as they always had, so they died in the wilderness. They left Egypt, but Egypt never left them.

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


 

Luke 9:62   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Our salvation hinges on a lifetime of repentance from dead works and overcoming in faith. Thus, we are counseled before baptism to be sure we have counted the cost before we take on the awesome opportunity of eternal life. Once we take hold of the plow, we cannot turn back.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance


 

Luke 14:25-33   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ could not have made our obligation any clearer, yet after receiving forgiveness, so many are forgetful and blasé about this responsibility! Family ties are the strongest of bonds, but our loyalty to Christ must supersede them. Beyond that, we must have the humble devotion to bear any burden He deems necessary for our good, the corporate good, or as a witness as part of this way. From our perspective, we can hardly deem God's gift to be free!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Luke 14:25-27   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

That which costs nothing is not worth anything. When King David needed to build an altar to the Lord, he would not accept the free gift of the threshing floor because it cost him nothing (II Samuel 24:21-25). To David, a sacrifice was worthless if it cost the offerer nothing. The discipleship to which Christ calls us means a life of surrender to God's will and sacrifice for His cause. If we count the cost of a full submission to Christ's claim on us, we also must count on His grace and help to become one with Him. His disciples do not make the journey to His Kingdom for free—it costs them their lives.

The costliness of commitment to God's will is seen in the example of Jesus. He requires nothing of us that He Himself has not done. Christ lived with the humiliation and agony that often accompanies living according to the will of God. Both the Father and the Son counted the cost before proceeding with their plan for the salvation of humanity. In being sent into the world, Jesus knew ahead of time what it would take to accomplish the divine goal. He left His Father's house to build His church so that the gates of Hades could never prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Counting the Cost


 

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 21:36   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The "praying always" that Jesus commands in Luke 21:36 affects every part of our Christian lives. It is the tool that God gives us to be in constant contact with Him so that we can truly bring every thought into captivity, under the control of God (II Corinthians 10:5). We are encouraged to make bold use of this tool for our every need (Hebrews 4:16). We need to explore some of the important implications that striving to pray always—praying at all times—has on this life to which God has called us.

In Luke 21:36, Christ also commands us to "watch." The underlying Greek word stresses the need to be alert or on guard. This fits with a major requirement of Christian life, that we examine ourselves. We are to be alert to those things about ourselves that will disqualify us from entering God's Kingdom so that we can change them.

Self-examination is such an important spiritual activity that God includes it as a major part of one of His seven festivals, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. II Corinthians 13:5 exhorts, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified." Our ongoing efforts to submit to God's laws and standards are evidence that Christ and His faith are in us (James 2:18).

God always gives us choices (Deuteronomy 30:19). Consider the example of Jonah. He could have done exactly what God asked of him, but instead, he rebelled, having to suffer an intense trial to bring him to obedience to God's will. Notice, however, that God's purpose never changed. The only variable was how much pain and suffering Jonah chose to experience before he submitted to God's purpose. Initially, he chose rebellion and trials over submission to God.

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Five)


 

Luke 22:42   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can learn much of Jesus' submission to the Father from His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His crucifixion. This comes from the heart of a man described as meek and lowly of heart. His words paint a vivid picture of what was going through His mind. Sometime during His life, He had likely witnessed a crucifixion, but even if He had not, He certainly had heard one described. As quick of mind as He was, He could clearly envision what lay before Him. Undoubtedly, He anticipated great bodily pain, understanding Isaiah 52:14 to predict He would suffer pain as nobody else ever had. In addition, He had to bear the pressure of resisting the urge to break faith and sin under the burden of the guilt of all mankind's sins that would come upon Him.

He also knew He would have the embarrassment of all the indignities heaped upon Him, knowing full well He was innocent. He had to battle demons throughout His ordeal. Perhaps the most dreaded burden of all was knowing that He would be cut off from God and have to bear everything alone. Yet He did it! Jesus—by faith—consciously chose to submit to the Father based on His knowledge of the Most High.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sovereignty and Its Fruit: Part Ten


 

John 4:23-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Except within the context of a passage, the Bible never clearly defines worship, yet understanding what it is is critical. God is even now measuring His Temple and its altar to see who worships there in truth (Revelation 11:1-2). We are the temple of God, so we are being measured to see if we are truly worshipping God or not.

The thesaurus gives these synonyms for worship: adulate, honor, glorify, edify, deify. The Greek word most often translated "worship" is proskuneo, meaning "to kiss, make obeisance, reverence." Strong's defines it as "to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore)." The picture of being prostrate or bowed down is often associated with worship.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for "worship" is shachah, defined as "to depress, i.e. prostrate (especially reflexive, in homage to royalty or God)." This word is also translated in the Authorized Version as "bow down, crouch, fall down, humbly beseech, do obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship."

Worship, then, is reverencing God, adoring, honoring, and bowing down before Him. But a deeper study of worship shows that it is more a thing of the heart and mind than a physical action or position. Jesus says worshippers worship Him in vain when "their heart is far from Me" (Matthew 15:8).

Perhaps we can say worship means having a bowed-down head and heart as we adore and revere our Maker! It is an attitude of totally and unconditionally surrendering to the One we call our Master, our Lord, our God. Mere words are not enough! Many call Jesus "Lord, Lord," yet He will claim not to know them, for their actions are not those of one who really knows Him (Matthew 7:21-23) or has totally submitted to God and His way. This is why Paul testifies before Felix, the procurator of Palestine, "But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers. . ." (Acts 24:14).

Worshipping thus becomes a relationship with our holy God, characterized by a bowed-down heart in total surrender. It reflects one poor in spirit and one who mourns as he recognizes his abject spiritual bankruptcy. As we bow our hearts and heads to God in worship, crying out for mercy and to be filled with God's attitudes, we are comforted and filled.

Bowing and worshipping go hand in hand in many verses in the Bible. Satan tries to get our Savior to "fall down and worship" him, but Jesus angrily replies, "Away with you, Satan! . . . 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve'" (Matthew 4:9-10). David urges us to "worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker" (Psalm 95:6). When Abraham's servant sees how well God has blessed his quest to find a wife for Isaac, "he worship[s] the LORD, bowing himself to the earth" (Genesis 24:52).

When Job hears the horrific news of the total loss of everything he once enjoyed, including all his children, he does what many would consider an unusual thing: "Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshipped" (Job 1:20). What an example of faith!

After Solomon dedicates the new Temple to God in prayer, the people worship: "When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the LORD" (II Chronicles 7:3). The same acts of worship are repeated in King Hezekiah's day, as "all who were present with him bowed and worshiped" (II Chronicles 29:29).

Acts of worship like this often occur in heaven itself: "And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, 'Amen! Alleluia!'" (Revelation 19:4).

Perhaps this partly explains why worship is not deeply imbedded in our thinking. People in our independent, me-first, Western society dare not be caught on their knees in public - anywhere, anytime! Other cultures literally bow the head in deference to an older or titled person. We seldom see that here. Muslims the world over will spontaneously prostrate themselves - with foreheads on the ground - five times a day when they are called to prayer. In the Western world such demonstrations of worship are rare.

What would we think of a worship service where every person present bowed down so low that their faces touched the ground? Would this feel right? Would we be comfortable doing it? Would we believe this to be "overboard"? Yet that is often how our forefathers in Israel worshipped God.

When done properly, if we truly understand worship, this attitude of a bowed-down heart and head permeates everything we do. We seek to do God's will. We ask, "What would Jesus do?" in every situation. We do all for the glory of God, and in this sense, everything we do becomes either an act of worship - or of desecration.

The Bible also teaches there are specific times when God's people should worship. For example, Abraham tells his servants as he traveled the last few miles before sacrificing Isaac: "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you" (Genesis 22:5). In one sense we could say Abraham had been worshipping all along the way to Moriah, yet he states he was going to a specific point, at a specific time and place to worship. Similarly, after traveling many miles for many weeks, the magi tell King Herod they had come to worship the Child born to be King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2).

Worship, then, is a constant attitude of yieldedness and humility before God, but there are certain times and occasions when we worship pointedly and in earnest.

Staff
Worship God!


 

John 6:38-40   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The "I" in these three verses is very emphatic! To show this emphasis, some translations read, "I Myself." He personally promises to follow through, fulfilling the Father's will, and to guard and preserve those given Him to the very end! He is virtually ensuring a calling that cannot be revoked, a foundation that cannot be shaken in any way, a seal or promise that cannot be broken, and a life that cannot perish! He practically guarantees the salvation of the saints! This is God's promise through Jesus Christ to "everyone who sees the Son."

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


 

John 7:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If a person does the will of God, confusion begins to dissipate because obedience promotes understanding. Disobedience promotes confusion.

