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Bible verses about Heart
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 35:21

The context is the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and the subject is "spirit." Spirit is what impels and motivates.

We need to understand the structure of verse 21. The second phrase, "and every one whom his spirit made willing" is parallel with the first phrase, "they came, every one whose heart stirred him up." Parallelism is a Hebraic syntactical form used to clarify and reinforce a statement.

The human heart, the blood-pumping muscle, is invisible to sight, being inside the body, but it is the activating and animating source of physical life: "The life is in the blood." The Hebrews knew that, and so they used "heart" in a way that parallels "spirit." In their speaking and writing, Hebrews used the heart to symbolize the seat of the intellect, as well as the emotional and spiritual life. To them, it was also, not only the animating part of physical life, but also the invisible energizer and motivator of activity in the areas of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual life. They simply made a connection between the physical heart and its energizing physical life, and spirit, which energizes intellectual, emotional, and spiritual life.

Thus, in this verse, "heart" and "spirit" are brought together as though they were one, involved in stirring, exciting, or motivating people into action to build the Tabernacle. We could take this one step further to say that spirit was exciting or inclining the mind to be willing to choose to give of themselves.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 3)


 

Psalm 51:10

Heart and spirit are put together so that we understand that David is asking God to clean him up from the inside.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 4)


 

Proverbs 4:23-27

The sense of "keep your heart" is that we need to exert more vigilance in guarding our minds than men do over anything else. Governments go to great pains to guard their installations, plans, and secrets, but God says that it is even more important to guard what we allow to reside in our minds.

Why is this is so important? Because our hearts, our minds, guide and direct everything we do, and if we do not guard and protect them from the ungodly ideas, beliefs, and entertainments, they can cause our spiritual downfall. It is in our minds and hearts that our characters are shaped, and if we allow perverse and unrighteous character to enter, the righteous character that God wants to see in us will never form.

The other instructions that Solomon gives spring from this. He tells us to ponder and control what comes out of our mouth and what we allow our eyes to view. He teaches us to make sure our feet stay on the right path, as well as to work on establishing our habits and manner of living, meaning we should not become involved in insensitive, hasty, careless, and destructive actions. The prophet Haggai puts all this very concisely, "Consider your ways!" (Haggai 1:5, 7).

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Remaining Unleavened


 

Ecclesiastes 8:11

Human nature is so tricky that it can deceive even one who is converted into taking the grace of God for granted. Human nature has the tendency to pull a person further and further into sin. If God does not execute His wrath and justice immediately against such a person, and instead gives him grace, He allows that person an opportunity to continue to live longer so that grace can work in his life and lead him to repentance. "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Jeremiah 17:9-10

Clearly, there is something radically wrong with man. The Bible discloses the seat of man's problem as being his heart, his inner being, including his reason. We are full of falsehood, duplicity, and contradiction. We conceal and disguise ourselves from ourselves.

Perhaps it is in this area that the heart performs its most destructive work; it conceals the exceeding sinfulness of sin and its tragic consequences and seriousness. It deceives us into thinking that it is not so bad or that God is so merciful that He will overlook it. Was it this kind of thinking that preceded the sudden deaths of Aaron's sons, Uzza, and Ananias and Sapphira?

Do you suppose He can overlook an attitude that so casually takes for granted sinful acts that caused the horribly painful and ignominious death of One who was truly innocent, His Son? Does He merely ignore an attitude that cares so little for its own life that it deliberately attempts to bring that wonderful gift of life to an end? Does He just avert His eyes when we do something that forms a part of our character that will prevent us from being in His image? Some people seem to think so, but is there innocence in this kind of reasoning?

Our own heart deceives us into taking sin lightly. But, believe the Bible, God is NOT taking sin lightly because He loves His creation. Sin has caused all the emotional and physical pain and death that mankind has experienced since Adam. Each of us is suffering to some degree from it right at this moment. Does this bring us happiness? Do we love sin so much that we want it to continue? Are we fully aware it may destroy us? Do we want our sinful way of life to end?

There is only one way it will end, and that is to follow Jesus' advice: "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). When we repent and begin controlling ourselves so that we do not sin, it will not stop sin in the world. But unless WE stop sinning, sin will never be stopped. EACH PERSON has to come to see that he is personally responsible for stopping sin in his own life. He cannot wait for others to stop before he stops. The government will not do it for him. Nobody but the individual can stop his sinning unless God takes away the person's chance to repent by putting him to death.

