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Bible verses about Conversion
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 17:10

The ordinance of circumcision was an outward physical sign of one's willingness to obey God and be one of His chosen people.

Under the New Covenant, God is calling a spiritual nation composed of individuals converted and regenerated by His Holy Spirit. God's people now are all to be "circumcised" spiritually. Physical circumcision is no longer necessary for religious purposes. It was a forerunner or type of what God really wanted—circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4). Paul told the congregation in Rome that physical circumcision is of no spiritual benefit (Romans 2:25-29). Spiritual circumcision, though, is a process of conversion. That Christ circumcises us spiritually is made plain in Colossians 2:10-11.

This is why the assembled apostles and elders of the New Testament church declared circumcision to be one of the physical requirements of the Old Covenant that is not necessary for Christians (Acts 15:24, 28). It is for entirely non-religious reasons that one may decide to be circumcised or have his son circumcised. There is some evidence that circumcision promotes cleanliness and health, depending on the male's overall cleanliness, morality, and health.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

Exodus 12:48

The Hebrew language lacks an exact equivalent to the Greek noun proselyte, which means a newcomer (Strong's #4339). However, in the Old Testament, God's law does allow the ger (Strong's #1616), usually rendered "stranger," to become a full-fledged citizen of Israel. To do this, he needed to become circumcised. Exodus 12:48 addresses this changing of belief system in reference to the Passover.

The stranger "wants to keep the Passover." There is no hint of God expecting Israel to seek converts among the heathen by actively preaching to—or, at—them. Here, there is no coercion, subtle or otherwise; the Gentile convert voluntarily gives himself to come under the Old Covenant. Deuteronomy 4:5-7 states the dynamics of this conversion.

Charles Whitaker
Proselytism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Part One)


 

Leviticus 23:15-16

Pentecost is unique among the holy days because it is the only annual feast determined by counting. All the other festivals God commands us to keep on certain dates on the Hebrew calendar, but we must count for Pentecost. Whether we count fifty days or seven weeks or seven Sabbaths from the day of the wavesheaf offering, we must still go through the exercise of measuring the time to keep the feast properly. Why?

God does nothing without a purpose, and His purposes always include giving His people additional instruction for their ultimately eternal benefit. Counting to Pentecost is no exception. Even a cursory examination will expose several fascinating avenues of study.

First, God commands us to count. Counting is a means of calculating sequential items, events, and measurements. The Bible equates counting to numbering and measuring, and it becomes a metaphor for judging and evaluating. When we understand what the period from the wavesheaf offering to Pentecost represents, the extended meanings come into play.

Passover symbolizes our redemption from this world and the forgiveness of our sins. Unleavened Bread typifies our lifelong task of coming out of sin and putting on the new man in sincerity and truth. We begin to count on wavesheaf day, which occurs during this period, and the fifty days extend to Pentecost, a festival that prefigures the harvest of God's firstfruits. The fifty days, then, represent the period of a Christian's conversion, the time between his calling and his resurrection to eternal life.

Thus, God wants us to count, number, or measure the time of our conversion. This should bring several well-known verses to mind. For instance, Paul considers us wise if we are "redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16). He cautions the Romans, "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11). In both instances, he is advising Christians to measure and make use of our time carefully.

A few Old Testament verses may be even more on point. David writes in Psalm 39:4, "LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am." If we understand just how short our time is, we also realize how weak and insignificant we are next to God and eternity. It forces us to rely upon Him and strive to improve. This is the kind of attitude that God desires in us and will enhance our growth in character.

Moses, too, makes use of this imagery in Psalm 90:12: "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Properly evaluating our lifetimes builds wisdom in us, and wisdom—the godly use of knowledge and understanding—will make our behavior pleasing to God. Wisdom will help us to prioritize our time properly so we can devote ourselves to what is truly important.

Second, God has us count fifty days. What is significant about the number fifty? Fifty is the round number of years human beings live in a normal adult life (compare Numbers 1:3; Psalm 90:10). Fifty years, then, represents the period during which we live, grow, overcome, bear fruit, and prove our devotion to God through trials, tests, blessings, curses, and life's other varied experiences. Fifty years corresponds to the span of our conversion.

Biblically, the number fifty has its closest association with two things: the Tabernacle/Temple (in some of its measurements) and the Jubilee. The apostles describe God's church as a temple, and Christians are individual "living stones" within it (I Corinthians 3:9, 16-17; Ephesians 2:19-22; I Peter 2:5). The fifty days thus symbolize the time it takes to complete the work of building a habitation for God.

Every fiftieth year in ancient Israel, the Jubilee was decreed on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:8-9), which, among other things, represents unity, being at one, with God. The Jubilee was a year of liberty, when all debts were cancelled and inheritances reverted to their original families (verse 10), foreshadowing "the restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21). It was also a year of rest (Leviticus 25:11), when no crops were sown or reaped, a foretaste of God's rest (Hebrews 4:4-10). Under this type, the fiftieth day of the count, Pentecost, represents the harvest of Christians into God's Kingdom by the resurrection.

Overall, then, we count to Pentecost for two major reasons:

1. God commands it, and
2. It teaches us to realize and use carefully the ever-shrinking time we have to come "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

In His wisdom, God has us annually take stock of our procession through time so that we will devote ourselves to making the most of it. In doing so, we can gauge our progress toward God's Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf Offering


 

Deuteronomy 4:5-9

Gentiles' observing the results of Israel's obedience to God's law would be drawn to reject their pagan belief system in favor of God's true religion. There is no reference to God's calling these people. Rather, conversion is treated as a fully rational and voluntary choice made when thoughtful pagans recognize the superiority of God's way over their own satanic practices.

In other words, Israel's role was to be an example. God did not command missionary activity on the part of ancient Israel. Israel's proselytism was to be non-verbal, as distinct from the overt verbal action of preaching through the written or spoken word.

Not proselytism through words, but through works, is the God-sanctioned method for ancient Israel. Israel was not so much to preach as it was to obey and to teach. Obeying God's law was an individual responsibility; teaching that law was a parental duty. Notice verse 9, which stresses both roles.

