What the Bible says about
Walk the Walk
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The second phrase, "who walk in the law of the LORD," defines what is meant by the first phrase, "undefiled in the way." To be undefiled in the way is to walk in the law of the Lord. If we understand that Old Testament laws have application under the New Covenant, then we should also understand that Psalm 119:1 was written for us. The way we can be undefiled in the way is to walk in the law of the Lord.
Walking is an action. It requires effort to get somewhere. It is doing something. There is a teaching out there that proclaims: "One cannot overcome spiritual sin by doing physical things." Yet, this is satanically deceptive because it clouds the clear picture of what God requires. God's laws have a physical application, and they are to be used, to be kept, to be observed in our life experiences - interacting with other people and the rest of God's creation. We have to observe or keep them, we have to "walk" in them, to become sanctified. Put another way, the character God is creating in us does not become ours unless His way is put into practice.
Character can be defined as a set of highly developed traits that are so much a part of our personality that we act according to them without even thinking. Character can be good or bad. What God wants is His character - holy, righteous character. Good character can be defined as highly developed skill in living. Like any other skill, it does not become really useful without practicing it. Skill or expertise does not happen magically. It is the combination of natural ability and education, training, and discipline.
For example, when I sit down at the keyboard in front of my computer, I do not have to think about where each letter is on the keyboard. Why? That information is now written within me, not necessarily because I memorized it but because I put it into practice over many years of typing. That knowledge is now a part of me, and I will never forget it. We can apply this same principle in regard to God and what He has us do. We must do God's Word, or it will never become a part of us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-One)
Why does Amos specifically mention Bethel (verses 5-6) other than that it was where the Israelites were holding feasts? Why did they choose Bethel as a feast site? Bethel played an important role in Israel's history. Twice Jacob, one of the fathers of Israel, has important events happen to him there.
Genesis 28:11-22 records the first occasion Jacob has an encounter with God at Bethel, though it was not called Bethel then. It received its name—"House of God"—from God revealing Himself to Jacob there, and Jacob believing that He lived there. On this occasion, the patriarch arrives as a homeless wanderer, a man on the run from the murderous intents of his brother Esau. He is a man with a past, having just deceived his father and brother out of the blessing. Nevertheless, God reveals Himself to him there, and the transformation of Jacob begins. He leaves Bethel as a man with a future.
The second time he encounters God at Bethel (Genesis 35:1-4, 7, 9-15), he arrives after departing from his father-in-law, Laban, and having reconciled with Esau. He is a far better man than the first time, but he is not yet complete. However, he arrives as "Jacob" and departs as "Israel." The new name is assurance of the reality that he is a new man, that a transformation is taking place. In the Israelite mind, Bethel thus became associated as a place of renewal, of reorientation, of transformation by God.
Even as verses 1-3 of Amos 5 are a dirge, verses 8-9 are in the form of a hymn praising the true God, the transforming God. When God is at work, things change for the better; He is the God who makes a difference.
With this background, we can understand why Amos 5 calls attention to Bethel. God is asking, "Why aren't you Israelites being transformed in the conduct of your life when you keep the feasts?" He is saying, "You indeed go to Bethel for the feast, but no transformation of your conduct and attitude occurs. Are you going there to seek Me?"
One of the primary proofs that God is making a difference in a person's life occurs when one who was formerly hostile to God and His law begins to love God and His law. He shows his new love by obeying God and His law in his life in areas like those mentioned in verses 10-12.
Yet, the Israelites attended the feasts in Bethel and returned home with their lives still ungoverned by God's truth. When Jacob met God, his life began changing immediately, as his vow to tithe in Genesis 28:22 shows. Faith immediately became part of the conduct of his life. The lives of those in Amos' day should also have changed according to the dictates, principles, and examples of God's Word. They should have left Bethel singing and exemplifying, "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97).
It seems that these people turned the feast in Bethel into nothing more than a vacation. Thus, Amos admonishes, "Do not seek Bethel! Seek the Lord and live!" Ultimately, the Bethel approach signifies death, not life.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Amos 5 and the Feast of Tabernacles
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
Is there any doubt in our minds that we are within striking range of the return of Jesus Christ? The gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached for almost two thousand years, and prophecies made by Him and others regarding His return are being fulfilled. The crisis at the close is almost upon us. Mankind's only hope is revealed in the gospel, yet we find great ignorance regarding what His good news is.
The complete secularization of the Western, "Christian" world is almost accomplished, and doctrinal confusion abounds. It seems as though the vast number of professing Christians believe that all one must do is believe in the name of Jesus Christ to be saved. This is most certainly required, but Jesus Himself says in Mark 1:15 that one must believe in the gospel in order to be saved.
