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Bible verses about Separation from the World
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 19:22

Here, sanctify does not mean "consecrate" or "purify." Remember that they were already cleaned up by this time. In this context, it means "set apart." The priests were to separate themselves or get away.

John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part 1)


 

Exodus 31:13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Leviticus 19:1-5

Notice that in this five-verse prelude God emphasizes, "Don't copy the people of those nations outside of Israel. Be different by keeping My laws." It becomes clear when this introduction is read along with the laws that follow in this and the next two chapters that God intends that separation from the world begin in the home at the very earliest point in time possible. It should begin in a child's infancy with a right example from the parents combined with their positive instruction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment


 

Deuteronomy 14:2

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

Staff
Whatever Your Heart Desires


 

Deuteronomy 23:6

This statement also appears in Ezra 9:12, and it is an early version of "Come out of her, My people," only here God is telling them to avoid something. God is telling Israel that they are to keep themselves so separate that they are not to even make peace treaties with the other nations. "You shall not seek their peace."

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


 

Joshua 24:2-3

This demonstrates a problem Abraham appears to have had at the beginning of his conversion, showing that he was not perfect in his obedience. It also reveals God's patience in dealing with us, as well as how little control we sometimes exercise over some circumstances. In such times, we must continue trusting God and fighting to overcome as He leads us through them and teaches us aspects of His character.

Abraham's family members were outright pagans, as was Abraham before his conversion. We need to add Genesis 11:27-32 to the mix:

This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, Ur of the Chaldeans. Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah. But Sarai was barren; she had no child. And Terah took his son Abram, and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram's wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.

Barnes Notes contains a fairly complex study of these verses, showing that Abraham actually received his initial calling when he was 70 while living in Ur of the Chaldeans. Why "initial"? Verse 31 says they left Ur and then came to Haran, adding that Abraham's family dwelt there. "Dwelt" indicates that they remained there for an extended period—it was no mere overnight stop by a group of pilgrims at a motel.

Stephen's speech in Acts 7:2-4 helps us to understand:

Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, "Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you." Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.

Stephen clearly states that God called Abraham before he dwelt in Haran, but Genesis 12:1 shows God then moved him from Haran after his father died. Apparently, Abraham's account to his father and others in the family—but most especially his father—of the things he was learning and believing in his calling persuaded them, despite being pagan to the core, that they, too, should emigrate to wherever God was leading Abraham.

Recall, however, from Isaiah 51:2 that God says that He called Abraham alone. Genesis 11:31 clearly shows Terah, the pagan patriarch of the family, leading the expedition, not Abraham. Abraham no doubt deferred to his father in this decision, but this was not God's will.

God knew that, because of Abraham's attitude, he would continue to defer to Terah. God did not want Terah's direct influence in what He was establishing through Abraham. Under Terah's pagan, patriarchal leadership, they got only as far as Haran from Ur, by itself an arduous 700-mile journey on foot!

Researchers speculate that the trip from Ur to Haran plus the sojourn there may have taken as long as five years before the party resumed the journey to Canaan. Perhaps Terah had a lengthy, lingering illness before dying. However, when the last leg of the journey was made, it was under Abraham's leadership.

God intends us to understand that the distance to the Promised Land—1,200 miles on foot from Ur to Canaan—plus the time spent getting there, illustrate the difficulty of breaking away from what we were to what God wants us to be. Unfortunately, some people never seem to accomplish the break.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Seven)


 

Ezra 10:10-11

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

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

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

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

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part Two)


 

Jeremiah 2:9-26

This passage is an intense survey of Judah's behavior in that period just before they went into captivity. In the next chapter God divorces Israel. This is like the final pleading or contention, the straw that broke the camel's back. The intensity of her drive to show disrespect for God is illustrated in the comparison of the dromedary and the wild ass in heat. Nobody can hold those female animals back when they are in heat! It is as if Israel was always in heat in order to commit adultery in departing from God.

We have to make the connection that we are called from a nation cut from the same cloth, and in us is the same potential for unbelieving stubbornness and fickleness, whose fruit is immature, irresponsible unfaithfulness to obligation. The wayward drive is actually in all of mankind, but Israel is more responsible than any other nation on earth because she has been given so much in the way of knowledge.

