What the Bible says about
Mind of Christ
(From Forerunner Commentary)
These verses contain perhaps the most startling, sublime statement Christ made. Jesus does not mean that we resolve to like everyone, but that we act in goodwill toward those we do not like as well as those we do. This command seems unreasonable and absurd, but only because of our carnality. Christ desires all to be happy. Both the hater and the hated are miserable to some degree, and the misery will not cease until the hatred dissolves. The antidote to hatred is love.
Some have described this love as an unconquerable goodwill, an invincible benevolence. This love does not merely involve feeling, but also the will. With this love, our concern for another's good overcomes any feelings of offense, resentment, and retaliation. It motivates us to do good rather than react in kind to what caused our negative feelings toward the other. Only those who have the mind of Christ can do this. We must seek it from God.
In this section Christ lists three ways people show their ill-feelings toward others. Cursing indicates verbally denigrating others and working to destroy their reputation; gossiping. Hatred implies an active, passionate feeling against another. Spitefully using and persecuting means continually at war with, harassing, always being on another's case.
He also specifies three ways a Christian can combat these actions. We can bless, meaning giving good words for bad. We can also do good for our enemies, not merely restrain ourselves from retaliation. Lastly, we can pray for them and for their welfare, asking God to change their hearts so a two-way love can exist.
This is a major test for God's children. God wants us to do this so that we may resemble Him—be in His image—because this is the way He is. If a man has this love, he is like God. God shows us His love in this very manner. Despite what we do on His great green earth, the sun still shines, the rain still falls, and He is constantly providing for and working toward our salvation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part One) (1997)
The Greek word for "faith" can also be translated "fidelity," as it is in Titus 2:10. To understand what the scribes and Pharisees lacked, we need to examine fidelity along with the traditional definition of faith.
Fidelity, as defined by Webster, is "the quality of being faithful, accuracy in details, exactness." The dictionary adds an interesting modern analogy to explain fidelity: "the degree to which an electronic device (as a record player, radio or television) accurately reproduces its effect (as sound or picture)."
We know we are to bring "every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians 10:5) and to "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5). John tells us "to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:6). Peter advises, "Christ . . . [left] us an example, that you should follow His steps" (I Peter 2:21).
Spiritually, fidelity is to reproduce faithfully and exactly the thoughts, attitudes, steps, and paths of Jesus Christ. The "sounds" our lives make on earth reach heaven either as the scratchy, tinny, garbled clanging of carnality, or as harmonic, melodious, pleasant reproductions of Christ in us, the hope of glory.
This is where the Pharisees missed the whole point of the law. They were not like God at all! They were so busy with their little "additions to make it better," they forgot how to treat each other. This is a great danger facing the church today. We can focus so intently on a specific point of doctrine—the calendar, divorce and remarriage, or church government—that we forget that God bases our judgment on how we treat others (Matthew 25:34-46). Christ went about doing good (Acts 10:38). He showed compassion, healed, helped, and set a righteous example in all His activities. He never once gossiped, slandered, or verbally abused anyone. While correct teaching is of extreme importance (II John 10), living it is of even greater importance because doers will be justified, not hearers only (Romans 2:13; James 1:22-25).
The "sounds" the scribes and Pharisees produced were low fidelity, unrecognizable to God in the intent of His law. When God hears our voices, does it sound to Him just like Christ did? Because we are still alive, we are better off than the Pharisees. We still have opportunity to learn to think and act like Christ, to work on reacting to wrongs and persecution—deserved or undeserved—just as He would. We have time to grow in saying just the right thing at the right time to help, encourage, inspire, or guide others.
James 3:9 says we bless God and curse men made in His likeness; we respect God but not His creation. James shows this is a contradiction and wrong. Disrespecting God's creation is disrespecting Him. He expects high fidelity from us in what we say—"pure, . . . peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (verse 17). He will not listen to what is "earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there" (verses 15-16).
Fidelity is the kind of faith mentioned in James 2:14-26. Just "believing" or blindly trusting that we are qualified to enter God's Kingdom is not sufficient. Christ must see Himself in us. Faith without works is dead, so we show real faith by our actions (verses 17-18). Even the demons "believe" God exists—and they tremble in fear (verse 19), but they are unwilling to think like Him, talk like Him, live like Him. Theirs is a dead faith. We are to show our faith by our works, by walking exactly as He walked, by our "fidelity."
