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Bible verses about Holy Spirit
(From Forerunner Commentary)

So powerful has the belief in the Trinity become that it is the litmus test for whether or not a person is considered to be orthodox. According to The Watchmen Foundation, the acceptance or rejection of the Trinity idea tops their list as to what they consider to be a cult. If a group does not believe in the Trinity, they are considered a cult.

It is also true that there were ancient pagan trinities, and those concepts were undoubtedly drawn upon by those who forced this doctrine upon the church. However, these "change agents" still had to deal with the Bible, and so ways had to be devised to make this pagan doctrine appear to agree with it. They have done this by elevating the Holy Spirit to divine status as a personality, just like the Father and the Son. They label it "co-equal" and "eternal with them," and at the same time they make the "three" also to be "one." The result is this incomprehensible mixture—"a mystery"—that a true child of God, one who believes the Bible, cannot accept.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

God sends His Spirit forth and creation takes place. If whatever He sends His Spirit into has already been created, then transformation takes place. From what to what? Transformation takes place from a state of destruction to a state of purity, cleanness, construction, and order—from confusion to order. This was what happened in Genesis 1. The Spirit of God brooded over the face of the deep, looking down on the earth's state of confusion, and then God sent forth His Spirit. Out of that confusion came order, beauty, and life.

When God sent forth His Spirit to us, what kind of condition were we in? We were in Babylon—just as confused as everybody else. We were headed for the grave. We were in varying degrees of destruction and disorder. When He sent forth His Spirit, transformation began. God was creating! How much participation did we have in that? Why is the Spirit given to us? So that God can create. So often, we emphasize what we do with the Holy Spirit, but what we do with the Holy Spirit is tiny and insignificant compared to what God does. Could the creation in Genesis 1 have regenerated itself, transformed itself, recouped itself, from its state of destruction? No. In like manner, neither could we.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

What is the Holy Spirit? It is the essence of God's mind. Is that not simple? It is the essence of the mind of the Father and of the Son. Jesus said, "The Father and I are one," because their minds are so much alike. The Holy Spirit is power that issues from them, and when we accept it, what does it issue from us as? What is its fruit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, meekness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

The Holy Spirit emanates directly from them for the express purpose of influencing us directly and personally, which is why we can be called "the called," "the chosen," "the elect"—for of all the people in this world, God chose directly to influence us. Ephesians 2:2 says that Satan indirectly affects everyone on earth with his spirit. He broadcasts it; it goes out in a general manner to all the world's people. But our relationship with God is direct and personal. His Spirit does not go to everybody. It came directly to us. He sends His Spirit purposefully. He is thinking about us individually, and He is determining what we can become, where we can fit in His Kingdom, and what He needs to do to prepare us for it.

He was thinking about us before He ever let us know, and when the time came that it was right, He sent forth His Spirit and began to create us spiritually. He sent forth His mind and began to interface with us personally. Such is the difference between God's approach and Satan's approach. Once we understand this, we can begin to understand the errors in Trinity Doctrine.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

"Spirit" indicates an invisible, immaterial, internal, activating dimension, agent, or power. We have been taught that the Holy Spirit is the power of God, which is correct but incomplete because it is too narrow. The Holy Spirit indeed does empower, but so does man's spirit. The difference between the two lies in the quality of what they empower us to do. Spirit is unseen. It is like the wind, as Jesus explains in John 3. Wind is composed of air, which we cannot see. What we do see is what air moves, like tree limbs or a weather vane, or carries, like smog, dust, or ash. We do not really see the wind moving these things, only the object flying through the air. Like the invisible wind, unseen spirit causes other things to happen.

In reference to a person, spirit activates, motivates, inspires, generates, initiates, begins, begets, impels, spurs, encourages, provokes, triggers, influences, originates, produces, spawns, creates, and fathers what we literally see in the way of conduct and attitudes on the outside. This applies even to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 2)


 

Three major differences exist between God's Spirit and our spirit. The first and most obvious is that God's is holy, and holy means "different." But as "holy" is used throughout the Bible, it becomes clear that its real application is not merely different, but "peculiar," "a cut above." So God's Spirit is transcendentally pure and infinitely good in all that it motivates and energizes. Is Satan's spirit that way? Is man's? Not at all. The second difference concerns the amount of knowledge that it is capable of transmitting and using, and for God's Spirit, it is virtually infinite. The third difference is that God, unlike man, is infinitely wise and mature, and therein lies His morality, His character, which He transmits through His Spirit. Thus, God's Spirit possesses three kinds of power: purity, knowledge, and character.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 2)


 

Genesis 1:2

The Holy Spirit is the power of God—not a personage, entity, consciousness, or part of the Godhead or a trinity. The Bible speaks of the Spirit as the power or mind of God, the power of love and of a sound mind. It emanates from Him and thus can be said to be "poured out" (Titus 3:5-6), "breathed" (John 20:22), and used to "fill" (Acts 2:4) and "anoint" (Acts 10:38).

Martin G. Collins
The Holy Spirit


 

Genesis 2:7

We must briefly consider whether man has an immortal soul. Our understanding of the Scriptures compels us to maintain that he does not for several reasons:

» Job recognized that man has a spirit (Job 32:8), which Paul shows in I Corinthians 2:11 endows humanity with intellect. This spirit in man comes from God (Zechariah 12:1) and returns to Him when we die (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59). It records our experiences, character, and personality, which God stores until the resurrection of the dead. However, the Bible never describes this spirit as immortal or eternal; in fact, I Corinthians 2:6-16 explains that man needs yet another Spirit, God's, to be complete and discern godly things.

» The Bible flatly asserts that all people die: "It is appointed for men to die once" (Hebrews 9:27). Ezekiel says clearly that souls die: "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; see Romans 6:23). Jesus warns in Matthew 10:28 that God can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

» In death, life and consciousness are gone. "The dead know nothing," says Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:5, and he later adds, "There is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (verse 10). In Psalm 146:4, the psalmist writes about a man's death, "His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish" (see Genesis 3:19).

» Scripture also confutes the idea that people go to heaven or hell after death. Peter says to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. . . . For David did not ascend into the heavens" (Acts 2:29, 34). Our Savior confirms this in John 3:13: "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven." The biblical usage of Sheol and Hades simply means "the grave."

» Men cannot have immortality unless God gives it to them. Paul writes, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). In I Corinthians 15:53 he tells the saints, "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." At the first resurrection God will give "eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality" (Romans 2:7). If we already had immortality, why should we put it on or seek it?

» Only God has immortality. He is, Paul writes to Timothy, ". . . the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality" (I Timothy 6:15-16). John says of the Word, "In Him was life" (John 1:4), meaning as Creator of all things (verse 3), He had life inherent. Jesus affirms this in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Men must go through Him to receive eternal life.

With such overwhelming proof, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul proves false. Man is not immortal, nor does he possess any "spark of God" unless God has given it to him through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). A Christian's hope of life after death rests in the resurrection of the dead (I Corinthians 15:12-23). Conversely, the wicked only await eternal death as recompense for their evil lives, not eternal life in torment.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Eternal Torment?


 

Genesis 3:5

The Devil asserted that by taking of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, human eyes would be opened—implying wisdom and enlightenment—to allow a person to know good and evil as God does. Immediately, Satan places the emphasis on knowing, but it is contrasted with living eternally. Satan proposes that mankind should be like God in taking to himself the knowledge—the definition—of what is right and wrong, asserting that this is a good thing! In contrast, the Tree of Life represents a way of living in which the meaning of good and evil already exists, and eternal life involves submitting through the Holy Spirit to that definition and the Sovereign who is its source.

Likewise, the Gnostics are those who know—who pursue mystical knowledge that they believe holds the key to eternal life through advancing beyond the physical and into the spiritual realm. Recall that the Gospel of Thomas states at the very beginning that "whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death." Gnostics believed the key to eternal life was contained in right interpretation—knowledge—of those esoteric sayings.

The book of Revelation expounds on the Tree of Life in two places:

· To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)

· Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into [New Jerusalem]. (Revelation 22:14)

The Tree of Life, then, is associated with a way of life—one that requires overcoming (growth against a standard of righteousness) and keeping (doing) God's commandments. The only ones who are allowed to partake of the Tree of Life are those who have changed themselves (with God's help, by His Spirit) to begin living in the same manner as He does. To those who submit to His standard of righteousness, then, He grants life that is both endless and of the same quality that He enjoys.

Satan, though, in addition to casting doubt on what God plainly says, and implying that God is unfair by withholding good things, offers a shortcut. He says, "You do not need to follow God's way, for it is obviously unfair and far too stringent. You can follow your own way. You can take knowledge to yourself of what is good and what is evil. You can be just like God in determining what is right and wrong." Adam and Eve took the bait, and ever since, man has rejected God's standard of righteousness in favor of his own.

This third heresy is easily seen in the antinomianism (literally, "against law") of the Gnostics, who may not have been against every law, but were certainly against any law—any standard of conduct or requirement of righteousness—that impinged upon their standard of conduct. Thus the ascetic Gnostics who grieved the Christians in Colossae held to manmade regulations of "do not touch, do not taste, do not handle" (Colossians 2:20-21), while rejecting the command to "rejoice" with food and drink during the God-ordained festivals. Similarly, mainstream Christianity will (rightly) use portions of Leviticus and Deuteronomy to point out God's abhorrence of abortion and homosexuality, but will claim that the same law is "done away" when it comes to the Sabbath and holy days. They have taken to themselves the knowledge of what is good and what is evil, establishing their own standard of righteousness.

A core issue of the Bible is whether we submit to God's governance or try to form a government based on our own perception of what is good or what works. God's way results in eternal life, but it comes with the obligation to submit ourselves to God. It requires keeping all of His commandments and overcoming our human weaknesses that do not rise to that standard. Satan, conversely, seeks to persuade us to do our own thing and to usurp God's prerogative in defining right living. He encourages us to be enlightened, to have our eyes opened, by doubting God and rejecting His way.

David C. Grabbe
Whatever Happened to Gnosticism? Part Three: Satan's Three Heresies


 

Genesis 3:22-24

Now the separation is very clear, and mankind is cut off from God and from the Holy Spirit. The episode in the garden of Eden, as it is recorded, makes it clear that humanity took itself away from God, not the other way around. In addition, Genesis 3 gives no indication that Adam and Eve wanted the breach to be healed. All they did was justify themselves—Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Exodus 35:21

The context is the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and the subject is "spirit." Spirit is what impels and motivates.

We need to understand the structure of verse 21. The second phrase, "and every one whom his spirit made willing" is parallel with the first phrase, "they came, every one whose heart stirred him up." Parallelism is a Hebraic syntactical form used to clarify and reinforce a statement.

The human heart, the blood-pumping muscle, is invisible to sight, being inside the body, but it is the activating and animating source of physical life: "The life is in the blood." The Hebrews knew that, and so they used "heart" in a way that parallels "spirit." In their speaking and writing, Hebrews used the heart to symbolize the seat of the intellect, as well as the emotional and spiritual life. To them, it was also, not only the animating part of physical life, but also the invisible energizer and motivator of activity in the areas of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual life. They simply made a connection between the physical heart and its energizing physical life, and spirit, which energizes intellectual, emotional, and spiritual life.

Thus, in this verse, "heart" and "spirit" are brought together as though they were one, involved in stirring, exciting, or motivating people into action to build the Tabernacle. We could take this one step further to say that spirit was exciting or inclining the mind to be willing to choose to give of themselves.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 3)


 

Deuteronomy 4:5-10

God chose ancient Israel out of all the nations of the earth and determined that they would be a holy nation. He ordained that they would be a people set apart from the rest of the world. The Old Covenant was intended not only to be a schoolmaster to teach Israel how to live in such a way that they would recognize the Messiah when He came (Galatians 3:24), but it was also intended to set Israel apart—to make them holy. In so doing, He intended the entire nation to be a witness of Him. This passage demonstrates this.

God proposed the Old Covenant to Israel on the day of Pentecost. Israel accepted the terms of the agreement and thereby signed up to be a light to the rest of the world. God had given them the most superior set of laws that mankind had ever encountered, which would leave the rest of the world in awe due to the beneficial effects that would come from it.

We know from the New Testament that the only problem with this covenant was the heart of the people entering into it (Hebrews 3:10-12; 8:7-8). The God-given terms of the agreement were absolutely perfect for what He wanted to accomplish. One of His main purposes was for Israel to be an example, a witness, to the rest of the world of the right way to live. Incidentally, the Tabernacle that Israel carried with them in the wilderness was even called "the Tabernacle of witness" (Numbers 17:7; Acts 7:44).

If Israel had been faithful to the covenant, they would have received blessings beyond belief. In the blessings portion of Deuteronomy 28, God was prepared to set Israel high above all the nations of the earth. Their cities and farms would be prosperous; their children would be healthy and strong; their herds and flocks would be numerous; they would have an abundance of food; and they would have protection from their enemies. They would have rain in due season, and everything they put their hands to would be blessed. They would have enough that they could lend to other nations and not borrow. God intended them to be a holy people whose behavior and prosperity would make it obvious to the rest of the world that God had set them apart. The effect would be so dramatic that Israel would be feared!

However, as we know, Israel failed. The accounts of the Old Testament prophets show the great lengths to which God went for Israel in cleaning her up and taking her under His wing. Yet, once she caught a glimpse of her God-given beauty and wealth, all she did was play the harlot with the surrounding nations, rather than being a witness to them (see Ezekiel 16).

Today, the United States is the richest nation on earth, which seems to coincide with God's promise of blessing until we realize that America is also the greatest debtor nation. Parts of the nation suffer drought, and other parts are practically floating away. Much of our food is either imported or grown from genetically mutated seed. Our cities are filthy, crowded, and corrupt, and our family farms are dying through environmental regulation and corporate buyouts. We live in abundance yet cannot afford our lifestyles, plunging further into personal debt. The nation's churches are pathetically weak, barely standing to fight the onslaught of secular culture—and, in fact, accepting much of it in a misguided spirit of tolerance. In short, America is the farthest thing from being a kingdom of priests or a holy nation. Our entertainment industry shows, like nothing else, what sort of "witness" we are making to the world.

Israel failed because her heart was not right. Biblically, the word "heart" is synonymous with "mind" and "spirit." We know that God desires that all Israel be saved (Romans 11:26; II Peter 3:9) and that in the future He will replace Israel's heart of stone by pouring out His Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27). However, for a few—known as the remnant, the church, the Body of Christ, spiritual Israel, the Israel of God, or the firstfruits—God decided to do this ahead of time.

He gave His Spirit on the Feast of the Firstfruits, the day of Pentecost, AD 31, so that a remnant of Israel would have a heart of flesh and not of stone. God gave His Spirit so that spiritual Israel could obey God both in the letter and in the intent of His law. In addition, just as He gave Israel His law so she would be a witness, God gave the church His Spirit so that Christ's disciples would be witnesses. By receiving a portion of the Spirit that proceeds from the divine Lawgiver, the firstfruits are able to understand the intent behind God's laws. More than this, by yielding to the promptings and motivations of God's Spirit, they can begin to take on His character and actively do good rather than merely avoid sin.

David C. Grabbe
The Pentecost Witness


 

Deuteronomy 29:2-4

Reflect on the New Covenant, under which God leads and guides us by His Holy Spirit, enabling us to perceive, to see, and to hear His Word. The Israelite people were 38 or 40 years in the wilderness in the presence of God, yet they did not get it! It never sank in because God did not perform what would have given them the ability to perceive what was happening in their lives spiritually.

This is confirmed in Deuteronomy 5:29, near the end of the chapter that contains the second recording of the Ten Commandments. Moses writes:

Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!

Except for

a precious few of those Israelites, nobody received God's Holy Spirit under the Old Covenant.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

Deuteronomy 29:4

God's freeing of the Israelites from their bondage and His use of them in the journey to the Promised Land and in the Promised Land were for an entirely different purpose than salvation at that time. Ultimately, the experiences these people had will stand them in good stead.

Of course, God certainly did not use them for the purpose of abuse. He was causing Moses, primarily, and others to reflect on those experiences in the wilderness so that they would write them down under God's inspiration, supplying us with an accurate record to consult and come to understand the purpose of God, be humbled by it, and have the right perspective on salvation.

For this reason, He never gave the Israelites the Spirit of God. No salvation was really offered to them—no forgiveness of sin, no invitation to join God's Family. They did not even have access to Him. They were, in a sense, actors on a stage; God was moving them about so that a record would be left for us: the Bible. When they are resurrected in the second resurrection (see Ezekiel 37:1-14), they can look back on the record, hit themselves in the forehead, and say, "Now I see!" The scales will be removed at that time.

Nevertheless, He never gave them His Spirit and never really revealed to them what He was doing with their lives. Thus, they reacted to their circumstances as human beings would normally react without the miracle of His Spirit being performed on them, opening up their minds and revealing what His purpose is all about.

In Hebrews 4:2, Paul reflects that God preached the gospel to these people, or at least a gospel that pertained to them. They heard a "good news," yet because it was not mixed with faith, it did them no good. All through the wilderness trek and on to their deaths, neither they nor their relationship with God improved in any way. If anything, as Hebrews 3:17 declares, they deteriorated as they went along.

John W. Ritenbaugh
We Are Unique!


 

Psalm 37:11

The Holy Spirit enables us to produce meekness, a necessary attitude for understanding God's Word. An added benefit to the meek is that God promises them the enjoyment of peace. A meek and quiet spirit is so very precious to God that he calls it an imperishable ornament, and He rewards the meek with inheritance of the earth.

Martin G. Collins
Meekness


 

Psalm 51:4

David was brought face to face with truth, with reality, with light. The Holy Spirit actually confuted him and convicted him with an overwhelming argument, revealing where wrong and right were, and he could not escape. He dodged the issue for nine months at least, making all kinds of rationalizations, even to the point of bringing about the death of Uriah.

Maybe we would not have done something as criminal as that, but every one of us is guilty of the same thing in principle. We dodge the issue of our sinfulness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 3)


 

Psalm 104:30

The Knox translation of the Bible renders this, "Then You send forth Your spirit and there is fresh creation." The Holy Spirit is the means, the channel, through which God's creative energy or power is manifested. Here, it is portrayed strictly in a physical application. However, if God did not send forth His Spirit, there would have been neither "a creation" nor a "renewing." If God had not sent forth His Spirit, either earth would never have appeared, or it would have remained in a state of destruction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

Psalm 139:1-6

It is beyond our ability to understand how a Being could be at the center of His creation—and we know a little bit about the awesome size of His creation. We are able to see the earth and the billions of people on it. How does God keep track of all that? It is too great. It is too high. But He does it, we know, by His Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power


 

Psalm 139:7-10

The Holy Spirit is the power of God. It is the means through which He accomplishes His will. Verse 7 teaches us a great deal about this. God the Father is a Personality. He is located in one place at one time, just as we are. But His ability to insert Himself into and affect events anywhere in His creation is contained within the power that emanates from His mind.

It is His Spirit—which emanates from His mind—that enables Him to be everywhere all at once, if He so desires. It gives Him the ability to keep track of all of us. It gives Him the ability to be with a person in Charlotte or someone in Los Angeles or another in Chicago. Wherever we are, He can be there because by His mind He is able to concentrate His attention in those areas.

We lack power like that. We have limited imitations of it. We can concentrate our attention in a very limited way on certain things, events, or places. But He can concentrate His attention in many areas at the same time by the spiritual power that emanates from His awesome mind.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

Psalm 139:7

The psalmist does not really want to flee. He is posing ideas and questions so that we can see that wherever we are, we are always under God's scrutiny. God is a positive spirit. Everything that He creates has positive function and beauty. His intention in everything for us is always positive, right, and good. He does everything in love and concern for our well-being so that we will fit within His purpose, and it will be worked out in our lives. Psalms 139 contains no negative connotations.

From this, because His mind permeates the entirety of His creation, we ought to derive great confidence that God is always with us. He is omnipotent. He is omnipresent. He is actively using His powers, His Spirit, to govern and manage His creation.

The beginning of the source of all power is in the mind. Remember, man is in God's image. A man may make tools to intensify his powers, but the real power is in the mind because without it, he would not be able to create the tool that expands his powers.

God's Holy Spirit is the essence of His mind. Just like a man, His power resides there too, only He does not have to use steam shovels and power tools to get things done. He speaks, and the laws He has created go to work. The tool by which He carries everything out is His Spirit, the essence of His mind.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power


 

Isaiah 7:14

The prophecy of Jesus' birth much of the world recognizes is that of Isaiah 7:14: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." This, of course, came to pass precisely: "After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:18). Mary herself confirms she was a virgin: "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" (Luke 1:34).

His "immaculate conception" (not in the Roman Catholic sense) decreed His worthiness to be our High Priest and Mediator before the Father. Though not of Levi, Jesus qualifies as a priest "according to the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 7:14-15):

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens. (verses 25-26)

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Born of a Woman


 

Isaiah 11:2

God's Spirit imparts wisdom and understanding. It teaches His way of life, comforts, and helps us. Even when we cannot express ourselves in our prayers, the Spirit aids us in making our requests before God.

Martin G. Collins
The Holy Spirit


 

Isaiah 30:1

"Spirit" is ruach, and it is used in the sense of invisible force or power. Thus ruach, depending on the context, is used to express intelligence, will, truth, hope, faith, knowledge, wisdom, discernment, omnipotence, omnipresence, infinity, invisibility, or holiness. These words are different from those in reference to God's soul (see Leviticus 26:11), which had to do mostly with feelings, with emotional qualities. Here ruach covers aspects that have to do with mind power.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

Isaiah 32:13-18

One sentence in the Moffatt translation, from verse 15, catches the thought clearly: "And yet one day from the heights of heaven a spirit shall breathe unto us [or, into us]." Then follows the effects of that Spirit. In this context, just as in Psalm 104:30, things begin in a state of destruction and remain that way until God sends forth His Spirit. Then, regeneration of both the people and the land takes place, and the transformation of both occurs.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The ultimate fulfillment of this process will culminate when we are completely composed of spirit, and God's law will be our first nature, not just second nature. But, while we are in an embryonic stage, the process has already begun in us, incrementally, as God gradually displaces our carnality and sin, replacing it with His Holy Spirit, leading to righteous behavior and godliness. Actually, no human being is completely converted, but many people are in various stages of conversion.

