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Bible verses about Calling
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 3:7-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God is already calling them, "My people." What had they done? Had they pledged themselves to God? Had they repented? They had not done a thing yet, and God is already calling them His own.

Does He have a similar feeling of possessiveness toward those that He is going to deal with in terms of salvation? Definitely! "They are Mine!" What will He do for His own? Who will hold back the hand of God? Nobody, and that is the story. Israel got out of Egypt because God set His mind to do it. He said, "I have chosen them, and they are Mine" and they had not done a thing yet. In fact, it would be weeks before they even knew that Moses existed anymore than just what they had heard about what occurred forty years before.

There is no indication that Moses had any contact with anybody in Egypt during those forty years. He was not sending letters every couple of weeks saying, "Get ready—I am just about to return now." No, he was in the wilderness learning what it is like to be a shepherd, tending sheep, because he was going to pastor a whole nation of millions of people. He was getting his attitude straightened out. God had sent him to school to prepare. The wilderness was the school of hard knocks for someone like Moses who had been reared in a cushy palace. God probably had to knock a great deal of pride, vanity, and cockiness out of him before He could use him.

Thus, the salvation of Israel was already underway. Whom does the Bible say is in charge? Who does the Bible show to be the one who has the answers to their problems? Who took the initiative? Who is doing the leading? Who is doing the providing? Even at this point, we can see that God is the One doing all these things.

By the time they begin to realize that God is involved, we find that all they needed to do is to agree with what He wanted them to do, and He would do the work to bring them out of Egypt.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unleavened Bread and Pentecost


 

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

This is the original request Moses made to Pharaoh for Israel to be set free. The reason was that they might be free to sacrifice to their God. The same principle applies to us; this is why God has freed us. Recall that Romans 12:1 charges us with the responsibility, once we are free of our slavery to Satan and sin, to be living sacrifices.

The blessing of our God-given calling makes available to us the opportunity to dedicate our lives in service to Him. Its magnificent potential opens the door to positive motivation to counterbalance the somewhat negative sense that obligation to Christ seems to impose. Because He first gives us evidence of His love for us, it enables us to believe Him, to live by faith, and to live a life of self-sacrifice to glorify Him. It has provided entrance to the Kingdom of God.

The just shall live by faith because they know Him in His loving character. This causes any lingering negative sense that human nature has toward being required to keep God's commands to fade gradually into the background, freeing us to obey from the heart in sincere gratitude and joy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift


 

Joshua 24:2-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When Abraham was called, he was literally living in Babylon on the plain of Shinar in the city of Ur. He did not come from a God-fearing family, and there is no evidence that he was converted at the time of Genesis 12:1. Every indication is that he, too, was a heathen. As we shall see, every called person begins in idolatry.

God had in all likelihood begun to work with him, preparing him for his calling by guiding his thinking to begin to question areas of life he had previously accepted without question. Historical traditions indicate that his family was of a priestly caste, and perhaps he was already questioning the validity of the false gods he served.

Acts 7:2-4 clarifies a few things relating to the early period of his calling:

And [Stephen] said, "Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, 'Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.' Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell."

What is included in God's appearance is not known. Whether it was literal, in a vision, or by dream is not explained anywhere else. The element we need to understand is that, as with us, Abraham did not earn his calling. He had done nothing to earn or deserve God's notice.

Isaiah 51:2 adds a further piece of information worth considering: "Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you; for I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him." While Sarah is at least mentioned, no other family members are included within the scope of this statement. It appears that several members of Abraham's family depended on him, since much of his family left with him, yet God makes clear that Abraham was the only one spiritually called.

To how many of us has a similar thing happened? Why does this happen? Nobody knows! It is unanswerable. God shows mercy to whom He shows mercy. He loves Jacob but loves Esau less by comparison, despite their being twins. He accepts Abel and rejects Cain. He chooses only Noah among millions of others to whom He could have given grace.

This we know: At some time before leaving Babylon, God became a living reality to Abraham to a degree no one else near and dear to him experienced. Even amidst his personal self-seeking and self-pleasing, he was motivated to leave his set routines of life. It must have been similar to what Job experienced when he said, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You" (Job 42:5).

Whether the opening of Abraham's mind was gradual or sudden, God had graciously revealed Himself enough to make him move, and he did so to the extent of leaving his homeland and journeying over 1,200 miles, probably on foot or at best by donkey or cart, to a land known for violent weather, especially for its high temperatures.

Abraham was already 70 years old, yet he severed virtually every relationship that matters to normal human concepts of life and well-being. For a long time, stability became a thing of the past, considering that he never again dwelt in a home with foundations. This may seem an unusually hard and harsh requirement. Nevertheless, he embarked on a journey into an utterly unknown future.

What can we learn from this God-engineered example? Undoubtedly, He was testing Abraham, a process we should expect a measure of in our calling as well. We may never have to leave our homeland and set out on a long journey without knowing where we are headed, but it is highly likely that disruptions will accompany our calling.

A primary instruction God wants us to understand from Abraham's calling is that we must make a complete break from our old lives. We must clearly begin to sever ourselves from the old, "inner" life that was implanted in our character by our living according to the course of this world (Ephesians 2:2).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Six)


 

Matthew 10:29-30  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God does everything perfectly and with wisdom and love. He did not carelessly call us. We are not nonentities swallowed up in the vastness of humanity. Matthew 10:29-30 assures us that God's sovereignty is not limited to just big issues; He superintends even the tiniest details. Each of us is so valuable He gave His Son for us. Thus, we need not fear that He will overlook us as we struggle with life. However, we do need to consider much more deeply how valuable our conduct and attitude are to the entirety of the church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!


 

Matthew 10:29-30  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God deemed this promise important enough to repeat in Luke 21:18, where the only difference is the context in which Jesus uses the illustration. There He promises that God will closely watch over us during periods of persecution. The scope of God's attentive care of His creation is so great that even an insignificant sparrow cannot die without Him being aware and approving that such a thing should happen. How awesome!

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)


 

Matthew 22:1-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It should be obvious that the setting of this parable is not "the marriage supper of the Lamb" when Christ returns and marries His bride (Revelation 19:9), but the preparations for it. God has been sending out the invitations throughout history.

Salvation is a process. Once acceptable for the wedding, God does not judge a person at the doors of the wedding supper. Peter says in I Peter 4:17 that judgment is now on the house of God, spiritual Israel, the church. Revelation 11:18 further shows that Christ will not judge His saints at His return, but is coming to reward the saints and begin the process of judging the nations who have not yet had opportunity at salvation—during the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment.

