BibleTools

Topical Studies

 A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Printer-Friendly          E-mail this page


Bible verses about God's Purpose
(From Forerunner Commentary)

God's major work is not preaching the gospel. This is not to say in any way that it is not important to God's work. We have to make sure that we give matters the right priorities, not putting the cart before the horse. Preaching the gospel is certainly a part of the responsibility of each Christian and, of course, each Christian organization.

God's major work is something far bigger and far more important than that—He is reproducing Himself. In broad generalities this purpose is shown in the opening chapters of Genesis. Right from the beginning, God wants to make sure that we understand where He is headed with His Word so that we can begin to process the information that comes along later in the book.

He tells us in Genesis 1:26 that man is created in His image. This is the first major clue. He tells us in Genesis 2:15 that we must spend our time dressing and keeping what He has given us dominion over. He also instructs us to choose life consciously—remember the Two Trees in the Garden—and to avoid sin and death with the utmost of energy.

But all of us have sinned, and like Adam and Eve and Cain, we find ourselves in bondage to Satan, whom we have made our master through ignorance and sin rather than God. So we need redemption. In Genesis 3:15, God is already talking about a Savior who will crush the serpent's head. Thus, we can be redeemed and get back on the track with His purpose.

It is all there in broad generalities, but it is spelled out much more specifically throughout the rest of the Bible. God's purpose is for us to be in His image. It may not be any more clearly stated than in II Corinthians 3:18, where He says that we are being transformed from glory to glory—from the glory of man to the glory of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Works


 

Genesis 3:14-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is amazing to realize that God laid out these major players and events in His plan by the third chapter of the Book! These two verses are remarkable in that in symbolic language God preaches the gospel in detail to the first sinners immediately after their first transgression. He made sure they were not ignorant of the truth.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part One)


 

Genesis 15:12-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This prophecy is fulfilled exactly 430 years later (Exodus 12:40-41; Galatians 3:17) when Israel left Egypt as the sun set ending the 14th day of Abib and beginning the 15th. God says to us in Isaiah 46:10, "My counsel shall stand." This is why the prophecies ring with such positive assurance. No puny man or angel, no mighty army of angels, nor all nations of men can stop Him from acting exactly how, when, where, and in whom He purposes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Four


 

Genesis 22:16-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God does not condition His fulfilling this promise on any expected behavior on the part of Abraham. Its fulfillment is not dependent on Abraham's doing something in the future. This promise, unlike the promises in the later books of the Pentateuch, is an unconditional promise.

Consider, as a second example of an unconditional promise, Genesis 12:7: "Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, 'To your descendants I will give this land.'" That is all there is to the promise. God attaches no ifs, ands, or buts to it at all. God simply says, in effect, "I will do it. Period."

The same could be said of any of the promises to the patriarchs. An analysis of Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 13:15-16; 15:18-21; 17:6-8; and 35:11-12 will yield this conclusion: In every single instance, the fulfillment of the promise does not depend on any future action or behavior God expected on the part of Abraham, Isaac, or Israel (Jacob). All of these scriptures record unconditional promises.

In making these unconditional promises, God revealed His purpose to the patriarchs, at least in outline. It is a purpose to which God is absolutely committed. He will not allow anything—or anyone—to stand in the way of His executing it. A good example of His resolute determination to carry out His purposes, no matter what individuals may do or think, is an incident which took place as God was about to lead the children of Israel into Canaan.

Fearful of the indigenous population, the children of Israel refused to enter the land—refused, in effect, to believe that God meant what He said when He promised Canaan to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. In their rebellion, they even determined to "select a leader and return to Egypt" (Numbers 14:4). God's people, lacking faith, were actually trying to thwart His purposes. He was so angry with their lack of faith that He thought to "strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and . . . make [Moses] . . . a nation greater and mightier than they" (Numbers 14:12). To fulfill His unconditional promises to Abraham, God was willing to destroy an entire people and raise up another through Moses, through whom He could honor His promises to the patriarchs.

As Numbers 14:13-20 indicates, Moses dissuaded God from taking such drastic action. Nevertheless, the episode illustrates the zeal God displays in honoring His promises. He means business.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Three): The Old Covenant


 

Exodus 2:23-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A cursory reading of these verses might give a person the impression that God was just sitting on His throne, twiddling His fingers, and waiting for Israel to do something. But God had already begun to act. He had ensured that Moses would live through the slaughter of the Israelite children. He had directed the little ark into the hands of the Pharaoh's daughter. He had ensured that Moses would receive the benefit of a tremendous education, the best kind of secular education that one could receive at that time. He had put thoughts in Moses' mind that he could be Israel's deliverer. He had spared Moses' life when the Pharaoh tried to take it. He had prompted Moses to flee the land and led him into the wilderness to the family of Jethro. He had given Moses the time and the opportunity to continue his preparation for leading His people out of Egypt.

Who initiated all this? Certainly not the children of Israel! God did! We find all the way back in the book of Genesis that God had already prophesied that in about 400 years, he would move to bring the children of Abraham out of a captivity, which He also arranged.

Could God - who does not change, who sets patterns in His Word so that we will understand - ensure, long before we were born, that there would be a church for His people at the end time and that someone would be prepared by Him to get the doctrines they would need to understand at the end time? We know very well He could - and did.

How did Israel get out of Egypt? Not through any rebellion, revolution, intelligence, or negotiations on their part. They got out because God wanted them out. It was part of His purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unleavened Bread and Pentecost


 

Exodus 8:22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians became very pronounced at this point, helping the children of Israel to understand that God indeed was working for them. God works even to make sure that His people have the faith they need! God supplies everything except one's decision—and even in the decision a person makes, He keeps poking us in the ribs, shoving us in the back, to move us in the right direction. He does not give up easily once He sets his mind to do something.

To this point, the Israelites had been required to make few decisions concerning their salvation, yet everything was proceeding along quite nicely. In actuality, they were doing little except observing what was happening, almost like the audience of a grand stage play. Despite their lives being dramatically affected, they had done little themselves to effect their freedom. God had done virtually everything, but as the tenth plague approached, the Israelites were finally having to decide whether or not they would be active participants in God's purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unleavened Bread and Pentecost


 

Deuteronomy 1:26-32  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Israel never really trusted God. Breaking the sixth commandment was merely the next step in the process of sin. Having committed the sin of doubt, they went on to commit the sin of war. God was determined to work out His purpose to give the land to Abraham and his descendants. Israel chose to be a war-making nation, but because God's purpose must stand regardless of what men do, he continued to back Israel in their conquest of the land and ordered wars.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

Deuteronomy 6:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's mind is absolutely undivided. In practical application, this means that His sovereignty can never be separated from His love; His grace cannot be separated from His omniscience; His judgment cannot be separated from either His mercy or His wrath. God is absolutely constant because His faithful providence cannot be separated from any other of His attributes. God is whole and complete. Under every circumstance, He is never confused or uncertain about what to do. He is always headed in the same direction, which is to complete His purpose.