That is quite a bit different than merely believing in Jesus. While it is definitely true that Jesus died for our sins, the true gospel provides a great deal more instruction regarding Christianity and its purpose than solely Jesus' part in our salvation. It reveals that a Christian must play an active part in the spiritual creation that God is working in and through men.
One of the more effective deceptions Satan has palmed off on mankind is that all God is attempting to do is to "save" people. Most Christians somehow fail to think of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, as actively involved in doing something more with those who are converted.
Consider this process, which most people believe: At some time in his life, the "saved" one had perceived the need to be forgiven of his sins. He then asked God to forgive him, and from that point on, because of Christ's blood, he was "saved." Is this true? Though this illustration has been simplified a great deal, it is nevertheless close to the prevalent belief.
We will add a biblical fact to that scenario. Almost all Bible commentators hold that the Israelite's experience of walking through the wilderness following Israel's release from bondage to Egypt is a type of a Christian's walk following his conversion. Walking is typical of laboring or working to reach an objective.
Did the Israelites arrive in the Promised Land - a type of the Kingdom of God - immediately upon release from their bondage? No! They had ahead of them a forty-year journey filled with trials. As they journeyed, God worked with them and supplied their needs, preparing them for their inheritance. Release from Egypt only began another aspect of God's work with them. To reach their objective, a great deal of labor lay ahead of them.
We all need to come to grips with the reality that our Creator is a God who works. He is not merely observing mankind, or worse still, having gone way off somewhere in the vastness of the universe, letting things run more or less on their own. Jesus says in John 5:17, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." More plainly, the Father began working in the indefinite past and has continued working right up till now. God is not sitting around passively saving people.
In Psalm 74:12, notice the psalmist Asaph's revelation of what God is doing: "For God is my King from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth." The salvation of human beings requires God to work, yet some seem to think that all He does is as simple as turning a "forgiveness switch," and the person is saved. However, in various places both the Father and the Son are called "Saviors." It ought to be apparent that saving a person from circumstances he needs deliverance from requires a savior to work. If a deliverer or savior does not make a strenuous effort, the one in need of rescue will not be saved.
Jesus testified that the Father was working at that very moment. The Bible provides abundant records of Jesus, our Savior, working on behalf of mankind: teaching, counseling, praying, healing, setting the example for His disciples, and obeying His Father flawlessly in order to be the sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. Further, He says in John 14:10, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works." Jesus thus shows the Father to be His partner in His ministry.
In addition, when Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to heaven, He was made Head of the Church, as well as its High Priest. As such, He is responsible to the Father for working with the members of His Body, interceding on our behalf. He thus bears great responsibility for the salvation of its individual members and the success of the church as a whole. These vital tasks require His careful attention, especially as events near the crisis at the close of the age.
The conclusion is obvious: The work of God abounds with works for all concerned in seeking the objective He has set before us in His purpose. That objective is the Kingdom of God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Five)
Luke 24 contains a noteworthy episode that occurred immediately after Christ's resurrection. It becomes even more interesting in light of a Christian living after his own symbolic resurrection, baptism. Once we commit our lives to God, we are supposed to "walk the walk." We are supposed to "walk with God" and "walk with Jesus Christ." The two men described in Luke 24 literally do this just hours after the resurrection.
Luke emphasizes the fact that movement was taking place. Reading this centuries later, we can apply it to life itself. Our life is not a static process; our lives "move" from the moment of birth to the time God calls us and we are converted and then to our last breath. When we die, we stop "walking." However, from the time of our calling, we do not walk alone—God is with us. He leads and guides us by His Spirit. He convicts us of things that will be important for His spiritual creation and for our salvation. Once this process of conviction begins, we repent and are converted. God comes to live in us by means of His Spirit—then we really are "walking with Christ." We have Christ in us!
Are we walking with Him or not?
In Luke 24, He was literally with them, walking right beside them. And they did not recognize Him (verses 15-16)! Luke specifically says "their eyes were restrained."
Even someone who had associated with Christ for a fairly long period of time, possibly even the full length of His ministry, could fail to see. We have to realize that they did not expect to see. Humans see what they expect to see. People see what they want to see and are educated to see. Unless a person makes the effort to be discerning, to think consciously about other aspects of what he is looking at, it is likely that he will not see.