Once a true Christian dies, his judgment is complete. He will either be in the first resurrection and his sins never mentioned to him again, or he will await the third resurrection and death in the Lake of Fire. God does not resurrect him, make him find his way to the wedding supper, and then reject him because he does not have a wedding garment on! If he is qualified for the first resurrection, his salvation is accomplished, and he is automatically part of the bride.

The timing is not of the actual marriage supper, but of a time of calling, of inviting, of evangelism, and even of warning. This parable seems to indicate at least three distinct time frames:

1. When God called a few firstfruits in the Old Testament (see Hebrews 11).
2. Christ's invitation for those who would listen. Most rejected Him, including the leaders of Israel.
3. Those invited by the apostles, continuing to today.

The simple answer to who are the "guests" is that they are the bridal candidates whom the Father has invited wherever and whenever He has seen fit to issue invitations throughout history. Many have been called, informed, invited, offered opportunity, but few are chosen, only 144,000 to be exact. We are invited today to eat at the wedding table—every word of God—but few are responding enough to be chosen. Since "no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44), any opportunity for salvation is by special invitation of the Father, automatically putting anyone called in the "guest" category. He must then don wedding garments or be cast out!

After the choosing, sifting, and sorting, God selects a final number of 144,000, and rejects the rest. He will resurrect and change the chosen ones to spirit when Christ returns. At that point, the surviving "guests" or "invited ones" are the bride!

Jesus could not have used the actual bride in the story, for He would have had to include as part of the bride those who had opportunity at salvation and rejected it, and therefore He would cast away "parts" of the bride. What a grisly analogy that would have been! This way, many are invited by analogy as guests, some of whom He can reject and still not reject pieces and parts of the bride.

Christ uses the analogy or figure of guests, but He refers to those who have the potential to comprise the bride. The invitation is no less than to salvation, yet we have seen from other scriptures that only the bride will be part of the first resurrection, so this parable must fit those scriptures as well as make sense as a plausible story.

Remember, this parable is about the Kingdom of God, not an actual wedding feast. Christ is marrying one bride, but she consists of many individuals. So to illustrate His point, He does not refer to the bride as a bride, but as guests. This allows the Father to "throw some out" before the actual wedding.

Herbert Lockyer, in All the Parables of the Bible, says this parable may tie in with I Kings 1:5, 9 and I Chronicles 29:24. These passages describe a pre-wedding feast, common in those days. In ancient Israel such a feast was given at the beginning of a king's reign, who "married" himself to his people. Today, some people do the same kind of thing. They give a pre-wedding dinner for the bridal party followed by a wedding rehearsal.

Staff
Who Are the 'Guests at the Wedding'?


 

Matthew 22:8-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This third invitation reveals divine mercy offered to the Gentiles in addition to the Israelites. The good and bad represent the whole spectrum of moral character. The king's invitation shows no partiality; God can call both the good and the bad out of this world. But will the person repent, change his ways? Human goodness cannot earn an invitation to be called. So the good and bad are only welcome by invitation from God through the blood of Christ.

Staff
Is Heaven the Reward of the Saved?


 

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

The characters of the parable are the "Bridegroom," also referred to as "Lord," who is Jesus Christ Himself, and, of course, "the ten virgins," representing those called of God (Matthew 22:14; Ephesians 4:1-6; I Peter 1:15; Revelation 17:14). The Bride is not mentioned because she represents the entire church, and the church is not presented here in its entirety. By implication, the Bride is represented in this parable more personally in its individual members (Psalm 45:14). But since the wedding feast could not be held without the Bride, and since five virgins miss the feast, all ten virgins cannot make up the Bride. These ten virgins, then, represent those individuals called into the church at the end time. "The daughters of Judah" are treated similarly in the Old Testament (Lamentations 2:13).

When Jesus gave this parable, the mystery of the church was not yet fully known (Ephesians 3:3-5). In it, the called are seen individually as "virgins" expecting the Bridegroom to come. In this way, the parable illustrates "many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 20:16; 22:14). Interestingly, the apostle Paul refers to the church at Corinth in its virgin character in II Corinthians 11:2, "I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." Virgin character refers to the whole church, but virgins (plural) describes individual members of the body. Jesus makes this parable very personal to highlight the need for each individual's spiritual preparedness.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Ten Virgins (Part One)


 

Luke 14:15-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In analyzing the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15-24), we must consider the two parables that precede it: the Parables of the Ambitious Guest (verses 7-11) and the Feast (verses 12-14). Although all three are spoken at the same time in the same house, Jesus describes three different occasions: a wedding, a feast, and a great supper. It is evident that His entire conversation contains a single, main theme.

First, Jesus tells the Parable of the Ambitious Guest, which is about a wedding and the right and wrong ways of inviting people. He adds to what He had said about the Pharisees loving the best seats in the synagogue (Luke 11:43), making it clear that humility comes before true exaltation. Those not seeking promotion are to have the important places in social life. Those who exalt themselves will be abased, and the humble will be exalted (James 4:10; I Peter 5:6).

Then, Jesus tells the Parable of the Feast, giving his host a lesson on whom to invite to a meal. The key to the parable is, "Lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid." If the host invited only his rich friends, of course, he would expect them to offer him like hospitality, but when people act on this basis, they derail true hospitality. Godly hospitality occurs when one serves others while expecting nothing in return (I Peter 4:9).

The Parable of the Great Supper is Jesus' response to a fellow dinner guest exclaiming, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!" All three parables deal with the general theme of hospitality, but the last adds humility and self-examination.

Jesus pictures God's choice in the kind of guests He desires at His table. The parable shows a progression of urgency as time grows short. The first invitation is conveyed to the Israelites simply as "come." The second, "bring in," is directed at the spiritually poor, injured, crippled, and blind, symbolizing the Gentiles without previous access to the truth. The third, "compel," affects an even lower class of people representing the spiritual fringes of this world.

None of the three invitees has any desire to fellowship, expressing the same willing captivation by the cares of this world. Many fail to realize that the invitation is from God the Father to His children, and failure to respond constitutes willful disobedience. None who so decidedly reject the offer of the Kingdom will be saved (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31). It is dangerous to reject the truth of God. The invitation is full and free, but when people turn willfully away from it, God leaves them to their chosen way of destruction. How important it is to cherish God's offer of the blessings of His way of life and eternal life in His Kingdom and to examine our own dedication.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Great Supper


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John O. Reid
Will Christ Find Faith?