The Old Testament is replete with examples of Gentiles who were won over to Israel by witnessing the unquestioned superiority of God's way of life, and subsequently becoming convinced that His way was for them. One early example may be "Eliezer of Damascus" in Abraham's day, the chief servant in his household. Other examples, certainly, are Ruth in the period of the judges, Uriah the Hittite in David's day and Ebed-Melech in Jeremiah's time. All these quickly come to mind as Gentile converts.

Later on, however, Hellenized Jews caught missionary fever and discarded the approach sanctioned by God. Active—and far-flung—evangelism became the order of the day. Indeed, the first New Testament occurrence of the word proselyte appears in Matthew 23:15 where Christ chastises the scribes' and Pharisees' for their hypocritical approach to spreading their corrupt religion.

Charles Whitaker
Proselytism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Part One)


 

Isaiah 6:10

In simple terms, convert also means "to change," as in ice to water or dollars to pesos. Theologically, it means changing from sinner to saint, filthy to holy, worldly to godly. In Acts 3:19, Peter uses "repent" and "convert" together. Both entail a recognition of self and sin and beating a hasty path to righteousness. Paul explains the repentance, conversion, and salvation process by contrasting two terms. We must not be conformed to the world ("similar to, identical to, in agreement with, or compliant"), but transformed ("changed in composition or structure, character, or condition, converted"). Repentance means changing one's whole life!

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance


 

Jeremiah 29:6

In times of exile, Jeremiah tells us to get married and have children, and have our children get married and have children too! What does this mean? The key to this is in the final thought, "that you may be increased there, and not diminished." To apply this spiritually, it means we should try to increase our numbers— to grow.

Personally, I have done my part the physical way: Beth and I have had three children in this church. Others have married someone out of the world, who have become converted members of God's church. This is not the normal way it should be done, but it happens every once in awhile. If God is working, if He is calling that person, He finds a way.

This piece of advice deals with "going to the world." The earlier commands relate to "feeding the flock." The third point, "increase as you are able," suggests increase by marrying, by having children, even by some form of proselytizing. But, always, the point is conversion. It is not to happen just to add numbers. We speak of God's flock, whose hallmark is quality, not quantity.

It is very hard both to feed the flock and go to the world. The indication here is first to get in good spiritual condition, and then, if possible, increase our numbers. Matthew 6:24 says we cannot serve God and mammon. It is dificult to do two things at once well, so we have to choose which is the most important. If Jeremiah 29:5-6 are any indication, the first and most important thing to do is to get oneself straight with God, and what resources are left over can go toward increasing one's numbers.

The first two points are most important right now, because God sent the church into exile because of sin. We must get rid of the sin first. Once we solve the problems, we will have the spiritual resources to increase our numbers. In Mark 10:28-30, to pull the principle there out of context, Peter says, "Master, we've left all to follow You." And He says, "Don't worry, Peter, for whatever you have lost I will return to you: mothers and brothers and sisters and fathers a hundredfold." So He will increase us. It is just a matter of when.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile


 

Jeremiah 31:7-9

As these people come out of their captivity, they will have turned to God, a necessary and wonderful first step. They will have a frame of mind—renouncing self-will—where they can begin to be worked with. But this will not magically blow away their character and psychological problems. Even in our own lives since conversion, God has had to bring us face-to-face with weaknesses of character and attitude that we must overcome.

Think of the horrors these people will have witnessed: wholesale murder in death camps, perhaps the cold-blooded butchering of their children and other loved ones. They may have lived as slaves in great degradation, having no choices, separated from loved ones, always wondering what happened to them, fearful that they will never eat another meal, and always facing the betrayal of others seeking favor and trying to survive. What will these experiences have done to their minds? Because of the need to survive, such circumstances can cause a person to become wholly self-centered.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Rule!


 

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The ultimate fulfillment of this process will culminate when we are completely composed of spirit, and God's law will be our first nature, not just second nature. But, while we are in an embryonic stage, the process has already begun in us, incrementally, as God gradually displaces our carnality and sin, replacing it with His Holy Spirit, leading to righteous behavior and godliness. Actually, no human being is completely converted, but many people are in various stages of conversion.

Conversion, then, is a life-long process in which we move from a reactive approach to lawkeeping—motivated by rewards and punishments—to a proactive approach—motivated by a deeply placed inner desire to yield and comply to the law's principles, knowing intrinsically from experience that they work for the good and harmony of all. (Proactive is a term author-speaker Steven Covey uses to distinguish internal motivation to do or accomplish something as opposed to external motivation.)

As the process of conversion begins, God must use carrots and sticks to keep us moving in the right direction. The blessings and curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 served as carrots and sticks to encourage righteous and godly behavior in our Israelite forebears. God uses carrots and sticks in the early part of our calling—for instance, the carrot of the Place of Safety and the stick of the Tribulation—and literally drives us into a frantic study of prophecy. Carrots and sticks have motivated our educational system in the forms of gold stars, grades, praise, trophies, extra homework, and detention.

Recently, Dr. Alfie Kohn, in his book, Punished By Rewards, questions the long-term effects of external motivators, such as grades, financial incentives, gold stars, or tokens, to sustain learning behavior. He supplies some surprising evidence that carrots and sticks—reflecting the philosophy, "Do this and you'll get that"— actually become detrimental in the long run, diverting the focus away from the learning outcome onto the reward or punishment. Dr. Kohn, Dr. Jerome Bruner, and a host of other educators suggest that internal motivators, such as satisfying curiosity, imitating role models, and attaining competency, work better to motivate over the long term than do G.P.A.'s, scholarships and grants, and other external incentives.

To illustrate this, one of the supreme tragedies in the music world occurred when the government of Finland supplied composer Jean Sibelius a guaranteed pension and a large mansion in the woods near Jarvenpaa. After this huge reward, an external motivation, not one musical idea—not one note!—emanated from his pen. Likewise, our spiritual growth and maturity will become stunted if our motivation for righteous behavior is externally determined rather than internally determined.

