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Bible verses about Faithfulness
(From Forerunner Commentary)

"Faithfulness" does not even appear in the New Testament of the King James version (KJV). However, the idea certainly does in the Greek. In the listing of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, every modern translation renders the word that the KJV translates into "faith" as "faithfulness," "fidelity," or "good faith." In his commentary on Galatians, William Barclay writes, "This word ( pistis) is common in secular Greek for trustworthiness. It is the characteristic of the man who is reliable" (p. 51).

Spiros Zodhiates states that it means "good faith, faithfulness, sincerity"; being faithful, sincere"; and "all good fidelity" ( Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, p. 1162). The Hebrew word rendered "faithfulness" is emunah, which Strong's says literally means "firmness," figuratively means "security," and morally means "fidelity."

The English usage of "faithful" teaches us much that is practical. A large number of synonyms can be related to it, which give understanding in more specific situations. Webster's New World Dictionary defines faithful as "maintaining allegiance; constant; loyal; marked by or showing a strong sense of duty or responsibility; conscientious; accurate; reliable; exact."

The dictionary then compares "faithful" with its synonyms:

Faithful implies steadfast adherence to a person or thing to which one is bound as by an oath or obligation; loyal implies undeviating allegiance to a person, cause, institution, etc. which one feels morally bound to support or defend; constant suggests freedom from fickleness in affections or loyalties; staunch implies such a strong allegiance to one's principles or purposes as not to be turned aside by any cause; resolute stresses unwavering determination, often in adhering to one's personal ends or aims.

Other synonyms include dedicated, steadfast, devoted, dependable, accurate, true, conscientious, dutiful, careful, scrupulous, and thorough.

Faithless means "not keeping faith; dishonest; disloyal; unreliable; undependable; unbelieving." Its synonyms include doubting, treacherous, and unscrupulous.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

As with all the fruit of the Spirit, God Himself is the model we must study for examples of faithfulness to encourage us to trust and to emulate Him. The faithfulness of God is a familiar phrase to those of a religious mind, but its depth and scope are probably not as familiar. God's faithfulness seems to have been a favorite subject of Paul's. He writes of it in his first epistle (I Thessalonians) and again in what may have been his last (II Timothy). Paul had proved it in a thousand dangers and struggles; he found that, when all was said and done, God had never failed him.

Other New Testament writers are equally expressive on this subject. Peter writes, "Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator" (I Peter 4:19). "Commit" is the word Greeks would use for making a deposit with a trusted friend as we would to a bank. Christ committed His life to God all the way to death, and we are to follow His steps (I Peter 2:21). Paul responds with a similar statement in II Timothy 1:12:

For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

Paul adds in II Timothy 2:13, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself."

When we speak of one another as faithful, we mean that we adhere to our word, that we keep faith with men, and that we discharge the obligations of our office or position. Because of these things, we are trustworthy. It is much the same when we think and speak of God's faithfulness.

Usually, the first idea that comes to mind when God is called faithful is that He keeps His promises. This, of course, is included in the concept of God's faithfulness, but it is interesting that it appears only twice in the New Testament. In Hebrews 10:23, Paul exhorts, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." Later, he writes that Sarah "judged Him faithful who had promised" (Hebrews 11:11).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Faithfulness includes loyalty, conscientiousness, dedication, and truthfulness. This not only refers to our feelings and actions toward God, but also to the influences of the Holy Spirit in directing and controlling our behavior toward others. A Christian must always be faithful—as a child, spouse, parent, friend, neighbor, employee. He is faithful to his contracts and promises. Faithfulness is a character trait of one whom others confide in and trust.

Martin G. Collins
Faithfulness


 

Exodus 20:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" has very far-reaching spiritual applications. Bear means "to spread, carry, render, or give." At first glance, the commandment appears to involve only lying in a court of law, and this might be true if the words in the commandment were to be taken only at face value. Jesus clearly shows that there is a "spirit," an intent, to God's laws in addition to the letter that carries their application far beyond mere face-value judgments.

Many scriptures show that the commandment covers lying under any circumstance, including hypocrisy and self-deception. That is, it covers any wrongful word or example that would tend to injure. The ninth commandment is in a similar position in man's relationship to other men as the third commandment is in man's relationship to God. This commandment directly involves faithfulness and loyalty in our speech and in our witness for God before men.

Proverbs 22:1 says, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold." The Soncino Commentary remarks that a person's good reputation, his name, is his most valuable asset. Indeed, the Bible shows that God guards and protects His name very jealously. This is because His name represents what He is.

So it is with us. But why do so many lie, sowing the seeds for the destruction of their reputation? It is the desire for the approval of others that leads them to twist a story or to deliberately exaggerate or diminish their parts in it in the retelling.

When we hear a name, images of that person and what he or she is immediately spring to mind. What we are and how others perceive us has everything to do with what we believe and practice. So, is what we believe and practice true? If we want to have a good name (reputation) in the eyes of both God and man, we, too, have to recognize truth—wherever and whenever it arises in daily life—understand it, and submit to it. This process produces faithfulness.

This is where truth in a person's witness begins. If truth does not form the foundation of a person's life, he is already behind the eight-ball to some extent. The urge to lie must be met and overcome. At the base of this problem is a deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9) that continually lays traps to make lying an appealing course to follow. Besides lying before men, some of us keep lying to ourselves, and thus our name before God is not good. Faithlessness is the result. In order to have a good name, we, as God's children, must face up to our vanities and quit deceiving ourselves that God will just have to take us as we are.

We need to stop blaming our failures, problems, and shortcomings on others, which tendency provides us with justifications for what we are and what we do. Within the family, Mom and Dad are frequent targets of this. They are usually guilty to some extent, but God puts the pressure on us to change. Change will not occur in this way of life until we face up to the truth that we are responsible for what we are. We also bear much of the responsibility of becoming what we hope to be. Nobody can do this for us.

This is the day-to-day "stuff" on which trustworthiness and righteous reputations are formed. They are built on the witness of what we do before others. God wants our reputation before men to be built, first, on His truth and then on truth in general. Are we honestly doing this as well as we could be?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment


 

Exodus 34:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God bears long and is slow to anger. Longsuffering is proof of God's goodness, faithfulness, and His desire to grant us salvation. Romans 2:4 describes God as forbearing and longsuffering. Forbearance is refraining from the enforcement of something that is due like a debt, right, or obligation. Longsuffering differs slightly in that its emphasis is on temperament.

Martin G. Collins
Longsuffering


 

Numbers 12:4-9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

How would we like to be accused as Moses was, then witness God Himself make a dramatic entrance and hear His voice boom out in poetry in our defense, saying that we are without peer amongst all the people? God says to Moses, "There is no one like you." He was without peer among the holy. That is pretty impressive! It has not happened very often in mankind's history.

But, on the other hand, there has only been one Moses. There were a number of ordinary prophets, who had to be content with visions and dreams, but God spoke to Moses personally. Moses was in a class by himself. Nobody on earth was more intimate with God than Moses, and, as a result, Moses was entrusted with God's estate. And Hebrews 3:2 comments, "Moses also was faithful in all His house."

"All His house" is a figure of speech, indicating that "house" is put for itself (that is, the building) and everything in it. What is normally in a house is a family. Moses, then, was faithful—he was without peer—in all of God's Household, God's Family.

Nobody was faithful like Moses was faithful, therefore he could interpret God's will to Israel with full authority. God backed His prophet up, saying that Miriam and Aaron were completely out of line. This is why He says, "Why were you not afraid to speak against [or, accuse] My servant Moses?"

It is clear what set Moses apart from others: He was faithful. This can be seen when he is contrasted to the rest of Israel, the very people that he was leading, who comprised God's Family at that time. They were anything but faithful! In fact, the reason that the Israelites failed was because of their lack of faith. And without faith, of course, one cannot be faithful.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction and Moses


 

Deuteronomy 7:2-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This particular point of obedience is especially interesting because it is the first thing mentioned about our faithfulness to Him. This passage bans Israel from making covenants with the people of the land. Among covenants are marriage unions. A marriage is a covenant to be special treasures to each other and therefore faithful to each other. As we continue in the chapter, verses 4 and 6 begin with the conjunction "for," which tells us why something is to be done or is forbidden.

Here, unlike some other situations, He provides a brief reason or two why this is forbidden. In short, in verse 4, covenants—including marriages with the heathen—are banned because it is too spiritually dangerous. It is similar to playing with fire—the Lake of Fire. Interreligious marriages will work to destroy the special faithfulness to each other.

In verse 6, God's reason is that they—and we—are a special, set apart people for God's uses only. Entering covenants with the heathen, including marriage and honoring their gods, will work to destroy the special relationship. In other words, it will work to destroy our faithfulness to God and therefore our ability to proclaim God's praises.

Do we love God enough that we are willing to heed His commands, or do we love ourselves more than Him, making us willing to risk what He says not to do? Marrying outside the faith is a matter of idolatry.

The perspective through which we look at these things in the course of daily life makes all the difference in the world. A common way of illustrating this is to ask whether we consider the glass half-full or half-empty. Do we think of God's calling as a blessing that has opened a door to a fabulous eternity? Or, do we feel it bars us from areas of fulfillment, excitement, adventure, and fun in life, excluding us from those who have access to all the pleasure and glory this world can produce?

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift


 

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

God shows His faithfulness in keeping His covenant with those who submit to His will and in forgiving the sins of those who genuinely repent. In addition, His Word is eternally reliable and true.

Martin G. Collins
Faithfulness


 

Deuteronomy 12:6-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is there such a zealous fervency like this in the church today? Is it burning in us individually? Is there such a hatred of evil and a love for God and His Family within us that we will not permit even one iota of idolatry within ourselves? Or, are we tolerant of its existence within ourselves and within the church, convincing ourselves that it really does not matter? These verses show that it matters very much to God!

Beginning in Deuteronomy 7, He is systematically defining their relationship to Him and the terms of faithfulness. God is to be our God—exclusively. Please understand that we cannot literally conform to some of these details today because we have no civil authority. Nevertheless, His stern commands illustrate how serious God is about idolatry—faithlessness to Him and the covenant. He charged them with this because He loved them, because faithfulness would be good for them and would bless them within the relationship, whereas faithlessness would bring curses on them, just as it does in human marriages.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift


 

Deuteronomy 26:16-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Israel had been redeemed from Egypt, made a covenant with God, and been told their responsibility. God makes it very clear that the relationship between Him and man is a two-way affair. Upon us devolves the duty of complete consecration and willingness to obey. We are called to faithfulness to Him and to each other as reflected in our lives by our keeping of His commandments. God on His part grants us access to Him by which He ministers great blessings of His Spirit, giving us the means to be faithful.

Israel failed miserably, being guilty of all manner of faithlessness. So great was their faithlessness that God sundered the relationship. Perhaps nowhere is Israel's faithlessness shown more vividly than in Hosea 2:2-5.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Deuteronomy 32:5-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

His people have rejected following His example in order to practice and live by lies that bring only destruction and death.