 

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

This drawing is totally beyond our control; it is entirely a sovereign act on the Father's part. Jesus intimates that even He has no say in selecting those drawn to Him to be His disciples.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

John 6:44-45  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

No man - by scholarship, human reason, or intelligence - can comprehend the whole truth of God apart from the Holy Spirit. Only by the intervention of the Spirit are we called to understand it. God, by divine revelation through the help of the Spirit, opens our minds to the "mysteries" of the truth, allowing us to discern what is truly vital to our salvation.

Martin G. Collins
The Holy Spirit


 

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

Man cannot "find" God; only God can initiate a calling. The world, including most of physical Israel, is consigned to unbelief until later in God's plan, yet most modern Israelites would say they know God or believe in Him. Romans 10:12-15 describes how God generally introduces people to Himself, though they may suppose they initiated contact with Him by "calling on the name of the Lord." Men must hear of Him through a preacher - and one whom God has sent, not one that is self-proclaimed.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Faith Toward God


 

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

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

Staff
Biblical Symbolism


 

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

"Draws" paints an interesting word picture. He says that the Father does not merely beckon or advise us but forcefully, powerfully pulls us to Christ, as if by a rope. One commentator says it is an irresistible activity! A man may try to resist, even to the extent of Jonah, but his resistance will ultimately prove ineffective.

When this word is used elsewhere, it describes fishermen dragging a net full of fish into shore or onto a boat. Paul and Silas are dragged into the forum. Paul is dragged out of the Temple. The rich drag the poor before the judgment seats. So Jesus is saying that from beginning to end of the salvation process, the effective power at work is from above, and it is a forceful process rather than a polite and hopeful invitation.

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


 

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

God foreknew us and determined to call us before He ever made His summons known to us. By doing so, He was making a prognosis. We are in this elite group, the called, only because the great God of heaven and earth specifically and personally summoned us by forcibly bringing the good news to our attention so we would be motivated to choose to respond freely to it.

He then led us to repentance, to a personal understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and to an acceptance of it. Then He gave us His Holy Spirit to enable us to obey the obligations of the New Covenant. It is in this combination of factors, plus a few more, that we can begin to understand the possibilities of human life. We see in Christ the pattern of what we ought to be, and the motivation to be in His image begins to arise in us. But this occurs only because God has summoned us to be in this elite group, the firstfruits, to run for this awesome goal.

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


 

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

Our calling, our life in Christ begins when the Father directly interfaces with our mind for the purpose of revealing Himself, His ways, His purpose, His plan, His mind, His attitude, His perspective, His character, His love, His power, His mercy, His forgiveness, and on and on, that we might use our life and free-moral agency to choose life—which brings us back to Deuteronomy 30 and its context.

But most important is that the Father Himself does this. God miraculously joins His own mind to ours! There is nothing mysterious about this at all. He begins to transfer His thoughts, His attitudes, His character—the Spirit of His mind—into our minds. When it tells us, "Grieve not the Spirit of God," he means, "Don't grieve the Father by resisting Him." He is transferring the invisible essence of His mind through the access that we have to Him by means of the death of Jesus Christ. He is by no means kidding about the importance of this process. He is helping us to understand that, even as we are influenced by those around us, unless we are in the presence of God, we will not be influenced by Him. This is why it is so vital for us to share life with Him.

This is where prayer and Bible study become important because we are literally in His presence and He can transfer the essence of His mind into ours. Nobody sees it. When we obey, we are giving Him permission to do this. We submit, using our free moral agency. There is nothing magical about this at all. It occurs when we respond to the influence of the interface that He creates between us when we believe His Word and submit, and when we strengthen the relationship through prayer, Bible study, and meditation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

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

Sometimes a person's calling can be dramatic, sudden, and painfully embarrassing, as Paul's was on the road to Damascus. Sometimes it can be long, drawn out, and accomplished in virtual solitude, like Moses' forty years in the wilderness as a shepherd. Sometimes it can be as uneventful as a child growing up in the church to converted parents, whose children are sanctified already, according to I Corinthians 7:14. However it comes, God is directly and personally interfacing with us to reveal or disclose Himself, as Paul says, "by His Spirit" (I Corinthians 2:10).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 2)


 

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 3)


 

John 6:44-45  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The "something" that bridges the gap between us and God is initiated by God. Jesus plainly says that no man can come to Him unless the Father makes an effort to initiate a bridging of the chasm to effect a fellowship with us. Man will not do it, and indeed cannot do it. Why? Because he is so deceived. Mankind does not even know where to look for God. Satan has done his work of deception remarkably well. He has the whole world confused and deceived, according to Revelation 12:9.

If a man on his own began to look for God, where would he look? How would he imagine God's form or shape? What kind of ideals would he look for? What would the doctrines be like? What would the hope be? What would the purpose be? What would the plan be? Mankind is helpless in this regard; all he can do is come up with idols, false religions with false doctrines and false ways.

It is absolutely essential that God initiate the bridging of the chasm between us, since we would not do it and cannot do it, being too deceived. If it were up to man, then we could hardly expect to have fellowship with God, and even now, under Satan's deception, our fellowship even with other human beings is difficult.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 4)


 

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

John 14:15-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is a prophecy. When this was spoken, Jesus had not yet died, so He had not yet been resurrected and glorified. Thus, the Spirit was not yet given either. He shows another condition (in addition to the ones in John 7:37-39) for the giving of the Holy Spirit: "Keep My commandments."

Notice that the Spirit is described as being with and in. This clarifies the matter of coming to Christ. We have to be called and to respond. If we fail to do the latter, even though God's Spirit is "with" us—leading us to Christ—it will never be "in" us unless we respond and meet the conditions.

For the disciples at the time, the Spirit was with them—in Christ, teaching and guiding. However, a time was coming when it would be in them, literally. This did not occur until Pentecost, in Acts 2. So it is with us: The Spirit is with us before conversion, and it is by this means that God brings us to Christ.

If God did not do this miraculous work, the enmity against Him (Romans 8:7)—coupled with our spiritual confusion—would never permit the process of conversion even to start. Our calling is a tremendous act of mercy on God's part; it is a miracle that we even respond. If it were not for that—for God's mercy in choosing us to be called—we would never make it off the starting block. God has to work a tremendous miracle even to get us to be willing to come to Christ and begin to learn.

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


 

Acts 15:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?


 

Acts 19:32-40  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

They knew they had been called to assemble, but they did not understand the reason for their calling.