To an individual truly endowed with God's Spirit, the laws cranked out yearly in Washington, DC, our state capitals, and our local city halls should strike us as juvenile and elementary—or as one minister would call it—knee-pants stuff. Consider the carrots and sticks used by lawmakers to control litter: up to $1,000 fine for littering, or a sign reading, "This segment of highway adopted by Yourtown Jaycees."

These examples ignore the heart and core of the problem. Until the law gets from stone-tablet pages of the Scripture, or the statute books of a local, state, or federal assembly, into our hearts and minds—unless the motivation for doing what is right comes from the inside out—we are no more converted than a donkey. On second thought, a donkey at least behaves as it is programmed to act.

David F. Maas
Righteousness from Inside-Out


 

Amos 5:10

If a person does right, people will begin to persecute him. It may, very sadly, even happen right inside the church.

Amos confirms that the first thing that occurs if we really are undergoing transformation—if we have had an encounter with God—is that we will turn to God's truth. Our attitude will change toward God's truth. The author of Psalm 119:97 says, "O, how I love Your law!" He was in love with it. To him, it was so good to be able to look into God's Word. If a person loves something, what does he want to do with it? Talk about it! Share it with other people. Is that not what happens to the newly converted person? Indeed, it is. One can almost guage a person's conversion by how he loves the Word of God, for "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."

Amos states these truths so succinctly. All we need to do to understand it positively is turn what he says around backward. If we really do seek God, we are going to love His Word. We will hang on everything that comes out of His mouth—because we will see it for what it is. The most valuable thing a person can possess is the Word of God.

These people in Amos showed every evidence of a refusal to be governed by truth in their lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Seeking God


 

Matthew 7:16-20

Once regenerated by the Holy Spirit from the Father, we must continually be led by it, bearing spiritual fruit throughout our lives. If we are producing the fruit of the Spirit, which exhibit a sound mind, we know it is working in us. The Spirit is the mind and essence of the divine nature, and through it God carries out His will. It empowers the mind to comprehend spiritual matters, producing conversion. It gives us the strength, will and faith to overcome our sins.

Martin G. Collins
The Holy Spirit


 

Matthew 18:2-5

The word "converted" means to change or turn. Specifically, it means to change from one way of life or set of beliefs to another. Sometimes it means "regeneration"—beginning to live a new spiritual life (Psalm 51:10-13, 17). Jesus tells the disciples that their attitudes of ambition are wrong, and they must change or have no part in His Kingdom. To do this, they must be like small children, who, for the most part, lack arrogance and pride. Children are characteristically humble and teachable (I Corinthians 14:20).

According to Mark, Jesus teaches them that, "if anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all" (Mark 9:35). The most humble Christian will be the most distinguished, and he who is willing to be esteemed last and least will be esteemed first. To regard oneself as God regards us is humility. One who receives and loves someone with an innocent child's humble attitude, who may be weak in the faith, displays true Christian character and loves Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:35-40). "Receive" in verse 5 means to approve, love, or treat with kindness; to aid in time of need.

Martin G. Collins
Parables of the Millstone and the Lost Sheep


 

Luke 8:14-15

Growth requires an honest and noble heart. We deceive ourselves through rationalizations and justifications, allowing our appetites to overwhelm what we know is true. Sin engulfs the mind with a cloud of alibis and cover-ups to hide from ourselves the wrongness of what we do. Sin promotes twisting and distorting of truth. We reason, "This isn't so bad"; "I'll do it just one more time"; "I'm too weak. God will just have to take me as I am"; "God will just have to do it for me." We have all reasoned ourselves into transgressing.

Have we been deceived into thinking of sin only in the sense of breaking one of the Ten Commandments? While sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4), its biblical usage is much broader. When we fail to think of sin in its broader sense, we stumble into a trap. It is far better to think of sin as falling short of the glory of God. The central concept of sin is failure—failure to live up to a standard, God Himself. The glory of God includes His attitudes, intents, and His very thinking processes, all of which produce the way He lives. For us to fall short in any of these areas is missing the mark—sin.

We are deceived, lured into actually transgressing, through neglect, carelessness, laziness, irresponsibility, ignorance, bull-headedness, fear, shortsightedness, and ingratitude for forgiveness and the awesome potential that God has freely and graciously handed to us on a golden platter of grace. We are detoured from progress to holiness and are enticed into sin by failing to see God and by not considering seriously the subtle influences on the fringes of actual transgression of the law. At the foundation of both spiritual and physical health is how we think and what we think about.

James 1:13-16 confirms this:

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

The way to stop sin, as well as to improve health, is to change our thinking. Between what God does and what we should do, we can do it. This is real conversion!

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


 

Luke 12:32

Despite this, the number of people calling themselves "Christian" tops two billion worldwide. Yet, just because people profess faith does not mean they are truly converted, and by the Bible's standard, the overwhelming majority are not.

Compared to the two billion professing Christians, the true church is minuscule and virtually invisible. However, it does exist, for Jesus promises in Matthew 16:18, "I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." It will never die out because eternal life resides within it, and the most powerful army in all creation protects and provides for it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is There a True Church?


 

John 4:53

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

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

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

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


 

John 5:16-17

"Hitherto" (King James version) is not a word that we are familiar with. It means, "to here," so in this context it implies "to this very day." Jesus is saying, "My Father is working right up to this point of time, and I am too." God is an active Creator. He did not create everything physical, and then just sit back, cross His legs, and twiddle His thumbs. He is an active Creator.

God created this universe to carry out the next step in His purpose, which is His ongoing work. He is creating a Family of beings just like Himself. He is reproducing Himself by creating us in His image. "Conversion" is the word that describes this process of transformation—"from glory to glory"—from the glory of man to the glory of God. We are being brought into the image of God.

This image is not in the way that we look, but in certain knowledge and attitudes that we believe, accept, submit to in thought and in conduct. It is accomplished by putting the mind of God in us. This regeneration begins a growth process. In our case, it is the growth of God's mind in ours.