Christians must consciously process the truths that they receive from God as they are involved in the circumstances of their walk with Christ. We might be walking with Christ, and He is there walking beside us, but we do not see Him. This can happen if we fail to identify the circumstances that we are experiencing in our lives with Him. The spiritual, not perceived with the five senses, is often overlooked!
So, were these disciples "blinded"? One might think so but for what Jesus Himself says in verse 25: "Then He said to them, 'O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!'"
The Greek word rendered "fool," anoeetos, means "inconsiderate" in its original sense: They failed to consider or think! Another definition is "to reason improperly." It is very similar to the Hebrew nabal of the Old Testament. Jesus is telling them that they are not properly applying their minds. His rebuke also carries with it a moral reproach, describing "one who does not govern his mind."
When we read Christ's next rebuke, it becomes crystal clear that they simply did not believe! Even though they had been taught, they did not believe the things that appeared in the Old Testament describing the Messiah and His resurrection. They did not see the Christ, who stood right next to them, because they did not expect to see Him! Thus, Christ not only calls them "fools," suggesting that He expected them to be able to identify Him, but He also calls them "slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken," which intensifies His judgment that they were not spiritually alert. Thus, He feels it necessary to teach them the basics once again (verses 26-27).
In verse 21, the two men are in the midst of giving their explanation of the events of the preceding week to Christ. They say, "But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel." Their hope was really nothing more than a wish. It is significant that their response mentions nothing about having their trust in Him. The reason for this is that they were not using their faith or belief. A wide gulf separates "hoping" and "trusting." While hoping may consist of just a desire for something, trusting requires a person to believe confidently, make choices, and patiently endure.
When these two disciples finally saw Jesus, when they perceived who was with them, everything that they had experienced—including the crucifixion and resurrection—made sense (verses 31-32). The point is this: If we see God working in our lives, then everything God is doing with us will begin to "come together." It may not happen all at once as with these men, but if we can see God involved in the circumstances of our lives as we walk with Jesus Christ, then it will give shape and form to our lives in a way that we would never have otherwise! Things will make sense, and we will see them in their proper perspective.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Do You See God? (Part Two)
Romans 6:4 restates the reason for our being admitted into God's presence: Our altered standing before God enables us to walk in newness of life so we can be conformed to the image of His Son.
Walking requires effort, the expending of energy, to arrive at a desired destination. Are any works involved in the salvation process? "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). These works most assuredly do not earn salvation, but at the same time, God requires them. In fact, this verse says we are being created for the very purpose of doing them! Such works are covered within the general term "walk."
Besides requiring effort, walking implies a destination, a goal. When a person walks, he is moving purposefully to accomplish something regardless of whether it is to flip a light switch, shop at a store, get some exercise, or go to work or school. God requires that we "walk in newness of life." It is our God-appointed goal in life and the reason He invites us into His presence. Our lives cannot consist of aimless drifting; we are headed somewhere, even as Israel's goal was the Promised Land.
I Peter 1:13-19 highlights what we must do:
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your sojourning here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
Christianity is a way involving far more walking than talking. It requires effort, and most scriptures imply that the walking is voluntary. It must be this way because, most of the time when we walk, it is because we have made a voluntary decision to move from one point to another. In God's purpose, it is the only way to make the mind, nature, and character of Christ truly ours.
The last, brief phrase of Romans 6:4 contains a great deal about life's overriding purpose. In a broad sense, it is what life after conversion is all about. It is awakening to the reality of our spiritual slavery and responsibilities through God's calling, followed by a change of mind toward Him and a spiritual death, burial, and resurrection so we might walk in conformity to Christ into God's Kingdom.
God allows the sacrifice of Christ to take the place of the claim He has on us to restore us to fellowship with Him, which is absolutely essential in providing us the strength, motivation, and gifts—whatever it takes—to complete the walk successfully. Mankind has never enjoyed this; it has not had contact with God since He cut humanity off by putting Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden.
This walking in newness of life is how going on to perfection is accomplished (Hebrews 6:1). God alters our standing with Him legally, graciously, and with generosity and kindness so we can fellowship with Him through prayer, Bible study, fasting, meditation, and obedience. God's spiritual creation requires our participation. It cannot be impressed upon us; we must consciously make decisions to take that walk.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Eight): Conclusion (Part One)
This verse provides a clear sense of an active, even aggressive, goodness. Paul links goodness with full knowledge and admonition of each other. This gives us insight into what he knew of and expected from Christians in Rome, placing before us a target to shoot for in our relationships within the fellowship of the church.
But Paul lists goodness first, as though it is either the foundation for the other two virtues or at least their necessary precursor. I Corinthians 8:1 says, "Knowledge puffs up." Knowledge combined with vanity can spew a torrent of self-righteous offense, but goodness will hold such a display in check and guide knowledge to build up rather than destroy.