"And when the city clerk had quieted the crowd, he said: . . . 'if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly [ekklesia]'" (verses 35, 39). He reminded the people that a legal assembly could be arranged. "For we are in danger of being called in question for today's uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering" (verse 40). To this point the assembly, the ekklesia, was a confused mob of people, aroused in anger against the apostle Paul. "And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly [ekklesia]."

These verses show very clearly that ekklesia by itself requires qualitative modifiers. It can refer to a gathering that is either carnal or spiritual. The context has to define its usage.

Ekklesia, then, is more flexible than the English word "church," transcending its narrow boundaries. Ekklesia is not bound, as will be seen, by race; language; city, state, or national boundaries; corporate laws; space; or time. God may have inspired the writers to use it solely to connote the transcendence of His calling out. Tracing it back to its beginning and bringing it forward to the present will show this fact clearly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Romans 1:19-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God can be understood—even the unconverted can comprehend some things about Him. Despite these verses in Romans 1, the opinions of learned men say that God is incomprehensible, yet Paul is saying that there is a clear testimony. It is a constant and natural revelation of God's power and nature, and that revelation is sufficient for God to hold these people responsible for their conduct.

This natural revelation, however, is not sufficient for salvation because God shows in other places that salvation requires a specific and personal revelation of His word. "No one," Jesus says in John 6:44, "can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day."

But this revelation through what God has created is clear enough for Him to hold people responsible for their conduct. Thus, if His invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature are clearly understood by the visible things that God has made in this world, then all we need to do is to use a little common sense in connection with plain statements from Scripture to find out what God really looks like. So, if God says that His attributes can be clearly understood by the unconverted, and if He is seen in the visible creation in this world, what visible things on earth give us a picture of the invisible God?

The very thing that God Himself says in Genesis 1:26. We—mankind—look like Him.

Is that so difficult? Just understanding this principle, it is no wonder that the Greek gods of mythology reflected mankind in all of our foibles, weaknesses, and passions. The Greeks simply turned the principle around. They turned the image around, reflecting in their gods the things of man.

Other portions of Scripture, like I Corinthians 2:6-16, explain the special, personal revelation of God that helps us to know the things of God, so that we can have the mind of Christ and put on His image. However, we know from other passages that the created human being is but a pale reflection of the reality of God, and that God's creative power is still at work reproducing His image in men. That is, we are a work in progress and still unfinished.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 2)


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Romans 8:29-30  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

No one has been glorified yet but Jesus Christ. God is so confident that He can finish what He has started that He states the promise as though it is already completed.

Verse 29 says, "For whom He foreknew." "Foreknew" applies to that period before His calling of us. Before He caused us to turn to Him, before He actually extended the invitation, He knew us. He was watching over our lives. Who knows how many times He intervened to alter the course of our lives in order to bring something critical about, whether it was our education or saving us from injury or death or disease? Who knows how He may have intervened because He "foreknew" us?

My study Bible comments about the word "foreknew":

This is not simple prescience or advanced knowledge. This knowledge should also not be understood in the sense of being acquainted with, but in the sense of bringing into a special relationship with, as Adam knew Eve his wife.

In other words, foreknew does not merely mean "to be acquainted with" or "to have advanced knowledge" of us. When God foreknew us, He was so close to us that He was sticking right by our side. He had clear insight and attended closely to what was happening in our lives.

God said to Israel, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3:2) Jesus said, "I know My sheep" (John 10:27). In Matthew 7:23, He said to another group of people, "I never knew you."

Foreknowledge is God's determination to bring certain ones into a special relationship with Himself. Since it is foreknowledge, He determined to bring us to glory long before He called us, long before He caused us to turn to Him. He has been personally involved with us. We were not just personally selected, but also personally sought out. Why? We could say "for glory," that is, to be admitted into His Kingdom. This is certainly true, but it was also so that, first, He could have a relationship with us, that we would seek Him.

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


 

Romans 9:9-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Our calling and election by God preceded even the slightest fragment of saving knowledge of God and thus our having faith in Him. Therefore, we could not possibly earn any grace of God, even as Jacob could not. As a vivid illustration for us, God deliberately chose to do this before Jacob could possibly do any works pertaining to salvation.

An almost overwhelming nugget of truth may be gleaned from these verses. If God is revealing here His general pattern which He follows to call all of those He is choosing to save at this time, then it shows that our personal calling and election into His spiritual creation is in no way random but very specific, even as Jacob's was.

Perhaps we, like Jacob was, are called from the womb so that, like him, there will never be any doubt that even the tiniest of our works had a part in saving us. There is precedent for this in Jeremiah 1:5 about Jeremiah's birth and calling; in Luke 1:11-17 about John the Baptist; and in Psalm 139:14-16 about David.

We might think that these were really great personages, people important to God's purpose. They were indeed, but are we not part of the same spiritual Body and part of the same Family as they are? Does not God say that there is no partiality with Him in Romans 2:11? Every part of the Body of Jesus Christ is important. Enough is revealed in Scripture for us to give this serious consideration.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Grace


 

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

Since God's calling is totally unilateral, and since no one can resist His will, why does He find fault in people?

His answer is that God can do whatever He pleases with His creation (verses 20-26). He is the Potter, and the clay cannot legitimately question the Potter's methods or purposes (see Isaiah 29:16; Jeremiah 18:1-11). He, as sovereign ruler over His creation, is under no obligation to tell us why he chooses as he does.

The warp-woof metaphor of Leviticus 13:47-59, the law dealing with leprosy in cloth, reinforces Paul's conclusion. A priest is to examine a cloth thought to be leprous, but make no decision about the disposition of the garment for seven days, during which time it is to remain isolated, separated from the people of Israel (verse 50). After the seven days, He reexamines the suspect garment (verse 51). If the leprosy has spread, "whether warp or woof, . . . it shall be burned in the fire" (verse 52). If the leprosy has not spread yet is still present, the garment is to be washed and isolated for yet another seven days (verses 53-54). If the leprosy has not changed its color after this second week, the garment is to be burned, even though the plague has not spread (verse 55). If the plague has disappeared, then the garment is clean and fit for use after it has been washed a second time (verse 58).

What an example of God's mercy, patience, and long-suffering! He extends mercy on mercy—to a piece of cloth! How much more grace does God show us, the warp and woof of His garment! How much more has He given the Gentiles in offering them spiritual salvation now! How much more will he exhibit when He calls whole nations of Gentiles—when the time is right!

Charles Whitaker
The Mixed Multitude


 

Romans 11:2-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What is important to us here is the principle Paul extracts from the incident. The words "even so then" draw our attention to God's calling and election.