The Weightier Matters (Part 4) : Faith and Fidelity
These verses give us a formula for entering the Kingdom of God. It is just that simple—or is it?
We should love the Lord our God more than anything else. Nothing is to take precedence over Him, not our desires, our will, nor anything else. God is always first. We are to love God with all of our soul. We are to be ready to give up our lives to honor God, if it is required. We are to endure all types of ridicule and torment for His sake, if it falls our lot. That is part of loving God.
It is our loving God with all of our strength. Whatever we possess has come from God. If we do something to physically serve God, or if we have to give our substance as living sacrifice, this, too, is just part of loving God with all of our strength.
Adam Clarke summed up the first part of verse 28:
In a word, he [one thinking with and using the mind of Christ] sees God in all things; thinks of Him at all times; has his mind continually fixed upon God; acknowledges Him in all his ways. He begins, continues, and ends all his thoughts, words and works, to the glory of His name. This is the person who loves God with all of his heart, his might, and strength and his intellect.
That is a tall order, but it is exactly what God wants from us. He wants us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, loving our neighbors as ourselves. It is self-explanatory.
If we are in trouble, do we want someone to come and help us? Of course! Do we want someone to listen to us when we need someone's ear? Of course! Do we want someone to rescue us when we find ourselves in financial difficulties? Certainly! Likewise, we should be concerned for others, as we are concerned for ourselves.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Don't Take God for Granted
What, then, is the new birth? It is not the removal of anything from the sinner, nor the changing of anything within or without the sinner's body. It is, instead, the communication of a precious gift to the sinner. It is forgiveness and the imparting of the new nature. When we were born from our mothers, we received from our parents their nature, what Paul calls the "carnal" or "fleshly" nature. When one is born again, he receives from God His nature, as II Peter 1:4 relates, ". . . by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature."
As early as Genesis 1, the Bible shows that a fundamental law of nature is that every living thing brings forth its own kind. What is produced by a vegetable is vegetable; what is born of animal is animal. What is born of sinful man and woman is a sinful child, which Paul designates in Romans 8:8 as being "in the flesh." It cannot be anything else. We may educate and cultivate it all we please, but human nature remains "in the flesh." It may be refined flesh, beautiful flesh, or religious flesh, but it is still "in the flesh."
On the other hand, what is born or brought forth by the impartation of God's Spirit is spirit. To use Paul's term, such a person is "in the Spirit" (Romans 8:9). The child always partakes of the nature of its parents. What is born of man is carnal and sinful; what is born of God is spiritual.
Being born again is the creation of a new man in Christ Jesus. It is the birth of a new spiritual man within the physical. The new birth is the imparting of the mind, the nature, of Jesus Christ. Paul explains in I Corinthians 2:9-16:
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." 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. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Every born-again person is automatically and instantaneously a child of God, a member of the Family of God, and being part of that Family, he becomes a citizen of the Kingdom of God. In every case in which God commands or exhorts His children, He does so as to an adult who is fully capable of carrying out what He says. A command may be said to one young in the faith, even one called a "babe" due to his spiritual immaturity, but he is not a spiritual fetus. He is physically an adult with a great deal of experience from which he can draw for decision making, along with his growing knowledge of God.
There is no gestation period, just as there was no gestation period when God created Adam and Eve as the culmination of the physical creation. In Genesis 2:7, God breathed into Adam the breath (ruach, a type of the Holy Spirit) of life, and he immediately became a living soul, not a fetus in a womb. Paul calls us "a new creation" (II Corinthians 5:17). However, the spiritual creation is not fully complete, in the same way as the development of a newly born human child is incomplete. Much growth remains to be done.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part Two)
In the context of His instruction, Jesus gives not one indication that, when He refers to being "born of the Spirit," He intends us to think of a post-resurrection event. The context is strictly one of birth and its products. In addition, He is not even speaking of being composed of spirit. He is describing the present and near future of the born-again person while he is still flesh and blood as well as what he produces or gives birth to in his life—especially his new spiritual life. Thus, the so-called "hatpin test" does not apply here at all. It entirely misses the point Jesus is making!