God's mind, just like ours, is more than words. It is also attitudes, feelings, moods, passions, inclinations, and perspectives. These things can be described by words, but they are not words. They develop through the combination of knowledge and experience, most frequently within relationships. We really cannot relate to a machine, but we can relate to other beings—we can have relationships with God and men—fellowships, social intercourse, work, play, and interaction. From these experiences, these mental, emotional, and attitudinal aspects of the mind, beyond mere words, create and develop.

As it happens, nothing actually is produced that has form, weight, or can be measured. Rather it is knowledge gleaned from experience, and it is accompanied by God personally and actively working and creating to enable us to accomplish our part in carrying out His will. Remember, Paul said, "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 6)


 

John 6:44

God has set up a system to call, convert, and educate a people for Himself. They are a minority, very few in number. They are not mighty, noble, and learned, but the weak of the world. God calls them and gives them His Spirit and teachers to help them understand. Of all people on earth, only they have a chance to understand the Bible.

Staff
Biblical Symbolism


 

John 6:44

Jesus Christ's statement limits who can be converted: Only those the Father selects and draws may be converted. Indirectly, the verse intimates that men will not come to Him unless drawn.

Paul adds in Romans 3:11-12, "There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one." People suppose they are free to choose to seek God at will, but this verse vigorously disputes that notion. Nobody seeks after God!

Jesus reinforces this: "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life" (John 5:39-40). In this instance, they had God in their very midst, and they would not choose to follow Him. He states this even more bluntly in John 15:18: "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you." "Hated" is a strong word!

However, some did choose to follow Him. Notice what Scripture says about them: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). This passage clearly says that those who followed Christ did so, not by exercising their wills, but because they were prompted by God's will. Recall Paul's statement in Philippians 2:13, "It is God who works in you both to will and to do. . . ."

The fulfilling of God's twin promises in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:24-28 in our lives makes all the difference in the world concerning the use of the will. By them, we have a new heart as a gift from God - a heart that does not hate God. The proof that the hatred has been removed is that one who has received this benefit consistently uses his will to choose to obey God's will as expressed in His law. The new heart and submission to God's will go hand in hand.

A statement from the apostle Paul helps to put our attitude on the right trajectory: "For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (I Corinthians 4:7).

What we have received is a gift of grace, unearned in any way. We need to understand that man's free will is free only in that God never compels anybody to sin. The sinner is not free to do either good or evil because his corrupt heart, formed by Satan's dominion, always inclines him to sin. Man is enslaved by that heart, a bondage that can be broken only by God's merciful intervention.

By virtue of God's gift, only the called of God are truly free to exercise their will to choose the good. God's gift does not merely counterbalance the evil heart corrupted by Satan's world, but can thoroughly dominate human nature because God works in us to do His will. Exercising this will that is motivated by a God-given heart will enable us to flee Babylon's evil influence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Two)


 

John 13:34-35

God is showing through the church that all the prejudices against God and man can be dissolved and overcome through Christ. "New" here implies freshness, rather than from the point of time. It is part of the different perspective one receives upon conversion. Doing what He says to do is new for a convert because it means operating from the perspective of cooperation rather than competition. It is a new thing for a convert to show love, which is the exercising or the application of God's Word.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Acts 2:37-39

We have to repent. God gradually unfolds before us what the conditions for conversion are. Layer upon layer of truth, or revelation, is needed to get the fullness of a subject. So we have to repent - a condition that was not mentioned before. We have to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. We also have to have hands laid on us (Acts 8:14-17).

Here are the conditions: We have to be called (John 6:44). We have to repent. We have to believe the gospel. We have to believe in Jesus Christ. We have to begin obeying God, because God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him (John 14:15-18; Acts 5:32). We have to be baptized, and we have to have hands laid on us.

This should help us to understand that the "writing of the law on our hearts" (Hebrews 8:10) is a cooperative effort. It is not something done only by God, but it absolutely requires what God does. It also requires that we do something. When a person does these things, he is meeting the terms of the New Covenant - not all of them yet.

Were there terms like this in the Old Covenant? No. What a difference exists between the two! It is no wonder that the Old Covenant is obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). It is no wonder the Old Covenant could not be kept (Hebrews 8:7). There is such a flaw, a fault, in every one of us (Hebrews 8:8). God knew this when He made the Old Covenant with Israel. Since God is love, He left us an example of how much the New Covenant means to us, so that we could look back on history and understand what awesome gifts have been given to us. By that, He hopes to create within us a deep sense of thanksgiving and of obligation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 12)


 

Acts 15:17

"The Gentiles who are called by My name" - In order to be called by the name of God, one must be a son of God, begotten by His Spirit. One must be part of His family. Gentiles do not seek God until after He reveals Himself to them, and they become converted. That is what the Book says. One does not seek God until after He converts him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?


 

Romans 8:29-30

Paul actually left one step out here; he could have added sanctified. Sanctification is the period between justification and glorification during which we become holy, when the growth takes place.

Everything in regard to this issue exposes a process. We are to consider ourselves pilgrims heading toward the Kingdom of God, gradually being transformed into the image of God along the way. The qualities of character, whether human or godly, are not produced instantaneously but through the everyday gathering of information, weighing it, making the necessary choices, setting our wills, and watching to see the results.

Even as Israel had to walk out of Egypt and across the wilderness to the Promised Land—or there never would have been a change in their situation—so must we live this process to grow to become like God and be in His Kingdom. The laws of God are written on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10; Jeremiah 31:33) by life's experiences while we have a relationship with God. Like everything else in life, it is a process that has a beginning and end.

Like every educational system, it moves from simple to complex. It moves from that which is clearly stated in the letter of the law to what is less apparent and depends upon a background of instruction, experience, and results. It depends on faith in and love for God and love for man that have grown in a person to aid him in properly understanding, applying, and practicing the spirit of the law.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 19)


 

Romans 12:1-2

Paul refers to the new man in Colossians 3:10 as a man "renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him." "Renewed," translated here in the passive voice, comes from the Greek verb anakainoo. It means "to make new" in the sense of "to make different." The new man is different from the old one in that he bears the image of God!

