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Bible verses about Character, Building
(From Forerunner Commentary)

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

At the very beginning of the Book, God tells us what He is doing. His project, His work, began with the formation of man as a physical being in the bodily form of God, and it will not end until mankind is in the nature and character image of God.

To accomplish this, God gave men free moral agency to enable us to choose to follow His way and assist in the development of His image in us, since we cannot be in His image unless we voluntarily choose to do so. Then the character is truly ours, as well as being truly His, because it is inscribed in us as a result of what we have believed and experienced.

God is not merely eternal. He is supreme in every quality of goodness, and in Him absolutely no evil dwells. In the Bible, this goodness is called holiness, which is transcendent purity. It permeates every aspect, every attribute, of God-life. God's character is holy, and it flows out from Him in acts of love, making it impossible for Him to do anything evil. This is the state towards which He is drawing us.

Law must be seen in this context. If we tear law from the context of God's purpose, then we can come up with anything we want to say about law. We can say, "Oh, it is all done away," or "We do not need to do this." However, we cannot tear it away from the purpose of God, and there is a reason for this.

Does God abide by law? The creation screams at us that He does! Everything He creates operates by law, and it does so because it came from His wonderfully orderly and organized mind. It is a reflection of what His mind is like because this is the way He is. He is a law-abiding God.

However, we cannot see Him - not literally, with our eyes. It is here that faith enters the picture: We can see evidence of Him, and we can believe what He says. His law outlines the way that He lives. It is the way of this holy, law-abiding God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 20)


 

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

God is so concerned about us fearing Him because, if we fear Him, we will depart from sin. Fearing God is an essential element of godly character. Developing this vital attribute will bring about abundant blessings in our lives. It is an important part of the process of salvation because we must choose to fear God in the face of all the carnal fears before us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fear of God


 

Deuteronomy 4:40   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Obeying the fifth commandment automatically builds habits and character that promote long life (Proverbs 4:10-11). A child trained in biblical principles and God's way of life will avoid recklessness, violence, immorality, and rebellion against authority that often result in premature death.

Martin G. Collins
The Fifth Commandment


 

Deuteronomy 10:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Two parties are necessary to circumcise the foreskin of our heart. In Deuteronomy 10:16, God tells us to "circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer." Here, He commands us to do the circumcising. Compare this to Deuteronomy 30:6, where God says He will perform the circumcision: "And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart." These two passages do not contradict. God cannot create perfect, righteous character—that is the character of the new man—unilaterally. We build that character as we labor with God, cooperatively working with him over, generally, an extended period of time. That is what the Latinate word collaborate means, to "labor with."

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)


 

2 Samuel 12:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah the Hittite. Should God have struck David down as soon as he committed adultery? It could have started even earlier, when David looked at her while she was naked in the rooftop bathtub. Or was it after he planned with Joab to kill Uriah on the frontline? Or was it after the dirty deed was done, when Uriah was actually dead? God did not step in at any of those times. Do we realize how long He waited?

II Samuel 12:15 says that Nathan departed to his house, and the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore. The whole period of gestation went by before Nathan came and said to David, "You've sinned." How far had David fallen from grace during this nine-month period since he had committed adultery? He had conspired to kill. He had actually not done the dirty deed himself, but it was attributed to him. Then he had taken Bathsheba as his wife.

Notice in II Samuel 11:27 that God had already imputed the evil to him; He had judged the matter. "But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord." This is a terrible translation. The margin has it more correctly: "But the thing that David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord." God calls a spade a spade, but He forbore to inflict the penalty for an important reason, which is found in Psalm 51. What did God's forebearance produce in David?

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. (Psalm 51:1-4)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. (Psalm 51:10-13)

What did this episode produce in David? Repentance for sure, and tremendous growth in character. It produced Psalm 51 itself, which is a major piece of writing in all the history of the world. How many countless people has it taught repentance and the building of character? God had greater purposes here than merely punishing transgression. Remember, David did not get away with this, because when Nathan came to him, he said, "From this time on your house is going to have problems, buddy. You're not getting away with this sin. It's going to follow you for the rest of your days, and your childrens' and your grandchildrens'." If the throne of England is any witness to this, the punishment is still falling on David's house. There are problems in the family of David that frequently show up in sexual problems and war. They have terrible dynastic squabbles.

