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Bible verses about Sanctification
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Self-mastery ("soberly" in NKJV) is self-government or self-control, the foundation of a strong godly life, growth, and producing fruit. If a person cannot govern himself, if he cannot master his passions, he will certainly not have a good relationship with his fellowman or God. His life will likely be marked by major excesses.

The biblical writers use this word in various ways: to behave in an orderly manner, to be sober, serious, sane, sound-minded, discreet, self-disciplined, prudent, and moderate. In context of a person controlling himself, Paul writes, "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Romans 12:3; see Titus 2:6; I Peter 4:7).

A person who has self-mastery is even-handed, and his passions are under control. He makes proper use of his drives and desires, and his manner of life is not one of extremes. A person reflecting this quality will be making steady progress in growing into the perfectly balanced character of Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

We could easily think of integrity ("righteously" in NKJV) strictly in terms of law and pursue it no further. But when we see how this word is translated elsewhere, we add a dimension that helps us better understand how we should act toward our fellowman.

In Luke 23:41 and I Thessalonians 2:10, the same word is rendered "justly," meaning right, proper, or fair. This is the adverbial form of the Greek dikaios, meaning "to be conformed to that which is right," which Plato said is inseparably bound to the word translated "sober" above. A person who is dikaios neither selfishly nor forgetfully transgresses the bounds of what is right. He gives everyone his due.

To Christianity, this translates into "my duty is my right." This concept branches out into areas of life like civility, consideration, concern, and respect and has little or nothing to do with what we normally consider as "law." I Corinthians 13:4-7 is a clear example of such instruction.

The grace of God obligates us to these duties in our relationships with others. To conform to them fulfills what Paul means by living with integrity in Titus 2:12. It encompasses keeping the commandments, of course, but it also involves such virtues as probity, honesty, goodness, irreproachability, fairness, nobility, and being just and sensitive to another's needs, including giving correction in kindness and mercy (Galatians 6:1-2).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

God's salvation is clearly revealed to be a process consisting of His calling, justification, sanctification, and glorification. In the Exodus account, justification is exemplified by Israel being called out of slavery, coming under the blood of the lamb on Passover, and passing through the Red Sea in a type of baptism. Like us under the New Covenant, the Israelites were then prepared to make the Old Covenant with God.

Glorification is pictured by their passing through the Jordan River and entering into possession of their inheritance. If we measure the time required for their justification and glorification, we can see they were very short periods. But sanctification, the in-between period during which the Israelites were preparing to possess their inheritance, took a long forty years.

John W. Ritenbaugh
After Pentecost, Then What?


 

Sanctification is a crucial biblical doctrine concerning the way we live our lives before God. As early as Abraham, God's charge is, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me, and be blameless" (Genesis 17:1). This clearly shows that God demands holiness to be essential to any relationship with Him. We who are in Christ are Abraham's seed (Galatians 3:29), and as his children, things required of him are also required of us.

The Greek word hagiamos, translated "sanctification," "holiness," and "consecration," indicates the process of being made, remaining, and progressing in holiness. Just as the Israelites could not free themselves from Egypt, save themselves from the death angel, and part the Red Sea to be ready to make the covenant with God, neither can any man make himself holy. Sanctification is the result of God making someone holy. Notice II Thessalonians 2:13: "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth." I Peter I:2 adds, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."

Though we cannot make ourselves holy, once God has made us holy, we become important players in whether we remain holy and progress in holiness. Once we are consecrated as holy by God, our pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God truly begins in earnest. We are at that critical point which Deuteronomy 30:15-20 describes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
After Pentecost, Then What?


 

Sometimes we become confused by the Bible's terminology. Justification and sanctification are not the same things. Justification is a legal state or condition which God, by His grace, declares us to be in as a result of our repentance and faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. It is righteousness (right standing with God), but it is imputed, accounted, or bestowed upon us; it is not based on any of our works. Justification clears the account of debt with God and frees us from the death penalty. It gives us peace with God and access to Him and the Holy Spirit. All these things come as a gift from Him through justification. With justification, Christ's righteousness is merely imputed to us, accounted where it legally ought not to be.

Under sanctification, Christ's righteousness actually, literally becomes ours through the process of obedience, overcoming, prayer, study, producing fruit, sacrificing ourselves, serving, and being led and enabled by God's Holy Spirit, as God purifies our heart and infuses within us His divine nature—producing His image and holiness. Sanctification it is a process. In sanctification is where works come into play, as Paul exhorts, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). Our part is activated and motivated by faith. This faith is not merely believing but trusting what His Word says enough to act on it or sacrifice because of it—yielding to God. Sanctification requires work—not to save us—but to ensure that God's creative process in us continues.

God cannot create holy, righteous character by fiat. It requires the willing cooperation of free moral agents who choose to do the right thing because it is right, because they love God and His way of life, and because they love each other. They are willing to sacrifice themselves, to work by faith, to pay the price.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 5): Ephesians 4 (B)


 

One cannot see justification, but a person can see sanctification with his eyes! It does not take a great deal of discernment. Anyone with the Holy Spirit can see whether or not a person is being sanctified.

What does the scripture mean by a sanctified man? Sanctification is that inward, spiritual work that God works in us by His Holy Spirit when He calls us to be a son. He not only washes us from our sins by Christ's blood, but also separates us from our carnal love of sin (our carnality), working into our minds a new motivating principle of living.

Much of this is done supernaturally by the receiving of His Holy Spirit: "I will put My law into your mind." He can do that, but He cannot make a person use it! It is when we choose to use it that it becomes inscribed in our hearts—it becomes part of our nature, part of our way of living. However, this does not occur in the blink of an eye. It is a process whose main element is faithfaith in something very specific. It is not the faith that God is, but faith in God's Word. If a person does not trust His Word, he will not obey it, and if he does not obey it, he will not be sanctified. If he is not sanctified, he will not be purified or become holy. Thus, he will not be in the Kingdom of God.

So once a person is justified, the main element is faith in the Word of God. The whole process includes justification. Yet, if one supposes that Christ lived, died, and rose again only to provide justification and the forgiveness of sin—whether a person realizes it or not—he has only half a Savior. We are saved by His life (Romans 5:10)! Who works this purification process on the supernatural end? Our Savior Jesus Christ.

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


 

If one is truly being sanctified, it will show itself in a habitual respect for God's law, most specifically the Ten Commandments. Many specious arguments have been devised to convince people that God's law need not be kept for salvation. These arguments are specifically aimed at denying the Christian responsibility of keeping the Sabbath, despite Jesus and the apostle Paul keeping the Sabbath as examples to all.

Was it not our sins that made it necessary for God to give us grace for forgiveness? Is not sin defined in I John 3:4 as transgressing God's law? Does it not defy logic that God would allow His sinless Son's life to be taken, grant us an unearned, unmerited pardon, and then permit us to go right back to sinning as a way of life? Perhaps one who has been taught thus should reread Hebrews 10:26-31.

Contained in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is an exposition of the very spirit of the Ten Commandments, showing that His followers have a more thorough and expansive responsibility to keep them than they ever had before conversion. He even admonishes us not to think that He has "come to destroy the Law or the Prophets" (Matthew 5:17). At just this point in His message, He launches into His expansion on the Ten Commandments.

Similarly, the apostle Paul never made light of God's laws. He writes, God forbid that we should break them and continue in sin (Romans 6:1-2). Do those calling themselves Christian really think that idolatry, lying, hypocrisy, thievery, murder, and adultery have God's approval? He does not approve of breaking His Sabbath either. We must labor not to break them so that we do not lose what our Lord and His Father have so generously and freely given us.

Habitually endeavoring to do Christ's will is a hallmark of one striving for holiness. He understands that Christ's teachings were given for the express purpose of promoting holiness because holiness is what pleases our Father in heaven. Is that not what our life is to be devoted to? In I Peter 1:16, the apostle quotes Leviticus 19:2, where our God commands, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy." It is foolhardy indeed for one to neglect to make practical use of Jesus' teachings, especially those given so plainly and clearly in the Sermon on the Mount.

Will not one committed to glorifying God follow Jesus' example when opportunities present themselves to do good, lessening the sorrow and pains of those around him while increasing happiness and well-being? Will he not exude peace, revealing a caring nature that always looks for ways to make others' lives a bit easier? A truly sanctified person will not exhibit a self-righteous, holier-than-thou, hard-as-nails attitude that cares nothing about whether others sink or swim. A sanctified person will perform good works.

Some works are more passive than those just mentioned, but we must develop and perform them nonetheless. Of the nine fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, three of them - longsuffering, gentleness and meekness (KJV) - are more or less passive qualities that express godly traits. We must work to become more patient and forbearing with the weaknesses of others. Peter recalls of Jesus, "[W]hen He was reviled, [He] did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (I Peter 2:23). In this same context, he commands us to "follow His steps" (verse 21).

In the Lord's prayer, we are reminded of our need to forgive those who trespass against us (Matthew 6:12). Immediately after this, Christ emphasizes how important this work is by telling us that, if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us (verses 14-15)!

Are we given to quick, cross tempers; sharp, sarcastic tongues; or disagreeable, easily offended attitudes? These are hardly godly attributes. It takes considerable work to overcome their presence in one's character.

We must never be ashamed of reaching for high standards of righteousness in our quest for holiness. Just because others do not seem to care is no excuse for us to lower our aim. For example, we cannot allow ourselves to be content with just keeping the Sabbath, somehow thinking that we have pleased God. Much of what passes for religion these days is perfectly useless when compared with the earnestness of God crying out in His Word for us to flee from the wrath to come (see Matthew 3:7; Romans 5:9; I Thessalonians 1:10). How do we flee from this wrath? By submitting to God. Can a person in danger flee in slow-motion or by standing still?

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


 

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

Because the Sabbath is from creation—and the Creator Himself set the pattern for man by resting on it—it has universal validity. It is not from one of the patriarchs or Moses or from the Jews because none of these existed when it was created. The Bible shows three times in two verses that God very clearly inspired the seventh day, not a seventh day.

God could have ended His creative work at the end of the sixth day because it seemed at that point as though He had provided everything man needed for life. But He did not complete it then because all man needed was not yet created! The Sabbath is, in fact, THE VERY CROWN of the creation week. It is vital to man's well-being. So God created a period of rest and holy time—a very specific period, as the context shows.

God draws our attention to four things He did on that first Sabbath. He (1) ended His work, (2) rested, (3) blessed the seventh day, and (4) sanctified it. He created something just as surely as He created physical things on the other six days. He is instructing us that, on the Sabbath, creation continued but in a different form, one not outwardly visible. To those with understanding, the Sabbath symbolizes that God is still creating. Jesus confirms this in John 5:17, when a dispute arises over how to keep the Sabbath. He replies, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working."

The Sabbath is an integral part of the process of creation. God finished the physical part at the end of the sixth day. The spiritual aspect began with the creation of the Sabbath and continues to this day. Through the sequence of events on the first six days, God created an environment for man and life. But God shows through the creation of the Sabbath that the life-producing process is not complete with just the physical environment. The Sabbath provides an important part in producing spiritual life—life with a dimension the physical cannot supply.

The Sabbath is not an afterthought of a tremendous creation, but a deliberate memorializing of the most enduring thing man knows: time. Time plays a key role in God's spiritual creation. It is as if God says, "Look at what I have made and consider that I am not yet finished creating. I am reproducing Myself, and you can be a part of My spiritual creation."

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


 

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

God rested on the seventh day of creation. The word "rested" here comes from the Hebrew word shabath (Strong's 7673), which can mean "to keep or to observe the Sabbath." This word is the root for the word shabbath (Strong's 7676), which is translated as "Sabbath" throughout the Old Testament.

God rested upon, or kept, the Sabbath on this first seventh day, not because He physically tired after all His creation work, but to set an example for Adam, Eve, and all humanity after them to do the same.

Some say that only that very first seventh day was made a day of rest by God and not all of the other seventh days since. Moses refutes this in Exodus 20:11 by commanding the Israelites to keep the Sabbath, not because they were Israelites, but because God had rested upon and sanctified the seventh day at Creation.

The evening of the sixth day of creation was not the end of God's work; Jesus says in John 5:17 that both He and His Father continue to work. Just one part of their "work" is the sustaining and maintaining of the operation of the universe. If they withdrew that "work," the whole physical universe would come to a sudden and complete end!

Staff


 

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

On the seventh day of the creation week, God rested, blessed it (made it special), and sanctified it (set it apart as holy). This was not for His own benefit, but for the benefit of all mankind. Jesus clearly says in Mark 2:27 that the Sabbath was made for man. God rested on it, blessed it, and sanctified it—all for mankind.

Some say that God did all these things on and with the Sabbath and yet did not tell his people how to keep and use the day. Although the details are not recorded, there can be little doubt that God would have instructed Adam and Eve—His first human children—in how to keep His Sabbaths holy. Those simple instructions were later repeated by Moses, Isaiah, and of course, by Jesus Christ! Moses, under God's direction, stated that we are to rest on the Sabbath day because God did. God's people are to follow His example in how He kept it.

God clearly blessed and sanctified the seventh day at creation and made a special point of making it very plain to His people that He had done these things. It is illogical to believe that He would secretly remove His blessing and sanctification from the day without clearly and plainly telling His people—and not such statement exists! The seventh day is still blessed, sanctified, and to be rested upon.

Staff


 

Exodus 4:29-31   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Hebrews 4:2 clarifies that they heard the gospel as it applied to them; it was good news. They would be freed from slavery and be taken to the land of their forefather Abraham, which would be given to them. When they heard this, all they had to do at this time was to give their mental assent that they believed. How much overcoming had they done? None. God had already set His mind He would save them, and all they had to do at this point was to agree.

What they heard was good news—it was fantastic good news—until Pharaoh turned up the heat ,and their joy of hearing the good news turned to affliction and persecution. This was part of God's purpose, too, because what they were experiencing—the combination of believing and then receiving a test—was beginning to show a difference between Israel and Egypt. A kind of sanctification, a setting apart, was taking place. In this part of the process, it was more difficult for the Israelites than it was for the Egyptians, and in the Israelites' estimation, it was greater than they could bear. This difference intensifies throughout the plagues.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unleavened Bread and Pentecost


 

Exodus 12:19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread


 

Exodus 13:7-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Moses repeatedly reports this vital piece of information: You eat unleavened bread because of what the LORD did.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and Holiness (Part 1)


 

Exodus 19:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These and the following verses reveal that the Israelites progressed by various stages to the Promised Land. Slavery in Egypt was a type of being part of the world. Coming out of Egypt was a type of redemption or justification. The journey through the wilderness was a type of sanctification, and entering into the Promised Land was a type of salvation.

We see several clear steps in this process. Which took the longest time? Their sanctification! They came out with a high hand: "Yeah! We're free. Everything is fine. This is going to be a lark!" But where did they do all their crying? Where did they go hungry? Where did they experience pain? Where did they quake with fear? Where did they have their greatest tests? Where did they fail? In the wilderness, in the type of sanctification.

Why did they fail? Hebrews 4:1-2 makes it clear: They failed because their faith broke down during the portion of God's plan called sanctification. We might say today, they couldn't hack it. They could not endure to the end. Thus, as these verses say, their bodies were strewn from one end of the wilderness to the other.

As mentioned, being freed from Egypt pictures redemption or justification, but there was a great deal more to come. They had to walk for a lifetime - roughly 40 years - before they approached the Promised Land. Walking out of Egypt was only the beginning.

So it is with us and the receiving of our inheritance.

One of the first things that God did after He freed Israel was to enter into a covenant with them and to reveal His laws to them. There is a parallel, a pattern, here. Many want to do away with the laws of God, but if we do that - from the clear pattern shown in the Old Covenant - then we are destroying the rules of the game. It is nullifying part of the very elements necessary for our purification, which prepares us to inherit the Kingdom of God.

The revelation of the law was necessary to prepare Israel and to set down the rules for their relationships between themselves and with God. The law was designed to prepare them to be fit to live in their inheritance. It did not save or redeem them - God did that. The law's purpose was to prepare them.