Conversion, then, is a life-long process in which we move from a reactive approach to lawkeeping—motivated by rewards and punishments—to a proactive approach—motivated by a deeply placed inner desire to yield and comply to the law's principles, knowing intrinsically from experience that they work for the good and harmony of all. (Proactive is a term author-speaker Steven Covey uses to distinguish internal motivation to do or accomplish something as opposed to external motivation.)

As the process of conversion begins, God must use carrots and sticks to keep us moving in the right direction. The blessings and curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 served as carrots and sticks to encourage righteous and godly behavior in our Israelite forebears. God uses carrots and sticks in the early part of our calling—for instance, the carrot of the Place of Safety and the stick of the Tribulation—and literally drives us into a frantic study of prophecy. Carrots and sticks have motivated our educational system in the forms of gold stars, grades, praise, trophies, extra homework, and detention.

Recently, Dr. Alfie Kohn, in his book, Punished By Rewards, questions the long-term effects of external motivators, such as grades, financial incentives, gold stars, or tokens, to sustain learning behavior. He supplies some surprising evidence that carrots and sticks—reflecting the philosophy, "Do this and you'll get that"— actually become detrimental in the long run, diverting the focus away from the learning outcome onto the reward or punishment. Dr. Kohn, Dr. Jerome Bruner, and a host of other educators suggest that internal motivators, such as satisfying curiosity, imitating role models, and attaining competency, work better to motivate over the long term than do G.P.A.'s, scholarships and grants, and other external incentives.

To illustrate this, one of the supreme tragedies in the music world occurred when the government of Finland supplied composer Jean Sibelius a guaranteed pension and a large mansion in the woods near Jarvenpaa. After this huge reward, an external motivation, not one musical idea—not one note!—emanated from his pen. Likewise, our spiritual growth and maturity will become stunted if our motivation for righteous behavior is externally determined rather than internally determined.

To an individual truly endowed with God's Spirit, the laws cranked out yearly in Washington, DC, our state capitals, and our local city halls should strike us as juvenile and elementary—or as one minister would call it—knee-pants stuff. Consider the carrots and sticks used by lawmakers to control litter: up to $1,000 fine for littering, or a sign reading, "This segment of highway adopted by Yourtown Jaycees."

These examples ignore the heart and core of the problem. Until the law gets from stone-tablet pages of the Scripture, or the statute books of a local, state, or federal assembly, into our hearts and minds—unless the motivation for doing what is right comes from the inside out—we are no more converted than a donkey. On second thought, a donkey at least behaves as it is programmed to act.

David F. Maas
Righteousness from Inside-Out


 

Jeremiah 31:31-33

The Israelites could have been the world's perpetual premier nation if they had done as God asked. But they failed, proving that no nation, no people - even with the righteous examples of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and with the great laws of God - could solve humanity's problems and live peaceful, abundant lives without a special ingredient only God can supply.

Men say, "With enough time and enough knowledge, we can solve any and every evil." But the record of humanity, foremost in Israel, has proved that it cannot be done. Even with God as their King, Israel could not succeed in this. Something was missing.

What was missing? God's Holy Spirit! It was evident, even during the days of the prophets, that the Old Covenant was insufficient, that its terms could not redeem a person from his sins or deliver eternal life. A new and better covenant was needed. God will make a New Covenant with Israel, one that will include an element whereby He can write His law on people's minds and hearts. By this means, His way of living will be their way too, and they will be faithful to Him.

Paul comments on this in Hebrews 8:7-8, adding that the failure of the Old Covenant lay in the Israelites themselves. They had hearts of stone on which God could not write His way of life. While that covenant was in force, He purposely withheld the vital, heart-softening ingredient, His Spirit, from them as a whole to depict to mankind that peace, prosperity, and redemption are impossible without a spiritual relationship with Him. He must be personally and individually involved in their daily lives.

One day, in the Millennium, He will give Israel that ability - that right heart - and allow them to succeed in the areas in which they failed. This is prophesied in Ezekiel 37:21-23, 26-28:

Thus says the Lord GOD: "Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. . . . Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore."

Israel will then be given the New Covenant. They will be allowed wholesale access to God through His Holy Spirit, and they will keep His laws along with the statutes and the judgments. They will not just pay them lip-service. This time they will keep their covenant with God.

Moreover, the nations will notice when Israel finally does what it was chosen to do. The Gentiles will begin making the right connections. They will see that God has sanctified the Israelites by setting them apart, giving them His Spirit and His law, and blessing them abundantly for their obedience. They will say, "Maybe we should be doing this too!" and begin to fulfill Isaiah 2:1-4. Thus, during the Millennium, Israel will perform its original purpose as a model and mediatory nation for the rest of the world.

It will take time, maybe generations, but slowly, surely, the whole world will see in Israel, then part of God's church (see Galatians 6:16), how it should live under God. There will be conversions by the thousands - perhaps even by nations, as they realize what wonderful peace and prosperity can ensue when a nation obeys God and lives the way that He teaches!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part Two)


 

Jeremiah 31:31-34

(See also Ezekiel 37:26; Jeremiah 50:5, 20)

Jeremiah 31:31-34 provides an encouraging conclusion to the saga of Israel and Judah once they have repented and returned to the land. These verses, quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12 and 10:16-17, show that this is the same covenant that the church has already made with God. Rather than doing away with the law of God, the New Covenant gives the people the means, not merely to obey it, but to accept it and make it a part of their lives. God will give the people of Israel and Judah new hearts, and they will finally be able to follow God consistently and have real relationships with Him. God will forgive their sins, and Israel will finally begin to be the witness to the rest of the world that God intended her to be (see Deuteronomy 4:5-8; Isaiah 62:1-2).

Even though God makes this covenant primarily with Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 31:31), it is not exclusive. Through Isaiah, God shows that Gentiles who submit themselves to Him can and will also make this covenant. Of particular interest is the requirement that the Sabbath be kept by those wishing to do this (Isaiah 56:1-2, 6-8).

Ezekiel 11:17, 19-21 foretells of Israel and Judah receiving from God a new heart—a spiritual heart that will enable them to keep His commandments and statutes.

Throughout its history, the essential difficulty in Israel's relationship with God has been one of the heart. God exclaims, "Oh, that they [Israel] had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!" (Deuteronomy 5:29). In Hebrews 3:10, God again identifies this problem: "Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways'" (emphasis ours throughout).

The heart or spirit of a man is the center of his thought, reason, and motivation. Because of human nature, the natural—unconverted—heart is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9). It has an innate, powerful pull toward the self, always making evaluations based on what it perceives as good for the individual regardless of the effect on others. Humanity has had approximately 6,000 years of such self-centered and destructive living, proving that man is simply unable to govern himself for very long. He needs direction and leadership from another—divine—source.

The Old Covenant that God made with Israel was a good agreement as far as it went, because all of God's works are good. The problem was not with its terms, but with the people who made it (Hebrews 8:7-8, 10). They lacked the right heart that would have allowed them to follow God truly and obey His laws. God, though, will give a new heart—a new spirit—to repentant Israelites, along with any others who desire to covenant with Him.

This "new spirit" is the Spirit of God—the Holy Spirit (see also Jeremiah 32:37-42; Ezekiel 36:26-27; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:28-29). It is the same Spirit that Jesus told His disciples they would receive, the power that would allow them—through their words and especially through the conduct of their lives—to be witnesses of God (Acts 1:8; see Luke 24:49). It is a Spirit "of power and of love and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7)—a mind that is balanced because God's concerns reside at its core. It is a mind inclined to obey God and to seek Him as the only Source of true solutions in a world that does not have the means or inclination to live in a way that is good for everybody and good eternally.

As Israel becomes God's model nation, due to her new heart and Spirit, the rest of the world will see that God's way—including His commandments, statutes, and judgments—produce peace and abundance. It is the nature of God's laws that, because of their Source, they bring good, prosperity, health, abundance, peace, and contentment (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). Yet, it takes the same spirit—heart—as the Lawgiver for one to understand and keep the laws in their true spiritual intent.

David C. Grabbe
The Second Exodus (Part Three)


 

Ezekiel 11:19-20

Self-control is the manifestation of God's work in man through the Holy Spirit. Paul elaborated in His teaching on self-control that Christian self-control results from the Holy Spirit's indwelling (Romans 8:1-4). It is the Spirit-controlled mind that is strengthened with power (Ephesians 3:16; 5:18) to control rebellious desires and to resist the allurements of tempting pleasures.

Martin G. Collins
Self-Control


 

Zechariah 4:6

This verse is often quoted when speaking of doing the work of God, and doing so follows a correct spiritual principle. When God does something, it is not done through physical strength. It is interesting that might literally means "arms," and power refers to physical activity. The work of God is not going to be done through feats of arms, military victories, or anything that requires physical fighting or contention. Nor can it be accomplished by any amount of physical activity.

As much work and effort as men put into it, they are not what will get God's work done properly. They will be helpful, certainly, because God works though men, and men must exert themselves in order to do God's will. Nevertheless, He says clearly here that all the credit goes to His Spirit. God Himself is at work! Our job is to submit, to do the things that must be done. We must do what the Spirit directs us to do, but God will receive the credit, not us. We could do none of these works by our own means.

God gives the ability. He gives the inspiration, the strength, and the endurance. He opens the doors. He supplies the manpower, the money, and the other resources to go through those doors. He supplies favor so that the doors can be opened. We merely walk through them.

We could say that God's work is an act of grace. It is a kind of oxymoron to say that work is done by grace, since we think of work and grace as two extremes, but they are not! What comes first? The grace comes first: God grants favor and gives gifts, then the work is done. So where is the glory? It appears in the grace. The effort comes afterward and accomplishes God's will.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

Zechariah 4:6

An angel is explaining to Zechariah the work of the Spirit. God's Spirit, moving and producing works (or results, visible signs of God's inspiration and involvement in His servants' activities), is shown as flowing into the church. Here is a short quotation from Keil & Delitzsch.

Oil ... is used in the Scriptures as a symbol of the Spirit of God [notice this qualification], not in its transcendent essence. . . .

The Holy Spirit often appears in the Bible, not in is pure form (the essence of God's mind and power), not in its raw form, we could say. Here it appears as oil. Continuing:

. . . not in its transcendent essence, but so far as it works in the world, and is indwelling in the church.

The oil that is flowing through these pipes is not the raw Spirit of God, but it is His Spirit seen in its works, that is, in its manifestations. We are not seeing, necessarily, God's Spirit as God's Spirit. We are seeing God's Spirit as it manifests itself primarily in spoken and written words, but also in things like miracles, healings, casting out of demons, acts of faith, good works, etc.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

Zechariah 4:8-10

This is a second interpretation of the first five verses, but not a different one. We have a preliminary interpretation in verses 6-7, and in verses 8-10 we are presented additional information and interpretation of the seven lamps.

The interpretation in verses 6-7 concentrated on "by My Spirit," making sure we get first things first. God, by His Spirit, will be behind all of this; it will be done by grace. We must understand this as priority one when we consider the work of the Two Witnesses. They are servants, and they follow the lead of God's Spirit. That is how their work will be done. That is their mind as well; they will not take credit for what they accomplish. They will know that it is done by God's Spirit.

Verses 8-10 shows that God really has Christ in mind (more than Zerubbabel, who was just a type). We always have to look at things like this and realize that there are types of Christ in them. Zerubbabel—though he is a type of one of the Two Witnesses—is really a type of the true Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ is the true King, and we can never keep Him out of these things.

Christ is building a spiritual temple, and He finishes what He starts. We can paraphrase verse 9 as, "The hands of Jesus Christ have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it." We could go back even as far as Creation and recognize that He was the One who created everything. He started the process that will end in salvation. He will complete the job and bring God's purpose to pass. As far as laying the foundation goes, He did that in Old Testament times, or we could bring it forward as when He gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins to establish our relationship with God the Father. No matter where we see the starting point of the spiritual Temple in history, He will complete it.

Philippians 1:6 says He who has started a good work in you will finish it. He will complete it. Zerubbabel's completion of the physical Temple in 515 BC is just a sign, if you will, that Christ will finish the spiritual one.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

Matthew 5:10-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Matthew 5:16

A Christian's righteous life, pleasant attitude, and good works, including pure conversation and faithful obedience, should not be hidden but be seen and known. We can give no light until we have received the grace of God and the enlightenment that comes through the Holy Spirit. Our lives must produce the fruit of the Spirit, reflecting the shining example of Jesus Christ. Humbly, in all communities, in all business, at home and abroad, in prosperity and adversity, it should be clear that we adhere to God's way of life. Letting our examples shine requires that we resist the influence of the world. We cannot have a light that shines and at the same time live as the world does with its lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life (I John 2:16-17).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Light


 

Matthew 7:7-12

Ask, seek and knock, and God will give good gifts! Could we request anything better of Him than His Spirit? Nehemiah 9:20 declares, "You [God] also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst." God has already set a precedent for giving His Spirit. Psalm 143:10 adds, "Teach me to do your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness." Jesus says God will give us good things, and this verse shows God's Spirit is good.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness


 

Matthew 7:16-20

Once regenerated by the Holy Spirit from the Father, we must continually be led by it, bearing spiritual fruit throughout our lives. If we are producing the fruit of the Spirit, which exhibit a sound mind, we know it is working in us. The Spirit is the mind and essence of the divine nature, and through it God carries out His will. It empowers the mind to comprehend spiritual matters, producing conversion. It gives us the strength, will and faith to overcome our sins.

Martin G. Collins
The Holy Spirit


 

Matthew 10:16-20

God is not going to announce, "This is God speaking through so and so." Rather, it will appear to those listening, as well as the person speaking, that everything being generated is from the persecuted disciple. However, thought transference by means of spirit will occur between God and His child.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Two)


 

Matthew 11:2-3

Because the prophet Isaiah foretold the Messiah's exercise of miraculous power (Isaiah 35:4-6; 42:7), John the Baptizer asked for such a sign of Christ. Jesus replied: "The blind receive their sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them" (verse 5). His miracles provided proof of who He was.

Christ came into the world, not only as God's personal representative on earth, but as God manifest in flesh. He was Himself a miracle in human form, and His miraculous works are bound up inseparably with His life. When we accept the miracles of His prophesied birth, sinless life, and glorious resurrection, then any other miracle is possible. Born holy, undefiled, and separate from sinners (Hebrews 7:26), He was conscious of His God-given responsibility to bless and relieve mankind in miraculous ways.

In describing Jesus' healing miracles, Luke, a doctor, emphasized the power of God by saying, "The power of the Lord was present to heal them" (Luke 5:17), and "the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all" (Luke 6:19). Similarly in Acts, Peter describes "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38).

One could say Christ's miracles were parables in deeds, just as His parables were miracles in words. God designed His miracles to symbolize His power to meet spiritual needs, as well as physical and material ones. Jesus' recorded miracles are real-life experiences of what it means to be under the wonderful rule of the powerful but merciful King of God's Kingdom.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ (Part One)


 

Matthew 13:10-17

In Matthew 13:10-17, Jesus explains the purpose of parables. It is not to expand the meaning, but to hide the meaning from the people whom He did not want to understand. Only with the Spirit of God can we really understand the parables, but He has to give us the understanding. Certain keys unlock parables, and if we do not have the keys, we will miss the meaning, and the interpretation will be wrong, off track.

Other parts of the Bible tell us that it takes the Holy Spirit to give us "ears to hear" (see I Corinthians 2:6-14). To understand spiritual things, we must have the Spirit of God in our minds - we must have the mind of Christ - that in turn opens up the Bible's "mysteries." Of course, the other major key is the Book itself, because the interpretation of the parables is within the Bible. It is not necessarily just the scriptural context of the parable; rather, the entire Bible contributes to opening up the parable's meaning. In other words, a parable does not stand alone. It must "fit" within the Bible's revelation.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 1): The Mustard Seed


 

Matthew 25:1-13

The Parable of the Ten Virgins pictures the church waiting for the Bridegroom's return. Because of an unexpectedly long delay, He finds half the virgins unprepared when He finally arrives.

In weddings of that time, the bridegroom traditionally led a procession of bridesmaids from where they waited to his home. Since the procession almost invariably took place at night, each bridesmaid was expected to supply her own torch or lamp. If the bridegroom came later than expected, the bridesmaid needed to be prepared with extra torches or oil for her lamp.

The difference between the wise and the foolish virgins in the parable is not that one group did not have oil, but that one group did not have enough for the unexpectedly long delay. When the cry went out, their lamps were still burning, but they were sputtering and going out. Oil, of course, represents God's Holy Spirit. The wise virgins, like the faithful and wise servant of Matthew 24:45-51, are prepared. They make sure that they remain in contact with the dispenser of oil, as is implied when they say to the foolish virgins, "No, . . . go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves" (verse 9). The wise had been in recent contact with the dispenser of oil, whereas the others apparently had dallied around. Going frequently to the dispenser, the wise, when the bridegroom arrived, had an adequate supply to trim their lamps and go into the marriage supper. The lesson is preparedness through vision and foresight.

Because it is an internal state, preparedness cannot be transferred. That is evident in the reaction of the virgins. It is a matter of the heart, an intangible that accrues by spending long periods of time under many circumstances with the Dispenser of the Holy Spirit. What cannot be transferred to those who are unprepared are matters of attitude, character, skill, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. They are personal attributes that are built and honed over months and years.

When one needs a skill immediately, how much time does it take to learn it? If a man suddenly needed the skill to repair an automobile, and he had never done any work on one, he may as well have no hands at all! It works the same way with spiritual attributes. Preparing for eventualities is the lesson of this parable. The wise virgins prepared for the eventuality that it might take longer for the bridegroom to come—they showed foresight and vision, and they entered the wedding feast. The others did not.

The oil cannot be borrowed either. In no way can it be passed from one person to another. We cannot borrow character or a relationship with God. The parable teaches us that opportunity comes, opportunity knocks, and then opportunity leaves. The foolish failed to face the possibility that the bridegroom would come later than expected, and when they were awakened, they had no time to fetch any oil and fill their lamps.

No one can deliver his brother. Each person determines his own destiny. No matter how close we are, even if we are one in flesh as in marriage, a husband cannot deliver his wife, and a wife cannot deliver her husband. Nor can we deliver our children. Everyone stands on his own in his relationship with God. God makes this clear in Ezekiel 14:14: "'Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,' says the Lord God." Though it is a hard lesson, it should motivate us to discipline ourselves, to exercise self-control, to be alert, and to give our attention to our spiritual priorities. Thus, each person determines his own destiny.

Equating the foolish virgins with their modern counterparts, the Laodiceans, their faith is perfunctory. Their church membership is routine, merely going through the motions. They have enough faith that they at least show up for church services. They have beliefs and character and motivation—but not enough!

The Bridegroom's refusal to admit the five foolish virgins (verse 12) must not be construed as a callous rejection of their lifelong desire to enter the Kingdom. Far from callous, Christ's rejection is entirely justified because these people never make preparations for their marriage to Him. In the analogy, though they realize they have met their future mate and admire Him, they never develop the relationship. In a sense, they have already rejected Him. Thus, an additional lesson in this parable is that our relationship with God must be worked on continually.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 25:1-13

Our responsibility today is not just mental preparation, as in the case of a diligent athlete. Nor is it physical preparation, as in David's case. All the same, our responsibility is much like David's in that we are gatherers. Our duty is to gather: to gather faith, patience, wisdom; to gather God's Holy Spirit. How much do we need? Well, Christ tells us that a "night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4). In His Parable of the Ten Virgins, He says that the Bridegroom came at midnight (Matthew 25:6). Midnight is well into the night. The wise virgins were those who had enough oil - representing God's Spirit - to last the night. Indeed, we ought to gather God's Spirit like David gathered bronze, "in abundance beyond measure."

Charles Whitaker
On Your Marks . . . Get Set . . . Go!


 

Matthew 25:1-4

Matthew 25:1-4 shows all the virgins have the same beliefs, represented by the lamps they carry with them. The lamps represent the Word, the laws, and the statutes of God. Five of the virgins are foolish and five are wise, showing that the end-time church is composed of two types of members. The foolish have the Word of God but lack a sufficient level of His Holy Spirit, which opens the converted mind to understand and live God's way of life. The wise are actively using God's Spirit to enhance their understanding and have sufficient amounts of it to last them.

Staff
Y2K: You-2-the-Kingdom


 

Matthew 25:8-9

It is impossible to transfer God's Spirit, or understanding, or zeal from person to person. The only source for the Holy Spirit is God.

Staff
Y2K: You-2-the-Kingdom


 

Matthew 25:10-13

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 25:14-21

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 27:46

Could it be that this provides insight into the only thing He feared - the loss of contact and communication with His Father - and that He did not know what He would do then?

We need to consider this deeply and appreciatively because this is the great gift made available to us by Christ's sacrifice. Fellowship with God, being at peace with Him, and having access to Him are admittance to the very fountain of living waters. We can safely say that, once our sins are covered by Christ's blood, access to God is the source of all spiritual strength and growth because the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us (Romans 5:1-5).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering


 

Matthew 27:50-51

Consider the general layout of the Tabernacle in the wilderness as well as the Temple in Jerusalem. Both basically were the same. As one approached its front, the first object encountered would be the altar of sacrifice, the brazen alter by which atonement was made. The Hebrew word translated as atonement means "by which we draw near." In other words, by sacrifice, represented by the brazen altar, we draw near to God, seeking Him.