Paul uses a similar verb in Ephesians 4:22-23, where he asks that "you . . . be renewed in the spirit of your mind." That Greek verb, ananeoo, again translated in the passive voice, means "to renew" or "to renovate." Through years of living Satan's way of life before conversion, our mind grows corrupt; even the best parts of it become "like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).

The apostle provides more details about this renewal process in Romans 12:1-2. Here, he uses the same phraseology—the renewal of a person's mind—in a context that makes his meaning crystal clear: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

The noun "renewing" (anakainosis) is related to the verb anakainoo. Like anakainoo, it carries the sense of renovation to a different, rather than a younger, state. This attests again that the new man is different from the old.

Paul uses the verb renew in the passive voice in Colossians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:22-23. In Romans 12:2, the gerund renewing is also part of a passive structure, "be transformed." A "problem" of the passive voice is that it does not tell us the actor of a verb, except through the use of an optional prepositional phrase. For example, "The stone was thrown," although a complete sentence, does not tell us who threw the stone unless we tack on the phrase by John.

We know the renewed man is different from the old, but who is the actor? Who does the renewing Paul mentions so often? God? Humans? Angels? Romans 12:1-2 tells us.

In verse 1, Paul issues a call for action: He pleads for us to present ourselves to God as holy. In verse 2, he tells how, in a general sense, we must do this. We become holy by transforming our mind through a renewal process. In saying this, Paul establishes a cause-and-effect relationship between our mind's renewal (cause) and our transformation (effect). Renewal causes transformation.

Notice something else about verse 2: In it, Paul is doing far more than just telling us how to be transformed; he is exhorting us to carry out that transformation. God does not renew our mind! If God, by fiat, simply caused us to be transformed by renewing our mind, we would need to take no action whatsoever. God would simply renew our minds, and as an effect of His action, we would be transformed. If that were how it worked, Paul's exhortation to us would be useless, senseless, and illogical.

No, we are to renew our mind. As we do so day by day, we invariably experience a transformation of character, such that we become less and less "conformed to this world." It comes as no surprise, of course, that growth to holiness requires effort on our part. The apostle Peter issues a call for holiness in I Peter 1:16, "Be holy, for I am holy" (see Leviticus 11:44). Notice the context. Peter says we are to be "holy in all [our] conduct" (I Peter 1:15), that is, our way of life. How? "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts [those of the old man], as in your ignorance" (verses 13-14). Clearly, Peter exhorts us to become holy by changing our conduct. In following chapters, he specifically defines holy conduct for servants, wives, and husbands.

The relationship between holiness and conduct is not just a New Testament teaching. The Old Testament says the same thing. For example, Leviticus 19 clearly connects the holiness we are to seek (verse 2) with our conduct. The chapter outlines the moral and ethical conduct God requires of holy people in a number of areas, such as business and sexual matters.

Of course, all this does not deny or belittle the part God plays in our individual growth to holiness. Notice Romans 12:1 again. We attain holiness "by the mercies of God." In reality, God has a huge role to play. As we showed before, God establishes the new man in the first place. We could never do that. In addition, He provides vital help on a day-by-day basis through His Holy Spirit, a vital role, as Paul makes clear when he reminds us that God "saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).

The most basic way in which we renew our minds is by obeying God's law, the perfect reflection of His character and nature. Notice how consistently Paul describes the new man in terms of the behavior and conduct God expects from him. In fact, wherever Paul broaches the subject of the new man, a discussion of a Christian's proper moral and ethical conduct is never far away.

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part One)


 

1 Corinthians 2:6-9

If mankind had seen Christ, if they had clearly identified with Him, the history of the world would be exceedingly different. They did not see because, as Paul writes here, they were not mature. Mature, in this context, means "converted." He contrasts those who are able to see and those who are not able to see. Those who are able to see are those who are spiritually mature.

Even though Christ quoted—and lived—the scriptures with which most of His audience were familiar, the people did not see God working through Him. So it has always been with God's servants. Christ was not the only one. Jesus Himself testifies that these people also "kill[ed] the prophets" (Matthew 23:34-37). It is unlikely that they would have killed the prophets if they clearly saw them as God's messengers. If they believed in God and were fearful of His authority and sovereignty over His creation, they would not have dared to do it! Nevertheless, it has always been this way: Some see and some do not see.

Paul says in I Corinthians 2:7 that God's ministers "speak the wisdom of God in a mystery." This mystery is not a puzzle that is difficult to solve but "a secret impossible to penetrate." As the apostle goes on to say in succeeding verses, the world is not "all there" upstairs because they do not have God's Spirit to help them penetrate the secret. Without this vital ingredient, it is no wonder that it accepts its own and rejects the truths of God.

Paul writes in verse 9, "But as it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'" Many in the world believe that the things of God are "too great" for mere humans to comprehend. We really cannot "get it" or see it. Yet, the truth is so simple to those whose eyes are open that a child can understand. The carnal mind, however, is so blinded by traditions and habits of thinking that even Christians tend to reject the things of God—even though God has converted us.

The effect of this is something like the story about the three blind Indians who were led up to an elephant. Each man touched a different part of the great beast. One held the elephant's trunk, and when asked what it was, he said, "This is a snake." The second man, holding the elephant's tail, said, "This is a rope." The third man, feeling the elephant's leg, said, "This is a tree."

This is analogous to what happens in the world. The world can perceive bits and pieces of the truth, but they cannot put it all together and see the glory of God in its whole. They cannot see God as an intrinsic—absolutely necessary—part of a person's life. They cannot see how necessary the spiritual is!

If it is seen and if it is understood, then life begins to make sense. We begin to be able to see ourselves—a single, unique individual—as a part of the whole, the awesome plan and purpose that God is working out! Then, being able to see God gives direction to our life. So our eyes have seen and our ears have heard, and "the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" has entered into our hearts.