Notice the contrast to us as shown by Jesus in the New Testament. Revelation 19:11 testifies of Him, "Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war." Jesus says of Himself in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." This statement confirms the faithfulness of His nature: He is reliable, trustworthy, and of unwavering integrity.

What does being trustworthy mean in practical application? Who does God show are the most important persons to the overall welfare of the community, state, or nation? It is not the doctors, lawyers, politicians, or businessmen but the preacher and the king because they should teach, administer, exemplify, and provide the values upon which the community will function. God expects those values to be His.

What does God consistently show in His Word? Notice the context in which these verses appear. In both Deuteronomy and Revelation, a new culture, a new nation, is either being established or about to be established. God is indicating that the preacher has a slight edge in importance.

When God established Israel as a nation, He first appointed and sent the preacher—the prophet Moses. In the New Testament, Christ came first as a rabbi, a preacher to teach the way of God. Upon His resurrection, He became our High Priest, a post that has both religious and administrative functions, and He will return as King to administer God's Kingdom. This is why God's Word places so much importance on these two community positions. The preacher should exemplify God's values and deliver instruction containing them, and the king should live them and administer them to the nation.

Without true values, civilization will soon descend into revolution and anarchy. God's doctrine is true and faithful. It will produce gently and without corruption, or as Moses puts it in Deuteronomy 32:2, it will "drop as the rain" and "distill as the dew," whereas a hard-driving rain destroys. Any society or family built on God's doctrines will prosper and become great.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment


 

Deuteronomy 33:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Why did God choose to bestow the birthright blessing to Joseph? Deuteronomy 33:16 provides the key to the answer. Moses writes, "Let the blessing come on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers."

God honored Joseph because he "was separate from his brothers." He was separate in that he alone remained faithful to his God. Conspicuous by their absence are the names of Joseph's brothers from the Faith Chapter. Hebrews 11 does not mention Reuben, Judah, Dan, Gad, or any other of Jacob's sons. Verse 22 emphasizes Joseph's faithfulness: "By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones" (Genesis 50:22-26)

Allaying his brothers' fears of retribution and revenge, Joseph explained his understanding that God had placed him in power in Egypt "to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance" (Genesis 45:7). To his dying day, he never broke faith with his brothers: As recorded in Genesis 50:20-21, he reassures them of their well-being after their father's death:

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.

Nor did he ever break faith with his God. Dying, he reminded his brothers that God would bring their posterity out of Egypt, restoring them "to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob" (Genesis 50:24).

The two sons of Joseph received the birthright blessings because their father was separate, ethically and morally, from his perfidious, scheming brothers. His brothers exhibited few scruples concerning killing Joseph, forswearing murder only when they saw the opportunity to profit from selling him into slavery. Compounding their despicable and abject turpitude, they darkened their father's days by sustaining the ruse of Joseph's death for more than a decade. See Genesis 34 for a fine example of cunning deception, ruthless murder, and rapacious greed on the part of Simeon and Levi in the affair of their sister Dinah with Hamor, a Hivite prince living in Canaan at that time.

What a paradox! Today, Ephraim and Manasseh have used the wealth and influence God gave them because of Joseph's faithfulness to push on Gentile nations a way of life totally contrary to God's way. Rather than separating from the ways of this world, as their father Joseph did, modern-day Ephraim and Manasseh push globalism, another term for the Babylonian system of "get," on the whole world. Sifted among the nations, Joseph subverts those around him rather than serving as an example of godliness to the Gentiles.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Eleven): Manasseh Found


 

Psalm 15:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It was surprising to discover two new things in this passage. The first is that while Christians usually choose Psalm 23 as their favorite psalm, Jews often choose Psalm 15. The second is that the Hebrew of the phrase "who shall dwell" does not suggest "living in," but rather "visiting with"—that is, being acceptable to come into God's presence. In other words, the psalm has at least an equally strong present tense application as it does a future one.

It is essential, therefore, for us to consider whether God allows us to visit Him, and thus whether He hears our prayers. The person who has these qualifications most certainly will be heard. In him is no false way at all, no pretense, no deceit, no gossip, no guile, and no hypocrisy. He has no hollow friendships, nor does He give vain compliments. His heart, hand, and tongue are in unison in believing and doing truth. This is a model for all of us to strive to reach.

Proverbs 25:19 instructs us, "Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint." Faithfulness always indicates a person who deals truthfully; he can be trusted. Yet, dealing with unfaithful people is usually painful because one never knows whether they will come through. Thus, our evaluation of ourselves comes down to this question: How can God trust us if we are not striving to be honest now?

II Corinthians 4:1-2 sets a standard:

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

Paul's proclamation fits right into the description of the acceptable person in Psalm 15. Our responsibility is to manifest truth. We must make honest and diligent use of God's gracious gifts without craftiness. Is our way Christ's way and therefore acceptable to God? Can we say that we have nothing to do with hidden and shameful methods?

Paul is not saying that we act with unscrupulous cleverness, but that we do not adulterate truth in any form at all. By making truth clear, whether in word or deed, we commend ourselves both to human conscience in the sight of God and please Him at the same time. We should be childlike and open, leaving as little room as possible for people to misinterpret our motives, misunderstand our actions, or twist our words out of their real meaning.

Does it make any difference what people think of us? Some take the approach that "I'm going to do what I want to do, and what others think doesn't matter." However, it matters very much to God. If it did not, He would not show such concern in His Word regarding being a good witness for Him. Nor would He warn us about protecting our reputation—or His—because much of our effectiveness in witnessing depends on our being trustworthy.

Keeping the ninth commandment begins with not letting our deceitful heart trick us into doing anything less than what is honest and true in God's sight, regardless of what we think men might discern from what we say or do. To do this, we may have to override strong internal drives to make ourselves look good, but doing what is right is something that must be done to remain pure and glorify God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment


 

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

We overcome lying because God mercifully but forcefully brings it to our attention by revealing His truth. When we submit to His truth rather than our self-deceptions, we are beginning to overcome.

Commentators suggest an alternative translation of this verse: "By loyalty and faithfulness one escapes evil." The sense is that loyalty and faithfulness to God's truth are essential elements to escaping the second death. Obeying truth does not forgive sin, but it plays a part in cleaning our minds of the garbage of bad habits lodged in our character so that we are less likely to involve ourselves in sin. God's truth says we must not bear false witness, and that must be obeyed!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment (1997)


 

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

If a person is ever going to change, he must confront his fault, since there is no magic bullet! The proverb's advice can be understood this way: By God's mercy and truth and by our recognition and use of truth, iniquity will be purged because we fear God and submit to Him. One commentator renders the last line of the proverb as, "By loyalty and faithfulness one escapes evil." Another translates it as, "By one's loyalty and faithfulness to God's truth one will escape evil." "Evil" implies the second death. Living the truth does not forgive sin, but it does help to purge the mind of its habitual focus on sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment


 

Proverbs 18:24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Proverbs 18:24 is a mild caution against having too many friends, of spreading oneself too thin. It is better to have truly good friends who will stick with us through thick and thin. Understood within the context of these four verses is a warning that, if one has too many interests as a result of having too many friends, the one true friendship we can develop with Christ—who really will stick with us through thick and thin—will probably be the one pushed aside. It is better to be loyal to one true friend who is faithful at all times than numerous unreliable ones.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

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

Prophet after prophet makes similar statements. Israel has trouble being faithful to anything: God, mate, country, employer, and contracts! Our national mind runs like quicksilver from here to there—always running to get the best for the self, willing to bend in any direction to gain advantage and have our pleasure. We work very hard at this. At times, it almost seems to be in our genes!

Nationally syndicated columnists Sydney J. Harris writes on the subject of reliability:

Most virtues exist on a sliding scale, all the way from excellence to ineptitude, and most of us are tolerably somewhere in the middle, without too much damage to ourselves or others. But there is one virtue that is all or nothing: and that is reliability. You are either reliable or you are not; and, if not, it doesn't much matter how nearly or how often you are reliable.

If I were an employer of any sort, I would be willing to put up with many kinds of personal or professional deficiencies, but never with this. A person who is not dependable is bound to fail you (and himself as well) at precisely the wrong time.

It reminds me of the debonair Viennese gentlemen who, when asked, "Have you been faithful to your wife?" replied, "Frequently." It is plain that a man who is frequently faithful is not faithful at all; he might as well never be.

Reliability is one of the hardest character traits to identify by testing or "screening" or anything except personal acquaintance.

Some people are "rocks" by nature or training, while others are papier-maché painted to resemble rocks, who crumble when sudden pressure is applied by circumstances.

If you are married to someone who cannot be depended upon to pull his or her own weight, it hardly matters what other admirable traits your mate may possess, because you can never know when or where you will be let down.

It is the same as being married to an alcoholic, who is only "there" part of the time—and usually not when most needed.

Consistency is what is required in the people we associate with: the confident knowledge of what we can rightfully expect of them, barring sudden illness or catastrophe beyond anyone's control. Otherwise there is no real relationship, but only a shifting accommodation to the winds of caprice and self-indulgence.

It is easy to feel affection for another; what is harder is to translate this feeling into acts, daily acts, that demonstrate steadfastness of purpose in a domestic routine that may not be as dramatic as some heroic rescue, but that keeps the craft afloat no matter which way the wind happens to blow.

The deepest and most important virtues are often the dullest ones; they win no medals, and get no glory; but they are the glue that binds society together and makes it work, now and always.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment (1997)


 

Micah 1:6-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses show the intent of God's law. Jesus virtually lifted this word-for-word from Micah and applied its principle in Matthew 23:23. He substituted the word "faithfulness" for "humility," because a person who is truly humble will show it by submitting to God's law, and he will thus prove himself to be faithful.

The essence of the instruction is not that God did not want the Old Covenant sacrifices in Micah's day. What He did not want was rigid, hollow conformity even to ceremonial obligations without a corresponding understanding of their intent and their application in their conduct and attitude in daily life. This is what Jesus was correcting in Matthew 23. The Pharisees had corrupted the intent of tithing, the intent of honoring parents (which He addressed in Mark 7), the intent of the Sabbath—and therefore had perverted the keeping of these commands.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 4)


 

Habakkuk 2:3-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Terrible times, God says, are coming, and the proud will be caught in that time. If we want to be spared, if we want to be saved, if we want to witness these things and live eternally beyond it, then we must live by faith and wait for it. It will require perseverance and endurance.

The word translated as "faith" is not the normal Hebrew word for faith. It has a meaning more akin to "fairness": The just shall live by his fairness. By extension, we could say, he shall live by his stability, certainty, reliability, personal character, or integrity.