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


 

Exodus 20:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

That word "holy" is fundamentally the same word used in Genesis 2:3 where God sanctified the seventh-day Sabbath. The only difference is that the parts of speech are different.

It takes a holy God to make holy time. He made no other time holy than His Sabbaths. Man can be made holy by God as well, but man cannot make something holy because he does not possess a holiness that can be passed on to anything. It takes a holy God to make something holy, thus any other day than what God has made holy—even though billions of men may proclaim it to be holy time—cannot be holy time. It is utterly impossible; Sunday cannot be made holy.

This means that the Sabbath is worthy of respect, deference, and even devotion that cannot be given to other periods of time. It is set apart for sacred use because it is derived directly from God. Because of God's assignment of the word "holy" to the Sabbath, this day is changed into something special. The general thrust of "holy" is different. The root word means "to cut," "to cut out," "to separate from," or "a cut above." The Sabbath is separate from other days, even though it is a part of the same cycle. It has been cut out, apart from, the other days—that is, sanctified. It is a cut above other days because God made it holy. It is different.

The Sabbath, then, is different from the common or ordinary. The other six days are common, and they are given for the pursuit of the common and ordinary things of life. On the Sabbath, we should strive to avoid those mundane things that promote making the Sabbath into an ordinary day. The Sabbath is a day for special things, different things.

The example of Moses and the burning bush illustrates what makes the day holy. It is not merely because of a proclamation by God. The burning bush provides a biblical example of how something becomes holy:

So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground." (Exodus 3:4-5)

This is what makes the Sabbath holy. Because God was present, Moses had to treat the ground in a different way—with a respect and deference that one would not give to something common. Until God put Himself in that area, the ground where Moses saw the burning bush was no different from all the other ground in the area. But as soon as God put His presence there, it became sacred—holy.

It became holy by means of a spiritual action. Holiness is not something that is physically discerned. (It is interesting to note in this context (in Exodus 3:1-5) that Moses was not aware that the ground was holy until God told him!) So the Sabbath is a spiritual thing. Its holiness must be revealed to a person (I Corinthians 2).

How do things become holy? Like time and areas of ground, they become holy because God puts His presence in them. For the sake of His people and His spiritual creation, God's presence is in the Sabbath. We do not know how He does it. Somehow, He puts His presence into the weekly Sabbath and into His holy days, making them different to those to whom He has revealed that those days consist of holy time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

Exodus 31:13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Hebrew word translated sign means "mark" or "evidence." The Sabbath day is the mark God gave His people to identify them as His own. By it, the folk of Israel would know the Source of their sanctification.

To sanctify is "to set apart for holy service," or more basically, "to make holy." God's purpose for Israel from the start was to set it apart from other peoples by giving it His laws and His statutes. God has a special relationship with Israel. Speaking through the prophet Amos to "the whole family [i.e., all the tribes] which I brought up from the land of Egypt" (Amos 3:1), God reminds the people that, "you only have I known of all the families of the earth" (verse 2). God revealed His law only to Israel. When He did so, He made it clear that Israel would "be a special treasure to Me above all people, . . . a holy [sanctified, set apart] nation" (Exodus 19:5-6), if the people "obey My voice and keep My covenant" (verse 5). The theme is repeated in Deuteronomy 7:6: "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, . . . [who] has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth." (See also Deuteronomy 14:2.)

God prefaces the "Holiness Code" of Leviticus 18 and 19 by commanding Israel to be separate from other nations. This meant acting in a way different from that of the Gentiles, not walking "in their ordinances." Leviticus 18:3-4:

According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances. . . .

In Leviticus 19:2, He makes His purpose clear: "You shall be holy [set apart], for I the LORD your God am holy." God's purpose, the intent behind all His laws, is to create a people like Himself (Genesis 1:26), a people sharing and reflecting His most salient attribute: holiness.

Sanctification is also the purpose behind God's often-denigrated physical laws. Consider, for example, the reason why God imposed the dietary law, as stated in Leviticus 11. God does not cite the maintenance of health as a reason to obey the dietary laws; the Scriptures do not specify that obedience of these laws will cause good health or prevent disease (though this is a secondary, albeit unmentioned, benefit). Rather, God concludes His dietary laws with a statement of His holiness and a command for His people to be like Him. Leviticus 11:44-45:

For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

Obedience to God's law plays a crucial role in bringing about this sanctification. It is not that a people become sanctified (somehow, by God's grace) and, as a result, start obeying God's law. God's Word does not support the Protestant concept that sanctification imputed by God's grace mysteriously empowers one to obey His commandments. They have it backwards.

Rather, obedience to the law causes sanctification. Law-keeping and sanctification become intrinsically connected: To obey God's law is to be sanctified. By its nature, law-keeping brings about sanctification.

In a national context, God states that obeying His laws creates a people unlike others on the earth, a people set apart from others, a holy nation. National sanctification produces what Balaam saw in Israel: "A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations" (Numbers 23:9).

If commandment-keeping separates people from the nations while connecting them to God, disobedience of God's law has exactly the opposite effect. Commandment-breaking separates a people from God, and connects them to the ways of the nations. Individuals who disobey God's law become like the "world," the kosmos of the New Testament (I John 2:15).

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Twelve): The Sign


 

Exodus 31:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This special covenant—strategically placed by Moses between information on the building of the Tabernacle (a type of the church) and the Golden Calf incident (brazen idolatry)—creates a special sign of the Sabbath between God and His people. Generally, a sign identifies. It communicates the purpose of or gives directions to a person or place. Signs bring people together with shared interests and common goals. A sign can function as a pledge of mutual fidelity and commitment. Organizations use signs to designate membership, allowing members to recognize each other.

The Sabbath serves as an external and visible bond that unites God's people, and at the same time it sanctifies them from almost everyone else. Almost everyone in the Western world keeps Sunday or nothing. By the Sabbath, the true covenant-keeper knows that God is sanctifying him. Anybody who has kept both Sunday and Sabbath knows this: Sunday sets no one apart from this world.

If He created the Sabbath only because we need to rest physically, any old time would do, but ultimately, how and why we keep the Sabbath is what becomes the real sign. God is working out a purpose. He has invested a tremendous amount in us in the creation and in the death of His Son. The Sabbath serves as a major means by which He protects that investment. He made a specific period of time special so He can meet with His people and take major steps to make them different—holy.

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


 

Leviticus 8:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here the priests are consecrated to the service of God at the Tabernacle, empowering them to act in God's behalf for the people in making the sacrifices. In verse 10, Moses takes the anointing oil and anoints the Tabernacle and all that was in it and sanctifies them. He sprinkles some of the oil on the altar seven times, anointing the altar and all of its utensils, as well as the laver and its base to sanctify them. He pours some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head, anointing him and setting him apart.

Remember the anointing oil is a type of the Holy Spirit of God. We find the Holy Spirit, as it were, being given to Aaron for the purpose of carrying out his spiritual responsibilities as high priest between God and the people. Thus, he is empowered and set apart—sanctified—to do this job.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Examples of Divine Justice


 

Leviticus 11:44-47   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Both sanctification and holiness imply being "different" or "set apart" for a special purpose. God instituted His law of clean and unclean to show the difference between His people and the nations around them. Paul calls the church "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). I Peter 1:13-16 shows very clearly that Christians, spiritual Israelites, now have a responsibility to be holy as God is.

Staff
Clean and Unclean Meats


 

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

This is the precursor to rearing children the right way (verses 6-9): Parents have to love God this way first.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens


 

Deuteronomy 7:7-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Being chosen to be God's special treasure and become holy had nothing to do with any of our accomplishments, race, nationality, gender, IQ, or academic training. We are special and thus blessed because God loves us and because He is faithful to His promises to the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He reinforces these points by emphasizing that He is faithful, as well as by warning us that He is a God of justice.

Therefore, He is clearly stating that the foundation of this relationship is based completely in what He is within Himself, otherwise the relationship would have never gotten past the casual stage of mere acquaintance. The vast majority in the world who call themselves Christian are merely acquainted with God. By God's personal calling (John 6:44, 65), we have been made special—to have an intense and intimate relationship with Him. The very character of God, not any excellence in those He has chosen, is the basis for our being special.

This gives us no room for pride. He was not somehow attracted to us because we had been seeking Him all our lives, were so attractive, or had done so many good things. On the other hand, this blessing gives cause for a great deal of gratitude, and just as in a marriage, this specialness brings responsibilities.

God proclaims Himself to be the faithful God, and in Deuteronomy 7:11, He broadly states the means by which we are expected to prove our faithfulness in return: We are responsible to keep His commandments, statutes, and judgments. As in a marriage, because the parties have become special to each other, they are responsible to be faithful to each other above all others. A covenant made before God binds us to this intense, marital faithfulness.

I Peter 2:9 states this responsibility in a somewhat different manner: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him, who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." Notice his sentence begins with "but," introducing an explanation of why the chosen are to be different from the disobedient of verses 7-8, and of what they are obligated to do.

As stated here, the responsibility of God's own special people is to proclaim—to show forth (KJV)—the praises of Him who has called us. The proclaiming is accomplished through speech and conduct. We show forth His praises in our witness through faithful obedience, just as is commanded in Deuteronomy 7:11.

I Peter 1:13-16 shows that being a special treasure and holiness are inextricably linked:

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

God emphasizes "special treasure" to impress us with the magnitude of His blessing in making us special and the critical importance of our difference from others expressed through holy conduct.

It is important to consider our calling as God's peculiar treasure a tremendous blessing that we never allow to slip from our minds. It opens the door to the knowledge of God, faith, forgiveness, His Holy Spirit, access to Him, transformation to be like Him, and an endless supply of other things He provides, besides everlasting life. However, there are specific things we must do and cannot do because we are special.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift


 

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

Verse 2, though similar to verse 1, goes in a slightly different direction, revealing Israel's status with God. He called them a special people, set apart as God's chosen. In similar fashion, God regards His people today, the church, as His own special people (I Peter 2:9). These two verses show that God had a special purpose for Israel, one of being an example to all the peoples around them, and thus their appearance and behavior were important. In modern terms, God does not want His people to follow worldly practices such as radical hairdos, cult fashions (Goth, grunge, gang-banger styles, etc.), tattoos, body piercing, and the like. God wants His chosen people, set apart for a special purpose, to know who they are and that what they do to the outside of their bodies is important to God.

Staff
Whatever Your Heart Desires


 

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

This breaking up of whole families, many of whom had perhaps been living happily together for many years, was a drastic but necessary step. Ezra, who seemed to have God-given insight into the divine plan, understood what had to be done and the reasons for it.

The spiritual reasons are, of course, the most important. God says many times in the Pentateuch that intermarriage with pagans is spiritually dangerous (see, for instance, Deuteronomy 7:1-4). It was far more likely that, rather than the heathen spouses being won over to the worship of Israel's God, they would influence their sons and daughters to worship idols. If this were to happen frequently, Israel would soon be entirely idolatrous.

Although there is a bit of physical purity involved in this, God's demands are not for reasons of racial superiority but because He had a purpose for Israel - and the most important purpose is Jesus Christ. To fulfill the prophecies of the promised Seed, He had to be directly descended from Abraham through Judah, Jesse, and David, and because of a curse on Jeconiah (Jeremiah 22:24-30), He could not descend from that wicked king's bloodline. Only these particular circumstances could fulfill the prophecies and establish His righteous claim as the Messiah. Thus, Ezra's action was taken in large part to preserve David's line in preparation for Jesus' birth.

In addition, God wanted Israel to be a holy and separate nation (see Leviticus 19:1-2; Deuteronomy 14:2; 26:19; 28:9). The Israelites were to retain as many of their distinguishing traits and practices as He had given them at the beginning, and they could do this only as long as they remained separate from other nations. In this way, they could be the model nation, a people others would want to emulate, not because of any so-called racial purity or superiority, but because the true God was their God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part Two)


 

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

In II Corinthians, Paul stresses the need for believers to separate themselves from what defiles—evil. His concluding instruction is that the fear of God is the means by which we accomplish this perfecting of holiness:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." 'I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,' says the LORD Almighty." Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 6:14–7:1)

We who believe in Christ's name, who have received Him, have been given the right—the authority—to become children of God (John 1:12). If we, as Paul instructs, separate ourselves from what is unclean, we will be His sons and daughters. Children resemble their parents, and one way that we learn to resemble God is by loving the things that He loves and hating the things that He hates. God hates those things that harm the life and liveliness of His current and future children. As we grow in His image, we should also hate what is evil. That is one way that we fear and respect Him.

The more we fear and reverence the holiness of God, the more we grasp our own flaws and defilement. This, in turn, causes us to hate the evil that we find within ourselves (Matthew 5:3-4, 6) and to despise the elements of our nature that would make us miserable or that would cause misery in others if they were allowed to continue forever.

Yet, identifying those things is impossible without allowing the light of truth to shine into our lives. That light comes through knowing God and Jesus Christ. Knowing Them helps us to develop the proper fear of God, and at the same time it helps us to begin to see, by contrast, what things in us cause harm to life and liveliness.

David C. Grabbe
Hating Evil, Fearing God


 

Proverbs 22:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Muriel Beadle's book on the importance of early childhood development, A Child's Mind, she expresses her own version of this proverb: "Parents, train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will be unable to depart from it."

Beadle is a child psychologist. She has an awful lot of clinical experience in dealing with children and their parents. It is her considered opinion that, when people get older, they really never change.

Most adults understand how difficult it is to change, how difficult it is to overcome something. Beadle thinks nobody ever really changes. From her experience she is probably close to being a hundred percent accurate. There is a great parental responsibility to instill the right things in a child, because that child will carry them right through into his adulthood. Thus, God can confidently say that when you train up a child in the way that he should go, when he gets older he will live the way you trained him. If you trained your children right, they will continue, and their lives will be a success—a far greater success that it ever would have been if you had not given them the right instruction in the first place.

Beadle's comment underscores the importance of the immediate with regard to children's conduct. There are things that cannot wait, and training up a child in the way that he should go is one of them. Your time with you children is running out. It is slipping away, and God is still holding you responsible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens


 

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

In the end, everybody has to stand before the judgment seat of Christ on the merits of his own work. The justification that one is a victim of his parents may be true to a degree. However, eventually a person will have to stand on his own before God anyway, and the best thing to do is begin as early as possible, and that means right now. Everyone must account for his own actions.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens


 

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

Verses 23-24 go on to indicate the consequence of Israel's refusal to become sanctified by obeying God's laws: God says He "lifted [His] hand in an oath, . . . that I would scatter them among the Gentiles and disperse them throughout the countries, because they had not executed My judgments, but had despised My statutes, profaned My Sabbaths. . . ." If Israel insisted on acting like the nations of the world, God says He would physically place them among those nations; Israel would become separated from God and the land He promised them. They would become "sifted" (see Amos 9:9) among the Gentile nations.

Leviticus 18:24-30 outlines the inevitable separation that a nation (or an individual) will undergo as a result of commandment-breaking: "The land vomits out its inhabitants" (verse 25). This is the national consequence of breaking the commandments. God states the result to individuals in verse 29: "Whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people." Vomiting and cutting-off are both metaphors for separation.

Nationally and individually, commandment-breaking always yields the same ultimate punishment: separation from God. That separation may come slowly, as Ecclesiastes 8:11 points out, but always surely.

The history of the children of Israel proves the point. God wanted Israel to be a special, sanctified nation; a holy one. He promised to bestow incredible blessings on it if it acted to separate itself from the social and religious practices of other nations. Israel failed as a nation because it failed to be holy!

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Twelve): The Sign


 

Amos 5:1-6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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


 

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

God threatens to send fire, symbolizing divine rejection and purification (Malachi 4:1), upon Israel because of her false religion. The Bible, though ultimately written for His spiritual children, focuses on ancient Israel because she is comprised of God's chosen people. We can see our own lives in their examples. Amos proves through the Israelites' disobedience and corruption that they had no relationship with God. They had not allowed their privileged position under the covenant to transform them into godly people. Thus, God must send a purifying destruction upon them.

Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba were places of pilgrimage, places people went to observe the feasts. But God says, "I hate, I despise your feast days" (Amos 5:21)! Verses 22-23 show that the Israelites loved all the rituals and entertainments of the feasts, but they did not leave the feasts better people (verse 24). They returned to their homes unchanged, unrepentant, after what was supposed to be a rededication of their lives to God!

Our attitudes in attending the feasts today tell God just as much as the Israelites' did during Amos' ministry. Do we go to the Feast of Tabernacles to seek God and learn to fear Him, as He says in Deuteronomy 14:23? Our reasons for attending God's feasts are very important. Do we go to get love and enjoy ourselves? The feasts should be enjoyable, but those who go there to give love and serve others profit the most from them. Those who go to get love usually become offended and leave the feast, telling anyone who will listen how "cold" others were to them.

From the biblical events that occurred in these places, Bethel pictures reorientation and hope; Gilgal, possession of the promises; and Beersheba, fellowship with God. We can have these things in Christ if we abide under the terms of our covenant with Him. In the example of Israel, we can see that hearing and knowing the way of God intellectually is not enough. The lives of the people of Israel did not match what they knew.

The lesson we can learn from the events in Bethel are particularly illustrative of God's transforming influence. At Bethel, Jacob had his dream of a ladder reaching to heaven and angels walking up and down on it (Genesis 28:12). When he woke up from his dream, Jacob reckoned that God was surely in that place and named it "Bethel" or "house of God." The ascending and descending angels, messengers of God, depict God, not man, initiating communication. In other words, the ladder brought God to Bethel. When God arrives on the scene and descends to communicate with a man, He makes a difference in his life.

Certainly, Jacob's life quickly began to change, especially his attitude. He had been fleeing for his life, but when he got to Bethel, his future changed dramatically because God made contact with him. God reconfirmed to Jacob His promises to Abraham and Isaac. A transformation began then that did not end as long as he lived.

On the run from Esau, a man to be feared, Jacob felt at any moment his brother would appear around the next rock. He arrived at Bethel hopeless, but he left a man with a future—God said that He would be with him. So Jacob arose and made a covenant with God that if He would bless him, then he would give a tenth, a tithe, to God (Genesis 28:18-22).

When Jacob returned to Bethel after serving Laban for some twenty years, God appeared to him again, changing his name to Israel (Genesis 35:1-15). In the biblical record, a name change, normally occurring during a period of crisis in a person's conversion, signifies a change in his heart. Undoubtedly, a significant change happened here and another at Peniel where Jacob wrestled with Christ (Genesis 32:24-30). Peniel was a stepping stone to what occurred at his return to Bethel and between them, we see Jacob's spiritual conversion.

To Israel and Amos, then, Bethel represented reorientation and hope. There the old life and the old man became new. This idea is later reflected in New Testament teaching about our spiritual transformation into the image of God (II Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:12-15, 20-24; I John 3:2).

Contact with God causes transformation, and Bethel represents this hopeful reorientation. Israelites may have journeyed to Bethel, but Amos shows that no transformation occurred. There was no change in holiness or morality. They enjoyed the fellowship and good times of the feasts, but they returned to their homes, and it was "business as usual." Unlike Jacob, they had not repented.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Matthew 4:23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When Jesus Christ was on earth, He preached theĀ gospel of the Kingdom of GodĀ (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:14-15). However, something foundational happened before He began preaching the gospel and performing the various miracles that showed He was from God. Something essential happened before He could preach and perform works as a man. We can find what this was in John 10:36-38:

. . . do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, "You are blaspheming," because I said, "I am the Son of God"? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.

The key element appears in verse 36. Jesus says that He was sanctified before He was sent into the world. He was set apart in order to do all that He did, and that certainly includes the preaching of the gospel. His three-and-a-half-year ministry was the result of the sanctifying done by the Father.

The gospel accounts are overflowing with statements by Christ that show that all of His words and actions had their source in the Father. His preaching of the gospel is no exception. The content of His message and the power to proclaim it both came from the Father.

Jesus testifies in Luke 4:18 that He was "anointed" to preach the gospel to the poor, another way of saying that He was set apart. He says that He could do nothing of Himself, but only what He saw the Father do (John 5:19, 30). He declares that the works He did bore witness that the Father had sent Him, meaning He was being directed by the Father (John 5:36-37; 8:18). He asserts that He could do nothing of Himself, but He could speak only as the Father taught Him and of what He had seen while He was with the Father (John 8:28, 38). He states that He did not speak on His own authority, but that the Father commanded Him in what He should speak (John 12:49).

John the Baptist demonstrates this same principle when saying, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven" (John 3:27).

All of these statements set the stage for understanding Christ's preaching. When Jesus went about preaching the gospel, saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:14-15), the only reason it had any effect is because He had been sanctified—set apart—by the Father to do this.

When Jesus said that it was the Father who was actually doing the works, the preaching of the gospel was one of them (John 10:32; 14:10). This means that, regardless of what human instrument God uses or what method He employs, the reality is that it is God who preaches the gospel! If He is not the Source of everything, as He was for Jesus, then it is a work of man and not of God, and "the weary workers toil in vain" (Psalm 127:1, paraphrase).

It actually does not take anything miraculous to know what the true gospel is or to speak the words. In fact, when Jesus sent the disciples out to preach the gospel, they did not even have the Holy Spirit! They were not even really converted yet, though they had been called. Even so, if something is going to be accomplished, it will be as a result of God's sanctification, which the disciples had. That is the consistent biblical pattern.

The bottom line, then, is that the gospel is not preached through human effort or human will. It is proclaimed through submission to God's leadership. If submission to God is absent, the works that God desires will not be produced. If men go outside God's will—however well-intentioned they may be—their words, to borrow from Shakespeare, may as well be the proverbial "tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

David C. Grabbe
"This Gospel of the Kingdom Shall Be Preached"


 

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

One of the types of righteousness for which we are to hunger and thirst is the one that occupies the greater portion of our life after conversion. Notice how Jesus states this beatitude. He does not say, "Blessed are those who have hungered . . . ," but rather, "Blessed are those who hunger [do hunger, KJV]." This hungering and thirsting is a continuous state, and it must be this way for the second kind of righteousness, elsewhere called pursuing holiness, going on to perfection, or growing in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Frequently the Bible calls it sanctification. None of these terms is specifically righteousness, but all are contained within its broad meaning. This righteousness is created in us, imparted to us by God's Holy Spirit following justification as we experience our relationship with God. It is seeking godly character to be prepared for living in His Kingdom.

God cannot create His holy and righteous character by fiat. It requires the willing and freely given cooperation of the called; by exercising their free moral agency, they submit to Him in the experiences of life. Submission is difficult, and thus Christianity is no cake-walk through a garden. Jesus often warns that it will require a devotion to Him of such degree that all else must be secondary to Him. We are to bear our crosses and count the cost (Luke 14:26-28). He also warns, "The way is difficult and narrow" (Matthew 7:14), and "He who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). The trek of the ancient Israelites through the wilderness is a type of the Christian's pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. Their wilderness experiences expose a number of pitfalls that can destroy a Christian's faith and enthusiasm for continuing to the end.

Through this beatitude, God presents us with a serious challenge. Because it is continuously needed, it establishes a demanding requirement. How much do we want goodness, the righteousness of God? Do we want it as much as a starving man desires food or a parched man wants water? Do we so lack vision that we will give up our faith as all the Israelites, save Joshua and Caleb, did in the wilderness? According to Hebrews 4:1, though they heard the good news, they did not believe it sufficiently. They, therefore, died in the wilderness, their pilgrimage finished before they reached their goal. Rather than submit, they resisted God until their deaths. Apparently, they did not hunger for it.

Most of us have a desire for God's Kingdom and His righteousness, but it is, to our detriment, frequently nebulous rather than sharp. When the time comes to make a choice, we are not prepared to make the required effort or sacrifice that the righteousness of God demands. It is situations like these that reveal that we do not desire righteousness more than anything else.

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


 

Matthew 5:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Matthew 5:10-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This beatitude presents us with yet another paradox. The other beatitudes show that a Christian can be filled with a joy that he cannot fully express, yet lament over things that the carnal consider as insignificant. He has a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction, yet groans daily and sincerely. His life-experiences are often painful, yet he would not part with them for the great wealth, acclaim, and ease that the world offers. Though the world exalts those filled with pride, self-esteem, and assertiveness, God exalts the humble and meek. The world displays its approval for war-makers by giving them ticker-tape parades, putting them into high office, and remembering their achievements by naming streets, cities, parks, and schools after them—yet God blesses peacemakers. Understanding these earlier paradoxes among the Beatitudes, this one states that all we will receive for doing well is to earn the antipathy of fellow man.

We need to understand the connection between righteousness and persecution because not every sufferer or even every sufferer of religious persecution suffers for righteousness' sake. Many suffer persecution for zealously holding fast to what is clearly a false religion. Often, a rival religious group or civil authority—just as ignorant of God's truth—are the persecutors. At any given time, persecutions of one form or another are taking place. In the recent past the Japanese persecuted the Koreans, the Chinese, and the Nepalese. In Africa, the Moslem Sudanese are persecuting nominal Christians, while in Europe, the Slavic Eastern Orthodox are persecuting Moslem Kosovars. In the history of man, this familiar beat of persecution continues endlessly with nary a connection to righteousness.

Some people become victims of their own character flaws and personality disorders. They foolishly take comfort in Matthew 5:10-12, claiming persecution when others merely retaliate against their displays of evil speaking, haughtiness, or self-centeredness. Such people are just reaping what they have sown.

Psalm 119:172 says, "My tongue shall speak of Your word; for all Your commandments are righteousness." This is a simple, straightforward definition of righteousness. It is rectitude, right doing. God's commands thus describe how to live correctly. They teach us how to conduct relationships with Him and fellow man. This beatitude is written about those who are truly doing this. They will receive persecution because they are living correctly—not because they have irritated or infuriated others through their sins or because they belong to another political party, religion, or ethnic group.

Does anything illustrate the perversity of human nature clearer than this? We might think that one could hardly be more pleased than to have neighbors who are absolutely trustworthy; who will not murder, commit adultery or fornication, steal, lie, or covet one's possessions; who rear respectful children; who are an asset to the neighborhood; who so respect God they will not even use His name in vain; who submit to the civil laws and do not even flaunt the codes and covenants of the neighborhood.

However, this description does not mention the relationship to God that really brings the persecution. These are things moral people of this world might do, yet they lack the true God in their lives and are not regenerated by His Spirit. An element of righteousness is still missing. Paul writes in Romans 8:14-17:

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

The source of true persecution is Satan, and his target is God. Satan not only hates God, but he also hates all who bear His holy image in them by means of His Spirit. Satan works in and through people just as God does, and he incites them to do all in their power to vilify, destroy the reputation of, put fear in, or discourage God's children to cause their disqualification. He will do anything to get us to retaliate as worldly people do, because then we would display Satan's image rather than Jesus Christ's. Satan knows those who have the Spirit of God, and just as he tempted Jesus, he will also single out His brothers and sisters for persecution.

The righteousness needed to resist these pressures and respond in a godly manner goes far beyond that of a merely moral person. This righteousness requires that one be living by faith minute by minute, day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year. It is a righteousness that is ingrained into a person's very character because he knows God. He is intimately acquainted with Him and His purpose rather than merely believing academically that He exists.

Following on the heels of this beatitude is another statement by Jesus on righteousness: "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20). He focuses on a righteousness that is not merely legal, resulting from God graciously justifying us by Christ's blood, but one inculcated within the heart and mind by constantly living God's way. Such a person's righteousness comes through sanctification. He is striving to keep all the commandments of God, not merely those having to do with public morality. He has made prayer and study a significant part of each day, along with occasional fasting to assist in keeping humble. He is well on his way toward the Kingdom of God.

These are not normally things that one does publicly; his neighbors may never know much of this person's life. Nonetheless, Satan knows, and this person's living faith will attract Satan's persecution, the Devil's attempts to derail him from making it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 8: Blessed Are the Persecuted


 

Matthew 13:3-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The seed is the Word of God, and its hitting the ground is not the end of the story. A variety of things can happen that will affect the growth of that seed. Some might fall on stone, others might be buried too deep. Rain may come and wash away some of it. Birds may devour others. But because life is in the seed, something will happen.

In the last century, archeologists found wheat and cotton seeds in some of the burial chambers that they excavated. Those seeds—which were probably anywhere from 2,000-4,000 years old—grew when put into the right soil. The spirit of life was still in them, even though they had lain dormant for thousands of years.

This is dramatic confirmation that, if a seed is sown, it will do something when it lands in the right kind of soil. Jesus shows in this parable that the environment affects the seed's growth. When we make the proper application—people are the ground, and our environment and what we do after receiving the seed—the word of truth, containing the doctrines—is what affects its growth. In this analogy, growth represents sanctification, which is is the formation of God's image in us by living His way of life empowered by His Spirit. What we do with the seed is "work[ing] out [our] salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). It is the equivalent of rain, sunshine, weeding, fertilizing, so that the potential for fruit is the greatest. Sanctification is worked out through application, by living the doctrines and the truths of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 5): Ephesians 4 (B)


 

Matthew 13:44   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus says that the treasure was hidden in the world. How were we, the church, hidden in the world? In the Parable of the Leaven, the word "hid" was used in a negative sense. Does "hid" have a similar negative connotation here in verse 44?

In the context of this parable, the symbols are almost all positive. First, the man as Christ is positive, but then the world appears, which may not seem all that positive. Yet, next comes "joy" and Christ's self-sacrifice for the treasure. These positive things surround the word "hid." It seems that "hid" is a little more positive than its usage in verse 33. How then is the church hidden in the world? We need to remember that it is hidden in the world before its members' calling.

Notice in verse 44 that the man finds the treasure hidden in the world, and once he finds it, he hides it again. Ephesians 2:1-7 speaks of the less positive of the two hidings:

And you He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Where were we hidden before? In the field, which is the world. How were we hidden? We were hidden because we were just like everybody else. We were dead in trespasses and sin, and we conducted ourselves "according to the prince of the power of the air." We were hidden in plain sight because everybody else was just like us—but we have been found.

Once Christ found us, what did He do? He hid us again. What does this mean? How does Christ hide us after He finds us? John 17:11, 14-18 provides an answer:

Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. . . . I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.

How did Christ hide us? By sending us right back into the world! He does not glorify us immediately or put us on a pedestal, but simply returns us into the world. The world hides us, but in a different way after our calling than before it. Though we are no longer of the world, we still look like it. We have not changed much except internally, spiritually. So we go back into the world and live our daily lives, and people fail to recognize us for what we are unless some matter of the truth comes up, as Jesus says in John 17:17: "Sanctify them by Your truth."

In layman's terms this is, "Set them apart by Your truth." The truth we live by—God's truth in us—makes us different from everybody else. To look at us walking down the street, for the most part, we are hidden; we are average Joes. But if a matter of truth suddenly becomes important—say, an issue of the Sabbath comes up that puts us at odds with our boss or teacher—we immediate become different, set apart, separated from them. Of course, our lives should be showing that we are living by God's way all the time, but for the most part, we are hidden from this world's view by virtue of living among them.

The parable does not say that Christ finds us in the field and then hides us somewhere else. It says that He gives up everything He has to buy the field. Christ buys the world because that is where His treasure is—hidden in it but in a slightly different way than when He found it. We are no longer hidden in the world because we are living like the world and committing the sins of worldy people. Instead, we are hidden in the world because we are, frankly, just average people, and unless the truth comes up in the flow of our daily lives, we seem just like everybody else.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 3): Hidden Treasure


 

Matthew 13:44   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Acts 20:28 and John 3:16-17 show that the pruchase price for the field, the world, was His own blood—His all. So what is the lesson in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure? Our Lord and Savior, finding the treasure of His elect in the world, conceals and protects them against all the depredations of the enemy. Our being hidden is the protection part. He, with His own life's blood, redeemed us with joy.