After the brazen altar comes the laver. It could be described as being like a big bathtub. Here a person was to wash himself before proceeding any farther.

Once inside the sanctuary, light came from the candelabra, representing Christ as the Light of the World, as well as the light of God's truth spread from activity of the seven churches.

On the table was the shewbread, representing Christ as the Bread of Life. Directly in front of one who entered the Holy Place, past the table of shewbread, stood the altar of incense, representing the prayers of the saints. Barring one's way into the Holy of Holies, into the very presence of God, was the veil. Once behind it, a person would be before the Mercy Seat, in the very presence of God.

The veil being torn apart at Christ's death symbolizes that a personal relationship with God can be established. The way had been opened by the sacrificial death of our Savior. This intimate relationship with God is the key to our being transformed from glory to glory (II Corinthians 3:18).

If we cannot enter God's presence, if we are far away, there is not much hope of transformation. This is why the Bible so frequently urges us to seek God. Seeking God is part of "dressing and keeping" the relationship, helping it to grow. This close relationship is vital to increasing the Holy Spirit in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 7)


 

Matthew 28:19

Speaking "in the name of" something does not necessarily mean that one is speaking of the name of a personality. A cliché we hear frequently in old crime movies illustrates this. Sometime during the film, a policeman invariably comes running out with his gun drawn and aimed at the suspect, and he says, "Stop in the name of the law!" Does the law have personality? Is it a personality? No, it is an inanimate thing. The policeman was commanding the robber to stop in the name of an authority, the law.

So just because the baptism formula includes within it the authority of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does not mean that the Holy Spirit is a Person. It is mentioned, undoubtedly, as the means through which the repentant sinner is brought to the point of being baptized. God tells us clearly that the Holy Spirit is given to convict us of sin (John 16:8-9). God stirs up our minds by the power of His mind, using His Spirit to lead us to think of things in a way that we never have before, and He thereby brings us to repentance.

By the same means, He also reveals to us the real Jesus, and by the same means, He gives us the power to believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin. The Holy Spirit, then, is the power that God uses to bring us to that point.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

Luke 1:31-38

The angel is actually quoting or paraphrasing Scripture to her, particularly two Messianic prophecies from Isaiah that many religious Jews probably had on the tips of their tongues. They were expecting Messiah to come soon, and knew these prophecies had to come to pass for Messiah to be born.

The first is from Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Immanuel means "God with us." Gabriel inserts a different name, one that God's Son would normally be called: Jesus, which means "Savior." It is really not so different since only God Himself can save.

The second part of Gabriel's paraphrase comes from Isaiah 9:6-7:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

How did the angel convince Mary of what was happening? He quoted Old Testament prophecies to her! In effect, he tells her, "Look, Mary. God has chosen you to fulfill these prophecies."

In response, she asks a very practical question: "How can this be? I can't have a baby. Joseph and I have not consummated the marriage." He replies to her in a parallelism, a form of speech that Hebrew and Aramaic speakers often used to add detail to their statements: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you," and then he defines what he means: "And the power of the Highest will overshadow you." Putting these two clauses together, he defines the Holy Spirit as the power of the Highest; it is God's ability to effect this miracle.

The angel's use of "overshadow" was undoubtedly comforting to her. To us, it might sound intimidating to be overshadowed by the power of the Highest, but Mary, well-versed in Scripture, gives no reaction that it frightened her. Perhaps she thought of Exodus 40:34-38, in which similar language is used of God covering the Tabernacle in the wilderness with the pillar of cloud and fire. To an Israelite, it was comforting to think that God would hover above them like an eagle over its nest, with wings outspread, protecting, providing, and helping.

It may have also made her think of the constant miracles that God did on behalf of His people in the wilderness. God provided for them constantly for forty years, and the Bible is clear that nothing happened unless God allowed it. Through Gabriel, God was telling Mary, "I'm going to take care of all of this. There is no need to worry." And apparently, her anxieties disappeared.

God then gives her a sign to confirm what He has just said. He tells her to visit her cousin, Elizabeth—an old, barren woman, whom she would find to be six months pregnant! This was also a sign to show Mary that everything would be fine. When she went to see her cousin (Luke 1:39-42), the as-yet-unborn John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth's womb, confirming to both Elizabeth and Mary that everything that they had heard was true. Moreover, Elizabeth repeats what the angel said to Mary: "Blessed are you among women. Blessed is the fruit of your womb" (verse 42).

Verse 37, "For with God nothing will be impossible," is another comforting reference to the Old Testament. A more literal translation of his statement would be, "For no saying from God shall be void of power," or "For no word from God shall be powerless." This makes it a paraphrase of Isaiah 55:11: "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."

In effect, he assures her, "This is certain because God has said so." Her response reflects that she is completely convinced by this: "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). This is reminiscent of Hannah's attitude in I Samuel 2. Like her, Mary submits unconditionally to God's election of her for this task. She says, "I am the Lord's servant. He can do with me what He will." She gives her life to it.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Birth of Jesus Christ (Part One): Annunciation


 

Luke 2:25

How were Simeon and Anna able to recognize the Messiah three decades before His first witness actually began? Luke provides the answer. He shows us that, in aggregate, the people of this group displayed the following characteristics:

1. They had God's Spirit. As a result, they were able to understand "the deep things of God. . . . No one knows the things of God except [by] the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2:10-11). When He promised the Spirit to His disciples, Christ called it

the Spirit of truth [which] . . . will guide you into all truth; for [it] will not speak on [its] own authority, but whatever [it] hears [it] will speak; and [it] will tell you things to come. (John 16:13)

The Spirit taught Simeon and Anna, just as it taught the apostles—just as it teaches us today.

2. They heard God's Word. Anna "did not depart from the Temple . . . night and day." She often heard the reading of God's Word, which Christ defined as truth (John 17:17). That Word "is profitable for . . . instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16). The Devout received frequent instruction from God's Word.

3. They talked with others of like mind. Simeon was not alone; neither was Anna. Luke 2:38 says Anna "spoke of [Christ] to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem." An unspecified number of other people also waited for the Messiah! They fellowshipped with those who were "just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel" (verse 25).

4. They fasted often. Notice the plural: Anna "served God with fastings" (Luke 2:37). These were not the fastings of vanity (see Matthew 6:16-18), but she fasted in service to God. A result of proper fasting is knowledge (see Daniel 9:1-22; 10:1-21). Surely, Anna's frequent fastings contributed to her ability to recognize the Messiah.

5. They prayed regularly. Again, notice the plural, "prayers" (Luke 2:37). Many hours of prayer lay behind Anna's recognition of her Messiah.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 2:3-5, "If you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, . . . then you will . . . find the knowledge of God." Solomon should know. God greatly increased his knowledge and wisdom as a result of his prayer (II Chronicles 1:10).

6. The Devout made the right connections. As a result of hearing God's Word, they were aware of the Seventy-Weeks Prophecy (Daniel 9:20-27). They realized that it was about 69 prophetic weeks since the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the Messiah's coming was imminent. That is what Luke 2:26 tells us: God's Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Messiah.

7. The Devout saw the Day approaching and did not forsake the assembling of themselves together (Hebrews 10:25). They understood the value of Christian fellowship. The prophet wrote of them and their sort through the ages: "Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them" (Malachi 3:16).

Discussing God's Word in frequent fellowship, with humble fastings and prayers, the Devout received understanding from God. Thus, they recognized their Messiah while the superstitious and the proud did not.

Charles Whitaker
Recognizing the Second Witness


 

Luke 11:13

Though Jesus says God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask, the Bible further qualifies this with conditions. God will give His Spirit only to those who have demonstrated in attitude and behavior that they have repented. Then they must be baptized and obey His commandments. No one who continues to live a lifestyle apart from God's law has received the Spirit of God or has the power of God working in him.

Martin G. Collins
The Holy Spirit


 

John 3:6-8

When "spirit" is used in this sense, "air" is the closest physical thing Jesus could use to illustrate His instruction. Air is material, but it is invisible to our eyes, and its invisibility is what He wants us to focus on. Spirit is invisible—but immaterial—and in this specific sense, it has no form or substance. It is non-physical, but it can affect the around and the about, the environment, including a person begotten by means of it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

John 3:8

Like the wind, spirit is invisible. A person cannot see it move or work. However, one can see the effect of what the Spirit does. One can see how it acts on things—just as the wind going through a tree full of leaves. One cannot see the wind, but everyone has seen how it makes the tree's leaves and the branches sway. Some have perhaps witnessed a strong wind knock a nest out of a tree or rip leaves or branches off a tree, but not the wind itself. It is the same with the Spirit. The Spirit moves, and we then can see people react. The people do things. A work gets done. What we see is not the Spirit itself, but the Spirit's fruit.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

John 4:23

Here, "spirit" stands contrasted to ritual, rite, or form as represented by His mention of the Temple in Jerusalem (verse 20). "Spirit" implies heart, mind, with gratitude, praise, pure sincerity, and fervent desire to glorify God by being like Him. It is these true worshippers to whom God grants His Spirit. They are close to Him because they seek Him.

Such a Christian presses the relationship. He continues to pursue it right to the end because it is good. Reciprocity is here at work: We seek Him, and He seeks us. He gives us His Spirit, and it flows out from us in good works that bring glory and honor to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 7)


 

John 5:17

The implication is, "My Father has been working from the beginning, and He's continuing to work." What is Their work? It is creating, creation. God is the Potter, we are the clay. He is the One doing the shaping, the molding, the creating. "It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves." He is the One who is continuing the creation that He began and revealed in Genesis 1. He is still working on us! Continuing the pottery metaphor, the Holy Spirit, then, can be compared to the water that the potter uses to bring the clay to the right consistency to enable him to shape it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

John 6:44-45

No man - by scholarship, human reason, or intelligence - can comprehend the whole truth of God apart from the Holy Spirit. Only by the intervention of the Spirit are we called to understand it. God, by divine revelation through the help of the Spirit, opens our minds to the "mysteries" of the truth, allowing us to discern what is truly vital to our salvation.

Martin G. Collins
The Holy Spirit


 

John 6:44

God foreknew us and determined to call us before He ever made His summons known to us. By doing so, He was making a prognosis. We are in this elite group, the called, only because the great God of heaven and earth specifically and personally summoned us by forcibly bringing the good news to our attention so we would be motivated to choose to respond freely to it.

He then led us to repentance, to a personal understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and to an acceptance of it. Then He gave us His Holy Spirit to enable us to obey the obligations of the New Covenant. It is in this combination of factors, plus a few more, that we can begin to understand the possibilities of human life. We see in Christ the pattern of what we ought to be, and the motivation to be in His image begins to arise in us. But this occurs only because God has summoned us to be in this elite group, the firstfruits, to run for this awesome goal.

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


 

John 6:44

Sometimes a person's calling can be dramatic, sudden, and painfully embarrassing, as Paul's was on the road to Damascus. Sometimes it can be long, drawn out, and accomplished in virtual solitude, like Moses' forty years in the wilderness as a shepherd. Sometimes it can be as uneventful as a child growing up in the church to converted parents, whose children are sanctified already, according to I Corinthians 7:14. However it comes, God is directly and personally interfacing with us to reveal or disclose Himself, as Paul says, "by His Spirit" (I Corinthians 2:10).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 2)


 

John 6:63

This is a simple yet profound statement. God's Spirit is truly more than words, but to understand this point, it is enough to know that God's words—"the words I speak to you," as Jesus says—are spirit, and they play a large role in producing the abundant life God intends we live. This quality of life is not achieved through physical things. Material things can be helpful, but without the true concepts contained within God's Word, the abundant quality will be missing because true abundance ultimately depends upon spiritual things, not material ones.

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


 

John 6:63

Here, the difference between God's Holy Spirit and our spirit is noted. God's Spirit (His Word, His thoughts, His way) always produces life—eternal life—the way God lives. Jesus was made a life-giving Spirit, and He is the High Priest. As High Priest, He is in charge of the administration of life (see II Corinthians 3). The difference between the two covenants is that the priesthood under the Old Covenant could not administer life, but the Priesthood under the New Covenant administers life by providing the Spirit of God to the mind of man. Demons and men cannot truthfully claim what Jesus claimed here, that His Spirit is life. Man's spirit, like the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, produces death, because it produces sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

John 7:37-39

Christ spoke of the Holy Spirit during His proclamation on the Last Great Day. His words revealed that a day - the White Throne Judgment - would come when all humanity would have free access to the "living water" of God's Holy Spirit (John 4:13-14; Matthew 5:6; Revelation 22:17). Jesus is not only Judge of all, but also the One who dispenses the Holy Spirit to all of His disciples.

Martin G. Collins
Holy Days: Last Great Day


 

John 7:37-39

Jesus is prophesying of the giving of the Spirit, which is absolutely essential to the "circumcision of the heart," to "writing God's law on the heart," to enabling us to have a good relationship with God. Notice that He puts conditions on receiving the Spirit, which is a factor that did not appear much in the Old Covenant prophecies about it. But here the time to make the Spirit available is near, so God's Servant - Jesus Christ - tells us what the conditions are to be if we are going to agree to this Covenant.

He says that we have to believe, to come to Him. If we have been called, we have to respond. We have to thirst - to want it desperately - and on top of that, we have to drink. Remember the old cliché, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink"? A lot of people are like that: They can be led to the truth, but to get them to take it in and make it a part of them is very difficult indeed.

In addition, the Spirit would not be given until Christ was glorified, that is, until after His death and His resurrection to spirit life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 12)


 

John 10:28-29

God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead, dwells in each member of His church through His Holy Spirit, and by it He will also give eternal life to them (Romans 8:11). Therefore, the life given to the sheep is the same Spirit that dwells in the Father, in the Shepherd, and in the sheep. Because the Shepherd gave His life for the sheep, sacrificing all, He is able to give abundant, eternal life to them by removing the obstacle of death, the penalty for sin, by the resurrection from the dead.

No one can steal His sheep from Him because they are, in effect, in the palm of His hand (I Peter 5:6; Revelation 1:17). Nothing could be safer or more secure. The Shepherd and His Father are one, and Their grip is tightly on Their church so that even "the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

Thus, with a large number of sheep, the true Shepherd may shelter them in many pens, but they are still all His sheep and all one flock. The flock does not create this unity, but because the nature of the sheep is in harmony with their Shepherd, and because their relationship to Him is intimate, they recognize and obey His voice: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Good Shepherd (Part Two)


 

John 14:15-18

This is a prophecy. When this was spoken, Jesus had not yet died, so He had not yet been resurrected and glorified. Thus, the Spirit was not yet given either. He shows another condition (in addition to the ones in John 7:37-39) for the giving of the Holy Spirit: "Keep My commandments."

Notice that the Spirit is described as being with and in. This clarifies the matter of coming to Christ. We have to be called and to respond. If we fail to do the latter, even though God's Spirit is "with" us—leading us to Christ—it will never be "in" us unless we respond and meet the conditions.

For the disciples at the time, the Spirit was with them—in Christ, teaching and guiding. However, a time was coming when it would be in them, literally. This did not occur until Pentecost, in Acts 2. So it is with us: The Spirit is with us before conversion, and it is by this means that God brings us to Christ.

If God did not do this miraculous work, the enmity against Him (Romans 8:7)—coupled with our spiritual confusion—would never permit the process of conversion even to start. Our calling is a tremendous act of mercy on God's part; it is a miracle that we even respond. If it were not for that—for God's mercy in choosing us to be called—we would never make it off the starting block. God has to work a tremendous miracle even to get us to be willing to come to Christ and begin to learn.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 12)


 

John 14:17

During Jesus' life on earth, the Holy Spirit was with the disciples. After the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, the Spirit was within them as it had been in Christ. At this time, the disciples were born from above by the Holy Spirit, marking the beginning of the church of God.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Pentecost


 

John 14:17

In other words, "the Spirit of truth" will take up residence. Do we have God the Son and God the Father running around inside of us? No. The mind of God, the Spirit of God, is in us, residing in us. It has taken up residence, and therefore the Father is there, as well as the Son.

The apostles were literally seeing the Holy Spirit of God, the essence of God's mind, in the action, in the life, of a fellow human being—Jesus Christ. He was the literal Word of God. He was with them, teaching, leading, guiding them into truth. He was truth personified. His word is truth (John 17:17). His word is spirit (John 6:63). They could literally, directly, see Him and hear Him, the Son of God, which is why He said the Holy Spirit was with them. It, the essence of God's mind, was in Him. What they witnessed with their eyes and ears was being fed directly into their minds, becoming part of their experience.

The Spirit, the essence of God's mind, was on the verge of residing in them, but it was not yet firmly lodged in them where it would consistently manifest the characteristics of the God Family. This is why Luke 24:49 says, "Tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." Power to do what? To submit to the will of God. He gave them the power to keep God's law in the spirit, not just its letter. Any human being with enough willpower can keep the law of God in the letter, but God must empower us to keep it in the spirit. We need more power than what we humanly have to keep God's law in the spirit. God is looking for people who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and He has empowered us to do that by His Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 5)


 

John 14:23

The meaning is so clear: The Father and the Son live in us, not a Third Person of a Trinity. This is in context just after Jesus says, "I will send another Comforter, . . . even the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16-18).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

John 14:26

The Holy Spirit is here clearly referred to in the masculine gender, using the masculine pronoun "he." This makes the Holy Spirit appear like a living personality.

The translators were forced to do this to be grammatically correct, since "Comforter" or "Helper" (parakletos) is a masculine noun. However, we teach that the Holy Spirit is an inanimate, impersonal power—a force—that is directed and used by a personal God. In other words, "he" is shown doing activities that should really be ascribed to people or persons.

Even though English does not have masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns in the way that languages like Greek do, we still refer to a ship as "she," and ascribe actions and personalities to "her," even though a ship does not technically have a gender. What using the masculine pronoun does is cause the Holy Spirit to appear as if it is doing things as people or as God would do.

The argument put forth by Trinitarians is that the Holy Spirit could hardly do these things unless it were a personality with the powers to do them. Such an argument seems pretty strong until one begins to look at other parts of the Bible concerned with similar concepts. For instance,

If the foot shall say, "Because I am not of the hand, I am not of the body;" is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, "Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body;" is it therefore not of the body? (I Corinthians 12:15-16)

When was the last time your foot talked? When did your ear last speak? Never! Paul personified the foot and the ear. He used his license as a writer to give personal traits to the foot and ear, so they could "speak." Why? He used it as a teaching vehicle to give us insight and understanding, in this case, of how all the parts of the body work together. They cooperate with one another so that the whole body can accomplish its work. But, in reality, the foot does not talk, and neither does the ear.

Would anyone in his right mind say that the heavens actually rejoice (Psalm 96:11-12) or "give ear" (Deuteronomy 32:1)? Or that the mountains and forests sing (Isaiah 44:23)? Or that the trees clap hands (Isaiah 55:12)—hands they do not even have? Psalm 98:8 says, "Let the rivers clap their hands"! Writers often do this to give us a grasp of what they are trying to get across.

Therefore, it is risky business to claim that the Holy Spirit is a person on the basis of verses that say that the Spirit speaks, or because it is referred to in the masculine gender. Things that are clearly inanimate or impersonal are described in much the same way throughout the entirety of the Bible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

John 14:26

For those who have made the New Covenant with God, it is the Holy Spirit that teaches and brings to remembrance—not the ceremonial law! Hebrews 10:3 shows that the sacrifices were only a reminder of sin. Today, the Holy Spirit is the reminder, triggering thoughts in our minds. In addition, because God has made the Spirit available, the various washings that are emblematic of God's Spirit are also set aside. Here are clear statements that the imposition of those ceremonial regulations has been lifted.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 18)


 

John 14:28

To further confound the Trinity doctrine, this verse says that the Father and the Son are not even co-equal! They are equal in terms of what they are—They are God (even as we humans are equal in terms of what we are—we are human beings). But the Father is greater; He is superior in terms of authority and responsibility. There is government even within the Godhead, and the Son takes orders from the Father. They are not equal in every area.

And if the Holy Spirit exists at all as a personality, then it is not co-equal either. Again, if it exists as a personality, it may be equal in terms of being God, but it is not equal in terms of authority and responsibility.

In I Corinthians 11:3, Paul gives a clear order of authority and responsibility. The Father is the Head over all creation. As he puts it so simply, the head even of Christ is the Father.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

John 16:7

If Protestant tract writers such as the late M.R. DeHaan (the founder of "Radio Bible Class" and co-editor of a devotional guide, Our Daily Bread) and Roger Campbell (best known for his weekly newspaper column, "Reflections on Faith," and daily radio program, "Higher Ground") had seriously studied a foreign language—or even into the historical background of our own English language!—they would not have dared to assert so foolishly that Jesus uses the personal pronoun "Him" when referring to the Comforter (or "Helper," NKJV) in John 16:7.

The Greek word for "Comforter," parakletos, is in the masculine gender, while pneumais ("spirit") in the neuter gender. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for "spirit," ruach, is in the feminine gender.

Consequently, it cannot be deduced that this parakletos is a personality any more than we could say a German pen is a girl and a German pencil is a boy—even though the article die in die Feder (the pen) denotes a feminine word and der in der Bleistift (the pencil) denotes a masculine word. It may be surprising to learn that "girl" in German, das Madchen, is neuter in gender.

Before the Norman Invasion in 1066, English was as much an inflected language as German or Scandinavian. Modern English has only one article, "the," to use for its nouns, while Old English differentiated between masculine articles, se mann (the man); feminine articles, seo hlaefdige (the lady); and neuter articles, daet Maedgen (the girl, showing its relationship to modern German).

