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Bible verses about Set Apart
(From Forerunner Commentary)

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

The Hebrew word translated here as "rested" is the verb shabath, from which comes the noun form that is rendered in English as "Sabbath." Interestingly, the primary meaning of this word is not "rest," in terms of relaxing or rejuvenating, but "to desist from exertion" or "to cease." This makes perfect sense considering that God does not get tired (Isaiah 40:28)!

Genesis 2 states that at the end of Creation Week, God stopped His physical labors, not because He was tired, but because He was setting an example for us. Furthermore, God blessed this specific day of the week and sanctified it—He set it apart for a specific purpose. Just as God deliberately sets apart or sanctifies those people with whom He is working, He purposefully made the seventh day different from the other six.

Thus, not only did God create the Sabbath day—and thus it belongs to Him; Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28)—but He also made it separate and distinct from the other six days. So how can we think that this day belongs to us? There is not a single second of this sanctified time that we have authority over! This day is not our day—not for our work, our sports, or our entertainment. It still belongs fully to God, and only He can dictate its right and proper usage.

It is not that we have no part in this day. On the contrary, the Sabbath day is the most important day of the week for us as Christians, because it enhances our relationship with God the most.

When we tithe, we decide whether we are going to tithe by choosing whether or not we will submit to God and follow His way. Once we make the decision to follow God, we give up all claims to the money God requires of us. If we start "deciding" that money is ours to use, we also choose not to submit to God. Similarly, once we decide to follow God, we give up all prior claims to the 24-hour period of the Sabbath, to the extent that God requires us to monitor our speech and even our thoughts (Isaiah 58:13-14)!

We recognize that God has given us a stewardship responsibility in using the money and material possessions He has provided us, and correspondingly, we have a stewardship responsibility over His holy time and its proper use. The Sabbath is not our time. It may belong to God, but He entrusts us with the responsibility to keep it righteously. We had better handle it with care!

David C. Grabbe
It's Not Our Time


 

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

Not only were Adam and Eve and their progeny separated from God and removed from dwelling with Him in the Garden of Eden, they were also separated from the source of life, the Tree of Life! The tragic results are evident for anyone to see! Throughout the Bible, God simply and clearly expounds upon the results of sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

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

Here, sanctify does not mean "consecrate" or "purify." Remember that they were already cleaned up by this time. In this context, it means "set apart." The priests were to separate themselves or get away.

John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part 1)


 

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

That word "holy" is fundamentally the same word used in Genesis 2:3 where God sanctified the seventh-day Sabbath. The only difference is that the parts of speech are different.

It takes a holy God to make holy time. He made no other time holy than His Sabbaths. Man can be made holy by God as well, but man cannot make something holy because he does not possess a holiness that can be passed on to anything. It takes a holy God to make something holy, thus any other day than what God has made holy—even though billions of men may proclaim it to be holy time—cannot be holy time. It is utterly impossible; Sunday cannot be made holy.

This means that the Sabbath is worthy of respect, deference, and even devotion that cannot be given to other periods of time. It is set apart for sacred use because it is derived directly from God. Because of God's assignment of the word "holy" to the Sabbath, this day is changed into something special. The general thrust of "holy" is different. The root word means "to cut," "to cut out," "to separate from," or "a cut above." The Sabbath is separate from other days, even though it is a part of the same cycle. It has been cut out, apart from, the other days—that is, sanctified. It is a cut above other days because God made it holy. It is different.

The Sabbath, then, is different from the common or ordinary. The other six days are common, and they are given for the pursuit of the common and ordinary things of life. On the Sabbath, we should strive to avoid those mundane things that promote making the Sabbath into an ordinary day. The Sabbath is a day for special things, different things.

The example of Moses and the burning bush illustrates what makes the day holy. It is not merely because of a proclamation by God. The burning bush provides a biblical example of how something becomes holy:

So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground." (Exodus 3:4-5)

This is what makes the Sabbath holy. Because God was present, Moses had to treat the ground in a different way—with a respect and deference that one would not give to something common. Until God put Himself in that area, the ground where Moses saw the burning bush was no different from all the other ground in the area. But as soon as God put His presence there, it became sacred—holy.

It became holy by means of a spiritual action. Holiness is not something that is physically discerned. (It is interesting to note in this context (in Exodus 3:1-5) that Moses was not aware that the ground was holy until God told him!) So the Sabbath is a spiritual thing. Its holiness must be revealed to a person (I Corinthians 2).