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


 

1 Corinthians 2:6

Paul's use of "we" undoubtedly speaks in its broadest sense to all of the people who are part of God's church, but in its narrowest sense, he is talking about the ministry.

Those "who are mature" should be all church members. He is setting the stage for comparing one group of people with another—those who are mature and those who are not, that is, those who are converted and those who are not converted.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 3)


 

2 Corinthians 3:3

Paul makes it clear that the Spirit God will give us will be the means by which the laws are written on our hearts. "Circumcision of the heart," "writing God's laws on the heart," "conversion," and "changing" essentially describe the same thing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 12)


 

2 Corinthians 5:11

When God summoned us to His way of life, He persuaded us with various proofs that He exists, desires a relationship with us, and rules not just the universe but also the affairs of men. As often happens during our first love (Revelation 2:4-5), we desire to share our joy and newfound truth with others. Most of the time, our early evangelistic efforts fail to produce any new converts to the faith - instead, our efforts usually cause problems in our relationships.

Most lay-members, after one or two failures of this sort, get smart and desist in trying to convert their relatives and friends. They realize that nothing will ever happen without God first calling the other individual and changing his heart by His Spirit to accept the truth (John 6:44; Romans 2:4-5; 8:7; I Corinthians 2:10-14; Hebrews 8:10; Ezekiel 11:19). All our preaching and cajoling will accomplish nothing unless God moves to initiate a personal relationship with him.

Ministers do not have such an easy out. Certainly, in their personal relationships they can quit trying to "save" those unconverted members of their families, but in their professional capacity, their job is to "persuade men." In personal conduct, counsel, sermons, and articles, they must devote their energies to showing and explaining why God's way is true and will lead to eternal life in God's Kingdom.

Today, that is not an easy task. It has never been easy, really, but the current environment makes it harder than it has been historically. For starters, though a high percentage of people say they believe in God, most people are no longer religious but secular. Religion is not a high-ranking concern, and because of this, religious issues fly under their radar and over their heads. They just do not care, and even when they inquire about them, they do not understand them because they lack the background and education necessary to evaluate them properly.

Another problem is competition. It used to be that most people at least treated Sunday, "the Lord's day," as a Sabbath and devoted most or all of that time to religious pursuits. No longer. Sunday, though it is not God's Sabbath day, is used just like any other day: for work and entertainment. If God receives a few hours on Sunday morning for worship services, most Americans - and Europeans to an even greater degree - think He should feel satisfied that they could spare Him even that much!

Yet a third hindrance is the way moderns think. Too many people, especially younger adults, have absorbed the postmodern, values-neutral approach. This way of thinking considers every idea and belief as equally valid, neither right nor wrong. A person can believe anything he likes - even that the moon is made of green cheese - and he should not be judged as right or wrong. Any god one worships, or for that matter, if one chooses to worship no god, is fine, and no one god or belief system is better than any other.

In such an environment, how can we persuade anyone of the truth? Our success certainly looks bleak.

The answer lies in what Paul writes in II Corinthians 5:9-11: "We make it our aim . . . to be well pleasing to Him." Our judgment does not rest on how many men we persuade but on whether we do the job. We are called to make the witness for God and Christ to the best of our ability and strength. Christ will judge us "according to what [we have] done, whether good or bad." How others react to us and what we say or write matters little; it is "God who gives the increase" (I Corinthians 3:5-8). As Paul says, one plants and another waters, but what happens to the sprout is not under their control but God's.

Thus, we cannot quantify the results of our persuasion as others can. We cannot see the growth of our "business" in statistical form. The true measure of our success will be revealed in God's Kingdom, and even then, we will be unable to claim the glory for it. For in persuading men, we "do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh


 

2 Corinthians 5:16

The apostle Paul is writing about the same thing that happened in Genesis 3. When Adam and Eve sinned, their perspective changed. They were moved away from God and began to look at the events and circumstances of life from a different point of view than they had before.

We know how this works. If we are standing beside someone and looking at an object, say, a tree, both are looking at it from the same perspective and see essentially the same thing. But if we step 20, 30, or 40 feet to one side, the perspective from which we now observe the tree begins to change. Now we see things that may not have been visible when we were side by side with the other person.

That is how it is with God. When we are one with Him, we look at things exactly as He does. When we are not in unity with Him, it is as though we have stepped away from Him, and we begin to see things from a different perspective.

This is the idea Paul refers to here. From now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Now that we have been converted, we do not look upon others as Japanese, Chinese, Jewish, Russian—this stereotyping begins to fade into the background in terms of importance. To a converted person, the important thing now is whether the other person is converted or unconverted. All that has changed is our perspective, which has changed because we repented in faith. God gave us His Spirit, and a new point of view has entered our thinking.

Let us consider the phrase, "even though we have known Christ according to the flesh." Paul recounts from his own experience that there was a time when he looked upon Jesus Christ as the great Satan—the enemy of everything that was Judaic. Then he was converted, and his perspective of Christ became, "He is my Savior! He is the greatest thing that has ever happened to humanity!" Same Paul, different mind—his perspective changed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Galatians 1:1

This epistle was one of Paul's first letters, if not the first. As such, it was early on in his ministry, and one of the first topics in this letter was his credentials. This is seen in his parenthetical statement that he was an apostle appointed by God and Jesus Christ and NOT by men. The other apostles ate, walked, and lived with Christ while He was on the earth, and thus their credibility was established in part by proximity and association with Christ. Paul did not fall into this category, but rather persecuted the true Christians until his dramatic conversion. However, at that time, he was instructed by Christ personally and thus had a legitimate claim to apostleship.

David C. Grabbe


 

Ephesians 3:7

Paul would never have become an apostle if God had not done what He did. He made Paul an apostle. God converted Paul, an enemy of the church, and turned him into the hardest worker, probably, that the church has ever seen. He converted him, changed him.