If God blasted everyone at the first sign of sin, we would never have the chance to build character. No one would ever make it into God's Kingdom. We would all be just oil spots on the road. We would never have the chance to repent and say, "God, I was wrong. Lead me in the right way. Please don't take your Holy Spirit from me. If you allow me to live, I'll teach sinners not to do as I have done."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

2 Chronicles 24:18-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jehoiada the priest was not Joash's biological father, but he had acted as a father to him. He had essentially reared this king of Judah.

This passage recounts the murder that Jesus referred to in Matthew 23:35, when He said, "'You murdered [Zechariah] between the temple and the altar." It just shows what ingratitude can do to a person's thinking.

Let us evaluate Joash's character. He was a "fellow traveler." He was a leaner, a clinging vine, who did not have the resources within himself to choose his own course. Whenever he was pressured, he had nothing within to give him strength, so he drooped and spiritually died. Joash bent whichever way the wind blew. He was easily influenced by his peers. He went whatever way the crowd was going. His character reflected the crowd that he had joined. When Jehoiada was with him, and the influence was for good, then Joash was compliant and seemingly a good king. However, when he was with his peers, a bad crowd, he was afraid to buck his peers and his character plummeted. We should also add that he did not repent when he was warned.

In the end, he was assassinated and not buried with the kings (II Chronicles 24:25). Is that not an interesting contrast between him and his "father" Jehoiada, who was not even in the kingly line but a priest. Yet, he was held in such high regard that he was buried with the kings. We must conclude that Joash's character was merely programmed; it had not truly been internalized. It was not genuine.

Faith and character have to be grounded within us and personally held. We should recall Ezekiel 14:14, concerning Noah, Job, and Daniel. Even these three righteous men could save only themselves.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Three Kings Are Missing From Matthew 1


 

Psalm 119:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The second phrase, "who walk in the law of the LORD," defines what is meant by the first phrase, "undefiled in the way." To be undefiled in the way is to walk in the law of the Lord. If we understand that Old Testament laws have application under the New Covenant, then we should also understand that Psalm 119:1 was written for us. The way we can be undefiled in the way is to walk in the law of the Lord.

Walking is an action. It requires effort to get somewhere. It is doing something. There is a teaching out there that proclaims: "One cannot overcome spiritual sin by doing physical things." Yet, this is satanically deceptive because it clouds the clear picture of what God requires. God's laws have a physical application, and they are to be used, to be kept, to be observed in our life experiences - interacting with other people and the rest of God's creation. We have to observe or keep them, we have to "walk" in them, to become sanctified. Put another way, the character God is creating in us does not become ours unless His way is put into practice.

Character can be defined as a set of highly developed traits that are so much a part of our personality that we act according to them without even thinking. Character can be good or bad. What God wants is His character - holy, righteous character. Good character can be defined as highly developed skill in living. Like any other skill, it does not become really useful without practicing it. Skill or expertise does not happen magically. It is the combination of natural ability and education, training, and discipline.

For example, when I sit down at the keyboard in front of my computer, I do not have to think about where each letter is on the keyboard. Why? That information is now written within me, not necessarily because I memorized it but because I put it into practice over many years of typing. That knowledge is now a part of me, and I will never forget it. We can apply this same principle in regard to God and what He has us do. We must do God's Word, or it will never become a part of us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 21)


 

Ecclesiastes 2:22-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Solomon, knowing the human condition was a result of God's purpose, reveals that men can receive something good from his toilsome lot. Verse 26 lists three virtues we can derive from our labors: "For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God."

A person who combines his work with a relationship with God will receive growth in character! On the other hand, a sinner, cut off from God, must endure the drudgery of the struggle, and the rewards of his work would eventually benefit the righteous, not himself!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)


 

Ecclesiastes 3:9-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Men search for the answers to life's big questions. They are aware that there is a Creator God, as Romans 1 so clearly shows. We know from our own experiences that multitudes of the public believe that God exists, but how many of those know the purpose that God is working out? The closest they have been able to come is to believe people go off to heaven when they die. That is not the purpose God is working out. It is so much more majestic, so much more grand and glorious than that—there is no comparison between the truth and that which man has concocted!