Satan has succeeded in deceiving the whole world. Among these deceptions is that modern Israel is Christian. But Israel has never been truly Christian. It presents a counterfeit to the world, and it has nonetheless spread its wine over the entire world, drugging it with its poor example, and inducing much to the world to follow.

This particular deception that Israel is Christian is dangerous to true church members since the vast majority of the people of God are in Israelitish nations, and it has the power to make us feel an affinity with Israel's brand of false Christianity. But that affinity might just lure us into producing the same tolerant, non-judgmental, politically correct, multi-cultural Laodiceanism commonly displayed in the Israelitish country. It hinders the separation from the world required of us by making us feel a lingering sense of oneness with Israel.

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


 

Ezekiel 20:37-38

Notice that the sheep pass under the rod. Besides being an instrument of both offense and defense—the rod was, in effect, a two-foot club—it also functioned as a tool, under which the sheep passed. What does this picture? First of all, it pictures counting. The shepherd would count the sheep in his flock to make sure they were all present and accounted for.

It pictures something else too. As the sheep passed under the rod—a symbol of the Word of God—they would undergo a close scrutiny. The shepherd would run his rod backward or across the grain, as it were, of the wool. The rod separated the wool, allowing the shepherd to look down onto the sheep's skin. He was then able to see both the quality of the skin and of the wool.

God is illustrating that by means of His rod, He is giving us careful, close scrutiny for two reasons: One, it gives Him the opportunity to evaluate the quality of His sheep. Two, it provides a means of separation. Quality and separation are the two reasons for His scrutiny of us.

Recall Matthew 25 and the separation of the sheep and the goats. The rod aids in identifying or making sure of possession. Sheep's ears were often bored through or distinctively notched as a mark of identification. Sometimes, since the shepherds could not always see that identifying mark due to several flocks being mixed together in the pasture, they would make the sheep pass under the rod. When they did, the shepherd would flip back the ear to see the mark of possession. Again, it also gave them a chance to evaluate and determine the relative health and quality of that sheep.

We are all under the rod right now. Now is the time of our judgment (I Peter 4:17), and we are under evaluation to determine to whom we really belong: God or Satan. Who is our shepherd? The rod is a vitally important instrument for a shepherd. No good shepherd would be without one.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 3)


 

Amos 6:6

God's complaint against Israel's religion is that it had form but no substance. The people made pilgrimages to their shrines, but they did not grieve for their nation's sins (Amos 6:6). They went to church, but they continued to cheat and steal and lie (Amos 8:5-6). They made a great show of being religious, but their religion caused no changes in their conduct.

God's Word shows that true religion is having concern for and helping the weak, as well as showing hospitality and generosity to those who cannot return the favor (James 1:27). It is sacrificing oneself in service; as Christ said, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). It is speaking the truth and being honest—even swearing to one's own hurt (Psalm 15:4)—not backbiting or gossiping. True religion is not exacting the last cent on a deal, or impatiently watching the sun go down on the Sabbath to do one's business or pleasure. It is not taking usury and so on. To use a cliché, Israel talked the talk but did not walk the walk.

Even after giving them His law, God did not leave the people of Israel without a witness—a right example—of how to live. While they were drifting away, He gave them the Nazirites, people who had consecrated themselves to God (Amos 2:11; see Numbers 6:1-21). A Nazirite, a "separated one," was anyone from a tribe other than Levi who dedicated himself to God for a special period of time. Nazirites were separate because of their holiness; they vowed not to drink wine, cut their hair, or touch dead bodies.

God apparently called enough Nazirites within Israel to exemplify pure living before His people. Additionally, He sent prophets to testify against the nation and expose the direction she was going. How did Israel react? Probably through some kind of persecution, they forced the Nazirites to break their vow and muzzled the prophets (Amos 2:12).

The more holy we become, the greater the contrast between us and the world—and the more likely the world will seek to persecute us. When Jesus Christ, the most holy, moral, and different human being who ever lived, walked this earth, His own people killed Him. They could not tolerate His holiness. Thus, He warned His disciples, "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20).

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


 

Matthew 13:44

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

John 17:17

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

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
The Whole Truth


 

Galatians 3:4

There were a number of accepted belief systems in the area of Palestine and the wider Roman Empire at the time this was written, such as Gnosticism and Judaism, but it is certain that God's truth was never popular or widely accepted. It is practically a foregone conclusion that someone practicing the truth will be persecuted for it to one degree or another (Matthew 13:21; Romans 8:35-36; Galatians 5:11; II Timothy 3:12; I Peter 2:19-21). In fact, the churches of Galatia (in what is now Turkey) may have been forewarned about this by Paul when he was teaching in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (all on the south-eastern border of Galatia) as recorded in Acts 14:20-22. Christians are called to be separate from this world and its ways, and when the world recognizes this difference, it lashes out.