We cannot allow ourselves to be deceived into taking this casually as the world does. They say, "Everybody's doing it." Millions cheat on their spouses. Who knows how many have literally "gotten away with murder"! Many cheat the government of their income taxes and never get caught. But we cannot cheat God. How could we escape the gaze of a Being so acutely aware of what is happening that He sees even a sparrow falling? David writes, "Where can I go from Your Spirit?" (Psalm 139:7). God not only sees the acts, but discerns what is "going on" in the heart (verses 1-4, 23-24).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Innocent Victims?


 

Jeremiah 17:9

When the scripture says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," its ramifications to life are profound. It becomes clearer when we add synonyms: Human nature is dishonest, underhanded, untrustworthy, misleading, crooked, and insincere besides. To appease an appetite or receive instant gratification, it craftily tricks us into discounting plain truths as unworthy or unnecessary.

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


 

Amos 4:4-5

Three cities of Israel had become religious centers and places of pilgrimage: Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba. What is intriguing is that, even in their spiritual indifference, the Israelites loved to go to church! Since Amos indicates that their social lives may have revolved around the church, their purely social, not religious, motives may have been the problem.

This is intriguing in light of Laodiceanism. God says, "You may be coming to church regularly and enjoying it, but while you are there, you are sinning!" The scriptures are unclear about what the exact sins were. They may have been breaking the Sabbath somehow, or they may have been indifferent to the messages they heard. What their sins were makes no difference because God's judgment of their show of religion is that their hearts were not in it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Zephaniah 1:12

Pictured as holding aloft a lamp as He walks, God searches through the city—Jerusalem, Zion—shining a light to reveal everyone to His judgment. No one escapes the judgment of God. Who is He looking for in particular? He looks for complacent men, like the Laodicean. Just as Hosea uses wine to illustrate the principle (Hosea 4:6, 11-12), Zephaniah also mentions wine though it is obscured in the translation: the words "settled in complacency" are literally "settled on their lees" like the dregs of wine (cf. the footnote on this verse, NKJV)!

Again, the prophet speaks of a prosperous people who had deluded themselves into believing that their physical wealth meant that they were equally rich spiritually. As the years passed, their relationship with God had diminished into lip service and complacency. When God describes them saying things "in their heart," He means a reasoning process that happens internally. A person could not see it with his eyes, but the attitude cannot be hidden from the Judge walking the city with the lamp of truth.

In today's parlance we call their problem "sins of omission." Like the Laodicean, the religious Jew of that day was not on the streets committing horrible crimes like murder or rape or armed robbery. These verses speak about the thousands and thousands of ordinary people who were stagnant and indifferent toward their relationship with God. Their problem was not what they did, but what they did not do.

Nor does God accuse the Laodicean of the more apparent sins in Revelation 3. He is angry with him because of what he is not doing! He is not a true and faithful witness, and indeed cannot be, because of his poor judgment in prioritizing his life. In focusing on his selfish pursuits and self-centeredness, he leaves God almost completely out of his life. Still, he bears the name of God, attends Sabbath services, and at least in a superficial way, worships God on the Sabbath. Yet the relationship is growing cold as he fails to seek Him earnestly as in courtship.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 5:8

"Blessed are the pure in heart" is a beatitude expressing a standard that is extremely difficult to achieve. Relating strongly to much of what is written in the Old Testament, this standard is something the Pharisees vainly pursued through an obsessive observance of thousands of cultic rules they and others added to God's inspired Word. Their desire to achieve purity before God is commendable, but Jesus clearly demonstrates that they chose to do it the wrong way, leaving their hearts unchanged. In this vein Paul remarks:

Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:1-3)

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Matthew 5:8

The heart is central to this because in the Bible the heart stands for the seat, source, reservoir, and instigator of our thoughts, attitudes, desires, character, and motivation. It is synonymous with our modern use of "mind," since the mind is where we hold knowledge, attitudes, motivations, affections, desires, likes, and dislikes.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Obviously, the quality of the heart is the issue in this beatitude. Proverbs 4:23 reads, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." Our Father directly addresses the book of Proverbs to His sons (Proverbs 1:7). It assumes our hearts have been purified by His initial cleansing, that we have received His Spirit, and are in the process of sanctification and going on to perfection. Ezekiel explains this process:

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

This does not all take place in an instant. It is a process, and as we have all discovered from Scripture and our own experience since baptism, human nature is still very much alive within us (Romans 7:13-25). Paul confirms this in Galatians 5:17, "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you cannot do the things that you wish."