In Elijah's day, Israel was almost totally idolatrous. The prophet challenged Israel, saying "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but Baal, then follow him" (I Kings 18:21). He contested the 450 priests of Baal, and he counted Jezebel, Israel's queen, as a personal enemy. Elijah became discouraged, feeling totally alone in fighting these battles. To encourage him, God tells him He had divinely preserved seven thousand men from idolatry, bringing them to the knowledge of the true God. He had done this, not because they were special, but solely by His influence and agency. Elijah was not even aware of them!

In like manner—even so—there is today a remnant according to the election of grace that God has reserved for Himself, not because they are special, but solely by His influence and agency. There is no indication anywhere that God chose us because we already had faith or any other redeeming quality that forced His hand to call us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Seven


 

Romans 11:29  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is no change. They are irrevocable. Once God uttered it, it would be carried through. Regardless of men, He would work it out so that the gifts, the calling, and the promises that He made to Israel are met.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God


 

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

Our calling would go nowhere beyond a meaningless invitation if God was not faithful to forgive our sins. Without forgiveness and cleansing, there is no access to Him, and thus no relationship with Him blossoms and grows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

1 Corinthians 1:19-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God has purposely chosen this means to put proud and stiff-necked man totally in debt to Him for the most important achievement in all of life. Men have accomplished much and will continue to do many great things. However, verses 19-21 expose why the wise of this world will not submit to God. The reason becomes clear in the phrase, "the foolishness of preaching" (verse 21, King James Version [KJV]). This translation is somewhat misleading in the King James; it should read "the foolishness of the message preached," as in the New King James Version (NKJV). Paul is not saying that the wise of this world reject the act of preaching but that they consider the content of the message preached to be foolish. In other words, the wise will not believe the gospel, most specifically that God in the flesh has died for the sins of the world.

It cannot be overestimated how important humility expressed by faith before God is to the overall spiritual purpose of God for each individual! Each person must know as fully as possible that Christ died for him, that his own works do not provide forgiveness, and that he has not created himself in Christ Jesus. Nobody evolves into a godly person on the strength of his own will. It is God who works in us both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13). No new creation creates itself. So, by and large, God calls the undignified, base, weak, and foolish of this world, people whom the unbelieving wise consider to be insignificant and of no account. He does this so that no human will glory in His presence. On this, a German commentator, Johann Albrecht Bengel, clarifies, "We have permission to glory, not before God, but in God."

The term "in Christ Jesus" (I Corinthians 1:30) indicates that we are in an intimate relationship with Him. Paul then details—through the terms "wisdom," "righteousness," "sanctification," and "redemption"—that God, using our believing, humble, submissive cooperation, will be responsible for all things accomplished in and through us. Some modern commentators believe that, because "wise" and "wisdom" appear so many times earlier in this chapter, the terms "righteousness," "sanctification," and "redemption" should be in parentheses because Paul intends them to define what he means by true wisdom in this context.

God, then, is pleased to save those who believe and to do a mighty work in them. This set Abel apart from, as far as we know, every other person living on earth at that time. What he did by faith pictures what everyone who receives salvation must also do to begin his walk toward the Kingdom of God. Everyone must be called of God; believe enough of His Word to know that he is a sinner who needs the blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins; repent, that is, undergo a change of mind toward God; and be justified, made legally righteous by having Jesus Christ's righteousness imputed to him. This enables a relationship with God to begin, and sanctification unto glorification can proceed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

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

This passage, a New Testament parallel of Deuteronomy 7:7, removes any doubt about the qualifications of those God has chosen to call. Twice in verse 27 and once in verse 28 Paul says, "God has chosen." We did not volunteer. He did not choose us for any skill, ability, or social quality we had. Even those who are "wise," "mighty," and "noble" are not that way through godly spirituality.

Instead, God, with deliberate forethought, chose those who were foolish, base, despised, and nothing. What a rag-tag outfit we are! God certainly has not surrounded Himself with the elite to give Himself an advantage in His battle against Satan! He has given Himself, it seems, a great disadvantage in dealing with us when better people may be readily available.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Seven


 

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

I Corinthians 1:26-29 resounds through our minds as a constant reminder that we are the foolish, weak, base and despised of this world. In these verses God formally states that He has sought no particular advantage in carrying out His purpose by calling us.

This is humbling in both a present and future sense. We seem to fall short when we compare ourselves to those who have accomplished great things or seem to have strong and good character in today's world. When we consider the World Tomorrow and the daunting challenges that will face those reconstructing a world out of the chaos of the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, it is enough to make us feel completely inadequate.

Vanity keeps telling us we are intelligent, beautiful, clever, talented, cultured, and unappreciated, but these verses should pull us back to reality. God's assessment is accurate because when we compare our accomplishments with people in the world, ours fade into near nothingness!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Rule!


 

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

Grace eliminates for us the possibility of any boasting or any self-glory. Regardless of our material accomplishments—no matter how may doctorate degrees we may have, how much money we may have accumulated, or how many good deeds we may have done—no one can boast before God because, as verse 30 says, we are "of Him." Here is the key to understanding this. In spiritual terms, all that we have accomplished has been done only because of what He gave.

If we want to go back that far, it all began when He gave us life. In terms of spiritual life, we have to go back only as far as His calling. We would not have accomplished anything that we have accomplished spiritually—for instance, kept the Sabbath and the holy days—except that God called us and made us understand His truth. He led us to repentance. He impressed the importance of doing what He revealed on our minds so that we would do them, and so forth. The unilateral acts of God begin to pile up—grace upon grace. God is with us in this entire process.

What we have spiritually is only possible because we are "of Him," that is, because of what we have been given. This particular phrase—we are "of Him"—is describing a personal attachment. It is as if we are part of a living body, which we are, since the church is a living, spiritual organism. The picture that is in the apostle Paul's mind is that we are directly connected to Him, even as the toe is attached to the foot, which is in turn connected to the ankle and then to the leg. All of this is connected, and it receives its strength, life, existence, growth, repair, etc. because it is part of the body. So are we connected to God and receive all these things.

What does the toe have to boast for playing its role in the body? Even so, nobody can boast before God because of grace. We have what we have spiritually only because He has given it.

Further, if our spiritual lives and growth are going to continue, we can do this only within this same environment. If the toe is cut from the body, it begins to die immediately. A degeneration begins to occur immediately. We can apply the same analogy to our spiritual life.

So, there is no bragging, no boasting, before God for anything that we have spiritually. We have it because of our personal attachment to the living Jesus Christ.

