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Bible verses about Spiritual Growth, Process of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 6:9

The second of this verse's two problems, and the crux of the matter, is the word perfect. In the Hebrew text, this is tamîm (Strong's #8549), and its basic meaning is "complete" or "entire." It does not mean "perfect" as we think of it today, as "without fault, flaw, or defect." Other English words that translate tamîm better than "perfect" are "whole," "full," "finished," "well-rounded," "balanced," "sound," "healthful," "sincere," "innocent," or "wholehearted." In the main, however, modern translators have rendered it as "blameless" in Genesis 6:9.

This does not mean that Noah never sinned, but that he was spiritually mature and that he had a wholehearted, healthy relationship with God, who had forgiven him of his sins, rendering him guiltless. The thought in Genesis 6:9 extends to the fact that Noah was head-and-shoulders above his contemporaries in spiritual maturity. In fact, the text suggests that he was God's only logical choice to do His work.

The New Testament concept of perfection, found in the Greek word téleios (Strong's #5056), is similar to tamîm. Perhaps the best-known occurrence of téleios occurs in Matthew 5:48: "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." Certainly, Jesus desires that we become as flawless as we can humanly be, using the utter perfection of the Father as our model, but His use of téleios suggests something else. His aim is that a Christian be completely committed to living God's way of life, maturing in it until he can perform the duties God entrusts to him both now and in His Kingdom. In harmony with this idea of spiritual growth toward completion, téleios is well translated as "mature" in I Corinthians 2:6, and in Hebrews 5:14, it is rendered as "of full age."

In addition, unlike Greek, biblical Hebrew is a rather concrete language, expressing itself in colorful, often earthy terms, and emphasizing its meaning with repetition and rephrasing. Because his vocabulary was limited by a relatively small number of words, a Hebrew writer relied on syntax, metaphors, puns, and other figures of speech to make his meaning clear. Perhaps chief in his bag of verbal tricks was parallelism.

Parallelism is similar to the use of appositives in English. When we say, "Fred Jones, the pharmacist, often rode his bicycle to work," we restate the subject of our sentence and add information at the same time. The Hebrew writer did the same thing, but he was not limited merely to renaming nouns; he worked in phrases, clauses, and whole sentences. For instance, a well-known parallelism appears in Psalm 51:2: "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." Many of the proverbs of Solomon also follow this form, for example, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).

In the same way, "perfect in his generations" acts as a parallel thought to Noah being "a just man." Just represents the Hebrew tsaddîq (Strong's #6662), meaning "just," "righteous," "lawful" (in accord with a standard), "correct." Noah was a man who lived in accordance with God's revealed will, unlike all others of his time. In writing this description of Noah, Moses' use of parallelism emphasizes Noah's unusual righteousness for a man living among the spiritually degenerate humanity of his day.

The thought of Noah being spiritually complete or righteous beyond all of his contemporaries fits hand-in-glove with the context.

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found grace [favor, acceptance] in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:5-8)

His fear of God, exhibited in his obedience to God's instructions—his righteousness—is why God chose Noah, not his supposed racial perfection! In fact, the verse contains no connotation of race at all but is entirely interested in Noah's spiritual résumé. God wanted Noah, a man of integrity and morality, to build the ark and reestablish human society on a godly footing. The biblical account testifies that he performed his responsibility as well as any man could.

From what we have seen, a fair translation of verse 9 would be:

These are the records of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with God.

This is reinforced in Genesis 7:1, in which the Lord says to Noah, ". . . I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation." As God says in Isaiah 66:2, "But on this one will I look [have favor]; on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word." Such a man was Noah.

The apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:26-28:

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Physical traits—such as genetic "perfection," social status, or gender—are not high on God's list of priorities regarding His children, but putting on the faith and righteousness of Jesus Christ is what impresses Him. In Noah's case, these qualities are what led to his salvation—not anything as insignificant as the color of his skin.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'Perfect In His Generations'


 

Genesis 17:1

The Hebrew word rendered "blameless" (NKJV) or "perfect" (KJV) in Genesis 17:1 means "entire, complete, full, without blemish." The Greek word found in Matthew 5:48 translated "perfect" means "finished, complete, having reached its end," and implies being fully grown or mature. The definition of the English word perfect is "lacking nothing essential to the whole, without defect, complete." All three definitions contain the word "complete."

