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Bible verses about Submission
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Who were the dignitaries the filthy dreamers spoke evil of in Jude? I John 1 suggests it was the first-century apostles, even as today some speak evil of those God uses to lead his end-time church. But it does not stop there. They say, "I'll never follow another man," as though following a man is inherently evil. Those people speak either from ignorance of God's Word or by design to get a following for themselves. They are forgetting, however, God's sovereignty over His creation. Is there any place in God's Word—except for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden—when a man is not included in the mix between Him and men?

Though God has occasionally stooped to speak directly to one of His servants, He has always used men as messengers to and leaders of those He was working with, including all the prophets and apostles and even some of the kings. These men may have held high positions, being close to God and at times directly inspired by Him. Nonetheless, all of them built upon what they had learned from those who went before. Thus, they too followed men.

These people may also say, "I'm just as good as he is and more intelligent." They might also say: "I can read the same resources he uses." "I can learn apart from him." "Ordinations don't mean a thing." "I've been in the church longer than he has." "My marriage is better than his." All of these may be true, but they are not the issue. God's sovereignty is the issue! It is whether God put that person in the position to shepherd a flock! A shepherd leads, and the rest, the flock, follows. Obedience to this principle is why Paul repented so quickly after reviling the high priest: "Then Paul said, 'I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people'" (Acts 23:5).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

In the King James Version, "submit" appears only twelve times, "submitted" three times, and "submitting" once. In Greek, the word is hupotasso, which means "to arrange in order under." It is actually a military term, and in the military there is a strong sense of submitting to someone of higher rank. A soldier must arrange himself in order under his sergeant. A sergeant arranges himself in order under the master-sergeants. A master-sergeant arranges himself in order under the lieutenants—and the lieutenants to the captain, the captain to the major, and right on up to the general, who himself must submit to the Commander-in-Chief. Everything is "arranged in order under." Its "bare bones" meaning is that one has to arrange himself in order, that is, systematically, under another.

It appears in various English Bible translations other than the King James Version (and even sometimes in the King James) as "subordinate," "obey," "subject to," "submit," "surrender," "be weak," "afflicted," "humbled," "put under," and—how about this one—"stay in your place."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Sometimes it is difficult to perceive the difference between submission and obedience. There is a difference, and it lies in subtleties that are very apparent to the one who is either obeying or submitting.

Obey simply means "to follow a command"; "to conform"; or "to comply with an order."

Submit, though, means "to yield, or defer out of respect, superior authority, affection, persuasion, or compulsion."

Now we can see that "submit" has a much broader application, and its uses are more definite, specific, and focused than "obedience." Obedience can take place anywhere under any kind of circumstance, but in submission, a person's will is involved, which is very important in regard to the development of character.

Does God want unthinking obedience from us simply because we are complying or conforming to something, or does He want us to think things through and submit because we know fully that it is the right thing to do? Which is better? What if we had a choice between obedience or disobedience to a command, but our disobedience would actually be obedience to God? Would we obey the one who is pressuring us to do something that God says not to do, or would we submit to God in disobedience of the other?

This begins to set up interesting circumstances in a person's life. It is a major reason that the word hupotasso is used rather than the Greek word for obedience, hupakoe—"attentive hearkening." God wants us to know that we are to think matters through and not merely to comply. We are to use our minds and decide to go in a chosen direction because we realize, know, understand, and set our will to submit to the right and good and true.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Genesis 2:18

Unity is better than singularity. Here, God does not say how much better; He just introduces the principle. It remains for other places to show how much better it can be. This is a positive example that God establishes from the very start: being united in marriage is better than being alone. But a marriage's degree of success will be determined by how much the two minds are in agreement.

Nobody—man or woman—has all the answers. That is why Paul command us in the book of Ephesians to "submit yourselves to one another." The idea of submitting to each another is for the purpose of producing unity; two united can work and produce much more than one person can produce by himself. God does not go into all the benefits here, but He assures us that two minds and lives that have become one are better than one working alone.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God


 

Genesis 3:16

The second of Eve's curses deals with her relationship with her husband. It explains why many marriages fail and why many of the rest are unhappy. As mentioned before, human relationships are just as likely to fail as to succeed when men and women rely on human knowledge rather than revealed, godly wisdom.

The NKJV's rendering of the latter half of Genesis 3:16 is typical of many translations: "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." From this we can see that the two clauses cannot be parallels. Instead, they form a statement of action and reaction. Because the woman "desires" her husband, he will "rule over" her.

Yet this does not make much sense as a curse. Why should a woman's desire for her husband cause him to dominate her? Most men would gladly accept his wife's desires for him, causing him to treat her more gently rather than roughly, as is implied in this verse. How are we to understand this?