M.R. DeHaan, oblivious to this grammatical differentiation, gullibly asserts in his tract on the Holy Spirit that there has been a faulty translation of the original text into the English Bible. With cocksure, sophomoric naiveté, DeHaan complains that, in many cases, the Spirit is spoken of as "it" or "that" instead of "he," "him," or "whom." To give an example, he quotes Romans 8:16 (KJV), "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit." However, since in this particular verse the pronoun is auto and denotes the neuter gender, the pronoun itself is correctly rendered.

David F. Maas
Misconceptions and Malarkey About the Holy Spirit (Part One)


 

John 16:13

Romans 8:14 refers to those who are "led," not dragged, forced, imposed upon or imputed to. Paul's comments supplement what Jesus says in John 16:13, as some of the verbs in this sentence demonstrate that free moral agency on our part is still involved. "Guide," "speak," and "tell" show that God has chosen to persuade rather than force us. In addition, they give the distinct impression that the followers and hearers will need to do something on their own.

They will have to make choices, pay attention to what is said or written, and set their wills and follow through on their choices in order to accompany and learn from the Guide. Without these, they will not produce fruit because they are doing insufficient or the wrong activities.

A teacher cannot impose knowledge, understanding, and wisdom upon a student. The student must cooperate in the process. Without this, little or no fruit is produced. The Bible shows the Spirit of God as influencing, suggesting, and, if we choose to permit it, dominating—perhaps even controlling—our lives. This is good because God is good, and if we will yield, the fruit of His Spirit will be produced in our lives.

Are we aware that a divine influence is drawing us away from the corrupting passions and vanities of this world? Are we conscious of a desire to yield to that influence and be conducted along the path of holiness and life? Do we resist, or do we follow cheerfully and energetically, mortifying pride, subduing passion, destroying lust, stifling talebearing, humbling ambition, and annihilating the love of the wealth and fashions of this world?

God will not lead us astray. Our real love, joy, and peace consist only in yielding ourselves entirely to Him and being willing to be guided and influenced by His unseen hand. To be led by the Spirit is to choose voluntarily and consciously to submit to the Word of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit


 

John 20:22

When God, in Jesus Christ, wanted His disciples to understand what was going to happen on the day of Pentecost, He did not blow a dove out of His mouth—He breathed! This illustrates a great deal about whether the Holy Spirit is a personality or an inanimate thing. Wind is inanimate; it has no personality.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

Acts 1:6-8

Despite spending three-and-a-half years of intense training with Jesus, the apostles retained the common Jewish concept of the establishment of God's Kingdom. Paraphrased, Jesus said, "God is working it out. You need to focus your attention on another area at this time."

The work of God was about to make a dramatic turn, occasioned by something that had never occurred before in the history of the earth. God would give His Spirit, visibly manifesting His power in many, and simultaneously launching His church and the preaching of the gospel! His Family was about to make its greatest numerical advancement to that time. It was a unique time in history. It has not happened in that manner since.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing the Bride


 

Acts 1:8

This verse provides the underlying reason for the visible manifestations of power shown in Acts 2:1-6. The resurrected Christ tells the apostles, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

As in II Timothy 1:6-7, God's Spirit is linked with power—the effective capacity for God to work through a person. But this also shows what God intends when He gives the power of His Spirit: That person is to be a witness of Jesus Christ and ultimately of our Spiritual Father. This capability is not just for the apostles. We may not receive this power in the same dramatic way, and we may not be used in an apostolic role, but everyone who has received God's Spirit has the capacity to be a witness of God.

The Spirit of God, which is the same Spirit motivating Jesus Christ, imparts spiritual knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. It impels us toward holiness. It is a Spirit of power, love, and sound-mindedness. It is the essence of God's mind and enables the outworking of His will. God gives a measure of His own remarkable Spirit to incline His children to think the same way as He thinks and to live as He lives.

The more that we yield to, and make use of, God's Spirit, the more He gives. As we seek God's direction and instruction, and are careful not to quench or grieve the Spirit of our holy God (Ephesians 4:30), His character image takes shape in us. And as we grow in His image, we become witnesses of Him—our lives become testimonies of the goodness of God, the mind of God, the love of God, the holiness of God, the stability of God, and so much more. God gives us the essence of His mind so that we can reflect His glory to the world, through becoming just like Him.

David C. Grabbe
What Is the Holy Spirit?


 

Acts 2:1-4

God's Holy Spirit imparts to us His love, giving us the power to obey His laws in their full spiritual intent. The repentant sinner is then a changed person - his whole outlook and purpose is changed as he is led by the Spirit.

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


 

Acts 2:2-11

The day of Pentecost is typically associated with stupendous signs and miracles. Acts 2 records that when the Holy Spirit was given, the display of ability and power astounded everyone present. There was a sound like a mighty rushing wind (verse 2). It appeared that fire rested on the apostles (verse 3), and when they spoke, every person present could hear what was being said in his own language, even his own dialect (verses 4-11).

Because of the brief description given in Acts 2, various religious denominations have sprung up which practice speaking in gibberish—which the disciples definitely were not doing—and being "slain in the Spirit," which is clearly not a biblical concept. These sincere but misled people focus on miracles and manifestations as "proof" that they have received the Holy Spirit. Every week they gather to "pray down" the Spirit—or at least a spirit—for their own use and gratification. The focus of their meetings is on the experience rather than on instruction, admonition, rebuke, or encouragement (see II Timothy 3:16).

Before this event in Acts, Jesus Himself explained to His disciples the importance of their receiving the Holy Spirit, as well as what signs would be shown as a result (Acts 1:4-9). The very last thing the resurrected Christ said before He ascended to the Father was, to paraphrase, "You will receive power when you receive the Holy Spirit, and this will enable you to be witnesses of Me." Through the giving of the Holy Spirit, Christ's disciples would have the necessary means to be lights to the world and to demonstrate a way to live that glorified God.

David C. Grabbe
The Pentecost Witness


 

Acts 2:2

It is interesting that Luke does not say that a wind actually blew. He writes that the sound of a mighty, rushing wind came. Whatever the case, it had a hurricane-like sound understood or perceived to be coming from heaven. It filled the whole house where they were sitting. Why does he mention them sitting? Why were they not standing around and fellowshipping with one another? In all probability the "house" mentioned here is actually the Temple. They were sitting because it was a holy day, and they were having a service.

It is also interesting to note that the sound filled only the house, not the whole city. Even if we allow that some of the sound was heard in the area around the house, Luke specifically contains the sound to the general area where the house was. We know that some outside (at least outside of the room the disciples were in) heard it, because they were attracted by the fact that the sound was emanating from the place where the disciples were sitting and having a meeting. So, these other people, a few thousand of them (Acts 2:41), began gathering in the general area, lending more credence to the probability that the "house" was the Temple.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

Acts 2:2

When the Holy Spirit was given, it came as a mighty rushing wind. It had no shape at all and no life, but it appeared as the power the Father and the Son used to carry out Their purposes in this creation. It is interesting to notice that this power not only filled the people but it also filled the house. In this way, it was directed indiscriminately.

There is no personality in the so-called "third part of the Godhead." This man-made doctrine has no home in the Scriptures. It was devised in the third and fourth centuries and imposed on the church by the force of the Roman government. It is anti-biblical and totally and completely erroneous. No scripture supports it—not even one.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

Acts 2:4

Those in the house were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke with other languages. These were not unknown languages, but languages familiar to people in the area, as Acts 2:6 shows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

Acts 2:14-21

It is interesting that Peter does not say that this was the fulfillment of what Joel prophesied. This is because much of Joel's prophecy was not yet fulfilled. It is easily seen that Peter understood this. He knew that it was only the beginning of the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy because God's Spirit was not being poured out on all flesh. The sun and moon had not changed their appearance, and not everybody that "called on the name of the Lord" was being saved. This is something similar to what happened when Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 in Luke 4, as He began His ministry in Nazareth. He left out parts of the prophecy. Likewise, Peter recognized that the events of Acts 2 only began to fulfill Joel's prophecy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

Acts 2:37-38

When the Jews killed Jesus, they did not believe they were sinning. They thought they were doing God a service. In his ignorance, the apostle Paul was guilty of hailing of men and women into prison, and very likely, people were persecuted and maybe even some were put to death. In regard to the death of Stephen, the indication is that Paul was a ringleader in it. He thought he was doing God service, a favor, but when he was stopped by the light of God on the road to Damascus, and the truth was suddenly revealed to him, he realized he was nothing but a hunk of junk lying blind on the road.

The Holy Spirit did that. It smote these people in the heart so that they could clearly see that they were individually responsible for the death of Jesus Christ, even if they had not been there when it actually took place.

Without the Spirit of God, the truth of God is like looking into the gloom. We see the shape and form of things, but without the Spirit of God, the truths—the doctrines, the teachings—that make up the mechanism of God's purpose do not make sense. They cannot be put in their right order so that they really add up or give a clear picture of what God is doing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 3)


 

Acts 3:16

Paul says that Christ dwelled in Him through the Holy Spirit. This indwelling of God's Spirit enables us to be faithful. Christ's faithful mind is imparted to us and becomes part of our mind. If we provided the faith to obey God, it would be self-righteous. Our righteousness must come through the faith of Jesus Christ.

Martin G. Collins
Faithfulness


 

Acts 5:3

Trinitarians presumptuously use Peter's question as "proof" that the Holy Spirit is a divine being. They say, "One cannot sin against an attribute. One cannot lie to something that is not sentient. Thus, the Holy Spirit must be a personality within the Godhead." But in their attempt to find "proof" for their theory, they ignore the plain meaning of Peter's words and the overwhelming evidence of other scriptures.

When writing about the Holy Spirit, the apostles had no reservations about interchangeably using verbs associated with things rather than people. For example, Paul tells Timothy "to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear . . ." (II Timothy 1:6-7). We usually stir liquids and mixtures, not people. Several writers use the verb "pour" to describe God's use of the Spirit (see Proverbs 1:23; Isaiah 32:15; 44:3; Ezekiel 39:29; Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 12:10; Acts 2:17-18, 33). A person cannot be poured.

On the other hand, many verses show that the Holy Spirit "speaks," "tells," "declares," "convicts," "guides," "hears," and others. By themselves, these verbs can give us no conclusive proof that the Holy Spirit is or is not a divine being.

To understand what Peter meant by "to lie to the Holy Spirit," we must see if the context explains what he meant. At the end of Acts 5:4, Peter makes a parallel accusation: "You have not lied to men but to God." "God" is translated from theos, the general Greek word for deity. In the broadest sense, Peter accuses Ananias of sinning against God (see Genesis 20:6; 39:9; Leviticus 6:2; Psalm 51:4).

When he speaks to Sapphira later on in the scene, Peter repeats the accusation in a slightly different way: "How is it that you have agreed together to test [tempt, KJV] the Spirit of the Lord?" (Acts 5:9). Here, Peter uses "Lord" from the Greek kurios, meaning "master" or "lord." In this verse the Holy Spirit is shown to be the possession of God.

Thus in these three parallel verses, Peter clarifies what he meant: Ananias and Sapphira had tried to deceive God, who was present in them and in the apostles by the power of His Spirit. Did they not realize, Peter asks, that through His Spirit God knew not only what they were doing, but also their hearts?

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Lying to the Holy Spirit


 

Acts 5:3

But why did Peter make it seem as if the Spirit had personality? Because as the means, the power, the vehicle, the agency, by which the Father and the Son accomplish their will (for example, creating—Genesis 1:2), the Spirit takes on properties that they have. We do this in our own speech and writing: Money talks. Power corrupts. Words bite. To describe actions of things, we often use verbs that more accurately describe human actions. Wind moans or shrieks. Fire licks wood. Rain dances. Water runs. These words do not make the things human.

In Romans 5-7, Paul personifies death, law, and sin. "Death reigned from Adam to Moses" (Romans 5:14). "The law has dominion" (7:1). "Sin . . . deceived me, and by it killed me" (7:11). We know that none of these things has personality, and we think nothing more of it. The same applies to the Spirit of God. Just because we use verbs that normally describe the actions of a person does not mean that the subject is a person. It is a non-argument; it means nothing.

More important is how the entirety of the Bible treats the concept of God's Spirit. Using one verse like Acts 5:3 to "prove" a doctrine is called "proof texting." This method violates two of the paramount points of biblical understanding: 1) Always use clear verses to explain unclear verses, and 2) gather all of the pertinent verses from the whole Bible and study them completely before reaching a conclusion on a doctrine.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Lying to the Holy Spirit


 

Acts 5:3

This verse is unclear on the nature of the Holy Spirit, and it must stand in the light of verses from other parts of the Bible before it is correctly understood. For instance, nowhere in the Bible is the Holy Spirit shown to have manlike shape. The Father and the Son are revealed to have body parts like us—they even sit on thrones—but the Spirit is described to be like wind, oil, fire, and water.

The only shape it is ever given is that of a dove (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32), and some dispute that the Spirit looked like a dove but rather in a visible form descended like a dove. Nevertheless, the Spirit is never described to have a humanlike shape. Man was created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), so man looks like God. If the Spirit were also a person in a "trinity," it too would look like a man just as the Father and Son do (John 14:9). Yet, at best, the Spirit had a dove's shape in one instance, and a man and a dove have never been mistaken for each other.

Other verses show the apostles giving praise, glory, and honor to the Father and Son without mentioning the Spirit (Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:1-4; Galatians 1:1-5; and so on through the epistles). If it were part of the Godhead, this would be a grave omission.

Many of the Spirit's attributes can be shown to originate in the Father or the Son. For example, the Spirit is named "Comforter" in John 14:26 (KJV), yet the Father is called "the God of all comfort" in II Corinthians 1:3-4. Other examples include making intercession: Romans 8:26I Timothy 2:5 and Hebrews 7:25; and enabling spiritual understanding: I Corinthians 2:10-16 and I John 5:20.

In addition, the Spirit has no familial relationship to Christians. God is our Father and Christ is our Elder Brother. Paul says "Jerusalem above . . . is the mother of us all" (Galatians 4:26). The Spirit, though, is not a person but a gift of God, the mind and power of God working in and through us (II Timothy 1:7).

Finally, the history of the trinity doctrine is open knowledge. The true church never accepted the idea, and even the false church did not embrace it until three centuries after Christ! Even then, it was only accepted as a political concession to the Roman emperor, Constantine. Add these facts to its absence in the Scripture, and it is no wonder the Catholics and Protestants call it a mystery!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Lying to the Holy Spirit


 

Acts 5:32

Peter is saying that those who heed the gospel message of repentance from sin and faith in the sacrifice of Christ will begin to live lives of obedience to God's commandments, and thus He gives them His Spirit. However, some contend that it is not that simple.

One of the objections that has been raised to this understanding of this verse is that it is impossible to obey God before receiving His Spirit. Therefore, it would be impossible to receive God's Spirit if obedience were a requirement.

Acts 2:38 gives two basic requirements for receiving the Holy Spirit: 1) repentance and 2) faith in the sacrifice of Christ. (Baptism is an outward confession of this faith in Christ's sacrifice.) Repentance is a deep and genuine feeling of remorse over having committed sins, bringing about the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It is accompanied by an urgent desire to make the necessary changes in our life so we avoid committing the same sins again. In other words, true repentance brings about an earnest desire to obey God. In turn, this earnest desire causes us to begin to make changes in our lifestyle to conform to God's commandments.

When John the Baptist preached a message of repentance to prepare the way for Jesus Christ, he demanded that his followers make changes in their lives (Luke 3:8). When John was preaching, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given, but John made it clear that God expected the people to begin changing their lives to demonstrate that their repentance was genuine. Paul preached the exact same message regarding repentance before King Agrippa (Acts 26:20).

A truly repentant person will immediately begin striving to obey God. The changes that the individual makes in his life are the "fruits" that demonstrate that his repentance is genuine. This does not mean that the repentant sinner obeys God perfectly. Even those who have received the Holy Spirit do not obey God perfectly. It means that the individual has turned his life around and is oriented toward obeying God. Upon producing the fruits of repentance and demonstrating faith in the sacrifice of Christ through baptism, God gives him His Holy Spirit. As Peter simply stated, God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him!

Some contend that the obedience mentioned in this scripture is that of obeying God's command to preach the gospel, not obeying God's laws. Proponents of this explanation argue that Peter's statement came about because the authorities called the apostles into account for disobeying their command not to preach about Jesus. This derives from Peter's comment in verse 29, "We ought to obey God rather than men."

There are a number of problems with this interpretation. First, it ignores the clear requirements God lays down for receipt of the Holy Spirit—repentance and faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Nowhere in the Scripture does God require the preaching of the gospel as a prerequisite for receiving His Spirit. Rather, the power of the indwelling Spirit of God inspired and motivated the apostles to preach the gospel after they had received the Spirit (Acts 2:4). Furthermore, this interpretation ignores the overall thrust and context of Peter's statement (Acts 5:30-31).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Is Obedience Required Before Receiving God's Holy Spirit?


 

Acts 9:17

Special spiritual gifts are given through the laying on of hands. Usually, the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of an elder's hands, confirming baptism. However, Acts 8:14-17 says that the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit after baptism, while Acts 10:44-48 says that it fell upon Cornelius' household before baptism. Sometimes God makes exceptions to work out His own will and plan.

Timothy received special spiritual gifts from the hands of the elders, including the gifts of wisdom and teaching. Paul reminded him that ordination bestowed such gifts upon him and that he needed to stir up God's Spirit to use them.

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


 

Acts 10:44-48

The important thing here is something that is not even mentioned. No circumcision is required, which becomes important later. To whom does God reveal that one need not be circumcised to receive the Holy Spirit? They are all astonished, but Peter gives the authoritative answer, and it is to him that God speaks throughout these events. God does not reveal this to the other eleven but to Peter, first among equals, preeminent among them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 2): God's Pattern of Leadership


 

Acts 13:48

Paul and Barnabas are in Antioch preaching the gospel to an audience of both Jews and Gentiles. After hearing them, the Jews leave the synagogue, but the Gentiles beseech them to return the following Sabbath so they could hear more. That Sabbath virtually the whole city turns out to hear the apostles. The Jews, jealous of the response Paul and Barnabas receive, make things difficult for them by contradicting the truth to the point of blasphemy. However, the Gentiles respond yet the more.

An interesting contrast arises between verse 27, where Paul says those who did not know Christ in Jerusalem put Him to death, and verse 48, where Luke, writing after the fact, relates that those who responded to the gospel in Antioch were appointed to eternal life. This is important in understanding our unique position relative to the rest of humanity and in fine-tuning our relationship with each other and most importantly with God.

Appointed is translated "ordained" in the King James Version. However, almost all modern versions render it "appointed." It also means to set, dispose, incline, devote, designate, institute, resolve, arrange, and even addict. The word never indicates an internal disposition or inclination arising within oneself, but always contains the notion of an ordering, arranging, setting, or appointing from without, that is, from a source other than the individual himself. In this case, Luke implies that the Gentiles who responded to Paul and Barnabas' preaching were inclined or disposed to believe the gospel and embrace eternal life by God through His Holy Spirit. In other words, their faith was not self-generated.

This explains, at least in part, why those in Jerusalem did not know Jesus. If God did not dispose them to know Him, they were operating entirely from their own minds dominated by human nature and very unlikely to recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior. Because God did not incline them to believe, Jesus appeared to them nothing like what He truly was. They most commonly judged Him as a mere man from Nazareth, a religious competitor, and pretender to the throne of David. Though He was popular with the people, they could easily brush Him aside and condemn Him to death for blasphemy.

Commentaries sometimes say verse 48 is controversial because it indicates predestination, but a measure of predestination is clearly involved in our calling! Paul writes in Ephesians 1:5, "[God] predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will." He is equally expressive in Romans 8:29-30:

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.

If we believe in justification and glorification, is there not also equal evidence for predestination? This does not mean that every act of a person's life is predestined, but that God predestines some to be summoned to salvation while not calling others. Do not the words "call," "invite," or the even stronger "summon" indicate separating one from several or many?

We can all relate to this simple illustration: If a child is playing outside with some other children, and his parent goes out to call or summon him, though the other children may hear the parent's voice, is not that calling specifically for his child? Does it not separate him from the group? Is not the child's mind disposed or inclined to respond to his parent's call? The other children may hear the call, but they do not respond in the same way because the summons is specific to the particular child.

When a parent calls his child, he does not do it without purpose; he calls the child for a specific reason. As the child responds and separates from the group, the parent begins to reveal to him why he was called: "Go wash your hands—we are going to eat dinner"; "Get ready for bed"; "Run this errand for me"; "Clean up your room"; or "I just wanted to see that you were all right."

In principle, this is similar to God's calling of us except for the purpose. By His Spirit He supernaturally disposes our minds through His summons and begins to separate us from those He is not calling. At the same time, He begins to reveal Himself and His way. He does not call everybody generally, just as the human parent predetermines which child he wants to call. Thus our calling is completely within the will of the sovereign God, who specifically appoints those He desires to understand at this time.

God must predispose us to respond because we are so deceived about what to look for that we would never find Him. In addition, we are so busy doing our own thing, like a child playing around, that we do not even care. Even though He reveals Himself, it still takes us a long time to come to know Him because we carry so many false concepts, and like children, we have short attention spans and are easily distracted.

One reason this is controversial, especially among the more naturally religious, is that human nature does not take pleasure in being humbled. It avoids admitting that salvation is far more an act of God than earned through our intelligence, goodness, wisdom, morality, purity, conviction, commitment to prayer and study, dedication to seeking Him, or love of God. Human nature is so perverse that even in this, in the face of so much biblical evidence, vanity wants to take credit for what it simply does not deserve.

Paul says in Romans 3:27-28: "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." He adds in Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Even the faith that starts us on the road to repentance and justification is God's gift!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Seven


 

Acts 17:10-13

Hitchcock's Bible Name Dictionary mentions that the name "Berea" represents something that is heavy or weighty. Even the city's name hints at a vastly different nature than that described in Matthew 23:23, where Christ condemns the Pharisees for neglecting the weightier matters of God's law. The Berean's example was a balanced one in that they separated themselves from the world around them yet still influenced the conversion of others. The Pharisees' strictness, while perhaps technically correct, lacked the love and concern that the Bereans embraced as a way of life toward God and others.