From Paul's writing, it seems that the Galatians had the proper foundation at one time, and they really did understand the truth at the beginning of their spiritual lives. This would have been the time when they were actively standing up for the truth, and a great contrast would have been evident between the Galatians and the general population. This is when they would have suffered—in the internal struggle of having to give up their former conduct, or with the external struggle of not fitting in with the rest of society.

As the Galatians began to slide into apostasy, they would no longer have been so repulsive to the people around them, and the suffering and persecution would have begun to lessen. The world would have started to recognize itself in them again (see John 15:19).

In essence, Paul is asking them if they are just going to throw away all that they had learned, especially what they had learned through adversity. With this question he is pointing out that, if they fall away, everything they had been through, both good and bad, would have been in vain in the sense that there would be no future profit from it. They would have received the maximum benefit from it already. This relates to Romans 8:28, where we are promised that all that we suffer will be redeemed for those who meet the requirements listed—those who are called according to His purpose, which the Galatian Christians were, and those who love God, which the Galatians were not doing in that they were relegating Christ's sacrifice for sin as meaningless.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 5:19-21

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

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

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

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

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

David C. Grabbe
The Pentecost Witness


 

Ephesians 1:3-4

He did not necessarily choose us as individuals before the foundation of the world, but He did decide that He would have a church, a group of people impregnated by His Spirit, a unique Family of His who would be in the image of His Son. The word "choose" suggests taking a smaller number out of a larger. In this case, the larger is the population of the earth, and the smaller number is that tiny remnant God has been working with - His church, His group, His family. The word "holy" implies the choosing had a moral aim in view. In other words, God was choosing a small number out of a large number, and the reason He was choosing this smaller number is to make this small number holy - holy as He is. He had a moral purpose in mind.

The apostle is saying we have been called, elected, become a part of this small group with a definite purpose in mind - that we should become holy. In order for us to become holy, God had to reveal some things to us, which Paul discusses in verses 5-12.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

Hebrews 11:8

Paul first draws attention to the fact that, when God called Abram, as he was called then, he obeyed without knowing where he was to go. His reference is to Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

He had to leave his country, which was essentially Babylon; his family, meaning his ethnic kindred, the Semitic people; and his house, his near relatives. Verse 4 implies that he did not dilly-dally around, waiting for further or more specific directions, but that he responded quickly. It is not said how the Lord appeared to him. Perhaps He appeared to him physically, which would explain his quick departure.

Maybe God prepared him beforehand by revealing His existence to Abram, and this brought about social circumstances that added to Abram's urgency. In other words, God provided proof of His existence, which led to Abram receiving a measure of persecution in reaction to what he was learning. This is not unusual for God to do; He often provides incentive by leading a person through experiences in preparation for a more formal calling later.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Six)


 

Hebrews 12:14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Hebrews 12:14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

1 Peter 1:1-2

It is the life that is obedient to God and separated from the world that provides the proof of one's conversion. If the Christian is legally cleared of guilt before God and obedient to Him, he no longer "belongs" to the world; the Bible no longer perceives such a person as being "in the flesh."

Philippians 3:20 offers understanding of another separation from the world: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." His spiritual separation produces for the Christian a legal transfer of citizenship that he must recognize.

Colossians 1:12-13 confirms this: "Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love." As a result of these separations, the Christian must live his life as a stranger and pilgrim as if in a foreign land, obeying the laws of his new nation by placing higher priority in his activities as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

This opens the door to another line of practical thought, conduct, and attitude: "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself the enemy of God" (James 4:4). We normally do whatever we can to avoid our enemies, even to the point of fleeing from them if necessary. This reality should help us to understand why God commands us:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? . . . Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." (II Corinthians 6:14, 17)

It is by means of conduct motivated by the Holy Spirit that we are to come out from among unbelievers and be separate. We cannot—we must not—straddle the fence; we cannot serve two masters. Once we are called, we must serve God, or we will have received God's grace in vain (II Corinthians 6:1).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Seven)


 

 




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