The key is in the word "desire," translated from the Hebrew tesuqah, which the Brown, Driver and Briggs lexicon calls "unusual and striking" (p. 1003). It occurs only three times in the Old Testament: here, Genesis 4:7, and Song 7:10. It can carry the sense of sexual longing (as in the Song of Songs), but its usage in Genesis 4:7 shows another side, that of a desire to overcome or defeat another: "[Sin's] desire is for you, but you should rule over it." This latter meaning fits Genesis 3:16 better than the former.

Thus, God is saying that a woman's desire will be to gain the upper hand over her husband, but because she is the weaker vessel, her husband will put her down by force, if need be. The curse is that, in the main, women will lose the battle of the sexes. History bears this out. Until the advent of women's rights movements, women were virtually their husband's property, treated as heir-producing machines, given little freedom, and forced to serve their husband's every whim. In many cultures, men bought and sold women like cattle. Some cultures maintain this custom even today.

Only where true Christianity flourishes is there any real easing of this curse. Ephesians 5:22-33 teaches how we can decrease its effects within our marriages—by emulating the virtues of Christ's relationship with the church. Thus, wives are told to submit rather than contend, and husbands are commanded to love rather than dominate. It takes conscious effort to overcome the evil, ingrained habits of 6,000 years of misguided practice.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Two)


 

Genesis 3:17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)


 

Leviticus 1:2-3

The lamb represents passive, uncomplaining submission even in suffering, of following without reservation. Isaiah 53:7 says of Christ, "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not his mouth."

Jeremiah makes a similar statement about an episode in his life: "But I was like a docile lamb brought to the slaughter; and I did not know that they had devised schemes against me, saying, 'Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be remembered no more'" (Jeremiah 11:19). This does not mean he did nothing but that he was innocent of being the cause of the persecution inflicted upon him and that he accepted it without griping about his lot as God's servant.

In Romans 8:36, this symbolism is directly applied to us, "For [God's] sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." God expects us to follow the example of our Leader and others who have gone before us. Having this submissive attitude is not for destruction—even though on the surface it may seem that way—but following is necessary for preparation. Hebrews 5:7-10 reminds us that Christ also had to submit to be prepared for His responsibilities as our High Priest. We must consider following uncomplainingly as a necessary part of being a whole burnt offering. It is "not my will, but Yours be done" in practical application.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Two): The Burnt Offering


 

Leviticus 23:27-32

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

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

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

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

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


 

Numbers 16:9-10

These people wanted more authority, more autonomy. They did not see that God had appointed the authority, and they were actually part of the authority. Some of these leaders came from the tribe of Levi, which was part of the constituted authority within Israel. God had separated them, yet they wanted more. Their desire, the way their pleasure would be gratified, was to be given more than they had already been given.

God has separated us from the congregation of Israel to serve Him. He has made us a part of a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to do the work of the church. By this, we become part of His body. So this is exceedingly important to us, as Paul explains in I Corinthians 12. We are a part of the Lord's body, a spiritual body, and who is the Head? Jesus Christ. If we attack or rebel against another part of His body, we are attacking Jesus Christ! That is the principle involved here. We may not like to see it that way, but it is the truth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

1 Samuel 8:7-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Psalm 34:11-14

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Proverbs 21:1

The Living Bible paraphrases Proverbs 21:1 as, "Just as water is turned into irrigation ditches, so the Lord directs the king's thoughts. He turns them wherever He wants to." This helps us to understand God's sovereignty and history as well. If the thoughts of a king - representing the highest and most influential person in the nation - are in God's hand, and He influences his decisions when it pleases Him, are not all governors of men completely under the Almighty's sovereign control? Clearly, the sovereign Lord of Creation is moving all history in the direction He desires it to go.

It is not hard to comprehend, then, how Paul formulated the concepts he expresses in Romans 13:1-2:

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

This explains why Moses declares that the actions of Korah and his group were a rebellion against God Himself (Numbers 16:11). Nor is it hard to understand why Jesus says in Luke 10:16 that to reject an apostle, one sent by God bearing a message, is to reject Him, and to reject Him is to reject the Father who sent Him.

Government is the overriding issue in the Bible. Ultimately, a son of God need not be concerned if the government of his homeland is legal or illegal, or if it governs appropriately or inappropriately. What matters is that the Christian recognizes God's sovereignty, confident that in His oversight God never sleeps or looks the other way. He is fully aware of whatever happens. Because of the purpose He is working out, this One who knows every sparrow that falls has either passed on what occurs or directly caused it. That is all that matters. With this understanding, we can truly live by faith, knowing God is ruling His creation. That is what we are here to learn and trust.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

Isaiah 1:11-17

Remember to whom God was speaking—His people, those with whom He had made the Old Covenant. He was not rejecting their sacrifices or the keeping of the holy days. He was angry that they went through the rituals without the humility to submit to His great moral law in their daily lives.