The people of Berea certainly placed great importance on their belief system, but also strived to see the balance of things so that even those of other cultures and religions could see the fruit produced in their lives. Hypocrisy does not seem to be a problem that hindered this faithful but open-minded people.

The Bereans were a unique people with a strong desire to follow God's truth. They combined genuine character with zeal to lead and live by example and by the whole Word of God. Their search for the truth did not rely just on the accepted sources of their time but also on the words and actions of those shown to be credible leaders of God's people. Once this was evident, their lives became living examples that others around them could emulate. Their lives began to show fruitful "works" that centered on God and his truth.

A final intriguing factor unique to the city of Berea is that it was known for the many streams of water that flow through it. As we know, water symbolizes several Christian ideas, among them baptism and the Holy Spirit being most recognized. Water is critical to the survival of a town and its inhabitants, just as the Holy Spirit is to those within the body of Christ.

In John 4:13-14, Christ speaks of this to the Samaritan woman at the well. He tells her of the living waters, His Holy Spirit, that would soon become a part of a person's life if he believed. Once converted, God's elect soon understood this living water to be as important to spiritual survival as drinking water is to physical survival. Jesus says, "Whoever drinks of this water [from Jacob's well (verse 6)] will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (verses 13-14).

Not only Berea's name but also the city's physical attributes have spiritual connotations. That the city is well-watered symbolizes the relationship between the Berean's faith and flow of God's Holy Spirit through their lives on a daily basis. This, too, should be a good reminder to us to partake of a daily diet of God's Holy Spirit through study, meditation, and prayer.

Staff
The Berean Example


 

Romans 2:13-15

Unconverted people can, completely apart from contact with the true God, discover much that harmonizes with God's purpose or godliness in general. The problem is that because they lack God's Holy Spirit, the truth they find is not as meaningful as it could be.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Thanksgiving or Self-Indulgence?


 

Romans 3:28

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Romans 5:5

Romans 5:5 says, "The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit." Thus, we did not have the love of God until we had His Spirit. Without God's Spirit, we could not possibly keep His commandments, for love is "keep[ing] His commandments" (I John 5:3). If we cannot keep His commandments, God cannot create His character in us, and He will not allow us to enter His Kingdom. Therefore, anyone not having His Spirit will not be there.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Final Harvest


 

Romans 6:23

The Holy Spirit delivers us from death and leads us to the gift of eternal life. We inherit mortal life through Adam, but God gives His Spirit to endow eternal life on His faithful and obedient children. Since the Spirit is God's gift, neither are we born with it, nor can we earn it.

Martin G. Collins
The Holy Spirit


 

Romans 7:6

We have now been delivered from the power of the law. The law no longer has authority to condemn us to death because our old man of sin has died, and Christ has paid the penalty for sin in our stead. Now that God has given us His Holy Spirit, we now "serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter." In other words, we now keep not just the letter of the law, but we also keep God's laws in their full spiritual intent and purpose as Jesus Christ magnified them throughout His ministry (Matthew 5:17-20).

Far from being abolished, the laws of God are now even more binding on Christians. Because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, our sins have all been forgiven, and we now live transformed lives in which we keep God's laws of love through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?


 

Romans 8:3-4

God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. However, in order to worship Him in this way, one must have the Spirit of God! In Matthew 26:41, Jesus says, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. A person's flesh can respond to something inspirational and even say, "Yes, I want to do right." But if his heart is not circumcised, a person lacks the resolve to do right consistently. The New Covenant was designed by God to circumcise the heart!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)


 

Romans 8:9-14

The context is human beings in whom the Spirit of God dwells. Jesus, as a human being, having the Spirit of God without measure, was still considered to be part of the Godhead. These verses, verse 14 especially, show that if God begins to give His spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32), they also become the sons of God! This is also seen in I John 3:1-2.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

Romans 8:9

Are we already spirit? Well, the old hat pin test works very well here. This verse says, "You are . . . in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you." "In" is not being used to state physical position, a physical location, but in the sense of concerned with. Paul uses it in the same sense as we would say, "He is in politics" - this person is concerned or involved with politics. A Christian's concern is with things of the Spirit of God, the mind of God. It is a matter of mind, attitude, thought, perspective, wisdom, knowledge, and direction of life. Jesus said, "He who seeks to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." It is a matter of concern, involvement. That is what "in the spirit" is.

It is a matter of direction of life. It is the concept of spiritual relationships that dominate the correct understanding, not physical location in regard to Christ or the church, because those relationships can and do involve people of all races, all nationalities, physically located in all places on earth. But when one is "in the spirit," that person's great concern and involvement in life lies in his relationship with God. If one is "in the flesh," then his concern and involvement revolves around his relationship with the carnal world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 4)


 

Romans 8:14-17

If we are regenerated children of God and led by His Spirit, we will exhibit His character and spiritual image. Before God summoned us, began to reveal His truth to us, forgave us, justified us, and imparted His Spirit to us, our spiritual father was Satan! We were no better than the Pharisees, whom Christ told that they were of their father, the Devil, because they were doing Satan's works (John 8:39-47). Children display the characteristics of their parents, so Christ judged the Pharisees to be the children of Satan because they were exhibiting the Devil's characteristics.

Before God intervened in our lives, we, too, were the children of Satan (Ephesians 2:1-3) because we were exhibiting his spiritual characteristics. However, God began to redeem us and called us into a relationship with Him, which, as Romans 8:15 says, was symbolically an adoption. God was not our original father, but He took on that role after He extracted us from the grasp of Satan, sin, and this world.

Verse 16 reiterates that the Holy Spirit is intended to provide a witness of who we are and who God is. If we allow the Spirit to lead us, we are sons of God. It follows that, if we are sons of God, then we will be exhibiting the same characteristics as our Father! When we exhibit God's characteristics, we are a witness to the world of His character and the way He lives.

Under the New Covenant, with access to the Holy Spirit, the quality of our witness must be much higher than what God expected of physical Israel. To whom much is given, much also is required (Luke 12:48)! If our neighbors, co-workers, or family members look at us, and all they see are people who go to church on different days, do not eat certain foods, give multiple tithes on their income, and do not believe in the Trinity, are they seeing anything different than Old Covenant Israel, who did not have the Holy Spirit? Certainly, God's law will set us apart from the world because the world is against God, but merely keeping the letter of the law will not provide the complete witness that God is looking for.

This is not to denigrate the royal law of liberty to any degree. Acts 5:32 says God gives His Spirit only to those who obey Him. However, one can be nominally obedient, keeping God's law in the letter, without making a truly effective witness for God.

David C. Grabbe
The Pentecost Witness


 

Romans 8:17

We are heirs of God the Father, and we are co-heirs with Jesus Christ, the Son. The Holy Spirit, however, is not mentioned. We have to conclude that we are not heirs of the Spirit or co-heirs with it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

Romans 11:33-34

To know the fullness of God's thoughts on any subject or any event is, of course, so far beyond us to be unimaginable. To this end, we truly do look through a glass darkly. However, He has revealed certain things about Himself, His way, and His plan sufficiently enough that we may seek Him, come to conversion, and grow thereby. He has also revealed much to us about His attributes, His aims, and His activities as Creator, Sovereign Ruler, Provider, Lawgiver, Judge, Savior, and Father so that we are not completely without some knowledge and understanding of how He functions within His creation.

Deuteronomy 29:29 confirms God's revelation by saying, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." I Corinthians 2:10 provides a New Testament confirmation of this: "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God." We can understand a great deal about God.

The "catch" in all this, though, is whether we choose to believe Him and thus choose to conduct ourselves within the parameters of what He reveals in His Word. Far more, it seems, choose not to believe. Some say they believe, but carelessly continue living their lives as though they, and not He, are all that matters - until some crisis occurs and He suddenly becomes very important to them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God to Blame?


 

Romans 15:13

Could we call ourselves out of spiritual Egypt? Can we forgive ourselves through our works? Can we give ourselves the Holy Spirit? Can we give ourselves the gifts needed to achieve God's purpose? Do we begin to see that it is He who should be our hope? Everything, including hope, flows from this real, literal, personal Being with whom we must develop a relationship so that we truly know Him.

Jesus utters a great profundity when He says that "eternal life is to know God" (John 17:3). It is profound because this God—Jesus' God—is God, and He can fulfill His promises. Promises are not worth a thing, not even the paper they are written on, except for the holiness, the power, and the integrity of the one who gives them. Can God be trusted? If He can, we can have hope. Our hope is in Him. If we put our trust in the promises, we are putting our hope in the wrong place because they are just added benefits.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Perseverance and Hope


 

1 Corinthians 2:6-9

If mankind had seen Christ, if they had clearly identified with Him, the history of the world would be exceedingly different. They did not see because, as Paul writes here, they were not mature. Mature, in this context, means "converted." He contrasts those who are able to see and those who are not able to see. Those who are able to see are those who are spiritually mature.

Even though Christ quoted—and lived—the scriptures with which most of His audience were familiar, the people did not see God working through Him. So it has always been with God's servants. Christ was not the only one. Jesus Himself testifies that these people also "kill[ed] the prophets" (Matthew 23:34-37). It is unlikely that they would have killed the prophets if they clearly saw them as God's messengers. If they believed in God and were fearful of His authority and sovereignty over His creation, they would not have dared to do it! Nevertheless, it has always been this way: Some see and some do not see.

Paul says in I Corinthians 2:7 that God's ministers "speak the wisdom of God in a mystery." This mystery is not a puzzle that is difficult to solve but "a secret impossible to penetrate." As the apostle goes on to say in succeeding verses, the world is not "all there" upstairs because they do not have God's Spirit to help them penetrate the secret. Without this vital ingredient, it is no wonder that it accepts its own and rejects the truths of God.

Paul writes in verse 9, "But as it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'" Many in the world believe that the things of God are "too great" for mere humans to comprehend. We really cannot "get it" or see it. Yet, the truth is so simple to those whose eyes are open that a child can understand. The carnal mind, however, is so blinded by traditions and habits of thinking that even Christians tend to reject the things of God—even though God has converted us.

The effect of this is something like the story about the three blind Indians who were led up to an elephant. Each man touched a different part of the great beast. One held the elephant's trunk, and when asked what it was, he said, "This is a snake." The second man, holding the elephant's tail, said, "This is a rope." The third man, feeling the elephant's leg, said, "This is a tree."

This is analogous to what happens in the world. The world can perceive bits and pieces of the truth, but they cannot put it all together and see the glory of God in its whole. They cannot see God as an intrinsic—absolutely necessary—part of a person's life. They cannot see how necessary the spiritual is!

If it is seen and if it is understood, then life begins to make sense. We begin to be able to see ourselves—a single, unique individual—as a part of the whole, the awesome plan and purpose that God is working out! Then, being able to see God gives direction to our life. So our eyes have seen and our ears have heard, and "the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" has entered into our hearts.

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


 

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

The source of the vision most of us receive is through the Spirit by our calling. God gives it just as surely as He gave Paul's, but it is a gradually accumulating one in which the pieces that complete the picture are added through the normal processes of study, comparing, analyzing, and applying what we learn.

Consider how the revelation of God changes the course of a person's life. If those who killed Christ had the vision to know who He was, they never would have killed Him. Why? They would have had an entirely different perspective of the consequences of their actions. That foresight would have generated prudence in them, and they would not have permitted themselves to kill Him. Notice also how verse 9 shows us that what God has done gives us a perspective involving things not literally seen, yet in verse 10 they are nonetheless revealed.

Through the entire section concluding in verse 16, Paul tells us that, because of God's gracious action in giving us His Holy Spirit, He has predisposed, enabled, or granted us the foresight or vision to make right choices in spiritual matters. God's Holy Spirit gives us discernment as to where spiritual and moral choices will lead. This is wonderful, but something further must be understood. This quality, ability, or skill must be developed. It must grow. It does not instantly and miraculously appear upon conversion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Two): Vision


 

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

The reason the rulers of the world did not understand (verse 8), did not put into the proper perspective, did not grasp what they saw in the Lord of glory is that God did not reveal to them who Jesus was, what He was doing, or why He was doing it. Those things cannot be discerned by physical means - eye, ear, nose, mouth, the senses - but they have to be revealed. A spiritual miracle must take place for a person to understand and to see these spiritual things.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 3)


 

1 Corinthians 2:9-16

The verb Paul uses in verse 10, translated "revealed" (Greek apokalupto), is a strong term, usually used in the New Testament to indicate divine revelation of certain supernatural secrets or with the resurrection and judgment of certain people and events. These verses in I Corinthians 2 stress the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing the wisdom of God.

In verse 14, the verb anakrino, translated "discerned," is the same verb translated "judges" and "judged" in verse 15. The idea in each case is to make intelligent, spiritual decisions. Anakrino, though meaning "examine," includes the decision following the examination.

Members of God's church are to examine all things ,including our own lives, with the help of God's Spirit, and then we are to make an evaluation as to what our strengths and weaknesses are. Then we decide what we are going to do about them. No one in the world has a right to examine and evaluate us on spiritual matters because, without the Holy Spirit, they canno rightly and justly understand or evaluate. There is no need to feel slighted or put down by anyone in the world who disagrees with God's truth or with your obedience to God's truth. The same holds true in all judgments and criticisms from the world - that is, those without God's Holy Spirit - who try to tell us our doctrines are wrong.

This is a major reason the Worldwide Church of God went into apostasy, because the leaders believed and accepted the criticisms of the worldly churches. They accepted judgment from people without God's Holy Spirit and from organizations without a spiritual foundation of truth.

The mainstream Christian churches are worldly, are not led by people with the Holy Spirit, and they do not base their doctrines on truth. Two cases in point: neither the Sunday Sabbath nor the being that is called the Holy Spirit of the Trinity can be proven honestly and truthfully with God's written Word. Do not be fooled by mainstream Christianity's false piety! They are not God's people. They are not baptized members of God's church. They do not have God's Holy Spirit. This is not to say that there are not wonderful people in some of these churches in the world. In addition, when they do follow some of God's laws, blessings will automatically accrue to them.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

1 Corinthians 2:9-13

Because of the action God took once Adam and Eve sinned - they were cut off from the Holy Spirit - all of the cultures of mankind have been built on reasoning apart from God's Spirit. Man has been doomed to produce the kinds of cultures that are based on his own reasoning, because access to God's Holy Spirit was closed off, and therefore there is a missing dimension in mankind's reasoning processes.

Thus, the separation can only get wider - unless God acts to heal the breach. Mankind is unable to bridge the gap because spiritual things are not physically discerned; eyes, ears, nose, mouth cannot sense and understand spiritual things. So mankind is trapped - he is doomed in that regard. Even though God created mankind with a spiritual capacity, it is so limited that it cannot find the true things of God. Man, therefore, is easily overpowered by Satan.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

1 Corinthians 2:9-16

In writing to the Corinthians, Paul gives a simple framework for understanding spirit in general, as well as the Holy Spirit. Verse 11 teaches that each person has a spirit: “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” This echoes Job 32:8: “There is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.” In this usage, the word “spirit” is synonymous with “heart” or “mind.” This is the intelligent, non-physical part of a person that allows him to think, reason, and comprehend. Verse 11 teaches that a person's spirit is the source and overseer of his thoughts. This spirit in man is not another being within the person but simply the person's center of reason.

Next, verse 12 reveals that the world has a spirit. Like the spirit in man, this spirit is also not a separate being. But this usage of “spirit” is slightly different. Rather than being the center of reason, the spirit of the world is the world's attitude, its inclination, tendency, atmosphere, mood, or frame of mind. The spirit of the world is also the motivating impulse of the culture, which can manifest in many ways, but it will always be anti-God (see Romans 8:7).

Paul describes this spirit in Ephesians 2:2-3, saying that we “once walked according to the course of this world.” The course, or way, of the world is the invisible and immaterial motivating impulse at work in the sons of disobedience. The spirit of the world moves people whom God has not redeemed to conduct themselves in lust, fulfilling the desires of their flesh and mind, putting themselves under the wrath of God. The spirit of the world sweeps mankind along a spiritual channel to keep them in opposition to their Creator.

While spirit cannot be seen, we can see the effects of spirit. It is not a coincidence that the word for “spirit,” pneuma, can also be translated as “wind” or “breath”—just as Job 32:8, quoted above, parallels the spirit in man to “the breath of the Almighty.” We cannot see the moving air molecules in wind, but we can observe leaves and branches being moved and know that wind is present. In the dry areas of the West, tumbleweeds roll along and dust-devils form, spin, and disintegrate, revealing that the wind is at work.

In the same way, we cannot see spirit, but we can see the actions and attitudes of mankind, and thus find evidence of the spirit that is working. The spirit of the world influences and stirs up the spirit in man, inducing the individual to think and feel in a certain way, and ultimately, to act.

Returning to I Corinthians 2:12, Paul mentions a spirit that we have received. This is in addition to the spirit in man, with which we were born, and in opposition to the spirit of the world. This additional spirit is from, and of, God. We can conclude that, like mankind, God also has a Spirit. God has a mind, one of unfathomable depth, capability, and intelligence. But more than simply an overwhelming intellect, God's Spirit includes His attitude, principles, thoughts, feelings, temperament, character, disposition, and will. To put it simply, God's Spirit is the essence of His incredible mind, and it is the new motivating principle that God's children receive.

I Corinthians 2:16 shows that God's Spirit is not another supernatural being. It begins with a quotation of Isaiah 40:13 (“who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”), but then Paul follows up with, “But we have the mind of Christ.” This is Paul's explanation of the spirit we have received. It is a principle, a disposition, a motivating influence that comes from God Himself. “Spirit,” “heart,” and “mind,” while not identical, are used interchangeably. It is the mind of Christ that we have received that allows us to know the things of God, to know what God has prepared for us, and to know the things that have been given to us. Thus, Paul equates the Spirit of God to the mind of Christ. The essence of His mind enhances our minds, giving us spiritual understanding.

The Father and the Son are one, not in the sense of being the same Person, but in the sense of being perfectly united in will, thought, and intent. They are of the same mind, the same heart—the same spirit. It is that Spirit that we receive when we are baptized and have hands laid on us. As a result, we can begin to understand the things of God, which the world cannot understand. Without God's intervention, mankind is only influenced by the spirit of the world, which has its source in “the prince of the power of the air.”

Because God is holy, His Spirit is also holy. God has many facets and qualities, yet the four living creatures in Revelation 4:8 praise Him day and night for being “holy, holy, holy.” The fact that they say “holy” three times does not mean that He is three persons. It means His holiness is superlative—it is the very highest possible. Our holy God's Spirit, the essence of His perfect mind, is also holy. That holiness is not merely an attribute, but it is also what God's Spirit will incline His people toward: holiness in conduct, in attitude, in speech, in every facet of living. God says, “Be holy, for I am holy,” and His Spirit will move us toward His holiness, if we cooperate.

David C. Grabbe
What Is the Holy Spirit?


 

1 Corinthians 2:10

The "us" are the members of the Corinthian church, and in its broad application the "us" is also those of us who have the Spirit of God, because Romans 8 says that those who have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them are the children of God.

So the revelation of God, the Word of God, has been revealed to God's children through His Spirit, "for the spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God." God has revealed the mystery to us by His Spirit so that we can understand the things of God with the same clarity that we understand human things.

Paul uses the word "reveal." The English word comes to us out of the Latin, and it is used here to translate a Greek word that means "to uncover." Webster's first definition of "reveal" is quite interesting: "to make known through divine inspiration." It also means "to open to view" or "to make something secret or hidden publicly or generally known."

This is what I Corinthians 2:10 says: "God has made them known to us." We could say God has disclosed, divulged, or told these things to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 2:10-12

We see three things here:

1. There is a spirit in man that enables him to understand physical things.

2. God reveals to man through His Spirit, which enables man to penetrate the deep, spiritual things of God.

3. We have received the Spirit that is from God, and there is a spirit of this world.

Here, Paul shows at least three different spirits: the spirit in man, the Spirit of God, and the spirit of this world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 3)


 

1 Corinthians 2:10-11

There is a human spirit in which all of mankind shares. It is what, more than any other component of what we are, that enables us to be in God's image, and yet each person is a different personality. We are distinct from each other so that each person's spirit is also distinct. It is his own. Your spirit is yours, and my spirit is mine.

My spirit projects John Ritenbaugh. It projects my personality, my mind, my attitudes, my knowledge, my understanding, my wisdom, and my discernment - things that have come to me as a result of my experiences. Yours is exactly the same way.

What spirit goes back to God when we die? Is the spirit that goes back to God after your death different from the one that goes back to God from me when I die? Of course it is. Mine is mine, and yours is yours. In reference to God, His Spirit is Holy Spirit, but it is uniquely His. Are not He and the Son distinct from one another? They are.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 3)


 

1 Corinthians 2:10

The receipt of this power to search and investigate also comes with strings attached. As the apostle Peter says, the Holy Spirit is "given to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32).

David F. Maas
Why Does God Keep Secrets?


 

1 Corinthians 3:23

The Holy Spirit is again left out. We do not belong to "him." We belong to the Two who are mentioned, Christ and God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

1 Corinthians 10:13

Demons can entice action and attitudes that will take us into sin, but God is holy. He never plays dirty; everything He does is fair. His actions are just, pure, right, and done in love. He does not tempt people to sin. If a person feels as if he is caught between conflicting pressures, impulses, and one of them is drawing him toward sin, it is certainly not from God. This is why John says what he does in I John 4:1-6. God's Spirit in us gives us the power to recognize truth, so we follow it.

