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Bible verses about Knowing God
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Through the prophet Jeremiah, God asserts:

Thus says the LORD, 'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches: but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD. . . .' (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

How important is it to know God? "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3). As used here, eternal life is knowing God! He implies an intimate relationship with God that matures over a lifetime. Each party knows each other well, as familiarly as marriage partners. Thus Hosea observes, "Then shall we know, if we follow on [in the path of obedience] to know the LORD" (Hosea 6:3, KJV).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wholeness of God


 

Genesis 3:9-10

This event illustrates why there are so many false conceptions of God. Once Satan and sin enter man's life, man hides himself from God, and God must seek him out before a relationship and revelation of true knowledge of God can even begin.

Because it suits His purpose, God has permitted Satan to continue what he began in the Garden with Adam and Eve. Despite the fact that Adam and Eve literally saw God, they sinned because they really did not know Him.

Since eternal life lies in the relationship with God, it is extremely important how frequent and accurate our thoughts about Him are. Many influential people in this world are convinced that He does not even exist. By definition, agnostics are not sure, so how does their uncertainty affect their worship of Him?

This is a major reason why Jesus says in John 6:44 that no one comes to Him unless the Father draws him. He adds in Matthew 11:27 that no one "knows the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." Only true believers, those to whom God has specifically revealed Himself, have truth and thus eternal life.

Adam and Eve's summary dismissal from the Garden was among the most serious punishments ever inflicted on mankind because it severed contact with God. Without contact with God, a true conception of Him is impossible, and wholesale sin followed. We can conclude that what one knows about the true God Himself and how one uses that knowledge are the two most important issues in life. Seeking God is the most serious challenge of our lives! The quality of our present lives and the continuation of those lives everlastingly hinge on these two factors.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem


 

Exodus 3:13-14

A name expresses more than mere identification. God's name expresses His nature and operations, so He must explain His name to Moses. The Israelites in Egypt did not know God. They undoubtedly had a memory of Him, or they would not have cried out to Him to relieve them of their bondage. However, they had no relationship with Him and therefore did not really know Him. They knew of Him, but they did not know Him.

By comparison, neither did we know Him when we were in spiritual Egypt, even though we were not completely ignorant of Him. When Paul spoke to the pagan Greeks in Acts 17, he spoke assuming that they knew somewhat of the God he represented. He introduced his God to them as the "unknown God," and explained enough about Him to enable them to relate to Him. Nor were they completely ignorant of the God of creation. Nevertheless, when in spiritual Egypt, ignorance of God and His true nature and operations is pretty deep, and that is part of humanity's basic problem.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Pre-Passover Look


 

Exodus 5:1-2

To Pharaoh, Moses' God is only one among many gods, a powerless entity that he need not fear. His disrespect and irreverence are clearly products of his ignorance, and these produce his disobedience. Since irreverence produces disobedience, then true reverence will produce and promote obedience. This clarifies why growing to know God is so essential: The fear of God is a major step toward practical godliness. The Bible and God's Spirit are the major elements that promote the knowledge of His mind and will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sovereignty and Its Fruit: Part Ten


 

Exodus 20:7

The third commandment regulates the quality of our worship. It involves glorifying God in every aspect of life. Most people regard the third commandment very lightly. The Jews, however, have a saying: "When God gave the third commandment, the whole world trembled." They even warned witnesses at a trial with this statement. Why? The Jews believe that because it reads, "the LORD will not hold him guiltless," there is no forgiveness for transgressing it! If it is this important, perhaps we should pay closer attention to it!

God asks, "'To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? . . . To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?' says the Holy One" (Isaiah 40:18, 25). Obviously, the second commandment expressly forbids making any representation of Him. God is unique; nothing can compare with Him. We are without a point of contact or physical reference to make any comparison.

This ought to show us the absolute folly of making images: On its face, every image is a lie. But should we not try to understand, to learn, what God is like? God does not want us concerned with what He looks like because it emphasizes the wrong area. He supplies us with enough information to know that He generally looks like a man. To Him, that is enough!

But He does want us to know what He is. He wants us to know Him. The entire Bible reveals His mind, character, attributes, offices, power, will, promises, plan, and relationship with us. The third commandment concerns this kind of knowledge and how well we apply it in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment (1997)


 

Job 11:7

Theologians have long discussed a general or public revelation that anyone with eyes and a brain could figure out for himself. Zophar, one of Job's counselors, alludes to this empirical revelation.

The American pamphleteer and propagandist, Thomas Paine, wrote a book entitled The Age of Reason, in which for his thesis he attempted to answer Zophar's double-pronged question. To the first part, he answered unequivocally in the affirmative, citing the order and design of the cosmos. Paine, a practicing Deist, points to Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork" as affirmation of the general or public revelation.

Romans 1:20 more definitively substantiates the idea of a public or general revelation: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and [divine nature], so that they are without excuse." Even with such an overwhelming testimony, some hapless fools, having immersed themselves in evil behavior, have deluded themselves into rejecting this general revelation, refusing to see God (Psalm 14:1). Even the public or general revelation cannot penetrate the darkened minds of those whom, because of their addiction to sin, God has given over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:21).

Thomas Paine responded to Zophar's second question, "Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?" with a resounding, "No." Largely, Paine is right on target. The carnal mind, because of its propensity to sin and lawlessness, is enmity against God (Romans 8:7). Knowledge of God's intent or purpose has always been conditional, linked to obedience to His holy law. He promises to those He has scattered for disobedience:

But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice. . . . (Deuteronomy 4:29-30)

Consequently, the answer to Zophar's second question has strings attached. We may see God's intent and purpose for our lives more clearly if 1) we yield to His will, and 2) we actively and tirelessly seek for Him as we would for buried precious minerals.

David F. Maas
Why Does God Keep Secrets?


 

Psalm 34:11-14

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Proverbs 2:1-6

God's Word is like His other creations. Like air, it too has multi-faceted uses. In fact, it seems as though its uses are inexhaustible. It does not matter whether one lives in the time of Abraham, Moses, David, Ezra, Christ, or now. Its directly stated words or their spirit will apply. God's Word is so infinite and pure that it is always valid, always true, always applicable, and always an inexhaustible source of guidance. Jesus says that God's "word is truth" (John 17:17). Solomon adds, "Every word of God is pure" (Proverbs 30:5), and David writes, "The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times" (Psalm 12:6).

Psalm 119:17-18 states, "Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law." The author of this psalm has the right idea. Asking God for guidance into His Word should be our request each day. Understand, however, that it is one thing to deem the Bible a great book because of its reputation—it is another to study the Bible soberly, seeking for instruction in righteousness. This we must do.

Solomon instructs us in Proverbs 2:1 on the necessary attitude toward it: "My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you. . . ." We should treat God's Word like treasure, as something precious. We should not treat it merely as something expensive but personally desired and used as our guide to life. Possessing it in this manner is within reach if we stretch ourselves or make sacrificial effort to have it. It is such a powerful tool that we should approach it as if it is the pearl of great price. Yet, this treasure is not something put in a safe-deposit vault and taken out only to look at on rare occasions. We are to seek it so that it can produce success and beneficial results in us. It is the most useful tool readily available to man to guide him in the most important area of life—his relationships with God and fellow man.