We have the tendency to think of worship as something we do at a designated time and in a certain place, usually once a week. However, religion and worship in the biblical sense involve all of life. Christianity is a way of life (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4). Worship is the reflection of God living in the person no matter what he may be doing. It is his response to God, his interaction with Him. Thus, the Bible covers every aspect of life within its pages. A person truly interacting with God is worshipping God whether at church, work, play, or home. He will strive to glorify God in every situation.

Obviously, the people of Isaiah 1 were not at one with God, though they religiously observed the commanded activities. For a person to be at one with Him, what he does in every area of life must agree with what he professes by his attendance at a worship service.

How can those who treat their fellows with contempt, then take their greed, anger, revenge, and hatred into church fellowship, say they are displaying God's Spirit? These characteristics are divisive! How can they say they worship God?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

Isaiah 53:4

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

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


 

Isaiah 66:1-2

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Jeremiah 25:3-4

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

Daniel 11:32

The word translated "know" (Hebrew, yada; Greek, ginosko) is foundational when considering God's sovereignty. Yada appears in Daniel 11:32: "Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits." "Know" indicates a close, warm, and even passionate intimacy combined with head knowledge that produces an "edge" in a person's life. This enables us to trust God and, at the same time, to perceive what He is doing. It is this factor that makes God's Word authoritative to us.

This warm, close, and passionate relationship forms the very foundation of a true, working willingness to submit to His sovereignty. Do we really believe that, because God is holy, His anger burns against sin? That, because He is righteous, His judgments fall on those who rebel? That, because God is faithful, His promises of blessing or cursing are absolute? That, because God is omnipotent, nobody can resist Him? That, because God is omniscient, there is no problem He cannot master? "The people who know their God" do! Because God is what He is, we are seeing His prophecies of the end of this age being fulfilled in the world and in the church, and that translates into tumultuous, difficult, and sometimes scary and confusing times.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

Amos 5:21-24

Israel's religion was going nowhere. The people were not righteous, moral, or just in their dealings with one another, so their playing at religion, though sincere, was despicable to God.

In the list of sacrifices in verse 22, the sin offering is not mentioned, suggesting that the Israelites felt they had done no sin that required forgiveness. This shows that they were not in contact with God; they had no relationship with Him. If they had, they would have been aware where they had fallen short, and they could have repented.

Amos includes three other offerings that the Israelites gave but God would not accept. Knowing what they represent gives us insight into how the people were falling short in their spiritual lives.

The burnt offering teaches total devotion to the Creator. It was completely burned up on the altar, typifying the offerer being completely devoted in service to God. This offering corresponds to the first four commandments, which show love and devotion toward God.

Similarly, the grain offering, also called the cereal offering, meal offering, or meat offering, teaches total dedication and service to man. It was offered in conjunction with the burnt offering. The grain offering typifies the last six commandments, which regulate our relationships and love toward our fellow man.

The peace offering represents one's fellowship upward to God and outward to man. It was primarily given in thanks for God's blessing. When this offering was made, God, the priest, the offerer, and his family and friends shared in a common meal and fellowship, as all these parties ate part of the sacrificed animal.

But from God's reaction to their offerings, it is clear that the people of ancient Israel were not devoted to God or to their fellow man. Nor were they in true fellowship with either God or man, and therefore they could not see their sins. They did not see the holiness of God and compare themselves to it. If they had, they would have seen that they needed to make changes in their lives, but in judging themselves solely against other men—an unwise thing to do (II Corinthians 10:12)—they felt no need for repentance.

They did not understand what God really wanted of them. They may have appeased their own consciences with their church attendance, hymn singing, and sacrifices, but they went home and continued to oppress and cheat and lie. True religion is

1) A relationship with God (Matthew 22:37). Without a relationship with Him, we cannot know Him or understand His purpose for us.

2) Submission and obedience to God as our part of the relationship (James 4:7-8). In offering to make the covenant with the children of Israel (Exodus 20-24), He proposed to them. They accepted their obligation—to obey Him—but they were unfaithful in fulfilling it. As the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) and the future Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7-9), the church must not fail as ancient Israel did.

3) Real love for God's truth (II Thessalonians 2:10). Israel neither loved nor sought God's truth.

4) Moral integrity (I Peter 3:8-12). Living in righteousness and holiness shows love toward God and man.