Human nature, the law of sin within us, is always seeking to pull us again into the defilement of sin, seeking to destroy our hope of sharing life with the holy God. That is why God counsels us in Proverbs 4:23 to keep—that is, guard, preserve, and maintain—our heart. It is very easy to become defiled by lapsing back to old habits. In stark reality, Romans 8:7 and Jeremiah 17:9 show why: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" The normal human mind deceitfully convinces each person that they are good and love God, men, and law. But the reality is just the opposite: It is at war with God and men, and hates God's holy, righteous, and spiritual law. It loves itself and its desires far more than anything else. It is this deceitful, self-centered enmity that exerts constant influence, pulling us into the defilement of sin.

Jesus preaches on this in Matthew 15:16-20:

So Jesus said, "Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man."

It is sin that defiles holiness. In terms of character, of being in the image of God, sin defiles, pollutes, contaminates, or blurs the reflection of God in us. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Matthew 5:21-22

It is essential to understand that Jesus did not do away with laws, but brought to completion the laws that already existed. Likewise, He did not do away with the Old Testament death penalty principles, which act as guides to civil governments. Jesus was a pioneer, not a revolutionary. A revolutionary seeks to destroy the existing order and places himself above conventional standards. A pioneer accepts the restraints laid upon him and moves forward.

Men's governments deal with the end of the act, Christ deals with the beginning. Jesus changed the law's restraint from the act to the motive. For the Christian, merely abstaining from the act is not sufficient. Jesus imposes the positive obligation of the spirit of the law on him. He seeks to prevent crimes of violence by rooting out the attitudes and drives in a person's character that make him kill. The New Covenant law searches the heart without doing away with the Old Covenant letter.

People can sometimes get infantile, sentimental feelings about Christ and fail to understand the practical realities of what He taught. A cursory reading of Matthew 5:21-22 shows that He is speaking not so much about murder but of the steps that lead to it. He traces the roots of murder and war to three major sources: 1) anger, 2) hatred, and 3) the spirit of competition and aggression—in short, the self-centeredness of passionate carnality.

"Angry without a cause" indicates someone vainly or uselessly incensed. It describes a person so proud, sensitive, or insecure that he gets angry about trifling things. He wears his feelings on his sleeve and is easily offended. He then broods on the offense and nurses it into a grudge.

What may make Jesus' comments even more startling is that many commentators feel that the best Greek manuscripts do not include "without a cause." If this is so, Jesus is saying that even getting angry—with or without a "justifiable" cause—puts one in danger of breaking this commandment! The Bible permits anger against sin (righteous indignation) but not anger against another person.

Raca literally means "vain fellow," someone who is deemed shallow, empty-headed, brainless, stupid. People said raca in a tone of voice that conveyed scorn, contempt, or bitterness born of pride, snobbery, and prejudice.

"You fool" implies a moral fool. One using it was casting aspersions upon another's character to destroy his reputation. It is an expression of condemnation, of character assassination.

We should not take the increasing severity of punishment in the examples Jesus gave literally. He is teaching about the sin of murder, and the punishment is the same in each example—death. He gives the gradations to teach the degree of wickedness and viciousness of each sin.

William Barclay, in his commentary on these verses, writes:

What Jesus is saying here is this: "In the old days men condemned murder; and truly murder is forever wrong. But I tell you that not only are a man's outward actions under judgment; his inmost thoughts are also under the scrutiny and the judgment of God. Long-lasting anger is bad; contemptuous speaking is worse, and the careless or malicious talk which destroys a man's good name is worst of all." The man who is the slave of anger, the man who speaks in the accent of contempt, the man who destroys another's good name, may never have committed a murder in action, but he is a murderer at heart.

Brooding anger, contempt, and character assassination are all the spirit of murder. Christ here traces murder to several of its major sources. To continue in any of these states breaks the sixth commandment. Death is the penalty. Christians have to keep the spirit of the law.