A trial could come upon us not necessarily because of anything that we did or because something is wrong with us, but one could come upon us from this world or from Satan. God promises flat out He will never allow us to be tempted above what we are able to handle, and that He will always provide a way of escape (I Corinthians 10:13). We are not without resources. We can recognize truth, and the trials that we fall into can and will be overcome with His help.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 3)


 

1 Corinthians 11:3

The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in the chain of command as a personality. It is not the head over anything.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

1 Corinthians 12:7-11

How does the manifestation of God's Spirit work? God gives His Spirit to a person, and out of his mouth flow words of wisdom. The Spirit itself is not part of these words of wisdom, but the Spirit is working with the speaker's mind, and the person himself speaks the words. Nevertheless, who gets the credit? God—by working through His Spirit!

We do not see the Spirit itself flowing into the churches, guiding and directing individuals. What we see are the works that the Spirit produces when it flows into individuals who are receptive to it through faith. We see things such as sermons given and articles written. We see healings. We see people acting in faith: for instance, allowing themselves to be fired for keeping the Sabbath, but knowing in faith that God will provide. We see people able to use their gift of languages to help others to understand the truth in translating God's message into another language. We see whatever the Spirit inspires people to do for the good of the church, to further people's understanding, and to prepare them for the Kingdom of God.

All of these are manifestations of God's Spirit. Even though the Spirit works in so many different ways, all these works come from one God. It is He who wills them to be manifested in each individual.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

1 Corinthians 12:13

If we are baptized by the Spirit of God, we are a part of that body, and we are responsible to Christ within it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 5)


 

1 Corinthians 15:25-28

Christ's reign will and must continue until every enemy has been conquered, and the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For the rule and authority over all things has been given to Christ by His Father. But in that quotation, "All things are put under Him," it is self-evident that God, who reduced everything to subjection, is not included. When Christ has finally won the battle against all His enemies, then shall the Son acknowledge Himself subject to God the Father, who gave the Son power over all things, that God may be utterly supreme, that He may be everything to everyone. (I Corinthians 15:25-28)

If this quotation does not square with your Bible, do not be alarmed. It is an amplification of these verses pieced together from the Phillips, King James, Taylor, Moffatt, and Norlie translations. The Father is drawing the entire creation into a state where everybody and everything acknowledge Him as God. When this occurs, division, confusion, and warfare will not exist because all, everything, is at one with our Creator.

Our acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, repentance from dead works and receiving of God's Holy Spirit are the first major steps for each of us in seeking to become one with the Father. The next major step is the return of Jesus Christ, when we will inherit the Kingdom of God after the resurrection from the dead. The "all in all" of verse 28 is the very end point of the gospel.

Though I Corinthians 15:28 may appear to be something that happens in the distant future, the process has already begun in us. Understanding this as a reality is vital to our spiritual well-being. If we do not consider it to be real, we may be lured into neglecting our summons to this glorious destiny by letting ourselves follow distractions or grow irresponsible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
All in All


 

1 Corinthians 15:27-28

Where does the Holy Spirit fit into this? As in many other similar verses, it is left out. There is no mention of the Holy Spirit in the transference of power from the Son to the Father. The Holy Spirit is simply bypassed, and the reason is that it is not a personal being and not part of the Godhead. It is the power of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

1 Corinthians 15:45

Quickening in the King James means "life-giving." The reference is to His composition: He was made "a life-giving" Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

Here, the Godhead is mentioned together—the Father and the Son. There is, again, no mention of the Holy Spirit. The apostles spoke for the Father and for the Son, but, evidently, not for the Holy Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

2 Corinthians 3:5-9

The subject here is not the doing away with laws but the change in administration of existing laws. Remember that Jesus said not one jot or tittle will pass from the law (Matthew 5:18). In Hebrews 8:10, where the context is the Covenant, the New Covenant is shown to have laws, which will be written in our hearts.

Paul is making a comparison, showing the superiority of the ministry's responsibility under the New Covenant to the priesthood's responsibility under the Old. He compares ink with spirit, stone with flesh, letter with spirit (or intent), and death with life.

The "ministration of death" was Israel's civil administration for punishing violations of civil law. The laws were not done away, but the Old Covenant administration and enforcement of the law was set aside because the church does not have civil authority. It is that simple.

The church does not have civil authority over the state. However, the ministry has the opportunity to play a large part in the ministering of life to those God calls—through teaching and administering God's Word. Thus, the letter killed because the Old Covenant could not provide for life. Words—even of divine origin—cannot produce life. A vitalizing Spirit must be present to charge the words with transforming power.

Under the Old Covenant, God did not promise His Holy Spirit, forgiveness of sin, access into His presence, or eternal life. Jesus raised the civil law from its merely carnal application to the nation of Israel to its spiritual application to the church, which would be drawn from all of mankind, including, of course, the Gentiles.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 18)


 

2 Corinthians 3:17

Acts 2 records the event of God's pouring out of His Spirit on the church, as well as the accompanying manifestations that testified dramatically that something extraordinary was taking place. Subsequently, the Holy Spirit is a significant theme throughout the rest of Acts, as the gospel was preached and more people were called into the church. The epistles of Paul, Peter, and John likewise feature the Holy Spirit frequently. Yet, for all that is written about it, the Holy Spirit is still commonly misunderstood. Many theologians claim to know what the Holy Spirit is, yet they simultaneously profess it to be an incomprehensible mystery!

Part of the difficulty in understanding God's Spirit comes from the common challenges that arise whenever a text is translated from one language, with all of its nuances, into another. In this case, the Greek word translated as “spirit” is pneuma. E.W. Bullinger, in The Companion Bible, catalogs fourteen different meanings or usages of that one Greek word. It should not be surprising, then, that when Greek texts are concisely translated into English, some of what is intended by pneuma can become clouded.

Further confusion has been introduced by the so-called “early church fathers,” whose writings are often looked to for guidance in understanding early Christian doctrine. They may have been early on the scene, yet they were also influenced by Greek philosophy, Plato in particular. Plato's worldview—one not based on the Bible—promoted a triune godhead or a single god that mysteriously expresses itself in three different persons or personalities. Plato himself developed this view from much older trinities found in the Babylonian mystery religions, as well as Egyptian beliefs.

One of the rarer usages of the word pneuma is “a spirit being,” thus it was not a great leap for early scholars—looking through a lens of pagan concepts—to regard the Holy Spirit as a third God-Being. Because those involved were already inclined to think in terms of a god consisting of three persons, they were able to find “evidence” of such an idea in the Scriptures.

It has been said that heresy crawls in its first generation, it walks in the second, and then it runs. Once the notion of the Holy Spirit being a third person got its start, it walked and then soon sprinted throughout the Western world with such force that now the overwhelming majority of professing Christians take the idea as a given.

It is worth remembering that there is indeed a spirit being striving for equality with the Father and the Son, but that spirit—Satan the Devil—is anything but holy (Isaiah 14:13-14). He has, though, created a place for himself in the minds of millions by guiding Catholic and Protestant doctrine to include a mysterious third spirit being within a three-part godhead, just as the ancient pagan religions held. Yet, that construct is nowhere found in the Hebrew Scriptures, nor is it unambiguously seen in the Greek Scriptures. It is a doctrine that must be read into the Greek text, but doing so only creates contradiction and confusion—neither of which are from God (John 10:35; I Corinthians 14:33).

David C. Grabbe
What Is the Holy Spirit?


 

2 Corinthians 4:17

One source, God, produces the commonality that makes us a spiritual Family. He engineered and created it. He is the personality who guides, directs, and accomplishes this unity through His Holy Spirit. All of His teaching, His truth, is being funneled from the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ, and out to the church by means of the Holy Spirit.

We hold a critical position in all of this because we have the power to accept or reject His truth, and the acceptance or rejection of the truth of God determines if we will have greater and better fellowship. We will either become a more unified part of His Family or less. Our choice is the critical factor.

God is faithful. He has done what He has done. He has initiated the contact, making the bridging of the gap possible through Jesus Christ. He has given us the mechanism by which a relationship can be accomplished, and now the critical part is in our hands: yielding to the truth that He gives to us. If we yield, then God's creative efforts in us are not going to be frustrated.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 4)


 

2 Corinthians 5:19

The Father, working in Christ, is reconciling the world to Him, and there is no mention of the Holy Spirit as a personality playing a part in this work. The key is "as a personality." Personalities are named frequently—the Father and the Son—but the Holy Spirit is never mentioned as a personality.

The Holy Spirit does play a part in the reconciliation of the world to God and to Christ—as a power used to energize us and change our minds. But not as a personality!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

2 Corinthians 6:3-6

The apostle Paul tells us to "be kind to one another." Peter says to "add brotherly kindness" to the other godly virtues God is developing in us. Living according to God's instruction, following the example of Christ and aided by the Holy Spirit, we produce the wonderful, spiritual fruit of kindness.

Martin G. Collins
Kindness


 

2 Corinthians 12:19

The apostles had the responsibility of speaking before God the Father with the authority of Christ, but again, the Holy Spirit as a personality is ignored as having no divine authority. Did they not speak before the Holy Spirit, as a personality?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

Galatians 3:2-3

Those who say that Paul's words mean that one does not have to obey God in order to receive His Spirit simply do not understand what he was talking about. They also do not understand the circumstances that the apostle was addressing. The main problem in the churches in Galatia was that people were being taught that they could be justified—have their sins forgiven and be brought into a right relationship with God—by lawkeeping. The people's minds were being turned away from faith in Jesus Christ. Paul was reminding them that the only way anyone can receive forgiveness of sins is through faith in Christ's sacrifice.

To drive his point home, Paul reminds the Galatians that they did not receive God's Holy Spirit by lawkeeping while ignoring faith in the sacrifice of Christ. He points out that, without faith in the sacrifice of Christ, no one can be justified, no one can be forgiven of sins, and no one can be given the gift of God's Holy Spirit.

This does not negate the fact that there are still basically two requirements for receiving God's Spirit, namely, repentance and faith in Christ. Both of these requirements must be met before one can receive the Spirit. Repentance involves turning from sin and turning toward obedience to God's commandments.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Is Obedience Required Before Receiving God's Holy Spirit?


 

Galatians 3:2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:3

The NIV translates it this way: "Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" The word for "foolish" here is the same one used in Galatians 3:1. Paul sounds incredulous that a group of people could be so blind in terms of spiritual understanding, especially after they had had the gospel preached to them and appeared to have fully comprehended it. Paul is saying, in essence, "Is it possible that you have completely stopped thinking?"

Our relationship with God is initiated by Him. He calls us (John 6:44) and causes us to approach Him (Psalm 65:4). Our minds are spiritually opened when we receive His Holy Spirit, and it is only then that we can truly obey God (in the letter and the spirit). The Holy Spirit is the essence of God's mind—His thoughts, motivations, attitudes, principles, mood, frame of mind. When we repent and are baptized, we receive a small measure of the Spirit—of the mind of God. As we grow and mature spiritually, we are growing more into God's image. We are beginning to think like Him. Thus, we are getting more of God's perspective and mindset—God's Spirit.

It is ludicrous to think that our spiritual lives began with God giving us His Spirit, but then we take over the reins and are in control from that point on. Yet this is what Paul is chastising the Galatians for—believing that their works and righteousness would carry them through this life and into the next. This notion completely denies what Christ did for us in sacrificing Himself for us, what God does in allowing Christ's sacrifice to cover our sins, and what God does in making us into the spiritual image of His Son and ultimately bringing our salvation to pass. Similarly, to negate the part the Holy Spirit plays in our life is to negate the owner and source of that Spirit. If we begin trusting in ourselves to bring our own salvation to pass, we are exhibiting the epitome of pride and presumptuousness—and we are also severely deceived.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:12

If we were able to "do" the entire law—in the letter and the spirit—we could then "live" by that means. Paul shows that it does not require faith to keep the law in the letter—anybody can compare an action against a list of dos and don'ts and see if the action is allowed. It requires much more to keep the law in the spirit perfectly. It requires a full measure of God's Spirit working within the person. But simply to abide by a law does not require any faith in a Savior, so if this life were just about strictly adhering to a list of requirements in their letter, Christ would have died in vain.

Romans 8:7 says that the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God—that is, it will not submit itself to God's law. But there is ample evidence that unconverted man can live according to regulations in a Pharisaic manner. Romans 7:14 adds more to the equation by showing that God's law is a spiritual law—there is an intent behind it, as well as the most direct application. This was what Christ was endeavoring to show in Matthew 5:20-48. So for us to be justified before God, we would have to completely fulfill the law—live according to the letter and the spirit. But that is a logical impossibility without means of the Holy Spirit.

This is why justification by faith is a necessity: We need God's Spirit to fulfill this spiritual law, but God will not give His Spirit to someone who does not willingly submit to Him and obey Him. This is why God would not allow Adam and Eve access to the Tree of Life after they had sinned, because He knew that their natures had become corrupt, and He was not willing that a corrupt being be given His Spirit—His power. A paradox results, and the only way out of the deadlock is for God to bring a person into alignment with Him by substituting the perfect life of His Son for ours in a legal action. Once that justification has taken place, then a measure of His Spirit can be given, and the person can begin to keep His law in both the letter and the intent.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:27-29

In making the New Covenant—once we have proceeded through the process of repentance and baptism and have received God's Spirit, which baptizes us into Christ—we are then Abraham's children. We become Abraham's descendants regardless of race or national origin. We become, therefore, part of the one Family into which God is drawing all of mankind, and we become heirs of the promises made to Abraham as part of the Abrahamic Covenant. All the Old Covenant did was bridge the gap from the time the Israelites were released from their bondage until the promised Seed came.

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


 

Galatians 4:6

Because we have been adopted, because God has redeemed us from our former father/owner, He gave us a measure of the same Spirit—that vital, animating essence that He and the Son share (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit links our mind to God's (Romans 8:16; I Corinthians 2:10-16) and allows us to begin to see things as He sees them—to discern spiritually.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 5:17

Sometimes we seem to consist of a whole clamorous mob of desires, like week-old kittens, blind of eye with mouths wide open, mewing to be satisfied. It is as if two voices are in us, arguing, "You shall, you shall not. You ought, you ought not." Does not God want us to set a will above these appetites that cannot be bribed, a reason that cannot be deceived, and a conscience that will be true to God and His standards? We must either control ourselves using the courage, power, and love of God's Spirit, or we will fall to pieces.

Adam and Eve established the pattern for mankind in the Garden of Eden. All of us have followed it, and then, conscience-smitten, we rankle under feelings of weakness. They were tempted by the subtle persuasions of Satan and the appeals of their own appetites for forbidden fruit that looked so good. To this they succumbed, and they sinned, bringing upon themselves the death penalty and much more evil besides. What is the use of appealing to men who cannot govern themselves, whose very disease is that they cannot, whose conscience cries out often both before and after they have done wrong, "Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" It is useless to tell a king whose subjects have overthrown him to rule his kingdom. His kingdom is in full revolt, and he has no soldiers behind him. He is a monarch with no power.

A certain Bishop Butler said, "If conscience had power, as it has authority, it would govern the world." Authority without power is nothing but vanity. Conscience has the authority to guide or accuse, but what good is it if the will is so enfeebled that the passions and desires get the bit between their teeth, trample the conscience, and gallop headlong to the inevitable collision with the ditch?

The solution to this lies in our relationship with Christ:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

This is the only thing that will give us complete self-control, and it will not fail.

In Luke 11:13, Jesus makes this wonderful promise of strength to those who trust Him:

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!

Trust Jesus Christ, and ask Him to govern. Ask Him for more of God's Holy Spirit, and He will help you to control yourself. Remember, II Timothy 1:7 says this is a major reason that He gives us His Spirit. He will not fail in what He has promised because the request fits perfectly into God's purpose of creating sons in His image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control


 

Galatians 5:22-24

These qualities are aspects of God's character that we all need to have and use:

Love: Outgoing concern for others. True concern for all of mankind. Not being self-centered. Doing for others what is right, despite their character, appearance, social status, etc. (I Corinthians 13).

Joy: Related to happiness, only happiness requires right circumstances where joy does not. Jesus Christ felt joy though He faced heavy trials (Hebrews 12:2). We should all be joyful having been called by God.

Peace: Peace of mind and peace with God (Philippians 4:6-7).

Longsuffering: Bearing with others who are working out their salvation. Being slow to anger (Romans 15:1; Luke 21:19).

Kindness: Behaving toward others kindly, as God has behaved toward us (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Goodness: Generosity of spirit that springs from imitating Jesus Christ (Psalm 33:4-5).

Faithfulness: Being reliable. This describes a person who is trustworthy and will always stand up for God's way. We can count on, and should work at imitating, the faithfulness of God (Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 13:5).

Gentleness: Considerate and tactful in conduct and correction. Never angry at the wrong time (Matthew 5:22-24; Ephesians 4:26).

Self-Control: Discipline which gives us victory over the wrong pulls of our mind and body (I John 2:15-17).

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Time for Self-Evaluation


 

Galatians 5:22-23

These qualities or virtues are produced by the action of the Holy Spirit in us. They grow in a person who, by faith, obeys God's Word through the guidance and power of God's Spirit. Clearly, elements of this equation must be used so that the right fruit is produced—God's Word, His Spirit, faith, and obedience to God's Word. These, along with some others, produce the major fruits of righteousness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit


 

Galatians 5:22-23

Note that Paul writes "fruit" in the singular, indicating that we should understand that the fruit has a number of components, but at the same time, all of them will be produced within each person the Spirit leads. This does not mean that each component will be in exactly equal proportions like so many segments of an orange. Nor does it give any indication of its quantity or quality in each person. However, it ought to encourage us to know that some part of each of them will be produced.

Paul pointedly draws attention to the source of the fruit as being "of the Spirit" to make us fully aware that these qualities do not flow from our natures. The vices or "works of the flesh" listed in Galatians 5:19-21 are the product of our human heart. But the spiritual fruit is produced by means of a "foreign" influence, the agency of the Holy Spirit. Even after conversion, our heart is not the source of this spiritual fruit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit


 

Galatians 5:22

Since love is a fruit, a product, of God's Holy Spirit, could its companion, joy, be produced in us differently? Like love, joy is not the product of the natural mind but the product of the supernatural Holy Spirit of God. If it is not a product of the natural mind, then pursuing it apart from the guidance of the Holy Spirit will produce only very limited and pale imitations of what God experiences by nature and greatly desires to be in us.

David writes, "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11). It is interesting to compare our joy with God's continual joy and simultaneously think of what destroys joy for us. As long as we are human, joy diminishes and eventually ends. We realize this even as we experience it. I have owned several new automobiles. Each time I took a new one home, I received it with joy as if I had a new toy. But in each case I eventually acquired the same attitude toward the new car as I formerly had toward the old one. The joy was gone, and the car was again nothing more than a tool to convey me from one place to another.

No matter how secure the sources of our joy seem, we know joy does not last long. We may die; a mate or a friend who brings us joy may die; good health ceases; comforts vanish; social tragedies and natural disasters destroy loved things, properties depreciate and wear out; and our senses become dull so that we cannot see, hear, taste, feel, or smell as we once did (II Samuel 19:31-35).

The God who created everything is aware of all the human tragedies that have unfolded before His eyes over the past 6,000 years, and He still finds cause to be joyful. Our great God does not find joy in the tragedies themselves. His Word records times when He expressed regret, sorrow, or anger over the conduct of mankind, and yet He still experiences a vibrant, lasting joy. This seems to imply that His joy generally wells from different sources than mankind's. It is this joy we need to seek.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy


 

Galatians 5:22

The Greek and Hebrew definitions of the words translated as "joy" and its synonyms are virtually the same as their English counterparts, except for one whose specific definition is not "joy" but "blessed." This word, the Greek makarios, reveals much about some of the major sources of biblical joy. It frequently appears as the first word in the well-known Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, as in Matthew 5:3: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Strong's defines this word as "supremely blessed; by extension fortunate, well off, blessed, happy." The King James version translates it as "happy" five times. In a marginal reference, E.W. Bullinger in the Companion Bible says the word means "happy," and J.B. Phillips translates it as such in his New Testament in Modern English.

Spiros Zodhiates' Complete Word Study Dictionary (p. 937) gives a more comprehensive definition:

Blessed, possessing the favor of God, that state of being marked by fullness from God. It indicates the state of the believer in Christ, . . . said of one who becomes a partaker of God's nature through faith in Christ. The believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit because of Christ and as a result should be fully satisfied no matter the circumstances. Makarios differs from the word "happy" in that the person is happy who has good luck (from the root hap meaning luck as a favorable circumstance). To be makarios, blessed, is equivalent to having God's kingdom within one's heart. Aristotle contrasts makarios to endees, the needy one. Makarios is the one who is in the world yet independent of the world. His satisfaction comes from God and not from favorable circumstances.

The Amplified Bible translates Matthew 5:3 as:

Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Verse 5 reads, "Blessed (happy, blithesome, joyous, spiritually prosperous) . . ." and verse 9, "Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous). . . ."

It appears that for us to experience biblical joy, the fruit of God's Spirit, we need godly inner qualities that we do not possess by nature. As with love—the love that springs from us by nature that is but a pale reflection of God's love—so also is it with joy. Until we come to the point where by faith we are supremely confident of God's presence in our life—of His providence toward us in the past, present, and future—we will not experience the enduring fullness of satisfaction God wants us to have.

A Christian's joy can be just as short-lived as anyone's in the world if we are seeking it for itself as the world does. Biblical joy is a fruit, a byproduct, an additional blessing, not the end in itself. It flows into and grows within the person whose life and energies are not focused merely on being "joyful." The lives of those in this world who are so zealously chasing after it prove this point. If they are still chasing it, they must not yet have it. God's Word also substantiates this.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy


 

Galatians 5:22

Joy that is a fruit of God's Spirit has its roots in the realization of God's purpose and its outworking that transforms us into His image. Biblical joy begins when God calls, and we hear the gospel, understand, and believe it.