This should give us great confidence in our spiritual battles. The greatest battle has already been won, and that is not all. Since we are His treasure, and since He hides and protects us, sanctifying us through His truth—and do not forget that He prayed for our protection from the evil one—we have it better than it seems. We have more going for us than we might think, despite the spiritual battles we still have to fight.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 3): Hidden Treasure


 

Matthew 16:6-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus warns His disciples to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." Seeing their puzzlement, He explains further. "Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (verse 12). Both testaments use leaven as a symbol of sin because of what it does to a lump of bread dough. Once yeast enters the dough, it immediately begins to spread by breaking down in reaction to the dough's sugars and producing a gas that puffs the bread up.

Like leaven, when sin enters a person's life, it begins to corrupt and fill him with vanity. A person enslaved by habitual sin will have a difficult time growing in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ because of sin's corrupting influence. Sin defiles and can permanently destroy relationships with God and man.

Throughout the year we hear frequent exhortations to produce fruit and grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. During Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, we give special emphasis to "getting the leaven out." These three actions are all parts of the same process. Though not technically the same, they are related closely enough to say they are simply different ways of describing the same process. "Getting the leaven out" is the most negative, "growing" is the most general, and "producing fruit" is the most specific. All three emphasize that a Christian should not stand still after entering the New Covenant. God expects him to take steps to ensure that these actions will occur in his life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Matthew 16:27   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If anything is certain about the future, there is a judgment according to works for all who live and die. How can anyone who says he believes the Bible claim that works are not required of the Christian when God emphatically declares that they are required of us, even though they do not justify us before Him?

The truth is plain. If a Christian does not work, there will be nothing for God to judge and thus no evidence the person is prepared for His Kingdom. God will not give him salvation because there will be nothing to verify that he belongs there. The lack of evidence proves that he does not belong there! Such a one is not a son of God. A faith that does not work is dead (James 2:17, 20, 26). God is the God of the living, and according to James 2:22, faith is perfected, brought to completion, by works. Sanctification is necessary as a witness to the Christian's character as he passes before the judgment seat of Christ.

Do we not all desire to be in the Kingdom of God? Certainly, we must if we are at all impressed with the glory to which God has called us. However, have we considered deeply whether we would enjoy being there, should we be given that privilege? God's Kingdom will be a holy place inhabited by holy people. Is it not apparent that those in God's Kingdom will have spent a great deal of time being prepared, trained, and formed and shaped for living there?

The concept of deathbed repentance and absolution is a lie palmed off by Satan. Likewise false is the belief in a purgatory following death, in which a person prepares for living in paradise. These are nowhere found in Scripture, nor is the idea that one needs only to be justified through Christ's blood. If these things were so, Romans 5:9-10 would not declare:

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

The false concepts above do not take into consideration that God's purpose includes more than just atoning for our sins through Christ's blood. God's purpose includes the work of Jesus Christ as our High Priest, perfecting our character by means of living in us through His Spirit (John 14:18-23). It is our High Priest, Jesus, who intercedes in our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). As Head of the church, He inspires and corrects us, and He gives us gifts to fulfill our responsibilities (Ephesians 4:7). He labors to create in us a clean heart, purified and in the character image of the Father (II Corinthians 3:17-18).

We need to be sanctified as well as justified. Sanctification requires the works of submission to and cooperation with Almighty God to bring to completion His purpose for us. King David writes in Psalm 16:11, "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures evermore" - a brief snapshot of what life will be like in the Kingdom of God. No one can be happy where he is not in his element. An unsanctified person would not find God's Kingdom congenial to his tastes and character. Being there would be a condemnation rather than a blessing.

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


 

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

In his book, Of God and Man, theologian Aiden W. Tozer could clearly see what the priority of the church should be in this regard: "The popular notion that the first obligation of the church is to spread the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth is false. Her first obligation is to be spiritually worthy to spread it."

First things must come first. Spiritual preparation must precede physical activity. God sanctified Jesus Christ to do what He did, and yet He still went through thirty years of preparation before preaching for three and a half. Not all of us have the exact sanctification. Not everyone has been set apart to do what Paul did, or what Peter did, or what John did. They received a specific calling, a specific sanctification to do what they did. God directed these men as He saw fit, and they submitted to Him. Nevertheless, He does not direct everyone to do the same thing. There are many offices in God's House, and many functions within the Body of Christ (see I Corinthians 12:1-11, 28-30).

However, if we have been called by God, we have been given a general sanctification (I John 2:27). We have already been set apart from the world (John 17:6). What is more, we are being sanctified (Hebrews 2:11). We are being purified and having God's character and nature created in us. This is the work that the Creator is doing. This is what Tozer called being "spiritually worthy," and what we call "go[ing] on to perfection" (Hebrews 6:1). This is the foundational, underlying, core responsibility of each of God's children, regardless of whether another, more specific sanctification is added to it.

David C. Grabbe
"This Gospel of the Kingdom Shall Be Preached"


 

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

We are assured in Matthew 24:14 that the gospel of the Kingdom will be preached. God will see it done. He will preach it through whatever means, by whatever agency, and in whatever time He has already ordained. The question for us, then, is whether we will be in alignment with Him and usable by Him so that we can be directed by Him as He completes His work. However, this will be successful only if we let Him lead, rather than assume we already know what He is doing.

Because God is the One who preaches the gospel, and because He sanctifies and prepares His servants to perform His will, He also determines the results of His various works. For 1,900 years, it was not His priority to preach the gospel in a major way. We know this because it was not done. During the last century, a major witness was made because God had ordained it be so. He controls the results and the effects of His preaching. His word does not return to Him void, but it will accomplish what He pleases (Isaiah 55:11). Thus, when we look out today at the various efforts to preach the gospel—and we do not see the same results—it is because something else is God's priority, not that we are not trying hard enough.

Is it possible that the church is not yet "spiritually worthy" to be involved in making a witness to the world? In its present spiritual condition, could the church end up making a witness against God rather than for Him? If a witness is being made against God, does it even matter if the true gospel is spoken?

The bottom line is that we cannot insert ourselves into God's plans. God already knows what will be done, how it will be done, when it will be done, and whom He will use to do it. Our task is to be close enough to God that we recognize His guidance of our lives and to be practiced in submitting to it. When the time comes for Matthew 24:14 to be fulfilled, it will be, according to what God has ordained.

However, whether or not we play a part in the fulfillment of that prophecy, our focus is to be the sanctification that God has already given us. It is through that process of becoming holy and going on to perfection that we become "spiritually worthy" and able to be used by God in whatever capacity He ordains—large or small.

Our goal should not be to fulfill Matthew 24:14. Our goal is to get to the place where we, like Jesus Christ, "always do the will of [our] Father" (John 8:29)—no matter what His will may entail. God is doing far more than just making announcements. He is creating us in His image (Genesis 1:27), and that requires a lifetime of submission and a level of focus and energy far beyond simply preaching to the unconverted world. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

David C. Grabbe
"This Gospel of the Kingdom Shall Be Preached"


 

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

Sanctification will be seen and heard "for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." If the heart has been impregnated by the Spirit of God, the mouth will begin to speak like God does! A person's works produce the fruits, and the heart then is known by what it produces.

This produces a peculiar effect within the converted person. While good fruit is showing, the converted person sees himself thoroughly encompassed by weakness. For instance, whenever Moses came down from the mount, after being with God, his face radiated the reflected glory of God. But he was not aware of it that his face was glowing!

There is a New Testament equivalent of this in Matthew 25. In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus separates the sheep on one side and the goats on the other. What do the sheep say to their lord and master? "When did we feed you? When did we clothe you?" They were not aware that they were producing the right fruit and reflecting God's glory in their lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 9)


 

Luke 16:10-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus Christ does not need to see us in action administering a great city to know how we will govern in His Kingdom. He can see how we solve our problems in our own little life, whether we humble ourselves to be faithful by submitting to His way. Or do we "solve" our relationship problems with others by shouting, punching, hating, crawling into a shell, refusing to fellowship, going on strike, spreading gossip, seeking others to take our side, or running down another's reputation?

He can tell by the way we manage our own or our company's money; how we maintain our property; and how we dress. Christ can even judge our abilities by how we drive our car! Some people turn into aggressive, lead-footed monsters behind the wheel. Are we so vain to think the road belongs to us? Would He entrust a city to such an obnoxious person?

A woman once asked Mr. Armstrong what she had to do to worship God and prepare for the Kingdom. Who knows what she expected, but he advised her to begin in her bedroom! No one knows whether he meant that she should work on her prayers, keep the room neat and clean, or improve her relationship with her husband—maybe all three. The principle is that preparation for the Kingdom is achieved by working on the little things of life God's way.

Matthew 25:21 illustrates this clearly. "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'" In this parable, the servant who misused his position was disqualified because the lord could not trust him to use what was given him in a godly way.

Can we see this, brethren? The very elements involved in the process of sanctification are the ones that prepare and qualify us to rule!

What kind of decisions do we make in the everyday things of life? The choices required to live God's way are really very simple. Basically, they are a matter of saying, "Yes" or "No" to God's law. It does not have to be complicated for God to judge where we stand. He did not give Adam and Eve some long, complex mathematical, engineering, or political test. It was a simple test of obedience involving one of the most basic areas of life—food. You can eat this but not that.

We do not have to be an Adolf Hitler to prove ourselves unsuitable to rule over others. How we treat our spouse, children, or friends will provide ample evidence. Do we carefully think through what we say? Do we keep our word? Are we short-tempered, hard to get along with, stubborn, and uncooperative unless things are done our way? Are we quick to judge, impatient, malicious, foul-mouthed, or rebellious? Do we seek preferential treatment or position?

Christ needs to know if we will live His way now, before He entrusts us with the power of office in His Kingdom. The leaders of this world are not interested in the Way (see Acts 9:2; 16:17; 18:25-26; 19:9). They consider it foolish, unrealistic, impractical, and simplistic. So they make treaties and break them, and the wonderful advances of technology continue to prove useless in things that matter. The Kingdom of God, however, will produce all the good things written in the prophecies because the government itself reflects them. They are in its character, and they have already manifested themselves in each ruler's life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Rule!


 

John 5:28-29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Teachers who say that works are unimportant are spreading lies—by confusing the issues, by blunting the incentive to keep the commandments of God and to make the right kind of choices, by making people think that they do not have to do any works. Understand, however, that works are not required to save us but to ensure that we are changed!

What does God want to see when we come before the judgment bar, as we are now during our Christian lives? He wants to see evidence to prove that we are indeed His children. His judgment is based upon what we have done; the Bible says repeatedly that judgment is according to our works.

I am not qualifying here the quantity or the quality of our works. God is so merciful! Paul tells us in I Corinthians 3:15 that, even though our works are burned up, we ourselves will be saved. Even though the works are of poor quality, at least we have worked! We did not just sit there, dead in the water. We apparently pleased God enough to show that we wanted to be in His Kingdom.

That judgment is in His hands. But we should recognize that He does require works. The works are not for justification but for sanctification. The works aid in the transformation of our character to the image of God. The works aid in our growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. The works help to produce change. It is a cooperative effort that we do with God.

And I can guarantee you that, if a person does not make the efforts to change, they would be totally unhappy in the Kingdom of God. They would be like a fish out of water, because everybody in that Kingdom is going to be holy. Everybody in that Kingdom is going to do—they are going to live holy lives. (They wouldn't fit, and so they won't be there.)

Satan is trying to destroy God's purpose by subtly confusing the necessity of good works, and therefore stopping the process of sanctification through a perverted teaching on grace, on law, and covenants. But remember this: Hebrews 12:14 tells us that without holiness—a holiness that we have to strive for—"no man shall see the Lord."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 9)


 

John 6:53   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We have to choose! It is our responsibility to choose to intensify the sanctification process or to stop it. It is our choice. God says, "See, I have set before you this day life on the one hand and death on the other. Therefore, choose life!" (Deuteronomy 30:19). We can choose to go along with God's program, and if we do, we cannot hide the fruit. It will be produced. However, we can choose to reject it. It is our responsibility to make the choice.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 9)


 

John 15:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Does it not follow that, if Christ is really living in us, we will produce fruit? Sanctification is something that can be seen. It is not difficult to figure out whether a person has been sanctified or not—whether they are becoming holy. One can see the fruit being produced.

A tree does not hide its peaches, apples, or pears. They are clearly visible to those who look for them. Christ used this metaphor to teach us that we ought to be able to see the effects of Him living in us, of God's Holy Spirit in us. We should be able to recognize the results of using the Word of God and living by faith.

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


 

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

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

John O. Reid
The Whole Truth


 

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

In addition to the wind-like sound, flames of fire appeared either to fall upon or to rise from those who were given God's Spirit. There is no indication that these flames appeared on anybody else except those who were in the house. God may have done this because fire had previously been associated with a form of baptism by John the Baptist (Luke 3:16). God used the fire to identify those who were receiving His Spirit at that time—a form of visible "sanctification" (being set apart). In any case, nothing like that occurs at "tarry meetings," nor does it occur when any today receive God's Holy Spirit. Neither did it occur when the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-48). It was a one-time sign.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

Romans 1:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

All of Paul's letters, with the exception of the Pastoral Epistles and Philemon, were written to congregations of already-established, converted people. Rome was no exception. The church was already formed there. They had a congregation—a group of Christians who were already disciples—and Paul wanted to go to them.

Why? For them to be converted? No, to continue the process of conversion. And how was he going to do this? By preaching the gospel to them. He was going to preach the gospel to already-converted people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)


 

Romans 3:22-28   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This does not exclude our responsibility to work for the purpose of sanctification. Works are not for justification but for sanctification. Works do not save us, but they are essential for transformation! To put it bluntly, we have to practice being God; we have to learn to live as God lives. Is that not how one becomes proficient at something?

God shows in many places in the Bible that He is pleased with our obedience. Our works do not save us, but they please Him (see Hebrews 13:16; Colossians 3:20; I John 3:22; etc.). He is so happy when we work at sanctification because they assist in the transformation process.

Parents ought to understand this. We are pleased by the stumbling efforts of our child to please us. So is God! He looks on our motives, intentions, and the principles involved in what His child is doing. He does not just look at the quantity or the quality—He looks at us as His children, who are trying to imitate Him.

Sanctification is absolutely necessary to prove to God our righteous character and belief in Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 9)


 

Romans 3:28   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This concludes Paul's entire discussion begun in Romans 3:10. The only way we can be justified—that is, have our sins forgiven and be brought into a right relationship with God—is through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. This justification is something that is imputed to us once we meet God's conditions of repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). We cannot earn it through lawkeeping or doing good works.

However, what many do not understand is that being justified is not the same as being saved. Justification is only one step on the road to salvation. Someone who has been justified cannot break God's laws with impunity and expect to receive salvation anyway. To have our sins forgiven, we must repent from having broken the laws of God (Acts 3:19). To repent means "to turn around"—to stop sinning and orient our lives to obeying God's law. Paul explains it plainly in Romans 3:31: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law."

The true Christian, having repented from sin, has been given the gift of God's Holy Spirit, which is the love of God that enables him to keep His laws in their full spiritual intent and purpose. He has been justified and has received God's undeserved pardon. He realizes his sins caused Jesus Christ to have to suffer and die. Because of all of these things, the true Christian strives with all his might to resist the pulls of the flesh and to put sin out of his life.

Paul makes it very clear that the true Christian must not continue to live a life of sin. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). The true Christian understands that the way he lives and conducts his life has a great bearing upon whether he will inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

To receive salvation, we must not only be justified, but we must live a life of obedience to the laws of God, developing the fruits of His Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Then—and only then—will God give us the gift of eternal life.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Romans 5:8-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are justified by faith in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Christ's life was worth more than all the rest of humanity combined, His death paid the penalty of the sins of the whole world. Through faith in His suffering and death, we receive forgiveness of sins and are brought into a right relationship with God.

The scripture states that "we shall be saved from wrath through Him." "Justified" does not mean "saved"; nor does it mean that we have eternal life. It simply means that our guilty past has been wiped clean because Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Once justified, we can proceed to the next step in the process of salvation.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Romans 5:8-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verse 10 says, "We shall be saved," in the future tense. Thus, we now have access to the Father, to the Tree of Life, and to a relationship to build upon which should lead to everlasting life. But God has willed that our development must take place within the world, not the Garden of Eden.