Why is this important? Because it puts the relationship with God and fellow man into its proper perspective. Many theologians insist that what they derive from the Bible and from their own experiences in life, is that carnally, the underlying drive or motivation in all relationships is self-assertion, that is, the desire for recognition, pride. We want to be known for what we have done. "I have accomplished this." "I built that." "This is my place." "This is my spouse." The self basks in the glow of the fact that he exists and has and does things. It is a drive to be recognized, noticed, praised, rewarded, and even submitted to, because of who one is and what he feels he has done.

This has horrible ramifications for the relationship with God. Jesus' own counsel to His apostles—and His advise extends to us—is to go in the exact opposite direction and make ourselves of no reputation (as He did; Philippians 2:5-8). He says, "Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4). A child is of no value to society because he produces nothing, cannot do anything of value, and in a way, is nothing more than a parasite, as some cultures see children.

Notice, though, that Jesus says that becoming like a little child is the way to real power—in the Kingdom of God. It is the way to gain the right kind of recognition and promotion—the kind that God would give us by grace, not what we have earned on our own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

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

These three verses show that we are predisposed by God's calling to see Him. He predisposes us not only to know His truth, but to know who His servants are, as well. So we can know the things of God. We may not know them perfectly, but what we know is a great source of comfort, security, hope, and direction.

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


 

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

There are experiences, ideas, and feelings in each of us that are so personal, private, and intimate that nobody knows them except we ourselves. And nobody can know these feelings unless we decide to reveal them.

In like manner, only God can tell us about Himself, which is why no man could ever find that knowledge on his own. God has to tell us who He is and what He is like. Does not Jesus say in John 6:44, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day"? Paul confirms Jesus' statement. Unless God chooses to make Himself known, we—no one—will never find out about His true nature.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

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

Understanding I Corinthians 10:11 helps us realize the significant position we maintain because of God's calling. "All these things" refers to God's experiences with Old Testament Israel. These events took place over a span of more than a thousand years and involved millions of people being moved about as God worked out His purpose. As the context shows, His purpose included recording these things for our spiritual benefit. God made massive preparations far in advance of our arrival to provide us witnesses of how to do or not to do things to please Him and prepare us for His Kingdom. Paul's powerful admonition tells us how important we are and why we must flee idolatry (verse 14)!

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


 

1 Corinthians 15:22-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses conclusively reveal that others will be called besides us, until Christ defeats all enemies of God's rule. Because every person who has conformed to the image of Satan is an enemy, God will eventually call all of mankind and confront each one about who their sovereign is! As Satan has deceived "the whole world" (Revelation 12:9), so in His time will God call the whole world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

2 Corinthians 5:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard T. Ritenbaugh


 

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

His Word declares that in His love He predestined us "according to the good pleasure of His will." It does not say that He predestined us according to what He foresaw we would become, that He chose us because we were from a particular ethnic group, or that He picked us because of some mark of intelligence, character, looks, ability, or any other quality. Just as in Deuteronomy 7:7-8, His calling of us occurred out of the good pleasure of His will. He gave to us the same privileges and opportunities as He did to Jacob rather than Esau, and they were extended on the same basis - by God's election following the counsel of His own will and not by our works.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Three


 

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

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

God has predestined us from the beginning! What deep meaning is contained within this! Did God have us planned even before He created Adam and Eve? He might have! It can mean that. Predestination may not be general at all but very specific - that the great Mind that created everything had us in mind so long ago.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 3): Ephesians 4 (A)


 

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

What the Father is doing has nothing to do with the way we are or were. It has everything to do with His initiating and choosing us because He wants us, not because of anything that we may have done.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

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

He could have invited billions of other people, yet He did not—He invited us. This "adoption as sons" is another thing that He has invited us to.

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


 

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

Why does God enlighten us about this? Does He not enlighten us so that we will turn our lives in the direction of the hope of achieving it? Of course. What is the hope of His calling? To attain to the resurrection of the dead—to inherit the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 5)


 

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

God has given us revelation, and He has enlightened us that we may know the hope of His calling and the glory that lies ahead. Then, Paul immediately draws our attention to Christ's power to accomplish those ends.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 5)


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

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

Walking worthily, humility, meekness, patience, and forbearance will lead to submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord.

"Walking worthy of our vocation" refers to the process of sanctification. Our vocation is our calling, and we are called to become holy as God is holy. Paul calls upon us to be balanced in our approach, effectively saying, "Never stop studying." We need to keep the vision alive constantly. This is our common cause—to keep the vision alive and constantly refine it by more and greater understanding.

The second part of Paul's admonition is, "Put it into practice." We must put the doctrines into practice because salvation consists, not only of believing truth, but also using and applying it so it becomes written into our very character. Doing this will require faith and setting the will, disciplining the self to follow the correct path in what we know to do.

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


 

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

Paul clearly links our hope with our calling, which is God's summons into His presence so that we may have a relationship with Him. In the context of the first paragraph of Ephesians 4, the implication is that this hope is a factor that unites us into one body. Our calling is an end to pessimism, negativity, and despair and the beginning of a confident, bright, and optimistic life filled with endless possibilities because this unique hope gives positive expectancy to life here and now and beyond the grave as well.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope


 

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

Because God has spoken to us by His Son, and because His Son is so great and so glorious, and because the subject which is addressed is of such infinite importance to us and to our welfare, He says we ought to give the more earnest heed to it.

Earnest is an important word. It means "abundantly," "more exceedingly," "much more frequently," or "more super-abundant" heed. Paul is saying to pay attention intensely to what God is doing in our lives!

We should pray and study with great care and concern lest we should let God's Word slip, which means to "let it [God's Word] run out"—to leak out like a barrel with a cracked plug. The barrel is full, and it very slowly starts to leak.

Another analogy would be to "drift away." Envision a rowboat tied to a pier, but the rope loosens and falls into the water. Someone on hand could reach down, grab the rope, and retie it. But if this simple task is neglected, then the boat, which had been floating right next to the piling, slowly drifts away. Soon it will be ten feet away, then fifty feet, and in time it is on the horizon where the water is rough. Paul instructs us not to let that happen. Do not let it drift away! Pay attention! If we become superficial in our prayer and study, then our once keen vision of God will begin to blur.

If those without God's Spirit who heard God's Word died in the wilderness as punishment for disobeying God, how much greater will be our punishment for drifting away? To us, God says, "Pay attention!" Our chance for salvation is now! If we are not successful, then our hope is lost! Paul advises us to see the scope of what God is doing in our lives. We must constantly remind ourselves of His purpose for our calling. We must pray and study with that purpose at the forefront of our minds.