It does not matter which commandment one chooses to explore about the world's "Christian" submission to God, but in the end those in this world come up short, and in many cases, they will be seen to be failing miserably in living up to them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian and the World (Part 2)


 

John 8:31   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

He says a similar thing in John 18:37: "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed." Those who hear the voice of Christ, those who hear His truth, will then submit to it. That is what will separate them from the world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 1)


 

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

This last statement by Jesus gives us a little insight into His mind. What He says can apply both to earthly relationships of masters and servants as well as to a human's relationship to Christ. We can see in the pages of the gospels that it also describes how Jesus approached His relationship with God the Father. He was always submissive to the Father in everything. Beyond this, God the Father is the greatest servant in the universe. In our behalf, He sustains everything we depend on for our very lives.

Luke probably alludes to the same statement in his account of that Passover evening:

But there was also rivalry among [the disciples], as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.' But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves." (Luke 22:24-27)

Christ, by His actions, made it very clear that He would not expect anything from us that He was not willing to do Himself. He, as our Governor and Elder Brother, though He should have been served by others, served them. Undoubtedly, service is the essence of godly leadership.

Bill Keesee (1935-2010)
Another Look at Footwashing


 

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

Of and by Himself, Jesus had no more power than any other human being. But because the Father in heaven was actively, dynamically working in and through Him, and because Jesus yielded to Him—whenever power was needed to heal, to raise somebody from the dead, to make food multiply—God did the miracle. Not Jesus Christ—God did it. He responded to Jesus' requests because He was perfectly submissive to the Father in doing His will. If it can be put this way, this is what we need to work toward.

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


 

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

Romans 8:14 refers to those who are "led," not dragged, forced, imposed upon or imputed to. This supplements what Jesus says in this verse. Some of the verbs in this sentence demonstrate that free moral agency is still involved. "Guide," "speak," and "tell" show that God has chosen to persuade rather than force us. In addition, they give the distinct impression that the followers and hearers will need to do something on their own.

They will have to make choices, pay attention to what is said or written, and set their wills and follow through on their choices in order to accompany and learn from the Guide. Without these, they will not produce fruit because they are doing insufficient or the wrong activities.

A teacher cannot impose knowledge, understanding, and wisdom upon a student. The student must cooperate in the process. Without this, little or no fruit is produced. The Bible shows the Spirit of God as influencing, suggesting, and, if we choose to permit it, dominating—perhaps even controlling—our lives. This is good because God is good, and if we will yield, the fruit of His Spirit will be produced in our lives.

Are we aware that a divine influence is drawing us away from the corrupting passions and vanities of this world? Are we conscious of a desire to yield to that influence and be conducted along the path of holiness and life? Do we resist, or do we follow cheerfully and energetically, mortifying pride, subduing passion, destroying lust, stifling talebearing, humbling ambition, and annihilating the love of the wealth and fashions of this world?

God will not lead us astray. Our real love, joy, and peace consist only in yielding ourselves entirely to Him and being willing to be guided and influenced by His unseen hand. To be led by the Spirit is to choose voluntarily and consciously to submit to the Word of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit


 

John 17:20-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Salvation can easily and accurately be described as "being at one with God." As long as we are separated from God, we do not have salvation. When we are "at one" with God, it means that we are becoming like Him, that we are walking along the same path with Him and will be saved.

Jesus Christ's death bridges this impossible situation for us. We can then begin to contribute to being at one with God. What remains yet undone, despite the gap being bridged, is a change in character and in attitude that must be worked in us in order for us to become like God. It takes living God's way for us to become like God. This is why humility is necessary.

We can see from Jesus' prayer and from our own experience (and from the history of man) that mankind is not at one with God, yet that is God's aim. Satan motivated Adam and Eve, and subsequently all the rest of mankind, to separate themselves from God. As long as Satan can keep us separated from Him, salvation is impossible. Satan's thinking, which was passed on to Adam and Eve and then to us, is that we all have the right to set our own standards or codes of right and wrong. He has convinced mankind that they have the same prerogatives and that these Satan-inspired, man-made standards can produce abundant prosperity, good health, peace, and a sense of well-being in our lives.

But they do not, and that is the problem! Humbling oneself means giving up that devilish notion and submitting to what God says. He has given us free moral agency to choose whether to obey His standards and codes, not the freedom to set our own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

John 19:10-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

History shows that the primary enemies of the church arise from humans influenced by Satan and his demons - and history continually repeats itself. The clearest examples of where these enemies lie are shown in the lives and ministries of Jesus Christ and the apostles. Did not the established religious and governmental leaders of their day, such as Caiaphas, the Pharisees and Sadducees, Pilate, the Herods, etc., willingly cooperate in persecuting them?

Searching into God's authority over these enemies will help us to see how complete and all-encompassing is His power over everything. Past events show that civil governments and false churches are always the true church's most dangerous adversaries.

Here, "power" refers to civil authority, and Jesus informs us that Pilate, a powerful Roman governor of Judea, who had authority over life and death, derived his authority from God. The authority would not be his if God had not given it to him directly. We can infer that Pilate was specifically given his particular civil authority. Why is this important for us to know and believe?

Proverbs 21:1 adds an important truth: "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes." The Living Bible paraphrases this as, "Just as water is turned into irrigation ditches, so the Lord directs the king's thoughts, He turns them wherever He wants to."

This fact helps us understand God's sovereignty and much of history too. If the thoughts of a king - representing the highest, most influential, and most powerful person in the nation - are in God's hand, and He has the power to influence his decisions toward the outcome that pleases Him, are not all human governors completely under the Almighty's sovereign control? Clearly, God has the power to move all history in the direction He wishes it to go. His desire will always be done. Romans 13:1-2 makes this deduction certain:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

Not only does God have the power to move those already in office, but He appointed them in the first place! Since Paul writes this directly to Christians, and Christians have lived throughout history and in virtually every place on earth, the wording suggests that this command has timeless, universal application. Thus, God reveals that, in the final analysis, all civil magistrates, from the emperor on down to the lower authorities - and religious authorities as well - owe to God their appointments and rights to govern.

In John 5:17, Jesus provides insight into God's activity throughout the millennia of this creation: "Jesus answered them, 'My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.'" God's labors are the continuous managing and ruling over the affairs of men. He has not gone "way off somewhere," but is actively involved in bringing His purpose to pass at all times. By His will and in His providence, authorities are appointed to maintain order, to encourage good conduct, and to punish wrongdoing.

Thus, anyone who believes God is confronted by a matter of biblical truth and clear logic. How will any of our enemies "get around," deflect, or nullify the real unseen Power who stands behind and above the visible powers that be? His will will stand. So, to whom do we turn in time of need?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)


 

Acts 7:51-53   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

An "uncircumcised heart" is one that is closed and impervious to God's attempts to affect it. It resists them, which is why Stephen calls them "stiff-necked." A stiff-necked person is unyielding. His head is set, his jaw is outthrust, his ears are closed, and his teeth are clenched. He says, "I won't do it!" This is the effect of the uncircumcised heart.

"Uncircumcised ears" are those that hear the Word of God imperfectly, usually because they hear only what they want to hear, or they hear with such a strong prejudice that they reject the truth out of hand. Interestingly, if God says something, it is likely that men will reject it, yet if a man says exactly the same thing, a high likelihood exists that the listener's mind will be much more open to what is said. This just shows how physically oriented we are. If we know something is coming from God, human nature always gets its guard up; it is already beginning to say, "No."

"Uncircumcised lips" (see Exodus 6:12, 30) speak the Word of God imperfectly or incorrectly, either because the person is in ignorance or has been deceived.

In regard to an uncircumcised heart, if what hinders a person from yielding to God is cut away—circumcised—the heart becomes open, pliable, and amenable to the Word of God. The effect is that he will submit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)


 

Romans 6:16-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are seen here as the servant of the one we obey; we are under its authority. If man is the source of the morality we submit to, then man is our sovereign. As long as this sovereign agrees with God's standards, then idolatry is no problem. If we broaden this to include the state, whether democratic or socialistic, then the state is the sovereign. But in broadening the scope, the chance that idolatry will enter the equation also increases.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

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

At the core of our entire Christian walk is government—not the government of a nation but the issue of whom we will allow to govern us. For example, either we can govern ourselves by "deciding" when it is permissible to kill, or we can submit to God's benevolent authority and His explanation of morality. In the final analysis, we are not allowed to determine what is right and wrong—God has already done this. Our only decision is if we will act in accordance with God's law!

What we decide demonstrates what we hold in the higher regard, that is, what we worship. For example, if we break the Sabbath or deny its importance in our lives, we are choosing the self over God. Likewise, if we intentionally—non-accidentally—take another man's life in defense of our own, we are worshipping the self rather than God.

Romans 8:7 describes this power struggle perfectly. Human nature puts its own cares and interests above God, and the result is that the carnal man will not submit himself to God's clear commands. The carnal man will be willing to harm, even kill, another created human being to protect his own interests, in spite of God's law and Jesus Christ's striking example to the contrary.