Part of God's solution clears us of guilt of past sins; this is referred to in the Bible as "justification." Justification by faith in Christ's blood is only a partial solution because it neither changes the nature nor the character that is the cause of our needing justification through Christ's blood. It does clear us of indebtedness due to sin, and that in itself is a major blessing—an enormous gift—but by itself, it does not change the behavior that was responsible for us being indebted in the first place. It does open the door to that change, and thus verse 10 says, "We shall be saved by His life." This phrase implies help to enable us to be saved. Help is available to fulfill our part because Christ is alive to assist us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year


 

Romans 8:27-30   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

With such positive statements about our salvation, why should we be hopeless and fearfully doubt that God will supply all our needs? Does He ever fail to succeed in whatever He undertakes? These verses flatly and dogmatically state that, if we want to cooperate in faith to bring God's purpose for us to its intended conclusion, we must, I repeat, must, believe that His watchfulness over us involves every circumstance of our lives.

Verses 31 and 32 put a cap on this issue: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"

In verse 30, note that the term "sanctified" is missing from the list of the general stages of God's purpose. Sanctification is the only part of the salvation process in which our cooperation plays a major, consistent, and daily role. Why does Paul exclude it? This was not an oversight; he deliberately leaves "sanctified" out because he wants, for the remainder of this section of this epistle, to focus entirely on the absolute certainty of God's providence, not on any works we may perform in cooperation with Him during the sanctification process.

Paul is not saying that God will always do what we might want Him to do; he is reminding us that He will always do what is right according to His purpose. God has the necessary powers to do as He sees fit for His purpose and us. He is watching, which is even more reason for us to draw on that power.

Nobody can successfully stand in the way of His completing that purpose in each of us, but based on our knowledge of those powers, are we willing to accept His providence? Do we accept what He provides in any given circumstance, even though what He provides might not be what we would like to have?

All of the things Paul writes here are wonderful, but the key to this particular subject is the answer to the question he asks in verse 30: "If God be for us who can be against us?" God has the power and the will, and He does not make mistakes or empty promises. Paul then lists what God has already done for all concerned. Our responsibility is to choose to put these facts to work in our specific circumstances.

The handwriting on the wall for us is this: Terribly difficult times are coming, and they will affect all of us to varying degrees. The only successful way to complete our minute part in God's purpose is to choose to draw on His power. We must begin at once to cultivate the habit of cooperating by faith, accepting whatever He chooses to provide in our circumstances. If this habit is in place through long practice, we will be ready when the pressure really mounts.

Because He is the Source of our deliverance in every circumstance, it is crucial for us to know God as well as we can. Our relationship with Him through Jesus Christ is the key that gives us access to the deliverance He provides. He has the power, and it is His will to meet our every need. It is incumbent upon us, therefore, to use our time now to build on our present relationship with Him, making it stronger and more intimate.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)


 

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

1 Corinthians 5:7-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul plainly instructs that the purpose of keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread is to remind us of our need to remove sin from our lives. Because of the serious sins that a Corinthian member had committed, and the congregation's general acceptance of this situation, Paul advises them to use the Days of Unleavened Bread to "purge out the old leaven." They should examine their attitudes and put these sins out of their lives and out of the congregation. He reminds them that the Passover is a memorial of the death of Christ, who died for us that we may receive forgiveness of sins. They "truly are unleavened," he says, in the sense that they had repented and been justified through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. However, since they had allowed leaven to return into their lives, they needed to get rid of it.

This is the heart of why we are still required to put leaven out of our homes. Leaven represents sin, and deleavening our homes symbolizes purging sin from our lives. However, cleansing our lives of sin is a lifetime process that will not be completely fulfilled until we are resurrected and transformed into spirit. As long as we are still flesh and blood, we will never be absolutely perfect—we will never free ourselves completely and totally of sin. This constant struggle to overcome human nature and put on God's nature is called sanctification. Nevertheless, we must continually strive to conform to the image of Jesus Christ, that is, to be a truly perfect human being (Philippians 3:12-14).

God wants us to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread year after year to remind us that we are not perfect and that our lives are a constant struggle against sin. When we deleaven our homes, we find that, no matter how hard we try, we cannot find every tiny crumb that may be imbedded in carpet or hidden behind an appliance. This illustrates how deceitful sin is and teaches us that we must constantly examine ourselves to purge it out of our lives. Removing sin is hard work! The Days of Unleavened Bread remind us annually of this constant warfare that all Christians must wage throughout their lives.

Why then must we remove leaven from our homes but need not be circumcised? The answer is that physical circumcision no longer has a purpose under the New Covenant. Its symbolism is fulfilled in the process of repentance, baptism, and receipt of the Holy Spirit. However, the object lesson of deleavening our homes still has great meaning and purpose for us. The symbolism of putting sin out of our lives will not be completely fulfilled until we are born into the Kingdom of God and become like Him who cannot sin (I John 3:9).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Why We Must Put Out Leaven


 

1 Corinthians 7:14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The children of believing parents are "holy," meaning "set apart." God considers such a child to be "clean." That does not mean "sinless," but they are still legally clean in His sight. They are therefore acceptable in His presence and have the opportunity to have true success in life as a result. They have the chance to believe God, to cast their lot with Him, and to be spared the horror of having to face many of the evils in this world.

But, just as parents can lose their sanctification, so children who are set apart can also lose their status. Law plays no favorites. It does not care whether one is male or female, or thirteen, nineteen, or ninety-three. If a ninety-three year old male jumps off the 80th floor of the Empire State Building, which direction will he go? What if a 16-year old girl does the same thing? The law of gravity does not play favorites.

Law does not care what one's race, sex, or age are. If parents who are sanctified break the laws of God persistently, they will lose their sanctification. If a seventeen-year-old does the same thing, even though his parents are sanctified and a child is held to be clean because of God's judgment, he can lose his too.

For a child who is sanctified, even though unconverted, there is still a great deal that he will be held accountable for. "To whom much is given, much is also required." Jesus does not say that this only applies to converted parents.

The child's sanctification gives him the advantage of access to God. Because of that access, he has the guidance of God available to him, and from that guidance he can form a proper vision of what he wants to do with his life (Proverbs 29:18). This allows him to see what he wants to do in terms of conductwhat he wants to pursue, the way he wants to do work, the attitude he has toward other people, parents, neighbors, fellow-employees, etc.

We can tell from the conduct of people in this world that they do not have this guidance. But a sanctifed child has access to the knowledge of what God expects, and from that he can make it his goal in life to act that way. He can set his will to do the right thing. He is sanctified, and divine guidance is what he gains from it.

He has access to truth. Even if his parents fail to give it to him directly, every Sabbath that he attends church services he is receiving it through one of God's ministers. It is available, but he still must make choices. He must discipline himself to follow the information, the true knowledge, given to him. The advantage lies in the fact that he has access to truth about the way life is to be conducted and how he can please God. He can do it because he is not cut off from God. His lamp is not put out (Proverbs 20:20).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and the Teens


 

2 Corinthians 5:18-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We play a part in making peace with God by choosing to be reconciled to Him. This is perhaps the first step in becoming a peacemaker.

Paul essentially refers to himself as the one to whom the word and ministry of reconciliation have been given as a portion of his function as an apostle of Jesus Christ. However, the thought does not end there because we are also being prepared to assist in causing the reconciliation of the world to God. This is a second major, time-consuming step toward being a peacemaker. The sanctification process of a Christian's conversion creates within us the ability to be a peacemaker in the godly mold.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 7: Blessed Are the Peacemakers


 

2 Corinthians 6:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

J.B. Phillips' New Testament in Modern English renders this verse, "As cooperators with God Himself we beg you, then, not to fail to use the grace of God." The apostle Paul warns us against receiving grace with no purpose in mind for making the very best use of God's wonderful gift.

God gives grace to be used by those who receive it. The sanctification process that follows justification requires our cooperation with Him so that the right qualities, understanding, and sensitivities are produced by His creative efforts. This cooperation produces Christian works. We must stop resisting Him through neglectful drifting—thus receiving God's grace in vain.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part Two): A Foundation


 

2 Corinthians 13:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We understand that we are to examine ourselves in the weeks preceding Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Sometimes, however, we miss the purpose for the examination. Consider these two scriptures in relation to self-examination:

» Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (II Corinthians 13:5)

» For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (II Corinthians 10:12)

If we are not careful in this, we can easily fall into two snares, both of which center on the self.

The most obvious one, expressed in II Corinthians 10:12, is that we will judge ourselves in light of other people. This fatal trap deceitfully provides us with self-justification for the way we are. The result is that we will not change or grow because we will be judging according to our own standards—and why change perfection? Self-examination by our own code produces self-righteousness.

The other dangerous snare occurs when our self-examination is so rigorous that we become very depressed and feel salvation is impossible. This is just as utterly self-indulgent as the other! This "woe is me" approach is a not-too-subtle blast against God's judgment and grace for calling us and making things so difficult for us!

Anyone who compares himself to others is not exhibiting faith in God. He is telling God that His Son's life means little to him. Likewise, anyone who feels so morose with guilt that he threatens not to take the Passover is not exhibiting faith in God. He is telling God that He is unable to forgive that much.

At Passover, our focus should be on the payment for sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God in His grace is willing to forgive our transgressions on the basis of Christ's death. During Unleavened Bread, the focus shifts to overcoming sin and coming out of this world through God's power, which is also part of His grace. At Passover, it is the grace of God to justify us through Christ's blood. At Unleavened Bread, it is the grace of God to sanctify us as we move toward His Kingdom and glorification.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christ, Our Passover


 

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

The account of Acts 15 shows that it is not necessary for salvation for Christians to be physically circumcised. Salvation is by grace through faith, and faith without works is dead. We cannot "work" or "earn" our way into the Kingdom of God. The privilege to be a part of the eternal Kingdom is one that God bestows according to His will. Nothing we can do will make God indebted to us or require Him to do something for us, such as grant us admission into His Kingdom.

But at the same time, if we are within the salvation process, we must show forth works, or fruits, that demonstrate our repentance, our attitude, and our desire to live by the rules of His Kingdom. We must live now in the same way that we will be living for eternity—by the laws of God's Kingdom. Our works do not save us; they demonstrate that we are being saved.

Under the Old Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances were primarily physical, and the spiritual aspects were implied. Under the New Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances are primarily spiritual, and the physical aspects are implied. For example, there is no record of Christ ever performing an animal sacrifice, even though the Old Testament requires one in the morning and in the evening. Under the New Covenant, the physical rite is not required, yet the basic law is still there, and is thus manifested in morning and evening prayer, a sacrifice of our time and energy.

In the same regard, the council of Acts 15 shows that circumcision is not one of the works that is required to demonstrate the salvation/sanctification process. When considering eternity and the spiritual bodies that we will have at that time, circumcision is almost insignificant. What is truly important is whether or not the heart has been circumcised. The physical rite was a reminder to the children of Israel that they were separate and distinct, but even in this God was looking for a change of heart so much more so than a modification of the flesh.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 2:15-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verse 15 declares that being born an Israelite indicates a privileged birth. The privilege results from being part of the Old Covenant nation, thus having direct contact with God's Word, which contains His promises and instructions. This provides the possibility of faith because faith comes from hearing God's Word (Romans 10:17).

However, even having that privilege is of itself no benefit regarding justification. Why? Because a person is justified only through faith in Jesus Christ. Through this means and this means only, a person is declared righteous or innocent of sin. Thus, if one does not take advantage of its availability, the availability itself is of no value. Faith in Jesus Christ and His message is what is important about this way of life.

Paul makes a definitive statement regarding obedience following justification by faith in verses 17-18. The thing that he destroyed through faith and repentance was his former way of life with its mountain of sin accumulated during his unconverted life before justification. Paul was determined not to return to that sinful way. To do this, he had to live to God (verse 19), that is, to obey God's laws so that he would not sin and therefore bring to naught his justification through Christ's sacrifice. He is clearly stating that keeping God's laws is required, even though keeping them does not earn salvation.

We need to make sure that we understand this important reality: Being justified is a major step toward salvation, but this does not mean that the person's character is now fully changed. It means only that the charges for sin against him are removed, and he is legally declared innocent on the basis of Christ's divine righteousness.

Justification is a judicial action by a judge—God. The term indicates an aligning of a forgiven person with a standard. In this case, the standard is the law of God. Justification does not happen automatically to all but solely to those whom God calls, forgives, and unites with Christ because they believe in the efficacy of His death as the divinely given Substitute to pay the death penalty for their sins. They have humbled themselves before Him and fervently desire to glorify God through a vastly changed life.

Character is a group of qualities that cannot be transferred by fiat. It is created throughout life, either by experiences in this world or by experiences within a relationship with God. We desire to be in the character image of God. In His purpose, the creating of godly character takes place during the sanctification process.

The New International Version renders Romans 10:17 as, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Paul uses "faith," one's belief, in the sense of trust. At the point of justification in a person's spiritual life, faith is not producing works; it is merely the mental activity of believing. The works come later as the sanctification process begins and continues. This faith, this trust, has its foundation in knowledge that God has supplied by enabling the called person to reach the right conclusion, a conclusion based in fact. His trust is therefore not blind; it is based, not on speculation, but truth.

In Galatians 2:18, Paul shows that being justified by faith does not lead to a life of sin. Being justified by faith indicates a commitment in the mind of the justified to go forward, building on the relationship by being established with Christ. Verse 19 begins with the word "for," indicating the reason why the justified person will not return to the old way of life. By faith, Paul understands the reason: As far as the law is concerned, he is dead. His debt to it has been satisfied.

Verse 20 continues the thought. Like Christ died, the "old man," the carnal Paul, also died and was symbolically buried in the waters of baptism. Also like Christ, he has been raised from the dead—symbolically—from the waters of baptism. This is done for the sole reason that, by means of the very faith of Christ that he has been given, he would live life as Christ lived. The life Christ lived was sinless. He did not break God's laws, and that is the objective of the new creation and salvation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Grace (Part Two)


 

Galatians 2:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul, Peter, and the other Jews, because of their familiarity with Scripture (the Old Testament), would have known that a man could not be justified in God's eyes through the "works of the law"—by his own righteousness (Psalm 130:3; 143:2; Exodus 34:7; Job 4:17; 9:2-3,29; 15:14; 25:4; Ecclesiastes 7:20).

It is impossible for us, once we have sinned even once, to be in alignment with God of our own volition. Justification is an act of God by which He declares a person acceptable before Him because Christ has borne the sinner's guilt. However, this is the beginning of the common misconception that faith and works are mutually exclusive. In that view, works are of no avail at all, and all one has to do is "believe." But that notion is refuted in Matthew 7:21-23 and James 2:19-20, among other places.

The common interpretation of this verse—that belief is all that is required—cannot be correct, for it is contradicted in James 2:21 and Romans 2:13. Given that Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), all three of these verses must complement rather than contradict each other. It should be remembered that in Galatians 2:6, 9, Paul met with the leaders in Jerusalem—including James—and there was no disagreement between them! Verse 6 shows that they did not have anything to "add" to what Paul was preaching to the Gentiles, and by extension, there was nothing to be taken away, changed, etc. Verse 9 shows they agreed on their respective responsibilities, but there is no indication of any doctrinal disagreement between them. In this light, it can be concluded that the verse in question here will not only agree with, but will also complement what James wrote, as well as what Paul wrote in Romans 2:13 (or else Paul would have been double-minded, and thus "unstable in all his ways"; James 1:8).

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (James 2:21-24)

This section by James appears to contradict directly what Paul says in Galatians. If we go by the common interpretation, these verses are diametrically opposed to each other. Given that Scripture cannot be broken, however, these passages must complement one another. The interpretation of one or both of them is wrong when the conclusion is reached that one is justified by faith only.