It is absolutely impossible for Him to do anything that is not wise and at the same time loving. It is He who tells us how to live and how to be like Him. What God is has awesome ramifications for us because we are so different, and He wants us to be like Him, to be one with Him, to be whole, to be complete, to be undivided in mind like Him.

There are problems here because becoming this way requires a measure of cooperation from us. Compared to God, our mind is all over the place, and thus we are so easily distracted from our focus.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God


 

Deuteronomy 29:2-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Was God a God from afar here? The answer is "yes" and "no" because His overall plan was undoubtedly in mind, and He was recording this for the sake of future generations. Realize that from the time the book of Exodus opens until the Israelites finally leave Egypt eighty years pass. Moses was not born at the time that Scripture says they were crying out to God because of the bondage. Moses was born and preserved right through the persecution. He was cast in a little ark onto the Nile River, rescued by Pharaoh's daughter, grew up to be a man, fled into the wilderness at age forty, and spent forty years tending sheep, learning to be humble. Finally, God had him ready, so He sent him back to Egypt.

God's overall plan was in mind for a long time, yet all through these events, He was very near to Moses, preparing him. God was far off in the sense that He was using these people to prepare an account that His servant Moses would write for our sakes, so that we would understand these things.

God undoubtedly appeared to be far away from the Israelites who were crying out to Him for deliverance, but He was really right on the spot. He was near to them; He is a God at hand. We have to keep both of these views in mind. They both have an impact on the transference of the Spirit of God into our minds. God is always working two things at once: His overall purpose and His specific purpose for us as individuals and for the church.

Out of this comes a principle. God is Yahweh Jireh, which means "the Eternal who sees" or "the Eternal who provides." It is shortened into this statement: He is there. He was there when Abraham stood on Mount Moriah about to sacrifice his son, Isaac—and God provided a ram. He was at hand through all the plagues of Egypt—and He divided the Israelites away from them. He watched so closely when they left Egypt that not even a dog barked, which is what the Night to Be Much Observed is all about (Exodus 12:42). God was the One observing, watching. He was aware at the Red Sea—and He parted the waters.

He is there. He may seem far off, but He is not.

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


 

Deuteronomy 32:7-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice that in Deuteronomy the focus is Israel, but in Acts it is on the Gentiles. We almost automatically accept that God is working among the descendants of Abraham, but Acts 17 extends the concept far beyond that. The natural and correct conclusion from this is that God exercises His will and purpose among unconverted heathens. He may not call them to salvation at this time, but He is certainly manipulating events to His own ends in their world as well as ours.

Paul says that God determines their preappointed times as well as where they will live. This means that He has predestined when they will rise to power, prosperity, and dominance, and when they will fade into weakness, poverty, and subjection. Many more billions of Gentiles than Israelites have lived during the 6,000 years of man's history.

God, then, has overseen the mighty angelic kingdom, the demons, the Israelite nations, the Gentiles, and the church over millennia and has kept all of them moving toward the successful conclusion of His purpose! What kind of God is this we serve? How awesome His mind, purpose, wisdom, and love!

Man does not merely owe His life to God's creative acts, but his movements across time are to some extent programmed by our Sovereign God—even down to the personal, individual level, as He sees fit. Almighty God works in this manner to the end that all might seek and find Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Five


 

Job 42:1-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is the conclusion, the climax, of his long and detailed story. Now Job can see God. From the context, properly seeing God involves getting the self out of the way! As long as self was in his line of sight, Job judged God by his own perspective. Remember, we see what we want to see, what we are educated to see. So Job saw his own wisdom, his own works, and they blocked his view of God in His greatness. The carnal mind is trained to do this.

It takes great determination, discipline in study and in prayer, and meditation to break oneself of that natural, carnal mode of thinking. Even when we succeed, we have to understand that our vision of God still has to be constantly replenished—"day by day," Paul says (II Corinthians 4:16)—and upgraded, refocused, exercised, as it were, in the truth.

Job's case is particularly interesting. Job thought he knew God well, but he was painfully unaware that there was still much that he did not know. During his sufferings, he threw a great many direct challenges at God in an effort either to justify himself or to understand why he was going through this trial. Yet, God never directly answered any of Job's challenges! Instead, beginning in chapter 38, He leads Job to see his own insignificance in light of God's greatness. Most people do not realize that in the entire book Job never repents of sin. Sin is not the issue! The issue is that, despite Job's extensive knowledge of God, he did not see Him as all-powerful! He did realize that God alone puts down evil and brings to pass all of His holy will.

We can tell the real issue in the book of Job by what God says in chapters 38-41. God makes two speeches. It is not Job's self-righteousness—certainly apparent—that God addresses, but his questioning of God's justice in the governance of His creation.

When Job opens his mouth to speak in Job 42:1-6, it is to tell God that he got the point: God's purpose is all that counts! In addition, since He is God, He can bring it to pass. God has the right, the will, and the loving nature to do anything He pleases to anybody at any time—and good will result.

Do we believe that? A caution, however: A man as spiritually mature as Job did not—until the end of the book.

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


 

Psalm 105:16-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's sovereignty and involvement with the details of Joseph in Egypt persist from beginning to end; everything happens when, where, and how God planned. Undoubtedly, God is already working in and through Joseph as a lad of 17. But between 17 and 30, Joseph's life is a veritable roller coaster ride from top to bottom and from bottom to top.

The story shows his faith in God; through it all he trusts Him, not fully understanding every detail until after it is over. But God works throughout those years and in all the details toward a purpose and a time He had determined in advance. The same is true regarding Abraham and Sarah's 25-year wait for Isaac.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Four


 

Psalm 145:18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The question is, "How near?" This question has to be asked because many times we feel that God has gone way off somewhere. But how near is He? We have to ask this because the Bible describes Him as a God who is both far and near; He is both at the same time.

He is far in recognition of His sovereignty and of His position in relation to the rest of the creation. He is far above us in that regard. He is over all and directs and controls everything, always with His overall purpose in mind.

If we desire to have a good relationship with God, we will have to take this last factor into consideration, because it affects our lives. He does everything with His overall purpose in mind. There are occasions when He may be "unable" to act in our behalf on one of our requests of Him, because other people's situations whose lives touch on ours must be resolved first. A clear example of this is the book of Job.

Job was totally unaware of what was being worked out through, around, and about him. Even Satan was having something proved to him by God, because He challenged him. In the vernacular of today, God said to the Devil, "Okay, Satan. See if you can break Job. I challenge you to see if you can break him."

Satan could not break Job. The man stood his ground, even though he got battered mightily in the process, not really understanding what was happening. He undoubtingly appealled to God, but He could not answer because other things were being worked out through, around, and about in Job, of which he was totally unaware.