A person is faithful to God only because he trusts Him, and therefore, to help us to understand, the translators decided to insert the word "faith" here. Human faithfulness ultimately rests on his trust in God. If a person is going to be faithful, it is because he believes what God says, and he is motivated to have a genuine commitment to righteousness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 2)


 

Malachi 3:13-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Malachi wrote in Judea between the return from Babylon and Christ's birth. During that period God's people had grown lackadaisical in their worship, yet a faithful few remained.

"'Your words have been harsh against Me,' says the LORD." God accuses them of calling Him into account for what was happening within the nation. They were experiencing difficult times, just as the people of God have frequently endured difficult times. These are times when we cry out to God, "Why, God? Why are you allowing this to happen? When are you going to intervene?" but He does not seem to be listening.

"Yet you say, 'What have we spoken against You?'" They did not feel that their accusations were against God, but He gives them an example (verses 14-15).

The faithful can see that these others are not very godly. Maybe they see that "the proud" are sinning openly, breaking the commandments of God. Maybe the proud do not have a submissive, quiet, and gentle spirit. Maybe they are aggressive and assertive, and they maneuvered themselves to the head of the group. And they seemed to be getting away with it!

Notice what these faithful people did in response to the difficult times they were enduring as part of the ekklesia (verse 16). All of God's faithful people should do these things:

1). They feared God. They respected and revered Him. They stood in awe of Him. Some may have even felt an appropriate measure of terror.

2). They thought on His name. They meditated on it. It can suggest that they esteemed His name. They spoke highly of it. They honored Him. They looked to Him, though they were complaining for leadership and guidance. His name, of course, stands for everything that He is. He does not have just one name, He has many names. They show, or advertise, what He is, what He will do, and what He requires.

3). They fellowshipped with one another. No doubt they spoke of their trials and their blessings, about the things that were going on in the ekklesia of that day, of their studies into God's Word, of their plans, of their expectations of the Kingdom of God. God heard! God watched and responded, maybe not when they would have liked Him to respond, but God did respond in His time, when it was right for His purposes.

So will He respond to us!

Then God makes a wonderful promise to those who fear Him: "'They shall be Mine,' says the LORD of hosts, 'on that day that I make them My jewels [special treasure—margin]. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him'" (verse 17). In Isaiah 49:15-16, God says, "Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands...." He is watching! He is aware of what is going on, and He will act!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

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

The Greek word for "faith" can also be translated "fidelity," as it is in Titus 2:10. To understand what the scribes and Pharisees lacked, we need to examine fidelity along with the traditional definition of faith.

Fidelity, as defined by Webster, is "the quality of being faithful, accuracy in details, exactness." The dictionary adds an interesting modern analogy to explain fidelity: "the degree to which an electronic device (as a record player, radio or television) accurately reproduces its effect (as sound or picture)."

We know we are to bring "every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians 10:5) and to "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5). John tells us "to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:6). Peter advises, "Christ . . . [left] us an example, that you should follow His steps" (I Peter 2:21).

Spiritually, fidelity is to reproduce faithfully and exactly the thoughts, attitudes, steps, and paths of Jesus Christ. The "sounds" our lives make on earth reach heaven either as the scratchy, tinny, garbled clanging of carnality, or as harmonic, melodious, pleasant reproductions of Christ in us, the hope of glory.

This is where the Pharisees missed the whole point of the law. They were not like God at all! They were so busy with their little "additions to make it better," they forgot how to treat each other. This is a great danger facing the church today. We can focus so intently on a specific point of doctrine—the calendar, divorce and remarriage, or church government—that we forget that God bases our judgment on how we treat others (Matthew 25:34-46). Christ went about doing good (Acts 10:38). He showed compassion, healed, helped, and set a righteous example in all His activities. He never once gossiped, slandered, or verbally abused anyone. While correct teaching is of extreme importance (II John 10), living it is of even greater importance because doers will be justified, not hearers only (Romans 2:13; James 1:22-25).

The "sounds" the scribes and Pharisees produced were low fidelity, unrecognizable to God in the intent of His law. When God hears our voices, does it sound to Him just like Christ did? Because we are still alive, we are better off than the Pharisees. We still have opportunity to learn to think and act like Christ, to work on reacting to wrongs and persecution—deserved or undeserved—just as He would. We have time to grow in saying just the right thing at the right time to help, encourage, inspire, or guide others.

James 3:9 says we bless God and curse men made in His likeness; we respect God but not His creation. James shows this is a contradiction and wrong. Disrespecting God's creation is disrespecting Him. He expects high fidelity from us in what we say—"pure, . . . peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (verse 17). He will not listen to what is "earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there" (verses 15-16).

Fidelity is the kind of faith mentioned in James 2:14-26. Just "believing" or blindly trusting that we are qualified to enter God's Kingdom is not sufficient. Christ must see Himself in us. Faith without works is dead, so we show real faith by our actions (verses 17-18). Even the demons "believe" God exists—and they tremble in fear (verse 19), but they are unwilling to think like Him, talk like Him, live like Him. Theirs is a dead faith. We are to show our faith by our works, by walking exactly as He walked, by our "fidelity."

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 4) : Faith and Fidelity


 

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

"Judgment, mercy, and faith" can be paraphrased to make them easier to understand. Judgment means "being fair and even-handed in judgment." Mercy means "being compassionate and kind in action," and faith means "being loyal to God in keeping His law." Justice is a more accurate, modern translation of "judgment," and "faith" might be better rendered faithfulness or trust. Thus, Jesus is speaking about justice, compassion, and faithfulness (or loyalty).

Jesus applied these concepts in confronting the Pharisees because they had reached a tragically wrong conclusion regarding the intent of God's laws.

Weightier means "more important," "central," or "more decisive" as compared to what is peripheral or secondary. Thus, the intent of God's law is to produce justice, compassion and kindness, and loyalty to God. Of course, the major thing that will be produced is a right relationship with God and men, and character will be built.

The Pharisees were guilty of a massive distortion of God's will, or what could even be called God's pleasure, and in their zeal to be absolutely correct, they corrupted those they were leading. Their problem was their attitude toward law, one opposite from most people's. Most people tend to become looser and more liberal in their application of law, but for some strange reason, the Pharisees corrupted the law in the complete other direction. God felt it necessary to correct this corruption so that we would understand that it is equally perverse.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 4)


 

Matthew 24:45-51  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The parable of the faithful and evil servants admonishes us to be faithful and wise in carrying out responsibilities and relationships with our fellow servants, our brothers in the body of Christ.

A faithful person is trustworthy, scrupulous, honest, upright, and truthful. Without specifically stating it, Christ is saying that we have to be keeping the first of the two great commandments: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37).

In this context "wise" means judicious, prudent, sensible, showing sound judgment. It suggests an understanding of people and situations, showing unusual discernment and judgment in dealing with them. Just as Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:6 about being self-controlled, Christ's use of "wise" indicates an exercising of restraint, using sound, practical wisdom and discretion, and acting in good sense and godly rationality. In short, Christ means exercising love. He tells us that we should be faithful in keeping the second of the two great commandments: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39).

Since this parable applies to everyone, Christ admonishes us to lead in a way that unites and inspires others to be faithful. We do this by giving them the truth, a good example, and encouragement. In this way, we become wise and faithful stewards of the trust God has given us.

In these verses, Christ strongly links belief with behavior in both examples. If we believe in His return, we will not live as we would like carnally. It is as simple as that. If we really believe He will return soon, this parable shows that our belief will regulate our lives, keeping us from extremes of conduct.

This faithful attitude is opposed to that of the scornful servant, who says his master delays His coming and beats his fellows. His conduct turns for the worse as he eats and drinks with the drunkards. From the description Christ provides, the evil servant's attitude is arrogant, violent, self-indulgent, gluttonous, and hypocritical. Because he believes he has plenty of time to square his relationship with God, his conduct becomes evil.

In summary, whoever is entrusted with duties must perform them faithfully, prepared at all times to account for what he has done. The key words in this parable are faithful, wise, and ready.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 24:45-47  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Considering the context, this instruction tells us that it is the faithful Christian who will be ready for Christ's coming. He will be ever alert to the times in which he lives and will pattern his life accordingly, making effort to be found faithful. Verse 47 promises God will reward the faithful for these efforts.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Matthew 24:45  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is undoubtedly directed primarily at the ministry. In principle, it applies to everyone because everyone has responsibilities, but He's talking here about a faithful and wise steward or servant whose responsibility it is to give the household - church - spiritual food in due season.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

Matthew 24:45-46  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A servant is given authority to provide for the household - to serve it at the right time. According to Jesus, a good steward or servant is both faithful and wise. We find ourselves, then - by God's own testimony - both gifted and responsible, charged with being faithful and wise in discharging these duties so that, when Christ returns, we are found so doing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction and Moses


 

Matthew 25:10-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

While the foolish are busy trying to get their spiritual lives in order at the last minute, Christ comes to take the wise, and the doors to the marriage feast are shut (Matthew 25:10-13). Only those virgins who have a regular supply of oil and combine it with the lamp of God, the Bible, can hear the true voice of their Shepherd calling to them through His true ministers, including the Two Witnesses. The foolish virgins, representing many ministers too, will at first scoff at these two men and ignore their warnings. But when the Two Witnesses begin performing miracles, the foolish virgins will start to wake from their deep sleep; they will begin to repent and ask God for His Spirit.

God the Father has the authority and Jesus Christ has paid the price to enable us to have oil in our vessels. Everyone called by God must pay a price, obedience to God, to receive His Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32). This means we must repent and overcome sin on a daily basis.

Staff
Y2K: You-2-the-Kingdom


 

Matthew 25:14-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Not all are expected to produce the same results, but all are expected to be equally faithful to the gifts God entrusted to them. Interestingly, the one who was unfaithful to what God gave him failed to produce based on his reasoning that God is unfair. Like so many people today, he felt victimized.

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


 

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

Thematically, the parable of the talents goes beyond the earlier ones. Not only does Christ expect faithfulness in duty and preparedness even through a long delay, but He also expects an improvement upon what He initially bestowed. More than that, He expects improvement from bestowal to the day of reckoning.

A logical sequence of lessons develops through these parables. The middle parable is the parable of the ten virgins, illustrating the disciple's inner state. The parables before and after it show the disciple working, an external activity. The preceding parable indicates faithfulness, the following one indicates improvement. He may be telling us that the basis of a profitable external activity is diligent internal, spiritual maintenance. Out of the heart comes what a person is (Matthew 15:18-19; Luke 6:45).

In the ancient Middle East, a talent was a unit of weight and later of money. Jesus probably meant to convey nothing more than quantity, a measurable amount, from which we could draw a lesson. We thus need to improve or grow in areas that can be measured. Talents, therefore, should best be equated with spiritual gifts.

Jesus also illustrates the varying levels of responsibility and the differing amounts of gifts. In the parable, the gifts are given according to natural ability, but all who increase equally are rewarded equally. Their trading of the talents signifies the faithful use that one should make of gifts and opportunities of service to God.