Biblical joy is bound up in our relationship with Him and our understanding of what is happening to our minds. We walk to the beat of a different drummer than this world because we understand God's overall purpose. We know we have been forgiven and have a place in His purpose because we now have His Spirit. No more life-changing experience can ever happen to a human than when God calls and understanding dawns. It forever alters our perspective on life itself and on the things we formerly trusted to give us satisfaction.

Henceforth our joys must arise from yielding to fulfill God's great creative purpose and seeing it accomplished. This is why we were born! Because of this, we can look forward to hearing Him say:

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. (Matthew 25:21)

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy


 

Galatians 5:22

It is not difficult to trace the source of biblical patience in God's children. I Corinthians 13:4 states, "Love suffers long and is kind." Patience is directly associated with love and hope. In the "love chapter," Paul lists patience first among love's works (I Corinthians 13:4). Romans 5:5 adds that "the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit."

This makes it evident that God's patience stands behind His children's patience as its source and pattern and as a link in a chain. Because the Bible lists it with the fruit of the Spirit, it is less a virtue achieved than a gift received. It comes with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we reproduce it.

However, since we are beings of free choice, we are still obligated to God to activate it, exercise it, and use it as a witness that God lives in us. To this end, Paul writes,

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Colossians 3:12-13)

"Put on" is literally a dressing term. Used as an idiom, it can also mean to assume the office, manner, character, disposition, or perspective of another. We must "put on" Christ, meaning we must conduct our lives as closely to the way He would were He in our position. We are to practice His way of life because it is eternal life—the way God lives His life. It will help prepare us for His Kingdom, and it enables us to glorify Him here and now.

Patience is a vital part of the process that enables God to work over a long span of time, if needed, to produce in us other important aspects of His image so that we "may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." God is the Source and His Spirit the means of this very valuable fruit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

Galatians 5:22

The second of the three fruits most directly associated with personal, human relationships is kindness. The translators of the King James Version render this Greek word as "gentleness." Even though gentleness is an aspect of being kind, this choice does not adequately describe the qualities the original word implies.

When Paul illustrated how love acts, patience leaped into his mind first: "Love suffers long" (I Corinthians 13:4). Immediately following, he writes, "and is kind," giving the impression that love and kindness belong together to such an extent that we can conclude that without kindness no act is truly done in love!

Patience is love forbearing. Patience suggests self-restraint under the pressure of provocation, especially undeserved provocation. Kindness, though, implies a more active expression of love toward God and fellow man. Both patience and kindness are bound in the one quality—love. Those who provoke us may never notice patient love, but patient love may reveal itself in acts of kindness so that even our provokers are positively impressed. Kindness is such a rare quality these days that when someone is kind, it has a good chance of making the news!

The love Paul expounds in I Corinthians 13 is the love of God, which found its perfectly balanced expression in Jesus Christ. His love was not only contemplative but also outgoing. Because of His love, He went about doing acts of kindness, healing, and casting out demons (Acts 10:38). The truth He preached also expressed His love. His love was not merely congeniality; it was patient, enduring, and ethical.

In most cases, kindness is not beyond any of us because it usually costs no money. It may take the sacrifice of time and energy. It may require the discipline to be thoughtful of others' needs and to make the effort to act. How much is required to cultivate smiling rather than frowning? to pay a visit? to say a word of encouragement or comfort? to show friendliness by warmly and sincerely shaking hands?

The consequences of kindness are incalculable, for such a spirit can ripple out to touch the lives of those far removed from the original act. Kindness sows the seeds that can only bear good fruit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness


 

Galatians 5:22

Chrestotes in Greek and hesed in Hebrew are most frequently translated into the English word "kindness." Chrestotes, according to The Complete Word Study Dictionary by Spiros Zodhiates, p. 1482, means

benignity, kindness, usefulness. It often occurs with philanthropy; forbearance, and is the opposite of severity or cutting something short and quickly. . . . Chrestotes is translated "good," "kindness," "gentleness." It is the grace which pervades the whole nature, mellowing all which would be harsh and austere. . . . The word is descriptive of one's disposition and does not necessarily entail acts of goodness.

William Barclay, in The Daily Bible Study Series on Galatians 5:22, p. 51, adds that the Rheims Version translates chrestotes in II Corinthians 6:6 as "sweetness"; that Christ describes His yoke in Matthew 11:30 as chrestos, meaning that it does not chafe; and that the Greeks would describe wine as chrestos, that is, mellow. With these illustrations, it becomes clear that this word emphasizes the spirit in which an act is done.

Hesed is more complex, an especially rich word that is at times translated as "lovingkindness," "mercy," "love," "grace," and even "loyalty" and "devotion" in some modern versions. Some modern critics argue that the word suggests loyalty, something given because of obligation, because the writers sometimes use it in a context with a covenant relationship, such as God's covenant with Israel or a marriage.

Other scholars review the same material and agree that relationships are present (love almost necessitates a subject-object relation), but assert that hesed (love, mercy, kindness, etc.) is freely given. Freedom of decision to give is essential. The help given by the person showing mercy or kindness is done freely. This seems to be the correct usage because the other can reduce love, mercy, and kindness to a merely obligatory, mechanical, legal act rather than an act of free-moral agency of the heart.

A Pharisee could meet the legal demands of a covenant obligation, but the New Covenant requires a spirit considerably higher (Matthew 5:20). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1, p. 306, quotes Hebrew scholar Dom Rembert Sorg as writing that hesed is "really the Old Testament reflex [reflected image, likeness, or reproduction] of 'God is love.'"

God's love is hardly just obligatory, given all the expressions of feeling for Israel and the church accounted to Him in the Scriptures. Thus these two words, rich in meaning and usage, clearly reveal that kindness is an active quality God greatly desires His children to exhibit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness


 

Galatians 5:22

Good is a very versatile word with many uses in everyday English. It is used as a noun, adjective, and adverb and is the root of the word "goodness." The common idea in almost all of its uses is that it suggests a desirable quality, something commendable, reliable, welcome, enjoyable, beneficent, kind, noble, admirable, propitious, exemplary, and very much welcome. In the word "goodness," the inner qualities of virtue, excellence of character, morality, and attitude that we see in a person's behavior come to the fore.

The Hebrew and Greek uses are similar, but the Hebrew, like the English, has a broader application. The Greek word, agathosune, at first glance seems very similar to chrestotes ("kindness"). However, closer examination of its use in the Scriptures reveals a word indicating zealous activity in doing good. Kindness or gentleness (chrestotes) is more passive.

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible commentary on Galatians says of these two words:

It [agathosune] is the widest word for goodness; it is defined as "virtue equipped at every point." What is the difference? Agathosune might, and could, rebuke and discipline; chrestotes can only help. Trench says that Jesus showed agathosune when He cleansed the Temple and drove out those who were making it a bazaar; but He showed chrestotes when He was kind to the sinning woman who anointed His feet. The Christian needs that goodness which at the same time can be kind and strong. (p. 51)

Agathosune is therefore active—even aggressive—goodness. The English word "goodness" includes many pleasing qualities whereas the Greek word indicates one particular quality. It is more than an excellence of character; it is character energized, expressing itself in active good. Agathosune is goodness, but it does not spare sharpness and rebuke to produce good in others. Thus God can correct, sometimes very severely, and it is goodness in action. Thus parents can correct their child, and it is good because it helps produce a responsible adult.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness


 

Galatians 5:22

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 implication 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


 

Galatians 5:23

Contrary to popular belief, the meek (gentle, NKJV) do not take everything "lying down." Notice Moses, who was the meekest man of his time. He did not hesitate to order the execution of about three thousand of the idolaters who worshipped the Golden Calf while he was with God on the mountain (Exodus 32:25-28). Against evil this meek man was as stern as steel. How a meek man reacts depends upon what he discerns God's will is for him within the circumstance. Because the meek man sets his mind on God's purpose and not his own comfort, ambition, or reputation, he will offer implacable resistance to evil in defense of God yet react with patience, kindness, and gentleness when others attack him.

Jesus set a clear example of this pattern of reaction too. He made a whip of rope, and with stern and vehement energy, overturned the tables and drove the livestock, their sellers, and moneychangers from the Temple compound because they had turned God's house into a common bazaar by their sacrilege. With simple, forthright, firm, instructive answers and incisive questions, He met the twisted, intellectual, carnal reasoning of the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees. Yet as Matthew 12:19-20 reads, "He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench." Peter adds:

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. (I Peter 2:21-23)

A meek person will feel the wrong done against him and feel it bitterly. But because he is not thinking of himself, his meekness does not allow his spirit to give vent to a hateful, savage, and vindictive anger that seeks to "get even." He will instead be full of pity for the damaged character, attitudes, and blindness of the perpetrator. From the stake Jesus uttered, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). This virtue is a strong bulwark against self-righteousness and intolerant and critical judgment of others. Yet neither does it excuse or condone sin. Rather, a meek person understands it more clearly, thus his judgment is tempered, avoiding reacting more harshly than is necessary.

Paul writes in Titus 3:1-2, "Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility [meekness, KJV] to all men." The possibility of conflict is inherent where the subject includes our relationship with governments; it is quite easy to have conflict with those in authority over us. Some in positions of authority take pleasure in wielding their power, as Jesus notes in Matthew 20:25: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them."

On the flip side are those under authority, and this is where Paul's main emphasis is in Titus 3. Humans, by nature, tend to be very sensitive, critical, and harsh in their judgments of those over them. It frequently results in slanderous attacks and quarrels against those in authority—sometimes even in revolutions. Paul advises us to be non-belligerent, considerate, unassertive, and meek. If the fruit of meekness has been produced in either or both parties, peace and unity are more possible because a major tool is in place to allow both to perform their responsibilities within the relationship correctly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Meekness


 

Galatians 5:23

Meekness (gentleness, NKJV) is the by-product of a number of elements, not the least of which are deep, thorough humility and an awareness of the seriousness of what our past conduct produced, especially toward Jesus Christ. These things have tamed the beast, broken our self-will, and made our minds receptive to the pure influences of God's Spirit. This is not natural but supernatural, the product of God's grace toward us and His Spirit working and growing in us. It very deeply, sometimes radically, alters our perspective of God, His purpose, the trials of life, the self, and other people.

This is very important regarding trials because meekness is the opposite of self-will toward God and of ill-will toward men. In his commentary on Matthew 5:5, Matthew Henry writes, "The meek are those who quietly submit themselves to God, to his word and to his rod, who follow His directions, and comply with His designs, and are gentle towards all men" (p. 1629).

Meekness is the fruit of God by His Spirit working in us. Godly sorrow softens our stiff-necked rebellion and our hearts so that we are made receptive to the workings of the Creator to produce His image in us. Therefore meekness, along with the qualities already mentioned, also includes our becoming pliable, malleable, submissive, and teachable. A New Testament term for this condition might be "childlike."

God disciplines every son He loves (Hebrews 12:6), and sometimes His disciplines are very difficult to bear. We have passionate drives within us to flee from them, or at the very least, to grumble and murmur under their burden. But the meek will not do this. They will endure the privation, embarrassment, pain, loss, ignorance, or persecution with quiet patience because they know that God is sovereign over all and He is working in their lives.

Aaron's response to God's execution of his two sons is an example:

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.'" So Aaron held his peace. (Leviticus 10:1-3)

This was a shocking, bitter pill to swallow, but Aaron took it properly, meekly. He was growing. In Psalm 39:9, David refers to a difficult situation he was experiencing, leaving us this example: "I was mute, I did not open my mouth, because it was You who did it."

The supreme example of this is Jesus Christ, who endured horrific trials though He was the Son of God's love. John 18:11 says, "Then Jesus said to Peter, 'Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?'" Acts 8:32 contains more insight on Christ's meek reaction: "He was led [not dragged] as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so He opened not His mouth." He was the very King of meekness.

Meekness enables a person to bear patiently those insults and injuries he receives at the hand of others. It makes him ready to accept instruction from the least of the saints. It allows him to endure provocation without being inflamed by it. He remains cool when others become heated. Meek people seek no private revenge; they leave that to God's sense of justice while they seek to remain true in their calling and meet God's standards.

The spirit of meekness enables its possessor to squeeze great enjoyment from his earthly portion, be it small or great. Delivered from a greedy and grasping disposition, he is satisfied with what he has. Contentment of mind is one of the fruits of meekness. The haughty and covetous do not inherit the earth. As Psalm 37:16 says, "A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Meekness


 

Galatians 5:23

In Galatians 5:23, "self-control" (temperance, KJV) is the translation of the Greek word enkrateia, which means "possessing power, strong, having mastery or possession of, continent, self-controlled" (Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, "Galatians," p. 160). Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament adds that it means "holding in hand the passions and desires" (vol. IV, p. 168). The word thus refers to the mastery of one's desires and impulses, and does not in itself refer to the control of any specific desire or impulse. If a particular desire or impulse is meant, the context will indicate it.

Self-control is comprehensive in practical application to life, but the Bible does not use the word extensively. It is implied, however, in many exhortations to obedience, submission, and sinless living. The noun form is used only three times, the verb form twice (I Corinthians 7:9; 9:25), and the adjective form once (Titus 1:8). The negative form of the adjective is used three times. In II Timothy 3:3, it is translated "without self-control [incontinent, KJV]"; in Matthew 23:25, "self-indulgent [excess, KJV]"; and in I Corinthians 7:5, "lack of self-control [incontinency, KJV]."

Another Greek word, nephalios, has the same general meaning, but it generally covers a more specific area of self-control. It is often translated as "temperate" or "sober." Even though its root condemns self-indulgence in all forms, the Bible's writers use it to refer to avoiding drunkenness.

Despite self-control's obvious importance, we should not limit our understanding of these words to merely the stringent discipline of the individual's passions and appetites. These words also include the notions of having good sense, sober wisdom, moderation, and soundness of mind as contrasted to insanity.

We see a good example of self-control implied in Proverbs 25:28: "Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls." No specific Hebrew word in this sentence means "self-control," but "rule" certainly implies it. In its comments on this verse, the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible states:

The picture is that of a city whose walls have been so nearly destroyed as to be without defense against an enemy; so is the man who has no restraint over his spirit, the source of man's passionate energies. He has no defense against anger, lust, and the other unbridled emotions that destroy the personality. (vol. 4, p. 267)

Proverbs 16:32 shows a more positive side of self-control: "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." Here Solomon uses an entirely different word for "rule," but the sense of self-control remains. A comparison of the two proverbs reveals the great importance of self-control as both an offensive and defensive attribute.

Undoubtedly, self-denial, self-sacrifice, and self-control are inextricably linked in Christian life; each is part of our duty to God. Yet human nature exerts a persistent and sometimes very strong force away from God, as Romans 8:7 clearly shows: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." It is this force that each Christian must overcome. Controlling ourselves, denying human nature its impulse to satisfy its desire, and even sacrificing ourselves are necessary if we are to stop sinning as a way of life. When we add the concepts of self-denial and self-sacrifice to our understanding of self-control, we can see more easily how large a role self-control plays in the Bible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control


 

Ephesians 1:14

The word translated guarantee ("earnest," KJV) in reference to the Holy Spirit means "a pledge," "a security that more will follow." In this sense, "firstfruits" and "guarantee/earnest" are virtually interchangeable (cf. Romans 8:23). What is more, they define matters more clearly: The receipt of the earnest of the Spirit creates what God calls "the firstfruits." Since Pentecost in AD 31 when God performed those marvelous works (Acts 2), the firstfruits are God's peculiar or special possession who have been purchased and are being transformed to glorify Him to the utmost. The firstfruits are the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), the church of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Our Uniqueness and Time


 

Ephesians 1:22-23

Is not the church Christ's Body? Can the church be in different organizations?

The answer is found in Ephesians 1:22-23. "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church [ekklesia], which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."

In his discussion of these verses in Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Kenneth S. Wuest writes, "The Church [ekklesia] is described as that 'which is His body.' The word 'which' is hetis 'which is of such a nature as,' and has a qualitative nature to it." The nature of ekklesia in this context comes from the association with its head, Jesus Christ.

Of the word "body," soma, Expositor's says:

The word soma, which passes readily from its literal meaning [the human body] into the figurative sense of a society, a number of men constituting a social or ethical union, . . . is frequently applied in the N.T. epistles to the Church, . . . as the mystical body of Christ, the fellowship of believers regarded as an organic [living] spiritual unity in a living relation to Christ, subject to Him, animated by Him, and having His power operating in it. The relation between Christ and the Church, therefore, is not an external relation. . . . (vol. 11, "Ephesians and Colossians," p. 56, emphasis ours)

In other words, it is not bound by human convention. It is not bound by corporate laws that men establish, for Christ is in the ekklesia wherever its members may be.

Continuing from Wuest's:

The relation between Christ and the Church, therefore, is not an external relation, or one simply of Superior and inferior, Sovereign and subject, but one of life and incorporation [within Him]. The Church is not merely an institution ruled by Him as President, a Kingdom in which He is the Supreme Authority, or a vast company of men in moral sympathy with Him, but a Society which is in vital connection with Him, having the source of its life in Him, sustained and directed by His power, the instrument also by which He works. (ibid., pp. 56-57)

This is the usage of ekklesia in the New Testament. It is a mystical body with no external relations. It is something that is internal; it is something mental; it is something of the spirit. It is not bound by race, by language, by city or state or nationality. It is not restricted to the earth or to time.

The word mystical means "having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses [an external relation, sensed by the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, touch] nor obvious to the intelligence; involving or having the nature of an individual's direct subjective communion with God" (Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1985, p. 785). The church, the ekklesia, consists of those who have been called out by God, summoned by Him, to receive His Spirit and have direct communion with Him.

Paul makes a similar statement to Ephesians 1:22-23 in I Corinthians 12:12-13.

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one bodywhether Jews or Greeks [transcends national boundaries], whether slaves or free [transcends cultural or social status]and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.

The ekklesia is not a humanly defined corporation, but the mystical body of Christ, having the Spirit of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Ephesians 2:8-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

Ephesians 2:10-18

In verse 15, Paul says that God "create[s] in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace." The apostle defines what these "two" are in verse 11: "Therefore, remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh - who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands. . . ." The two, Gentiles and Israelites, share one Spirit in Christ, "who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us" (verse 14). Whether physically Gentile or Israelite, those who have "put on the new man" have one Spirit, God's Holy Spirit.

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)


 

Ephesians 2:12

Notice two important factors he links to hope in Ephesians 2:12. First, in the time before God called the Ephesian Gentiles into a relationship with Him, they were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise."

The commonwealth of Israel could be either the nation or the church because under the Old Covenant ancient Israel established a relationship with God, received a small measure of His promises, and possessed the hope of the Messiah. However, the primary meaning here is the church; those who have made the New Covenant with God are the Israel of God and a holy nation (Galatians 6:16; I Peter 2:9). The New Covenant contains God's confirmed promises—confirmed in the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, Christ Jesus.

Being part of ancient Israel under the Old Covenant did not give a person access to many promises that would have given him reason to hope. The Old Covenant promised no forgiveness of sin, no access to God, no promise of the Holy Spirit, and no promise of eternal and everlasting life, all of which we have. We have continuing, never-ending hopes because the New Covenant ensures a continuous relationship. Our relationship necessarily involves the other part of Ephesians 2:12: Before our calling, we were also without God in the world. Our hope is not merely in the fact that we have made a covenant, but more importantly, with whom we made it.

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


 

Ephesians 2:20-22

This creating, building, or growing that Paul writes about here is the process by which we come to have more and more in common with each other so that there can be a continuing fellowship. The Holy Spirit, mentioned in verse 18 and again in verse 22, is the mechanism by which this is accomplished.

The eradication of the differences that we bring with us into the church and the building of the commonality are primarily the creative work of God. He is the Artisan at work, and we are being created in Christ Jesus into a fellowship that is so close that it is likened to a family. Families have things in common. It begins with a biological affinity, and the children of a mother and a father are genetically closer to each other than they are to their parents. What are we called in the church? Brothers and sisters.

Families have looks and practices in common, too, among other things. What they have in common makes them a family. So, in the church, God has to build a commonality to give us the family and therefore the fellowship that will enable us to continue with Him and with our brethren.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 4)


 

Ephesians 3:14-19

The apostle highlights that we are a special people, and in that context, he mentions the Spirit and his fervent desire that we might be filled with God's fullness. God so desires to have us in His Family Kingdom that He has given us the first installment of His Spirit to enable us to submit to Him and His way—and thus begin to experience a little bit of what He is.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Our Uniqueness and Time


 

Ephesians 5:5

Once again, the Holy Spirit is left out. It is God's Kingdom and Christ's Kingdom, but it is not the Holy Spirit's Kingdom because the Holy Spirit is not a personality. If the Holy Spirit were a personality, why does Paul leave him out whenever the Godhead is mentioned? The reason is clear: because the Holy Spirit is not a personal being.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

Ephesians 5:25-26

Why did He give Himself? So that we can be cleaned up! He had to die. We have to recognize this death, so there can be the forgiveness of sin, that we might repent, and that we might be a fit receptacle of His Spirit. God will not put His Holy Spirit into a "dirty" receptacle. The underlying meaning of holy is "clean." It also suggests "different."

God's Holy Spirit is not defiled and dirty - unlike the spirit we have by nature, the spirit of this world, human nature. God's Spirit is different! The spirit of human nature is murderous, hateful, and iniquitous in every way. God's Spirit is holy, righteous, good, pure, kind, gentle, merciful, submissive, and childlike. Every good quality we can think of is resident within that Spirit. Will God defile it by putting it into a vessel that is not fit for it? No. So we have to be led to repentance - there has to be a change.