David C. Grabbe
Does Scripture Allow for Killing in Self-Defense?


 

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

The core of life for us is government. The issue is who we will allow to govern us. We can govern ourselves in deciding to kill, commit adultery, steal, or lie—that is, break the commandments—or we can submit to God who says, "No," to every one of these things. The decision as to what is moral has already been decided by God. Our only decision is whether we will submit to what He says to do.

What are we to do when the issue is whether to break the Sabbath by working or keep it by refusing? What are we to do when we are in a financial bind and in debt? Should we submit to God and pay His tithes first? Will God be trusted to provide our needs in a tight financial situation even though we tithe? What are we to do when we desire to cover ourselves: brag, lie, or tell the truth? What should we do when we are sexually enticed: flee or commit adultery or fornication? What are we to do in any case when submitting and glorifying God are the issue?

Should we expect God to bless us when we choose to take sovereignty and control—we think—to ourselves, that is, when we introduce idolatry into the mix of 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, and we become the idol, because that is who we are serving.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

Romans 8:28-31   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here is God's purpose plainly stated. Those He calls are to be conformed to the image of His Son, clearly tied to the theme of creation where God says in Genesis 1:26, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." We have a small part in this greatest of God's creative works. We must yield to that purpose. We must surrender to it and allow its power to carry us along to perfection. But it requires faith, conviction of its rightness, and devotion to its requirements. This creative process requires sacrificing our former lives with their sinful desires in submission to the details of God's purpose for us. This is our small part in this vast operation ongoing already for about 6,000 years.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part One): Introduction


 

Romans 8:29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If God predestines someone to be conformed to the image of His Son, has God ever failed at anything? Never! Philippians 1:6 says that God is able to finish what He starts. We may stumble, but nevertheless, God desires to save us. He wants us to be in His Kingdom, and He has arranged for us to be resurrected at the seventh trumpet, at the return of Jesus Christ. He is preparing us to be conformed in the image of His Son so that we can rule under and with Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God. Do we have that hope? Does it stir us that God has not failed at anything yet and that He desires us to be conformed to the image of His Son?

This will not be easy because to do this He may have to give us some terribly great pain. A great deal depends on whether or not we submit to Him—whether we submit willingly or whether we fight Him all along the way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

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

He is saying, "This is where we need to submit. Do not conform to or comply with the world, but instead, submit to God." Then he addresses specific areas where we need to submit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

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

At the very least, Paul derived this from the example of Christ, who submitted to wicked and corrupt officials and authorities. Jesus had every right to rebel. He was completely innocent and had done nothing wrong—nothing of which He was accused had been part of His conduct. However, He had every intention of doing the right thing, and He carried through with it.

The true Christian consciously chooses to suffer evil rather than do evil because it would be wrong to do anything other than what Christ did. He set the example. He is the archetype; He is the One who goes before. The Christian is not a masochist, but by faith, he takes steps to prevent war. He does this because he recognizes that two wrongs do not make a right. Just because someone abuses authority does not give him the right from God to fail to submit to it. This is why there is never any real thought to war. Somebody gets into power and abuses his authority, and those who are under him react carnally and retaliate to get back at the one in authority—and the cycle never ends!

Will there ever be peace? There will be peace when people submit to God, and that means submitting to His way. If everybody would submit to God's way, war would stop overnight—that would be the end! But men will not submit to God (Romans 8:7). A major principle we are to learn in this life is to submit under duress, under abuse—when the pressure is on and the desire to retaliate is strongest. We have to learn not to justify our retaliation by saying, "He made me do it—the Devil made me do it!" All the ways of man are right in his own eyes (Proverbs 14:12).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Romans 12:17-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These remarkably high standards are possible because God is our strength. He works unseen to human eyes and makes living according to these standards possible.

Deuteronomy 32:35-37 is the source for Paul's instruction. God demands this apparently passive requirement of us as an act of faith in our intensely close relationship with Him. It may seem as if a Christian who submits to God's instruction is spineless and easily intimidated, but in God's judgment, he is strong where it really matters: in faith. The Christian, like Christ, has committed himself to the One who judges righteously, who will act in due time, using His powers in love toward all concerned (I Peter 2:23). When a person in a situation like this uses his natural powers to retaliate, he invariably does more damage than good.

Because our God is all-powerful, we must grow to trust Him, understanding that His judgment will be exactly right because He is not only there, He is also powerful in wisdom and mercy. This measure of faith enabled Abraham to trust God to raise Isaac should he actually be sacrificially slain.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part One)


 

Romans 13:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Of course, God's spiritual law is of prime importance and takes precedence over all other law. As Peter said, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29) when a conflict between the two occurs. Though breaking man's laws may not always be sin, a rebellious attitude against what God appoints over us will in time lead to transgressing God's law. One who will not submit to law in one area will not submit to it in others.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

Romans 13:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Under normal circumstances, we understand this perfectly. But what if obedience to human government would lead us to sin? Acts 5:29 clearly delineates our responsibility: "Peter and the other apostles answered and said: 'We ought to obey God rather than men.'" Comparing the principles involved leads us to conclude that we should obey God without qualification. If our obedience to God causes us to commit a crime against the state, our submission to the crime's penalty also constitutes submitting to human government.

God rules supreme over human government on every level, but as with individuals, He gives governments free-moral agency. They are thus free to reap what they sow. They are free to enact laws that are contrary to God. In such a situation, a Christian can find himself on the horns of a dilemma. Do we understand this and love God deeply enough to make the choices necessary to maintain our relationship with Him, despite being placed at a disadvantage?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

Romans 13:1-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Once we understand God's sovereignty over the nations, it is not difficult to understand where Paul bases his instructions in these verses. Thus we can understand why Moses so quickly and surely considers the actions of Korah and his group as rebellion against God rather than merely against himself (Numbers 16). When Israel rejects Samuel as judge over them because they want a king, God reveals to the prophet that the people are really rejecting the rule of God Himself (I Samuel 8:7). It does not matter whether a Christian considers his nation's government to be unlawful. What matters is whether God permits it. If He permits it, this One, who is aware of even sparrows falling, has allowed it or has directly brought it to pass because of the purpose He is working out. That is all that matters. God is ruling His creation, and this is what we are here to learn and trust.

Jesus lived His entire life under an unlawful civil government. The Roman government ruled over Judea as a result of military conquest. Moreover, at times even the ecclesiastical government was not in the proper hands because corrupt Roman officials discovered that just-as-corrupt Jews were willing to pay bribes to "buy" the high priesthood. But the Scriptures repeatedly show Jesus subject to them, though He called both, especially the ecclesiastical one, into account. Matthew 17:24-27 is a clear example:

When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, "Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?" He said, "Yes." And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?" Peter said to Him, "From strangers." Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you."

The Temple tax was one-half shekel per year for every Jew over 20. Since Jesus Christ was Lord and Owner of the Temple, He and His "children" should have been free of taxation. Jesus orders Peter to pay it anyway for both of them to avoid a bitter and offensive debate on the merits of His claim. By doing this, Jesus sets the right example looking by faith beyond a legal technicality to the True Ruler, the Father. God likely brought this episode to pass for our instruction.

Perhaps a brief statement of Solomonic wisdom will summarize Christian understanding of God's sovereignty over the governments of men: "There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel against the LORD. The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD " (Proverbs 21:30-31). His meaning becomes clearer in other translations. The Living Bible renders it, "No one, regardless of how shrewd or well-advised he is, can stand against the Lord. Go ahead and prepare for the conflict, but victory comes from God." The Revised English Bible translates it as, "Face to face with the Lord, wisdom, understanding, counsel avail nothing. A horse may be made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord."

It may seem a remote possibility, even strange, that we would fight against the Lord, yet because human nature remains in us, we do. The apostle Paul complains in Romans 7:14-23 that what he did not want to do he did anyway because a law of enmity against God worked within him. Proverbs 21:30-31 tells us that human wisdom, insight, and counsel must be in conformity with God's will to be successful. God's children must understand His sovereignty over everything and conduct their lives knowing that nothing avails against God and nothing without Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Five


 

Romans 13:1-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Though all of us should understand obedience to the laws of man, it is good from time to time to ask, "Should we obey the governments of man over us?" Should we obey it if we consider it an "illegal" government?