In addition, people do not seem to understand the connection between God's purpose and our lives right now. What are we supposed to do with what we understand? They do not understand that God is on a character-building mission, and it requires our cooperation with Him. That is exactly what God through Solomon suggests here: that no one can find out the work that God does from the beginning. Why? Because they do not fear Him! The fear of God must be given; it must be instilled within a person—and it must be instilled by God!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fear of God


 

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

Why is the day of death better? At birth, a person is largely a blank slate - his reputation is nothing (apart from his connection with Mom and Dad), so his name is little more than a mere label. However, at his death he has built either a good reputation or a bad one.

David F. Maas
What's in a Name Anyway?


 

Ecclesiastes 8:11-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Just because the penalty does not occur immediately does not mean it will not come. Be aware! Adam and Eve set aside the teaching of God because they became convinced that the penalty—death—would not occur. When they sinned and death did not occur immediately, they were even more convinced. But death did occur, and other evil things happened in their lives that did not have to occur.

We need to understand this as part of the way God operates; He gives us time to learn lessons, to come to a better knowledge of Him, to understand cause and effect. If God reacted immediately when we sinned, it would be all over the very first time. No building of character could take place, no learning by experience, no growth in wisdom, and no understanding of human nature.

Do not be deceived because the penalty does not seem to fall quickly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception


 

Jeremiah 31:7-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Rule!


 

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

Meekness is rooted in God, and therefore we must pursue it. Because it is a quality of God's character, we must exert effort to make it part of our character. Although we may be experiencing adversity, as the meek we should still appreciate God's good and gracious will.

Martin G. Collins
Meekness


 

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

Uncleanness, or the defilement of this world, can be transferred from one person to another, but holiness cannot. Likewise, righteousness, character, and preparedness for God's Kingdom cannot be transferred from person to person because they represent internal qualities, matters of the heart.

Holy character and righteousness are personal matters, intangibles that accrue from spending long periods of time learning, applying, and honing spiritual skills in the daily experiences of life. It is too late when one needs a skill immediately, and it is not there. The same is true of character: It cannot be borrowed. Perhaps more importantly, we cannot borrow a relationship with God.

This ought to teach us that opportunity knocks and then passes. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the foolish virgins fail to anticipate the possibility that the Bridegroom might come later than they expect. When they are awakened, there is no time to do anything except fill their own lamps. This proves that nobody can deliver his brother. Each person, within his relationship with God, determines his own destiny.

The Laodicean's faith, however, has become perfunctory. He attends church and is involved with brethren socially, but privately, he merely goes through the motions in much the same way as the Israelites did in Amos' day. Absent is the fervency that develops through careful analysis and evaluation of the world and its corrupt promises against God and His holy promises.

God shows that the unprepared will not be admitted to His Kingdom. We should not construe this as a calloused rejection of a person's perhaps lifelong desire, but we should realize that the Laodicean has rejected the Kingdom of God on a daily basis over a long time! God is not unfair in His judgment. He gives the Laodicean what he showed he wanted. God reciprocates in kind.

Perhaps we can understand God's judgment if we imagine what ours would be if we were engaged to someone who never prepares for our upcoming marriage. What person would want a wife or a husband who had no enthusiasm for the marriage? Or perhaps we can compare it to a person who meets someone who would make a wonderful mate, but despite having ample opportunity and mutual admiration, the relationship never develops due to the other's being constantly distracted.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year


 

Matthew 6:19-20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Houses in the ancient Middle East were frequently made of sun-baked clay or loose stones. Because of this, thieves found it comparatively easy to dig through the wall to enter and steal. Thieves represent the ungodly world that continually seeks to take everything we have and return to us nothing but trouble (Isaiah 56:10-12; John 10:10). Moths and rust attack consumable things, but thieves look to steal enduring treasures for themselves.

All three metaphors, moth, rust and thieves, merge into one lesson: the futility of an earth-centered life. Taken together, these three stealthy destroyers demonstrate the folly of amassing earthly goods for their own sake. If no other destroyers come against us, old age is like a moth that ruins our beauty and wholeness, disease is like rust that corrodes our bodies, and death is like a thief that breaks in and steals everything we possess. A grim Spanish proverb says, "There are no pockets in a shroud." We can take nothing with us but the character we have built (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Job 32:8).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Treasure


 

Matthew 7:13-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

True Christianity is not an easy way of life. Yet many of this world's religious groups that call themselves Christian would have us believe that accepting the blood of Jesus Christ is the end of all of our problems.