Mike Ford
Perfection...Piece by Piece


 

Genesis 17:1-2

By the command, "Be blameless [perfect, KJV]," Abraham had to do something to fulfill his part of the covenant.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 27)


 

Exodus 12:19

There are seven days of Unleavened Bread but only one day of Passover, Pentecost, Trumpets, and Atonement. God knows that we tend to change slowly. He gives us seven days each year to concentrate on our duty to rid our lives of sin. Those acts that are God's responsibility - the sacrifice of one for all sin, the sending of His Spirit, the resurrection of the dead, or the binding of Satan - He can accomplish in one day. The part that involves mankind's participation - overcoming sin - requires more time and attention. The Days of Unleavened Bread represent a period of judgment when man is required to overcome. To us, overcoming a deep-seated sin can seem to take an eternity! The obvious lesson is that we must draw much nearer to the Source of the power to overcome.

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread


 

Exodus 23:23-30

Some people draw a careless assumption from a surface evaluation of Exodus 23:20-33, leading to a shallow conclusion: that if the Israelites had just obeyed God, they would have marched into the land and taken it over without a fight. Such submission would have undoubtedly made their course easier and produced better results.

However, many other contexts show that God tests His people because He is preparing them for future responsibilities. Israel failed many tests. The march through the wilderness and the conquest of the Promised Land was a school, a vast, almost fifty-years-long training ground, for appreciating, using, and governing the Promised Land. This "schooling" included tests by which the Israelites could measure their progress, and at the same time, prove to God their growth and readiness.

We concluded that God's promises in Exodus 23 were indeed conditional. Their fulfillment depended on Israel's obedience, and part of that obedience was confronting their enemies, the people of the land, in warfare. The episode recorded in Numbers 13-14 reveals that the Israelite spies fully expected to have to fight the Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites, etc. They did not understand Exodus 23 as a free pass, as many do today. Their responsibility was to drive them out in cooperation with God, as He promised to be with them, enabling them to drive the people out, which they were incapable of doing without His involvement. But they refused to do their part.

They were to drive out the inhabitants even as we, in cooperation with God, are to confront and drive out old habits, attitudes, and loyalties. These are negative characteristics left over from our pre-conversion days. Christian living parallels this Old Testament instruction. This is one reason why the New Testament has so many illustrations and exhortations regarding Christian warfare.

Our warfare is in many ways different. It does not involve bloody engagements featuring swords, spears, or rifles with bayonets. It is a spiritual warfare, one that takes place primarily within ourselves. Nonetheless, it requires qualities such as loyalty, patriotism, courage, self-denial, vision, understanding, and sacrifice for us to be victorious overcomers.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)


 

Jeremiah 17:5-6

The subject in which Jeremiah 17:9 appears is faith. God is pointing out why we allow our deceitful heart to get away with evading truth. It is a matter of faith—trust. Verse 6 shows that the person who does not live by faith will not grow. He will be like a shrub in the desert that only receives water every so often, not near often enough to grow.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception


 

Ezekiel 36:25-27

This prophecy refers to the Millennium and beyond, when Satan will be bound and thus rendered ineffective in spreading his evil attitudes. At that time, God will repair the damage—first done in the Garden of Eden and in every human heart since—by replacing man's human nature with His Spirit. He will work to change man's heart from a hard, unyielding one to a soft, humble one that will be eager to hear and obey God.

Notice that Ezekiel prophesies that God's Spirit will cause people to walk in His statutes and to keep His judgments. God's Spirit provides both motivation and strength to do what is good and right. We do God's work—believing, obeying, overcoming, growing, producing fruit—not by our power and abilities but by His Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). It is readily, freely, abundantly available to those who have believed, been baptized, and received the earnest of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands.

But, as we have seen, that is not the end of the matter. We must continue to request God's presence in us, our daily Bread of Life, by His Spirit. We must ask, seek, and knock, constantly pursuing God, His Kingdom, and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). If we do this, He promises to add "all these things," our daily needs.