The apostle Paul had to address this subject two thousand years ago in Romans 13. Albert Barnes in his Barnes' Notes suggests what prompted Paul to write this to the Roman church:

In the seven first verses of this chapter, the apostle discusses the subject of the duty which Christians owe to civil government. . . . There is no doubt that he had express reference to the peculiar situation of the Christians at Rome; but the subject was of so much importance that he gives it a general bearing, and states the great principles on which all Christians are to act. The circumstances which made this discussion proper and important were the following: (1.) The Christian religion was designed to extend throughout the world. . . . Christians professed supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ; he was their lawgiver, their sovereign, their judge. It became, therefore, a question of great importance and difficulty, what kind of allegiance they were to render to earthly magistrates. (2.) The kingdoms of the world were then pagan kingdoms. The laws were made by pagans, and were adapted to the prevalence of heathenism. Those kingdoms had been generally founded in conquest, blood, and oppression. Many of the monarchs were bloodstained warriors; were unprincipled men; and were polluted in private, and oppressive in their public character. Whether Christians were to acknowledge the laws of such kingdoms and of such men, was a serious question. . . . Soon the hands of these magistrates were to be raised against Christians in the fiery scenes of persecution; and the duty and extent of submission to them became a matter of very serious inquiry. ("Romans," p. 284.)

The phrase "let every soul be subject" is a military term implying subordination. It is a willingness to occupy our proper place, to yield to the authority over us. That these governing authorities are "appointed by God" stems from another military term denoting the order or organization found in a military unit. Not only should we be subject, but we should submit in the knowledge that God Himself has had a hand in allowing them to exist!

Paul's conclusion flows naturally from this. Those who resist, or rebel against, man's governments also resist the ordinance of God! What God has ordained we should obey! This means we are to regard man's governments as instituted by God and agreeable to His will. This is a hard pill to swallow for those who consider themselves sovereign!

Paul continues with his instruction with a warning that, if we break the law, we will be punished by the civil government as lawbreakers. Those in authority generally do not punish people for doing good, but they have God-given authority to punish those who do not accept their rule and laws. The apostle says we should be afraid to break man's laws because his government administrators are really "God's ministers"! They are servants of God! Thus, we should be subject, not just for fear of punishment, but also for conscience' sake.

He concludes the section with specific instruction concerning taxes, custom, obedience, and respect. He says, "Pay your taxes and your fines. Obey the laws and respect government officials." Sovereign citizens directly disobey this explicit command of God's Word on each count!

Many who complain about the government over us fail to remember the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. He and His apostles lived under an "illegal" government for years; they were subject to Roman conquerors who levied stiff taxes and brutally oppressed freedoms. But what was Jesus' instruction, specifically regarding taxes?

[The Pharisees asked,] "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show me the tax money." So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar's." And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:17-21)

Thus, Jesus advises us to pay our taxes, as He also paid them. Matthew 17:24-27 shows that He paid the Temple tax as well.

Some, considering this world to be Babylon, refuse to come under its laws. Though this world is truly Babylon the Great (Revelation 18), these people also forget the examples of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. These men not only lived in literal Babylon, but also served in Nebuchadnezzar's government, giving great honor and loyalty to the king. When Babylon's laws conflicted with God's laws, as in the case of idolatry (Daniel 3), they stood rock solid for God's way, willing to take whatever punishment the civil government gave them. This is the principle we should always follow (Acts 5:29).

God has appointed authority over men to bring order to our society, and in bringing order, He has given each of us an opportunity to learn the lesson of how to submit to government. This is a lesson we all must learn, for even Christ is subject to the Father (I Corinthians 15:23-28)!

John O. Reid
Should We Obey the Laws of Our Government?


 

Romans 13:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Laws are stated and have penalties. Rulers enforce them, but that does not stop people from breaking them—in many cases with impunity—especially if they feel no government representative is watching them. The government's power lies largely in coercion, meaning forcible constraint or restraint, whether moral or physical. In other words, it is government by force.

For instance, most people flagrantly disobey the speed limit on freeways and interstates, especially when they are not crowded, until they spot a patrol car with a trooper or two in it. Suddenly, the speed limit becomes the norm until the trooper is again out of sight. That the law is on the books, prominently displayed and common knowledge are insufficient motivation for many people to obey.

But love toward God, the love of God, can motivate us to do what the law says to do but cannot motivate us to do. We can conclude that Paul claims that if one exercises God's love in paying his debt to man, he will keep the commandments.

We could also conclude that Paul says that if one does not break the commandments, he is acting out of love. This is the weaker of the two. Within this context, then, every phase, every facet of our responsibility to God and man, is covered if we make sure love has its place as the motivation for all we do.

If we really love another person, we cannot possibly injure him. Love would immediately stifle any thought that leads to adultery, murder, theft, or any form of covetousness because love cannot harm. Since love cannot break the laws designed to protect another, it is supreme in providing the right kind of persuasion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 

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

Paul specifically says that the law will be written in the fleshly tables of our heart by the Spirit of the living God! However, the circumcision of the heart is a co-operative effort. God does His part, and we do ours by submitting to Him. Both parts are involved within this process, by which God is enabling us to have the power to sustain a relationship with Him. And that power is given only to the children of promise, the children of God, the church, the remnant, those who are in Christ, those who have received God's Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

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

Our acceptance of the blood of Christ that reconciles us to God puts us under obligation to live our lives from then on in submission to God's will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

2 Corinthians 11:13-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The spirit will be reflected in the preaching: It will be anti-Christ even though it proclaims Christ, which is really deceptive. The "anti" part will be revealed in a lack of submission to the doctrines or to the government of God.

This is very serious. God gave religion the responsibility to give moral, spiritual, and ethical guidance to man. If mankind does not realize the spirit behind the false preaching, he will naively reflect the evil spirit that is there.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power


 

2 Corinthians 12:7-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul turned what could have sent him into deep bitterness and passivity (an affliction God decided not to heal when Paul felt he needed it) into a strength (humility and a deeper reliance on God). As painful, frustrating or hindering as it was, his circumstance never deterred him from being an apostle who by the grace of God labored more abundantly than all others (I Corinthians 15:10).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Two


 

2 Corinthians 12:7-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses show us two examples regarding prayer: First, it illustrates how God can respond to our prayers, and second, how Paul reacted to God's answer. We, like Paul, want God to remove our afflictions any time we are in discomfort, but especially when the affliction is chronic and, we feel, inhibits accomplishment. God's response to Paul, however, fit a far greater need, perhaps to keep Paul humble so that his many gifts did not become a curse. Instead, God gave him strength to bear up under the affliction, thus keeping him in a constant state of dependency for strength to go on. Paul humbly accepted this and continued his ministry despite his affliction, knowing it was fulfilling God's will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Galatians 1:6-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul penned the book of Galatians because church members in Galatia were turning away from the true gospel and had embraced a false one (Galatians 1:6-7). Early on, Paul had to establish his credentials - that the gospel he preached did not have its source in any man, as Gnostic ideas do, but had come directly from Jesus Christ (verses 11-12). The Galatians were returning to the "weak and beggarly elements" (Galatians 4:9), referring to the demonism they had been involved in prior to their conversion (verse 8). The Gentile Galatians were observing certain days, months, seasons, and years that had nothing to do with God's holy days (verse 10), but were part of a system that elevated rites and ceremonies above the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, even while paying lip service to Christianity.

Paul addresses a philosophy that venerated the Torah - and went so far as to teach that one could be justified by works of the law - but also involved astrology and receiving revelations from angels (Galatians 1:8). Because of the belief that the spirit of a person was trying to get back to heaven, worship of angels and astrology was a common tenet of Gnosticism, since angels and the patterns of stars and planets were believed to hold keys to this spiritual journey. Contrary to popular assumption, Paul does not condemn God's law in Galatians but a corrupt system that was severely affecting the church. That Gnostic system happened to include an emphasis on the Old Covenant at the expense of Jesus Christ's life, death, and teachings.

Gnostic Christians borrowed the idea of redemption through Christ, but rather than believing that He redeemed them from sin, they believed that He would redeem them from matter - that is, from the flesh, which they considered to be inherently evil. At the core of Gnosticism is the belief that knowledge, typically secret knowledge - knowledge from angels, from the stars and planets, from the ancients - was the path to holiness and salvation. They believed that the path of redemption was through knowledge, and that the worst evil was ignorance.

Thus, they did not endeavor to overcome sin but ignorance. If they could just become wise enough, they reasoned, sin would not be a problem because they would be more spiritual than physical. Obviously, they overlooked man's incurably sick heart (Jeremiah 17:9), and the struggle that a person must undertake to overcome it. The Gnostics believed that the solution was found in greater understanding, rather than in a Savior and High Priest who justifies and guides us through a process of sanctification. In essence, Gnostics would rather learn than submit.

What is more, the knowledge that the Gnostics sought always originated in something other than God and His Word. We know that knowledge itself is not the problem. In the Bible, knowledge is generally presented as a good thing. God goes so far as to say that Israel is "destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). However, the knowledge He means is the knowledge of Himself and of His way of life, not knowledge as an end in itself.

In the New Testament, Paul tells the congregation at Rome that Israel has "a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge" (Romans 10:2). Israelites like to think they are serving God, but the way they go about it is contrary to the instructions that God gave them. Jesus Himself says that eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ (John 17:3), by which He means the experience of an intimate relationship with the Father and the Son, something the Gnostics would never accept. They believed that a spiritual and thus pure God would have nothing to do with what they considered to be entirely evil matter and flesh. They did not care that God called His physical creation "good" - even "very good" - for they still saw it as corrupt, a prison from which to be liberated.