What does baptism symbolize? Death and purification. After baptism, God considers us clean enough to put His Spirit in us. If there had not been the sacrificial death of the Creator God, and on His death a will or testament left, none of this could ever have occurred. Unless He died, there would be no recipient for the blessings! There could be no New Covenant, because the Spirit could not be given.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 12)


 

Colossians 1:23-29

Paul is writing to Gentile converts, and the specific mystery that he is talking about here—our hope—is Christ in us. It was no secret in the Old Testament that the Gentiles would be saved, but that Christ, by means of the Holy Spirit, would dwell in all converts was unknown. Otherwise, Paul would be telling a lie when he said that it is a mystery now revealed to the church. This applies directly to us because it is Christ living His life in us that prepares us for the Kingdom of God. God in us is our hope!

This hope gives us certainty for the future, which carries beyond the grave, even as it did with Christ. He rose from the grave because God was in Him. This hope is why we can have joyful and confident expectation of salvation because Christ's life—His character, values, virtues, thoughts, attitudes, and deeds—can become evident in a Christian.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Perseverance and Hope


 

Colossians 3:1

Where is the Holy Spirit in this description? Paul is speaking of the throne of all the universe. The Father is there, and the Son is on His right hand. Now, if the Holy Spirit were a personality, why does he not say, "and on the left hand is the Holy Spirit," "at God's feet," "at Christ's feet," "at Christ's right hand," or "standing behind Them"? But he gives no place for the Holy Spirit, and this is because the Holy Spirit is a thing, not a personality. It is an "it," not a "he" or a "she." It is a power, a force that emanates from Them. God's Spirit is that power by which They do whatever it is They want to accomplish in Their purposes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

Colossians 3:8

Paul changes the metaphor to taking off clothing and putting it on. Is it possible that, just by thinking about it, the clothing we now wear will just fall off? We must make an effort to disrobe. On the other hand, we have to choose what clothing we will wear in its place. Then we have to make the effort to put it on.

These things are so clear. Do we see that we cannot just stand still? Growth, in terms of salvation, is not something that just happens because we receive the Spirit of God. It is caused to happen.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Titus 2:11-14


 

1 Timothy 2:5

There is one mediator, Christ. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the parakletos, the Comforter. It is the guide, leading us into all truth. Comforter means "one who goes alongside." If this were a personality, then one would begin to think that it is in a position somewhere between us and the Father. But the Bible makes o mention of anything of the kind. There is only one between us and God, and that One is the Son.

This is similar in form to I Corinthians 11:3, which shows that, of the Deities above us, only One stands between us and God the Father, that is, God the Son. This means that not even the Holy Spirit, sent to us as a Comforter, is a mediator.

If the Holy Spirit were God (equal to the Father and the Son), it would be an affront of the highest order to exclude "Him" from an intermediary role between us and the Father—especially when we consider that the Bible assigns us, mere human beings, an intercessory role between others and the Father. By prayer we are to intercede before the Father for one another, which is a form of mediation. We go to the Father in behalf of our brothers and sisters who are undergoing trial, difficulty, sickness, or whatever. The Holy Spirit is excluded from this role because it is not a personality, yet we are given it because we are personalities.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

2 Timothy 1:6-7

According to Strong's Concordance, the final word of verse 7 is a noun meaning "discipline" or "self-control." Most modern translations render it as "self-control," but "sensible," "sobriety," "self-discipline," "self-restraint," "wise discretion," and "sound judgment" are also used.

God gives His Spirit to us to begin the spiritual creation that will bring us into His very image. Here, Paul ranks self-control right beside seemingly more "important" attributes of our Creator, such as courage, power, and love. Remember, however, that the "fruit" of God's Spirit is written in the singular; it is one fruit, a balanced package needed to make a son of God whole.

These verses tell us what kind of men God is creating. Men of courage, power, and love - and men who are self-governing, sensible, sober, restrained, and disciplined in their manner of life. These qualities are products of God's Spirit in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control


 

2 Timothy 1:6-7

It takes the Spirit of God to produce a truly sound mind. This verse also implies that, as long as the mind is devoid of God's Spirit, it cannot be considered to be truly healthy. Any mind that lacks the Holy Spirit will, like Esau's, be limited in its outlook, unstable to some degree, and focused on itself. It may be very sharp regarding material things, but it will be deficient in the ability to cope with life in a godly manner because it cannot see things in a proper, righteous-or-unrighteous context. Instead, it will have a strong tendency to twist situations toward its own self-centered perspective. This does not make for good relationships.

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


 

2 Timothy 1:6

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

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

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


 

2 Timothy 1:7

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

Staff
Standing Up for God


 

2 Timothy 1:7

The Holy Spirit is described generally as the power of God, which is certainly correct, but power comes in a number of forms. There is a flowing power caused by the movement of an object. Thus God uses water to illustrate an aspect of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). There is healing and nourishing power, so God uses oil to symbolize His Spirit. Words, symbols we use to represent ideas, the raw material of our thoughts, have awesome power to influence. Thus God says through Jesus that His words "are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).

Words give us the power to communicate ideas from one mind to another or to many minds. They carry the power to instruct, encourage, discourage, mollify, anger, vilify, inspire, exhilarate, create, or destroy. They can make a person change his mind, motivate him to stop or move, do, undo, or redo. The power of words is almost limitless.

If we examine the fruit of the Spirit, we find that they all have something to do with our minds. Words are a large portion of the mind's working material and therefore play a huge role in what the person produces with his life. It is no coincidence that Jesus is the Word of God, and the Bible, the written revelation of God and His purpose, is also the Word of God! God is trying to tell us something. He is concerned about our minds because what goes into them will determine what we produce with our lives. Will it be fruit leading to eternal life or fruit leading to death?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit


 

2 Timothy 1:7

An indication of Timothy's personality comes through in this verse. Apparently, Timothy was an introverted, retiring personality who of himself would not do what he would be called upon to do. By the end of the book, Paul knows that he is going to die. From all indications, Timothy would bear the weight of responsibility for preaching the gospel after Paul's death. Paul knows what Timothy is like because he had spent years with him, travelling around the Mediterranean region. The apostle, concerned about Timothy having the mind, the personality, the will, to carry out his responsibilities, reminds him that God's Spirit is one of power and of love and of soundmindedness.

And so it is with each person God calls. He gives whatever gifts one needs to carry out his responsibility within the body. Most will find certain parts of the Christian life uncomfortable or the requirements that God has established difficult to meet. But there is no need to fear, for the power is available, or God is not God. He has promised that He will finish what He starts (Philippians 1:6). We can do whatever He asks because He does not require more than can be accomplished with the gifts we already have. He always works within the framework of His knowledge of each Christian.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Hebrews 4:1-2

The gospel's sure promise of an endless life in glory in the Kingdom of God as the Father's spirit-composed children and Jesus Christ's brothers and companions seems so appealing and captivating that one wonders why we would need more motivation than the anticipation of its fulfillment. History and even our own reflections on our personal experiences prove that we need additional stimulation.

The Israelites' forty-year trek through the wilderness after their release from Egyptian slavery also provides a persuasive record. Of the over two million or so Israelites age twenty and above who left Egypt, only two men, Joshua and Caleb, are named as entering into the Promised Land! The Israelites were burying the bodies of those who failed until the time they crossed the Jordan River. Hebrews 4:1-2 admonishes us not to fall into the same manner of living.

The struggle to achieve some noteworthy goal is a popular theme for many inspirational biographies, novels, articles, and movies. In the late 1800s, Horatio Alger became famous by authoring a string of "rags to riches" stories that featured characters who, through pluck, grit, ingenuity, and seemingly tireless energy, overcame multitudes of problems to achieve success in the end. The characters in his stories never resorted to deceit or thievery, even though they confronted such vices. They always made their way in a righteous manner. Many inspired readers used them as role models for what they hoped to achieve. Not much has changed in the intervening time. People still find hope and inspiration in hearing the success stories of others, especially if they are dealing with true-to-life issues. One can buy "success" manuals in virtually any bookstore. Lecture circuits teem with those who are willing to sell their formulas to those who want to hear their testimonies.

Obviously, motivation is a very common human problem, one that the Bible also addresses. The Bible contains many passages intended to prod us to keep moving in the proper direction. Nevertheless, the condition posed earlier remains unresolved. If what God offers is so awesome, why do we need to be prodded with exhortation, encouragement, and correction?

It is because God has demanded that we live by faith (Hebrews 10:38-39). Thus, the "out of sight, out of mind" principle provides an almost constant resistance, testing whether we have a proper and purposeful direction to our life.

It is also because human nature is so attracted to the cultures it has created that it loves them almost desperately. Sometimes it is only with great difficulty that one can turn from them (I John 2:15-16). Even though we know intellectually that these cultures are evil, we are attracted to them and diverted away from the path of godly success (Galatians 1:4).

Moreover, the unseen spirit world lures us through lying persuasions away from the right goal (Ephesians 6:10-12). Sometimes we need motivation because of traits such as apathy and procrastination that dwell to some degree in all of us (Hebrews 2:1-3; 12:12-13). Finally, sometimes our pride self-righteously and presumptuously persuades us into thinking that we already have it made (Revelation 3:16-18).

Overall, a great many factors work against us. When we seriously consider the example of the extremely high failure rate of the Israelites in the wilderness, it may seem as though far more of these factors work against us than work to insure our success. The Israelites, however, operated with little faith. In addition, the Scriptures indicate that God gave very few of them His Holy Spirit, and therefore the love of God was not working in them. God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32), and the record of the Israelites is one of almost constant disobedience.

Since Jesus Christ was not in them, they did not have the faith of Christ, but our God is able to "supply all [our] need according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ" (Philippians 4:19). The reality is that we have far more working in our behalf than they. We have no valid reason to fail.

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


 

Hebrews 8:10-11

The ultimate fulfillment of this process will culminate when we are completely composed of spirit, and God's law will be our first nature, not just second nature. But, while we are in an embryonic stage, the process has already begun in us, incrementally, as God gradually displaces our carnality and sin, replacing it with His Holy Spirit, leading to righteous behavior and godliness. Actually, no human being is completely converted, but many people are in various stages of conversion.

Conversion, then, is a life-long process in which we move from a reactive approach to lawkeeping—motivated by rewards and punishments—to a proactive approach—motivated by a deeply placed inner desire to yield and comply to the law's principles, knowing intrinsically from experience that they work for the good and harmony of all. (Proactive is a term author-speaker Steven Covey uses to distinguish internal motivation to do or accomplish something as opposed to external motivation.)

David F. Maas
Righteousness from Inside-Out


 

Hebrews 10:19-22

Praying to the Father, through Jesus Christ, brings us into the presence of the most holy, positive, righteous, peaceful, serving, giving, humble, merciful, and unchanging attitudes and character that exist in the entire universe! The notes at Psalm 16:11 demonstrate a simplified effect of this in how the attitudes of people we spend time with affect us. Whether that person's attitude is positive or negative, unless we resist or our attitude is strong, our attitude tends to echo the strength of the other's attitudes. If the other is personally close to us—especially if we deem the relationship important to us—the effect of the transfer of attitudes intensifies. Similarly, physical nearness also intensifies the effect.

This is why men reflect Satan's spirit. Satan "broadcasts" it over our entire environment here on earth, thus, we are always "near" it. In fact, God has willed that at this time it will have no strong competition among the unconverted. Even we cannot entirely escape its influence; even when in God's presence, we can bring that spirit with us.

Notice that Hebrews 10:22 says, "[L]et us draw near. . . ." Nearness enhances the transfer of the qualities of God's Spirit, and He greatly desires we have these qualities because they will make us like Him. Being in His presence is a primary way this is accomplished. This is why a person can leave God's presence in prayer at peace, full of joy, or filled with confidence—or on the other hand, chastened, having been led to remorse and repentance. Drawing near to God has little to do with distance and everything to do with deepening our relationship with Him. As this occurs, prayer begins to change things—us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

James 1:1

Adherents of the Trinity doctrine assert that the Holy Spirit is a personality alongside the Father and the Son. Yet, when the apostles—especially Paul—referred to the God Family in their epistles, why is mention of the Holy Spirit almost totally absent (James 1:1; II Peter 1:2; I John 1:3; Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:3; II Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; I Thessalonians 1:1; II Thessalonians 1:2; I Timothy 1:1-2; II Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:3)?

Where is the Holy Spirit? Is James not a servant of the Holy Spirit (James 1:1)? Is he a servant only of God and of Jesus Christ? What about "knowledge of the Holy Spirit" in II Peter 1:2? Is there no "fellowship with the Holy Spirit" in I John 1:3? Why do the apostles ignore it?

They include a greeting from the Father and the Son in each of these letters, but there is no greeting from the Holy Spirit. This was inspired by God! Is it possible that this is evidence that there is no other personality? Little by little, it keeps adding up. We need to see this with our own eyes—the Holy Spirit is ignored every time the God Family is mentioned. Father and Son—yes. Holy Spirit—no.

With a few variations in words, every apostle ignores the Holy Spirit. Would it not be gross insubordination for them to recognize two in the highest offices in the universe and totally ignore the third? They did this because they did not know the Holy Spirit as a personality within the God Family because Jesus taught them no such thing. The Holy Spirit is the power God uses to direct and carry out His purposes within His creation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

James 2:8-10

James presents a tall order for God's people to live up to—and one impossible to do that unless one has the Holy Spirit.

James speaks of the "royal law," meaning the Ten Commandments, since he cites the specific requirement, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." In this, he parallels Christ and Paul, finding in love of neighbor the sum of the law and its true fulfillment. James confirms that respect of persons is a breach of this "royal law" and leads to those indulging in it being convicted by the law of transgression.

Then, he affirms the solidarity of the law: that a breach of a specific commandment is a breach of the whole, making the transgressor guilty of all. This is a far-reaching principle that Paul also suggests by quoting Deuteronomy 27:26 in Galatians 3:10: "Cursed is everyone who continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them." Paul also indicates it in Romans 7, where he explains that the conviction that he had broken the tenth commandment made him realize that he had broken the whole law.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

1 John 2:27

Clearly, he is not saying that these people had no need for someone to teach them the difference between truth and error. They did need it! That is why John wrote his epistle! What they did not need was for anyone to teach them the church's basic doctrines, nor did they need human logic or philosophy to help them understand God's nature.

John had known, seen, heard, and touched Jesus Christ personally. Christ had taught him intensively for three-and-a-half years, and in turn, the aged apostle had taught them the same truth throughout his own ministry. The members of God's church had no need for any heretic to teach them.

As true sons of God, they had received His Holy Spirit, which had opened their minds and led them into the truth (John 16:13). They had been thoroughly grounded in the truth regarding the nature of Christ and God and the very purpose of life itself. God's truth had not changed, so what need did they have to relearn it?

In the rest of I John 2:27, John encourages them to allow the Holy Spirit to lead them and keep them faithful to what they had been taught from the beginning. Their original knowledge was true and no lie: "But as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him."

Do we need teachers? Of course! John's epistle is an excellent example of why teachers are needed in the church. When false doctrine threatened members of the true body of believers, John found it necessary to spell out to them the dangers in it, even though the brethren had been thoroughly grounded in the truth. To reassure them that their foundational beliefs were true, he felt he needed to explain the truth to them again. He also saw that they could use some encouragement to trust the Holy Spirit to lead them into the truth.

This is exactly what a true minister of God is to do! The author of Hebrews instructs us to respect the ministry because they are given to us to protect us. "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account" (Hebrews 13:17).

Many New Testament examples show us our need for teachers. Philip's experience with the Ethiopian eunuch clearly illustrates how we need experienced and educated teachers to explain and expound the Word of God (Acts 8:26-38). As Philip approaches him, the eunuch is reading an Old Testament prophecy that foretold Christ's sufferings. When asked if he understands the passage, the eunuch has the humility to admit he needs help. He replies, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" (verse 31). Philip then explains to him how this prophecy was fulfilled in the suffering and death of Jesus of Nazareth. This results in the eunuch's baptism (verse 38).

In dealing with the many problems in the Corinthian church, Paul had to send Timothy to refresh them in the truth that Paul had preached.

Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. (I Corinthians 4:16-17)

In his letters to Timothy, Paul instructs the young evangelist about various principles that he should teach the people. "These things command and teach.... Teach and exhort these things" (I Timothy 4:11; 6:2).

In addition, the apostle tells him to train others to be teachers. "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (II Timothy 2:2). Besides this, an elder must be "able to teach" (I Timothy 3:2). The very purpose of the ministry is to help in perfecting the saints (Ephesians 4:11-12, KJV).

Throughout the New Testament, God continually emphasizes the need to provide spiritual food to the church. Jesus says that His servants will be providing "food in due season" to His people (Matthew 24:45). "Feed My sheep" is one of the last things Jesus tells Peter (John 21:17). Paul writes to Timothy, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (II Timothy 4:2).

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


 

1 John 3:3

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

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

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


 

1 John 3:24

John does not imply that we are doing things perfectly, for he also says in I John 1:8 , "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." What is being referred to here are things that even sinning Christians are able to do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Fellowship


 

Revelation 1:4-8

Verses 4-8 comprise an extended greeting to the seven churches in Asia (later specifically named in verse 11, as well as in chapters 2 and 3). As the human author of the book, John includes himself as a sender of the greeting, but the bulk of it reemphasizes the real authors: God the Father, shown as eternal and sovereign, and Jesus Christ, extolled as "the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth" (verse 5).

John ensures that we understand that Jesus is the same One who exhibited His love for us by sacrificing Himself for the forgiveness of our sins and made possible our future glorification (verses 5-6). In verse 8, he carries the identification even farther by quoting Jesus' own words: "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,' says the Lord, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'" Lest we misunderstand, John makes certain that there is no doubt that Jesus is the Lord of the Old Testament, the first and the last (Isaiah 44:6; 41:4), the Almighty God, who "declar[es] the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure'" (Isaiah 46:10). This extensive greeting certifies, not only that the prophecy has its source in God, but also that it will come to pass.

The greeting also includes "from the seven Spirits who [or which] are before [the Father's] throne" (verse 4), a quite controversial phrase. Commentators are divided among four interpretations, which can be summarized as angelic, symbolic, mystical, and Trinitarian. Understandably, the Trinitarian view—that "the seven Spirits" identifies a so-called Third Person of the Trinity—has the support of most Catholics and Protestants. Their primary reason centers on the fact that this phrase appears between greetings from God the Father and the Son of God. They contend that this phrase refers to the sevenfold description of the Spirit of the Lord in Isaiah 11:2.

The book of Revelation itself identifies the seven Spirits as equivalent to the Lamb's "seven eyes, which are . . . sent out into all the earth" (Revelation 5:6). These "seven eyes" probably allude to Zechariah 3:9 and 4:10, where they are shown to be "upon the stone," a symbol of the Branch or Messiah, and directly described as "the eyes of the LORD which scan [or rove] to and fro throughout the whole earth." In addition, Revelation 3:1 states Christ "has [or possesses] the seven Spirits of God," and Revelation 4:5 calls them "seven lamps of fire . . . burning before the throne."

This may indeed be a description of the Holy Spirit, not as a "Person" somehow divided into seven parts, but as a seven-branched conduit of God's communication to the seven churches mentioned earlier in the verse. Thus, John includes "the seven Spirits" as a source of the prophecy to specify how it was imparted to the seven churches. The apostle Paul pens a similar greeting in II Corinthians 13:14, in which he writes of "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit," meaning that God's Spirit is the means by which Christians can have a relationship with God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The All-Important Introduction to Revelation


 

Revelation 3:18

Gold, clothing, and eye salve represent the three major industries of Laodicea: banking, textiles, and medicines.

Gold, spiritual riches (I Peter 1:7), contrasts with the word "poor," and fire symbolizes trial. God advises them to obtain spiritual riches produced through trials, which the self-sufficient Laodicean avoids by compromising.

"White garments" contrast with their nakedness. Clothing helps us to distinguish people and groups. Because of the differences between men and women's clothing, sexual distinctions can be made. Clothes reveal status: A man in a well-tailored suit falls into a different category than a beggar in rags. Clothing provides a measure of comfort and protection from the elements. It hides shame and deformity. Biblically, God uses it to symbolize righteousness (Revelation 19:8). He instructs the Laodicean to dress himself in the holiness of God to cover his spiritual nakedness, self-righteousness.

Their need of eye salve contrasts with their blindness. Commentators understand it to represent God's Spirit coupled with obedience. The combination of the two gives a Christian the ability to see - to understand spiritual things. "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2:10-11). "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalms 111:10).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 20:6

Those in the first resurrection will reign and work with Christ through the Millennium as kings and priests. We can have a part in the first resurrection if we have been obedient and faithful to the Eternal with the help of the Holy Spirit imparted from God through Jesus Christ. In our duties as kings, we will have the power to correct many of the problems of society and lead the people in God's way of life. As priests of God, among other things like teaching and counseling, we will be responsible for offering sacrifices.

Martin G. Collins
The Sacrifice of Praise


 

Revelation 20:11-15

The resurrection of the righteous takes place at Christ's return (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), but that of the uncalled - the second resurrection - will occur in the Great White Throne Judgment after the Millennium. God is merciful, loving, and kind, not willing that any should perish. He desires all to come to the knowledge of the truth and to true repentance at the proper time. He has determined that most will receive this opportunity when He has set up His Kingdom on the earth, an environment most conducive to salvation.

These people will be raised up to physical existence. The "books" that are opened at this time are the books of the Bible in which are revealed true knowledge and understanding. The "Book of Life" will also be opened so their names can be written in it when they repent of their sins, accept Christ as personal Savior, and receive the Holy Spirit. During this time, they will be judged according to their works. Thus, we see most of humanity standing before God to be judged. God in His wisdom has determined that this is the best way to bring the most sons to glory and eternal life in His Kingdom.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Second Resurrection


 

Find more Bible verses about Holy spirit:
Holy spirit {Nave's}
 




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