John O. Reid
Don't Take God for Granted


 

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

Paul uses "Today" from Psalms 95:7 in its broadest sense: the time we are called.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

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

Notice that Hebrews 11:6 reads, "he who comes to God," and I Peter 2:3-4 uses a similar phrase. "Coming to God" means that one approaches nearer to God, seeks Him, or he walks with Him. It signifies fellowship with Him.

The Bible shows three stages of coming to God. The first is at God's calling when one begins to draw near. It results in justification and the imputing of Christ's righteousness. The second is more continuous, occurring during sanctification, as a person seeks to be like God, conform to His image, and have His laws written, engraved, into his character. The third stage occurs at the resurrection when the individual is glorified.

John 6:44 clarifies our first coming to God: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day." Nobody comes to God, no one seeks the God of the Bible, until he becomes aware of his need of Him. Nobody comes to God until he realizes he is far from Him and out of His favor—in fact, he is under God's condemnation and separated from the quality of life called in the Bible "eternal life." God reveals a measure of these things through His calling.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son illustrates this (Luke 15:14-19). The son did not return or draw near to his father until he was aware of his need. This sense of need motivates us to seek God and draw near to Him. This sense of need is a gift of God's grace working on a person's mind and is initially given when God summons the individual to approach Him.

Ephesians 4:17-24 covers the second coming to God:

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness on their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ. If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Verse 30 adds an instructive, albeit sobering, thought: "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." The Holy Spirit mentioned here is God Himself, who is hurt, sorrowed, by our sinful neglect of His gift. Once He bestows this sense of need, it is a continuous impulse unless we stifle it by neglecting to follow through, as those in the book of Hebrews were doing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)


 

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

Paul first draws attention to the fact that, when God called Abram, as he was called then, he obeyed without knowing where he was to go. His reference is to Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

He had to leave his country, which was essentially Babylon; his family, meaning his ethnic kindred, the Semitic people; and his house, his near relatives. Verse 4 implies that he did not dilly-dally around, waiting for further or more specific directions, but that he responded quickly. It is not said how the Lord appeared to him. Perhaps He appeared to him physically, which would explain his quick departure.

Maybe God prepared him beforehand by revealing His existence to Abram, and this brought about social circumstances that added to Abram's urgency. In other words, God provided proof of His existence, which led to Abram receiving a measure of persecution in reaction to what he was learning. This is not unusual for God to do; He often provides incentive by leading a person through experiences in preparation for a more formal calling later.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Six)


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Seven)


 

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

First, Peter reminds us who we are. The term "elect" is the very ground of our comfort because it means (when connected to the foreknowledge of God) that God knows us personally. A lot of people would like to know that the President of the United States knows them personally, but God knows us!

Some like it to be known that they are known by some person they respect very highly. Whether the person is a millionaire or a billionaire, a well-known athlete or entertainer, or somebody well known in the area, people like to drop names. Peter says if there is any name you want to drop, drop God's. He knows you!

Before God called us, He watched our lives because He wanted to make sure that we would be able to work with Him and that He would not lose us. He is sure that with His help we can make it. He can prepare us for whatever He has in store for us.

That is the ground of our hope. God knows us, and because of this, He will do things for us. He is in the position to do them. All He has to do is give the word. God can open any door anywhere for us. And He will do what is right for us.

Peter goes on in verse 3 to say that He is the Author of an act of mercy by which He has given us a sure hope of being brought into our inheritance. Even though we may have to go through sore trial, it can be done! God has not given us something impossible to do. He has begotten us again to a living hope.

Our hope is living because Jesus Christ is alive! He is our High Priest. And He loves us in a way that we cannot even begin to understand. He loves us so much that He gave His life for us. He loves us so much that He is willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that we will be in His Kingdom. We have access to the highest of all places. We have friends who have names and power so awesome that there is nothing greater.

We do not need to fear what is coming because God is able to bring us through it. If we had to face it ourselves alone, there would be no hope for us.

The apostle calls our inheritance "incorruptible" (verse 4). The contrast is being made between Canaan or Palestine and the Kingdom of God. Which is better?

Lastly, it is "undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation." Kept can easily be translated "guarded," "surrounded," "hedged in." God is watching out for us in a way that He is not watching out for this world. Because we are the apple of His eye, and because He is preparing us for something, Jesus Christ will faithfully discharge His duties as High Priest in our behalf. He is guarding us—protecting us—from the worst of what is going on around us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

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

Peter comments on God's operations in this sphere of His work. The King James Study Bible has an interesting note about the intent of this verse: "This is not merely advanced knowledge of, but when connected to 'before the foundation of the world,' [Ephesians 1:4] it means God determined in eternity past to bring certain ones of His creation into a special relationship with Him and each other at specific times" (emphasis added).

Consider the construction of a large building. As a new building is erected, the workers follow blueprints made by architects, engineers, designers, and draftsmen. Every detail of what is being built—where it sits on the property, perhaps ten thousand individual dimensions, water pipes, sewer lines, specifications of the foundation, composition of the flooring, steel columns, girders, electrical lines, conduit, brackets to support pipes, roofing materials, the color and composition of paints both inside and out, etc.—is determined, designed, and drafted on the plans before the actual construction began.

In principle, is this not a human form of God knowing the end from the beginning? Does this not compare to God appointing beforehand or predetermining when, where, and who does what? If men can do this on a small scale, why cannot God do this on an immensely more massive and complex scale with His vastly superior mind? Is not God's intellect of such magnitude that He can easily do this (Romans 11:33-36)? Does He not have sufficient time to plan, prepare, and bring these things to pass (Isaiah 57:15)? Dare we even think of Him as getting tired or wandering from the purpose He established for Himself (Psalm 121:3-4)?

Even so, do not get the impression that He does not react to how we use our free moral agency. If He did not react, chapters like Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 would not be necessary, for in these chapters He definitely says, "If you do this, I will do that." They obviously depict Him reacting to our choices. He contemplates and judges what we do. However, this in no way negates the fact that the Bible reveals Him as the Prime Mover in His creation, always in control even in what we consider bad circumstances that directly affect us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)


 

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

Before repentance, our "love" for God was like what the uncalled in the world have for Him to this day. We loved a concept of God given us by tradition. We even had some part in devising it because we really did not know Him. If we acknowledge this reality, we will discover it was an idol! In principle, it was tantamount to bowing before a statue as the ancient pagans did. Those in the world cannot enter His Kingdom until they worship the true God, which is why the second resurrection is necessary. It is also why God says in such verses as Ezekiel 37:6, "I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord."