5) Social responsibility (James 1:27). Israel, as a nation of this world, had a responsibility to ensure that their care of their fellow Israelites was acceptable in God's eyes. The church, a spiritual organism, is not of this world, and as a body, has no responsibility at this time to change society—only ourselves. We must take care of our brethren within the church now, and we will have our chance to help this world in God's Kingdom.

These five points will not "buy" us into the presence of God, but rather they are five proofs that we follow true religion. Remember Jacob's dream. God chooses us and meets us at the foot of the ladder, making a difference in our lives. He gives us a way of life to follow, and we pledge to follow it. Thus, true religion is not a way to God but a way of living from God.

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


 

Zechariah 4:6

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

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

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

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

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

Matthew 5:3

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

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

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

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


 

Matthew 11:29

Both "lowly" and "gentle" imply nonresistance, suggesting someone who is submissive, yielding, and long-suffering in contrast to an assertive, aggressive, arrogant, obstinate, and haughty person.

He goes even further, however, to describe His approach to God. David, a type of Christ, writes in Psalm 22:6, "But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people." God uses animals and insects to describe human traits. A worm is not only lowly but it also has no power to resist anything. Because Jesus never resisted God, He could honestly say, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me" (John 4:34). Those who, without murmuring, subject themselves to the will of God benefit from His almighty rule over all.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sovereignty and Its Fruit: Part Ten


 

Matthew 16:24-26

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

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


 

Luke 5:39

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

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

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

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

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


 

Luke 22:42

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sovereignty and Its Fruit: Part Ten


 

John 16:13

Romans 8:14 refers to those who are "led," not dragged, forced, imposed upon or imputed to. Paul's comments supplement what Jesus says in John 16:13, as some of the verbs in this sentence demonstrate that free moral agency on our part is still involved. "Guide," "speak," and "tell" show that God has chosen to persuade rather than force us. In addition, they give the distinct impression that the followers and hearers will need to do something on their own.

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit


 

John 16:23-24

Is it true that God has given us a blank check to ask anything of Him just as one might ask a genie in a fairy tale? Some may misunderstand this to be the case, but I John 5:14 qualifies what He will grant: "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." Real prayer is communion with God, and what is necessary for communion are common thoughts between His mind and ours.

What we need is for Him to fill our minds and hearts with His thoughts. Then His desires will become our desires flowing back to Him in the form of prayer. James 4:3 confirms this: "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." If we ask amiss, we are certainly not asking according to His will, and we will not receive.

But does not Jesus say in John 16:23, "[W]hatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you"? He most assuredly does, but we still do not have a carte blanche. To ask God for anything in the name of Jesus Christ, it must be in keeping with what He is. To ask in Christ's name is to ask as though Christ Himself were asking. Therefore, we can only ask for what Christ Himself would ask. It is therefore necessary to set aside our own will and accept God's. Jesus says in John 8:29: "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him." If we do as Jesus did, we are sure to receive answers as He did. He adds in John 11:41-42: "Father, I thank you that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me."

We must come away with the realization that prayer is not dictating to God, but a humble and heartfelt expression of our attitude of dependency and need. Because of this, the one who truly prays is submissive to God's will, content with Him supplying his need according to the dictates of His sovereign pleasure. The result of this, combined with the infusion of God's attitudes and thoughts as we draw near to Him, will work to create us in His image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Romans 3:10-18

Quite an indictment of the nature that drives human society! This helps us to understand that even the struggles between nations are really only small problems grown great. Two major powers locked in a hot war may seem more complex than neighbors arguing over a backyard fence or a family quarrel, but the causes are essentially the same.

Are there problems in our families? If we make an honest search for the cause, we will find that one or both sides are lusting for something and competing for it. Either abuse of authority or an unwillingness to submit—or both—will be present because one or both sides want something and feel this is the only way to get it.

Since we cannot serve two masters, lust drives us to serve ourselves to get what we desire. The spin-offs will be insensitivity, inattention, lack of cooperation, gluttony, alcoholism, quarrels, adultery, and lying. Our children will learn to be disobedient, nervous, selfish, and rowdy.

In II Corinthians 11:3, Paul writes that men's minds have been "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." This means that the massive city, state, national, and global problems are merely individual problems multiplied by the population. Nothing will change on earth until individuals are convinced that the solution to the problems begins with them. They first have to work to change themselves before they can begin to expect the community's problems to disappear.

This principle holds true in marriage. If the cause is the same as in individual family quarrels, the solution is also the same. Love, tolerance, kindness, mercy, patience, forgiving, sharing, cooperating, and helping, all done with and through contact with the true God and the power of His Spirit activated and used by the individual's faith, will do the trick.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Rule!