Job was not privy to the conversation between God and Satan, nor to the fact that God was putting him through this in order that a book be written of his experiences, which could not be written until the episode had resolved. So Job had to go through a great deal of discomfort, pain, and emotional anguish while the whole situation played out. For a while, God was a God from afar.

Now that we have more understanding, and the Bible is complete, we realize that He was also a God who was near because He strengthened Job so that he could resist the temptations of the most powerful being to tempt mankind. Job stood up just fine.

Because this book has been written, and because Job endured this, we now have a clear picture why, at times, bad things happen to good people. We can also see that this book of Job shows that God has faith in us too. It does not work just one way. God was working from afar, with His overall picture in mind for mankind, and God was also working nearby.

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


 

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

You probably have heard the expression, "Man proposes but God disposes." God does not want us to stop making plans, but He always wants us to understand that those plans are subject to His will and His purpose. God is judging the thoughts of our hearts and the plans that we make, and if they are not in harmony with His plan, then His judgment may result in something that might be emotionally or physically painful to us in order that we are put back on track.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fall Feast Lessons


 

Ecclesiastes 2:3-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Solomon kept his wits about him through all of this, but verse 11 concedes that the morning after the night before finally arrived—the time he had to give sober thought to what he had accomplished in his life. "I looked on all the works that my hands had done" coincides with the English expression, "The time came to face the facts."

He finds that, though there had been pleasure in accomplishing, he concludes there had been no real gain in terms of meaning of life. By calling his accomplishments "vanity," he does not mean that nothing was gained from them. Certainly a measure of good came from them, but they were disillusioning. They did not give him lasting satisfaction.

Money and the pleasures it can buy do not lift us out of our earthbound frustration. What is going on under the sun has to be connected to something that is happening somewhere else—in the purpose of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fear of God


 

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

Jeremiah 10:23 reveals why humanity is the way it is and why prayer is important. The prophet does not mention prayer here, but what he says has much to do with prayer's great value to mankind. The verse states the universal problem of mankind. By nature, the right way to live is not within us. Our nature must change. The purpose of prayer is to give us yet another, greater opportunity—an exceedingly important tool—to harmonize with the way God lives. God lives the only way that works, producing abundant life, endless peace, and supreme achievement for all.

This overall reason includes synchronizing with God's will in any present-day situation as He forms us into His image. Prayer's purpose is not to force or cajole God to go along with our narrow and shortsighted idea of what we think is going on. God has determined our destiny in life, and He will not give us anything that is outside that purpose. We can work things out for ourselves and choose to believe He granted our request, but that is not the same thing. Instead of granting our request, He simply allows us to do our thing. In addition, our working things out for ourselves holds us back to some degree, probably making our course toward God's ultimate aim for us more painful.

Because God knows the end from the beginning does not mean that He has figured out and predetermined every event of a person's life. In using our free moral agency, we are quite resourceful in presenting God with challenges to keep us on track toward our destiny to be in His Kingdom. God's concern is for events in life involving moral, spiritual, and ethical choices. Whether one chooses a red or blue car makes no difference morally, but whether we choose to buy a car when other family needs are more pressing is another situation altogether. This choice may shape character and therefore destiny.

Some of us are tough nuts to crack! Some are quite stiff-necked, opinionated, and self-willed. Sometimes this occurs because of ignorance or cultural influences. Far too often, the cause of our poor moral and ethical choices is pride and self-righteousness—to the point that some will actually choose the Lake of Fire! Others, though their inferior works burn because of their poor choices, God will mercifully spare them (I Corinthians 3:15).

So, why pray? If God knows the end from the beginning, if prayer does not include informing Him of something He does not already know, changing His mind, or dictating a "gimmie" list to Him, why pray at all? Prayer's major purpose is to give us an additional, effective way to draw near to and harmonize with the Spirit having the only nature equipped to live eternally in peace and oneness. Do we want to do this? All of our lifetimes we have been subject to the spirit of the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). Our personal experiences, reinforced by the history of life on earth under him, should be witness enough that there is a better way. Are we willing to make the effort to find it and live it? As Jeremiah says, "[T]he way of man is not in himself," that is, not in his nature. We must have access to God and His nature if we will ever live the right way, the way He lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Jeremiah 23:21-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When Moses tried to relieve the oppression of the Israelites on his own strength forty years before, nothing happened. He ran to do the work of the Lord, but God was not in it. The point that God is making is that, no matter how sincere a person is, if he is not tuned into the will of God, even though he does a great work and is noble and pure of heart, real success comes from God because God is in it - not due to the efforts of the man. The result then was a sincere effort but futile. Moses created a stir, but it was ineffective because God was not in it. It was not His will. It did not become His will until forty years later.

What happened to Moses in the intervening years was that he was truly humbled and converted. He had given himself to God to such an extent that he was almost afraid to move, and God had to bring him back a way to restore some of his initiative. However, now that initiative would be used in harmony with a strong relationship with Him. Since Moses truly had the fear of God, he took God into account in every action. That is what the fear of God does to a person: It makes a person consider God and His desires in everything that he does.

Moses grew to know God so well that he could interpret God's mind as few men ever could. Many people have strong beliefs, but are they right? Are they in harmony with God's will? A belief must not only be strong, but it must also be right. It is proved right in the process of living: Righteous actions will produce godly fruit. This is why Jesus says, "You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16). The fruits of a person's life will show what a person believes, producing in him a resolution that his actions are God-ordered and he dare not turn aside or change them.

Are we living what we believe?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction, Moses and Us


 

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

God is reminding Habakkuk that what goes out of His mouth comes back to Him having fulfilled its purpose. God is not a man that He should lie. If God says something, it will be done, and done the way and in the time that He says it will be done.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 2)


 

Malachi 3:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If God had changed His purpose, the sons of Jacob would indeed have been consumed. However, because God has a purpose that He has been working out from the very beginning, He looked beyond what these people were doing to destroy and remove themselves from His purpose. God, in a sense, overlooked what they were doing—all the way to the future, to the conclusion of His purpose for them. God says, "I change not." He has never altered His purpose from the beginning.

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


 

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

A specific type of mourning is the kind that receives the comfort of God. Millions, perhaps billions, of mourners in the world do not come within the scope of Jesus' statement. These mourners may even be under God's condemnation and far from receiving any of His comfort.

The Bible shows three kinds of sorrow. The first is the natural grief that arises from tragic circumstances. The second is a sinful, inordinate, hopeless sorrow that can even refuse to be comforted. Perhaps the outstanding biblical example of this is Judas, whose remorse led him to commit a further sin, self-murder. Paul, in II Corinthians 7:10, calls this "the sorrow of the world [which] produces death." The third sorrow is godly sorrow. In the same verse, Paul writes, "For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted. . . ."

Mourning, grief, or sorrow is not a good thing in itself. What motivates it, combined with what it produces, is what matters. Thus, II Corinthians 7:10 states a vital key: The mourning that Jesus teaches is a major spiritual component of godly repentance that leads to or helps to produce the abundant life of John 10:10.