The faith that is mentioned in either one of those verses is given without qualification as to when the faith is used—whether for justification or sanctification. The context of Galatians 2:16 seems to indicate it is talking about justification (being brought into alignment with God and His law after He has called us out of the world; John 6:44). However, in James 2:24 it is not clear whether he is referring to justification or sanctification, but it seems to be a little bit more weighted toward sanctification (the process one goes through after entering into the covenant with God).

James 2:20 shows plainly that faith without works is dead at any time during a Christian's calling and conversion—whether for justification or sanctification.

The picture begins to form that works indeed may play a part in a person's justification. To look at it another way: Does repentance play a part in God's forgiveness of our sins, and thus justification? Repentance is not merely feeling sorrow and crying out to God, as II Corinthians 7:1 shows (where we are commanded to cleanse ourselves). Repentance also includes a change of mind and heart, and at the very least, the beginning of turning to God in obedience. Repentance is not genuine if one is merely sorry; one has to begin to change his ways to show how deep the sorrow goes. All too often we are sorry that we are caught, or that we have to pay the consequences, rather than truly being sorry for sinning (falling short of the glory of God). True repentance will be a deep conviction that what we have done is wrong, and it will be deep enough to motivate us to change from our past behavior—and this change qualifies as "works." As it has been said, "God saves us from our sins, not in our sins." There is a difference, and this gives an indication that there may indeed be a measure of works involved in Galatians 2:16, small though it may be.

Galatians 2:16 does not say in the Greek exactly what it says in the English, and it sheds light on our understanding of the relationship between faith and works when we understand it as it is written in the Greek. The phrase in question here is: "A man is not justified by works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ." In the Greek it says, "A man is not justified by the works of the law: [he is not justified] except through faith in Jesus Christ."

This is a very significant difference. "Except through" points to the means by which justification is accomplished without nullifying or canceling out the importance of works. The verse is not saying that works are of no avail or are unimportant. Clearly, they are important in the example of repentance. It is saying that works without faith in the blood of Jesus Christ are of no avail. Works, coupled with faith in Jesus Christ, are just fine. But all the works in the world, if they are not coupled with faith in Jesus Christ are of absolutely no avail!

This makes Galatians 2:16 agree perfectly with James 2:20-24: "Faith without works is dead." Living faith and works go together, in terms of either justification or sanctification, if the works are combined with faith in Jesus Christ. Faith and works are not contradictory, but complementary, IF Christ is part of the mix. Works of the law do not justify a man, except through faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul is saying that any amount of lawkeeping—it does not matter if it is Gnostic law, Judaic law, the statutes or judgments of God, the Ten Commandments—if it is not connected to faith in Jesus Christ, accomplishes nothing in terms of justification. Even keeping the Ten Commandments must be coupled with faith in Jesus Christ. Paul is not saying the law is done away; he is tying the two of them together, and it is a positive combination—if the faith in Jesus Christ is the main ingredient.

Galatians 2:16 makes even more sense when it is compared to Romans 2:13: "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." The keeping of God's law alone will not justify them, but God expects that someone who has faith in Christ will keep His law, and therefore it is good to do that, because works are evidence in what one has faith. Without works, God would never be sure of what we really believe.

Staff


 

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

Paul is continuing his stern rebuke here, and it seems he intends his argument to settle the question ("this only would I learn of you"). His rhetorical question is whether the Galatians received God's Spirit through their personal accomplishments or by hearing and believing. This is in no way a condemnation of "works of the law," as Christ Himself commands that we display "good works" to set the proper example to the world, after which He says in no uncertain terms that He did not come to destroy the law (Matthew 5:16-17). These are the same works that Jesus did (Matthew 11:2) and praised (John 3:21; 8:39; Revelation 2:26). Acts 26:20 shows that there are works involved in repentance, and much of James 2 shows the place that works have within our responsibility. To each of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, Christ says He knows their works—and they are judged accordingly.

Clearly, there is nothing wrong with following God's law; indeed, the New Testament is filled with verses that show that lawbreakers will not enter the Kingdom of God. The question in this verse is not about whether the law is still in effect, whether following it is still required, or whether there is anything wrong with the set of laws that God codified. Rather, the critical point is what part the law plays within our conversion and sanctification, and consequently, what part God plays in the process as well.

On the one hand, there is the implication here that a person does not receive the Spirit by the works of the law, and on the other hand there is the definite statement in Acts 5:32 that the Spirit is only given to those who obey God—those following His law. As with the apparent disparity between Galatians 2:16 and Romans 2:13, these statements are easily rectified when we separate the means by which something is accomplished from the requirements.

According to Acts 5:32, one of the requirements for a person to receive the Holy Spirit, even in a small measure, is obedience to God (lawkeeping). God will not give a measure of His life-giving Spirit to someone who is rebellious or disobedient to Him! The story of Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24) illustrates this. Simon had the gospel preached to him, and he "believed" and was baptized. These events seem to fulfill Paul's statement in Galatians 3:2: He heard the gospel, and he believed. Would this not qualify as "the hearing [having the gospel preached] of faith [he believed]"? Should he not have then received the Holy Spirit?

Simon the Sorcerer did not receive the power of the Holy Spirit because he did not fulfill the requirement of Acts 5:32. Simon was not obedient to God—he did not submit himself to God but tried to bribe the apostles to lay hands on him. His heart was not right in the sight of God; his actions and intents were "wickedness"; he was "poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity." This was not someone that God wanted to entrust with a measure of His mind and power! God only gives His Spirit to those who obey Him.

Even though keeping the commandments is a requirement, it does not entitle one to receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a gift (Acts 2:38; 10:45; Hebrews 2:4), something freely given and not earned. This is the point the Galatians were stumbling over: They did not understand, or did not want to believe, that God's forgiveness, justification, sanctification, Holy Spirit, etc. are all things that God is responsible for. These are His prerogatives, and nothing we do can force Him into doing anything! Romans 9:11 shows that it is by God's election that determines who has his mind opened, not the choice (or the works—same verse) of the individual. John 6:44 shows clearly that God chooses who will enter into the covenant relationship, and without God drawing a person to Him, it is impossible for that person to even know God. I Corinthians 1:26-29 also illustrates that God does the "calling," and He purposefully chooses the weak, the foolish, the base things of the world. A large part of the reason is that nobody can boast (glory) that God called them because they were exceptionally righteous or in any way deserved to be called.

The Galatians seem to have rejected the overwhelming part that God and Jesus Christ play in the salvation process. They thought they were righteous enough, on their own, to have been justified, to receive the Holy Spirit, to attain salvation, etc. The reality is that we are God's workmanship, and He is the only one that can bring our salvation to pass (Ephesians 2:10). While we have a responsibility—to yield, submit, obey, overcome, etc.—even if we perfectly fulfill this responsibility, we are still then doing only the bare minimum. Our works are necessary, but they are not the means by which we are saved, nor, as Paul is saying here, are they the means by which we receive the Holy Spirit.

David C. Grabbe


 

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

Paul is quoting here from Deuteronomy 27:26, a principle echoed in Jeremiah 11:3.

"Of works," like "of faith" in verses 5 and 7, shows a person's origin—their source or basis of their spiritual life, and what they depend on. This follows the theme that we are justified and glorified (saved) by grace through faith, and not by our own righteousness. So Paul is saying here that those people who have their basis of spirituality in their own works and righteousness, rather than in their Creator, are under a curse.

In this verse, as with much of the rest of his letter to the Galatians, Paul is addressing the problem of justification by works—he is not condemning the law. It is evident from his other writings that Paul is not in any way anti-law (Romans 2:12-16,26; 3:31; 6:12; 7:12,22,25; 8:7; I Corinthians 7:19; I Timothy 1:8-11; II Timothy 2:5; Titus 1:16; 2:11-14; Hebrews 1:8-9; 8:10; 10:26-29), but rather in this epistle he is endeavoring to show the place that law and works should hold in a Christian's life. He is against the misuse or abuse of law. God's law plays a vital part within the sanctification process, because it is during this time in a Christian's life that character is being built, that we are growing, overcoming, etc.—all of which require that a standard of conduct (law) be present.

James explains this further in James 2:10-12:

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

This shows that our own righteousness could never suffice for the purpose of justification, because we all have sinned. But after we have been justified and entered into the New Covenant, the law is still very much valid for the purpose of sanctification. We are told in James 2:12, as in other places, that we will be judged, and the standard for that judgment will be the law of God.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Because of Christ's atoning sacrifice, everyone—Jew and Gentile—could receive the same blessing that Abraham received. Part of that blessing, which began all others, was justification by means of faith rather than by works. God knew, from the foundation of the world (when Adam and Eve sinned and started this present order of things), that justification by works would not be possible. It is not possible for a man to keep the entire law (letter and spirit) without having the same Spirit as the Lawgiver. Abraham, the father of the faithful, showed that the way to justification was by faith in what God is doing and will do, rather than on our own goodness. These same blessings that Abraham received (justification, God's Holy Spirit, the sanctification process, spiritual gifts, and future glorification) are available to anyone else that God has called, regardless of their race, social status, gender, etc.

God's promise to Abraham (Abram) is detailed in Genesis 12:1-3. Part of that promise was that "in you [Abraham], all nations of the earth would be blessed." Later, in Genesis 13:15, God expanded the promise to include eternal life too—the only way it is possible for Abraham (and his descendants) to have the land "forever" is if Abraham was to be living forever. Land is worthless to the dead.

John 17:3 defines eternal life: "And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." Eternal life is knowing—experiencing—God. But God does not allow just anybody to know Him; it is evident from John 6:44 and other verses that God must call someone to a relationship with Him. A man cannot, of his own volition, initiate a relationship with God—Abraham's life shows this clearly.

Mankind had the opportunity through Adam and Eve to have eternal life, but once sin entered the world, and death through sin (both of which are the antithesis of God), God had to guarantee that He would not have sinful beings living forever. God blocked the way to the Tree of Life with a flaming sword, and since that time the only way to approach the Tree of Life has been through God's intervention and calling.

When God calls a person and makes a relationship with Him possible, it is through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. The person must first be justified before God, and the only way that justification is possible is through faith in Christ. Once a man is justified, God then gives a measure of His Holy Spirit to him. If a man completes the sanctification process, by means of yielding to the Holy Spirit, upon resurrection or Christ's return that man will be changed into a spirit being and live forever with the rest of the God Family. All of this is a fulfillment of the promise that God gave to Abraham and to his Seed.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 5:19-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Consider this passage in light of the laws and beliefs that we frequently point to as setting us apart from the world. A person can keep the Sabbath, at least in the letter, and still display drunkenness, hatred, contentions, outbursts of wrath, and dissensions. One can reject the Trinity doctrine, the doctrine of eternal security, and the immortality of the soul yet promote and practice heresies, since a heresy is simply any deviation from truth. An individual can tithe yet exhibit selfish ambitions, envy, and jealousy. Someone can observe the laws of clean and unclean meats and still be unclean in his heart and in the decency of his life. A man can be physically pure in his relationships while living vicariously through revelries, which Adam Clarke's commentary defines as wild parties and obscene music.

The warning at the end of verse 21 is explicit: Those who practice such evils or make them a part of their lives will not be in God's Kingdom—they simply would not fit in. Their lifestyle is contrary to the quality of the life God lives and expects His children to live.

To put this another way, what kind of witness does a person make who keeps the Ten Commandments (including the Sabbath and holy days), eats only clean meats, tithes faithfully, and rejects false doctrines, yet has a temper, curses, tells dirty jokes, has a perpetual chip on his shoulder, always has a complaint against another, always looks out for "number one," drinks too much, and revels in perverse entertainment? Such a witness of nominal lawkeeping is useless to God, just as ancient Israel's witness to the nations gave the enemies of God an occasion to blaspheme (Ezekiel 36:20-23).

When Jesus Christ introduces Himself in the letter to the Laodicean church (Revelation 3:14), He highlights the fact that He is "the Faithful and True Witness." He points to this title to show where the Laodiceans fall short. They are so enamored of the world and so much a part of it that it is difficult for an observer to tell them apart from the rest of Babylon! Their lives do not glorify God because they do not demonstrate a separation from the world. They do not demonstrate holiness or sanctification.

In contrast, the result of the Holy Spirit being active in a person's life will be love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (meekness), and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These attitudes are not manifested all at once, which is why Paul calls them "fruit." Fruit takes time to develop and mature. Nevertheless, one whose life God dominates, who is led by His Spirit, will be exhibiting these things in addition to obeying God's law. He will be not merely obeying but also imitating God. He will be exhibiting these characteristics because he is a regenerated son of God who expresses the traits of his Father.

David C. Grabbe
The Pentecost Witness


 

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

God says that we have been called to be holy and without blame before Him. One could also say we have been called to be sanctified. Becoming holy is sanctification. Sanctification is just a fancy term that means "becoming holy," which is growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. It implies overcoming. We might avoid a word like "sanctification" because it is not part of our normal vocabulary, but all it means is "to become holy."

Paul says in Hebrews 12:14 that "without [holiness] no one will see the Lord." This is serious stuff! We have been invited—called—to become holy.

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

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

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

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

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

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


 

Ephesians 4:17-32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Ephesians 4:22-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This occurrence of "holy" (verse 24) is a different word from the other word that is most frequently translated as "holy." This word means "to be without contamination." If one becomes dirty because of work - say there is dirt on one's face, hands, arms, and perhaps some of it is grease - it is very difficult to get it off. Will that dirt that contaminates one come off just because one wishes it so?

No, we become uncontaminated, clean, because we work at it. The analogy is being followed through here. Paul's illustration explains that effort must be made to become holy, to be transformed into the image of God. There is action required on our part.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Works


 

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

Christians are clearly identified as saints in Scripture. A saint is a "holy one," separated from the unconverted, who do not have God's Spirit. We must not confuse righteousness and holiness. Though they function together in the salvation process, they are specifically not the same qualities. Righteousness is the practical and consistent application, the right doing, of God's way of life. At its foundation, holiness is being cleaned, purified, and set apart, distinguished from others, for God's uses. Holiness is notable by a life as free from the defiling acts of sin as the convert can achieve as he overcomes and grows. Holiness is godliness.

So essential is holiness that the author of Hebrews declares, "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). Holiness must be pursued. Thus, God's legal declaration of holiness, which we receive through Christ's righteousness as we begin converted life, is not the end of our pursuit of glorifying God. I Peter 1:13-16 charges us with this responsibility:

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

Holiness reflects the attitude and way that God conducts His life. Peter's charge to us is not to add to the righteousness conferred on us by receiving Christ's righteousness. Never in our human lives will we ever be more righteous than at that moment. The purpose of the pursuit of holiness through living God's way in our daily lives is to engrain His way into our pattern of living so thoroughly that it becomes habitual, or as we might say, first nature. This effort as a living sacrifice is our contribution that helps transform us into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1).

II Corinthians 5:17 describes what we presently are in God's purpose: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away; behold all things have become new." II Corinthians 3:17-18 more specifically defines where God's creative process is headed:

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

J.C. Ryle, the author of Holiness, writes:

Sanctification is the same with regeneration, the same with the renovation of the whole man. Sanctification is the forming and the framing of the new creature; it is the implanting and engraving of the image of Christ upon the poor soul. It is what the apostle [Paul] breathed after. (p. 317)

In Galatians 4:19, Paul writes, "My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you. . . ." He also says in I Corinthians 15:49, "And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man."

Just as surely as Christ's sacrifice is absolutely vital to our justification before God, so His labor in support of our sanctification forms the reflected image of Him within our very beings, our "hearts," in preparation for life in the Kingdom of God. There would be no salvation, no entrance into that Kingdom, without His efforts because we would be unprepared to live in that sinless environment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is God's True Church Today?


 

Philippians 3:12-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word picture in Philippians 3:12-14 is of men straining to win a foot race. The Christian life is especially like the longer races where the runner must sustain a winning frame of mind over a longer period of time. We cannot run our race like the hare of the "Tortoise and the Hare" fable, in which the hare took a nap during the race.

Paul illustrates that after having received God's grace, our responsibility is to return full effort to God in striving to perfection in moral, ethical, and spiritual areas. He did not see the struggle against sin, fear, and doubt as being accomplished by God alone. The apostle is here urging his erring brothers to follow his example in persistently concentrating on our common goal.