That claim, though, is misleading at the very least—and an outright lie at the most, depending on the material supporting such a claim. Many influences attempt to knock a Christian off the path entirely or in any case cause him to stumble. A Christian must be discerning, taking great pains to maintain his balance against three primary enemies: his human nature, the world, and Satan. Regardless of his age, social status, education, or gender, these foes dog his heels.

The Christian truly has a fight on his hands, if he is serious about glorifying God by his life and achieving the growth that will give God abundant evidence of his sincerity in seeking Him and being in His character image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)


 

Matthew 18:33   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the New Testament, the Greek word eleeo occurs only once (Matthew 18:33, "pity"), and it means "to be kind," "tender." In contrast, self-pity is the opposite—not tenderness to oneself but an abusiveness that causes great stress and harm. It shows faithlessness by breaking the first commandment in placing oneself higher in importance than the Creator God. This obsession with self interferes with God's development of righteous character in us.

In essence, self-pity is excessive love of oneself. Thus, a simple cure for self-pity is caring for someone else's welfare more than self—in a word, selflessness. Outgoing concern, love toward others is outlined by the Ten Commandments, for they show love toward God and love toward neighbor. The saints who overcome Satan and the world are known by the trait that "they did not love their lives to the death." They are willing to lay down their lives for their friends (John 15:13).

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 10): Self-Pity


 

Matthew 19:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus tells him he must do something, not just believe, to gain salvation. By this, He also tells us what works He expects of us, if we would live forever with God.

We must do good works to be blessed with eternal life, and all who have eternal life do such works. Our Savior expects us to become coworkers with Him in our salvation, as well as the salvation of all mankind. Paul writes, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

God's great law is His way of life! God chooses to live by the Ten Commandments, and they reveal His excellent character. To enter His Family, we also must live by God's law, which helps us to develop godly character. This is how closely eternal life is linked to keeping the commandments.

Staff
Works of Faith (Part 1)


 

Matthew 25:14-30   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Following the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus continues without a break in His teaching to His disciples. This continuity of thought makes the Parable of the Talents (verses 14-30) a fitting complement to the preceding parable. Jesus is careful to balance His instruction by teaching another important requirement for His servants to fulfill prior to His return. He does not want His disciples to assume that the previous parable constituted His entire warning.

In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus reveals the necessity of developing inward character, but in the Parable of the Talents, He combines that need with the encouragement to manifest good works. The virgins teach us the need to watch and be ready; the talents teach us our responsibility to work until His return.

Jesus knew the human tendency to think that, because He was there in person, His disciples did not have to work, leading to laziness and freeloading as a person becomes dependent on the support of another. Thus, He urges His disciples, not only to be ready by watching for His return, but also to work diligently toward it. The first parable portrays the virgins waiting for their Lord, which requires mental and spiritual preparation and watching, while the Parable of the Talents shows the servants of the Lord working for Him, which entails profitable activity.

The wealthy man (referred to as "lord" by his servants) is "the Son of Man," Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:13). His journey into the far country parallels Christ's departure into heaven after His ascension. The servants stand for the twelve disciples and thus all the followers of Christ down through the ages, and the talents they receive represent the spiritual gifts Jesus passes on to His servants. The absence of the lord from his home pictures the absence of Christ's visible presence on the earth, and his return is Jesus' promised return.

The trading that the servants are expected to do during their master's absence suggests the faithful use of spiritual gifts and opportunities for service that Jesus' disciples are expected to practice. On the master's return, he commends the servants, showing what will happen at Christ's return, when each Christian's service will be rewarded. The judgment on the one servant who failed in his trust is a warning against not using or misusing his gifts. [Note: The phrase, "The kingdom of heaven is" (verse 14), is in italics, meaning that it is not in the original, but was added by translators for clarity.]

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Talents (Part One)


 

Luke 6:47-48   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In this parable, Jesus describes one who hears His words and does them as a man who, when building his house, digs his foundation deeply and upon rock. When a flood threatens it, the house remains intact on its secure base.

Jesus' metaphor in the parable is apt: A man's character is like a house. Every thought is like a piece of timber in that house, every habit a beam, every imagination a window, well or badly placed. They all gather into a unity, handsome or grotesque. We decide how that house is constructed.