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


 

Matthew 12:34

The tongue utters only what is already in the heart (Matthew 12:34). Acts of sin besides what the tongue commits proceed from the same evil heart (Matthew 15:17-20). Matthew 7:16-18 confirms the impossibility of changing an evil heart, as it can never produce good fruit. God must completely replace it with a wholly different nature for it to produce good fruit! Before being changed, it can produce only evil fruit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Seven): The Sin and Trespass Offerings


 

Matthew 15:18-20

The heart symbolizes our innermost being, the source of our words and actions. Today we call it the mind. When God awakens us to some of His great truths, when we at last begin to realize the vital importance of righteousness, there is a blush of first love, and we begin to hunger to apply them in our lives. But what is already in the heart fights almost desperately not to be displaced by the new nature in hope of wearing down our enthusiasm for the truth. Paul illustrates this resistance in Galatians 5:17:

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Why do we not do the things we wish? The answer lies in the extraordinary power of ingrained habits. They are most difficult to break because they have had free sway for so long one unconsciously does what they incite. Paul speaks of this using a different metaphor in Romans 7:23: "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members."

The almost constant persistence of these habits can be depressing. If we seem to be making no progress, life can become downright discouraging. But we must not give in to discouragement. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose except that which is of no value for the Kingdom of God anyway. Discouragement that feeds frustration only makes Satan's work that much easier for him.

There are things we can do to enhance the initial hunger God gives to us. If we were physically hungry or thirsty, we would give every last ounce of strength we had to find food and water or die in the effort. We must be willing to do whatever it takes to make progress in our quest for God's righteousness.

As adolescents, we were unaware that growth was taking place until someone who had not seen us for a while brought it to our attention. Even though we were not aware we were growing, we still made efforts to grow by eating and drinking the things that promote growth. In the same way, spiritual growth may also seem so slow that we think it is not happening. But we should not let that stop us! We must keep on making the spiritual efforts even as we did the physical, and growth will occur. Keep on praying for others, thanking God for His goodness and mercy, asking for wisdom, love, and faith. Keep studying God's Word, filling the mind with

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Luke 4:16-19

Every one of the actions in verses 18-19 has to do with words. Everything that came out of Him came out of an absolutely pure heart. He said, "I'm going to preach the gospel to the poor." The poor are those deprived or powerless, and the reason for His preaching was to give them vision and hope. Moses gave the enslaved Israelites good news of a similar sort: "God is going to free us and lead us to our own land."

Then Christ says, "I'm going to heal the brokenhearted." He means those whose hearts are broken in repentance. It is as if He says, "I'm going to take care of all your past mistakes. I will heal you and give you comfort so you can start out the journey to the Kingdom of God in good spiritual condition."

After this He says, "I'm going to preach deliverance to the captives." He will inspire enthusiasm and give hope for a bright future. He will recover the sight of the blind. He will provide truth, and therefore direction and clear thinking, to people. He will set them at liberty by forgiving them of their sins—and keep them free. He will preach the acceptable year of the Lord—the time is now—and instill them with urgency. Each of these steps is Him working on our mind.

Hardly any of us have moved an inch, as it were, since our calling. Most of us live in the same general area in which we were called. Even if we did move around the country, we are still under the same human government. Our location does not matter to God. He is after our mind. He wants to change the heart until it is pure like His Son's. In all of these functions, God is working on the mind by means of His word, His truth, empowering us through an educational process, and by the addition of His Spirit to make the best possible use of our free moral agency in our lives.

John 1:12 says—in the chapter where Jesus is identified as the Word of God, the Logos, and as the Light of the world, which is the truth of God that points out the way—that we are given the right to be sons of God. The word "right" is an accurate translation, but the marginal reference is better: "authority." Perhaps an even better word is "empowered," which is the Greek word's real meaning. We are empowered to become part of the Kingdom of God. That empowerment has come by means of God's calling, the revelation of His purpose through His Word, and all the other instruction that is necessary for the accomplishment of the great purpose God is working out.

That Word He has revealed to us is pure and unadulterated. It is the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Freedom and Unleavened Bread


 

Luke 10:33-35

The Samaritans were a Gentile people mostly living in Samaria, and Jews thought of them as inferior and hated them. It probably shocked the lawyer to hear Jesus speak well of the Samaritan as the only one who acted compassionately toward the beaten traveler (Proverbs 25:21; Matthew 18:33; Luke 6:27-31; Galatians 5:13-14; I Peter 3:8-9).