Jesus tells His disciples just before His arrest, "I am the vine, you are the branches: He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). If we request His presence in us each day and obey Him in faith, we will, by His power, produce astonishing spiritual growth.

Staff
Ask and It Will Be Given


 

Matthew 5:48

Perfection, as used in Scripture regarding everyday life, means maturity and completeness. We can certainly attain an increasing level of spiritual maturity, yet we cannot truly complete the process until changed into God—until our human nature has been totally changed. Only then can we reach the stated goals of being perfect "as our Father in heaven," having "the mind of Christ," bringing "every thought into captivity," and never uttering a wrong word.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Going On to Perfection


 

Luke 2:40

Even Jesus, though He was God—Deity—had to increase the same way that we do. He had to study God's Word, to question, to grow.

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


 

John 5:16-17

"Hitherto" (King James version) is not a word that we are familiar with. It means, "to here," so in this context it implies "to this very day." Jesus is saying, "My Father is working right up to this point of time, and I am too." God is an active Creator. He did not create everything physical, and then just sit back, cross His legs, and twiddle His thumbs. He is an active Creator.

God created this universe to carry out the next step in His purpose, which is His ongoing work. He is creating a Family of beings just like Himself. He is reproducing Himself by creating us in His image. "Conversion" is the word that describes this process of transformation—"from glory to glory"—from the glory of man to the glory of God. We are being brought into the image of God.

This image is not in the way that we look, but in certain knowledge and attitudes that we believe, accept, submit to in thought and in conduct. It is accomplished by putting the mind of God in us. This regeneration begins a growth process. In our case, it is the growth of God's mind in ours.

God's mind, just like ours, is more than words. It is also attitudes, feelings, moods, passions, inclinations, and perspectives. These things can be described by words, but they are not words. They develop through the combination of knowledge and experience, most frequently within relationships. We really cannot relate to a machine, but we can relate to other beings—we can have relationships with God and men—fellowships, social intercourse, work, play, and interaction. From these experiences, these mental, emotional, and attitudinal aspects of the mind, beyond mere words, create and develop.

As it happens, nothing actually is produced that has form, weight, or can be measured. Rather it is knowledge gleaned from experience, and it is accompanied by God personally and actively working and creating to enable us to accomplish our part in carrying out His will. Remember, Paul said, "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 6)


 

Romans 8:29

Christ was born first, and He will be followed by many others, who will be His brothers. If we to be conformed to His image, how can we be anything except what Jesus Christ is—especially when we consider the New Testament emphasis for us to change to be as He is! Does Paul not say that we are to grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13)? This more than implies a period of spiritual growth or maturity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 3:8

Reward and labor—Paul is speaking about a process of growth, not about salvation. He is referring to producing things within one's life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love's Greatest Challenges


 

1 Corinthians 13:11-12

Paul admonishes us—by instructing us "to put away childish things" (verse 11), as well as his reference to a mirror (verse 12)—that love is something we grow in. It must be perfected. What we have now is partial. Therefore, God does not give it to us in one huge portion to be used until we run out of it. In that sense, we must always see ourselves as immature. But a time is coming when love will be perfected, and we will have it in abundance like God. In the meantime, while we are in the flesh, we are to pursue love (I Corinthians 14:1).

This indicates that the biblical love is not something we have innately. True, some forms of this quality we call love come unbidden; that is, they arise by nature. But this is not so with the love of God. It comes through the action of God through His Spirit, something supernatural (Romans 5:5).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 

1 Corinthians 15:57-58

"Victory" is from the same Greek root as the word translated "overcomes" so many times in Revelation 2 and 3. Overcoming is being victorious over the pull of human nature against God in the self, Satan, and this world that tries to keep us from entering God's Kingdom.

Paul also exhorts us to be "always abounding in the work of the Lord." His work is creating. Then, by using the words "your labor," the apostle draws our attention to our responsibilities. Our labor is whatever energies and sacrifices it takes to yield to the Lord so He can do His work. Scripture refers to God several times as the Potter, and we are the clay He is shaping. The difference between us and earthy clay is that the clay God is working is alive—having a mind and will of its own, it can choose to resist or yield.