Verses 2-6 add a great deal of understanding about how vigorous and persistent our efforts should be toward possessing the treasure of God's Word. The phrase "incline your ear" (verse 2) pictures a person cocking his head and cupping his ear with his hand while straining to hear—understand—more distinctly. It depicts exerting physical effort, and the word "heart" shows we must apply strenuous mental effort as well. Admittedly, God's Word is not always easy to understand. It is a tool that requires varying levels of skill to use. At times, we must research patiently and diligently in many areas of Scripture to get as comprehensive a picture of its teaching on a given subject as possible.

In verse 3, "cry out" more literally means "invite to come." It is admonishing us to be open-minded as we research its pages. Our heart easily deceives us through lifelong prejudices and biases because we have passively accepted them as true. When God's Word challenges them, we are often moved to defend them. "Lift up your voice" adds greater intensity to "cry out," showing that we should not be passive regarding these biases. We need to search into them sincerely, and if we find them to be wrong, reject them.

By reminding us that the things we consider to be valuable usually have to be laboriously dug for and brought up from the depths, verse 4 urges us to pursue the riches of God's Word seriously.

Verse 5 then introduces an exceedingly interesting and essential principle we need to know for our growth. Proverbs 1:7 informs us, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge," but Proverbs 2:5 adds that the fear of the Lord is also a goal in our search for wisdom. This is important to understanding "knowing God" because the thrust of the Bible reveals that we can only come to know Him by obeying Him, by striving to be morally perfect. The fear of the Lord is a major motivator in producing conformity to Him and His will. It helps us enormously to reverence Him deeply, and if we do, it will result in sincere obedience from the heart. In this context, the Bible essentially equates the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God.

Verse 6 confirms that God is the source of all ethical authority as well as the blessings that flow from obedience to the knowledge of Him. The preceding verses urge obedience to Him as the principle of life because it results in knowing Him. Therefore, the fear of the Lord, the knowledge of God, understanding, and wisdom are all part of the same spiritual "salad." They are inextricably linked as necessary for those who want to please God and live the abundant life He intends for His children. Though we can properly define them as technically different from one another, in reality, they cannot be separated. The glue that holds them together is obedience to what we already know while we strive to improve all of them together. Verse 9 to the end of the chapter expounds the benefits of our search for this treasure.

In Psalm 119, the author shows how many varied and distinct elements are in fact linked in order to comprise a whole generally called "the law." The same principle holds true of those elements of Proverbs 2:1-6. The psalmist asks God to deal bountifully with him (Psalm 119:17-18), so he can keep—obey—what he learned as he searched out each element. This shows that we need to consider the whole package in Proverbs 2:1-6 because each of these elements draws on the others for support while simultaneously producing fruit toward the others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part One): Introduction


 

Ecclesiastes 6:9

The problem with a divided, unfocused mind is that it is, as we would say today, all over the place, seeking fulfillment in a host of things, pursuing a wide variety of goals, but rarely, if ever, coming to grips with the pursuit of revealed truth.

Many of us have television to thank for having a mind like this as it has played a major role in destroying peoples' attention span. The attention span of Americans is now getting down into the neighborhood of seven minutes: the length of time between advertising on television. We have a hard time focusing for any period of time, and television is constantly pushing its mind-numbing banalities into our minds, making it difficult for us to do what is absolutely necessary for us to do, that is, to spend time in heartfelt prayer and study, seeking God. The chances are very great that we sit down to read the Bible, and our eyes get heavy, and we struggle to fight off sleep. It happens because we have no passion for Jesus Christ.

God is teaching us what defragments our mind: seeking Him with a passionate desire to be like Him. This works to make our minds one with His.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God


 

Isaiah 11:9

We are being prepared for living in a community in which no one hurts or destroys because everybody lives by the same rules—not their own rules, but "the knowledge of the LORD," God's rules! What if we are not practiced at living by God's rules or never cared to pay attention to them? What if we thought one or two of them were rather silly, so we did not need to live according to them? We would not "fit" in His holy mountain any more than a person would fit in a game in which everyone was playing by the rules except him. He would ruin the game. That is the point.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 2)


 

Isaiah 55:6-7

The very wording in this exhortation implies that Israel did exactly what He did not want them to do. They sought satisfaction and fulfillment in the world—things that do not satisfy. They believed the world's word and practiced as it did, thus rejecting God and His Word.

But we must not follow their example. What does it mean to seek the Lord? Amos 5:4, 14-15 trumpets to us:

For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: "Seek Me and live. . . ." Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the LORD God of hosts will be with you, as you have spoken. Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Note that this is written to Israel, to whom God had already revealed Himself. Therefore, Seek Me most certainly does not mean, "Look for Him in order to find Him," but "Seek Him in order to be like Him in the conduct of His life, to know His will so one can submit." Instead of being like a normal wife, Israel eagerly pursued ways to be unfaithful to her Husband, God, which is why He calls her "contrary" in Ezekiel 16:34.

Ezekiel 33:10-11 clarifies and adds emphasis to this:

Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: "Thus you say, 'If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?'" Say to them, "As I live," says the Lord GOD, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?"

The phrase "as I live" in verse 11 appears many times in Ezekiel. In all other cases, it is an oath, but in this one case, there is an alternative meaning: It is simply the answer to the question asked in verse 10, "How should we then live?" The answer: "'As I live,' says the Lord."

It does not mean to live on the same level but to live as God would live if He were a man. This way is spelled out in great detail in the commandments, statutes, and judgments. In addition, God gives many examples from the lives of others to clarify exactly what He wants, especially the life of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh (John 1:14).

What God proposed to Israel and to us is an entire way of life that covers every possible choice that might confront us. This way is the only way, the one way that will produce abundant life and at the same time prepare us for God's Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?


 

Isaiah 58:13-14

On the surface, the Sabbath appears to be only a rest - a break from physical labor. Rest is a factor in keeping it, but its central purpose, which should guide our use of the day, is the developing and building of our relationship with God, an exceedingly more important reason than ceasing to work! Not working only provides the time so that we can do what is more important - develop our relationship with God. The core reason for breaking from the normal routine is to get to know Him. Jesus says that eternal life is to know God (John 17:3). Do we want eternal life? We need to get to know God. That is what the Sabbath is for.

The Sabbath is a weekly, and sometimes annual, appointment of time to be devoted to God, so that the relationship does not become lost in the swirl of life's activities. If it is done right, no one has an excuse for not "knowing" Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 2)


 

Jeremiah 9:23-24

This thought, with John 17:3, gives us a precise idea of how important knowing God is from His point of view. His evaluation of the relative value of things ought to be of great importance to us. Carnal men look to their riches as their glory. "Riches" can be understood as anything achieved through natural means: money; political power; athletic, artistic, or academic success; etc. "Glory" indicates what brings honor and acclaim and thus a strong sense of well-being, self-esteem, and confidence. From God's perspective, then, the knowledge of Him and His purpose is by far man's most important glory. It has more value than any human, material riches an individual might labor and sacrifice to obtain.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem


 

Ezekiel 33:10-11

The Old Testament was written without punctuation of any kind, and in fact, punctuation was not added until about 1,200 years after Ezekiel wrote this. As God's answer to the question of verse 10, verse 11 would read better if a period followed the words "Lord GOD." He replies that we should live as He would live if He were a man - sinlessly. When Jesus came as a man, He did exactly that.

Jesus declares in John 17:3, "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." A key to understanding Jesus' intent is to grasp His use of the word "eternal." We normally think of it as an endless length of time. However, William Barclay's commentary on this verse contains a simple and meaningful difference of opinion with that concept. Barclay contends that Jesus is speaking of something very good, one to be much desired. Living forever is not necessarily good unless the quality of life is also good. Therefore, "eternal" describes the quality of life God lives endlessly. Knowing God and being able to follow His example are vital to our living as He does. Jesus implies that, if one truly knows God, he will also live that way as an effect of his intimate relationship with God.