David C. Grabbe
Whatever Happened to Gnosticism? Part Two: Defining Gnosticism


 

Galatians 2:20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Even though the law had no power to condemn him to death—he was "dead" to it, as verse 19 says—Paul was still quite active! His life continued to contain a great deal of activity. When Christ was crucified, He then also became "dead to the law" in the sense that it held absolutely no power over Him. The law's power, its threat to a human being, lies in being able to condemn him to death. But once a person has died, as Paul shows in Romans 7, the law no longer has any power over him.

The phrase "I am crucified" shows that it is a continual thing, an ongoing process. Through Christ's intercession, the law's condemning power is held at bay. This is what Christ does in His role as our High Priest. But Paul then clarifies it by saying that he still is very much alive and kicking—he does not simply roll over and relegate all responsibility to God.

He then shows another facet: Once we have made the covenant with God, we have signed ourselves over to Him, and suddenly our lives are not our own anymore. We still have to go through this life, but it is Christ living His life in us that makes us alive spiritually.

Jesus Christ gave up His physical life so that, through His sacrifice, we could be brought into alignment with God; this is what is called "justification." We respond by yielding to the direction that He now gives to us. We are to have faith in Him and the entire process that He is bringing us through—not merely that we are forgiven for our sins, but also that we will be brought to the "measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). It would not be faith if we were resisting Him throughout this life by disobeying Him! It would be a contest of wills: Can God still save me even though I am rebelling? Trusting in God to bring us to a state of completion while refusing to obey Him are mutually exclusive. God simply will not allow someone into His Kingdom who will not willingly submit to living the way God requires (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 5:10; 5:19-20; 6:33; 7:21; 13:41, 47-50; Acts 28:23; Romans 14:17; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5; II Thessalonians 1:5; II Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 1:8; Psalm 119:172)!

David C. Grabbe


 

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

If God, having foreordained us to be in His Kingdom, is not willing that any should perish and has thus called us, led us to repentance, and given us His Spirit, why should we be careful to "maintain good works" (Titus 3:8) or "exercise [ourselves] . . . to godliness" (I Timothy 4:7)? Why is such work necessary, since God is so determined to have us in His Kingdom?

The reason is both simple and profound. It is essential we understand it because it captures the essence of the issue of God's sovereignty. The reason is, simply, because it is His will that we do them. We must do them or we may destroy ourselves by refusing because we thus show Him that He is not really sovereign in our life. The works, of course, have other purposes as well. In fact, they have many purposes, for God rarely creates or commands anything for which He does not have multiple uses.

It should be enough for God's children to do as He wills simply because He has bidden us. Nowhere does Scripture teach or even encourage an attitude of fatalistic indifference to our circumstance. The Bible everywhere urges us not to be content with our present spiritual state. We have a long way to go to grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. This is a major reason why the "welfare mentality," dragged into the church from the world, is so damaging. It destroys human responsibility to God and each other, greatly hindering one's submission to God's will. Submitting to God's will entails some measure of work because human nature, Satan, and ingrained habits must be overcome.

In Philippians 3:14, Paul proclaims, "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." God has summoned us to salvation. Salvation is the prize that goes to those who yield to His will, showing by their lives that God is indeed their sovereign. Jesus admonishes us to, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24). God's Word exhorts us to proceed energetically and solve the problems of life according to His instructions.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility: Part Eleven


 

Ephesians 3:8-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul says virtually the same thing here that he says in chapter one. He just changes the vocabulary. What have we been called or invited to? To be one with God—to be in His Family, His Church, and His Kingdom—all of these are a progression of the same basic thought. God is drawing everybody to Him, to be one with Him (a unity that was broken in Adam and Eve's sin of submitting to Satan rather than submitting to God).

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


 

Ephesians 5:21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Why do we submit? Out of respect for God, which is what Jesus did. He submitted to the authority of Pilate because of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Ephesians 6:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The command to honor parents applies to all of us all our lives. But here, as in Colossians 3:20, children should obey their parents in all things "in the Lord."

The apostle is not saying a child must break the Ten Commandments if a parent orders him to so. Children should obey "in the Lord," that is, obey commands that agree with the will of God. Most younger children cannot grasp whether a parental order conforms to God's will. But as they age, they need to understand that they, too, are under the authority of the living Christ.

Though parents have a huge part in starting children off on the right foot regarding this commandment, the greater responsibility for keeping it rests with the child. At some point, children need to realize that their submission to parents is an act of faith in Christ. Their required obedience is not based on any arbitrary power held by parents but on a higher law to which parents are also subject. Parents have a primary responsibility to teach their children to discipline, govern, or control themselves under God's law. Children must learn that they cannot always do what they want when they want, or have what they want when they want it.

Keeping this commandment brings great benefits, as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:2, "which is the first commandment with promise." The promise of blessing for keeping it is written right into the commandment! God promises, "That it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."

This blessing has at least two parts. Obedience to parental admonitions, gained from years of experience living in this difficult and dangerous world, results in the building of knowledge, character, and habits of avoiding recklessness, lawlessness, violence, wrong companionships, and rebellion against authority. These often result in untimely and violent death at a young age. Virtually every year this comes to the fore when statistics show that accidents are our children's number one killer.

The second and ultimate meaning is that, in honoring our spiritual Father, God, we receive spiritual blessings far above long physical life. From the loving relationship between God and his child will arise eternal life, which God will give as a gift to a son who pleases Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)


 

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

In this verse, the phrase "subdue all things to Himself" adds more detail to this picture of oneness. "Subdue" (hupotasso) means "to place in order" or "to place under in an orderly fashion." This word describes someone neatly rearranging scattered, disorganized objects according to a pattern.

In this context, the objects are not merely things, but people whose minds are in disorder, divided, confused, and not wholly subject to God as a result of their own actions. Before being subdued, they exercised their own free will, followed the deceptions of Satan, loved the world, and showed enmity toward God. Yet when Christ puts us in order, rearranges us, subdues us to bring us into oneness, He goes so far as to change our bodies to conform to the body of the One doing the subduing—God!

John W. Ritenbaugh
All in All


 

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

Hupotasso is here translated "subdue." The Revised English Bible and the Revised Standard Version translate this "subject to." The New International Version reads "under His control."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Colossians 1:21-23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus Christ earnestly wants to present us holy, blameless, and irreproachable to the Father in His Kingdom, but we have a part to play too. These things will happen if we uphold our half of the covenant. We must continue in the faith. We must remain grounded and steadfast. We must keep on growing. We must continue in the hope of our resurrection and eternal life.

We will do well not to take God's salvation for granted, thinking we have some kind of eternal security without obedience to God's way of life. Instead, let us all strive to make our calling and election sure!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Do We Have 'Eternal Security'?


 

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

Unlike pride, humility does not come naturally; it must, in the Bible's terminology, be "put on." It must be added to our character by means of God's Spirit and consistent, conscious decisions to submit to God because we love Him, because we are sincerely seeking to be like Him, and because we greatly desire to glorify Him. In this manner, by God's power and our cooperation, humility is created as part of our character, enabling us to grow stronger toward overcoming pride's evil influences.

Because of exposure to Satan and this world, pride is within us almost from birth. Humility is most definitely not that way but is a created attribute of character. A carnal humility can be created within a child living under the supervision of loving parents who are making the effort to train their children in good character qualities. In like manner, spiritual humility is most definitely a developed characteristic because of contact with God and our willing cooperation. James 4:6-10 asserts:

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Once we understand some of the Bible's instruction regarding spiritual humility, this clear series of commands becomes important. They must be commanded because these actions are not natural to human nature and because the pride dwelling within us is so strong and influential.

Humbling ourselves is commanded just as surely as resisting the Devil, cleansing our hands, purifying our hearts, lamenting, mourning, and weeping. This means that humbling ourselves in submission to God is a choice that can—indeed, must—be exercised. Humility is important enough that God repeats this command briefly in Proverbs 3:34 and in I Peter 5:5-6.

Humility is dealt with somewhat differently in each testament, but at the same time, there is a tight similarity between the two treatments. In the Old Testament, it is shown less as a good quality of an honorable person's character than as a condition or situation an individual finds himself in because of poverty, affliction, or persecution. In this approach, a humble person is one in a humble circumstance.