Life for us now consists of discarding wrong attitudes and habits accumulated in the past. In modern, psychological terms, we must lose our baggage. For us, the past is dead, buried in the waters of baptism. With that behind us, we must diligently make unwavering progress in putting out the leaven of sin, growing in God's love, producing the fruit of God's Spirit, moving toward the Kingdom of God, and putting on Christ's perfection, His image in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Colossians 1:21-23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus Christ earnestly wants to present us holy, blameless, and irreproachable to the Father in His Kingdom, but we have a part to play too. These things will happen if we uphold our half of the covenant. We must continue in the faith. We must remain grounded and steadfast. We must keep on growing. We must continue in the hope of our resurrection and eternal life.

We will do well not to take God's salvation for granted, thinking we have some kind of eternal security without obedience to God's way of life. Instead, let us all strive to make our calling and election sure!

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


 

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

When we really mature in our spiritual life, we see more, we know more, we feel more, we do more, and we repent more. It is all in proportion to our closeness to God! We are, in short, growing in grace (as Peter said in II Peter 3:18).

No one who neglects the spiritual big four—Bible study, prayer, meditation, and occasional fasting—can expect to make much progress in sanctification because these are the channels through which spiritual strength flows from God. This is why having access to God through Jesus Christ is so important. These efforts produce faith and then obedience, and fresh supplies of His grace flows.

There are no spiritual gains without pains. Would we expect a crop from a farmer who never even looked at his fields until harvest time? That is ridiculous! The farmer has to get out in his fields and sow the seeds. Does not God say in James 3:18 that "the fruit of righteousness are sown in peace by those who make peace"? The fruits of righteousness have to be sown! That is work.

What are the fruits of righteousness? They are love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, meekness, kindness, faith, self-control—but they have to be sown, fertilized, cultivated, and pruned. We see a process. As those fruits begin to be produced, sanctification cannot be hidden any more than the fruit on a tree can be hidden. We will never attain to holiness without Bible study, prayer, fasting, meditation, and obedience because through them is how spiritual life is sown, cultivated, fertilized, and tended so that fruit is produced.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 9)


 

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

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

God does not need to be persuaded to help us become sanctified. Yet, is not Paul saying that we are not completely sanctified? "May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely"!

We can never be "more pardoned" and "more justified" than when we first believed and were forgiven. We do not grow in justification; one cannot become more justified than before. It is impossible to be more justified than when one is justified and declared righteous by the blood of Jesus Christ.

However, a person may become "more sanctified," even as a one may become stronger or weaker depending on the circumstances of his life. When we obey and follow God's way, every time we overcome something—every time some of God's attitudes, His mind, His character becomes a part of us—we are strengthened and enlarged in sanctification. But not in justification, as that would be an insult to the spirit of grace—to think that we could ever be more justified than when declared righteous on the basis of Christ's righteousness. Then we would be giving ourselves credit for our great works, showing we are deceived to the nth degree.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 9)


 

2 Thessalonians 2:13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Demons believe (James 2:19) but will not obey unless forced. They do not love truth enough to give themselves to it. Sanctification will take place only in those who love truth enough to follow or obey it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
'I'll Never Follow Another Man!'


 

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sanctification is just the opposite of apostasy. Apostasy means "to depart" from truth, from God. Sanctification, on the other hand, is becoming more attached to God until Christ's image is formed in us. There is a contrast, then, between those condemned and those who are going to receive salvation, who will be rescued because they love the truth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 4)


 

2 Thessalonians 2:13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sanctification is also known as becoming holy (Ephesians 1:4) and being conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). It cannot be left out of God's purpose because it is the step whereby we are transformed into the image of His Son, as well as into the image of the Father. It is in this step that we begin to take on the characteristics of the Family—where we begin to think and act like the current members of the Family of God. The character, the mindset, the attitudes, the perspective, the way we think, the way we look at things begins to become just like the God's.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:14, 16 that "a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works." Sanctification—if it is taking place in a person—cannot be hidden. Why is God so concerned about sanctification? Because 1) this is the step in His purpose in which the major portion of the transformation takes place, and 2) it can be seen—this is how we make a witness! Thus, when Paul sees the working faith, the laboring love, and the patient hope of the Thessalonians, he writes:

. . . remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. (I Thessalonians 1:3-4)

Seeing the fruits of their lives, he knew that they had been begotten by God—that they had God's Spirit—because they had begun "looking" like the Family. Therefore, if a person claims to be a son of God but habitually lives in sin—he is deceiving himself. Those qualities that identify his "spiritual ancestry" begin to show. "Family ties" can be seen.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 9)


 

1 Timothy 4:4-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse, quoted out of context, seems to state that all flesh can now be eaten. The flaw with most people's understanding of this verse is that they fail to read what it and the surrounding verses really say. They lift verse 4 out of its context, not bothering to include relevant details from adjacent verses.

The chapter begins with a prophetic warning from Paul against false teachers and their teachings "in latter times." Their doctrines would be those of demons, and one of them commands their followers "to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving . . ." (verse 3). Many stop right there, but the rest of the verse is vital to understanding: ". . . by those who believe and know the truth." These pesky details change the tenor of what the apostle is saying.

Notice that the subject is foods or meats in general, not necessarily unclean meats. This must be read into the passage. If we consider only the word "foods," it is just as likely that Paul means that these false teachers would preach against eating beef as against eating pork or shellfish. However, the rest of the verse modifies the term. What "foods" did God create to be received - eaten - with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth? The list appears in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14! God has never given mankind any other list of creatures that are divinely certified as "food."

Verses 4-5 must be taken together, as they are one thought. Paul is telling Timothy not to worry about such prohibitions because God created every creature as "good" (Genesis 1:21, 24-25, 31), and a Christian should accept what he is offered to eat with thanksgiving. Does this mean that we should not refuse skunk, badger, bear, tiger, snakes, slugs, snails, vultures, rats, horses, eel, and oysters, as long as we give thanks for it? Of course not! Again, this is not the end of the story.

I Timothy 4:5 adds important, modifying elements to what this means: ". . . for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer." Sanctify means "to set apart for a specific use or purpose." The apostle is saying, then, that certain "creatures" are sanctified or set apart as human food - by what means? - by God's Word, the Bible! God reveals these "sanctified" meats to us in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.

Paul adds prayer to the setting apart of these foods because we have Christ's example of asking God to bless the food before eating (see, for instance, Luke 9:16; 24:30). This further sets apart the food we are about to eat as approved and even enhanced by God, but in no way does it make unclean meat clean. Besides, Scripture gives us no authority to make such a request of God.

In summary, Paul is reiterating that 1) God has set certain foods apart for His people to eat; and 2) we should not be fooled by false teachers who claim either that anything and everything is good to eat or that certain biblically approved foods should not be eaten.

John O. Reid
Did God Change the Law of Clean and Unclean Meats?


 

Hebrews 2:9-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Hebrews 2:9-11 opens to us a spiritual reality that we must come to understand and appreciate if we are to make the most of this wonderful opportunity of salvation that God gave to us completely unbidden. Because of our disobedience and the resulting curse of death placed on us, we could never experience what is said of us in Psalm 8:4-8, which the author of Hebrews refers to here. However, Jesus suffered death and gained the victory for us. As a result, He wears the crown of glory and rules the universe. We know this Being as God-in-the-flesh, but the author uses His earthly name, Jesus, so that we can see the historical setting of His victory.

"Jesus" calls to mind the concept of salvation, as it means "savior." The author writes that Jesus accomplished the redemption of His people by "tast[ing] death," not—interestingly—by merely "dying." To taste death is a graphic illustration of the painful way He suffered and died. He was not spared this excruciating trauma because He was the Son. He experienced suffering, both physical and emotional, to the very marrow of His bones.

In Hebrews 2:10, we find that the "everyone" of verse 9 is, in realty, not in this context the whole world, but it is limited to the "many sons" being brought to glory—in other words, the church. He bore the suffering that should have come upon us as the wages of our sins. He is the Author, the Pioneer, the Trailblazer, the Forerunner, going before us to our salvation. He is the One clearing the path, as it were, as we make our way following our calling. In Hebrews 12:2, He is called "the author and finisher [or perfecter] of our faith." The Father made Him pass through gruesome suffering in our behalf.

He completed His preparation for the responsibility that He now holds as our High Priest; the Father has charged Him with the task of preparing many others to share life with them in the Kingdom of God. Jesus, therefore, is the One who makes men holy. The path to sanctification lies in obedience to doing God's will, and that obedience is to be given out of gratitude because one understands and knows the Father and Son from within an intimate relationship (John 17:3).

Verse 12 quotes Psalm 22:22, putting the words in Jesus' mouth: "I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praises to You." In the holy Family of God, this spiritual relationship supersedes all human aspects. Jesus died for our sins; He redeemed us from the curse of sin; He forgives our sins; He gives us gifts; and He leads us to glory. Because of His sacrificial work, He is not ashamed to give us the name "brothers"! This implies that we, in turn, may call Jesus our Brother. What a privilege to be called brothers of the Son of God!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is God's True Church Today?


 

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

God sanctifies us through Jesus Christ and graciously justifies us by means of Christ's blood, providing us with His Son's righteousness and granting us entrance into a relationship with Him. The sanctification process writes the laws of God in our hearts and minds, making His righteousness real and practical to daily life. During this process, which requires our cooperation with Him in His purpose, we literally become conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. The overwhelming majority of Christian works come to the fore within this process as part of the preparation for God's Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)


 

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

"He who sanctifies" is Jesus Christ, and "those who are being sanctified" is us. He calls us "all of one" because we are all of one Father, and therefore of one family.

The word "brethren" indicates why the word "one" implies family. We are all brothers and sisters. If these words teach us anything, it is that Christ not only undertakes our justification but also our sanctification. Both of them are provided under the New Covenant, which He mediates.

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


 

Hebrews 6:2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To someone in the world, "laying on of hands" conjures up thoughts like, "I'd like to get my hands on him for the way he cheated me!" or, "Just wait 'til I get my hands on him!" In sharp contrast, God's use of the laying on of hands symbolizes the bestowal of blessings, authority, and distinctiveness. It is a symbolic act designed to represent God Himself setting a person apart for a holy use, whether for service, healing, protection and guidance, or blessing. "Laying on of hands" is the fifth basic doctrine of God's church listed in Hebrews 6:2.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Laying On of Hands


 

Hebrews 10:14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Justification and sanctification are both essential to God's purposes regarding salvation. However, most are far more familiar with justification.

Some believe that justification preserves one's salvation through to the resurrection. This cannot possibly be so, though, because that would mean that justification is salvation. In Hebrews 6:1, this same author writes, "Let us go on to perfection." At the time one is justified, the perfection or maturity of which he writes is still future.

Sanctification is the inward spiritual transformation that Jesus Christ, as our High Priest, works in a convert by His Holy Spirit following justification. I Corinthians 1:30 informs us that Christ is not only our righteousness but also our sanctification. Hebrews 2:11 names Him as "He who sanctifies," and in the same verse, His brethren are called "those who are being sanctified." During Jesus' prayer in John 17:19, He says, "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also [the converts] may be sanctified by the truth." Ephesians 5:26-27 adds, ". . . that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish."

If words mean anything, these verses—and there are many more—teach us that Jesus Christ undertakes the sanctification of His brothers and sisters no less than He does their justification.

Hebrews 10:14 is apt to be misunderstood. Perhaps this illustration may help: Imagine an observer, who, looking to his left, sees a perfect work—Christ's sacrificial offering for our justification—already completed in the past. On his right, he sees an ongoing continuous process—our sanctification—stretching off into the future. The author of Hebrews is showing that Christ's one offering is so efficacious that nothing can be added to it. It will provide a solid foundation for the continuing process of godly character growth to holiness for all mankind for all time.

In the Old Testament, the words translated as "sanctify" and "holy" are derived from the same Hebrew root, and in the New Testament, they come from the same Greek root. In both languages, they are used in essentially the same way, meaning "to be made or declared clean or purified." Because of the sense of cleanliness, both imply being different from others of their kind that are not holy, and thus they are separated or set apart from what is common. One author suggests that the cleanliness of something holy makes it "a cut above."

Justification is essentially a legal operation on God's part by accounting Christ's righteousness to us because of faith on our part. Romans 4:1-5 confirms this:

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something of which to boast, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

No works on our part are acceptable for justification. There is no way a sinner can "make up" for his sins. By contrast, we are deeply involved in the sanctification process, where works are very important. Ephesians 2:10 from the Amplified Bible clearly states our responsibility following conversion:

For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

After being justified, we are required to live obediently, to submit to God in faith, glorifying God by overcoming Satan, the world, and human nature. Sanctification is normally the longest and most difficult aspect of salvation. Real challenges, sometimes very difficult ones, abound within it if we are to remain faithful to God, the New Covenant, and His purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is God's True Church Today?


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

Of what does holiness consist? Is it the accumulation of religious knowledge? Many people have labored long to research material for commentaries and other tomes on religious subjects, but does that accumulated knowledge translate into holiness? After three and a half years with Jesus, Judas had undoubtedly accumulated much knowledge, but it did not stop him from betraying his Master. Would Jesus, the Holy One, have betrayed Judas?

The Bible shows that many had long contact with truly godly people, yet never became holy. Joab had an almost lifelong association with David, but he remained a scoundrel to his dying day (I Kings 2:5-6, 28-34). For years, Gehazi served Elisha, but he ended up cursed because of greed (II Kings 5:20-27). Paul reports that Demas had forsaken him because he loved the world (II Timothy 4:10). The rich young ruler, who appears to have been moral and respectable in conduct, asked Jesus what he should do to have eternal life, yet his rejection of His counsel proves that he was not holy at the time (Matthew 19:16-22).

Were the Jews made holy due to their claim that the Temple of the Lord was in the capital of their nation and God dwelled there (see Jeremiah 7)? Does this equate to some taking comfort because they are "in the church" and are therefore holy? Later Jews claimed that Abraham was their father, and that they had "never been in bondage to anyone" (John 8:33). They were indeed "related" to someone of renown who was holy, but this did not stop Jesus from telling them that their spiritual father was Satan the Devil!

Demographic categories may play their parts in one's sanctification, but none of them guarantees or makes one holy on its own merits. Holiness is not transferred via a group. Each must work with God on achieving it himself.

John Charles Ryle gives the following definition in his book, Holiness:

Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God's judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is the most holy man. (p. 34)

We must understand more to appreciate more fully what he wrote. Ryle's is only an overall definition because he reveals as he continues that it defines only the overall mindset, foundation, and trigger of the holy person's conduct. Holiness includes both one's mindset and conduct. What good is a mindset without the conduct to give evidence of it?

To paraphrase Ryle's conclusion, a holy person will strive to shun every sin known to him and to keep every known commandment whether required physically or in spirit. He will have an enthusiastic desire to perform God's will combined with a greater fear of displeasing God than displeasing the world. Paul writes in Romans 7:22, "I delight in the law of God according to the inward man." David, too, says, "Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way" (Psalm 119:128).

Why will this combination of attitude and action exist? Because the holy person will be striving to be like Christ. He will labor to have Christ's mind in him, as Paul admonishes in Philippians 2:5. He will deeply desire to be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). Thus, the holy person will bear with others and forgive them, even as Christ bears with and forgives us. He will make every effort to be unselfish, just as Christ did not please Himself, sacrificing Himself for our sakes.

The holy person will endeavor to humble himself and walk in love, as Christ served and made Himself of no reputation. The holy person will remember that Christ was a faithful witness for the truth, that He came not to do His own will but His Father's. He will deny himself in order to minister to others and will be meek and patient when receiving undeserved insults. On the other hand, Jesus was bold and uncompromising when denouncing sin, yet full of compassion toward the weak.

The holy person will separate himself from the world and be instant in prayer. Christ would not even allow His closest relatives to stand in the way of doing the work He had been given to accomplish. In sum, the holy person will shape his life to walk in the footsteps of His Savior, as the apostle John advises in I John 2:6, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked."