Yet, truly coming to know God creates one of the more difficult and continuous problems for church members. In fact, one commentator called it the church's biggest problem, and Romans 11:33 seems to confirm this. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" Paul says plainly that the full depth of God's wisdom and knowledge are unsearchable and past finding out. We can indeed find out a great deal if we are devoted to seeking Him, an endeavor that requires thorough searching, evaluating, and adjusting of our conceptions. Certainly difficult, but not impossible!

Nevertheless, we must still seek Him, since this verse suggests that we can indeed learn much. It helps that God desires us to know Him, so He is willing to reveal Himself further.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem


 

Daniel 11:32

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

Daniel 11:32

Now this word "to know"—yada in Hebrew, ginöskö in Greek—indicates a combination of close, warm, and even passionate intimacy, combined with head knowledge that produces an edge in a person's life that enables him to trust God and at the same time perceive what He is doing. It is this factor that makes God's Word have authority with us. We know Him. It is not just a casual acquaintance, and it forms the very foundation of a true working relationship.

We need to ask ourselves: Do we really believe that God is holy, and because of that, His anger burns against sin; that because He is righteous, His judgments fall on those who rebel; that because He is faithful, His promises of either blessings or curses are absolute; that because He is omnipotent, nobody can resist Him; and because He is omniscient, there is no problem of which He is unaware or cannot master? Because God is what He is, we are seeing the prophecies He inspired regarding the end of the age being fulfilled in the world and in the church, and that translates into tumultuous, difficult, and sometimes scary and even confusing times for us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God (Part 1)


 

Hosea 4:1

How can he prophesy something like this when we have churches on every corner? The reality is that they do not know God. They know about God. They believe in the existence of a god, but they are not really acquainted with God. They do not really love God or fear Him because, if they did, the sins we see occurring so rampantly in our society would not be happening. If they truly feared Him, they would have enough respect to restrain themselves, regardless of what anybody else did.

And that is the solution to the problem! Each individual must restrain himself regardless of whether he sits on the throne, is in Parliament or Congress, is on the Supreme Court, is a doctor or nurse, a policeman, athlete, entertainer, or whatever. Everyone's responsibility is to restrain himself. It is not the responsibility of the police but of the individual. We will never live in a society without violence, corruption, thievery, rape, without illegitimacy until individuals take it upon themselves to restrain themselves and live within the limits of the law of God because they fear God.

The problem is right here—the problem is with me and you, the individual. The problem is not Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler. People have to begin to look to themselves for the solution. As the song says, "Let it begin with me," and then it will begin to stop.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Handwriting Is on the Wall (1995)


 

Amos 5:1-6

Note something of considerable importance to church members: Both Isaiah and Amos addressed their counsel to people who had already made a covenant with God. Why? Because these Israelites were in serious spiritual trouble within the relationship that the covenant created. These are stern exhortations for them to get on the ball.

A second but not readily apparent reason why these warnings are important to us is that seeking after God truly does not begin until after He reveals Himself to us and we make the covenant with Him. Many do not realize that seeking God is the main occupation for a Christian during the sanctification process. Amos is clear regarding this.

God warns how devastating the coming perilous times will be, then He counsels us to seek the help of One far greater - our Creator and Ruler. Finally, He urges us to turn our everyday conduct to seeking to do good, showing care for God and His people.

Amos is not charging the Israelites to seek God in order to find Him because, at the very least, they were acquainted with Him, having already made the covenant with Him. However, that He charges them with seeking Him reveals that despite making the covenant, what they knew about Him had not been translated into everyday living or being like Him. This indicates that they were just drifting along with the times.

Four times in Amos 5, he urges them to seek God, and two of those times, he adds, "that you may live." This thought ties directly into John 17:3, which indicates that, more than being just endless existence, eternal life is a quality of life. As we proceed, we will see that they were being exhorted to seek God because, despite having made the covenant, they had stopped seeking Him, and the effect of stopping was their poor spiritual condition and subsequently, their imminent destruction at the hand of the Assyrians.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem


 

Habakkuk 1:12-13

This verse begins a section that leads up to Habakkuk's second question. He begins immediately with asking, "Is this really the holy God of Israel? Am I talking to the very God of the universe, the One who lives forever? Can this really be God, if He will punish His own people by the hands of these terrible Chaldeans?" This verse shows how much his faith was shaken.

"We shall not die" is an emendation by the Jews. They think that God should never be linked with death. But Habakkuk actually says, "You shall not die." He is reaffirming to himself just who is speaking to him—the Eternal God! He is desperately trying to square what God had just told him in verses 5-11 with what He understood of God's nature.

"You are of purer eyes than to behold evil." Habakkuk understood God to be pure and holy, so he wonders, "How can God do this evil thing to His people? He is purer than that." God has revealed something about Himself that the prophet has not yet grasped. His understanding is being stretched. He thought he knew what God's character was like, but God had just thrown him a curve ball.

Habakkuk asks God, "How can You restrain Yourself from just simply annihilating these Chaldeans? Look how wicked they are!" In verses 6-11, God Himself had described all of their evil doings. They take what is not theirs. They march through the breadth of the earth and gobble up town after town after town. They eat what they want. They take the jewels, the gold, the silver, the people themselves, and they transport them back to their own lands. Habakkuk cries, "These are terrible people, God, and You are going to let them punish Your own special people? This is not the God I remember learning about as a child."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 3:1-19

Chapter 3 is Habakkuk's prayer. The best part of this song is that it shows that Habakkuk truly grasped what God was teaching him. The song is a prayer, the response that he promised God in Habakkuk 2:1. After being greatly chastened, he tells God that he understood what He was saying.

One commentator called this section "the greatest expression of faith in all the Bible." Habakkuk is a good example of what a person of true faith does. He obeys God by listening. He waits patiently for God's answer to his dilemma, and he receives understanding. Then, he expresses his faith in this song.

We could almost compare it with Job's expression of faith in Job 42:2-6. Habakkuk finally sees God as He really is, and he expresses his joy and his faith that God is on his and Judah's side. In the same way, we could express our faith and joy that He is on our side and the church's side because we know Him.

The prophet goes through all the ways that God has worked on behalf of His people, particularly the Exodus. He admits that he had forgotten all these things. He realizes that, though they were not understood at the time, all these acts of God worked to bring about what He had planned. God's acts brought Israel into the Promised Land and made them into a nation. No matter how much we fail to understand, God is still wonderful and working hard to bring us blessing. So he tells God, "I am sorry that I forgot all your power and that I let my fears get in the way."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Matthew 11:25-27

Moses asked to see the visible glory of God, and He proclaimed His name verbally. Jesus is saying, "If you want to see the mind and nature of God, if you want to see His attitudes, look at Me." God reveals Himself and declares His glory to us through the life, works, and words of Jesus of Nazareth as He opens our minds by His Holy Spirit.

Jesus is "the way" because of all mankind, only He, unmarred by sin, has intimate knowledge of God. Knowing God depends on our knowledge of the truth about Jesus. He shows the way we must walk, the direction and manner of living and relating to others. This is precisely the knowledge Jesus gives. Many times when we ask directions in a strange city, the response confuses us because we are unfamiliar with the town. But when we ask directions of Jesus, He says, "Come, follow Me, and I will take you there."