This principle arises often in secular life because humans seem bound and determined to learn by painful experience. For example, only when our health is either breaking or broken down, and we are suffering the painful effects of ignorantly or willfully ignoring health laws, do we make serious efforts to discover causes that lead to recovery of health and relief from the pains of disease. At that point we truly want to bring the comfort of good health back into our life.

Solomon addresses this truism in Ecclesiastes 7:2-4:

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Solomon is in no way saying that feasting and laughter are to be avoided, but rather he is comparing their relative value to life. Feasting does not contain an inherent power to motivate positive change in the way one is living. Instead, it motivates one to remain as he is, feeling a sense of temporary well-being. Contrariwise, sorrow—especially when pain or death is part of the picture (Psalm 90:12)—has an intrinsic power to draw a person to consider the direction of his path and institute changes that will enhance his life.

This general principle applies to virtually all life's difficulties. Whether health problems or financial difficulties, family troubles or business hassles, in falling into them and being delivered from them, we generally follow this pattern. However, spiritually, in our relationship with God, some variations from this general principle arise because God is deeply involved in leading and guiding our creation into His image.

In this case, not everything is happening "naturally." He intervenes in the natural processes of our life and calls us, revealing Himself and His will to us. His goodness leads us to repentance. By His Spirit we are regenerated, taught, guided, and enabled. He creates circumstances in our life by which we are moved to grow and become like Him in character and perspective, but some of these circumstances cause a great deal of sorrow. By His grace He supplies our every need so that we are well equipped to meet His demands on our life and glorify Him.

But Jesus' teaching never detaches this principle of sorrow or mourning from God's purpose because the right kind of mourning properly directed has the power to motivate wonderfully positive results. God definitely wants results, fruit produced through our relationship with Him. As Jesus says, "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples" (John 15:8).

Concerning Matthew 5:4, William Barclay writes in his commentary, The Gospel of Matthew:

It is first of all to be noted about this beatitude that the Greek word for to mourn, used here, is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. . . . It is defined as the kind of grief which takes such a hold on a man that it cannot be hid. It is not only the sorrow which brings an ache to the heart; it is the sorrow which brings the unrestrainable tears to the eyes. (p. 93)

This illustrates mourning's emotional power, indicating it has enough power to produce the resolve to accomplish more than merely feeling badly and crying.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Matthew 10:29  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is an astounding statement, considering the size of the earth and the number and relative insignificance of birds! But God's exercising of His will in working out His magnificent purpose is far greater because in this He is not dealing with irrational creatures but rational men in His image. Unlike birds, men have free moral agency and sufficient powers to form conclusions and set their wills to go their own way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Five


 

Matthew 10:29-30  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God does everything perfectly and with wisdom and love. He did not carelessly call us. We are not nonentities swallowed up in the vastness of humanity. Matthew 10:29-30 assures us that God's sovereignty is not limited to just big issues; He superintends even the tiniest details. Each of us is so valuable He gave His Son for us. Thus, we need not fear that He will overlook us as we struggle with life. However, we do need to consider much more deeply how valuable our conduct and attitude are to the entirety of the church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!


 

Matthew 10:29-30  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God deemed this promise important enough to repeat in Luke 21:18, where the only difference is the context in which Jesus uses the illustration. There He promises that God will closely watch over us during periods of persecution. The scope of God's attentive care of His creation is so great that even an insignificant sparrow cannot die without Him being aware and approving that such a thing should happen. How awesome!

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)


 

Matthew 13:54-58  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here, He did not affect people positively. The overwhelming evidence of Scripture is that mankind did not see Him. Instead, they were perplexed or disturbed. He created divisions. Some were outright offended. Notice Jesus' reaction: "But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.' And He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (verses 57-58).

His statement begins to reveal an application of "seeing" to us. Will He be working in our lives if we do not see Him? If we do not understand His purpose, what He is working out in us? We have come out of a world in which there is just as much, if not more, confusion today regarding Him as when He walked the earth. The concern is not whether we can identify Him, because we recognize Him as the Christ—we "see" the real Jesus—but do we see Him as a vital part of our lives?

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


 

Matthew 21:18-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Many readers of God's Word have found this incident to be very disturbing, and it has been a stumblingblock to more than a few. The idea that Jesus would become angry and curse this tree to wither and die—just because it had no figs at a time when figs were not even in season—seems completely unreasonable to a great many people.

But surely there is more to the story. The Jesus we know from the rest of the gospels is not One who, in a fit of temper, would do something so impulsive and cruel. He is the same Man who healed many people suffering from disease and demon possession throughout His ministry. He took little children in His arms and blessed them (Mark 10:16). He let the woman caught in adultery go with only a warning to repent (John 8:11). He wept at Lazarus' tomb (John 11:35) and grieved over Jerusalem's unwillingness to seek God's help (Matthew 23:37). He even asked God to forgive those who put Him to death (Luke 23:34)!

Do these examples portray a Man who would unjustly curse an insensate tree to death? Was Jesus' cursing of the fig tree an unreasonable act?

Over the years, we have come to learn that God put everything in the Bible for a purpose. We are to live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4). Nothing is there that has not been inspired! The apostle Paul writes in II Timothy 3:15-17:

[T]he Holy Scriptures . . . are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

In addition, as we saw, Jesus Christ was no egomaniacal, out-of-control hothead who went about "shooting from the hip" and speaking His mind whenever it pleased Him. He was thoughtful and caring, willing to help those who needed it, and even those who deserved justice He treated with mercy.

To the contrary, His purpose was not to please Himself but to follow God's will in every act and word. He says of Himself in John 6:38, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." He says something very similar in John 5:30, "I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me."

Therefore, we know what happened on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem was not a reaction from disappointment or anger, but it was apparently God's will for Him to curse the tree. God inspired it to be included in the Scriptures for our edification.

Dan Elmore
The Cursed Tree


 

John 3:25-30  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

For a person to be humble, he has to understand and fully accept the realization that came from John's innermost being. If he does not, pride will arise and muzzle humility by means of a character weakness. Here, John's disciples feel a measure of jealousy because more people were being attracted to Jesus, and the number of John's disciples was dwindling. John's reply to them is one of wisdom. He understands that God assigns a place in the outworking of His purpose to everyone He calls. John knows and accepts that he had no right to lay claim to an honor that had not been given to him from heaven. Instead of envying Jesus' success, John rejoices that both men's purposes were being fulfilled.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility


 

Acts 3:19-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Since the foundation of the world, God's purpose has been to bring all things into harmony with Him, giving mankind an exhilarating and refreshing respite from the fearful and depressing heaviness of living in a sin—laden world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

Acts 7:24-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word supposed means "reckon," "added up," "put the pieces together." He reasoned from the evidence he heard from God, and he thought that the people would reason too. It must have been general knowledge that Moses was the deliverer, but they did not have faith in it. Moses knew that God had a people, Israel, though they were in bondage. He had heard that Israel was to be delivered. He had even heard things about the Messiah, according to Hebrews 11. We do not know all that God communicated to Moses, but God set before his mind what His will and purpose was for him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 2)


 

Acts 15:14-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Acts 15:14-18, the apostle James makes an astounding series of statements following Peter's address to the assembled elders. Notice how clearly God states that He initiates His works through men. Acts 10 relates the story of the conversion of Cornelius and his house. Neither Peter, whom God sent, nor Cornelius, who received him, knew of the other's existence. God, working in both men, opened the door and brought them together.