Biblical goodness is always, under every circumstance, beneficial. Though he had not yet been to Rome at the writing of his epistle, Paul evidently understood that he was writing to an unusually strong congregation. He was so confident that they had a strong and sincere desire to do the right thing that he wrote that they were "full of goodness [and] filled with all knowledge."
This is quite a compliment, serving to reinforce what he writes in Romans 1:8: "Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world"! They were far different from the recipients of Hebrews, whom he tells, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God" (Hebrews 5:12).
The Romans' full knowledge was an intelligent and comprehensive understanding of the faith and Christian responsibility. Strong faith is not built on weak understanding. They had given honest, serious thought to applying their faith to the sometimes bewildering tangle of life in this world. They were living it.
These two qualities—goodness and knowledge combined—present a sound vehicle for instructing each other on the best ways to "walk the walk" despite the pulls of this world. Goodness provides the right disposition and motivation, and knowledge, the correct instruction. One devoid of the necessary knowledge cannot teach; anyone destitute of goodness will not even try because he lacks the impulse to help others in the right spirit. Even if he makes the effort, only a spirit marked by active love will win the response without which no true education in God's way is possible.
The word translated "admonish" in verse 14 is rendered "advice," "counsel," and "instruct" in other translations. In I Thessalonians 5:14, the same word is translated "warn," indicating that it is more than mere instruction. The English word that comes closest to expressing the sense best is "inculcate." Inculcate means "to impress upon the mind by frequent repetition or persistent urging" (Webster's New World Dictionary). Among its synonyms are such strong words as "indoctrinate," "brainwash," "admonish repeatedly," and even "hammer"! No wonder William Barclay says that agathosune is goodness that "might, and could, rebuke and discipline."
This goodness does whatever loving wisdom calls for in a given situation. However, this in no way means that one should deliver the admonishment, counsel, or even rebuke with meanness of spirit. In other words, one with goodness does not viciously "chew somebody out." Numerous Scriptures counsel us to be gentle and tender with each other. Paul is himself a model of tact and diplomacy in dealing with difficult circumstances within congregations and between himself and a person or congregation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness
Walking worthily, humility, meekness, patience, and forbearance will lead to submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord.
"Walking worthy of our vocation" refers to the process of sanctification. Our vocation is our calling, and we are called to become holy as God is holy. Paul calls upon us to be balanced in our approach, effectively saying, "Never stop studying." We need to keep the vision alive constantly. This is our common cause—to keep the vision alive and constantly refine it by more and greater understanding.
The second part of Paul's admonition is, "Put it into practice." We must put the doctrines into practice because salvation consists, not only of believing truth, but also using and applying it so it becomes written into our very character. Doing this will require faith and setting the will, disciplining the self to follow the correct path in what we know to do.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 7): Ephesians 4 (D)
It is God who saves! God saved Israel from Egyptian slavery. Israel did not overcome Pharaoh and Egypt by either warfare or by dint of superior intelligence. Jesus Christ is our Savior, and we cannot save ourselves from sin's power. When we accept Him as Savior, it obligates us as His servants to obey Him.
In like manner, when God broke Egypt's power, enabling the Israelites to be free, it obligated them to walk out of Egypt if they wanted their liberty. If the Israelites wanted to save their skins and be totally free of Egypt when God parted the Red Sea, it obligated them to walk the path God made for them between the walls of water. When God said, "I am going to bring you into the land and provide for you along the way," if Israel wanted these things, they were obligated to walk all the way to Canaan. It is very clear that if Israel wanted what God said He would give, then Israel had to also cooperate by working in the form of walking to where God said He would lead or take them. "Walk" is a code word for living.
With this as a background, when Paul says to "work out your own salvation," it cannot possibly mean we are going to save ourselves. Rather, like what confronted the Israelites when God opened the way to their physical salvation from slavery in Egypt, we should be ready to make God's spiritual salvation practical and operational. Paul does not say we must work for salvation, but rather carry our salvation out to its conclusion. He uses "work out" in much the same sense as when a student is told to work out an arithmetic problem—to bring it to its conclusion. For us, the conclusion, the goal, to work toward is Christ-likeness. The salvation here is sanctification, victory over sin unto holiness.
To make it very plain, if we want to be one with Him, we must get moving in the direction He is pointing, and He points toward His standards of conduct and attitude. Each person's walk is not exactly the same because each person's experience and makeup are somewhat different. There is enough similarity among humans, though, to make the Bible always relevant.