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


 

2 Thessalonians 1:3

Through the apostle Paul's example, we see that it is our duty to be thankful for each other on a constant basis. It is difficult to be upset with someone while at the same time thanking God that he is our brother in Christ.

Spurred by outgoing concern for others, we can be thankful for the faith of Christ exhibited in them, their conversion, the true love they show through obedience to His Word, the earnest care or zeal exhibited by them for the brethren and God's work. The list is endless (II Corinthians 9:11).

Martin G. Collins
Thankfulness


 

1 Timothy 2:3-4

If it is God's will that we be saved and grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, why is it so hard? If God is working with us, should this not be easy? Our first response to this is very likely, "Well, I guess it's just that I am so evil"; "It must be human nature"; or "I'm so bad God must not be hearing my prayers." Some get so weary with the difficulty that they say, "God will just have to take me as I am."

All these justifications may indeed be factors, but they are not precisely correct because most of us have some besetting sin or sins that we fail miserably to overcome time after time. Why, if it is God's will, do we not overcome them more easily?

The sin need not be easily recognizable by others, as Paul writes to Timothy that "some men's sins are clearly evident" (I Timothy 5:24). It can be a hidden sin, though we are well aware of it, know it is evil, and feel constant guilt and self-condemnation because of our weakness before it.

It can be a sin of omission and not a sin of commission, in which one is directly guilty of bringing loss or pain upon another. Perhaps the failing concerns acts of kindness or mercy that we have frequently and consistently failed to do to relieve another's burden, but we know of it and are convicted of its seriousness.

This is the key to understanding why spiritual growth is so hard. Consider one's original conversion. Why did this even occur? Romans 2:4 says, "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance." This happened only because God was revealing Himself and making us conscious of factors of life we had never before felt with that force. It moved us to repent and throw ourselves on His mercy. In reality, it was the only option He held open to us because we felt powerless to go in any other direction. Can we overcome death? The key is our awareness of powerlessness as the first essential element to spiritual growth.

In II Corinthians 12:10, Paul makes this point. "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." In chapter 13:4, he adds emphasis to this by saying, "For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you." Just as a prerequisite to conversion is recognizing and acknowledging our utter failure in the face of sin and death, so also is a deep consciousness of our frailty required in the face of overcoming and growth in following God's way and glorifying Him.

Without this overriding sense of dependence, we will never turn to God in the first place. Without this sense of need, we will not continuously turn to Him because our passivity in this will declare that in reality, like the Laodiceans, we think we need nothing and are sufficient unto ourselves. We will be like the confident Peter, who, boasting that unlike others he would never desert Christ, immediately fell flat on his face in spiritual failure. The secret of growth in Christian character largely lies in realizing our powerlessness and acknowledging it before God.

Perhaps John 15:5 will now have more meaning. Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." It does not mean that without Him we could never design an automobile or send a rocket to the moon. It means that we could produce nothing of a true, godly, spiritual nature within the calling of God that truly glorifies Him.

Just in case we think He is saying more than He really means, think about the following commands. Jesus says in Matthew 5:44, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." He adds in Matthew 6:31, "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'" If these are challenging, try I Corinthians 15:34: "Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."

We have a long way to go. It is time to stop playing church—realizing that judgment is now on us—and turn to God with all our heart. He promises that, if we do this, He will hear from heaven and respond. We must constantly keep in mind that God is the Potter with the power to mold and shape as He wills. As the clay, our job is to yield, realizing even the power to submit comes from Him.

To understand this from an even broader perspective, we must consider how mankind has acted in its relationship with God beginning with Adam and Eve. They said, "God, stay out of our lives. We don't need you. We will do this ourselves." Therefore, rather than choosing from the Tree of Life, they chose from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. All mankind has copied this approach down to the Laodiceans, who say they are rich and increased with goods and need nothing. It will continue even to those who will curse and blaspheme God during the final plagues in the Day of the Lord (Revelation 16:21).

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


 

Hebrews 5:12-14

In using milk as a metaphor in I Peter 2:2, Peter is in no way chiding people as Paul does in Hebrews 5:12-14. The former uses milk simply as a nourishing food because his emphasis is on desire, not depth. Paul uses milk as a metaphor for elementary because he wants to shock the Hebrews into comprehending how far they had slipped from their former state of conversion.

Paul also uses milk as a metaphor for weak or elementary in I Corinthians 3:1-2: "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able." Paul judges the Corinthians as weak based upon their behaviors and attitudes, which reflected no spiritual progress. So he "fed" these immature Christians elementary knowledge because things of greater depth would have gone unappreciated, misunderstood, and unused. These references directly tie spiritual diet to growth in understanding, behavior, and attitude.

Paul's milk metaphors are scathing put-downs! Undoubtedly, he seriously hurt the feelings of many in the congregation, yet he is free and clear before God of any charge of offense. He does not question their conversion, but he certainly rebukes their lack of growth. He rightly judges that they need to have their feelings hurt so they could salvage what remained of their conversion.

In I Corinthians 3, the embarrassing immaturity that required him to feed the people like babies also produced strife and factions in the congregation, proving that the people were far more carnal than converted. The Hebrews account is more complex: The people had once been more mature but had regressed. It is a situation vaguely similar to elderly people becoming afflicted with dementia, except that faith, love, character, conduct, and attitude were being lost rather than mental faculties. This resulted in the people drifting aimlessly.

An additional insight regarding an insufficient spiritual diet appears in the next chapter. Paul tells them that their problems are directly related to being lazy. Dull in the phrase "dull of hearing" in Hebrews 5:11 is more closely related to "sluggish" or "slothful." It is translated as such in Hebrews 6:12, ". . . that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises."

Paul charges them with being lazy listeners; they are not putting forth the effort to meditate and apply what is taught them. They are, at best, merely accepting. That they are not using what they hear is proof enough for Paul to understand that they are not thinking through the seriousness or the practical applications of the teachings. In other words, they are not assimilating what they hear, and the result is a lack of faith and a consequent faithlessness. His rebuke is far more serious than the one in I Corinthians 3 because these people are older in the faith. They have frittered away a large amount of time that would have been far better spent on spiritual growth.