God Himself pledges to rebuild the tabernacle of David. Certainly, He works through men, who, on the surface, appear to observers to be doing the work. Nevertheless, it is the invisible God who initiates and enables the rebuilding by determining when it will begin, who among men will work on it, and how completely they will finish it. He also gives gifts to those concerned to bring it about. Surely, God activates, sustains, and completes.

The Living Bible renders verse 18 as, "That is what the Lord says, who reveals His plans made from the beginning." How carefully crafted are His plans? How detailed are they? Has anything been left to chance? One thing is clear: He is a Creator who knows where He is going and has known from the outset of the project. He made His plans, and they proceed as and when He planned. When we begin to think of what James says here in terms of all the nations of the earth as well as the church, we are considering events of tremendous magnitude involving billions of people and millennia of time.

But we need to make this more personal.

Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4-5, ". . . just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. . . ." Predestined means "marked out in advance" or "appointed beforehand." Verse 4 indisputably says this occurred "before the foundation of the world." When we combine this with Acts 15:18, this event must have occurred some time before what happens in Genesis 1:2-26.

Is this a generality that predestines only the existence of a church and not the individuals who would comprise it? The overall impression of the context in combination with other passages suggests an answer of "No," but it is not certain. It can be taken as a generality, which is indeed a safe conclusion. Regardless, Paul's words describe a Creator who is not only actively working toward an ultimate end, but also toward specific intermediate accomplishments, such as the church. He is the One in control, moving things in whatever direction they need to go. It begins to become clear that events relating directly to God's purpose of reproducing Himself do not happen randomly. One should not have the impression that God sits at the controls in heaven constantly making adjustments to accommodate for what He did not foresee we would do down here.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)


 

Romans 8:24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is fairly easy to understand that, once we have what we desire, we no longer have to hope for it. As a hope fulfilled, we do not need that longing or desire for it anymore. Right now, we do not have what we are hoping for in its fullness. We have a vision of it, and that vision may not be very clear, but we can see it and believe in it. However, we need to focus mainly on how important Paul says this is: We are saved by it. But are we not saved by grace through faith? Yes, we are!

That is ultimately how salvation comes, but God is not merely trying to save us. Saving us is the easy part. The more difficult part is to achieve the fullness of His purpose for each one of us, which is for us to be created in His image. For that to occur, our cooperation is required. We will not cooperate unless we are hoping in the right thing. If we are not hoping in what God wants us to hope for, we will begin heading in a different direction. If we have a different vision, we will go off the path God has set us on. Having the right hope is absolutely essential.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Resurrection From the Dead


 

Romans 8:28  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse captures the essence of what a Christian absolutely must have faith in if he wants to conduct his life without falling into the same state of mind that Solomon did as shown in the book of Ecclesiastes. We, too, are subject to our own unstable convictions, opinions, and decisions.

In addition, we are subject to decisions and circumstances that others make and over which we have no control, yet which cause us to descend into a blue funk. We seem to be powerless over people making these decisions, so life seems unfair that such things should happen.

But we Christians cannot lose our perspective! Romans 8:28 is the right perspective for a Christian, a wonderfully encouraging and comforting promise. However, it does not automatically apply to everyone. Two conditions must be met.

First, we must respond to God's grace, to His gift, to His calling, to His gift of Christ, to His gift of the Holy Spirit, to His gift of revealing to us knowledge and understanding of what is happening. We must respond - that is, love God in return.

Second, we must be one of "the called according to His purpose," one of the elect. This does not apply to those who have merely received an invitation from God, because that summons goes out to many more than actually respond to it. Just as in advertising, the call, the invitation, may go out over radio, television, or through the newspaper to millions of people, but few respond as compared to the mass of invitees. The calling of God is similar: The invitation goes out to many, but few become part of the elect (Matthew 22:14).

If we meet these conditions, God is with us, and we can be encouraged and take comfort in that assurance.

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


 

Romans 10:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul says that Christ is the object of the Bible. The law, as one aspect that represents the whole plan of salvation, is the instrument that broadly describes God's righteousness. Like everything in God's purpose, the end—the goal—of the law is to bring us "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

Jesus fulfilled the law in that He perfectly exemplified God's desires in everything He did (see Matthew 5:17). He personifies perfect love and government. He is the perfect man yet also God in the flesh. He is the Standard toward which men are to strive.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christ, Our Passover


 

Romans 11:22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is God fair in the way He allocates His goodness and His severity? Indeed, human nature, unable to grasp God's purposes, challenges the morality—if you will, the "political correctness"—of God's actions!

Our civilization's pundits—whether abolitionist, humanist, rightist, elitist, feminist, moralist, or whatever—would summon God before the bench to answer their questions. Their indictment of God would fill volumes. Dangerous business, that, for Paul carefully warns us that we dare not "find fault" with God (Romans 9:19). To accuse Him of being unfair or capricious in His dealings with mankind is to forget that He is not bound by the sensitivities of our times, not fettered by the Western world's humanistic self-absorption with human rights, equality, democracy.

God will not limit His field of options—in effect placing Himself in a straitjacket—to avoid offending a humanity that lacks His Spirit and is therefore wholly incapable of sharing His perspective. He is reproducing Himself! He will not constrain His activities in bringing that sublime purpose about by the "isms" of these times, or for that matter, of any historical milieu.

Charles Whitaker
Servant of God, Act II: God's Gift of Faith


 

1 Corinthians 2:6-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

How plain! What we have in the gospel is a revelation. We must tie this concept of God's revelation to the word "mystery" (verse 7).

In English it does not mean exactly the same thing as in Greek. In English, mystery means "a puzzle that is difficult to solve," but in Greek, it means "a secret that is impossible to penetrate." So, the Word of God, His purpose and plan, is a mystery, a secret that is impossible to penetrate. Paul is implying that man would never find out what God intends, except that God gives it to us by revelation.

We have in no way earned this revelation. We have it because it pleased God to give it to us. He withholds it from others, but He has given it to us. He is in no way beholden to us, as if He owed us something. We could dig in His Word over our entire lifetimes and never come to what He freely gives to us for His purposes, for His own reasons.