"Compassion" in Luke 10:33 comes from the Greek splagchnizomai meaning "to be moved as to one's innards." A person's innards represent the seat of the warm, tender emotions or feelings. It specifically symbolizes the higher viscera: the heart, lungs, and liver, signifying compassion out of the depth of one's character. The Samaritan not only intervenes on behalf of the beaten traveler, he goes beyond the call of duty to ensure the man receives care until he has recovered. He does not contemplate his action but reacts from the pre-shaped compassion of his true character.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Good Samaritan


 

John 4:23

Here, "spirit" stands contrasted to ritual, rite, or form as represented by His mention of the Temple in Jerusalem (verse 20). "Spirit" implies heart, mind, with gratitude, praise, pure sincerity, and fervent desire to glorify God by being like Him. It is these true worshippers to whom God grants His Spirit. They are close to Him because they seek Him.

Such a Christian presses the relationship. He continues to pursue it right to the end because it is good. Reciprocity is here at work: We seek Him, and He seeks us. He gives us His Spirit, and it flows out from us in good works that bring glory and honor to God.

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


 

John 14:27

His use of "heart" reveals that the peace in which He is involved while we are in this world is a state of mind. John 16:33 confirms this: "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace


 

Romans 12:2

The Phillips translation says, "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould," a vivid picture and excellent interpretation of what Paul really meant. If one is not alert and resisting its temptations, the world has the power to form and shape a person. It must be resisted!

In the previous verse, Paul says we need to sacrifice ourselves and strongly implies that such sacrifice involves pain. Babylon avoids suffering at all costs (Revelation 18:7)! If we fail to sacrifice ourselves, the world will have free sway and squeeze us into its mold. The world has an influence on the mind (called "the heart" in the Bible), on our emotions, and on our attitudes, and this influence ultimately shows in our conduct. Conduct begins with our attitudes, with our points of view, with our values, standards, and ideals. If those values, standards, and ideals contradict the way of God, we cannot resist the world's constant pressure to squeeze us into its mold.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Ephesians 5:27

The problem of sin is in man's thinking, which is why God says the problem is in the heart—in the mind. Humans are limited to thinking what is in their minds. If we have God's Word in our minds—along with the Holy Spirit—then there is a good chance that our minds will begin to change, to become circumcised, as it were—to be purified, to become holy as God is holy. God says, "My thoughts are higher than yours, better than yours—greater than the east is from the west." Yet, we have to take steps in that direction to begin thinking as He does.

A person who is not holy will not see God because they will not think as He does. Along the same lines, He will not recognize Himself in any of them! So, until the heart is changed, nothing will change. The change begins by taking in the Word of God on a daily basis and applying it in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 8)


 

Philippians 2:12-13

The apostle is urging us, not to work to achieve salvation, but to labor to carry out the responsibilities that the receipt of God's grace has imposed on us (Titus 2:11-15). Christianity is not merely the passive receiving of forgiveness and the Spirit of Jesus Christ. We are to carry forward what we have freely received from God to its proper end.

We need to add to this another thought found in Deuteronomy 5:29: "Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!" Which of these - the will to carry forward what we have received or the heart - is more important to growth in conversion and leaving Babylon? Which of them is subject to the other? Is the will a self-determining agent, or does something else determine it? Is the will superior to every other faculty of the body? Is it sovereign or servant? Does it govern, or is it subject to the pleasure of other faculties?

Most who consider themselves Christian, believe that, because free moral agency exists, the will is the more significant. Human philosophies also insist that the will governs man. However, this cannot be. To the contrary, the Word of God teaches that the heart or mind is the dominating center of our being.

Consider a circumstance that each of us faces, perhaps many times on any given day. If a person has before him two options, which will he choose? Unless some overriding reason exists, he will choose the one most agreeable to him, that is, to his heart, his innermost being.

What if the choice is between moral or immoral alternatives? If a person is what the Bible calls a "sinner," and he must choose between godliness and sinful indulgence, which will he select? He will choose the latter because he prefers it, all arguments to the contrary notwithstanding.

Why? Because, as Jeremiah 17:9 says, his heart is desperately wicked. Jesus reinforces this in Matthew 15:19-20: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man. . . ."

If one were to present a truly converted person with the same options, he would choose the life of piety and virtue. Why? Because God has given him a new heart:

For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:24-27)

Ezekiel's prophecy is in perfect harmony with God's promise of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Thus, it is not the will that makes the sinner impervious to all appeals through the gospel to forsake his way, but it is his corrupt and sinful heart.