Barnes' Notes ("John," p. 203) comments regarding John 3:6: "Is Spirit. Is spiritual, like the spirit, that is, holy, pure." It is the birth of the spiritual heart and mind that enables a person to be spiritual in his attitudes, conduct, and perspective. Barnes goes on to say, "Here we learn, first, that all men are by nature sinful. Second, that none are renewed but by the Spirit of God. . . . Third, that the effect of the new birth is to make men holy."
Being "born of the Spirit" is not a "pregnancy" produced by God's gracious act of imparting His Spirit, but the birth—beginning—of a holy, spiritual mind, the mind of Christ. That the person is "seeing" the Kingdom of God, has "entered" into it, and is producing the fruits of the Spirit are evidence that he is already born of the Spirit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part Two)
Our calling, our life in Christ, begins when the Father directly interfaces with our mind for the purpose of revealing Himself, His ways, His purpose, His plan, His mind, His attitude, His perspective, His character, His love, His power, His mercy, His forgiveness, and on and on, that we might use our life and free-moral agency to choose life
But most important is that the Father Himself does this. God miraculously joins His own mind to ours! There is nothing mysterious about this at all. He begins to transfer His thoughts, His attitudes, His character—the Spirit of His mind—into our minds. When it tells us, "Grieve not the Spirit of God," he means, "Don't grieve the Father by resisting Him." He is transferring the invisible essence of His mind through the access that we have to Him by means of the death of Jesus Christ. He is by no means kidding about the importance of this process. He is helping us to understand that, even as we are influenced by those around us, unless we are in the presence of God, we will not be influenced by Him. This is why it is so vital for us to share life with Him.
This is where prayer and Bible study become important because we are literally in His presence and He can transfer the essence of His mind into ours. Nobody sees it. When we obey, we are giving Him permission to do this. We submit, using our free moral agency. There is nothing magical about this at all. It occurs when we respond to the influence of the interface that He creates between us when we believe His Word and submit, and when we strengthen the relationship through prayer, Bible study, and meditation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)
The word in could prove to be quite a puzzle because, if we understood it as "inside" rather than "in unionwith," we would have God and Christ crawling inside and out of each other. It would create a farcical, "Where is He now? The Son is in the Father. No, the Father is in the Son." Or, because Christians are included in verse 20, it would be, "No, He's in me." "No, He's in you." Or, "No, I'm in Him." We could get all confused. But God is logical.
Here, the sense is definitely "in union with." The Father and Son are two separate Beings who sit side by side in carrying out the responsibilities of providing for and maintaining the operation of His creation both physically and spiritually. When the Son was on earth, He was in union with the Father, and the Father was in union with Him.
It is almost as if they were—well, humanly, we would say "one flesh." When a man and a woman marry, are they two different beings? Yes, they are. Are they commanded by God to marry for the purpose of becoming one, in union with each other? Yes (Genesis 2:24).
Do they crawl in and out of each other? No, of course not. Nevertheless, a blending takes place: a blending of mind and personality. And what eventually happens? It is something that begins even before the two become married. No matter where one of them goes, because of their experiences together, he or she carries the presence of the other with him or her, and they can call up those memories in the blink of an eye. Is that not simple?
The same principle is involved in the union of the Father and the Son—and the union of God and the Christian.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 4)
2 Corinthians 5:17
Christians are to be in union with Christ. This explains why it is so important to study the Bible, to meditate on it, to spend time trying to understand it, to communicate with one another with the Word and with the Father. What are we doing as we absorb God's Word? God's Word is part of His mind, His personality, His character. It is the way He thinks.
We cannot be in union with someone we do not know or who we have no relationship with. We cannot be in union with someone we never think about.
The more we think about Him, the more we carry His word in our mind. The more experiences that we have with Him, the deeper, stronger, sharper, clearer, and more real the union becomes. It all pivots around the Word of God. Jesus says, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).
They are an invisible force and power because, if we believe His words, they begin to work in our lives because we use them. They begin to produce what God intends them to produce. As we use them, we become more one with Him because we are becoming like Him. Our lives begin to be operated by His mind expressed in His Word. The more we use them, the more we become like Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 4)
In Galatians 3:27, Paul says we "put on" Christ at our baptism. If we sink into water, it surrounds us. If we put on a coat, it surrounds us. We are in the water or in the coat. If we put on Christ, we are in Christ.