How do things become holy? Like time and areas of ground, they become holy because God puts His presence in them. For the sake of His people and His spiritual creation, God's presence is in the Sabbath. We do not know how He does it. Somehow, He puts His presence into the weekly Sabbath and into His holy days, making them different to those to whom He has revealed that those days consist of holy time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

Staff
Clean and Unclean Meats


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Deuteronomy 7:7-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Being chosen to be God's special treasure and become holy had nothing to do with any of our accomplishments, race, nationality, gender, IQ, or academic training. We are special and thus blessed because God loves us and because He is faithful to His promises to the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He reinforces these points by emphasizing that He is faithful, as well as by warning us that He is a God of justice.

Therefore, He is clearly stating that the foundation of this relationship is based completely in what He is within Himself, otherwise the relationship would have never gotten past the casual stage of mere acquaintance. The vast majority in the world who call themselves Christian are merely acquainted with God. By God's personal calling (John 6:44, 65), we have been made special—to have an intense and intimate relationship with Him. The very character of God, not any excellence in those He has chosen, is the basis for our being special.

This gives us no room for pride. He was not somehow attracted to us because we had been seeking Him all our lives, were so attractive, or had done so many good things. On the other hand, this blessing gives cause for a great deal of gratitude, and just as in a marriage, this specialness brings responsibilities.

God proclaims Himself to be the faithful God, and in Deuteronomy 7:11, He broadly states the means by which we are expected to prove our faithfulness in return: We are responsible to keep His commandments, statutes, and judgments. As in a marriage, because the parties have become special to each other, they are responsible to be faithful to each other above all others. A covenant made before God binds us to this intense, marital faithfulness.

I Peter 2:9 states this responsibility in a somewhat different manner: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him, who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." Notice his sentence begins with "but," introducing an explanation of why the chosen are to be different from the disobedient of verses 7-8, and of what they are obligated to do.

As stated here, the responsibility of God's own special people is to proclaim—to show forth (KJV)—the praises of Him who has called us. The proclaiming is accomplished through speech and conduct. We show forth His praises in our witness through faithful obedience, just as is commanded in Deuteronomy 7:11.

I Peter 1:13-16 shows that being a special treasure and holiness are inextricably linked:

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

God emphasizes "special treasure" to impress us with the magnitude of His blessing in making us special and the critical importance of our difference from others expressed through holy conduct.

It is important to consider our calling as God's peculiar treasure a tremendous blessing that we never allow to slip from our minds. It opens the door to the knowledge of God, faith, forgiveness, His Holy Spirit, access to Him, transformation to be like Him, and an endless supply of other things He provides, besides everlasting life. However, there are specific things we must do and cannot do because we are special.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift


 

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

Verse 2, though similar to verse 1, goes in a slightly different direction, revealing Israel's status with God. He called them a special people, set apart as God's chosen. In similar fashion, God regards His people today, the church, as His own special people (I Peter 2:9). These two verses show that God had a special purpose for Israel, one of being an example to all the peoples around them, and thus their appearance and behavior were important. In modern terms, God does not want His people to follow worldly practices such as radical hairdos, cult fashions (Goth, grunge, gang-banger styles, etc.), tattoos, body piercing, and the like. God wants His chosen people, set apart for a special purpose, to know who they are and that what they do to the outside of their bodies is important to God.

Staff
Whatever Your Heart Desires


 

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

This breaking up of whole families, many of whom had perhaps been living happily together for many years, was a drastic but necessary step. Ezra, who seemed to have God-given insight into the divine plan, understood what had to be done and the reasons for it.

The spiritual reasons are, of course, the most important. God says many times in the Pentateuch that intermarriage with pagans is spiritually dangerous (see, for instance, Deuteronomy 7:1-4). It was far more likely that, rather than the heathen spouses being won over to the worship of Israel's God, they would influence their sons and daughters to worship idols. If this were to happen frequently, Israel would soon be entirely idolatrous.

Although there is a bit of physical purity involved in this, God's demands are not for reasons of racial superiority but because He had a purpose for Israel - and the most important purpose is Jesus Christ. To fulfill the prophecies of the promised Seed, He had to be directly descended from Abraham through Judah, Jesse, and David, and because of a curse on Jeconiah (Jeremiah 22:24-30), He could not descend from that wicked king's bloodline. Only these particular circumstances could fulfill the prophecies and establish His righteous claim as the Messiah. Thus, Ezra's action was taken in large part to preserve David's line in preparation for Jesus' birth.