 

Romans 8:7

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

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

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

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


 

Romans 8:7

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

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

Should we expect God to bless us when we choose to take sovereignty and control—we think—to ourselves, that is, when we introduce idolatry into the mix of the relationship? Once we are no longer ignorant of the choices before us and choose to take sovereignty to ourselves, sin becomes exceedingly more serious in its consequences, and we become the idol, because that is who we are serving.

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


 

Romans 8:7

This word hupotasso is translated in the Revised Standard Version and in the New International Version as "submit." This suggests a slightly different shade of meaning. The carnal mind will not submit to God or to the law of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Romans 8:29

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

Romans 9:19-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

Romans 12:1

To paraphrase, he says, "In light of all I have just told you, this is what you are obligated to do." Chapter 12 primarily concerns relationships within the body and to a lesser extent to those outside. Chapter 13 begins by stating our obligation to submit to civil governments, respect those in authority, and pay taxes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover, Obligation, and Love


 

Romans 12:14

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Romans 13:1-2

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

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

Romans 13:1-2

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

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

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


 

Romans 13:1-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Five


 

Romans 13:1-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Should We Obey the Laws of Our Government?


 

Romans 13:3

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 

1 Corinthians 14:34

The New International Version says that women are to be in submission. The Revised Standard Version says that they are to be subordinate, and the Revised English Bible says to let the women keep their place.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Galatians 5:23

Contrary to popular belief, the meek (gentle, NKJV) do not take everything "lying down." Notice Moses, who was the meekest man of his time. He did not hesitate to order the execution of about three thousand of the idolaters who worshipped the Golden Calf while he was with God on the mountain (Exodus 32:25-28). Against evil this meek man was as stern as steel. How a meek man reacts depends upon what he discerns God's will is for him within the circumstance. Because the meek man sets his mind on God's purpose and not his own comfort, ambition, or reputation, he will offer implacable resistance to evil in defense of God yet react with patience, kindness, and gentleness when others attack him.

Jesus set a clear example of this pattern of reaction too. He made a whip of rope, and with stern and vehement energy, overturned the tables and drove the livestock, their sellers, and moneychangers from the Temple compound because they had turned God's house into a common bazaar by their sacrilege. With simple, forthright, firm, instructive answers and incisive questions, He met the twisted, intellectual, carnal reasoning of the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees. Yet as Matthew 12:19-20 reads, "He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench." Peter adds:

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. (I Peter 2:21-23)

A meek person will feel the wrong done against him and feel it bitterly. But because he is not thinking of himself, his meekness does not allow his spirit to give vent to a hateful, savage, and vindictive anger that seeks to "get even." He will instead be full of pity for the damaged character, attitudes, and blindness of the perpetrator. From the stake Jesus uttered, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). This virtue is a strong bulwark against self-righteousness and intolerant and critical judgment of others. Yet neither does it excuse or condone sin. Rather, a meek person understands it more clearly, thus his judgment is tempered, avoiding reacting more harshly than is necessary.

Paul writes in Titus 3:1-2, "Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility [meekness, KJV] to all men." The possibility of conflict is inherent where the subject includes our relationship with governments; it is quite easy to have conflict with those in authority over us. Some in positions of authority take pleasure in wielding their power, as Jesus notes in Matthew 20:25: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them."

On the flip side are those under authority, and this is where Paul's main emphasis is in Titus 3. Humans, by nature, tend to be very sensitive, critical, and harsh in their judgments of those over them. It frequently results in slanderous attacks and quarrels against those in authority—sometimes even in revolutions. Paul advises us to be non-belligerent, considerate, unassertive, and meek. If the fruit of meekness has been produced in either or both parties, peace and unity are more possible because a major tool is in place to allow both to perform their responsibilities within the relationship correctly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Meekness


 

Galatians 5:23

Meekness (gentleness, NKJV) is the by-product of a number of elements, not the least of which are deep, thorough humility and an awareness of the seriousness of what our past conduct produced, especially toward Jesus Christ. These things have tamed the beast, broken our self-will, and made our minds receptive to the pure influences of God's Spirit. This is not natural but supernatural, the product of God's grace toward us and His Spirit working and growing in us. It very deeply, sometimes radically, alters our perspective of God, His purpose, the trials of life, the self, and other people.

This is very important regarding trials because meekness is the opposite of self-will toward God and of ill-will toward men. In his commentary on Matthew 5:5, Matthew Henry writes, "The meek are those who quietly submit themselves to God, to his word and to his rod, who follow His directions, and comply with His designs, and are gentle towards all men" (p. 1629).