Yet, in Colossians 1:27, Paul says Christ is in us. God reiterates this truth several times in the New Testament.
» John 17:23: Christ Himself prays to His Father: "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one."
» Romans 8:10: Paul tells us, "If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin."
» Galatians 2:20: Paul speaks of himself and all true Christians: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me."
» Ephesians 3:17-18: Referring to the "inner man," Paul mentions that he prays "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."
» I John 3:24: John writes: "Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us."
Is this contradictory? Is it impossible? Can Christ be in us and we in Christ at the same time?
God's Word—His very Logos—answers those questions for us in John 14:20. He tells His disciples that, at His resurrection, they "will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." Christ is not describing an impossible situation. He is describing perfect, total unity!
To understand this type of unity, a couple of analogies will help.
1. We can say two bricks are united when they are attached one to another with mortar, but this is not the kind of unity of which Christ speaks. Bricks "united" in this way are distinguishable from each other even by a child. True, we could say they are united, but it is better to say they are connected, attached, or adjacent.
2. Christ speaks of a more thoroughgoing unity. Picture water from bucket A being poured into water in bucket B. The waters completely intermingle; one cannot distinguish water from bucket A from that of bucket B after they are mixed.
While no analogy is perfect, these two do serve to point out the sort of unity that exists between God and the true Christian. It is a thorough commingling of minds. Ideally—and none of us is there yet—it should be impossible to distinguish our mind from Christ's. They should be that much alike! Paul urges us toward the ideal: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).
When we put on the new man, we put on Christ. We are in Him and He in us. Our goal should be to nourish that new man by renewing our minds through submission to Him, until our mind and His are indistinguishable. Now, that is unity!
Choosing the New Man (Part Three)
What a tall order! Yet, it is the supreme goal of life. He is the Standard, the personification of perfect faith, love, mercy, kindness, government, etc. The purpose of the law is to guide us to an understanding of the height, breadth, and depth of the mind of Christ, which motivated His attitude and obedience. The law may seem to describe Him in broad strokes, but when one looks closer, beyond the mere statement of a law, we find a great deal more of His character and personality revealed.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part One): Introduction
Like Revelation 11:4-5, verse 6 has obvious references to the Old Testament. The first miracle—no rain falling in the days of their prophecy—refers specifically to Elijah's 3½ year drought (I Kings 17-18). The second—waters turning to blood—is an obvious reference to the first plague that Moses brought upon Egypt (Exodus 7:14-25). This seems to be a return to the way God's servants worked before Jesus Christ came—specifically focusing on Elijah's and Moses' works.
The word "power" appears three times in the description of the Two Witnesses, once in Revelation 11:3 and twice in verse 6. When somebody says, "These have power," we think in terms of energy or force or strength to do something. However, the implication of "power" here is authority. God gives them the authority, or the right, to cause these things to happen. In a way, they are given carte blanche to do what needs to be done.
In studying the lives of Elijah, Moses, and others of the prophets, we do not often see them going to God and saying, "Now, what should I do at this point? God, you know our enemies are coming, and I'm not sure what I should do." No, they just do whatever needs to be done. In II Kings 1, when the groups of fifty men and their captains come upon Elijah, the prophet was not sitting there and praying at the top of a hill, saying, "Oh, they're getting close. God, tell me what to do." He just called for fire from heaven and destroyed them. So, the Two Witnesses are given much the same authority at the time of the end. These two will have been trained and prepared by God to such an extent that they will know what to do. They will call upon God, and He will answer with power.
We do not find Jesus, for that matter, beseeching God for instruction about what to do. If someone came to Him for healing, He healed him. If someone needed a demon cast out, He cast out the demon. Once one has God's Spirit—and is in line with God's will—then these decisions are easier to make because, as Paul says in I Corinthians 2:16, "We have the mind of Christ." As we grow, we develop more of that mind of Christ, and we should be able to make decisions as Christ would make them.
So these Two Witnesses will be very much like Christ. They are witnesses of Him, as it says in the literal translation of verse 3. They are, in a way, some of the best representatives of Jesus Christ and His character that will have ever walked this earth. They will act like Christ as much as any two men can, and people in the world will see these two people as like Christ—and eventually treat them as they treated Christ.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)
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