In addition, God wanted Israel to be a holy and separate nation (see Leviticus 19:1-2; Deuteronomy 14:2; 26:19; 28:9). The Israelites were to retain as many of their distinguishing traits and practices as He had given them at the beginning, and they could do this only as long as they remained separate from other nations. In this way, they could be the model nation, a people others would want to emulate, not because of any so-called racial purity or superiority, but because the true God was their God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part Two)


 

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)


 

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

To hallow God's name means to make it holy or set it apart for holy use, respecting it greatly. We hallow His name by obeying Him in all our conduct. Conversely, prayer without obedience is a form of blasphemy (Matthew 7:21, Mark 7:6-7), as is praise offered to God in the attitude of rebellion against His way. It is vain or vanity—useless and contemptible.

Martin G. Collins
The Third Commandment


 

Matthew 13:44  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus says that the treasure was hidden in the world. How were we, the church, hidden in the world? In the Parable of the Leaven, the word "hid" was used in a negative sense. Does "hid" have a similar negative connotation here in verse 44?

In the context of this parable, the symbols are almost all positive. First, the man as Christ is positive, but then the world appears, which may not seem all that positive. Yet, next comes "joy" and Christ's self-sacrifice for the treasure. These positive things surround the word "hid." It seems that "hid" is a little more positive than its usage in verse 33. How then is the church hidden in the world? We need to remember that it is hidden in the world before its members' calling.

Notice in verse 44 that the man finds the treasure hidden in the world, and once he finds it, he hides it again. Ephesians 2:1-7 speaks of the less positive of the two hidings:

And you He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Where were we hidden before? In the field, which is the world. How were we hidden? We were hidden because we were just like everybody else. We were dead in trespasses and sin, and we conducted ourselves "according to the prince of the power of the air." We were hidden in plain sight because everybody else was just like us—but we have been found.

Once Christ found us, what did He do? He hid us again. What does this mean? How does Christ hide us after He finds us? John 17:11, 14-18 provides an answer:

Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. . . . I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.

How did Christ hide us? By sending us right back into the world! He does not glorify us immediately or put us on a pedestal, but simply returns us into the world. The world hides us, but in a different way after our calling than before it. Though we are no longer of the world, we still look like it. We have not changed much except internally, spiritually. So we go back into the world and live our daily lives, and people fail to recognize us for what we are unless some matter of the truth comes up, as Jesus says in John 17:17: "Sanctify them by Your truth."

In layman's terms this is, "Set them apart by Your truth." The truth we live by—God's truth in us—makes us different from everybody else. To look at us walking down the street, for the most part, we are hidden; we are average Joes. But if a matter of truth suddenly becomes important—say, an issue of the Sabbath comes up that puts us at odds with our boss or teacher—we immediate become different, set apart, separated from them. Of course, our lives should be showing that we are living by God's way all the time, but for the most part, we are hidden from this world's view by virtue of living among them.

The parable does not say that Christ finds us in the field and then hides us somewhere else. It says that He gives up everything He has to buy the field. Christ buys the world because that is where His treasure is—hidden in it but in a slightly different way than when He found it. We are no longer hidden in the world because we are living like the world and committing the sins of worldy people. Instead, we are hidden in the world because we are, frankly, just average people, and unless the truth comes up in the flow of our daily lives, we seem just like everybody else.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 3): Hidden Treasure


 

Matthew 13:44  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What happens next? Christ finds us and hides us again, and what is His reaction? Joy! The same sentiment is expressed in Hebrews 12:2.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 3): Hidden Treasure


 

Matthew 13:44  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Acts 20:28 and John 3:16-17 show that the pruchase price for the field, the world, was His own blood—His all. So what is the lesson in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure? Our Lord and Savior, finding the treasure of His elect in the world, conceals and protects them against all the depredations of the enemy. Our being hidden is the protection part. He, with His own life's blood, redeemed us with joy.

This should give us great confidence in our spiritual battles. The greatest battle has already been won, and that is not all. Since we are His treasure, and since He hides and protects us, sanctifying us through His truth—and do not forget that He prayed for our protection from the evil one—we have it better than it seems. We have more going for us than we might think, despite the spiritual battles we still have to fight.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 3): Hidden Treasure


 

Matthew 20:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In a sense, everybody is called to recognize God through the natural world, but the word "chosen" shows that God must personally rescue us from our self-centered blindness. Using the term "elect," Titus 1:1 reinforces the idea that God separates some few from the many who are called: "Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect. . . ."

Romans 9:11, 14-16 confirms God's active participation in this process of separation:

. . . (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls). . . . What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

Satan has done his work so well that even God declares that he "deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). Thus, God mercifully separates some away from their blindness. He directly and personally favors a small number for His purposes. Jesus tells us in John 6:44 that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him. Many other scriptures show that God personally separates a few from the masses of humanity for His purposes.