Some people may teach truth, but He embodies truth; He is "the truth." A man may teach geometry, and his character may not affect his teaching. But if one teaches moral truth, character is paramount. Keeping the third commandment properly revolves around knowing the truth about God and His way.

Colossians 1:15; 2:9 are among the strongest statements in the Bible about the divine nature of Jesus: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. . . . For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." He not only is equal to and reflects God, but He also reveals God to us because He is God. He is completely holy and has authority to judge the world.

We can have no clearer view of God than by looking at Christ. He is the full revelation of God to man. He is the complete expression of God in a human body. He is unique: God became a man, imposing upon Himself the same time-space limitations as other men.

He had every opportunity to waste time, get sick, eat gluttonously and become overweight, drink and experience a hangover, "fly off the handle" in anger, or attack others when someone pricked His vanity. He could have become bitter from rejection or depressed when things did not go His way. He could have worked or played with intense competitiveness to "win at all costs." He had to face death, His own as well as of loved ones. He could have felt "the deck was stacked" against Him.

The gospels show God coping with life on the same terms as men. Now we can really see what kind of character God possesses. Jesus' life gives us firsthand knowledge of what the true way of life is, allowing us to cooperate with Him in His purpose. Among many other things, we see God teaching, healing, sacrificing His life, correcting in love, guarding His flock, and patiently counseling.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment (1997)


 

Mark 7:7

Many profess faith in God but do not even know Him! Their worship is vain, not knowing whom they worship and learning the doctrines of man, not God. A belief imparted by parents or other authority figures that God exists is not sufficient to establish contact with Him. For example, the Pharisees, familiar with the God of the Old Testament and believing they were in good standing with Him, received Christ's rebuke that their faith was in vain. This is true of most people today who think they "know the Lord" and profess faith toward Him.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Faith Toward God


 

Luke 18:8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Will Christ Find Faith?


 

John 6:44

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 3)


 

John 14:3-4

They did not know the way quite as well as Christ may have liked that they did. This is why Thomas asked in verse 5, "How can we know the way?"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 2)


 

John 17:3

Jesus Christ refers to God's name three times in this brief and exceedingly important prayer! The name represents what He spent His ministry revealing to us about God. He keeps us through His name both by our trusting in what it means and our obedience to how it shows we should live.

He defines eternal life as "to know God." "Know" suggests a very close intimacy, just as a husband and wife are intimate in marriage (Genesis 4:1). It indicates experiential knowledge, not theoretical. In Amos 5:4, God exclaims, "Seek Me and live!" He is saying, "Turn to Me and My way of life; seek to know Me," not "Search for Me," because He has already revealed Himself to us. He is saying, "Seek to know Me by living the same way I do." That is how experiential knowledge of Him becomes an intimate knowing of Him. He will walk with such people (Amos 3:3).

Aionis, the word translated "eternal," deals less with duration of life (although it is included), than it does with quality of life. Living endlessly is not necessarily good. Would anyone want to live forever with a demon's quality of life? True eternal life is the life of God. To possess it means experiencing now some of its splendor because it is being lived and producing its glorious fruits.

Psalm 9:10 adds, "And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You." Those living by faith do not trust in what He is called, for that would be mere superstition. Their faith is in what He is, His character and nature, which they have experienced by seeking to live His way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment (1997)


 

John 17:3

In John 17:3, Jesus describes eternal life as knowing God. "Know" does not indicate a mere casual familiarity, but a very close relationship approaching the intimacy of a sexual one. That is how we must relate to Him.

There are other verses that show that God "knows" us:

» I Corinthians 8:3: "But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him."
» Galatians 4:9: "But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?"
» Amos 3:2: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Though God says this to Israel, it applies even more intimately to the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).

These verses again show a vital key to understanding our relationship with Him: Our love for Him is merely a response to His initiative.

By way of contrast, compare these to what Jesus says to those who are not called as their disobedience shows, but who masquerade as disciples, even as ministers, as if they really knew the Father and Son:

Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matthew 7:21-23)

Since He never knew them, is this not just another way of saying, "I never loved you"?

We are who we are, the foolish and weak of the world. We believe because God has appointed us to eternal life. We have faith because of His grace, and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts because the Father loves us. If we understand the Scriptures correctly, God has chosen the most unlikely people upon which to pour out His grace and love and so become holy and without blame before Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Seven


 

John 17:3

He does not use the term "immortal" or "endless," but He describes a kind and quality of life in terms of knowledge and a relationship with the Father and Son, a very intimate relationship.

Do not be misled by the limited Strong's definition of the word translated "eternal" in this verse. A more complete lexicon like Spiros Zodhiates' Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament gives a more precise usage—how the word is used in the Bible rather than merely in classical Greek. Zodhiates says that the word refers to the "life which is God's" (p. 107). The life of God is more than endless, and that is what is important here. He adds, "It is to be understood as referring not only to duration, but more so to quality. That is, it is not merely life that is eternal in duration, but is primarily something different from the natural life of man, i.e., the life of God."

The Daily Bible Study Commentary: John (Volume 2) by William Barclay contains this comment:

There is another important thought in this passage, for it contains the great New Testament definition of eternal life. It is eternal life to know God and to know Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Let us remind ourselves of what eternal means. In Greek, it is aionis. This word has to do, not so much with duration of life, for life which went on forever would not necessarily be a boon. Its main meaning is quality of life. There is only one person to whom the aionis can properly be applied, and that is God. Eternal life is, therefore, nothing other than the life of God. To possess it, to enter into it, is to experience here and now something of the splendor and the majesty, and the joy, and the peace, and the holiness, which are characteristic of the life of God. (p. 207)

John 17:3 also contains the word "know." To understand eternal life, we must also understand how this word is used here. It undoubtedly contains elements of intellectual knowledge, understanding, discernment, information, and familiarity. However, this word suggests more than this because the Old Testament regularly uses "know" to describe sexual knowledge. Sexual knowledge between a husband and wife is the most intimate of knowledge. Husband and wife are no longer two but one flesh. In this regard, in John 17:3, the important thing is not the sexual act but the intimacy of heart and mind that in true love precede the act. To know God, therefore, is not merely to have intellectual knowledge of Him, but it is having an intimate, personal relationship with Him like the nearest and dearest relationship between two people.

Hosea 4:6 provides an interesting example of the practical effect of "knowing": "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children." God's implication is clear. If they had possessed knowledge of God, they would have had the power to avoid being destroyed. Nobody in his right mind wants to be destroyed. Ignorance might be bliss, but this verse shows it can be dangerously life-threatening.

Consider the implications of a lack of knowledge in the area of physical law. A person who does not know the power of electricity, nitroglycerin, carbon monoxide, drugs, or certain medications could pay for his ignorance with his life. Or, even if a person's ignorance of these things does not kill him, he might have the quality of his life severely impaired through a maiming, debilitating injury. However, when they are used with knowledge, they can do worthwhile things. Similarly, knowing God opens to men the freest and most rewarding expressions of an abundant life.

What if a person does not know of God's righteousness? Proverbs 11:6 says, "The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the unfaithful will be caught by their own lust." What a person does not have cannot deliver them, thus they are injured or destroyed. Isaiah 11:9 shows that during the Millennium, the knowledge of God will cover the earth like a vast ocean. This is what will make the Millennium so wonderful!

Eternal life is more than just endless life. The biblical eternal life includes power to produce quality living superabundantly far beyond merely existing forever.