In other words, the humble person has been brought low in a social sense. This perspective provides an understandable illustration that visibly portrays the more important spiritual attitude of the heart. People in a humble circumstance project degrees of attitude and conduct that may even approach obsequiousness, portrayed to an extreme in the movie Lord of the Rings, when the conniving counselor, Wormtongue, is confronted and embarrassingly corrected by Gandalf.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility


 

Colossians 3:22-25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is God involved in our lives? Paul is bringing the example of Christ, and His attitude toward those who were in authority, all the way down to an employment level. In Ephesians 5:21, he brought it down to a relationship within a congregation. But in both cases, the submitting was done out of respect for God—not because the authority was great, not because the person was a better man or woman—in fact, it had nothing whatever to do with the character of the person in authority.

Our submission has everything to do with our relationship to God, what we know of Him, and the purpose He is working out. The biblical definition of submission is clear. This instruction is in perfect harmony with Romans 12 where he says, "Live with all men in peace," as well as, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay!"

Submission is an act of faith. It has nothing at all to do with the quality of character of the person to whom we are submitting. It does not matter whether he is a good or a bad guy. It does not matter whether or not we feel what he is doing is unjust. It may be very unjust—as the taking of Christ's life was very unjust. But Christ submitted to whatever God permitted—out of fear, out of respect, out of faith that God had Him in His hands and nothing would happen before its time. He knew God was concerned about the outcome of His life.

So then, biblical submission is respecting divinely appointed authority out of respect for Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

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

We need to understand that what Paul is writing - "servants obey in all things" - excludes breaking the commands of God. He means obey all things pertaining to one's occupation.

Slavery was an accepted practice in Roman culture. Everybody who was anybody had slaves. Rome's population (just the city of Rome) has been estimated at well over one million people during the time that this book was written. One-half of the people in the city were slaves! And they were not, in most cases, just menial workers; slavery extended into the professions. In those days, doctors were often slaves, as were schoolteachers. Slavery extended into every area of society.

Were the apostles social crusaders? No, they were not. They did not try to change society. Their job was to work on changing individuals, especially those within the church. God permitted slavery to exist, and through Paul, He told Christians to operate within it. Not to overthrow it, but to work within it. Nobody is saying that the Bible says slavery is good. The Bible does not say such a thing. God wants everyone to be free. In this case, though, slavery was a part of the culture, and God nowhere instructs His people to overthrow it.

Today, very few people have ever been a slave like those whom Paul was addressing here. However, most of us work for a living, and the principle holds true for that area.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

Colossians 3:22-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There are two ways to submit. Both of them are good, but one is better than the other. It is better to submit grimly, even with resentment, than not to submit at all. But it is far better to submit as cheerfully and sincerely as we possibly can. We do it, not because the other person is better, not because we are cowards, not because we are weak - we do it because, in our mind's eye, we see God on His throne.

Our submission is always a response to Him. So we can do it with a smile, with gracious courtesy, and with determination. God makes the point very clearly that, even though a person has done wrong in abusing us, we do not have the right to retaliate. God expects us to submit cheerfully as an act of faith.

There is another reason why God wants us to do this. When a person retaliates, his mind is never pure. There is revenge and anger in him, even vindictiveness. And contrary to the saying, revenge is not sweet; it is a poison that breeds war! If an injured or abused person does not lower his standard to that of the abuser, God is free to work-the oppressor might even be changed to the high standard of the oppressed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

2 Timothy 2:11-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The concept of self-denial is at the heart of Paul's teaching on submission to God: We have died with Christ and must sacrifice our lives for Him. In Titus 2:12, Paul writes of the grace of God training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, that is, to deny what the self desires. Self-denial requires genuine humility in submission, or it is merely a counterfeit.

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 5): Self-Denial


 

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

The Phillips translation renders these two verses as:

Remind your people to recognize the power of those who rule and bear authority. They must obey them and be prepared to render whatever good service they can. They are not to speak evil of any man, they must not be quarrelsome but reasonable, showing every consideration to all men.

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


 

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

"The express image" is from a single Greek word, from which comes our word "character." The word appears only here in the New Testament.

William Barclay explains that it literally describes "the impress that a seal leaves on wax," so he renders that part of Hebrews 1:3 as, "He [Christ] is the exact impression of his [Father's] being, just as the mark is the exact impression of the seal." Physically, a seal can make an impression only by making contact, which is exactly what must happen to us spiritually. For God to make us in His "express image"—to stamp His character on us, to give us the gift of His qualities—requires contact, that we be in His presence. Praying always does just that.

This verse also suggests that godly character is not really the result of battling temptation, a battle we are powerless to win on our own. Rather, character is created by our continual, conscious choice to be in contact with Him, to submit everything we are to Him, to acknowledge that He is the only source of strength, and then to trust—to have faith in (I John 5:4)—His love and willingness to do battle for us, to give us the gift of His character.

Praying always is that first step in overcoming—submitting. Then He can take over to do what we are not able to do on our own. After our decision to submit, He may still require certain actions from us, to take those few steps in faith—our walk with God—but then we have Him on our side, giving us guidance and strength.

Even in the world, we can see the power of character. While character can make an ordinary man extraordinary, a lack of character can make an extraordinary man quite ordinary. Character has power because it connects us with divine wisdom. Without character, we are limited to human intelligence, and most of history is a record of its woeful inadequacy. Character links us to a godly intelligence that can see the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). A person who exercises character exercises faith. He may not foresee the good it will bring, but he trusts that the divine intelligence behind his faith knows more.

If we are not continually praying, we will be using human intelligence with the same ratio of success that history has shown it to have. Praying always, striving always to be aware of His presence, allows His Spirit to rub off on us. God has chosen praying always as a primary method to allow us to get to know Him, to receive His character as a gift, to overcome, and to receive eternal life and salvation.

If God has given us this powerful tool, why do we not use it more? Why do we not seek God for every decision, every thought?

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Four)


 

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

Israel failed because they did not accept what they heard in faith. Therefore they did not submit in obedience to God. They never came to love Him or to know Him. Those with the greatest faith are the ones who know God best because they are continually working to develop their relationship with Him by talking with Him, letting Him talk to us through study, yielding to Him, and living in conformity to His way.

That is what Enoch did, which is why he stood out. There is something interesting about Enoch that might be noteworthy to us living in the end time. On the heels of the fact that he walked with God, the writer adds that "God took him, and he was not." Could this be an indicator of who will be taken to the Place of Safety? Enoch was taken away from trouble that he should not see the kind of violent death that otherwise would have come upon him. God rescued him from it and placed him in another area, and he lived out his life in peace, dying a normal death.

Is faith important to Passover? It may be that it is the single most important aspect to Passover, because everything else is built upon, founded upon, and anchored to our faith in God and the depth of our relationship with Him. Israel knew that God existed, but that knowledge never carried through into their daily life in living trust. It was "business as usual," even though they were separated from Egypt, and thus it is clear why Israel failed. There is a direct connection between knowing God and submitting to Him, because to know Him is to love Him, and we submit to those we love.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Pre-Passover Look


 

Hebrews 10:23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Holding fast is the first indication of faithfulness, but our understanding increases when we know the word translated "faithful" is the same word translated "faithfulness" in Galatians 5:22. It is understood as "reliable" or "trustworthy" rather than "fidelity" because it is being fully convicted of the truth of God that engenders loyalty and dependability. Faith in God corresponds to God's faithfulness. As with two tuning forks of the same pitch, when one is struck, the other responds by vibrating also. God's faithfulness should awaken faith in us, so we can respond in submissive obedience. If He is worth trusting, we should trust Him.

Since God is faithful, it has become our responsibility to imitate Him in being faithful by committing our lives to well doing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Hebrews 11:5-6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The world generally interprets the statements regarding Enoch being translated (as in the KJV and other translations) to mean that Enoch was taken to heaven. That is simply untrue, as it contradicts other scriptures. For instance, Hebrews 9:27 states, "And it is appointed for men to die once." In context, this is showing Christ's commonality with mankind: Even as it is appointed for men to die once because of sin, so the perfect Christ died once as a sacrifice in mankind's behalf to pay for sin. If what the world says about Enoch's translation is true, Enoch did not die, creating a contradiction in Scripture.

Jesus makes an authoritative declaration regarding what happens after death in John 3:13, "No one has ascended to heaven but He that came down from heaven," meaning Himself. Who would know better than Jesus? "No one" certainly includes Enoch. Peter declares in Acts 2:29-34 that one as great as David has not risen to heaven either, but is still in the grave.

Hebrews 11:32 lists several other significant people of faith who served God with zeal. The section concludes, "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us" (verses 39-40). These and many more unnamed saints are awaiting the resurrection of the dead and glorification in God's Kingdom. This also applies to Enoch.

The term taken away (NKJV) or translated (KJV) in Hebrews 11:5 simply means "transferred." Enoch was transferred or conveyed from one place on earth to another to escape violence aimed against him. In this other earthly place, he died like all men.