"Election" is the noun form of the verb "to elect." To elect means "to select, pick, choose, determine, or separate." Romans 9:11 tells us that God personally determines whom He will favor for His purposes. In the example Paul uses, He favored Jacob, but the same is true of all whom God calls.

Such people are named the "elect" in the Bible. Romans 11:5, 7, 28 clarifies this term further by revealing that "elect" becomes the title of a distinct people.

Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. . . . What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. . . . Concerning the gospel [Israelites] are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.

The "chosen" and "elect" are synonymous terms designating the group with whom God is personally working through Jesus Christ. In Matthew 24:24, the term "elect" appears, as it almost always does, as a favorable reference. However, we need to realize that elect does not mean "better than others," though it certainly implies one more blessed because of something for which God is completely responsible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Six)


 

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

Sanctify means "to render or set apart as pure," and when we obey God's Word, we are set apart and purified. Jesus confirms here that everything that God originally authorized to appear in the Bible is truth. This means that every law, statute, illustration, example, and principle is good for us, helping us to have a better life now by building godly character in us.

John O. Reid
The Whole Truth


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens


 

Ephesians 1:3-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

He did not necessarily choose us as individuals before the foundation of the world, but He did decide that He would have a church, a group of people impregnated by His Spirit, a unique Family of His who would be in the image of His Son. The word "choose" suggests taking a smaller number out of a larger. In this case, the larger is the population of the earth, and the smaller number is that tiny remnant God has been working with - His church, His group, His family. The word "holy" implies the choosing had a moral aim in view. In other words, God was choosing a small number out of a large number, and the reason He was choosing this smaller number is to make this small number holy - holy as He is. He had a moral purpose in mind.

The apostle is saying we have been called, elected, become a part of this small group with a definite purpose in mind - that we should become holy. In order for us to become holy, God had to reveal some things to us, which Paul discusses in verses 5-12.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

To someone in the world, "laying on of hands" conjures up thoughts like, "I'd like to get my hands on him for the way he cheated me!" or, "Just wait 'til I get my hands on him!" In sharp contrast, God's use of the laying on of hands symbolizes the bestowal of blessings, authority, and distinctiveness. It is a symbolic act designed to represent God Himself setting a person apart for a holy use, whether for service, healing, protection and guidance, or blessing. "Laying on of hands" is the fifth basic doctrine of God's church listed in Hebrews 6:2.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Laying On of Hands


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and Holiness (Part 1)


 

1 Peter 3:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sanctify means "set apart." It means, in this case, "make God the focus of one's thoughts, of one's approach to life, of the circumstance that one finds himself in."

Is this not what Peter forgot to do in Matthew 16? Satan's disinformation was the focus of Peter's response to Jesus—not God's thoughts. If God's thoughts or words had really been sanctified in Peter's heart at that time, he never would have said what he did. He would have said something like, "Yes, Jesus, I understand. That's what the scripture says." But instead, he disagreed with God. When one sanctifies God in his heart, then the Word of God becomes the focus, not the word of the spirit of this world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

Revelation 18:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When God separated Abraham and his family from his family and his country, and when God separated Israel from Egypt, their sanctification was also geographical. He literally moved them from one place on earth to another. His purpose was to establish a new community of people all involved in the same purpose.

With the church, our separation is not geographical but spiritual, moral, and ethical, while still living geographically within the system that we were born into. We must become separated from the way, from the manner, from the lifestyle, from the attitudes of the system that we were born into and moved (motivated) to make God's way, His manner, His system, His attitudes ours. That is how we "come out" of Babylon.

Abraham and Israel literally moved geographically. Some of us may move geographically, but that is not really what God has in mind. He desires a spiritual, moral, ethical, and attitudinal departure from our friends, neighbors, family, the gang we ran with, or whatever. We are called to be different.

The concept of God's separating, making holy, and establishing a new community, is not lost. The community aspect is merely reserved until a later time. Under the New Covenant, the community is the Kingdom of God. It is a goal we are moving toward as He prepares His set-apart people to enter that new community.

So where are we headed? To the Kingdom of God. Are we headed there geographically? No. We stay right where we are, but we still "come out" of Babylon in a spiritual sense. We are still sanctified by a change of attitude, of practice, and of conduct. Instead of immoral, we become moral. Instead of being unethical, we become ethical. Instead of being spiritually anti-God as Satan is, we become spiritual in the way God is spiritual.

That is how we "come out." We are set apart for that purpose. At this time, geography has little or no part in the sanctifcation of the overwhelming majority of God's people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and Holiness (Part 1)


 

 




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