We should touch briefly on its sexual aspect. Genesis 4:1, 17, 25 each contain the Hebrew word yada'. It has a wide variety of possible applications, one of which is "to lie by man." In each case in Genesis 4, it is translated as "knew," since that is its basic meaning. The Hebrews used it to describe the sexual part of the relationship between husband and wife; thus, it suggests intimacy. When applied to God, it highlights not merely being acquainted with Him but, as we would say today, being "inside His head." The corresponding Greek word, ginosko, translated "know" in John 17:3, can be and is used in the same way as yada' in Hebrew (see Luke 1:34).

To know God thus includes a wide range of mental, emotional, and experiential knowledge. The fruit of this intimacy includes love, reverence, obedience, honor, gratitude, and deep affection. We come to know Him as sovereign Ruler, Master, parent, brother, friend, Savior, and Lawgiver. We would never know this mixture of admirable qualities and authority without getting close to Him. They compel us to yield to Him with all of our heart while we strive to obey and glorify Him.

In sum, this points to Jesus indicating that eternal life is not merely endless, though that is its dominant sense, but that those who have it live intimately with God and conduct their lives as God does—otherwise, there would be no close intimacy with Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Six): Eternal Life


 

John 17:3

The term "know" implies intimate, experiential knowledge, not merely bookish or theoretical knowledge. Jesus Christ suggests that having an intimate relationship with the Father and Son causes us to become one with them. The only way we can do that is by living the way God does by faith. He walks—lives life—with those who agree with Him. The One who already had this unique relationship with God reveals to us the knowledge of how to do that.

Originally given to a spiritually faltering people, Amos 5:4 adds a vital command: "For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: 'Seek Me and live.'" The word "seek" is not being used in the sense of "search" because God had already revealed Himself to them. Instead, it conveys the sense of "turn to Me," "seek to live as I do," "turn to My way of life," "seek to know Me in intimate detail."

In John 17:3, "eternal" is translated from the Greek aionis. Here, it deals not so much with duration of life, since by itself living forever would not necessarily be good. Rather, it implies "quality." Eternal life is the life of God, the way He lives life. To possess it is to experience a small measure of its splendor now.

Four times in this chapter (verses 6, 11, 12, and 26), Jesus uses the word "name" in reference to God. "Name" represents, identifies, signifies, and encompasses what He is revealing to us about God. It includes what He is in His Person, His attributes, and His purpose. God's name keeps, guards, and sustains us, both by our trusting what it signifies and then, through obedience, expressing what it means.

Psalm 9:2, 10 declares, "I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. . . . And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You." "Name" does not refer to what He is called or the sound of that name, but to what He is like in His nature and character. We can trust what He is. This has marvelous implications for us. Matthew 28:19-20 says:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

The word "in" in verse 19 can just as correctly be translated as "into," meaning that we are immersed into the name of the Father and Son. We now bear that name! They are God, and we are children of God. Baptism and the receipt of the Holy Spirit are the entrance into that name and all it implies! We have entered into the Family of God! Just as a son bears his father's name, God's name is our spiritual family name.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment


 

John 17:11

It is a measure of how important "being one" with the Father and Son is that, in this most important prayer delivered on the last night of Jesus' life, Jesus requested of the Father that we be "one with them" four times! In that sense, it is the most important request in this prayer that we become one with them.

Will a human being sacrifice for a good and moral purpose? Yes, we will if we believe God, and believe that He loves us. That last element is not easy, as it takes a lot of experience with Him to know that He loves us, and that He loves us every bit as much as He loves Jesus Christ. Notice what verse 23 says: "You . . . have loved them as You have loved Me." As means "equal to"! We have no trouble believing that God exists, but we have a great deal of trouble believing that God loves us. Yet, it is necessary for becoming one with Him, and returning that love back to Him. Human beings will sacrifice if they can get a good handle on their lives, believing God, and believing that He loves them.

Becoming one with the Father and the Son is accomplished through a number of factors, but none is more important for us right now than beginning to live as they live in preparation for being with them. No other way of life is acceptable to them, because no other way of life is in harmony with the way that they live.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God


 

John 17:26

Does knowing the name of God have anything to do with salvation? Or, to put it another way, does the third commandment have anything to do with salvation? It has everything to do with the quality of the way that we do things, which is directly attached to knowing the name of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Holiness (Part 1)


 

Acts 26:14

Christ seems to be saying, "Saul, why are you beating your head against the wall?" Paul was zealously persecuting God's church, all the while thinking he was part of the true religion, but at that point, he did not even know the true God! God called him dramatically to change the source of his belief system so that he could guide the Gentiles in changing theirs from Satan to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Romans 1:18-20

Our knowledge of God is certainly partial at best, but we cannot plead complete ignorance. Paul says His creation reveals enough of Him to make a major difference in our lives. Failure to keep the first commandment is the major reason why this world is in its current condition. Had mankind kept it, the natural, spiritual progression would have led him to keep the rest because he would then, at the very least, have had the correct Source of law and morality. Without keeping this commandment, the best that man can do in establishing standards is by his own experience, and that leads him directly to Satan!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Romans 1:18-21

Paul is describing the perversity of human nature. That a Creator God exists is evident. Every normally intelligent person, converted or unconverted, has enough capacity to be aware of God. The natural outgrowth of this knowledge should be to glorify Him through praise and thanksgiving. The perversity appears when mankind largely ignores or resists what should be a natural inclination.

However, not everyone suppresses this tendency. Those who follow the natural inclination to praise and thank the Creator and Provider usually give their thanks to something that is not really God, but an idol. Thus, while sincere, the inclination is wrongly applied, frequently resulting in a harvest festival, as history shows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Thanksgiving or Self-Indulgence?


 

Romans 1:21-23

"They knew God," that is, they experienced or were familiar with what He had done.

Rather than following truth, man rejects the knowledge of God. He willingly turns a blind eye to His creative powers, and instead, in his mind, replaces the faultless and perfect God with frail, perishable organisms: man, birds, reptiles, etc. He is willing to elevate almost anything above the true God.

And God allows this! In essence, He says, "If this is the way of life you choose, fine. Its consequences you bring upon yourselves!" The results are given in verses 24-25.

David C. Grabbe
What Evolution Really Means


 

Romans 3:11

That is astounding! How can Paul, and David before him (Psalm 10:4), make such all-encompassing statements? Despite all who have ever lived, not even one person has really sought after God. What he is saying is fact! No doubt, billions have sought after a god, but they have not sought after the true God because none of them had any idea what to look for.

This fact ties directly to Adam and Eve's sin and Satan's deception of all mankind. So thorough has his deception been that mankind has only bits and pieces of the truth, making human conceptions about God dreadfully vague. Only when God chooses to reveal Himself to individuals here and there do the pieces begin falling together into the correct pattern. Then, truly seeking Him becomes a likely prospect.

John 17:3 teaches that continuing to upgrade one's knowledge of God is linked to quality and length of life. The most important thoughts the mind can entertain are thoughts of God, as they will determine the quality and direction of an individual's life. Seeking God, then, is a continuous responsibility for the converted person. This is difficult to do, not because He is elusive, but because human minds are saturated with misconceptions. These mistaken beliefs are erased through the experiences of coming to know Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem


 

Romans 3:18

The fear needed is not a servile, cringing, and enslaving terror, but a mixture of love, admiration, and respect for what He is. He is a Father who pities His children; a Ruler who looks on the one who is poor and of a contrite heart; a Physician who heals the body, cleanses the spirit, mercifully forgives, and gives sound counsel so that His children can work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

When the fear of God enters a man's evil heart, godly knowledge, understanding, and wisdom can begin to grow. Why? Because in making better choices, the person begins to break his enslavement to his own evil heart, from which comes all the defiling corruption that leads to death, as Jesus shows in Matthew 15:18-20:

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.