Unless one builds his character on the rock-solid foundation of God's Word, he will surely be swept away by the flood now inundating the world. As I Corinthians 3:11 says, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Of the two builders in the parable, one is a thoughtful man who deliberately plans his house with an eye to the future; the other is not a bad man, but thoughtless, casually building in the easiest way. The one is earnest; the other is content with a careless and unexamined life. The latter seems to want to avoid the hard work of digging deep to ensure a strong foundation, and also takes a short-range view, never thinking what life will be like six months into the future. He trades away future good for present pleasure and ease.

The flood obviously represents the trials of life. Frequently, the trials of life descend upon us either through our own lack of character or because of events in the world around us. Is our house strong enough to withstand the onslaught of the horrendous events of the end time? Can it even withstand our own weaknesses?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Flood Is Upon Us!


 

Luke 14:26-27   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At the beginning of our conversion, usually during counseling for baptism, we are asked to consider this passage seriously. Verses 26-27 are particularly important because loyalty to Christ is the issue in this context. Jesus makes it plain that, after entering into the New Covenant, our highest loyalty is to Him.

This is extremely important because the character of every life is determined by the loyalty that rules it. Peter confirms Jesus' words in Acts 5:29, saying, "We ought to obey God rather than men." He made this affirmation following Jesus' crucifixion. Persecution was imminent against the fledging church. However, we must understand that the world is always a threat against our loyalty to Christ. Life is a mixture of choices and compulsions, and many of our values have their source in the world. These values exert an ever-present pressure to conform to them, thus we must be aware.

The pressure to make moral choices is the furnace in which character is forged. Our compulsions to make choices come in two varieties: 1) forced, as by a gun to our temple that demands, "Do this or else," and 2) unforced, the pressure of old habits, perspectives, and attitudes engraved in our character, hangovers from our past. Thus, the past and the present both push at us to choose. What we chose determines where our loyalties lie and thus whether we commit idolatry. If we are not thinking carefully, idolatry is an easy sin to fall into.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment


 

Luke 19:22-27   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The nobleman owned the money, but the servants had to trade with it. However, the goal contemplated by the nobleman was not moneymaking as much it was His servants' development of character. Those who are diligent and faithful in serving Christ are commonly blessed in being made blessings to those around them. Jesus commands His disciples to improve and increase their talents, understanding and making the most of them, as well as to increase their capability of doing good and to do it until He returns (I Corinthians 12:7-11; Ephesians 4:7-16).

Jesus emphasizes His return and receipt of the Kingdom, at which time His Father would grant Him all legal rights (I Corinthians 15:23-28). In such a Kingdom, the King must have trusted and competent servants to assist Him in governing. We have the promise that, if we suffer with Him and work with Him now, if we are diligently faithful to Him, we will reign with Him (Revelation 3:21; 5:10; 20:4, 6). God has given us abilities and truth to use and develop, and we are held accountable for our efforts and effectiveness in using them for the benefit of our King and Savior.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Minas


 

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

Having love does not nullify God's law. John, an apostle and close friend of Jesus Christ, emphasized love. However, not once did he say that love nullifies or supersedes the Ten Commandments. Indeed, by keeping the commandments, the love of God is perfected in us (I John 2:5). The Ten Commandments constitute a spiritual law that is inexorable and eternal, producing faith and happiness and righteous character that pleases God.

Martin G. Collins
The Ten Commandments


 

John 14:27   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's peace is a deep, spiritual peace unaffected by the world (Romans 8:6-9). We can have this peace, if we truly trust in God's redemptive plan for mankind, are striving to produce His character and are obedient to His Word.

Martin G. Collins
Peace


 

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

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

John O. Reid
The Whole Truth


 

Acts 20:32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The "word of His grace" in this context is most specifically the whole gospel. Notice especially that Paul says he is committing us to the word of His grace which is able to build us up, to edify us. We could think of it edifying us in terms of building a muscle or of erecting a structure. To put it another way, the word of grace matures us. We usually think of maturity, which is a building of personality and character, as a growth from childhood and all of its weaknesses to a stable adult. Another way of putting it would be, "The word of grace enables us to go on to perfection."

What is beginning to open up here is something very beautiful. Grace does not end when God forgives us. The grace of God continues to add to what was originally given, because if He stopped giving things with the forgiveness of sin, that would be the end of growth; it would stop right there. Forgiveness is only the beginning portion of a process, for God keeps giving us grace to enable us to mature, to grow in grace and knowledge (II Peter 3:18), to grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). We would never get there unless God continued to pour out His grace on us.