In the natural world, talents differ. One man may design a church building, a cathedral. Another has the talent to craft the woodwork or cut and lay the stone. Another person has the talent to speak from its pulpit. Still another has the talent to write music that is played on its organ or piano. Each has talents which differ from his fellows', yet they are dependent on each other for the building and right use of that cathedral.

Thus, one person is no better or more important than the other, though one may have greater natural ability. God clearly shows that the greater the capacity, the greater the responsibility. But we also find that though there is an equality in opportunity, there are differences in talent.

With God's gifts it is the same. It is not how much talent one has, but how one uses it that is important to God. It is not how many gifts that God gives to a person, it is what one does with them. That is why Christ shows an equality between the person with five talents and the one with two. Both increased an equal amount, 100%, and they were rewarded, as it were, equally. This is an important point in this parable.

In the first place, all of the talents belong to God. They are His to bestow on whomever He wills. These talents, gifts, are not things we possess by nature but are Christ's assets, abilities, which He lends to us to use. Talents can be truly understood as things like God's Word, the gospel of the Kingdom of God, the forgiveness of sin, His Holy Spirit, etc.

The apostle Paul mentions quite a few of them in I Corinthians 12: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues and the interpretation of tongues. They are not natural endowments. Some receive more than others, and the vast majority of us are most likely among those who receive one or two. But despite whether we have one, two or five, everyone is responsible for using these gifts which belong to Christ, lent to us to serve Him. And we have to grow.

And in this I give my advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. (II Corinthians 8:10-12)

God judges according to what we have. Since He is a perfect judge, He is the only one qualified to measure whether we are using and increasing our gifts, or whether we are hiding and squandering what He made available to us.

Since these gifts are not ours to begin with, we must adjust our thinking. We have to accept our limitations as part of God's divine purpose and not struggle against them. He wants us simply to use what we have been given. And the proper use of our gifts will cause them to increase. Paul declares, "But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased" (I Corinthians 12:18).

He examines the question of God's fairness in Romans 9:14-21. Is there any unfairness with God, to love one, as it were, and not the other? Recall the analogy of building a cathedral. God is building a great temple (cf. I Peter 2:4-10; I Corinthians 3:5-17). His temple is His Family, and He knows whether a person, using his natural abilities plus His gifts, will be a woodcarver, a stonemason, a preacher, a musician or whatever in it. God knows. He wants us to fill the role He has given us wherever we are.

We should not forget that God will reward us equal to our growth. He holds us responsible only for what we have been given, and this fact inclines us to approach our gifts with the "doorkeeper attitude." "I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness" (Psalm 84:10). If God gave us one gift, whatever it is, we should strive to double it. Doing that, we will succeed just as the person who was given five and doubles them. He has more to answer for, but the burden on him is actually just as great as it is on the person who has one. There is no difference in God's judgment.

What does God commend? What does He say pleases Him? Is it genius? No, He says knowledge puffs up (I Corinthians 8:1). Is it speaking ability? No, God made a dumb ass speak (Numbers 22:28-30). Is it singing ability? Or writing ability? It is none of those things. He is looking for someone who is faithful. A person can be faithful with one talent, two, five or ten. It does not matter because God gives gifts according to natural ability. And it is very likely that if God gave more or greater gifts to those who have less natural ability, they would fail because they could not maintain them. So God in His mercy judges what a person can handle.

The translators of the New King James Version misplace the word "immediately" in verse 15. The way they translate it gives the impression that the master of the house left immediately, but the word does not apply to the master. "Immediately" applies to the person who had five talents (cf. Matthew 25:15-16 in the Revised Standard Version, New International Version or Revised English Bible). Not indulging in any daydreams or fears, he immediately went out and worked. Believing that work was good for him, he got right down to business.

The tragedy of the story and the focus of the parable is the man who hid his talent. From him we probably learn the most. First, the talent was not his in the first place; it was on loan. Second, Christ shows that people bury their gifts primarily out of fear. Third, the whole parable illustrates that regarding spiritual gifts, one never loses what he uses. That is a powerful lesson: if we use the gifts that God gives us, we cannot lose! The one who was punished never even tried, so God called him wicked and lazy. His passivity regarding spiritual things doomed him.

Comparing this parable to the parable of the ten virgins, we see a few interesting contrasts. The five foolish virgins suffered because they let what they had run out. This servant with one talent apparently never even used what he had. The virgins failed because they thought their job was too easy, while this servant failed because he thought it was too hard. On many fronts they seem to be opposites.

The servant's true character comes out in his defense before the master and in the master's condemnation. In verse 24 he claims, "Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed." That is a lie! Not having this belief, the other two servants immediately go to work, never suggesting that they think their master is harsh and greedy. The wicked servant justifies his lack of growth by blaming it on God. "It was too hard, Lord." He accuses God of an insensitive and demanding evaluation. That is why Christ calls him wicked. He calls God a liar and accuses the master of exploitation and avarice. If he did work, he says, he would see little or none of the profit, and if he failed, he would get nothing but the master's wrath. The master then asks, "Why didn't you at least invest my money so that I could receive interest?" The servant, in his justification and fear, overlooks his responsibility to discharge his duty in even the smallest areas.

Blaming his master and excusing himself, this servant with one talent fell to the temptations of resentment and fear. Together, the two are a deadly combination. The church needs people with one talent as much as the person who has many talents. To illustrate this, William Shakespeare was very talented with words, considered by most to be the greatest writer of the English language. Very few people have had Shakespeare's gifts. But where would Shakespeare be without the printers, the bookbinders, the teachers, the actors, and the like who bring his works to the public? From this we see the interdependence of gifts. Even those who may appear to have few talents are just as needed in the body as those who have many.

This parable insists that watchfulness must not lead to passivity, but to doing one's God-given duties. We must be learning, growing, carrying out our responsibilities and developing the resources that God entrusts to us until He returns and settles accounts. As in the other parables, we see a progression in the theme of being prepared for Christ's return, with each parable having a different nuance in its lesson.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 25:14-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Tie this thought to Exodus 31 and 35: God gave gifts - power and abilities - to everyone working on the Tabernacle. Tie this thought to the church and to Christ as our Leader. He traveled into heaven, as shown in the Parable of the Talents, giving gifts to His servants to exercise in His "absence."

These talents, or gifts, are attributes of His mind, His Spirit, and He communicates them to us to enable us to serve within His will. As we can see in the parable, they are not given to remain static within us, but are to be developed and used. The servants are commended and rewarded for to their faithful use of His gifts. God, then, enables us to carry out our responsibilities within the church, thus we have no excuse for not building and strengthening it. We have no more excuse than Bazeleel and Aholiab had, or all the others who worked on the Tabernacle.

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


 

Matthew 25:19-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The master never sets a time for his return, indicating he could return at any time. However, we know that his return does not occur before his servants have time to increase their talents. The first and second servants cheerfully relate their success in trading, giving their master his property with double interest. Both are rewarded the same, receiving the praise, "Well done!" Both receive the promise, "I will make you ruler." Both receive glory, "Enter into the joy of your lord." Though these two servants differ in the talents they receive, they are the same in obedience, diligence, and faithfulness to their master, and so receive the same reward.

The master passes a serious judgment on the burier of the talent: condemnation for neglecting his trust. This servant's true character reveals itself in his reply. His flawed view of his master's intentions leads him to excuse his own failure to the point of flagrant disrespect. To his idleness, he adds injustice, so his lord sees him as lazy and wicked (Matthew 25:26).

We must always appreciate all of Christ's gifts. "For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have" (II Corinthians 8:12). The true Christian's attitude is contentment with what he has and making the very best use of it. It is better to have a low position in God's service with faithfulness than a high position with unfaithfulness. Our limitation should be an incentive to spiritual and moral action and persistence. In the end, what God commends and rewards is not brilliance, popularity, or cleverness, but faithfulness and obedience to Him regardless of human recognition or praise.

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


 

Matthew 25:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ shows that if we are not faithful in trivial matters, we cannot expect to be faithful when confronted with weightier matters. God tests our faithfulness in our day-to-day activities, and it is in them that real Christianity emerges. The Laodicean attitude, one of indifference to the things God considers important, often reveals itself as faithlessness.

Christ's words to the church in Smyrna show that faithfulness does not guarantee a life free of persecution. In fact, the more faithful we are, the more at odds with the world we become.

Martin G. Collins
Faithfulness


 

Matthew 25:24-27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The tragedy of the story and the focus of the parable is the man who hid his talent. From him we probably learn the most. First, the talent was not his in the first place; it was on loan. Second, Christ shows that people bury their gifts primarily out of fear. Third, the whole parable illustrates that regarding spiritual gifts, one never loses what he uses. That is a powerful lesson: If we use the gifts that God gives us, we cannot lose! The one who was punished never even tried, so God called him wicked and lazy. His passivity regarding spiritual things doomed him.

Comparing this parable to the Parable of the Ten Virgins, we see a few interesting contrasts. The five foolish virgins suffered because they let what they had run out. This servant with one talent apparently never even used what he had. The virgins failed because they thought their job was too easy, while this servant failed because he thought it was too hard. On many fronts they seem to be opposites.

The servant's true character comes out in his defense before the master and in the master's condemnation. In verse 24 he claims, "Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed." That is a lie! Not having this belief, the other two servants immediately go to work, never suggesting that they think their master is harsh and greedy.

The wicked servant justifies his lack of growth by blaming it on God. "It was too hard, Lord." He accuses God of an insensitive and demanding evaluation. That is why Christ calls him wicked. He calls God a liar and accuses the master of exploitation and avarice. If he did work, he says, he would see little or none of the profit, and if he failed, he would get nothing but the master's wrath.

The master then asks, "Why didn't you at least invest my money so that I could receive interest?" The servant, in his justification and fear, overlooks his responsibility to discharge his duty in even the smallest areas. Blaming his master and excusing himself, this servant with one talent fell to the temptations of resentment and fear. Together, the two are a deadly combination.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Luke 7:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The centurion's servant "was dear to him." His affection for his young servant suggests that he thought of him with respect and as important. The centurion's character reveals that he not only thought of his servant as valuable, but also that he was concerned for his well-being as a key member of his household. Apparently, the servant was cherished by the centurion because he had endeared himself to his master through noble service. He must have been diligent and faithful to his master since he received his master's esteem and concern. A good employee has a good relationship with his employer and vice-versa.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Centurion's Servant (Part One)


 

Luke 7:3-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The centurion gives the messengers the responsibility to go to Jesus, not to sorcerers or pagan gods—He is the One the centurion seeks for help. The messengers are to seek Him earnestly and formally on his behalf. The centurion's approach to Christ is not casual but committed and respectful. He desires a blessing, and to secure it, he knows he has to demonstrate earnest commitment.