Following initial repentance, finding the motivation to use our faith to yield to Him in labor, not just agreeing mentally, is perhaps most important of all. Real living faith motivates conduct in agreement with God's purpose. Clearly, God's purpose is that we grow or change to become as much like Him in this life as time allows.

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


 

Ephesians 4:14-15

Paul suggests that a new convert is a child, unstable in his ways, who really does not know which end is up spiritually. He can easily be tricked and deceived.

Someone who has grown, on the other hand, is someone who is stable, who will not be swept aside by persecutions, trials, deceitful teachings, and false doctrines. He can fight these off because he knows, understands, is convicted, and continues in the truth. However, he did not get to this point without also going through a process of growth. He had to pray, study, obey, make choices, analyze, compare, look at the fruits of things, and so on. He had to set his will and change. As he does these things, growth takes place.

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


 

Ephesians 4:17-32

Most of us realize that the unity of the church of God courses through the book of Ephesians as a general theme. Paul illustrates the church as a complete body of which Jesus, though in heaven, is the Head, and the elect here on earth comprise the rest of it. Early on, Paul declares how God has planned the organization of His purpose from the very beginning, determining whom He would call, give His Spirit to, and perfect as His children.

In Ephesians 4, the apostle begins to clarify our Christian responsibilities regarding works. He appeals to us in verse 1 to make every effort to live a manner of life that measures up to the magnificence of our high calling. He then makes sure we understand that we must carry out our responsibilities in humility, kindness, and forbearance as we strive to maintain doctrinal accord in purity.

He explains that Christ has given each of us gifts to meet our responsibilities in maintaining the unity of God's church. Foremost among these gifts are teachers who will work to equip us for service in the church and eventually in the Kingdom. This same process will enable us to grow to completion, to mature, no longer wavering in our loyalties, certain in the direction of our lives, and not deceived by the craftiness of men.

With that foundation, the "therefore" in verse 17 draws our focus to the practical applications necessary to meet the standards of the preceding spiritual concepts. We must not conduct our lives as the unconverted do. They are blinded to these spiritual realities and so conduct life in ignorance, following the lusts of darkened minds.

Because we are being educated by God, the standards of conduct are established by His truths and are therefore exceedingly higher. We must make every effort to throw off the works of carnality and strive to acquire a renewed mind through diligent, continuous effort so that we can be created in the image of God in true righteousness and holiness (verse 24).

In verses 25-29, Paul moves even further from generalities to clear, specific works that we must do. We must speak truth so that we do not injure another through lies, as well as to maintain unity. Because deceit produces distrust, unity cannot be maintained if lying occurs. We must not allow our tempers to flare out of control, for they serve as an open door for Satan to create havoc.

We must be honest, earning our way so that we are prepared to give to others who are in need. We must be careful that what we speak is not only true but also edifying, imparting encouragement, empathy, sympathy, exhortation, and even gentle correction when needed.

In verse 30 is a brief and kind reminder that, in doing our works we must never forget that we owe everything to our indwelling Lord and Master. We must make every effort to be thankful, acknowledging Him as the Source of all gifts and strengths, enabling us to glorify Him through our works.

In the final two verses of the chapter, Paul delineates specific responsibilities concerning our attitudes toward fellow Christians within personal relationships.

This brief overview of just one chapter shows clearly how much works enter into a Christian's life as practical requirements that cannot be passed off as unnecessary. How else will a Christian glorify God? How else will he grow to reflect the image of God? How else will he fulfill God's command to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19) except by faithfully doing those works that lead to life?

Through the whole process of sanctification, the Christian will make constant use of two additional works: daily prayer and Bible study, which must be combined with his efforts to obey God. No one who is careless about performing these works can expect to make progress growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ during sanctification.

Why? Without them, he will have no relationship with either the Father or the Son, and thus will not be enabled to achieve the required works. They are the Source of the powers that make it possible for us to do the works God has ordained. If we do not follow through on these two works, we will surely hear ourselves called "wicked and lazy" and be cast into "outer darkness" where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:24-30).