We experience a spiritual form of this, as Colossians 1:13 shows: "He has delivered us from the power of darkness, and conveyed (translated, KJV) us into the kingdom of the Son of His love." Because we are justified and therefore reconciled to God through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, our true spiritual citizenship is now transferred to the Kingdom of God. The implication of this is that with this transfer comes the obligation to live and walk representing the Kingdom of God's way of life. Enoch's walk by faith tells us that he set aside his own carnal preferences and will, bowing in obedience before God's will and submitting his life to God's desires for him. Enoch did so by faith, which is why he pleased God.

Jude 14-16 adds a factor that needs consideration:

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." These are murmurers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.

Abel was a keeper of sheep and suffered a violent death. Enoch, however, was a preacher and undoubtedly walked to the beat of a different drummer than those around him. As a preacher, he probably gave messages that made others feel ill at ease with him, and it appears that this put him in danger of a violent death, precipitating his miraculous transfer to a safer place.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

Hebrews 11:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are responsible for maintaining our fellowship with Him by doing the works that He has appointed for us to do. For instance, there must be continuous exercise of prayer, study into His Word, and seeking to be like Him. We seek Him because we grow to admire—indeed respect—His love and character, appreciate the purpose He has brought into our lives, desire His merciful forgiveness, and realize He is our Benefactor in every aspect of life. However, we must do all of these things in faith.

Notice Paul's counsel in II Corinthians 5:7: "For we walk by faith, not by sight." Like life, walking is a continuous process. Thus, when Hebrews 11:6 says, "He who comes to Him must believe that He is," it means far more than just assenting to a vague idea of a "First Cause." Under the New Covenant, we are dealing with a living Personality working within His creation.

To walk by faith is a practical responsibility. It results from believing in His character and His works as revealed in His Word to the extent that we trust Him and submit to His commands in every area of life. His character is a major reason why we must continue to seek Him: so that our knowledge of Him is continually sharpened and refined to inform our imitation of Him in our lives. Otherwise, we will be pursuing a phantom designed by our own imaginations. We need to grasp as much of His transcendent holiness, supreme sovereignty, almighty power, and perfect justice, as well as His abundant mercy and wonderful grace.

Hebrews 11:6 emphasizes that He is a Rewarder, a Benefactor to those who come to Him and consistently walk with Him by faith. He rewards those who, as a way of life, seek Him in anticipation of His treating them with patient, respectful kindness, even abundance, as He works to create us in the image of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 11:5-7 balances reward with duty. Together, these verses show that, to be rewarded, we must walk with Him and seek Him. Walking and seeking are where "works" come into play, troubling those who believe in the incomplete Eternal Security doctrine.

In summary, walking with God and seeking Him by faith require keeping God in mind combined with making the efforts of obedience and any sacrifices of time, energy, and rejection by worldly family, friends, and business associates. Nevertheless, these result in being rewarded by God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)


 

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

Abraham was drawn by faith to a land that he would afterward receive as an inheritance, the Promised Land, a type of the Kingdom of God. What if he had refused to step out?

What God has recorded of Abraham's life reveals that how he responded illustrates a path, a way of trust that will lead us to our inheritance. It is the "narrow way," the difficult way that leads to life. That way would have existed even if God had not revealed it to him, but Abraham's following that way in faith proved that his heart was one with God's. God expects us to follow the same trustful attitude that motivated Abraham's actions.

Abraham's obedient response suggests that no proud, stiff-necked rebel will be in the Kingdom of God. No one wrapped up in himself will survive this difficult path, only those who by faith are humbly submissive to God's will. In short, God's calling begins severing us from a number of important negative worldly and carnal factors. At the same time, it also attaches our loyalties, our responsibilities, and our purposes in life to God and His Kingdom.

In biblical terminology, we are transferred from death to life; from fleshly minded to spiritually minded; from Israelite or Gentile to Abraham's seed; from uncircumcised to circumcised in heart; and from the world to the Kingdom of God. It is essential that our severing from the old way be as complete and continuous as possible because, despite what happens to our heart in our attachment to God and His way, the world and carnality remain as constant threats, almost like magnets drawing us back toward them.

From this arises our need for faith to wage the Christian fight so that we do not backslide to where and what we were before. We see this in a small way from Abraham's life; his breaking away was not as smooth as it appears on the surface. Genesis 12:1 contains God's original charge: "Now the LORD had said to Abram: 'Get you out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you.'"

God was severing Abraham from his country, his kindred, and his father's house. Our severing rarely involves a physical separation from the nations of our birth, but it almost always involves a spiritual division from our natural families. Frequently, this severing causes strained family relations. It appears that it caused Abraham problems as well.

In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus admonishes all who desire baptism to consider well what He says:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

As our calling begins, problems do not generally arise because the uncalled family members hate us outright. Instead, they love us in their carnal fashion, but our desire to obey God upsets their sense of family unity, loyalty, and responsibility. A related factor irritates them: They understand that we are rejecting many, if not virtually all, of the spiritual values they taught us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Seven)


 

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

We are to submit because we are servants of God! We are all servants of God, so our submission is out of respect for God. Are we aware that our liberty appears in this context? Our freedom, our liberty, is to consciously choose to submit. People in the world do not have that liberty. If they submit, they do so out of fear of the power of the authorities. We are free to submit out of deep respect and an abiding love for God. They lack that freedom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

1 Peter 2:17-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is oppression and abuse all over the world. "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." People abuse when they amass power'whether it be in the family, in the community, or in the nation. There is plenty of abuse of authority. In this nation, we are moving rapidly toward the time when Christians will be abused far worse than they have ever been in the past. We have been called to this'to submit to evil out of respect for God, out of faith. This does not mean we are submit to do evil, but to submit to God in the face of evil.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

1 Peter 2:21-23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This shows shows Christ's example, even when He had the love, wisdom, and discernment to judge righteous judgment and correctly put His enemies in their place. So strong was Jesus' commitment to these principles that, even when His life was on the line, and His enemies reviled Him intensely, He did not respond in kind. He set us an example to do likewise.

Perhaps the key statement is He "committed Himself to Him who judges rightly." His response was an act of faith in God's awareness of His situation and God's perfect ability not merely to act but to act in exactly the right way for the good of all. The reality of God's sovereignty over His creation led to Jesus' minute-by-minute faithful submission.

If vengeance belongs to God, then men, especially those who have pledged their lives to be subject to His government, have no right to take it to themselves. Very frequently, it takes real strength of character, bolstered by faith, to help and serve someone who has directly tried to harm us. God's instructions to us are clear: "'Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:20-21).

"Enemy" does not mean one we hate, but one who is bitter toward us. If we hate others, we are right back in the spirit of murder. Paul is stating a critical universal principle: Over time, kindness removes enmity, but seeking revenge increases it. Booker T. Washington said, "The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend."

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


 

1 Peter 2:21-23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The world will not submit to God, which is why the world is in the state that it is! Rather than submit to God, men seek to gratify - or satisfy - their desires. The pattern began early, when Lucifer did it, resulting in war with God! Then came Adam and Eve, who also did not submit to God. God said, "You may eat of all of the trees in the Garden" - there may have been hundreds of them - "but there is that one there of which I do not want you to eat." Instead, they followed their own desire, taking from the very tree God said not to eat. This, of course, brought them into conflict with God!

The Christian is called to suppress his lusts. It is not wrong to have desire, but it is wrong not to suppress the lust that can lead a person to exceed his own authority and therefore bring himself into a state of disobedience or non-submission to the authority that God permits in this world.

So to this we were called. We are to be among the first harvest, which will include all of those people, beginning with righteous Abel, who submitted to God rather than man. They did what they did for the same reason that we will do what we will do - we all see God ruling His creation and know that our first priority in life is to submit to Him!

Jesus Christ, Peter says, committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. Jesus knew that Pilate was wrong. He knew that Ananias was wrong and that all the Sanhedrin was wrong. But He submitted to death and to the authority that was constituted by God in those men. He knew there would be a judgment. Those men will be judged for what they did by the very God that Christ, by faith, submitted to. He let God make the decision as to whether He was doing what was right or whether Ananias and Pilate were doing what was right. He did not resist the government, but allowed them to take His life. The resurrection proves that Jesus was right. The resurrection shows God's judgment because He vindicated His Son.

I hope we get the point: God will vindicate us by a resurrection because we submit to Him and to His way even though we may be caught in the evil of abusive people in positions of power - whether husband, employer, local police, or national government.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

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


 

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

The apostle is speaking about the efficacy of Christ's suffering and death in making possible a relationship between God and human beings. His conclusion, beginning in I Peter 4:1-2, is that, since Christ suffered so much to bring this about, Christians should respond by "ceas[ing] from sin" and living "for the will of God."