By nature, man is focused on his sense of self-importance, so pride dominates his attitudes and therefore his choices. The corrective is something that will humble, and it begins with him being able to compare himself appropriately with the greatness of God. Man will live either to serve himself or to seek to serve and please God. It will be one or the other because no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

When Moses goes before Pharaoh in Exodus 5:2, he says, "Let my people go." What is Pharaoh's defiant response? "Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go." That was his problem, and it remains a major hurdle for us too. We must come to know the Lord. From this, a simple truth arises: Not knowing God promotes irreverence of God, as Pharaoh clearly shows. Thus, not knowing God promotes disobedience. Knowing God, on the other hand, promotes the fear of God and humility before Him and thus obedience.

Knowing God in His sovereignty works to remove every ground for man to rely on himself and boast. Salvation is of the Lord; it is by His grace through faith. Man wants to think that he is contributing greatly to his redemption and salvation, but John tells us we are born, not of the will of the flesh, but of God (John 1:13). If we understand God's sovereignty, it leads us to praise Him for the glory of what He is: He is our salvation! In addition, we desire salvation for the very purpose of humbling ourselves before Him that we might glorify Him. This means that we can wisely turn only one way: We must choose to submit to His will.

The exercise, the actual use, of humility in daily life is a choice. Each time we submit to God's instruction, we are humbling ourselves before Him. Once we know what God's will is, we must still deal with choosing to use humility by submitting to it. Is that not what God says in Deuteronomy 30:19, that we must choose life rather than death? "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live." Fully accepting God's sovereignty provides us the proper comparisons so that we can wisely make right choices.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty, Part Three: The Fruits


 

1 Corinthians 2:10-12

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

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


 

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

One level of this concept of responsibility to the body is, of course, taking care of our physical bodies. Because we belong to God and are therefore holy and are integral parts of the body of Christ, this responsibility weighs upon us with greater intensity than upon those who are not. In John 14:23, Jesus introduces the basis for this concept to illustrate the closeness of our relationship with God: "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." Under the Old Covenant, God is mysterious and distant and dwelling in the Temple. Under the New Covenant, we become the Temple, and God becomes knowable and personal.

In I Corinthians 6:15-20, Paul clearly confirms these concepts:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "The two," He says, "shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in you body and in your spirit, which are God's.

It is difficult to imagine how much more clearly he could express our responsibility to maintain good health! It is actually a fourfold responsibility:

1. To God because He bought us at a price;
2. To Jesus Christ because we are part of His body;
3. To ourselves to come out of sin; and
4. To our loved ones to serve them.

Meeting all of these glorifies God. Paul's concern is that debauching the body by involving it in sin threatens the continuation of the relationships. We normally think of sin as breaking a law. This is not a wrong understanding, but the Bible's usage is much broader. Biblically, sin is falling short of the glory of God, or turning aside from the path of what is right. It is also missing the mark. Sin is the Bible's term to indicate a failure to do things right, and right is the way God would do it. Of course, some failures to do what is right are far more serious than others are.

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


 

1 Corinthians 11:25-29

Verse 25 reads, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood." It employs a figure of speech in which the word "cup" is a metonymy, meaning that the cup represents what it contains: literally wine. The wine symbolized His blood, thus, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood."

A covenant is an agreement, a contract, between two parties. It is a device to bring people into a binding relationship to accomplish some undertaking. This particular covenant is unusual in that it is in His blood.

In his commentary on I Corinthians 11:23-34 (p. 104), William Barclay makes a very interesting comment on this. He changes a few words and provides proof that the change is grammatically legitimate. He paraphrases it in this manner: "This covenant cost Me My life." This agreement, the New Covenant, is made at the cost of the most precious, the most valuable and dearest Life that has ever lived on the face of the earth, that of our sinless Creator. It did not come cheaply.

Barclay's paraphrase is justifiable because the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:14). The giving of that specific Life by His shed blood made possible the establishment of a covenantal relationship with God. This relationship is the fruit of Christ's sinless life and subsequent death. Passover portrays what makes salvation a reality for us because justification before God is its fruit. We can consider Christ's making this relationship possible the most important accomplishment of all that He has done through His death.

Our relationship with God is our salvation. We could have no salvation unless the relationship existed because we would still be cut off from God. Once established, this relationship must be developed and to be developed, it must be continued! "If you continue, you will become free," says Jesus. This begins the process of truly coming to know God, and to know God is eternal life (John 17:3).

Within the context of I Corinthians 11, a major point deals with people not properly discerning the sacred gravity of what the symbols represent. Some in Corinth were making a mockery of the Passover. The church members gathered for a meal, and some were getting drunk, others ate in a gluttonous manner, while a few received little food because others were hogging it all. What they did edified the body not at all! They experienced very little of the right kind of spiritual fellowship.

The apostle writes his epistle to correct a corrupt situation. His point is that, in doing what they did, they were not discerning the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus Christ. If they had truly understood their significance, they would not have acted in this manner. They were not properly interpreting and applying the meaning to their own lives. In treating Christ's sacrifice in a frivolous manner, their application especially went awry. They went through the motions of taking the Passover but without appreciating the reality that the symbols represented.

The word "unworthy" in I Corinthians 11:27 means "lacking in merit or worth." The Corinthians had no appreciation of the precious value of what the symbols represented to their personal salvation. They were missing the eternal character of what they were observing, caring little about who had died and grasping almost nothing of the love that went into His act. They were truly profaning the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ and putting Him to an open shame.

A major point of understanding about observing Passover is that our attitude toward Christ's sacrifice affects our approach to life in general. Above all, it will affect our relationship with the Father, as well as with one another, because the strength of our obligation to submit to Jesus Christ will be diminished. We will not feel it all that important to submit in obedience.

If God wants us to understand anything by our observing the Passover, it is 1) the tremendous costs it took to free us and to maintain that freedom, and 2) how far Jesus Christ, our Example, was willing to be "pushed" without giving in to sin in even the smallest of matters. Let us take Passover soberly, with the serious significance of what it represents at the forefront of our minds.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Love


 

Galatians 2:15

Paul is most likely still addressing Peter and the other Jews who were acting unfaithfully. This flows smoothly from what Paul said to Peter "before them all" (verse 14), and it is not until the beginning of chapter 3 that Paul directly addresses the Galatians again.

They were Jews by nature, or by birth, as opposed to the Gentiles, who were, by definition, of a different race. Paul does not mean that one race was inherently righteous and the other was inherently sinful. However, the Greek word used here for "sinners" is hamartoolos, which often signifies a pagan, one who had no knowledge of the true God. This is not a condemnation of Gentiles in general, but rather a statement that they had no connection with God by heritage as the Jews did. Romans 14:3 states the principle that whatever is not of faith is sin, so anyone not knowing God—and thus not having faith in Him—would be a "sinner." To show further that Paul is not playing favorites, Romans 3:9 shows that both groups of people (Jew and Gentile) were sinners in terms of coming short of the glory of God and breaking His law.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 4:8

Prior to God's intervention in their lives, when they did not have a relationship with Him, the Galatians (in particular) and the world (in general) were in bondage to and slaves of the Babylonish system, even a worship of demons—"so-called gods" (I Corinthians 8:5).