Meekness is the fruit of God by His Spirit working in us. Godly sorrow softens our stiff-necked rebellion and our hearts so that we are made receptive to the workings of the Creator to produce His image in us. Therefore meekness, along with the qualities already mentioned, also includes our becoming pliable, malleable, submissive, and teachable. A New Testament term for this condition might be "childlike."

God disciplines every son He loves (Hebrews 12:6), and sometimes His disciplines are very difficult to bear. We have passionate drives within us to flee from them, or at the very least, to grumble and murmur under their burden. But the meek will not do this. They will endure the privation, embarrassment, pain, loss, ignorance, or persecution with quiet patience because they know that God is sovereign over all and He is working in their lives.

Aaron's response to God's execution of his two sons is an example:

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.'" So Aaron held his peace. (Leviticus 10:1-3)

This was a shocking, bitter pill to swallow, but Aaron took it properly, meekly. He was growing. In Psalm 39:9, David refers to a difficult situation he was experiencing, leaving us this example: "I was mute, I did not open my mouth, because it was You who did it."

The supreme example of this is Jesus Christ, who endured horrific trials though He was the Son of God's love. John 18:11 says, "Then Jesus said to Peter, 'Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?'" Acts 8:32 contains more insight on Christ's meek reaction: "He was led [not dragged] as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so He opened not His mouth." He was the very King of meekness.

Meekness enables a person to bear patiently those insults and injuries he receives at the hand of others. It makes him ready to accept instruction from the least of the saints. It allows him to endure provocation without being inflamed by it. He remains cool when others become heated. Meek people seek no private revenge; they leave that to God's sense of justice while they seek to remain true in their calling and meet God's standards.

The spirit of meekness enables its possessor to squeeze great enjoyment from his earthly portion, be it small or great. Delivered from a greedy and grasping disposition, he is satisfied with what he has. Contentment of mind is one of the fruits of meekness. The haughty and covetous do not inherit the earth. As Psalm 37:16 says, "A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Meekness


 

Ephesians 5:21

Submitting is an act of following. Any leader who does not submit to the wise counsel of those he leads is plunging the whole organization into disaster.

John W. Ritenbaugh
'I'll Never Follow Another Man!'


 

Ephesians 5:21

Why is submitting so difficult? There are two basic reasons: education and attitudes. The one occurs because we all want to be free. Everyone wants to have more liberty than he has right now. Liberty is a major theme in the Bible, but we have a problem: We have been mis-educated.

Because of this mis-education, each of us puts a different spin on what it means to be free. Being free does not mean the same thing to every person because the same things are not equally important to everybody. Some people have placed their spin on freedom, because of their circumstances, as a need for more food. Other people want to be free to exercise their sexual passions with a great deal more liberty. Everybody puts a little bit different twist on what he or she would like to be free to do. Why? Peter writes,

. . . knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct [conduct going nowhere] received by tradition from your fathers. . . . (I Peter 1:18)

Tradition is that cultural way, method, or outlook that is imposed on us from birth. The influences of our culture are layered on us like an onion. What layers of culture and therefore, traditions, heaped on us?

The initial layer is impressed on us by the home, the family—or the lack thereof. It begins to set our minds about what is important in life. Then there is a slightly larger segment—the neighborhood. At first, the neighborhood does not have a great deal of influence, but once we begin to expand our lives outside of the home, mother's and dad's influence slowly begin to wane. Our peers in our neighborhood begin to impress upon us a little bit broader cultural layer because we have escaped, as it were, from the home and have now gone out into the neighborhood. We keep layering it out: The city has an impact on us, the state, the region, and then the nation.

Peter said that we have been redeemed from tradition. In the United States, this thing about tradition has become crazy. One of the buzzwords of our time is multiculturalism. We have people in the United States who want to make sure that English is not the official language of the nation because they want to hang on to another culture. It used to be that, when people immigrated to our nation, they strove to conform to the American culture and tradition. They wanted to become full-fledged Americans. So what did they have to do in order to do that? They had to submit to the customs and traditions of their new homeland.

But today there is a powerful drive to get people to do just the opposite, to hold on to the customs and traditions of their former homelands. This process is helping to tear the nation apart! We are slowly being driven toward an absolute confusion of ideas because these cultures cannot agree. We have an environment ready-made for conflict—unless someone submits.

The world is the way it is because Adam and Eve took of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which indicates knowledge from many sources. This was sort of a preview of multiculturalism—knowledge from many sources without the spiritual guidance of God. We have to get God into the picture.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (II Thessalonians 2:15)

God has His traditions too! On the one hand, we have the traditions that God is teaching us through His Word, through His ministers. He has traditions to which He wants His Family to conform. But we have brought traditions with us out of the world. It sets the stage for conflict! The traditions of God and the traditions that we have from the world will not mesh! When we add to this our desire to be free, it makes an interesting mess!