This means, of course, that in doing so, we no longer live as we used to, like the "Gentiles," like the world (verse 3). Seeing this, our friends who are still in the world wonder why our lives have changed so drastically, and they are likely to malign us for it (verse 4). But we need not worry because God, the just Judge, will bring them into account for their abuses of us (verse 5). In verse 6, he winds up his discussion by providing a general example to give us hope in this regard. He explains that the gospel had been preached in the past to people who are now dead, and even though their contemporaries may have judged them worthy to suffer persecution and death, God, conversely, has judged them worthy of eternal life. He implies that God would do the same for us.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jesus and 'the Spirits in Prison'


 

1 Peter 5:5-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders - Peter adresses presumption by starting with the young people. Just as young people are supposed to submit to their elders, so are we to submit in whatever positions we are in.

Yes, all of you be submissive to one another - Peter broadens the instructions. It is not just whether you are younger than another person, or that you are in a lesser position than another person is. It says all of you be submissive to all of you. One another—whatever your rank, whatever your position. Whether you are a toenail on the body or the left elbow. All of you submit to the other.

And be clothed with humility - Not only are we to submit, but we are to do it in humility. And have it clothed—fully draped over us—because that is the attitude that will keep presumption at bay.

"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" - This is where the favor will come—to those who are humble. "God resists the proud"—that is an understatement! God backhands the proud. God will not give even the time of day to the proud. That is how much He "resists" the proud.

This passage gives the antidote to presumptuous sin: 1) submitting, 2) being humble, and 3) waiting for God to exalt—not taking it upon ourselves to do it ourselves.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Presumptuousness


 

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

Those with humility submit. Their dealings with other people are very restrained.

It is interesting that Peter says "be clothed with humility," which in Greek literally means "put on the apron of humility." An apron is a symbol of service. He is likely thinking back to the last Passover with Jesus, where He "took a towel and girded Himself." Then what did He do? He served. This leads to what humility produces next: The humble choose to serve. They do not fight—they serve. They do not judge—they serve.

The Bible shows quite a number of men who did not look humble on the outside but were in reality—in the eyes of God—humble! Moses and David were both warriors and powerful political figures. In what way were they humble? Regardless of what they were—judge, king, prophet—they submitted to God. Regardless of what it cost them, they submitted to God, and sometimes they had to give orders or do things that we would consider to be quite difficult to do, like going to war or executing transgressors.

For a person to be humble in the biblical sense, he must know what is true and right, have a good grasp of reality, and submit to it. Ephesians 5:21 and Philippians 2:3 both show in broad principle what humility tends to do to a person. They are restrained, but at the same time they are constrained to serve and to submit. Conversely, those who destroy unity are those who exalt themselves against God, men, doctrines, and right traditions (II Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 7): Ephesians 4 (D)


 

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

The most important thing that we can take from these verses is the understanding and the knowledge, the belief and the conviction, that humility is a choice. Peter says, "Humble yourself!" We can choose to go the right way, and when we do, we have humbled ourselves. Humility is not a feeling but a state of mind wherein a person sets his course to submit to God—regardless of his feelings. This is a terribly hard thing to do.

Along these lines, fasting makes us think about where our life-sustaining provisions come from. They are not inherent but have to come from outside of us—even the physical food, water, or air. We do not have self-sustaining life. Spiritual provision is from exactly the same source. The necessities that sustain spiritual life and produce the kind of strength that we want to have—the sense of well-being that we desire, along with a clear conscience—all of these vital "nutrients" come from God. They are directly tied to our submission to Him because "God resists the proud, but gives grace [favor, gifts] to the humble."

If we are waiting for a "feeling" to come along before we submit to God, we will be waiting a long time. It may come; it may not. However, we may use feeling in the sense of a decision that is reached. When we say that we "felt" we had to go in a certain direction, we may not be speaking of an emotion at all. In that case, our "feeling" is correct and would be a right understanding of I Peter 5:5-6.

Nevertheless, our part in settling the disagreement with God is to be humble before Him. The separation will not be bridged until we do what Adam and Eve did not: humbly submit!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

1 Peter 5:8-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Satan is a formidable enemy, to be sure, but in a personal sense, he is not as directly dangerous to us as the world or our own human nature. The chances of him confronting us individually are small in comparison to the influences of our ever-present hearts and the world in which we conduct our lives. Certainly, as our Adversary, he "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8), but unlike God, he is not omniscient. While he can be only at one place at one time, he has many assistants.

We are far more likely to be confronted by one of his demon assistants than the Adversary himself, which is bad enough. However, he and his demons have constructed attitudes, institutions, systems, and entertainments into the course of this world, which they effectively use against us, even when they are absent from the scene. Most of their evil influence comes from the system.

We need to remember, though, that God has put a wall of protection around us, so demons can go only so far in their attempts to corrupt us and destroy our loyalty to God and His truth (Job 1:6-10). Their major responsibility before God at this time appears to be to provide tests for us to meet and overcome, in the same way God used Satan to test Job and to tempt Christ (Matthew 4; Luke 4). In this respect, they play a large role in helping us to recognize evil.

God gives us advice regarding them in I Peter 5:8-9: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." In essence, His advice is, "Be self-controlled, be alert, and resist him!" Peter's first term, "be sober," urges us not to let fear of him fluster us to the point that we cannot think clearly. The second term, "be vigilant," charges us to be fully awake, to set ourselves in a state of watchfulness and readiness. The third term, "resist him," is a command not to turn and run but to stand firm.

This instruction lets us know that Satan is not all-powerful. With the protections God provides, including His continuous presence and alert regard for His children, Satan can be beaten. The same Jesus who has already defeated Satan is on His throne, overseeing our well-being. His protection is not something we flaunt, but is power we can rely on.

James 4:7 adds additional advice: "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Again, the charge is to resist, but it is directly coupled with submission to God. Submission is the voluntarily act of placing oneself under the authority of another to show respect and give obedience. If we submit to God, Satan will flee.

Ephesians 6:11 parallels the other two instructions. "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." "Stand against" is yet another way of saying "resist him." "Stand" in the Greek indicates that one must hold fast a critical position as an army must do in warfare. However, it is not a passive term, describing something like an unmoving brick wall, but an aggressive, attacking term. In other words, we are to hold the ground we have already gained by going forward.

How, then, do we resist? How do we hold our ground by going on the offensive? We must return in thought to I Peter 5:9, where the first phrase is better translated as, "Resist him, standing firm [or solid] in the faith." Putting this into military terms, a soldier would be likely commanded, "Do not surrender! Do not give up any ground! Do not back down! Move forward with all you've got! Reinforcements are right behind you."

We have the God-backed promise that Satan will flee! Who can resist God's will? The key words here are "standing firm" and "faith." "Standing firm" or "solid" is used in the sense of "unmovable." When linked with faith in practical terms, it means we are absolutely sure or immovably convicted in the face of a strong test.

Overall, the apostles' instruction suggests that what we experience vis-à-vis Satan is common to this way of life. Their advice does not say that he will flee immediately, but flee he will. As used here, "faith" can be understood as either a personal trust in God or confidence in Christian doctrine, as either one fits the context. Ultimately, if we use our relationship with God properly, the confidence in Christian doctrine becomes trust in God Himself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)


 

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

One denies the Lord by failing to submit to Him in obedience. If the doctrines gradually begin to be changed, then submission to Christ will be put in different terms as well.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

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

We will be like Him! The process of identification with Christ has begun and is not yet complete, but it is moving in that direction. It is our responsibility to do what we can to submit to God, so we are living as He does.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Resurrection From the Dead


 

1 John 5:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The commandments tell us how to express the love of God. They tell us what form our efforts are to take to express this love and how it is to be directed towards both God and man. The first four commandments are primarily directed at God, while the last six are directed at man. Therefore, what we see is a channel that our loving conduct is supposed to take. In one sense, this is where the love of God commences in a human being—when he begins keeping the commandments.

A person may have a thought to do good or to refrain from evil. He may have a feeling of compassion or pity or mercy—or a feeling of revulsion to something that is evil. However, it does not become love until the thought or the feeling motivates the person to act. Love is an act.

Then another aspect of love comes into play. This kind of love can be done coldly, reluctantly, or out of dutiful obligation. On the other hand, it can be done in joyous, wholehearted submission, with a great deal of enthusiasm, warm-heartedly, and with thankful devotion, or anywhere in between. Because of this, we have to ask, "Which is more attractive?" Love that is done in warm-hearted enthusiasm or coldly, reluctantly, or dutifully?

It is better to do an act of obedience, regardless of the feeling, than not to do it at all. Nonetheless, if we cannot get beyond the feeling that it is right, the proper feelings will never be formed, because emotions are largely developed by experience. This is important: The right emotions will never be formed without experiencing the right actions with the right spirit—God's Holy Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love's Emotional Dimension


 

Revelation 22:18-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Though these words were written specifically about the book of Revelation, the principle is significant in light of today's church. Christ's concern at the very end is that His people do not deviate from what is written in the book. To remain in His safety, a Christian must be submissive to Him, worshiping Him in every aspect of life, continuing to develop in Christian freedom, not enveloped by an attitude that may prove to be spiritually fatal.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

 




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