Brilliant men like Adam Clarke have dug into God's Word through the centuries. It took him forty years to produce his famous commentary. Considering that the man was unconverted, it really is a magnificent work, done with all sincerity and dedication. Yet, at the end of his efforts, he did not fully penetrate the mystery of what God is doing among men. A brilliant man and a brilliant work, yet he emerged from his studies not understanding the divine purpose that God gives to us without our earning it. On the other hand, it is very likely that many of us never cracked the pages of a Bible before God began to open our minds. Some have, some have not. But God called many of us in that situation, and though we did not deserve it, He revealed His way to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

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

Understanding I Corinthians 10:11 helps us realize the significant position we maintain because of God's calling. "All these things" refers to God's experiences with Old Testament Israel. These events took place over a span of more than a thousand years and involved millions of people being moved about as God worked out His purpose. As the context shows, His purpose included recording these things for our spiritual benefit. God made massive preparations far in advance of our arrival to provide us witnesses of how to do or not to do things to please Him and prepare us for His Kingdom. Paul's powerful admonition tells us how important we are and why we must flee idolatry (verse 14)!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Five): Who We Are


 

1 Corinthians 15:57-58  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

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

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

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

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


 

Ephesians 1:3-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

His Word declares that in His love He predestined us "according to the good pleasure of His will." It does not say that He predestined us according to what He foresaw we would become, that He chose us because we were from a particular ethnic group, or that He picked us because of some mark of intelligence, character, looks, ability, or any other quality. Just as in Deuteronomy 7:7-8, His calling of us occurred out of the good pleasure of His will. He gave to us the same privileges and opportunities as He did to Jacob rather than Esau, and they were extended on the same basis - by God's election following the counsel of His own will and not by our works.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Three


 

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

"For I am the LORD. I do not change" (Malachi 3:6). He has never deviated from His purpose from the foundation of the world. Once He had planned what He would do, He set out on to fulfill His purpose, and He has never strayed from it. Genesis 1:26 suggests this strongly: "Let Us make man in Our image." What is He doing? He is reproducing Himself. If He is creating man "in His image," then He is reproducing Himself!

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


 

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

What the Father is doing has nothing to do with the way we are or were. It has everything to do with His initiating and choosing us because He wants us, not because of anything that we may have done.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

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

He could have invited billions of other people, yet He did not—He invited us. This "adoption as sons" is another thing that He has invited us to.

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


 

Ephesians 1:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure" means that it was completely by His initiative that we came to understand this.

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


 

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

Notice Paul says God "works all things according to the counsel of His will." This thought comes in the midst of a paragraph in which some commentators believe Paul reflects on how God arranged every detail to bring Israel out of a seemingly impossible situation in Egypt and into the Promised Land. It is perhaps most directly tied to Deuteronomy 7:7-8.

Consider Israel's roots, geographic location and history. They were a slave people in a foreign land, freed without a revolution, taken on a 40-year journey during which their needs were supplied, led to a stronger people's land and given it when they should have been easily defeated. This land, situated between stronger and larger nations, was constantly fought over, yet Israel somehow survived. Even today, they continue to exist, though the world thinks they have virtually disappeared!

Did all of this happen more or less accidentally? Paul is saying indirectly that even as Israel's history is no accident, and since the church has succeeded Israel as God's inheritance, God has a far grander purpose that He will just as surely work out in His sovereignty. Who can withstand what He wills to do? It is no accident that we are in the church because God has been working toward these events from the beginning, and what God wills is done. God is sovereign over His creation in all things.

Stretch that "all things" generally into other areas of life. It makes this subject very interesting in light of Jesus' statement that a sparrow cannot fall without God taking notice (Matthew 10:29-31). Perhaps we could make a case for saying that some things occur out in the world that are of no significance to God's purpose, but what about in His church, the apple of His eye, the focus of His attention? This is Paul's theme in Ephesians 1. Is God so unaware, so unconcerned about His children that things happen without His notice, without His scrutiny and His judgment about what He should do?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

Ephesians 1:11-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Do we get the significance of the truth that He works all things in our lives too, according to the counsel of His will? This truth does not apply to just the "big" things of His overall purpose but even to us! Do we really perceive our relationship to Him as being one of the Potter to the clay?

As He formed and shaped Adam and Eve, He is forming and shaping us, and it is our responsibility to accept and submit. Do we live our lives as though He truly is omnipotent, omniscient, and individually aware of us? Do we conduct our lives in such a manner that we fully understand that this awesome Being is actively and personally involved in what we do?

By viewing Him as Potter, do we grasp that He has every right to mold the clay into whatever form or state and make whatever use of it as He chooses? He can fashion from the same lump one person to honor and another to dishonor. He can determine our sex, race, ethnicity, level of wealth, or location. He is under no law or rule outside of His own nature and purpose. He is a law unto Himself, under no obligation to give an account of His actions to anybody else. He exercises His power as, where, and when He wills.

He is not merely overseeing our lives but actively participating in them, and He is ultimately responsible for what happens in them just as much as those national and worldwide occurrences that we hear in the news. The sovereignty of the Bible's God is absolute, irresistible, and infinite. Our trust is to be in Him.

God's purpose and plan has been and is being carried out as He purposed, and nobody can turn Him aside. Now His purpose and plan has reached out to include us just as He predestined when He declared the end from the beginning. Have we caught the vision?

Are we willing to completely turn our lives over to this Being who does not always act in a way that is pleasant to us? God immediately struck Aaron's sons and Uzzah dead, but He has allowed countless others who perhaps did far worse things to live long and seemingly full lives.

God permitted Methuselah to live almost a thousand years. He chose to endow Samson with strength as no other person ever had. Jesus went to the pool of Siloam and chose one man to heal, paying no attention to the others. Why did He allow the Morgans, Carnegies, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and many others to amass incredible wealth, while allowing perhaps billions of people around the world barely to scrape by in miserable poverty?

When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the city of Jericho and its citizens stood barring their progress. God brought the walls down, and the city's defenses collapsed—the one and only time God did such a thing. Every other city had to be conquered by warfare, risking Israelite lives to take them.

Clearly, He treats and responds to individuals according to the counsel of His own mind, and He answers to no one. He does this even in the lives of His children. The apostle John lived to be around one hundred years old, yet Stephen was stoned to death, Peter crucified, and Paul beheaded.

Considering the witnesses of those great servants, what right do we have to complain about the discomforts He creates for us to endure and grow within? He could rescue everybody in every uncomfortable circumstance, but He does not. Have we fully accepted that He may choose difficult things for us?

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


 

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

Because God has spoken to us by His Son, and because His Son is so great and so glorious, and because the subject which is addressed is of such infinite importance to us and to our welfare, He says we ought to give the more earnest heed to it.

Earnest is an important word. It means "abundantly," "more exceedingly," "much more frequently," or "more super-abundant" heed. Paul is saying to pay attention intensely to what God is doing in our lives!