But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. (II Thessalonians 3:6)

The major difference is that His traditions are right and true, and they work! However, because conversion is a process, and because we do not instantly and magically know all of God's traditions, we all bring our former traditions into the church with us. Thus, the church is set up for conflict, which is a major reason why Paul wrote the book of Ephesians. It shows that for there to be unity, both Israelite and Gentile have to submit to Christ because both of their cultures and traditions are wrong!

Again, we have been mis-educated by the traditions of family, society, region, state, and nation. We carry those characteristics with us. Not every one of them is wrong, but they do set us up for conflict with God and with each other. Only the traditions of God are completely right and true and will produce the right things. When there is conflict between the traditions that we have brought in to the church and God's traditions, we have to submit to God because we are not free to do as we please. If we do as we please because we put our own particular spin on what we think liberty is, it will bring us into conflict with God—and that is not nice! It is detrimental to one's spiritual health and one's relationship with God!

The second reason we have trouble is because our attitudes are perverted.

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 [notice what drives human beings: This wicked spirit is motivating 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. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

There is a spirit characterized by desire—lust—to have it our way. Mis-education combined with negative attitudes equals conflict. Human nature is a package of attitudes dominated by the desire to gratify the self. That is why there is so much conflict (see James 4:1-3).

Our desires—whether it is husband and wife in marriage, or in business, or in politics among nations—keep crashing into one another. Conflict will never end until everyone is keeping the traditions of God. That is why we are in the process of conversion. It is our responsibility to convert over to God's traditions so that we stop crashing into one another. We have to overcome this mis-education and this attitude to gratify the self.

Satan is ultimately the source of both of these. We have to recognize that we are still influenced and that we pick up on his broadcasts. It makes submitting so difficult. The adversary is still working and bringing about conflict. Anywhere Satan goes, conflict erupts. He is a master at producing it.

Liberty without guidelines (like laws, principles, doctrines, policies, or even the example of another person) to which one submits (meaning we as individuals submit through self-control or self-governing) will turn into chaos because of the desire for the power to control. The desire to control is what we would call freedom—liberty. That is why there are so many horrible divorces and re-marriages. Submission, whether accepted willingly or grudgingly, is a necessity. It is better to accept it and do it grudgingly than not to do it at all.

We have to understand, then, that there is authority. It may be God, another human being, a law, a precedent, etc., but there will be an authority. It is an unavoidable fact of life. We face it all the time. Everybody lives under authority, and everybody must submit, even if it is only to the laws of nature—there is hardly a person who will not submit to the law of gravity while standing on the edge of a thousand-foot drop. It is that simple. Thus, because we step away from the cliff and not over it, we have submitted to a law. Why? Because we want to preserve our liberty, our desire to live. We know if we break that law—if we do not submit to it—it will break us to bits at the bottom of the cliff.

Notice that this subject has a broad application. Submission does not involve only relationships with God or relationships with other people. Submission occurs in almost every area of life, even in submitting to things we would call common sense or the laws of nature. Anybody who has the mind of God will be looking for every opportunity to submit because that is, paradoxically, where true freedom lies.

Recall John 8:32, where Jesus says, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Is not His implication that one shall be free only if he submits to the truth? Knowing the truth is not enough; liberty comes to those who submit to the truth. If one is standing on the edge of a thousand-foot drop, common sense and the truth of God say that one should obey the law of gravity—unless one desires to give up his freedom to live. True liberty consists of submitting to truth. It is the liberty God wants us to have.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Ephesians 5:21

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Ephesians 6:1-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)


 

Philippians 3:21

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
All in All


 

Philippians 3:21

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Colossians 3:22-25

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Colossians 3:22

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

Colossians 3:22-24

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

1 Timothy 2:12-15

Paul comments on the woman's curse in this passage, a section of Scripture that has come under a great deal of scrutiny in recent years. What is immediately striking about Paul's reasoning and conclusion on Genesis 3:16 regarding the church is that he upholds it! Modern theological thought would reason that the effects of "the Fall" are nullified under Christ's blood, but Paul says, "Not so!" They may be diminished, but not eradicated.

Paul cites the fact that God created Adam before Eve as his proof that God intended the man to lead. He backs this up by showing that while Eve proved subject to deception—thus, she was the "weaker" of the two—Adam, whose sin was sheer disobedience, did not. Thus, Eve's sin establishes that woman should not take the lead from man; that route, by the biblical example of our first parents, generally leads to problems. The apostle concludes that a woman, formed by God as a helper to Adam and more inclined to being deceived, should not teach or lead men in the church.