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


 

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

This was written in about AD 65, and Peter is having to remind people who they are. We have to be reminded of this because we are a very special people to God. Peter focuses in on the term "election," which is the very ground of consolation or encouragement because it means that God knows us. What kind of a gift is that? We are not a faceless blob to Him. He knows us personally and is watching over our lives!

The word election means "those sought out." God sought us out! Thus believing, understanding, and taking action on this truth is a major part of our hope, that is, that we are indeed special and known by God.

Peter also uses the term "foreknowledge," which intensifies "election." When the two of them are taken together in this context, it indicates that God not only foresaw us, but that He caused our relationship to occur because we would have never found Him on our own. To this, the apostle then adds "sanctification." In this case, it means, not merely set apart, but dedicated for obedience, which Peter mentions. This suggests that God knows us, not merely because He wants to save us, but because He wants us to obey Him.

Taken together, these three terms indicate that we have been given a tremendous gift that not many people on earth have received. It is a humbling responsibility because every gift carries with it the responsibility to make proper use of it in service to God's purpose.

What Peter is dealing with in this first chapter is why we can have hope: because we are elected by God. He sought us out purposely to make us acquainted with Him. The Father is the Author of an act of mercy by which we are given a sure hope of being brought into our inheritance. We should be conscious of this without being maudlin or self-righteous.

Peter writes that we have been begotten to a "living hope." It is a living hope because Christ is alive, and in God's behalf, He will absolutely carry out His God-given responsibility to us to bring us into His Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Trumpets Is a Day of Hope


 

1 Peter 1:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When a person swears by a thing greater than himself, it lends weight to what he says. He means that his word is as certain as the existence and power of the one by whom he is swearing. When one takes an oath by God or on the Bible, such as in a court of law, men recognize that God Himself makes the oath binding.

God swore by His holiness. "As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct." We find here that we are to be holy because He is holy. Holiness, like righteousness, is both imputed by God and achieved by us. Just as the vessels of the Tabernacle and Temple were holy, so are we when we are consecrated, set apart, for God's use upon conversion (I Corinthians 3:16; Colossians 1:22). Holiness, however, is more than an imputed state of being. It is a process that we must pursue throughout our Christian lives (Hebrews 12:14). That is why God admonishes us to become holy, to be holy in our conduct (Romans 12:1; II Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:24; II Peter 3:11; I John 3:3).

The laws written in Leviticus 19, from which Peter quoted, are injunctions against defiling the mind, character, personality, and attitudes of a person through sins like idolatry and breaking the Sabbath. God also speaks of taking care of the poor, of not reaping the corners of the fields, and of being just in judgment. He warns against respecting persons and always siding with the disadvantaged (who may be wrong in his cause). He also mentions not eating anything with blood, practicing divination, or soothsaying and so forth. These and other defilements make one unholy, impure, and defiled.

He wants us to be holy because He is with us and in us. He does not want to be contaminated by the impurities of His people. God wants to have close contact with His people. "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be My people" (II Corinthians 6:16). If we want to have a fellowship with Him, we must start to become holy as He is. "'Come out from among them and be separate,' says the Lord. 'Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you'" (II Corinthians 6:17).

Israelites, God's people, are advised to be separate so they can avoid every possibility of defilement: "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (II Corinthians 7:1). Flesh and spirit indicates "physical and spiritual" or "body and mind"—one's total personality—outwardly and inwardly in all relations with God and fellow man. Our sanctification, part of which we do, sets us apart to walk the way of holiness.

Holiness is what makes God what He is. It is not an attribute of God like love, joy, or omnipotence. Holiness is the ground, basis, and foundation of God. It is His uniqueness and totality, His deity, and divinity itself. It is the perfect purity of God.

His holiness is symbolized in the construction of the Tabernacle: "The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy" (Exodus 26:33). A curtain separated the two chambers, and only the high priest could pass through the veil—and then only once a year. The phrase Most Holy is literally "holiness of holinesses." It represents the height, the top, the very pinnacle of morality. God was isolated from Israel, not because He was unapproachable, but because He wanted us to see the difference between us and Him. He really is approachable; no one in the universe is more approachable than God. But He is transcendently superior.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

1 Peter 1:15-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God demands that those who are associated with Him, those set apart by Him to be a dwelling place for His Spirit, be holy as He is holy. This means that we must become, not merely set apart, but set apart and clean. We are entering the area of Chrisitian conduct, and our separation is away from those who are not clean, not pure spiritually as God is.

We see the implied meaning of sanctification coming into play, because in order to be a suitable dwelling place for God, we have to become holy as He is holy. We have to become holy, then, in the sense of clean—a clean life, as well as clean in our sacrifices. I Peter 2:5 says that we are "to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

We have to be holy in the sense of clean living, and our sacrifices need to be acceptable. This deals with being made holy by Jesus Christ, that is, through His work made possible by means of the blood of His sacrifice as a man, as well as His continuing work of sacrifice as our High Priest before God as our Mediator and Intercessor.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and Holiness (Part 1)


 

1 Peter 2:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice the phrase "being built up." It is active and dynamic, indicating that the building is being done by somebody else.

Peter calls us living stones. Step away from the idea of human beings and imagine stones out in a field or a pile of bricks. Peter's illustration is of a construction job. In his mind's eye, as he was writing this, he saw a literal building being built by a stone mason, God, with His Son Jesus Christ.

We are "being built up." The stones are not taking themselves out of the field, shaping themselves, and fitting themselves into the building. Somebody else is picking up the stones, knocking off the rough edges, and fitting them exactly into the place where the Builder wants them to go. Peter is describing a building that is not being constructed haphazardly but according to an intelligent plan, as if the Builder is working according to a blueprint drawn far in advance of construction.

"Chief cornerstone" is mentioned in verse 6, and like the chief cornerstone, each of us, as living stones, are being individually set apart from all of the other rocks in the field, then prepared and fitted into what is called "a spiritual house." The word "house" simply means a dwelling place, and since this is a spiritual house, it implies "a dwelling place for God." The picture Peter wants us to imagine is that each one of these stones is chosen individually and pulled out of the field, fitted and shaped, and put into the building.

We see sanctification at work in this. In Peter's illustration, the stone mason looks over a selection of stones in a field, but only chooses certain ones, which he then crafts to His specifications for its place in the building. It shows Christians being transformed into a suitable dwelling place for God—individually and as an institution, as a church. This begins to place responsibilities on each of the living stones that are set apart and made a part of the dwelling place for God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and Holiness (Part 1)


 

1 Peter 3:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sanctify means "set apart." It means, in this case, "make God the focus of one's thoughts, of one's approach to life, of the circumstance that one finds himself in."

Is this not what Peter forgot to do in Matthew 16? Satan's disinformation was the focus of Peter's response to Jesus—not God's thoughts. If God's thoughts or words had really been sanctified in Peter's heart at that time, he never would have said what he did. He would have said something like, "Yes, Jesus, I understand. That's what the scripture says." But instead, he disagreed with God. When one sanctifies God in his heart, then the Word of God becomes the focus, not the word of the spirit of this world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

1 John 2:29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In several places, such as I John 2:29; 3:3; 3:9-14; and 5:1-4, John expressly states what the responsibilities of a converted person are. In these verses, the work of keeping the commandments is plainly shown.

The application of Paul's statement in Ephesians 2:10 is becoming ever clearer. He writes that we are indeed saved by grace through faith. However, he adds, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Sanctification is a process involving a period of intense work: walking in love, keeping the commandments, and overcoming sin and the world, as John's first epistle clearly stipulates. This process within a relationship with the Father and Son brings us to completion.

Sanctification does not consist only of a lot of talk about religion. Nor does it consist only of spending large amounts of time studying the Bible and commentaries. As helpful as these might be, God also calls for a great deal of action. The apostle John again supplies helpful exhortation: "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (I John 3:18). It could not be stated more clearly that the love of God is an action. Further, Jesus exhorts all His disciples, "If you love Me keep My commandments" (John 14:15). "Keeping" indicates consistent effort to obey as a means of expressing our love, loyalty, and submission to Him.

Paul writes in Romans 5:5, "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us." The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is essential to salvation, and God gives it to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). As we saw earlier, Paul says in Romans 8:9, "Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His." God gives His Holy Spirit for the very purpose of making one His child. It also allows one to witness on His behalf, to produce the fruit of the spirit in preparation for His Kingdom, and to glorify Him.

Jesus says in John 15:8, "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." Sanctification is the period of our converted lives when God expects us to provide evidence that we are indeed His converted children. In fact, the fruit produced by our works, themselves enabled by God, are the evidence of our conversion. Some things in life are absolute certainties: Where the fruit of the labors of conversion are, there the Spirit of God will be found. Where those fruits are absent, the people are spiritually dead before God—they lack the life of the Spirit. Put another way, where there is no holy living, there is no Holy Spirit.

The works of sanctification are the only sure sign that one has been called of God and imbued with His Spirit. Notice something Peter writes on this: "[Christians are] elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:2). Paul adds in II Thessalonians 2:13, "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth."

He also writes in Ephesians 1:4, ". . . just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." When Paul saw the Ephesians' attitudes, their manner of life, and the evidence of their conversion, he knew they were part of the elect of God. He could thus honestly write to them with glowing praise. Many more similar verses could be added to these.

Out of ignorance, weakness, or lack of understanding, a person may break some of God's commands. However, anyone who boasts of being one of God's elect while willfully living in sin is only deceiving himself—and his claim may very well be wicked blasphemy.

Thus, because of the works that are performed during sanctification, it will always be a visible condition. As Jesus says in Matthew 7:18-20: "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them."

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


 

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

The goal is salvation, a concept that needs to be rescued from the small ideas man has assigned to it. Protestant religion has degraded it by talking about it incessantly. But salvation is such a majestic idea! It denotes the comprehensive process of God's purpose by which He is justifying, sanctifying, and transforming His children. John shows us the transformation. God does this by calling us, granting us repentance, forgiving our sins, accepting us as righteous in His sight through Christ, and then progressively changing us through His awesome creative power, by His Spirit, into the image of His Son, until we become like Christ, made like God God, with new bodies in a new world, the new heaven and the new earth. It is deliverance from the degrading, mean lives in which we have been held captive in this world! It is living in the Kingdom of God, its goal!

We must never be guilty of minimizing the awesomeness of such a great salvation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

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

Our hope is to be like Christ and to see Him as He is. Our hope is to enter the Kingdom of God. What does having such hope do? It motivates a person to purify himself. He does this by living life as Christ lived it. The whole issue of sanctification revolves around the receiving of God's Holy Spirit and then the study, belief, and putting into practice of God's Word. If we do those things, Christ is in us, and we then cannot help but to produce fruit, just as He did.

If we receive God's Holy Spirit, and it joins with our spirit, converting us, then sanctification—spiritual growth toward perfection—begins. It cannot be stopped unless we choose to stop it. Paul says, "Do not quench the Spirit" (I Thessalonians 5:19). We have the power to do that, but if we will just yield to it, fruit will be produced. How much and of what quality is up to the individual, but it will be growth taking place. The process will begin.

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


 

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

The explanatory material that fills out the remainder of the verse provokes varied interpretation. The reason for this is that two similar but variant readings of "was completed" have come down to us in the manuscripts: plerothosin and plerososin. The former is aorist passive, meaning, as in the New King James Version, that "the number of their fellow servants . . . was completed," while the latter is plain aorist, changing the sense to either "their fellow servants . . . should be complete" (less likely, according to the experts) or they "should complete [their course]" or "should fulfill [their calling]."

Yet, this may all be just a semantic argument. By using italics, most Bibles make it clear that the number of is not in the Greek text but has been supplied by the translators. This was done to conform to their misunderstanding of the passive form, plerothosin. Since mainstream Christians, including translators, do not believe in the biblical doctrine of sanctification as a lifelong process—in cooperation with God—of spiritual growth toward perfection, translations of this verse contain a built-in bias toward a certain number being saved by grace alone through faith rather than those whom God calls being transformed into the image of Christ through grace and works. Thus, they insert the italicized phrase unnecessarily to preclude the idea of Christian works—despite the fact that the entire passage exalts the particular works of witnessing and martyrdom!

Nevertheless, the verb—whichever is chosen as the better of the two—appears in the plural form, as it refers to its plural subjects, "servants and . . . brethren." "Number" is singular. This provides additional proof that Revelation 6:11 is not referring to a specific number of martyrs but simply that others either will be completed or will complete their calling through martyrdom. The latter half of the verse, then, is better rendered, ". . . until their fellow servants and their brethren, who are to be killed as they were, should also be complete [or, should also complete (their course)]." In other words, whether passively or actively, more sons and daughters will come to perfection through suffering and death, just as God's Firstborn Son did as our Forerunner (Hebrews 2:9-11).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Seal (Part Two)


 

Revelation 18:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When God separated Abraham and his family from his family and his country, and when God separated Israel from Egypt, their sanctification was also geographical. He literally moved them from one place on earth to another. His purpose was to establish a new community of people all involved in the same purpose.

With the church, our separation is not geographical but spiritual, moral, and ethical, while still living geographically within the system that we were born into. We must become separated from the way, from the manner, from the lifestyle, from the attitudes of the system that we were born into and moved (motivated) to make God's way, His manner, His system, His attitudes ours. That is how we "come out" of Babylon.

Abraham and Israel literally moved geographically. Some of us may move geographically, but that is not really what God has in mind. He desires a spiritual, moral, ethical, and attitudinal departure from our friends, neighbors, family, the gang we ran with, or whatever. We are called to be different.

The concept of God's separating, making holy, and establishing a new community, is not lost. The community aspect is merely reserved until a later time. Under the New Covenant, the community is the Kingdom of God. It is a goal we are moving toward as He prepares His set-apart people to enter that new community.

So where are we headed? To the Kingdom of God. Are we headed there geographically? No. We stay right where we are, but we still "come out" of Babylon in a spiritual sense. We are still sanctified by a change of attitude, of practice, and of conduct. Instead of immoral, we become moral. Instead of being unethical, we become ethical. Instead of being spiritually anti-God as Satan is, we become spiritual in the way God is spiritual.

That is how we "come out." We are set apart for that purpose. At this time, geography has little or no part in the sanctifcation of the overwhelming majority of God's people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sanctification and Holiness (Part 1)


 

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

Since all are to be judged according to their works, what if one claiming to be Christian has no works to show when God clearly expects them? James 2:19-20 clinches the argument: "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?"

This entire issue is actually quite simple. No amount of works can justify us before God. Justification by faith in Christ's atoning blood makes one legally free to access God and to begin a relationship with Him. However, from that point on, works are absolutely required for sanctification unto holiness - to the extent that, not only is one's reward contingent upon them, but also salvation itself. Will God reward one who can show no works at all, or provide salvation to one whose faith is so weak it produces bad works? Such a person would be totally out of place, unfit for living eternally in the Kingdom of God.

Ephesians 2:8-10 makes this reality even stronger. Even though we are saved by grace through faith, the very reason we are created is for good works that God Himself prepared beforehand for us to walk in. The gospel of the Kingdom of God provides the reasons for which works are required - the major one being to prepare us for living in God's Kingdom.

God intended Israel's forty-year journey through the wilderness to prepare them for living in the Promised Land. However, even though Israel had the gospel preached to them and had godly leadership provided by the likes of Moses, Aaron, and Joshua, in their stiff-necked unbelief they refused to submit in obedience to God's commands. They thus failed to receive the necessary preparation for using the Promised Land rightly, becoming an eternal example of why works of preparation are needed (Hebrews 4:1-2).

Can we learn a lesson from their examples? When God brings us out of spiritual Egypt, He is not done with us yet. In fact, a great deal of spiritual creating within us remains to be accomplished before we will be fit to live and occupy a working position in God's Kingdom. We are being created in Christ Jesus, created in His image. Can we honestly say we are already in His image when we are merely legally cleared of sin? Absolutely not! As great as this is, it is not the end of God's creative process. God is not merely "saving" us. His purpose is far greater than that.

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


 

Find more Bible verses about Sanctification:
Sanctification {Nave's}
Sanctification {Torrey's}
 




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