The apostle Paul shows grace to be something that is dynamic and active. Remember Jesus said, "The words that I speak to you [the word of grace] are spirit and they are life." There is power in them!

What is the gospel? It is words. It is good news, but it is composed of words of power. This word confers a blessing that is unique, that enables us to mature spiritually. Words—any words—have the power to build or to destroy, to encourage or discourage. They can either be true or they can be lies. They can inspire or they can sadden and depress. It all depends on how they are used, the attitude in which they are used, and how they are arranged.

The gospel is an arrangement of true words that fill us with purpose for living and show us how that purpose can be obtained. It comes completely as a gift; we are favored. The word of grace brings delight and salvation—an arrangement of words given in a loving attitude by a loving God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

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

Romans 5:5 says, "The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit." Thus, we did not have the love of God until we had His Spirit. Without God's Spirit, we could not possibly keep His commandments, for love is "keep[ing] His commandments" (I John 5:3). If we cannot keep His commandments, God cannot create His character in us, and He will not allow us to enter His Kingdom. Therefore, anyone not having His Spirit will not be there.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Final Harvest


 

Romans 5:6-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sanctification and justification are not the same. They are, however, different processes within the same purpose, and they are definitely related issues. They both begin at the same time: when we are forgiven, justified, and sanctified. Justification has to do with aligning us with the standard of God's law that in turn permits us into God's presence. We will never be any more justified than we are at that moment; justification does not increase as we move through our Christian lives.

Some believe that Jesus Christ lived and died only to provide justification and forgiveness of our sins. However, those who believe this are selling His awesome work short. As wonderful as His work is in providing us with justification, His labors in behalf of our salvation do not end there. Notice that verse 10 says we are "saved by His life." Jesus rose from the dead to continue our salvation as our High Priest. God's work of spiritual creation does not end with justification, for at that point we are far from complete. We are completed and saved because of Christ's labor as our Mediator and High Priest only because He is alive.

Sanctification unto holiness continues the process. Hebrews 2:11 states that Jesus is "He who sanctifies," and those of us who have come under His blood are called "those who are sanctified." Note these verses carefully:

» John 17:19: And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

» Ephesians 5:25-26: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.

» Colossians 1:21-22: And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. . . .

» Titus 2:14: . . . who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Sanctification has a definite purpose that is different from justification. In one respect, justification—as important as it is—only gets the salvation process started. Sanctification takes a person much farther along the road toward completion. It occurs within the experiences of life generally over the many years of one's relationship with the Father and Son. How long did God work with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and the apostles to prepare them for His Kingdom? By comparison, will our perfection be achieved in just a moment?

Sanctification is the inward spiritual work that Jesus Christ works in us. Notice His promise, made on the eve of His crucifixion, in John 14:18: "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." Moments later, when asked by Judas, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?" (verse 22), Jesus replies, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (verse 23). These clear statements show that Jesus would continue His work with them following His resurrection.

As our High Priest, He continues that work in us after our justification. He not only washes us of our sins by means of His blood, but He also labors to separate us from our natural love of sin and the world. He works to instill in us a new principle of life, making us holy in our actions and reactions within the experiences of life. This makes possible a godly witness before men, and at the same time, prepares us for living in the Kingdom of God.

If God's only purpose was to save us, He could end the salvation process with our justification. Certainly, His purpose is to save us, but His goal is to save us with character that is the image of His own.

Notice Hebrews 6:1: "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God." This verse and those immediately following confirm that, at the time of justification, we are not perfect or complete. Justification is an important beginning, but God intends to complete the process of spiritual maturation that He began with our calling. When sanctification begins, our Christian walk truly begins in earnest.

Sanctification, then, is the outcome of God's calling, faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, justification, and our becoming regenerated by God through receiving His Spirit. This combination begins life in the Spirit, as Paul explains in Romans 8:9: "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."

At this point in Christian life, the principles of Christianity must be practically applied to everyday life. At this juncture, it might help to recall what righteousness is. Psalm 119:172 defines it succinctly: "My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness." The apostle John adds to our understanding in I John 3:4: "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." Both rectitude and love concisely characterize the same standards, the Ten Commandments, and we are required to labor to perform both.

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

1 Corinthians 10:13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When we are tempted, God will help. He will provide a way out, not to avoid temptation, but to meet it successfully and to stand firm under it. This is testing as permitted and controlled by God to produce sterling character that is a reflection of His own.