On the other hand, as Ephesians 5:25-29, 33 plainly shows, Christian men must no longer "rule over" their wives. Loving authority is not domineering or despotic, but humble, caring, gentle, kind, and patient. In the same vein, Christian women should submit to and respect their husbands (verses 22-24, 33). Submission is not manipulative or grudging, but done in faith, respect, and humility.

How, though, is a woman "saved in childbearing"? The word Paul uses for "saved" (sozo) can be used for both physical deliverance from danger and spiritual salvation. How does faith, love, holiness, and self-control prevent or nullify the physical dangers of pregnancy? Conversely, is not salvation by grace? Which salvation does the apostle mean here?

Neither. A third explanation fits the context better. Paul's main concern in this section is proper order within the church. Men, he writes, should pray and teach. Women should adorn themselves modestly and do good works, but they should not be teaching publicly or leading men. Verse 15 explains what their primary concern should be: "childbearing." Thus, it means that much of God's judgment of women will be based on how well they perform their God-given role in bearing children.

To us, this sounds quite misogynistic, but to the Greek speaker "childbearing" (teknogonia) covers a great deal more ground than just "popping out babies." The Strong's Concordance definition shows that the extended meaning is "maternity (the performance of maternal duties)." W. E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, agrees, writing that it "impl[ies] the duties of motherhood" (p. 190). The Twentieth Century New Testament translates this clause, "But women will find their salvation in motherhood."

Paul's exhortation aims to bring marriage and family back to what God intended of men and women before Adam and Eve's sin. Just as God will judge men according to how well they fulfill their roles as husbands (leaders) and teachers, so He will judge women by their performance as wives and mothers. Since salvation, particularly the period of sanctification, is a process that covers our entire converted lifetimes, how well we fulfill our God-given responsibilities within our families will make a difference in God's judgment. Paul says we must perform these duties in faith, love, holiness, and self-control—just as we must do everything else in our Christian lives.

To summarize, then, the apostle simply states that God will judge and reward a woman according to her growth as a Christian within her appointed sphere of influence: her family. God Himself has drawn the lines between the sexes, and we should do our best to fulfill our roles with excellence, not rebellion or complaint. In this way, we will make progress in reversing the effects of the curses in the Garden of Eden.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Two)


 

Titus 3:1-2

The Phillips translation renders these two verses as:

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

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


 

1 Peter 2:13-15

It is easy to feel put upon by government—municipal government, state government, national government—governments in general. They take advantage of us. They put the pressure on us through taxes. They won't allow us to do things that we feel we ought to be able to do. We can begin to feel as though we are being taken advantage of by government.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

1 Peter 2:13

Peter agrees perfectly with Paul (Ephesians 5:21). He agrees with Romans 13:1, where Paul says that all authority comes from God. We submit, not because we are weak, but out of respect for God because He governs everything. He either causes or permits things to take place.

The word "ordinance" is not translated well, as it does not mean "law." It is more closely related to the English word "institution"—"every institution of man." What is more interesting is that this word is rarely used in a context in relation to men. It is always used in relation to God! Peter means, then, that we must submit to every institution of man because it was instituted by God!

Notice this in context. Peter is referring to agencies of the Roman government—the Roman equivalents of the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Defense, etc. He is talking about the Roman equivalents of the Secret Police, the DEA, the NEA, or any other part of the Roman government that may have had some police or administrative power over the lives of Christians. Peter is saying that God permitted these institutions to be organized. We should not look upon them as if God condones them, but recognize that these governmental authorities exist for His ultimate purpose. They, therefore, have His authority behind them.

Americans love to rebel. They love to feel as though they are free and are just as good as anybody else. But it is not a matter of being "just as good as anybody else." In the eyes of God, His people are far better than anybody else! Yet, even those who are far better than anybody else in the eyes of God are still required by Him to submit to the authorities that He has permitted to be in place—whether in the civil government, church government, or family government!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

1 Peter 2:14-15

"Do not render evil for evil, but overcome evil by good." Peter and Paul agree perfectly about our responsibility to government and authority. "Ignorance," incidentally, is a bit more revealing than it appears. It does not indicate ignorance simply because a person does not know, but an ignorance due to obstinacy or a refusal to know. This refers to someone who has set his mind against the truth of God. It suggests that the truth of God was preached in Rome, and the authorities consciously rejected it. They reacted by persecuting Christians.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

1 Peter 2:16

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

1 Peter 2:21-23

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

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

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

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

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


 

1 Peter 5:5-7

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

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

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

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

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

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Presumptuousness


 

1 Peter 5:5-6

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

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

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

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

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


 

1 Peter 5:5-6

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

2 Peter 2:1

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

Find more Bible verses about Submission:
Submission {Nave's}
 




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