Paul attempts to shame and shock them into realizing how far they had slipped by calling these grown people—some of them undoubtedly elderly—infants. He goes so far as to tell them that they are unacquainted with and unskilled in the teaching on righteousness. In other words, he attributes to them the one particular trait of infants: that they do not understand the difference between right and wrong, a characteristic that defines immaturity. A parent must instruct and chasten a child until it understands.

The Bible provides ample evidence that a poor spiritual diet results in a spiritually weak and diseased person, just as a poor physical diet works to erode and eventually destroy a person's physical vitality. Similarly, we can see that a person can be in good spiritual health but lose it through laziness or another form of neglect. Just as a mature adult needs good, solid nourishment to maintain his vitality and remain free of disease, the spiritual parallel follows. For one to grow to spiritual maturity and vitality, a mature Christian needs solid, spiritual nourishment, assimilated and actively applied, to continue growing and prevent regressing, as opposed to the Hebrews sluggish spiritual deterioration.

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


 

Hebrews 6:1

During the time of the Exodus, the people of Israel heard a message of good news from Moses (Hebrews 4:2). It consisted of redemption from slavery, the Passover, baptism in the Red Sea, and a journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The good news, then, included the occurrences of and the knowledge about all the steps along the way, all of the benchmarks. The purpose for which all those events occurred was the most important part. What good was it to have the death angel pass over their house, for them to receive the forgiveness of sin and redemption from slavery, if they never made it to the Promised Land? That is Paul's warning. The steps, though vital in themselves, are not as important as the goal.

This warning applies especially to today. What Jesus Christ did in His life, in His death and in His resurrection, is awesome, a wonderful and great gift. It is good news that these things have occurred, but they are not the good news. The good news is the goal, and that has not yet occurred. What Jesus Christ did is exceedingly important to the fulfillment of God's purpose, but it's still possible for us to reject the Son of God even after we have accepted His blood for the forgiveness of our sins, as Hebrews 12 also shows very clearly. So in this analogy, life in, possession of and governance of the Promised Land was the culmination, the good news, the fulfillment—at least physically—of the promises to Abraham.

The message that Jesus Christ brought, the gospel, is about the Kingdom of God, the culmination, the goal, the fulfillment. Certainly it includes the knowledge of and information about those benchmarks along the way, but the Kingdom of God is the goal toward which every Christian is aiming.

These doctrines or principles are very important, as Hebrews 6:1 shows. God will grant us repentance and forgive us through the blood of Jesus Christ. What good news! But it is not the good news. That is the principle: Being granted repentance and having faith in and through Jesus Christ are good news, but the result of those things is the real good news. It is the culmination of the process—"let us go on to perfection"—that is the good news.

What if the gospel concentrates solely on the person of the Messenger and overlooks the message He brought? If it focuses on the greatness of the Messenger, all of the good news about Him, and His importance to the process, His significance actually begins to diminish. If one concentrates on the Messenger, he will believe that salvation comes merely because he believes in the Messenger (see Matthew 7:21). Further development of that human being stops because he has made the wrong choice. That is the problem with concentrating on the Messenger, as important as He is.

The gospel does not specifically concentrate on Christ, yet we do not want to denigrate the major role He plays either. The process pivots around Him, though its ultimate purpose will end when He delivers the Kingdom to the Father (I Corinthians 15:24). The Messenger became the High Priest, and we are saved through His life. Christianity has to go beyond the fact that He was the Messenger. Now He is the High Priest in heaven. And though He is High Priest, we still have choices to make in relation to the Kingdom of God.

That is why Hebrews 6:1 says, "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection." As we go through the process that the Messenger went through and begin to experience what He accomplished, He is magnified in our eyes, because we try to do what He did and realize how awesome and difficult what He did was. While we try to imitate Him, the process of creation is going on. If we stop trying to imitate Him, He becomes diminished. That is why we have to go on to perfection, to completion, because the process is not complete with just believing in Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Hebrews 8:10-11

The ultimate fulfillment of this process will culminate when we are completely composed of spirit, and God's law will be our first nature, not just second nature. But, while we are in an embryonic stage, the process has already begun in us, incrementally, as God gradually displaces our carnality and sin, replacing it with His Holy Spirit, leading to righteous behavior and godliness. Actually, no human being is completely converted, but many people are in various stages of conversion.

Conversion, then, is a life-long process in which we move from a reactive approach to lawkeeping—motivated by rewards and punishments—to a proactive approach—motivated by a deeply placed inner desire to yield and comply to the law's principles, knowing intrinsically from experience that they work for the good and harmony of all. (Proactive is a term author-speaker Steven Covey uses to distinguish internal motivation to do or accomplish something as opposed to external motivation.)

David F. Maas
Righteousness from Inside-Out


 

1 Peter 1:1-2

It is the life that is obedient to God and separated from the world that provides the proof of one's conversion. If the Christian is legally cleared of guilt before God and obedient to Him, he no longer "belongs" to the world; the Bible no longer perceives such a person as being "in the flesh."

Philippians 3:20 offers understanding of another separation from the world: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." His spiritual separation produces for the Christian a legal transfer of citizenship that he must recognize.

Colossians 1:12-13 confirms this: "Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love." As a result of these separations, the Christian must live his life as a stranger and pilgrim as if in a foreign land, obeying the laws of his new nation by placing higher priority in his activities as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

This opens the door to another line of practical thought, conduct, and attitude: "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself the enemy of God" (James 4:4). We normally do whatever we can to avoid our enemies, even to the point of fleeing from them if necessary. This reality should help us to understand why God commands us:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? . . . Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." (II Corinthians 6:14, 17)

It is by means of conduct motivated by the Holy Spirit that we are to come out from among unbelievers and be separate. We cannot—we must not—straddle the fence; we cannot serve two masters. Once we are called, we must serve God, or we will have received God's grace in vain (II Corinthians 6:1).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Seven)


 

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




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