To convey the centurion's faithful attitude, the messengers have to present the centurion's request carefully and accurately to Jesus to heal his servant. The centurion does not ask in a general or indirect way that would be unclear; the messengers are to be detailed and clear. They present the centurion's request enthusiastically and promptly, as the Greek text indicates. They were committed and faithful in carrying out their responsibility.

They set an excellent example for members of God's church today. When we are asked to pray for people who are suffering from illness or injury, are we as diligent and earnest as these messengers were? When we ask others to pray for us, are we as faithful as the centurion was?

The messengers, in appealing to Christ to come and heal the servant, highly praise the centurion (Luke 7:4-5). The centurion's attitude shows that he was a man who loved those under his authority. In addition, he loved the Jews, which was quite unusual since the Romans did not normally even like the Jews. His love for the Jews was more than just talk; it was combined with action. He gave generously of his resources to build a synagogue for them in Capernaum.

Likewise, God expects love to flow from His church in generous and caring actions. He sets the example for us in that God demonstrates His love by giving. He gave us the greatest gift of all: Jesus Christ, our Savior (John 3:16). Never has there been a greater love.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Centurion's Servant (Part One)


 

Luke 12:35-38  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Watching" points directly to the necessity of being ready for Jesus Christ, the Son of Man (Luke 21:36). It also includes patiently waiting, as is seen in Matthew 25:1-13, where the virgins must wait for the bridegroom. If the master's return is late at night or very early in the morning, the alertness of the servants is even more commendable. Jesus teaches that His disciples should always be ready because He would come at a time when they would not be expecting Him. The parable pictures several servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet. They must remain constantly vigilant so that the master could enter the house immediately upon arriving at home. If they prove worthy by being watchful and ready, their master will care for them.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Faithful and Evil Servants


 

Luke 12:35-40  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

From this, we can see that expectant watchfulness is the normal posture of a Christian. Jesus wants us to be ready for His return at any time, and as servants, we are in no position to determine when to expect Him. He will come when He will come, and we must be prepared to welcome Him whenever that happens to be.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Promise of His Coming?


 

Luke 12:41-44  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus says that exhortations to "watch" apply to everyone (Mark 13:35-37). In this case, the parable that follows shows that the apostles have a special responsibility. In it, the steward in charge of the servants is a servant himself, teaching the importance of faithfulness in doing the will of the master (I Corinthians 4:2). Not only does Jesus teach the certainty of His return at an unexpected moment, but he also implies that the church - His disciples - would continue serving God for an unspecified time until His return. As He says, "Blessed is the servant whom His Lord will find so doing when He comes."

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Faithful and Evil Servants


 

Luke 12:47-48  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The evil servants fail in their responsibility because they are not looking faithfully to Christ and hopefully toward the Kingdom. The penalty tells us that Jesus is speaking about Christians who are not ready either because they ignore their calling or because they neglect to produce fruit worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8). Faithless Christians will be judged more strictly than those who, though wicked, do not understand about the coming of the Son of Man. Professing Christians with knowledge of God's revelation will have to answer for their lack of response to God.

Their punishment seems severe until we realize that the servant who knew his master's will represents those who sin arrogantly or presumptuously (Psalm 19:12-13). Even though the servant who was ignorant of his master's will sins unwittingly, it was his business to know his master's will. In either case, each holds personal responsibility for his actions and therefore comes under judgment. All have some knowledge of God (Romans 1:20-23), and He judges according to the individual's level of responsibility.

The parable finishes with the warning that knowledge and privilege always bring responsibility. Sin is doubly sinful to the person who knows better (Numbers 15:27-31). We who know better would like God to find us with our work completed upon His return, just as Jesus was able to say to His Father, "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do" (John 17:4-5). It would be wonderful for God to find us glorifying Him and at peace with our brethren when Christ comes.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Faithful and Evil Servants


 

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

Faithfulness hinges upon what we value as important combined with commitment. Humans have a powerful tendency to be faithful to what they think is truly important, be it a family name, spouse, friendship, employer, school, athletic team, or even certain things like a make of automobile.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

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!


 

Luke 18:7-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Since Christ questions whether even the elect will have the kind of faith He requires, it should be obvious we must grow in faith. Our initial faith toward God has to expand from a tender trust to full-blown conviction. Though we begin by being faithful in little things, we begin to develop the absolute trust required to submit our lives to our Sovereign and Provider without question, equivocation, or wavering.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Faith Toward God


 

Luke 18:8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This sobering scripture aims directly at anyone who is left standing, so to speak, at His coming. Christ looked down through the millennia, and saw us—looked into our hearts—and wondered, "Where is the faith?"

What faith is Jesus talking about? It cannot be in His existence because even the demons believe that (James 2:19). Demons also have a great deal of respect for God's power and sovereignty. What the demons do not believe in is God's love and all that springs from it. For instance, how could Satan have rebelled if he really believed in God's love for him? Perhaps the original iniquity found in Satan, the start of all trouble, was his lack of faith in God's love for him—"for whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). That faithlessness led to pride and vanity and ultimately to rebellion.

When Christ returns, will He find a people who believe how much God loves them and therefore will trust in Him no matter what the physical evidence looks like? That is the faith Christ is talking about in verse 8.

In the preceding verses, Christ contrasts the unjust judge, who could not care less, to the true God, who could not care or love more. The underlying subject of the parable is God's faithfulness and love, and Jesus gave it to encourage our faith in the Father's love.

Then, in verse 8, Christ says, "I tell you that [the Father] will avenge [the elect] speedily," followed immediately by, "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" A definition for nevertheless is "in spite of that." God will act speedily in His great love for us, yet in spite of that fact, people in the end time will still have difficulty believing in the depth of His love.

Our salvation depends on believing how special we are to God—how much He loves us. Jesus says in verse 1, "Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart." Along with prayer, this parable teaches us about not losing heart—enduring to the end. Knowing how much God loves us can give us the courage and hope we need to face and endure what is ahead.

Lamentations 3:21-23 (RSV) tells us what we have to remember and believe if we are to have the right kind of hope: "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness."

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials


 

Luke 19:11-27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Having invited Himself to the home of a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, Jesus spoke the Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-27) because the people "thought that the kingdom of God would appear immediately." In it, He declared the true purpose of His ministry: As the Son of Man, He had come to seek and save the lost. Jesus used this parable to provide the truth about when He would take His place on the throne of David as King of kings. The disciples hoped that Christ would redeem Israel by making a public stand to convict their wicked society, deliver the chosen people from servitude to the Romans, and usher in the Kingdom of David in all its ancient glory. Jesus' disciples had not yet understood that, because of His approaching death and resurrection, He would establish the church, and it would do its work for many years. His Kingdom would not be ushered in until His return to earth as its rightful King.

The parable teaches that Jesus grants privileges to His servants, expecting faithfulness in return, and that He will reward His servants at His coming. Church members receive equal privileges, but the more diligently faithful will produce better results. This parable demonstrates the distinction between the faithful and the faithless.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Minas


 

Luke 19:11-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In this parable Jesus describes Himself as a man from a noble family with rights to a kingdom. Because He had to go away to receive His kingdom, His servants would be responsible to care for His interests in His absence. On His return, He would reward all who had been faithful—and deal severely with those who had disregarded His instruction. Jesus ascended to God's throne (Hebrews 1:3) to receive His Kingdom, and from there He exercises power (Philippians 2:9-11).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Minas


 

Luke 19:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Traditionally, rich noblemen had a retinue of servants or bond-slaves, among whom were those who, because of their integrity and resourcefulness, could be trusted to care for their master's interests while he was away. Upon his return, the parable's nobleman commanded his servants to account for their business done on his behalf in his absence. The ten servants (verse 13) represent not only the disciples of Jesus' time, who served during His earthly ministry and in the early church, but all the saints, whom He expects to serve Him faithfully until He returns.

The first servant's mina gained him ten minas for which he humbly took no credit. He had faithfully fulfilled his responsibility in trading with the mina. Taking advantage of every opportunity, he increased his master's investment tenfold, and he was rewarded with rule over ten cities.

The second servant had not been as diligent and ambitious, his mina increasing fivefold. Nevertheless, he still received increased responsibility in proportion to his trustworthiness and capability. The God we serve notices both the quality and quantity of what we do for Him (Luke 19:15; I Corinthians 3:13).

The third servant was not diligent enough to increase his mina at all. His excuse revealed his twisted opinion of his master and his expectations of his servants.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Minas


 

John 15:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If we are working on the relationship with God, giving it our time and attention, then God's love for us (since He is its source) will be reciprocated back to Him in the form of obedience. We could also call our response love, keeping the commandments, or conforming to His will. Whatever we call it, our lives will then be enriched by joy. Is that not a good deal? Psalm 16:11 says that there is joy evermore in His presence. Jesus is confirming this here. If we will abide in God, in His love, then it will produce joy in our lives.

This kind of love is not the hormone-driven, passionate, and emotional roller coaster that we call "falling in love," but a deep, stable sense of well-being. A word of caution: This is not something that happens in a flash, just because two people know one another. It develops because the two experience a wide variety of events together. Anyone who is thinking of marrying had better be willing to spend a great deal of time with their intended to experience quite a number of things together, so that they can determine whether their lives will really be compatible.

What is it that is produced by experiencing a great number of circumstances together? Trust in each other is produced. Within the relationship with God, He begins to trust us, and we begin to trust Him. We could call this trust "loyalty" or "faithfulness." That is the fruit of proper fellowship. Is that not what happens humanly? The same principle is at work in our relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love's Emotional Dimension


 

John 21:15-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus pointedly asks Peter three times whether he loved Him. The first time He asks whether he loved Him "more than these," referring either to his fellow apostles or the tools of his fishing trade. The inference is inescapable: Jesus wanted Peter to hold Him of greater importance than anything on earth. Considering Peter's weighty responsibility, he could not be faithful to Jesus without the staunchest commitment to Him as most important of all in his life.

The meaning to us is clear. We must love Christ supremely, or we do not love Him much if at all. If we are not willing to give up all earthly possessions, forsake all earthly friends, and obey Him above all others—including our own carnal desires—to be faithful to Him, our attachment to Him is tenuous at best. Is such a proposition too much? Does not marriage require a similar faithfulness from each spouse? Without it, it is no wonder there is so much adultery and divorce.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

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

The faith through which we please God and receive salvation is God's gift (I Corinthians 12:4, 9). Those in His true church have the faith of Jesus. It is not just our faith in Him, but His faith placed in us. Faithfulness, therefore, is a gift of God produced through the Holy Spirit.

Martin G. Collins
Faithfulness


 

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

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

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

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

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

Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?