In the New Testament, there are two Greek words that are translated as "to know"—ginooskein (Strong's number G1097) and eidenai (Strong's number G1492). According to Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, ginooskein is knowledge grounded in personal experience or apprehension of external impressions. It is used to describe relationships, even up to the most intimate of relationships—marriage ("And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived"). Eidenai, the word used in Galatians 4:8, is a mental perception in contrast with conjecture or knowledge derived from others.

The Jews at least knew of God and knew about God, but they did not really know God in terms of having a relationship with Him. He revealed Himself to Israel when He brought them out of Egypt and gave them the law, and the knowledge that such a God existed never really passed from all of the generations. After a remnant of the two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, returned to Jerusalem from captivity, they restored the proper worship of God and began adhering to the law that He had given to them. Later, various sects (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc.) arose and began putting their own spin on the original God-given law. They wanted to make absolutely certain that they would not transgress His law in even the smallest degree, so they would not have to go back into captivity.

What developed was Halakhah, which was loosely based on the Old Covenant but contained ordinances and judgments that are far from God's original ideal. This, in combination with Hellenism, developed into what is now called Judaism. So at the base of all this, the Jews at least know that there is one true God, but their emphasis on Halakhah made them reject Christ when He came as a man. There was at least a "mental perception" (eidenai), even though there was not a real relationship (ginooskein).

The Gentiles, on the other hand, did not even have a concept (eidenai) of the true God. They worshipped and served a wide variety of pagan deities, and in actuality, this worship was inspired by and centered on demons. In the letter to the Galatians, Paul was addressing not only the dangerous slide into Judaism, but also the return to pagan rites inspired by Gnosticism.

David C. Grabbe


 

Philippians 3:8-10

At times, the Bible uses "to know" as a euphemism for sexual intimacy. Paul is not saying here that he desires sexual intimacy with Christ, but that he greatly desires spiritual intimacy with Him. He wants to be so close to Him that he experiences the same level of life as Jesus did—even to the point of suffering or dying as He died, if that is necessary to be made like Him in every possible way. He desires to glorify God in every aspect of his life just as Jesus did (John 17:4).

To achieve this requires a clear vision of where one wants his life to go; dogged, disciplined determination to work toward that end; rigid concentration to avoid becoming distracted; and an unflagging willingness to pay whatever price might be required.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Nine): Conclusion (Part Two)


 

Colossians 1:9-11

The key in these verses is to understand that Paul speaks of a specific knowledge—the knowledge of God's will, God's knowledge. It is not knowledge about God but God's knowledge that we receive through study, teaching, and practice.

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


 

Colossians 3:9-10

We will conform to our image of God. Whatever our image of God is, we will make an effort—expend energy—to become like it. We had better be sure that it is the right image! Conforming will take place just as surely as a child born into a human family will conform to the image of that family—particularly the parents—and pick up their characteristics, whether they want to or not. This is a true principle, which Paul is speaking about here, only in a spiritual vein.

Since the Christian is to be "renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him," he cannot be renewed in knowledge unless he is conforming to the right image. What Moses did when he was forty amounted to this: He knew about God, but he did not know God. He had head-knowledge of God, of the prophecy that God made to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-16, of the fact that the four hundred years were almost up, and that, counting Levi, he was of the fourth generation of Israelites who had been in Egypt.

He had head-knowledge, but he did not really know God. Therefore, he jumped the gun. Although he was excited and zealous, he was way off-base in terms of God's plan. However, in the intervening forty years, he came to know God. As he did, his beliefs about God changed, and thus his convictions also changed. They became more in harmony with the true knowledge of God.

Strong belief must be present, but it also must be right or it is out of sync with God. Those strongly held beliefs will not produce the right fruit because the way of life will not correspond with the true image of God. In other words, if our knowledge of God is not correct, it will not produce the right fruit because it does not conform to the true image of God.

At forty years of age, Moses' image of God was wrong. In his excitement and in his zeal, he went out, but he did not produce the right fruit. He could not because his image of God was incorrect. Forty years later, after spending so many years in the wilderness, his image of God was more correct, much clearer. Did it produce the right fruit? Yes, it did. Israel was released from its slavery because Moses was in harmony with God's will. The image of God was right, and he was conforming to it.

If our image of God is wrong, then our way of life will not be consistent with God's. Just like Moses, we need time for this process of coming to know God to take place.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction, Moses and Us


 

Hebrews 3:15-18

In regard to faith, we must understand what the Bible means by its frequent admonitions to "hear." Paul writes in Hebrews 3:15, "Today, if you will hear His voice." He is not pressing us to hear the sound of His voice, but to understand what God wants us to learn through what Paul, the preacher, is expounding in his epistle. Paul is urging us to take the time now to "get" it, to "see" or "grasp" what God is teaching.

Hebrews 3:17-18; 4:2 will help us reach a conclusion about what God intends regarding hearing. Whether a person physically hears the actual voice of God Himself is of little importance. Whether "hearing" in our personal reading or "hearing" the preaching of a minister, what is critical is that we obey the godly instruction, because unless we actually obey, we have not yet truly heard. If a person continues to sin, he has not really heard, in the biblical sense, what God has taught.

Put in another way, if a person continues to sin because God's Word does not motivate him to obedience to what He teaches, then he, in a worst-case scenario, either does not believe God or at this point his belief is so weak that he cannot bring himself to trust Him. Such are the ones who died in the wilderness. The weakness is not that people do not believe that He exists, but that they do not trust what He says because, in reality, they do not know Him. Thus, in the biblical sense, they have not yet truly heard.

In Hebrews 4:2, Paul uses the Greek word pistis for the first time in his letter. He will use it 31 more times. Pistis is translated either as "faith" or as "faithfulness." I believe that "faithfulness" is better here because that is what the Israelites lacked. Faithfulness is trusting God in continuous fashion as shown by conduct. God has given us a great deal, but it is our responsibility to hold firmly to His instructions by living them. Living them engrains them into our characters as habits, and this is good. Through habitual use, they become so entrenched in our behavior that we do not even have to call them to mind.

The unbelief that Paul is speaking of here is that our weak trust results in weak Christian living because we do not know and "see" God with the clarity that we should have. It can be rectified, but that is not always easy and at times may seem costly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty (Part Two)


 

Hebrews 4:1-2

Israel failed because they did not accept what they heard in faith. Therefore they did not submit in obedience to God. They never came to love Him or to know Him. Those with the greatest faith are the ones who know God best because they are continually working to develop their relationship with Him by talking with Him, letting Him talk to us through study, yielding to Him, and living in conformity to His way.

That is what Enoch did, which is why he stood out. There is something interesting about Enoch that might be noteworthy to us living in the end time. On the heels of the fact that he walked with God, the writer adds that "God took him, and he was not." Could this be an indicator of who will be taken to the Place of Safety? Enoch was taken away from trouble that he should not see the kind of violent death that otherwise would have come upon him. God rescued him from it and placed him in another area, and he lived out his life in peace, dying a normal death.

Is faith important to Passover? It may be that it is the single most important aspect to Passover, because everything else is built upon, founded upon, and anchored to our faith in God and the depth of our relationship with Him. Israel knew that God existed, but that knowledge never carried through into their daily life in living trust. It was "business as usual," even though they were separated from Egypt, and thus it is clear why Israel failed. There is a direct connection between knowing God and submitting to Him, because to know Him is to love Him, and we submit to those we love.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Pre-Passover Look


 

Hebrews 11:27

This succinct statement illustrates what made the difference between those who succeeded in living by faith and entered the Promised Land and those who left Egypt but died during the pilgrimage: Those who succeeded "saw" God.