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


 

Colossians 3:1-17

Notice how many active words Paul uses in Colossians 3:1-17 to describe what a Christian must be doing:

  • "Seek those things which are above" (verse 1).
  • "Set your mind on things above" (verse 2).
  • "Put to death your members" (verse 5).
  • "Put off all these" (verse 8).
  • "Do not lie to one another" (verse 9).
  • "Put on tender mercies" (verse 12).
  • "Bearing with one another, and forgiving" (verse 13).
  • "Put on love" (verse 14).
  • "Let the peace of God rule . . . and be thankful" (verse 15).
  • "Let the word of Christ dwell in you" (verse 16).
  • "Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (verse 17).

Paul makes sure we understand that we must actively participate in order to grow. When God talks about growth, He means increasing in His attributes, the qualities that will conform us to His image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

2 Timothy 1:6

When Paul admonishes us to "stir up the gift" in us, he is really telling us to discipline ourselves to put what we say we believe into action. He speaks most specifically about the gift of the Holy Spirit, but the intent of his admonition includes all of the truths we have received as a result of God giving us His Spirit.

Because of grace, the elect are responsible to God to act in agreement with these truths. To act contrary to them is to quench the Spirit. Resisting the truth stifles and smothers good results; it inhibits growth into God's image. Proverbs 25:28 says, "Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls." Such a person is defenseless against destructive forces that pressure him to submit. To do the right requires discipline, the self-control to act in agreement with truth, because virtually everything in life - including Satan, the world's enticements, and our appetites - works against our fervent submission to God. Thus, Paul charges us to exercise the control to stir up the gift.

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


 

2 Timothy 1:7

Receiving the Holy Spirit does not instantaneously make one courageous and full of love. One has to grow in these qualities by yielding to God and using His Spirit.

Staff
Standing Up for God


 

Hebrews 5:12

In context, God tells us one of the purposes of His revelation to mankind. The writer of Hebrews scolds his audience for being "dull of hearing" (verse 11). Using an analogy of milk, the nourishment of children, against "strong meat" (KJV), the fare of those "who are of full age," he laments that he needs to "go back to the basics," the first principles of God's revelation. Not using that revelation to exercise their senses "to discern both good and evil" (verse 14), they had failed to grow up.

The purpose of God's revelation is to provide the nourishment, the food, by which we come "to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). It is God's revelation, His oracles, which allow us to "go on to perfection" (Hebrews 6:1).

Charles Whitaker
The Oracles of God


 

Hebrews 5:12-14

"First principles" are fundamental, rudimentary, elementary things. There are things with which we begin, but we have to get off the dime, as it were. Something must be done in order to increase, because if we remain at the starting point, we prove to be not very usable. How much good to human society is a baby? Even so, a newborn Christian is not a great deal of use to. This situation is remedied by growth.

From unskilled to skilled, from oblivious and uncomprehending to discerning—a process happens? It is an integral part of the way of God. It is how He writes His laws into our hearts.

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


 

Hebrews 5:12

They had regressed to the point where they were now babes again—where they were just about as carnal as the unconverted.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction and Moses


 

Hebrews 11:33-34

This passage contains two examples. Whenever God originally called these people, they were not strong enough to do what they eventually did. Out of weakness they were made strong—strong in faith. They waxed in valor, which means they "increased" or "grew."

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


 

Hebrews 12:2

This verse touches on an aspect of Jesus' life important to us—that our hope, like His, cannot be fleeting. It must be an enduring hope because we are not involved in a hundred-yard dash. This verse also hints that the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" is not valid, as the realization of our hope is depicted as being future. God expects growth from the point of receiving His Spirit, so He provides us with sufficient time following our calling for that to be produced. Our race, then, is more like a marathon. Israel's marathon lasted for forty years. We should not looked upon this with discouragement but thanksgiving because God has mercifully given us enough time to grow.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Perseverance and Hope


 

James 3:18

For the seed which one day produces the reward which righteousness brings can only be sown when personal relationships are right and by those whose conduct produces such relationships. (James 3:18; William Barclay's Daily Bible Study)

In this verse, James is talking about a social situation. God's purpose - the fruit that He wants from His way of life, the kind of character that He wants in us - has to be produced in peace. It cannot be produced in war.

Why it cannot be produced in war is obvious. When one is involved in war, he is thinking only of himself, which runs 180 degrees counter to God's nature. God's nature is outgoing. When one is engaged in war, all one is seeking to do is to preserve the self. For God's purpose to be fulfilled to the very best degree, peace is required.