The sinner will not come to Christ and keep the Sabbath and holy days, quit stealing from God, or do any other thing commanded by God because he does not want to. He does not want to because his heart hates Christ and loves sin. Romans 8:7 is proof that human nature is at war against God.

The human will is the faculty of choice, but it is as much subject to the mind as the hands, feet, eyes, and sexual organs. It is a servant of the mind, and in turn, various influences affect the mind throughout the course of life. Proverbs 4:20-23 confirms this:

My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out it spring the issues of life.

The heart determines one's preferences and inclinations, and thus it determines one's choices, subjecting the will to it. Because of this, it is imperative to understand the evil that Satan and his demons have communicated to us either directly or through the course of this world. The world has shaped our pre-conversion heart, and thus it affects our relationship with God.

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


 

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

The phrase "possess his own vessel" can mean a number of different things.

First, the visual imagery corresponds to the theme of being faithful to a cup—to the marriage commitment we have made. It could be translated, "that each of you should know how to be faithful to his covenant in sanctification and honor."

Second, this phrase refers to self-control, specifically of one's own body. The New International Version translates this verse as, "that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable." Paul, in instructing the entire church—both male and female, married and single—shows it is the duty of all to preserve purity with regard to relationships.

Third, this verse refers to the way one acts with regard to a spouse, present or future. The Revised Standard Version translates this as "that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor." I Peter 3:7 likewise refers to the wife as a weaker vessel to which husbands are commanded to give honor.

Verse 6 includes the curious word "defraud." To get the full understanding of what Paul is teaching here, we have to examine part of the God-plane ideal of the male/female relationship.

God's ideal in this is that there is one (and only one) man for each woman, and one (and only one) woman for each man. It is very clear that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16); He hates the breaking of that covenant, as well as the emotional pain that accompanies it, the scars that the children will have to bear, etc. As loathsome as divorce is to Him, however, sexual immorality is one of the reasons He gives for allowing divorce. He repeatedly warns against promiscuity, and He is very explicit that sex and everything that it involves are only allowable between two people who have made the commitment to each other for the duration of their physical lives.

Seeing I Thessalonians 4:3-8 in this light, part of our responsibility as Christians is purity within our relationships. We are responsible to control ourselves ("possess his vessel") in an honorable way without lust or wrong desire. We also have to make sure we do not "go beyond"—cross the line—and defraud or cheat anyone in this matter.

The essence of what Paul is saying here is that even before a man is married, he can cheat his future spouse out of something! A man can be cheated out of the experience of completely sharing himself with a woman, who is in turn completely sharing herself with him, in a way neither of them has experienced before. Even if a man is not yet married, in essence he already "belongs" to the woman that he will eventually marry, and vice versa for the woman. Even when not married, we have to conduct ourselves as though we are!

It is clear, then, that a man's body belongs to his spouse—whether current or future. This is the principle behind the many warnings against physical promiscuity. But it can go even further than that:

Imagine a young man who is determined to remain physically pure, and yet shares the rest of himself—his emotions, specifically—with every girl he meets. Every girl in the county knows his hopes, fears, dreams, the innermost workings of his mind. When he marries, he will have shared everything about himself except his body. How would his wife feel, knowing that all the other girls had already "experienced" him in all but the sexual act?

In the same way, imagine a young lady who remains physically pure but shares her emotions with all the young men she meets. She will have shared parts of her innermost being, things that really belong to her future husband. This is one reason why God tells us, "Keep [guard] your heart with all diligence" (Proverbs 4:23)!

It is just as easy to be emotionally promiscuous as physically promiscuous, if not more so. And the dangers are significant: continually forming emotional bonds, only later to break them; make them again with someone else, then break them; make them, break them. It will not take long before emotional calluses begin to develop, and a person is unwilling to share him/herself anymore because of the inevitable pain that results. When these calluses develop, it is very difficult for any future relationship to be anywhere near as fulfilling as what God intends.

I Thessalonians 4:6 begins to take on an even deeper meaning when we consider that a basic definition of the word "defraud" is "to promise something one cannot or does not intend to deliver." Today, many practice flirting. Along the same lines as emotional promiscuity, this kind of defrauding promises—either blatantly guaranteeing or merely appearing to—one's emotions, commitment, affections, etc., without meaning to or being able to follow through. Flirting gives the appearance of interest, or it may even be genuine interest, where one cannot follow through with his "promises."