God is faithful and will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear and successfully conquer. He challenges us to meet the temptations that spring up before us on the road of life, beat them down, learn the lessons, and move on to receive the crown of life. He promises to be with us every step of the way. We can be

... confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ... (Philippians 1:6),

when He will give us our reward (Revelation 22:12).

Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?


 

2 Corinthians 3:12-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The veil Paul speaks of is the carnality of a deceived mind formed and shaped in the world's Satan-manipulated cultures. It is so antagonistic to the true God and His Word (Romans 8:7) that it fights the very approach of God to heal them through a great, freely given gift, just as the first-century Jews opposed and rejected Christ.

However, be aware that the miraculous removal of this veil of blindness by God, through the wonderful gifts of His Spirit and of a great hope, also places an obligation on us. With the blindness gone, we are granted the ability to choose between God's way and the world's way for the first time in our lives. Choosing to submit to God provides our witness of God, as well as being the means of building the character God greatly desires to create within us.

However, the effects of the self-centered way of life we have absorbed through the course of this world remain in our attitudes and characters, becoming what must be overcome. It will dog us all our converted lives as a means of testing our determination to be in God's Kingdom, as well as our love and loyalty to our God and Savior.

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


 

Ephesians 4:11-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is why the ministry exists. What does God mean by this? Perfecting is a term that can be used to refer to "setting a broken bone." It means "putting into the condition in which it should be." The ministry guides and directs us into a spiritual condition acceptable to God. The saints are being prepared for the duty of ministering in divine things. We are not just called to be saved; we are called to perfection - developing the mature, spiritual character we must have to serve in divine matters. There is a whole world that will one day soon require conversion, and it is for this we are now being trained!

John O. Reid
Tithing


 

Philippians 4:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul writes a charter for Christian thought. We are to center our minds on these exalted things - not pornography, not violence. Those are things of this world, and in this regard, our minds are such that we are like sheep. No other domesticated animal can eat such a wide variety of different vegetables and herbs, seemingly without very much damage. Things that will kill a cow will not kill a sheep. In a similar way, we are capable of taking things into our minds that, seemingly, are not doing any damage at all, but they are definitely not providing the right kind of sustenance for the right kind of thinking.

It becomes our responsibility, then, using the power of God's Spirit with which He anoints us, to choose to think on things that are true, pure, noble, just, lovely, of good report, praiseworthy, and honest. Not much in mass media fits this description. It is our choice, but that is the purpose for which God wants His Holy Spirit to be used.

If we instead think about evil, we will act evilly - we will be evil, because action follows thought. It is as simple as that. Thoughts come from what our minds have been fed, and thus what our minds have been fed will determine how we will act. What we think upon will determine our character and our attitudes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 3)


 

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is a prayer of Paul's in which he makes a bold request on behalf of that congregation. It contains great encouragement for us. Paul requests their complete sanctification and preservation as holy until they die or God finishes His activities on behalf of the church at Christ's coming.

Sanctification is the part of salvation that deals with our progressive growth in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ—or put another way, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ—or in yet another way, into God's image. God is faithful in carrying out His part in the building of Christian character. God's faithfulness guarantees the progressive perfection of a Christian's life. He is not like men who begin a project, lose interest, run into difficulties, consider it too hard to overcome, or become impatient and quit. He does not begin a work and then get disgusted with it and turn to something else. He does not begin and, finding He lacks the resources to finish, give up. Men do this, but God never stops until He is finished. He does not finish until He is satisfied.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

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

This verses contain a vivid contrast to Ecclesiastes 1. In nature, everything is undergoing constant change from one generation to another. In contrast, God changes not; He is permanent.

Though Solomon reaches the despairing conclusion that the crooked cannot be made straight, God is saying to His children, on the other hand, that now is the time to effect positive, worthwhile changes with His help. These changes will eventually become a permanent part of our personality because the great Creator is working within us.

We find ourselves, then, in a situation where life appears to be vain and absurd, but for the Christian it is not. God has designed things so that we, being able to see the contrast, consciously make the choices in our lives to move toward the permanent and eternal, effecting the changes we need to make in our character to be carried through the grave.