The seed, which one day produces the reward that righteousness brings, can only be sown when personal relationships are right, and by those whose conduct will produce such relationships.

Jesus says that peacemakers will be the children of God, not those who butt others aside, aggressively trying to get to the top, asserting themselves, their will, and their ideas in every circumstance, angling to be the big shot. "Out of my way, buddy. That is my beat." Those people, by implication, will not see God.

This is why God will permit a divorce. Does He not say through Paul in I Corinthians 7:15, "If the unbeliever departs, let him depart"? The believer "is not under bondage in such cases" because "God has called us to peace." God will permit a divorce so that a person can be saved due to the subsequent peace. In a family in which a war rages between a husband and wife, it is possible that God may lose both of them.

When those who butt and disturb the flock are present, the flock will not prosper. The shepherd has to ensure that there is peace, freedom from fear from the outside, freedom from tension within, and freedom from aggravation. (We even use the term "bug," which is what insects do to sheep: They irritate them to no end so they cannot gain weight and are discontented.) The shepherd must also make sure there is freedom from hunger - a congregation, a flock, will prosper if it is being well-fed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 1)


 

1 Peter 2:2

This is a clear teaching. The Word of God is necessary for growth. We do not have it instantaneously upon conversion; it increases in us little by little through study.

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


 

2 Peter 3:14-18

Peter ends the epistle with the same thought with which he began: We live in spiritually dangerous times, and the way to stay on the beam is to keep on growing. If we grow, our salvation is assured. God is faithful; He has promised us salvation, and He will give it to us if we are faithful.

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


 

2 Peter 3:17-18

Everybody knows that growth is a process. When a child is born, it is not immediately a full-grown adult with a lifetime of experiences crammed into its cranium while in the womb. The weakest and most helpless of all newborn things must be a human baby. It has to be taken care of completely and totally by its mother and father, or it would die.

When they are born, most other mammals are at least able to find a way to get something to eat. However, human babies are absolutely helpless. Even though they grow very rapidly—especially in the first few years—during which time they accumulate a great deal of knowledge and experience, their growth is little by little.

Here, right in the Word of God, we are being told that we, too, are to grow! We are not instantaneously a canister full of all kinds of facts and figures and the knowledge of God. We do not understand all the biblical principles. We certainly do not have all wisdom. We know very well that these things accumulate over many years of living.

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


 

1 John 3:2

We will be like Him! The process of identification with Christ has begun and is not yet complete, but it is moving in that direction. It is our responsibility to do what we can to submit to God, so we are living as He does.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Resurrection From the Dead


 

Revelation 7:9-17

Revelation 7:1-8 describes the 144,000, then verse 9 begins with "after these things." This is simply a time marker in John's vision, not in prophetic time. It means afterward, later, John saw an innumerable multitude. The Greek does not say that the events of Revelation 7:9-17 immediately follow or that they are part of the preceding information—only that John received this information after the previous information. Perhaps it could follow right after, but the Greek does not require it.

John says "no one could number" this multitude (verse 9). Why? Notice that this multitude is comprised "of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues." That would seem to be a great many people! The context indicates a large number, not just an indeterminate one.

John sees these people "standing before the throne and before the Lamb"—not with Him on the throne ruling, but before the throne in judgment. Remember, judgment occurs over a period of time. The firstfruits have already been judged and have risen at Christ's return, so this multitude has to be people in a different group who are judged later.

Revelation 3:21, written directly to Laodicea, says God grants overcomers the reward of sitting with Him on His throne! Thus, they have qualified to be in the first resurrection, having been judged to be worthy now (I Peter 4:17). We have already seen that whether we die in Christ or are still alive, we are "changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" (I Corinthians 15:51-52) as firstfruits. None of those in the first resurrection will stand "before the throne" for judgment when He returns, for we are currently under judgment, which God will complete and reward us at His Son's return (Revelation 11:18).

This multitude, then, cannot be in the first resurrection! In the process of judgment, they have donned white robes, a growth in spirituality that takes considerable time.

Staff
The Innumerable Multitude


 

 




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