In the modern game of flirting, for example, a young man may behave in a manner that does not match up with his true intent. If he is demonstrating in his actions that a certain girl is the one (and only one) for him, yet is unprepared or refuses to follow through with that process, the girl has been defrauded or cheated. The man has been "promising" an emotional bond without following through. No wonder the Bible says, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing" (Proverbs 31:30)!

If we consider that individually we belong to our present or future spouse (physically and emotionally), we can see that certain actions are far from the ideal. That is, if it is inappropriate for a man to interact with a woman in a certain way if he were married to another, it is most likely still inappropriate even if he is not yet married.

This same principle applies on the spiritual level, and the stakes are much higher. Proverbs 19:14 tells us that a prudent (sensible, understanding) wife is a gift from God. When we apply this to the New Covenant church, it reiterates that it is God that chooses who will be a part of the Bride for His Son. God the Father will be faithful to provide a wife that is prudent, sensible, etc., for His Son.

David C. Grabbe
Strange Women (Part Three)


 

1 Thessalonians 5:23

This verse does not define man as a trinity. It is a Hebraism, a common saying among the people, which simply means "the whole" or "every part." A.T. Robertson, in his authoritative Word Pictures in the New Testament, defines it as "every part of each of you." It corresponds to loving God "with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind," but it is somewhat paraphrased and placed in a specific context.

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


 

Revelation 3:15-16

Christ admits the truth about them. "I know your works [obedience and service], that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot" (Revelation 3:15). Why does He wish this? Because if they were either cold or hot, they would be useful to Him. Lukewarm Christians send confusing messages. In this state, being useless to Him, He spews them out of His mouth. All the messages to these seven churches highlight works because they are evidence of how Christians conduct their relationships with God. Works reveal the heart. They are a gauge of one's witness and spiritual state.

Metaphorically, what does lukewarmness signify here? To define it to this point, a rough definition might be "that which gives no refreshment, or that which has neither the cleansing properties of hot water nor the refreshing properties of cold." Modern synonyms of the word "lukewarm" give illuminating insights into its use in this letter: lacking ardor, enthusiasm or conviction; moderate; mild; unemotional; halfhearted; hesitant; indecisive; irresolute; uncertain; uncommitted; unresponsive; indifferent; impassive; languid; phlegmatic; apathetic; nonchalant; lackadaisical.

Recall the hallmarks of Babylon: pride, self-glorification, reliance on wealth, satiety, complacency, avoidance of suffering. Although he has the abilities and resources to be a great witness, the Laodicean is complacent, self-satisfied, bored with or indifferent to the real issues of life. For a Christian, the real issues are faith in Christ and our Christian responsibility. And to do the work Christ has called us to, our loyalty and devotion must be to Him, first and foremost!

A problem arises, however, in "spotting" a Laodicean—these qualities do not necessarily show on the outside. Why? Remember Christ describes a spiritual condition. This is a matter of the heart. What does He want to see in him? He wants the Laodicean to get off the fence—to be one way or the other, cold or hot. Conversely, the Laodicean judges that he is balanced, right in the middle. But his concept of balance is skewed. Why will he not move off the middle? He feels he has it good there! If he moves left or right, he fears that he will suffer! Thus, he has no desire to move.

Then what happens? The Laodicean must compromise. This is interesting in light of what the history books record. Ancient Laodicea's main line of defense was conciliation and compromise! Why? Again, the answer lies in the city's inadequate water supply, making it very susceptible to the siege of an invading army. By having its tenuous water supply cut off, the city was at the mercy of its attacker. With no water, it could hold out for only a short while. The Laodicean solution? They became masters of appeasement, accommodation, conciliation, and diplomacy. Peace at any cost! How did they appease? They bought their enemies off! Laodicea used its wealth to conciliate and compromise.

Christ uses the attitude of the surrounding environment to illustrate that those in the church of Laodicea are affected by the attitudes of the world. Without even realizing it, they behave exactly like their unconverted neighbors. They are worldly. Though they are not out on the streets robbing banks, raping, looting, murdering, mugging old grandmothers, or abusing children, in their hearts they have the same general approach to life as Babylon has. Theologically, spiritually, they hold the same values as Babylon, proved by their works. Spiritually, they become very adept in avoiding the sacrifices that might be necessary to overcome and grow in character, wisdom, and understanding. In other words, they are skilled in appeasing Satan and their own consciences.