 

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

"Common to man" means that the trials that come upon Christians are the same as occur to all men. As we live life, we find that in most cases these trials are unavoidable. They just happen. If it happens in the world, we are part of what is going on in the world, and these things affect us unavoidably. God says that He will provide "the way of escape," implying that there is one right way out of each trial. There may be other optional ways, but Paul is stressing that there is "a way" and "the way." We want "the way," the one that God provides for us. The imagery is of an army trapped during a battle, but suddenly a mountain pass opens up before them to provide them a way out of their dilemma. This illustrates how Christians escape trials.

There is a reason for the Christian going through his trial. The trial God provides is good for him to experience. God wants to see what his reaction will be. Will he avail himself of "a way of escape" that he or the world might provide - or will he submit to "the way of escape" God makes available to him? Certainly, "the way of escape" will always involve the use of faith. God is testing the Christian's response to His declarations and His promises of faithfulness, and He wants to see if he will respond because God is faithful. Which way will he choose?

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 1)


 

2 Corinthians 1:17-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Does God speak and not act? Even Balaam understood that when God's Word goes forth, it accomplishes what He sent it to do. There is no ambiguity on this matter; God's promises are sure. He never deceives, and there is never inconsistency or fickleness in Him. He is always true. Jesus called Himself "the truth" (John 14:6), and in Revelation 3:14 His title is "the faithful and true witness."

Similarly, Paul states that his, Silvanus' and Timothy's declarations, their preaching about God, were also faithful, unvarnished, unexaggerated, and uncolored. They did not change the truth or shade it in any way. Jesus says He came into this world to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37). Paul felt he was under sacred obligation to do the same and maintain a character of the strictest veracity in every respect. Perhaps our greatest obligation on earth is for us to imitate our Redeemer's faithfulness. It does not become an individual who professes to trust in the faithful God to be shifty and unreliable in word and deed.

This is a very high pinnacle for us to strive for, but we must try, though we know we will not be saved as a result. Perhaps because we know our salvation does not depend on our works, there is a subtle persuasion not to be as careful as we should.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Galatians 5:22-23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul names nine qualities. This divides neatly into three general groups, each consisting of three qualities. Of course, we can expect some overlapping of application between the groups, but generally the first group—love, joy, and peace—portrays a Christian's mind in its most general aspect with special emphasis on one's relationship with God. The second group—longsuffering (patience), kindness, and goodness—contains social virtues relating to our thoughts and actions toward fellow man. The final group—faithfulness (fidelity), gentleness, and self-control—reveals how a Christian should be in himself with overtones of his spiritual and moral reliability.

Each of these virtues is a quality we should greatly desire, for without them, we cannot rightly reflect the mind and way of God. The fruit of the Spirit reflects the virtues God would manifest before mankind. Indeed, when Jesus became a man, it was by his life He glorified our Father in heaven. God, of course, is far more than this brief listing describes. But seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness by yielding to His Word will produce these characteristics of God in us. Then, as we become like Christ, we will, like Him, glorify God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit


 

Galatians 5:22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Faithfulness hinges upon what we value as important combined with commitment. Humans have a powerful tendency to be faithful to what they think is truly important, be it a family name, spouse, friendship, employer, school, athletic team, or even certain things like a make of automobile.

This tendency was an issue when the disciples decided to follow Peter's lead and return to their fishing trade after Jesus' death and resurrection. In John 21:15-17, Jesus pointedly asks Peter three times whether he loved Him. The first time He asks whether he loved Him "more than these," referring either to his fellow apostles or the tools of his fishing trade. The inference is inescapable: Jesus wanted Peter to hold Him of greater importance than anything on earth. Considering Peter's weighty responsibility, he could not be faithful to Jesus without the staunchest commitment to Him as most important of all in his life.

The meaning to us is clear. We must love Christ supremely, or we do not love Him much if at all. If we are not willing to give up all earthly possessions, forsake all earthly friends, and obey Him above all others—including our own carnal desires—to be faithful to Him, our attachment to Him is tenuous at best. Is such a proposition too much? Does not marriage require a similar faithfulness from each spouse? Without it, it is no wonder there is so much adultery and divorce.

Holding true to the course God has laid before us is difficult amid this world's many alluring distractions clamoring for our time and attention. This world is attractive to human nature and bids us to expend our energies in self-satisfaction. Jesus warns all who take up their cross that the way is difficult and narrow, requiring a great deal of vision and discipline to be faithful to His cause. Some have completed the course. Those who held God and His way in the highest esteem in their lives are awaiting those of us traveling the path now. Will we be faithful as they were?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Colossians 1:22-23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice, "if indeed you continue in the faith. . ." (verse 23). There is a stipulation, a string attached—indeed, a rope! There is a condition to being presented "holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight." The subject is our ultimate glorification. Remember that the Colossians were being weaned away from a threatening but very persuasive philosophy.

Paul is establishing, "Here is the truth, and it is in the gospel. Here is our authority—Christ—who has both the status and the chronological preeminence. Christ promises to present you before the Father in glory, IF you continue in the faith."

In this context, faith indicates the church's body of teachings, the doctrine, the truth. This acts as a warning that a condition is attached to fulfilling God's purpose: A Christian must remain faithful.

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


 

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David C. Grabbe
Strange Women (Part Three)


 

2 Timothy 4:7-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle had endured strong temptation and terrible persecutions. He had been faithful and had dedicated his life to doing good works, specifically preaching the gospel among the Gentiles. He was certain that he had indeed overcome and would be given his crown of victory and honor when Christ returned.

The crown of life consists of eternal, imperishable living! It represents victory over our earlier, perishable life of sin. In the Millennium and for all eternity, we will wear our crown of life as an emblem of victory, righteousness, and honor as befits those who have been obedient and faithful to Christ.

Martin G. Collins
The Crown of Life


 

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

"Departing from," although it is not incorrect, is really a rather weak translation, because in order to get the forcefulness behind what is in the context it should really read "rebelling against." When we rebel against, or depart from, it is not against or from some dead doctrine, but it is from a living and dynamic Being - the Father or the Son.

This entire exhortation is directly tied to us in verse 6: "But Christ as a Son over his own house; whose house we are." This aims this section directly at us and our responsibilities to Christ in this deceptively perilous time. We are the people of God, and it is our responsibility to glorify God by being tenaciously faithful in all circumstances.

It was Israel's unbelief that was the breeding ground for her capriciousness. Israel's insatiable curiosity and the desire for variety and control continuously led them astray. This in turn produced the mistrust and the unreliability in the relationship with God. We must not follow her in this. Our stakes are much higher: This is addressed to "Christ's house."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

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

In Hebrews 3:12, the apostle Paul reports of Israel's "evil heart of unbelief," the fountain, the source, that gave birth to her irrational, erratic, unreliable spiritual and moral behavior. She could not be trusted to remain firm to her commitment to be faithful in keeping the commandments and thus God's way of life. Had the making of the covenant been a literal marriage between two humans, her conduct would have been as God called it, harlotry. However, this was an agreement between a holy, spiritual God and the human nation He chose.

Though she transgressed every commandment in multiple ways, collectively, the spiritual sin through which her unfaithfulness is most frequently demonstrated is gross idolatry. Israel simply serves herself, following the whim of the moment, so that she might "have fun." Her lack of belief grants her nature free rein to exhibit itself in the self-endowed liberty to follow the lust of her flesh, the lust of her eyes, and the pride of life. She rejects her divine Husband as her Ruler because she wants a king "just like" the other nations.

Except for the occasional times when Israel had good leadership, she conducted her affairs, whether personal, domestic, or international, in the Babylonian manner. Israel, despite her great advantages, became just another kingdom of this world. While God has remained faithful to His agreements and promises through the centuries, she has maintained a hypocritical "God's people" stance toward the world, palming herself off as a "Christian nation."

With the founding of the church following Christ's resurrection, God's spiritual focus turned to the church. Having made the New Covenant with God, our charge now is to be faithful while living surrounded by Babylon the Great. Though it is literally physically impossible, we have the responsibility to come out of her, and we can come out spiritually by being faithful to God and His commandments. We must not fail as Israel did, for the stakes for us are much greater. The New Covenant is a better covenant than Israel made; it contains better promises, enabling us a much better opportunity to be faithful and grow. However, those greater advantages also render us more responsible than even Israel, God's only chosen nation, because the church of God is God's only chosen church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

Hebrews 3:15-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Hebrews 4:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Because God is faithful, the strength to be faithful is promised to us. Forgiveness, access to His throne, and the promises of His Spirit and that no trial will be greater than we can bear—combined with His declaration that He works in us both to will and to do—assure us that faithfulness can be produced in us when we yield as faithful servants.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Hebrews 7:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Regarding the word spoils, the Expositor's Commentary says that it literally means "the top of the heap," and is used of the choicest spoils of war. From these spoils, then, Abraham gave one-tenth - the very best - to Melchizedek. It is impossible to know how the spoils were laid out. Were all of the linens stacked together and the jewels in one chest and the armaments in a heap? Whatever the case, Abraham knew that his victory came from God, so he gave to God the very best that he had, the choicest spoils of the battle.

We must see and understand this attitude in giving. Why is Abraham called the "father of the faithful"? David is called a "man after God's own heart." Abraham, too, was a man after God's heart, but he is better known as the father of the faithful.

As we study tithing, a requisite that must be examined is our attitude. How do we approach God as we pay Him what we owe? Our money never seems to stretch far enough in this day and age. The world markets everything toward our lusts, and we feel that we have to have everything. Tithing often interferes with our desires. We can come to believe that God is keeping us from having what we want. Some come into the church up to their ears in debt and discover that they now must tithe on their incomes! They may feel that it is unfair, that undue pressure is being placed on them.

The problem with this thinking is that we are viewing the paying of tithes from the wrong perspective. The attitude of Abraham is an example for us as we give to God. We should wholeheartedly imitate his faithfulness as we, too, pay our tithes and give our offerings. God wants us to give a perfect offering to Him. This is really important! It should not become something that we just do, as if it were merely another bill to be paid.

John O. Reid
Tithing


 

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 10:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Holding fast is the first indication of faithfulness, but our understanding increases when we know the word translated "faithful" is the same word translated "faithfulness" in Galatians 5:22. It is understood as "reliable" or "trustworthy" rather than "fidelity" because it is being fully convicted of the truth of God that engenders loyalty and dependability. Faith in God corresponds to God's faithfulness. As with two tuning forks of the same pitch, when one is struck, the other responds by vibrating also. God's faithfulness should awaken faith in us, so we can respond in submissive obedience. If He is worth trusting, we should trust Him.

Since God is faithful, it has become our responsibility to imitate Him in being faithful by committing our lives to well doing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Hebrews 11:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Faith is the confidence we have in possessing the things we hope for because of the promises of God. Faithfulness is adhering unswervingly to God and His covenant. To be faithful we need to be loyal (steadfastly affectionate and allegiant to God), conscientious (scrupulous in doing God's will), dedicated (zealously devoted to God), and truthful (true to God's Word and standard of righteousness).