This is perhaps the simplest and clearest explanation of the nature of faith in the entire Bible. Hebrews is written to a group of people undergoing severe trials, and the author encourages and counsels them to persevere through them and remain on track for the Kingdom of God. At this point, Moses is the specific illustration of living by faith. In his relationship with God, he is described as being sustained in perseverance as if he literally saw God with His bodily eyes.

Hebrews 11:1 explains, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The author is saying that faith is the confident conviction that, like the foundation of a building, stands under and supports a life lived by faith in the invisible God. This brings up an important question: How can a person live by faith if he does not have sufficient knowledge of the sovereign greatness, closeness, and awesome grace of God? In the mercy that He has already given, God has shown enough of Himself to allow us to begin a relationship with Him. Of course, we need more to come to know Him and fear Him as He desires.

A recent Barna poll reported that over 80% of Americans believe God exists. Yet, how is their level of knowledge about Him affecting their conduct? Clearly, it is not supporting moral living to any great extent. This fact triggers the thought that the great immorality of the American people reveals that they are not very concerned about being answerable to Him. They have heard of Him but do not know Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty (Part Two)


 

James 4:17

Sin is missing the mark of what God wants us to do. II Timothy 3:7 speaks of "always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." This verse is the negative way of phrasing the same concept. We have all the knowledge about what to do and how to live righteously, but if we fail to do it, to put it into practice, it is sin to us. It becomes a selfish pursuit of knowledge, and we are missing the reason that God gave it to us. The word sin is hamartia: missing the point, missing the mark. James 1:27 says, "Pure and undefiled religion . . . is . . . to visit orphans and widows in their troubles, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." Notice what he puts first: Pure religion is helping those who are in need, showing your love to them, and then it is keeping oneself pure. Remember, the knowledge God gives us is predominantly and ultimately practical, useful, helpful, outgoing.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
It Takes a Church


 

1 Peter 1:18

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Seven


 

1 John 2:1-6

Eternal life is to know God (John 17:3). Do we want to know God and do His will at the same time? Keep His commandments. Do not sin. Overcome and grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18). To do this, we have to desire to live the eternal life given us by the Father through Jesus Christ. This does not come easily. Our Savior describes this way as difficult and narrow, for human nature stands ever ready to throw stumbling blocks in our path.

Sin destroys ideals. As we sin, the high standards of eternal life are gradually eroded away, and we become willing to accept just about anything. Sin destroys innocence, and in the process creates fear, cynicism, guilt, and restlessness. Sin destroys the will, gradually removing the barriers to sin more and the incentive to do well.

Sin produces more sin, sickness, pain, slavery, and finally, death. This cycle will never change unless each person, as God summons him, takes it upon himself to allow himself to be motivated to use the gifts God gives. It takes a great deal of effort to do this. Jesus warns it will be difficult.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Six): Eternal Life


 

1 John 2:3-6

This passage helps us understand how we can have the right attitude and emotion in our obedience. We come to know God through the same general process we get to know fellow human beings—by fellowshipping or experiencing life with them.

Around 500 years before Christ, Greek philosophers believed they could come to know God through intellectual reasoning and argument. This idea had a simple premise: that man is curious! They reasoned that it is man's nature to ask questions. Since God made man so, if men asked the right questions and thought them through, they would force God to reveal Himself. The flaw in this is seen in the fruit it produced. Though it supplied a number of right answers, it did not—could not—make men moral beings. Such a process could not change man's nature.

To them, religion became something akin to higher mathematics. It was intense mental activity, yielding intellectual satisfaction but no moral action. Plato and Socrates, for example, saw nothing wrong with homosexuality. The gods of Greek mythology also reflect this immorality, as they had the same weaknesses as human beings.

A few hundred years later, the Greeks pursued becoming one with God through mystery religions. One of their distinctive features was the passion play, which always had the same general theme. A god lived, suffered terribly, died a cruel, unjust death, and then rose to life again. Before being allowed to see the play, an initiate endured a long course of instruction and ascetic discipline. As he progressed in the religion, he was gradually worked into a state of intense expectation.

Then, at the right time, his instructors took him to the passion play, where they orchestrated the environment to heighten the emotional experience: cunning lighting, sensuous music, fragrant incense, and uplifting liturgy. As the story developed, the initiate became so emotionally involved that he identified himself with and believed he shared the god's suffering, victory, and immortality.

But this exercise failed them in coming to know God. Not only did it not change man's nature, but the passion play was also full of lies! The result was not true knowing but feeling. It acted like a religious drug, the effects of which were short-lived. It was an abnormal experience, somewhat like a modern Pentecostal meeting where worshippers pray down the "spirit" and speak in tongues. Such activities are escapes from the realities of ordinary life.

Contrast these Greek methods with the Bible's way of knowing God. Knowledge of God comes, not by speculation or emotionalism, but by God's direct self-revelation. In other words, God Himself initiates our knowing of Him, beginning our relationship by drawing us by His Spirit (John 6:44).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 

1 John 4:20-21

John presents these verses as a challenge, a test, to his readers. There are many who say they “love God” or “I have fellowship with God” or “I know God,” and John is saying, "Prove it by loving your brother." The proof that love is real is the action that it produces. It will always help the other person in the long run.

If a person really loves God, he will honor his parents, he will not commit murder, nor will he fornicate, commit adultery, lie, steal, or covet. In other words, he will keep God's Commandments. If a person is really becoming close to God, he will not do any of these things—and not their spiritual counterparts either.

This verse, then, offers a permanently valid test to see whether our religion is the true one or not. Do we love God? Do we love one another? The proof that we love God is that we love our brother with agape love, for that kind of love must have an outlet, or it will not be reciprocated back to God.

The feelings associated with agape love arise as a result of our fellowship with God through experiencing life's events with Him as a dominating influence on our thinking.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love's Emotional Dimension


 

Revelation 2:4-5

If we love a person, we are glad to be able to consult with him, to seek his tastes and opinions. Why? So we can please him. We act on his advice; we do the things that he approves of. In fact, we will even deny ourselves to meet his wishes and abstain from the things that we know that he dislikes.

Anybody who has gone through a courtship understands this. If we find that the object of our affection does not like the way we do certain things, the colors that we wear in our clothing, the style of our dress, the car we drive, or the same foods we like, what will we do? We will try to conform to him or her as long as it is lawful. If we love that person, we will try to please him or her in any way that we possibly can. But, if we are indifferent to the person, who cares what he or she thinks?

It is easy to see why this love is so important, for love is the mainspring of the right kind of works.

The people who do not love Christ are working, active, expending their energies on things that they love, but what they love is not Christ. And because it is not Christ, they do the wrong works.

When we are in love, we will even learn things that we are not naturally inclined toward because we think it will give the other person pleasure. Some guys are nuts over baseball, golf, or whatever sport—perhaps hunting or fishing—and the poor girl will put herself through agony to watch a boring baseball game with him or go golfing, hunting, or fishing with him just to please him because she loves him.

Are we that way with Christ? Do we do what we can, everything we can, denying ourselves or learning new things because we want to please Him? We want to please Him because we love Him. These are areas that we must evaluate ourselves on.

John W. Ritenbaugh
How to Know We Love Christ


 

 




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