Christ says He will spew, or vomit, the Laodicean from His mouth! That is how He views this attitude of compromise with principles, ideals, standards, and truth!

Some may expect Laodiceans to be lazy, but on the contrary they are often workaholics. Satan has foisted this false concept of Laodiceanism onto the church. One cannot become "rich and increased with goods" by being lazy! Their problem is a faulty setting of priorities. They are very vigorous people, but they are vigorous in areas that fail miserably to impress their Judge, Christ. Vigorous in conducting business and other carnal affairs, they are lackadaisical in pursuing the beauty of holiness, which is their calling. They are not vigorous or zealous in maintaining their prayer life with God or in studying. They are not energetic in making the sacrifices necessary to love their brethren or in developing their relationships with others. Nor are they enthusiastic about guarding the standards and principles of God. By erring in the setting of priorities, they victimize themselves.

Over the last fifteen years of his life, Herbert Armstrong expressed deep concern about the church becoming Laodicean. Because of the plethora of activities this world offers, he saw that ultimately they distract us, cause us to set wrong priorities, and keep us from putting our time, energy, and vigor into godly things. He often cited Daniel 12:4 as a telltale sign of the last days: "Seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." Are we busy in this age? Satan is a slick strategist, and he really deceives anyone who allows himself to believe that busyness and prosperity are signs of righteousness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:19

"Zealous" means "earnest, enthusiastic, to seek or desire earnestly, to have an ardent love," in contrast to their spiritual indifference. God desires them to have a burning desire for Him and His way of life. Instead, Revelation 3:14-21 paints a clear picture of people who are successful by the world's standards, yet spiritually deficient. They are devoid of spiritual judgment while rich with material substance. Their problem is an internal attitude: The mechanism that drives them is neither godly nor ardent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 6:9

The word "souls" (psuchás, plural of psuché) also requires explanation, as the Greek word is far too complex in meaning to define facilely as a person's immortal essence, as most Catholics and Protestants are wont to do. Its basic meaning is "breath," and is thus equivalent to the Hebrew nephesh and Latin anima (as in English "animal" and "animate"). One of its uses is as the New Testament version of what Genesis 2:7 calls "the breath of life," that is, the vital force that makes a body live: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [nephesh]." Luke 12:20 and Acts 20:10 use psuché in this manner.

From this basic meaning derives its extensions: as "life" (see Matthew 6:25; John 10:11; Philippians 2:30; Revelation 12:11) and "living being" (see I Corinthians 15:45; Revelation 16:3). In addition, psuché can refer to the seat of emotion, will, and desire, whereas we would use the terms "heart," "mind," "personality," or "being" today (see Luke 1:46; Acts 14:2, 22; Hebrews 6:19; II Peter 2:14). In a similar sense, it can also identify man's moral and spiritual life (see Hebrews 13:17; I Peter 1:22; 2:11, 25; 4:19; III John 2).

Some try to read immortality into certain biblical uses of psuché (for instance, Acts 2:27, 31; II Corinthians 1:23; Revelation 20:4), but the Bible does not support such an interpretation. In fact, in one of these, Matthew 10:28, Jesus confirms that souls can indeed be destroyed (also supported by the Old Testament in Job 33:22; Ezekiel 18:4, 20)! One must consult extrabiblical sources (such as Plato, Xenophon, Herodotus, and other Greek writers) to find usages of psuché that define "the soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death" (Thayer's Lexicon).

How then is this word used in Revelation 6:9? We must remember that John is viewing a vision (Revelation 1:10), a symbolic representation for mortal eyes and minds of future events, not reality. One cannot see a person's actual soul, that is, his being, his life, so what John saw were representations of those who had been martyred. He probably literally saw bodies (Greek soma) under the altar but chose to identify them as psuchás, "lives" or "persons," because, as the next verses show, the vision depicts them speaking and receiving clothing, things a person can do only while alive.

The important point to remember is that John specifically identifies them as having been "slain"—they are dead—and the Bible elsewhere shows that "the dead know nothing" (Ecclesiastes 9:5) and cannot work, plan, learn, or pursue any activity in the grave (verse 10). Thus, John, a Hebrew, is using psuché in the same sense as Old Testament writers sometimes use nephesh, as "dead body," a being that once had life (see Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 6:6; 9:6-7, 10; 19:11, 13; Haggai 2:13).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Seal (Part One)


 

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




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