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

Holiness starts in one's relationship with the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Justification through God's merciful act of grace opens the door of access to Him, as well as the door to the Kingdom of God. Justification is entirely an act of God, a legal action on our behalf that we accept by faith because He does not lie. Others do not easily discern our justification, since in most cases it has no outward manifestation.

While sanctification unto holiness begins at the same moment as justification, it is a progressive, creative, time-consuming work of God within us. Unlike justification, sanctification cannot be hidden because it appears in our godly conduct. By it, a witness is made that God dwells in us. Where there is no holiness, there is no witness to glorify God.

So we see that justification and sanctification are two separate matters. They are related - indeed, they cannot be separated - but we should never confuse them. If one partakes in either, he is a partaker of both, but we should not overlook the distinctions between them.

Christians cannot take sanctification for granted. We must pursue it until we are assured that we are sanctified. Our course is clear: We must go to Christ as forgiven sinners, offering our lives to Him by faith, crying out to Him for the grace we need to enable us to overcome all the flaws in our characters.

The apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:19, "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." The same apostle adds in Ephesians 4:15-16:

. . . but, speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Close communication with Christ is the source of the perception, motivation, and energy to discern flaws and overcome them. It is a biblical principle that whatever God requires, He provides what we need to accomplish it. Thus, we are to draw from this inexhaustible well and be renewed every day in the spirit of our minds (verses 23-24). In John 17:17, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus asked the Father to sanctify us by His truth. Will God not answer that prayer, especially when we desire to be sanctified to be like His Son? He most certainly will answer it so that our sanctification will continue.

Perhaps a word of caution is in order, and with it an admonishment that we also ask for patience. Growth does not always come quickly. In addition, as we grow in knowledge, at the same time we become more perceptive of our flaws. The more we know, the more flaws we see, and this can become humiliating and discouraging. The humility it produces is good, but the discouragement is not so good if it halts our growth.

Paul faced this, writing of it in Romans 7, but he most certainly did not let it stop him. By the time he finishes his discourse, he declares resoundingly that he knows he will be delivered by Jesus Christ. Sinners we are when we begin, and sinners we find ourselves to be as we continue - we will be sinners to the very end. Salvation is by grace, is it not? Our absolute perfection will not occur until we are changed "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" (I Corinthians 15:52).

While reaching for God's holiness, we should not let our goals ever be anything but the highest. We should never let Satan convince us that we can be satisfied with what we are right now.

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


 

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

Temptation does not originate with God, and it is impossible to tempt Him to sin. His character is so strong and fixed that temptation has no power over Him. Nevertheless, God tests and approves us while we endure temptation. As we resist temptation, God teaches us lessons about His way of life, thereby refining our character.

Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?


 

Revelation 20:12-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Works are very important to the book of Revelation—seven times in chapters 2 and 3, and four or five other times in the rest of the book. Christ's concern is that His people are working.

The main purpose of the book of Revelation is not merely to give us insight into what is coming. It is also to convince the Christian that his loyalty, his devotion, his steadfastness, his suffering, and perhaps even martyrdom, is not in vain—that he is assured of a wonderful future. The reason for the stress on works is that character is not formed merely by knowing something but by knowledge combined with putting it to work until it becomes a habit. Over time, habit becomes character, and character follows the person right through the grave!

If we are not working, emphasizing loyalty to the Person of God and to His way, making every effort to overcome Satan, the world, and the self-centeredness within us, resisting with all of our being the temptations to do what is natural, carnal—if we are not expending our energy, and spending our time working out our own salvation with fear and trembling—it is very likely, then, that we are not going to have the character necessary to go through the grave. The wrong works will follow us, and we will not be prepared for the Kingdom of God.

Thus, what a person has done, that is, what he has worked on in this lifetime, follows him through the grave—either into the Lake of Fire or the Kingdom of God.

The book is designed to focus attention on what is of greatest concern to Christ for His people. He wants to ensure that they do not give up or become weary due to the great pressure of the times, and that they instead endure, persevere, and be loyal and steadfast to the very end.

His concern at this time is not preaching the gospel as a witness, but the salvation and continued growth of those He already has. The quality of the witness is directly tied to the quality of those making the witness. What good is it to have this wonderful, awesome message—the gospel of the Kingdom of God—carried by those who are poor examples of what it says? Christ's first priority is to ensure the spiritual quality of those who make the witness, and then the quality of the witness is ensured. We cannot let the cart get ahead of the horse. The one naturally follows the other. First things first.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

 




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