We should pray and study with great care and concern lest we should let God's Word slip, which means to "let it [God's Word] run out"—to leak out like a barrel with a cracked plug. The barrel is full, and it very slowly starts to leak.

Another analogy would be to "drift away." Envision a rowboat tied to a pier, but the rope loosens and falls into the water. Someone on hand could reach down, grab the rope, and retie it. But if this simple task is neglected, then the boat, which had been floating right next to the piling, slowly drifts away. Soon it will be ten feet away, then fifty feet, and in time it is on the horizon where the water is rough. Paul instructs us not to let that happen. Do not let it drift away! Pay attention! If we become superficial in our prayer and study, then our once keen vision of God will begin to blur.

If those without God's Spirit who heard God's Word died in the wilderness as punishment for disobeying God, how much greater will be our punishment for drifting away? To us, God says, "Pay attention!" Our chance for salvation is now! If we are not successful, then our hope is lost! Paul advises us to see the scope of what God is doing in our lives. We must constantly remind ourselves of His purpose for our calling. We must pray and study with that purpose at the forefront of our minds.

John O. Reid
Don't Take God for Granted


 

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

This verse is rather difficult in most of our modern English translations. It literally says, "By faith we understand the ages to have been prepared by a saying of God, in regard to the things seen not having come out of things appearing" (Young's Literal Translation).

The key to understanding this verse is the word translated "worlds" in modern Bibles. In the Greek, it is aioonas, which primarily means "ages" or long periods of time whose sum is eternity. For modern translations to understand this to be "worlds" distorts what the author was trying to explain. He is not talking about physical creation of the earth or matter, which "worlds" implies, but about God's sovereignty over the ages of mankind's civilizations. "Framed" is the Greek kateertisthai, meaning prepared, arranged, constituted, set in order—generally, to put a thing in its proper condition.

The Bible speaks of three distinct ages: the time before the Flood, the present, and the age to come (see II Peter 3:6; Galatians 1:4; Matthew 12:32; Luke 18:30; etc.). Other periods of time can be divided into distinct ages: The Babylonian, the Persian, the Greek, the Roman, the Medieval, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Modern, the Postmodern, etc. The author is telling us that the word of God "prepares," "orders," or "arranges" the ages of mankind—in other words, God is sovereignly guiding the affairs of men to bring about His ultimate purpose. As is said to Daniel, "The Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whoever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men" (Daniel 4:17).

We know this by faith—that is, if we truly believe and trust God, that He is almighty, that He is bringing us to perfection, and that He has a purpose He is working out, we know that He is in control. We understand by what we read in His Word that He is working toward His ends, and what goes from His mouth (in terms of law, direction, and prophecy) will come to pass (Isaiah 55:10-11). When God speaks, things happen: It was by God speaking that the earth and everything in it was created (Genesis 1). The same is true of the migrations of nations, their rise and fall, the installation and removal of leaders, as well as the circumstances of His people in the church. God is on His throne, and He is governing His creation.

The last half of Hebrews 11:3 is our "proof": What we see going on in the world (during our age) has not been brought to pass by men but by the invisible God. Men think they are movers and shakers; they think they are in control. But God says here that events on this earth have their ultimate design in the invisible God; He rules over the kingdom of men.

There is an unseen hand manipulating events so that the person of faith can understand that history is not an endless cycle of repetition; it is going somewhere. God is drawing things to a conclusion. We are coming to the end of an age, and God is framing and manipulating events in preparation for this age to climax and end so a new and better age can begin. This verse tells us that we can see the hand of God working, not only in the big events of this world, but also in our lives if we are living by faith (II Corinthians 5:7).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh


 

James 5:15-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God never intended prayer to change His purpose or move Him to come to fresh ideas. He has ordained that we be saved through the means of preaching the gospel, but prayer is also a means of salvation. We have seen that it is His will that we pray; it fits into the design of His purpose.

Prayer is therefore not a vain exercise but a means by which God exercises His decrees. When we pray for things God has already decreed, things happen! These prayers are not meaningless. Elijah was a man close to God, and he knew God's will, but that certainly did not prevent him from asking God in prayer for rain (I Kings 18:41-46). Therefore, even though we know His will and that He knows our need, He requires we ask for it. Does not Jesus command us to do this regarding end-time events? "Watch . . . and pray always," He says in Luke 21:36. Prayer keeps our minds focused on what is important to God's purpose.

Perhaps we need to change our views about prayer. Frequently, the prevailing idea of many is that we come to God and ask Him for something we want, expecting Him to give it if we have enough faith. But this is actually degrading to God! This popular belief reduces God to a servant—our servant, like a genie in a bottle—performing our pleasures and granting our desires. No, prayer is worshipfully coming to Him, humbly acknowledging His sovereign authority and loving wisdom, telling Him our need, committing our way to Him, and then patiently allowing Him to deal with our request as it seems best to Him. This does not mean we should not confidently present our needs to God as we see them, but then we should leave it with Him to deal with in His time and manner. Remember, He already knows what He wants to accomplish and when.

Doing this works to make our will subject to His. No prayer is pleasing to Him unless the attitude motivating it is "not [m]y will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). When God grants blessings on praying people, it is not because of their prayers, as if they motivated Him to act, but He acts for His own name's sake and His sovereign will.

He intensely desires that His thoughts become ours because we reflect His image this way. If we think like God, we will act like Him, which is the purpose of conversion. Much of the communication of His thoughts to ours takes place in prayer. God answers every faithful prayer, but not always in the way or when we think best. Often His answer is the opposite of what we feel to be best, but if we have really left it with God, then at least we know it is indeed His answer.

The story of the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11 illustrates this well. Interestingly, Mary and Martha never directly ask Jesus to heal Lazarus, though they clearly suggest it in calling Him to come. God in the flesh, however, responds in a way totally different from what they anticipated. Nonetheless, their approach is still a good example of the proper attitude in presenting a need to God. They do not even go into much detail in expressing their need—just simple trust that He could and would do the right thing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

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

Peter comments on God's operations in this sphere of His work. The King James Study Bible has an interesting note about the intent of this verse: "This is not merely advanced knowledge of, but when connected to 'before the foundation of the world,' [Ephesians 1:4] it means God determined in eternity past to bring certain ones of His creation into a special relationship with Him and each other at specific times" (emphasis added).

Consider the construction of a large building. As a new building is erected, the workers follow blueprints made by architects, engineers, designers, and draftsmen. Every detail of what is being built—where it sits on the property, perhaps ten thousand individual dimensions, water pipes, sewer lines, specifications of the foundation, composition of the flooring, steel columns, girders, electrical lines, conduit, brackets to support pipes, roofing materials, the color and composition of paints both inside and out, etc.—is determined, designed, and drafted on the plans before the actual construction began.