Martin G. Collins
Faithfulness


 

Hebrews 11:35  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What an important principle "not accepting deliverance" is! But how were these apathetic people—to whom this book was written—accepting deliverance from the trials of life? They ran from them. They did not rise to meet the challenge but accepted deliverance. They took the easy way out. Rather than make the sacrifice to make sure that they were faithful to the message that they had been given, they would simply back away from it, relieving the pressure on them. They accepted deliverance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today


 

2 Peter 3:14-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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

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


 

1 John 2:24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

John appeals to the brethren to hold fast to the truth that they had been taught since their calling. To "abide" in the Son and the Father means to remain faithful to God's way of life, grow spiritually, and become more and more like God (John 15:4-6). The only way we can do this is by remaining faithful to the truth of God that the apostles taught from the church's founding. To those who remain faithful to His way, God has promised eternal life (I John 2:25).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
For the Perfecting of the Saints


 

Revelation 2:4-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To paraphrase Christ's advice to the Ephesian church in Revelation 2, He says, "Renew your devotion to Me. Go back to the first works. You have left your first love. Renew your earlier devotion to Me."

Devotion is the sense in which the word "love" (agape) is being used. Devotion literally means "to vow completely." Baptism is the outward show that one has vowed to give his life to God, and so "devotion" implies complete dedication, total surrender. This hints at the Ephesians' problem: Their devotion—their complete dedication—was slipping away.

Devotion is a deep and ardent affection, a feeling. Its synonym are "attentiveness," "dedication," "commitment," "earnestness," but all with a feeling of affection. Devotion is not given out of a sense of obligation only, but with a warm feeling or a passionate desire. Jesus' charge to the Ephesians to return to their earlier devotion is not something that He is asking to be done merely as a duty. Some antonyms of "devotion" can help us see it from another angle: indifference, negligent, unconcerned, disregard, infidelity, and faithlessness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Loving Christ and Revelation 2:1-7


 

Revelation 2:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can see what most concerns Christ—what is most important to Him—at the end, when the pressures will be more intense than they have ever been in the history of man, when Satan is lining up all of his forces, all of his armies, all of his weaponry. The Devil will mount a persecution against God's people to such an extent that the whole earth will be thrown into convulsions, the likes of which this world has never seen!

Christ, like any good leader who sees what is coming, will take steps to prepare His people. He will focus their attention on what is most important to survive and grow during that period. This is why He talks about what He does to the churches in the messages in Revelation 2 and 3.

The word translated as "overcomes" can just as easily and correctly be—and is perhaps better—translated "conquers." We are involved in a war against Satan and his demons, against a world he designed and built through men, and against ourselves, who carry with us the self-centered nature, habits, and attitudes of Satan and his system. Thus, Christ's concern for us as we approach the end is whether we are carrying through in the warfare, continuing in well doing, and enduring to the end, because Satan is bringing about every pressure to make us surrender.

Loyalty is not a quality that we Americans and Canadians are endowed with to any great degree. Our cultures tend to stress individuality—doing our own thing. This lack of loyalty in America and Canada perhaps shows more clearly in divorce and infidelity than anywhere else. Loyalty's synonym is "faithful." It means "faithful in allegiance to one's lawful sovereign; to be faithful to a private person to whom fidelity is due; or faithful to a cause." It means to be steadfast in affection, to adhere to the performance of duty, to be conscientious, to give firm resistance to any temptation to desert or betray. Can we see what the works are Christ is so concerned about?

This is why every message says, "I know your works!" (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). He does not say, "I know your profession" or "I know your desires." Neither does He say, "I know your sincerity" or "I know your wishes." He says, "I know your works"! Why? Because works prove what a person is doing with his knowledge, time, and energies.

Titus 1:16 says, "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified." Notice that they "profess" to know God. Christ says, "I see what you are doing. I know your works." Why are works so important? They prove where our heart is! They prove our loyalty! They prove whether we are conscientious and faithful. They prove whether there is fidelity to Jesus Christ—whether we are steadfast in our affection for the One we are going to marry.

Many believe that we do not have to qualify for the Kingdom of God. It is true that works cannot justify us; they cannot wipe out our sins. However, it does not follow that, because they cannot save us, they are of no importance. Recall that James uses Abraham, the father of the faithful—the father of the loyal, the conscientious—as the illustration that faith without works is dead! Living faith works! Jesus says, "I know your works"!

Revelation 2 and 3 are an examination of our works because Christ wants to see whether we believe Him! Living faith exhibits itself in works! It is a test of our faith. If we are faithful, we will be working: overcoming Satan, the world, and our self-centeredness. That is what works accomplish.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

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

Even though He has nothing negative to say, He still exhorts them to be faithful, as in a relationship. When one is faithful, one is remaining loyal to something he had previously been given. This is a common thread among all the letters. Be it a contract or a standard, it was something that they had been given before and had agreed to, and they were remaining loyal to it. There is nothing negative thing said, but He does say, "Hang on to what you have been given before. Be loyal."

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

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

First, He encourages, "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer." He does not say He will take away the suffering, tacitly acknowledging that they will suffer. He is admonishing them to reorient their focus so that they fear Him rather than their circumstances. Revelation 21:8 says that the fearful and the unbelieving will go into the Lake of Fire, and this happens because they fear the wrong things. Thus, they have no part with God.

In many ways, what Revelation 2:10 describes is entirely foreign to us, yet many passages warn us that God's people will face tribulation. Peter writes, "Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you" (I Peter 4:12). We are so unaccustomed to persecution that we do indeed think it strange, but Paul tells Timothy, "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (II Timothy 3:12).

Jesus warns us that we will be hated by all for His name's sake (Matthew 10:22), even delivered up to tribulation and death (Matthew 24:9). He prophesies that the time will come when whoever kills God's people will think he does God a service (John 16:2). John 16:33 is both cautionary and encouraging: "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

In Revelation 2:10, Jesus says that the Devil is about to throw some of them into prison to test them. A test perpetrated by Satan may not make much sense to men. It may not be over anything as dramatic as keeping the Sabbath or holy days or refusing the Mark of the Beast. It could simply be that, because the society has become so litigious and the civil law so overbearing, these saints become entangled without actually having done anything wrong. Nevertheless, as a test of their faith, God will allow Satan to jail them, for whatever reason—legitimate or not. God does this so that He and they know where their convictions stand—to see if they will compromise to ease their captivity, to see if they will remain faithful to God and His truth, and to see if they will trust Him even in tough times. It is during tumultuous times like the present that a person's character is revealed.

However, God is also merciful, telling Smyrna that its tribulation will be of limited duration. The church there can expect persecution and tribulation, but God has set limits on it, just as He did for Job (Job 2:6). He will not allow His saints to be tempted—proved, tried—beyond what they can bear (I Corinthians 10:13).

"Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life," He says to conclude Revelation 2:10. Because this follows right on the heels of the Devil throwing some of them into prison, it almost sounds as if they will be in prison for ten days and then die, but it need not mean this at all. His exhortation to be faithful until death is universal, not just applicable for those thrown into prison. Whether we, like the apostle John, are allowed to die a natural death at an advanced age or, like Stephen, suffer martyrdom shortly after conversion, the command is the same: We must be faithful to our last breath. We cannot rest on the fact that we were faithful last year or last decade. Our faithfulness should be strong right to the finish line.

If we maintain our faithfulness, Christ gives us a crown of life. He similarly admonishes the church at Philadelphia to "hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown" (Revelation 3:11). Paul calls it an "imperishable crown" (I Corinthians 9:25) and a "crown of righteousness" given "to all those who have loved and yearned for and welcomed His appearing (His return)" (II Timothy 4:8, Amplified Bible). James adds, "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12, English Standard Version).

David C. Grabbe
Smyrna: Faithful Until Death


 

Revelation 3:7-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus Christ tells the Philadelphians that they have only a little strength, a little power (dunamis). They have a small, effective capability for wonderful works and mighty deeds, a limited ability to get things done. If they are dynamic, it is only on a small scale. This has some implications about the letter to Philadelphia that we may not have considered before.

There are at least four applications or audiences to the Letters to the Seven Churches: They are written to 1) seven literal, first-century churches in Asia Minor; 2) seven end-time churches; 3) seven historical church eras; and/or 4) individuals Christians. In each letter, Christ gives the admonition, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). The seven letters can represent attitudes or conditions as well as organizational units and periods. Looking through the lens of the fourth application gives the letter to Philadelphia meaning regardless of the era or corporate organization one may be part of.

Christ's statement that the Philadelphian has only a little strength is not necessarily a criticism. The overall tenor of the letter is extremely positive. However, He is giving a statement of fact: Philadelphians have only a small effective capability for miraculous work, a little physical or spiritual aptitude, a small measure of effectiveness. Dunamis is not entirely lacking, but it is present in only a small amount.

The Philadelphian, by this accounting, will probably not be the one healing people when his shadow passes by, or the one moving mountains. Nor will He be prophesying of future events or speaking in unfamiliar languages. He may not have great speaking ability or a dynamic personality. This is not to say that power and effectiveness are entirely lacking, just that the Philadelphian will probably not have the same dramatic outworking we observe in other biblical figures.

Why is this dunamis lacking? From the rest of the letter to Philadelphia, it does not appear that the lack of dunamis is because of a great failing or negligence in duties to God. On the contrary, the letter is a commendation because of faithfulness. Perhaps part of the reason, seen in one of Jesus' parables, is that not much natural ability is there for God to enhance. Perhaps also, mighty deeds are lacking because there is no need for such works to be done. Remember, if God has ordained that something be done, He will give the power for it to be accomplished. If He has not given that power, it is because it is His will that a thing not be accomplished.

The Parable of the Talents adds to the picture:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. (Matthew 25:14-15)

The word ability in verse 15 is also dunamis. These verses affirm that 1) talents are given by God, and 2) apparently the bestowing of talents depends somewhat on the effective capability the person already possesses. Along the same lines, it is interesting to note that Christ Himself was limited in the works—dunamis—He could perform because of the unbelief in some areas (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5-6)!

The two faithful servants double what is given to them. The amounts are not as important as the growth. Both give Christ a 100% increase on what He bestowed on them. The unfaithful servant produces nothing at all.

In this example, we can see the Philadelphian as the servant who receives only two talents rather than five. He does not have the same natural ability. However, even though he may have fewer responsibilities, or the scope of what he controls is much smaller, he is just as faithful as the servant who receives more. The Philadelphian may have only a little ability, but with that ability he is able to keep God's word and not deny His name (Revelation 3:8). His power enables him to keep God's command to persevere (verse 10).

We have been given a measure of dunamis. If we have God's Spirit, we have ability, talent, effectiveness, and strength in some measure, in some area. It does not matter how much is given, or in what area our strength resides, but that we remain faithful in what God has given to us and that we make use of the power we have to further God's purpose.