The God of the Bible says in His Word that not a single person has ever known Him until He chose to reveal himself because before this happens no one knows what to look for in God. Both testaments say, "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God" (Romans 3:10-11; Psalm 14:1-3).

Human nature likes to think of itself as possessing certain virtues—that we were generous, kind, good-tempered, sincere, etc.—and that God saw these in us and chose us for His side. How can this be in light of these scriptures? Who is telling the truth? Though some do have virtuous qualities, God does not call such people because of them. Besides, these qualities fall far short of the image into which God is shaping us.

Some people like to say they have always believed God, yet what they believed was an idol, a syncretistic god devised by combining biblical truth and paganism. If what they say were true, Acts 18:27 could not also be true. We believe because faith is God's gift. We have what we have only because we are the objects of His choice. He chose the ones He did simply because He chose them. We can go no further. We have no claim to any praise in this regard. Instead, it should humble us, stun us, into overflowing praise, gratitude, obedience, and zeal that He has given so much to those so undeserving to receive it.

Humility begins when we properly recognize who and what we are in relation to the sovereign Creator and to fellow man, called and uncalled alike. We show humility by the choices we make, and these will largely be determined by our willing recognition of the immense value of God's loving revelation of Himself to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Seven


 

2 Peter 1:10-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

For those who believe in the doctrine of eternal security, II Peter 1:10-11 is a particularly difficult passage to dispute because it exposes the lie in this infernal teaching. It does this by stating a simple command that God asks us to carry out.

The inverse is also true; if we fail to do what Peter advises, then our calling and election are not sure. Beyond that, if we stumble, an entrance will not be supplied to us into the Kingdom of God.

God has done His part. He called or elected us out of all the billions on this planet. He forgave us, granted us repentance, and gave us His Holy Spirit. He opened up the truth to us and revealed Himself and His way of life to us. He made the New Covenant with us, supplying us with spiritual gifts, love, and faith. There is no end to what He has done for us.

Nevertheless, if we do not reciprocate, the relationship He has begun will fall apart. Our calling and election are not certain without us doing our part. We can fall away and not make it into the Kingdom of God.

Why did Peter write this to the whole church (verse 1)? He wrote it because the church at the time was experiencing various apostasies (II Peter 2:3). False teachers were bringing into the church destructive doctrines to turn the people away.

Why would Satan put false teachers in the church if there was no chance for the people to fall away? If church members have eternal security, why waste his time on them? However, Satan himself knows that Christians do not have eternal security, and he tries his best to turn us into apostates. We can fall away!

Peter was writing in this atmosphere. The people in the first-century church were living in a time of false teachings, false teachers, and apostasy, and he needed to warn them. "For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth" (II Peter 1:12).

This, too, begs the question: Why did Peter command them to make their calling and election sure? If they had the truth, and he admitted that they were established in it, why did they have to make it "sure"? In making their calling and election sure, they would be doing the one thing that would keep them on the right path to the Kingdom. Christians keep themselves from falling into deception, error, and sin - keep themselves from apostatizing and losing their salvation - by validating their conversion.

When a thing is validated, it is objectively determined to be genuine, true, real, authentic, or legitimate. How do Christians validate their calling and election? The answer is simple. Jesus describes it in Matthew 7:16-20: We validate our calling and election by producing fruit. Jesus expounds on this in His Passover message in John 15:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away. And every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. . . . As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered. And they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. . . . By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (verses 1-2, 4-6, 8)

This blows the eternal security doctrine to smithereens. Our Savior, Jesus Christ - our Judge - says that if we do not bear fruit, God will take us away and throw us into the fire! If we bear fruit, however, we will glorify the Father and truly be disciples of Christ, that is, true Christians!

We validate our calling by growing in grace and knowledge (II Peter 3:18). If we are showing love to the brethren, if we are serving as opportunity permits, if we are deepening our relationship with God, we can be certain that our calling and election are still firmly in force.

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


 

2 Peter 1:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Each passing day reinforces the fact that we live in dangerous times. Surely, the return of Jesus Christ cannot be many years away! When we consider this along with the greatness of our God-given opportunity, we should be urgently motivated to ensure our calling and election. The very magnitude of the issues involved emphasizes that we must do something now because of who we are—the called—and each person receives only one calling to salvation.

Taking action secures two things. First, it ensures we will not stumble from neglect, forgetfulness, or laziness (verse 9). We live in the age of Laodiceanism. One can easily become lured into and then entrapped in this destructive attitude that produces spiritual blindness.

Second, it ensures that a way will be opened to us into God's Kingdom (verse 11). In the letter to the Sardis church, Jesus clarifies who will be in God's Kingdom:

You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (Revelation 3:4-5)

Our part in salvation is small compared to God's, but vital. Those who are worthy and those who are clothed in white are the same: They are the ones who overcome! It is that simple.

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


 

2 Peter 3:11-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These strong warnings and encouragements apply only to one small and unique group of very special people who are blessed and valuable to God above all on earth (Malachi 3:16-17). They are special and valuable not because they are great, talented, and accomplished in this world, but because God has called them, covered them with the priceless blood of Jesus Christ, and made them His regenerated children.

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


 

1 John 5:19-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The very fact that we know these things—that we are of God, that Satan is the unseen ruler of this world, and that we know God and His Son Jesus Christ—is evidence that we have been given an understanding. This knowledge is not something we have determined on our own; the sovereign God has given it to us to fulfill His purpose in us. And in His sovereignty He has withheld it from others.

Other passages, in more specific areas of our profession, show the uniqueness of our calling to an even greater extent. For example, Paul writes in II Thessalonians 3:1-2, "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have [the] faith." From our own experiences we know his statement is true. Not everyone has faith. It is obvious that some believe and others do not. Even within the church we are at different stages of faith.

Acts 13:48 adds important ramifications to this subject of God's sovereignty, our calling, and faith: "Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." The implications of Luke's words are rather startling. Only those whom God appointed or predestined to eternal life believe the preaching of Paul and Barnabas! The rest, though they also hear the word of the Lord, persecute and expel them from the region. They do not believe what they hear, and it angers rather than converts them. We must conclude that God triggers something in the minds of those He calls, making the Lord's words agreeable, so they will believe what they are hearing.

This agrees perfectly with Ephesians 1:5—"[God] predestined us to adoption as sons by [through] Jesus Christ"—and Romans 8:29-30, which explicitly states the whole panorama of His purpose:

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

God has the whole process planned out, and He is so confident of His ability to accomplish it that He perceives it as already done! He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

 




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