In principle, is this not a human form of God knowing the end from the beginning? Does this not compare to God appointing beforehand or predetermining when, where, and who does what? If men can do this on a small scale, why cannot God do this on an immensely more massive and complex scale with His vastly superior mind? Is not God's intellect of such magnitude that He can easily do this (Romans 11:33-36)? Does He not have sufficient time to plan, prepare, and bring these things to pass (Isaiah 57:15)? Dare we even think of Him as getting tired or wandering from the purpose He established for Himself (Psalm 121:3-4)?

Even so, do not get the impression that He does not react to how we use our free moral agency. If He did not react, chapters like Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 would not be necessary, for in these chapters He definitely says, "If you do this, I will do that." They obviously depict Him reacting to our choices. He contemplates and judges what we do. However, this in no way negates the fact that the Bible reveals Him as the Prime Mover in His creation, always in control even in what we consider bad circumstances that directly affect us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)


 

2 Peter 3:8-9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The overrall subject is the return of Jesus Christ. When Peter wrote this, there were stirrings within the church that the second coming had already occurred.

The apostles thought the return of Jesus Christ would happen within their lifetimes because they did not fully understand God's timeframe. Undoubtedly, people were becoming discouraged because they felt that matters were going awry in their world. They were frightened, anxious, and in pain, crying out, "How long, O Lord?" They were becoming impatient, and it seemed that everything was continuing as it had, and nothing was changing except for the worse. Some were becoming so discouraged that they were leaving the church.

So Peter writes that the Lord is not slack concerning His promise. God does not lie; He will send His Son to this earth. However, He is being very patient, and this is Peter's emphasis.

What kind of a plan could God devise that would produce the best in terms of character and the most in terms of the number of children who inherit His Kingdom? How could He be merciful and forgiving without being merely indulgent? What could He use as points of reference that would motivate people to continue to strive toward the conclusion of His purpose once He had mercifully forgiven them?

"That with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" indicates that God does not look at time as we do. To us, time is very pressing because we realize we will live only about seventy years. As we get older, the fact of death becomes an increasingly clearer reality. When we are twenty, we hardly ever think about death unless somebody close dies. But as we age, we think about death more frequently. Our bodies start running down. We do not have the vigor, the energy, the vitality, or the strength we used to have. We are aware of these things because we begin to feel them slip away. It becomes easier for us to become impatient because we have so many things we want to do and accomplish, yet time keeps flying by.

With God, though, time is not so critical. If a thousand years with God is as a day, how much is seventy years, the life of a human being? Nothing more than the blink of an eye. How many blinks of an eye—human lifetimes—end every day? Tens of thousands of them! Blink—they are gone, but they experienced every second of their lives. They were born and played through childhood. They went to school. They became adult men and women. They married and raised families. They watched their children grow up. They fought wars. They endured droughts and famines, diseases, and depressions. They watched death approaching, and they died. All this—a blink of an eye to God.

We cannot begin to grasp the enormity of what God is doing until we begin to consider the scope of the thousands of years that have already passed and the billions of lives that have been lived. We must begin to look at the much bigger picture yet retain a human perspective of time and life, understanding that, to God, time means almost nothing because He has power over life and death. Vast and awesome is the scope of what God is working out, but we need to look at what is going on through the understanding God has given us of Himself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

1 John 5:14-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A common—but only partly correct—idea about prayer is that its purpose is to get things from God and to change His mind regarding the course of events. As John says, if we ask according to His will, He hears, but it is in the other part where misunderstanding lies.

Answer this: Is our idea of God nothing more than that of a greater human parent? Perhaps few will admit to this, but it is nonetheless a reality. God the Father undoubtedly relates to us like a parent, and Jesus tells us to think of Him and address Him as our Father. So far, so good.

Now we must ask: What should a Father be like? We run into trouble here because all our examples of fathers are human, and every human father has been deficient in many ways. We are now dealing with a flawless Father, perfect in every way. He is eternal, perfect in wisdom, knows the end from the beginning, has unimaginable power, and does absolutely everything out of love. He does everything for the perfection and completion of His purpose, whether for us individually or for what He is working out universally.

We need to consider Isaiah 40:13-14 in relation to prayer:

Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has taught Him? With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?

Now we must add a few thoughts from Psalm 139:1-7:

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?

Considering these scriptures, is there anything—anything!—we can tell Him that He does not already know? Is there anything about our lives that He has not already thoroughly considered in light of what He wants to produce for our good? All too often our attitude in prayer about something emphasizes what we feel is our or somebody else's need rather than focusing on God's will. Which is more important: what this perfect, great God considers from His perspective or what we desire from our position of nearly blind ignorance of what is really needed?

Jesus says in Matthew 6:8: "Therefore do not be like [the hypocrites]. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." This verse leads into the model prayer, indicating that we should not pray with the idea that we are bringing something new to God. It also introduces the thought that the purpose of prayer is not to overcome God's reluctance to answer and give but rather to lay hold of His willingness to help us toward His perspective, the fulfillment of His purpose, and into His Kingdom. The overall emphasis in our requests, then, must be inclined toward His purpose and will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Eight


 

1 John 5:19-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The very fact that we know these things—that we are of God, that Satan is the unseen ruler of this world, and that we know God and His Son Jesus Christ—is evidence that we have been given an understanding. This knowledge is not something we have determined on our own; the sovereign God has given it to us to fulfill His purpose in us. And in His sovereignty He has withheld it from others.

Other passages, in more specific areas of our profession, show the uniqueness of our calling to an even greater extent. For example, Paul writes in II Thessalonians 3:1-2, "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have [the] faith." From our own experiences we know his statement is true. Not everyone has faith. It is obvious that some believe and others do not. Even within the church we are at different stages of faith.

Acts 13:48 adds important ramifications to this subject of God's sovereignty, our calling, and faith: "Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." The implications of Luke's words are rather startling. Only those whom God appointed or predestined to eternal life believe the preaching of Paul and Barnabas! The rest, though they also hear the word of the Lord, persecute and expel them from the region. They do not believe what they hear, and it angers rather than converts them. We must conclude that God triggers something in the minds of those He calls, making the Lord's words agreeable, so they will believe what they are hearing.

This agrees perfectly with Ephesians 1:5—"[God] predestined us to adoption as sons by [through] Jesus Christ"—and Romans 8:29-30, which explicitly states the whole panorama of His purpose:

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

God has the whole process planned out, and He is so confident of His ability to accomplish it that He perceives it as already done! He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

 




The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

Sign up for the Berean: Daily Verse and Comment, and have Biblical truth delivered to your inbox. This daily newsletter provides a starting point for personal study, and gives valuable insight into the verses that make up the Word of God. See what over 105,000 subscribers are already receiving each day.

Email Address:

   

We respect your privacy. Your email address will not be sold, distributed, rented, or in any way given out to a third party. We have nothing to sell. You may easily unsubscribe at any time.
Printer-Friendly          E-mail this page
 A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
©Copyright 1992-2014 Church of the Great God.   Contact C.G.G. if you have questions or comments.