David C. Grabbe
Power


 

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

We tend to think of the Philadelphians as being without fault because Christ does not make a pointed and detailed listing of their sins. Notice, however, that they have "a little strength"—they are weak. This is not a put-down but an honest appraisal. He is in fact commending them for doing as well as they have.

We need to consider this in terms of our recent lives in the church. The evidence shows that the Philadelphia group lacks the spiritual strength of the beginning of the Ephesian group. We have not seen many mountains moving out of their places.

We are among the generation addressed by Jesus: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). A careful scrutiny of these verses shows something is missing that almost all assume is there: They do not say the church at Philadelphia is full of brotherly love. Philadelphia is the name of the city, and we draw an assumption that Christ calls them "Philadelphians" because they exhibit remarkable love for one another. To be honest, we would have to make the same assumption for each of the groups, and no one has been able to make a significant conclusion in this vein for the Ephesian group in regard to the name "Ephesus," or for the Thyatiran group with "Thyatira," or for the others. Perhaps only one name does fit somewhat: Laodicea, which means "judgment of the people."

The Philadelphians have one fine quality—they are faithful. This is what He compliments them for being, meaning they have a commendable measure of obedience. Nevertheless, the Philadelphians, though faithful, are somewhat weak. The Laodiceans are largely derived from a base that came from the Philadelphians, making them weaker still, due to their lackadaisical inattention to their relationships with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 5)


 

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

In Revelation 3:8, the phrase "open door" is being used, not so much as an opportunity, but as a reward. Young's Literal Translation shows this emphasis: "I have known thy works; lo, I have set before thee a door—opened, and no one is able to shut it, because thou hast a little power, and didst keep my word, and didst not deny my name" (emphasis ours). Christ sets before the Philadelphian an "open door" because he has only a little capacity for mighty works, and yet he still keeps God's Word and does not deny God's name by the way he lives his life. He still is able to overcome.

The door Christ opens to the Philadelphian, the door no man can shut, may well be the door to the Kingdom itself! In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the door is open to some of the virgins and closed to others (Matthew 25:10-12). In the description of New Jerusalem, the gate is open only to those whose names are written in the Book of Life (Revelation 21:27; 22:14). Christ opens the door to the Kingdom because of the Philadelphian's faithfulness, just as He promises to keep him from the hour of trial because of his perseverance (Revelation 3:10).

God may have given him only two talents, but He knows that if he is faithful with a small amount of power, in the Kingdom he will faithfully administer all of the responsibility and effectiveness that God bestows upon him. Individually, we may only have a little "power," but if we are faithful with what we have been given, God is pleased, knowing we will also be faithful with great power. As Christ says in Luke 16:10, ". . . faithful also in much. . . ."

David C. Grabbe
Power


 

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

God promises protection to the Philadelphia brethren—and we can be sure that this is a Rock-solid promise! However, we should be careful not to be complacent about this comforting promise. We should never assume that God considers us Philadelphians. It is likely that we have been in the Laodicean era for quite some time. We have to prove to God that we deserve to be considered Philadelphians in attitude while amidst the Laodicean era.

Although God's promise to this faithful church is sure, it applies only to those who are truly Philadelphian. Jesus identifies them as having kept God's Word, not denied His name, and kept His command to persevere. Those who fail to meet these three criteria cannot count themselves as Philadelphians and cannot claim God's promise of protection through the end-time trials and persecutions. We all need to wake up, listen to, and act upon the frequent and strong warnings against Laodicean attitudes that still exist within the church today!

Staff
No Greater Love


 

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

Before examining this promise, it may be helpful to understand what it does not say. Note how conventional wisdom would paraphrase this verse:

Because you consider yourself to be a Philadelphian, and because you are with the church organization that is doing the most to preach the gospel to the world, I will keep you from the hour of trial and will take you to the Place of Safety where you will be protected while all those who disagree with you will go through the Tribulation.

"Conventional wisdom" is not actually wisdom! It is what is generally held to be true by many, yet it may, in fact, be fallacious. This rendering of Revelation 3:10 is the conventional wisdom in some circles, illustrating how many take narcissistic liberties with this verse. It also shows why there is such an emphasis today on which church group is the best: because we are averse to pain and tend to try to avoid it. Thus, some convince themselves that they will be safe from what lies ahead because they are with the right church—rather than being right with God. This is extremely dangerous, as it indicates that they trust in the wrong thing.

The letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are written in large part from a perspective of "if the shoe fits, wear it." In each, Jesus concludes with "he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"—plural—meaning we should glean all that we can from each letter rather than focus on our favorite one.

In this light, a way to approach Revelation 3:10 is that perseverance is part of what Christ uses to define who a Philadelphian is. Thus, an individual is a Philadelphian because he keeps His command to persevere, in addition to exemplifying the other things He says, such as keeping His Word and not denying His name (Revelation 3:8). In short, a person cannot conclude that, just because he is fellowshipping with a particularly faithful group, he will be carried along in its positive momentum and benefit from the promise of protection and other blessings. An unfaithful individual in an overall faithful group will reap what he sows, not what the rest of the group sows.

Christ says similar things in other places, as in Matthew 10:22: "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved" (emphasis ours throughout). He makes no mention of group membership but addresses the enduring individual. Similarly, in Matthew 24:12-13 and Luke 21:36, He emphasizes what we do as individuals—our personal faithfulness and endurance—rather than the merits of a particular group. Just as Laodiceanism can be found in each of us regardless of the church we attend, so each of us can persevere and courageously endure no matter where we fellowship.

David C. Grabbe
Who Will Be Kept from the Hour of Trial?


 

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

In Jesus Christ's promise in Revelation 3:10, the core issue is perseverance. The King James reads, "Because you have kept the word of My patience," and "patience" is likewise used in the other verses in Revelation. But "patience" tends to make us think of passive activity, which is not what the underlying Greek word, hupomoné, actually means. Greek scholar Spiros Zodhiates describes it as "constancy under suffering in faith and duty," and commentator William Barclay defines hupomoné as "having the quality to stand, facing the storm, struggling against difficulty and opposition."

Obviously, activity is involved; it is not just passively waiting. It describes active, spiritual resistance—against Satan, this world, and our own carnality. The most succinct rendering of hupomoné may be "courageous endurance." "Cheerful or hopeful endurance" is another good rendering, as it includes a degree of optimism—and when we remember Who is on our side and how this story ends, we have every reason to be optimistic while persevering.

To put this command into perspective, we must imagine what the world will be like at the time when this letter will be most applicable. A great false prophet will be active, and deception will be so widespread that it will threaten even God's elect. A powerful and blasphemous tyrant will encourage or even command worship of himself, and he will institute financial controls, such that commerce will be essentially impossible without paying homage to him. Yet, it will be our responsibility to be constant and unwavering under the suffering imposed by that system.

Further, it does not appear that the church of God will be unified at that time. Given the various prophecies that describe seven lampstands and seven letters to seven churches, it seems that division will be the norm within the church. Some of the letters in Revelation 2 and 3 indicate a low level of faith and a high level of carnality.

As Jesus says in Matthew 24:12, "Because lawlessness will abound, the love [agapé] of many will grow cold." The world does not have any agapé, so He must be speaking of the church! True Christians will have to persevere through encroaching sin and dying love within the church. The temptation may be great to throw in the towel, to withdraw, to separate from the brethren because of offenses, but doing so would be the opposite of hupomoné—of courageously enduring.

The New King James speaks of "the hour of trial," but the King James calls it "the hour of temptation." This is a fitting rendition because during that time it will be tremendously tempting to give up, to give in, to compromise, to let down just a little, to sin (just a little!) in order to make life easier. It will be a time of pressure like never before and thus very easy to become distracted, not just because of the blatant idolatry and religious deception, but also because of the world's increasing attractiveness and pervasiveness.

It does not have to be just a time of fascism and concentration camps. People will be eating and drinking and marrying—having a great time. Revelation 18's description of Babylon focuses on luxury and ease and the avoidance of suffering. Jesus warns in Luke 21:34, "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly." Distraction leads to idolatry.

Whatever the reality of that time, "persevering" or "courageously enduring" without compromising will certainly be no small accomplishment. Yet Christ says that because some of His people have been keeping His command to persevere, He will keep them from the worst of it. They have already proved their faithfulness to Him; He knows where they stand, He sees their track record with Him, and He will not require them to experience everything that the rest of humanity will suffer.

David C. Grabbe
Who Will Be Kept from the Hour of Trial?


 

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

In the letter to the Laodiceans, Jesus is referred to as "the Faithful and True Witness" (martyr). None of the other letters to the seven churches uses this title. Christ emphasizes His own faithful and true character because the Laodiceans so completely lack these two qualities. Christ's example shows that to be a fitting witness of God, one must be faithful and true, that is, spiritually reliable and accurate. A true witness of God is a reflected example of the life of Jesus Christ in word and behavior.

Martin G. Collins
'You Are My Witnesses...'


 

Revelation 19:7-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. Consider that the marriage analogy carries right through from the Old Covenant into the New. Under the New Covenant, the church is seen as a bride preparing for marriage.

There is a major difference, however, between the Old and New Covenant marriage analogies. In the Old Covenant, when Israel agreed to God's proposal, and Moses performed the ritual described in Exodus 24, they were married. When we enter into the New Covenant, we are not married yet. We are like a bride preparing for marriage, even though we have already agreed to the New Covenant. God has made this change to resolve the weakness of the first covenant, which will be eradicated before the actual ceremony and union take place.

Revelation 19 is the announcement that the bride is now ready and the marriage can take place. There are four things that a marriage relationship must have to really be successful:

1) A marriage must have love. A loveless marriage is a contradiction in terms.

2) A marriage must have intimate communion—so intimate that the bride and groom become one flesh. The two become one.

3) A marriage should have joy. This will be a natural result if love exists in the marriage. The joy of loving and being loved is like nothing else.

4) A marriage must have fidelity, loyalty, and faithfulness. No marriage can last without it.

The weakness of the first covenant will be resolved—eradicated—before the actual ceremony and union take place. This time, Christ will be married to a wife who has already proved that she loves Him, that she is capable of intimate communication, that she is happy with Him as her Husband, and that she is faithful in every aspect of her life.

Notice how attention is drawn to her preparations, as well as her righteous acts. Could her righteous acts have anything to do with the preparation? Absolutely. Could it have anything to do with her being qualified? Absolutely. Works—her righteous acts—are represented here.

We should not be misled into thinking that her deeds, her righteous acts, have earned her salvation. All through the Bible, it maintains a delicate balance between grace (what is given) and obedience (the proper response). Here, that balance is shown by the wife's garments being granted to her. She has worked, but the gift is still given.

It takes work to make a marriage successful. It takes work to make our relationship with God successful. If we do the right kind of works, there is no doubt that the relationship will be successful, and God will be well pleased with us. And we will enter His Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Works


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

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




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