One of the beautiful things about this is that each person's walk toward the image of God is exactly right for him. What is more, Philippians 2:13 also says God gives us both the will and power or energy to do it! The New Testament in Modern Speech renders it, "For it is God Himself whose power creates within you both the desire and the power to execute His gracious will." This work of God in us is another aspect of His grace, and without it, we could never be one with Him.
God Himself produces in us both the desire to live righteously and the effective energy to do so. He does not demand what we cannot do (I Corinthians 10:13). We see in Philippians 2:12 our responsibility and in verse 13 help to accomplish it.
We can see this working together with God in simple illustrations from physical life. We may launch a sailboat upon the water, but it takes what God supplies, wind, to make it move. We may plant vegetable seeds, but it is the power of God in nature that makes the plant grow and produce food. We may generate gigawatts of electricity in power plants, but God provides the wind, water, sunlight, coal, oil, or gas to turn the turbines. In each case, we add something to what God already supplied.
Our salvation is something already given because it is God's will, and He is sovereign. We, though, must do something to make it practical by applying ourselves to salvation's demands. Even in this, God enables us to do it!
We will never know where the dividing line is between what God supplies and what we are responsible to do because it is different for each according to God's purpose. This proportion must be different because each person is different, and He is preparing us for different responsibilities within His Family. This is sure, however: Our walk toward salvation will always be difficult enough to be challenging and edifying.
Even here the analogy of Israel in the wilderness comes to our aid. Where did Israel get the energy to walk across the wilderness to the Promised Land? Did it not come from the manna and water God supplied, as well as the vision and hope of the inheritance which He also provided? Still, Israel walked! They had to work, to cooperate.
The verb "work" in Philippians 2:12 is in a tense that indicates continuous working. Just as Israel did not leave Egypt and arrive in the Promised Land in one step, neither are our salvation and oneness with God accomplished at once. It, too, is a process; it is our life's work.
John W. Ritenbaugh
All in All
There is no question that God can save us. Of course He can make us inheritors of "the land" and give us eternal life. All these are beyond question! He has the power to do this, and He has the will to do it. He certainly wants to do it—it is part of His purpose.
Even so, we can stop the process. We can choose not to be sanctified. This is why Paul says, "Work out your own salvation." We learn from the analogy of Israel in the wilderness how the first generation of those who came out chose—they made the choice—to die in the wilderness. It was not God's purpose that they die there. He had the power to get Israel into the land. Indeed, He did it. Yet, their lack of faith, their disbelief, their stiff necks, the fact that they never got rid of the patterns of thinking they had in Egypt, they would not yield, they refused to make the right choices (as Joshua and Caleb did) were the deciding factors in their bodies being scattered all through the wilderness. God had it written down as a lesson for us (see I Corinthians 10:1-11). He is saying, in effect, "Choose life. Don't choose to do what these people did—in lusting, tempting Me, and so forth."
So, who can we possibly blame if we do not make it? Has not God called us? Has He not given us His grace? Has He not given us His Spirit, a new heart, the divine nature, access to Him, the promise that He will never give us any trial that is too great for us? And let us not forget he additional promise in Hebrews 13:5, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." He has given us all the tools, so now the onus is on us.
God is not demanding that we do everything perfectly from day one, but He does want to see evidence that we want to be there! He wants to see that we are making efforts to walk the talk. He wants to see that we are not going backwards. He wants to see us move off dead center and that we begin to grow on a steady, consistent basis—regardless of how fast it is. He wants to see that we are using and applying what He has given to us, and He is willing to add whatever we lack! He will give us the gifts that we need in order to serve Him. If we do what He wants us to do, the changes will take place.
The mainstream Christian approach leaves one with the impression that salvation is complete at the point of justification. But that is completely out of step with Colossians 1:22, where Paul writes, "if you continue in the faith. . . ." Israel had to walk to the Promised Land, and as they walked, God prepared them to inherit the land. In this way, they became sanctified. Sanctification is what gives evidence ofgrowth.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Nine)
Do these people have the faith of Jesus Christ, that is, do they believe in and practice the same things He did? Are they truly walking in His steps? Even to casual observance, it is obvious they are unwilling to make sacrifices to practice many of the things He did. Jesus kept the weekly Sabbath and annual holy days of Leviticus; they do not. Jesus kept Passover; they keep Easter, which Jesus never did. He never observed a single Halloween or Christmas, which are never commanded in the Bible and, in fact, are clearly pagan to the core.
This barely scratches the surface, involving only the more obvious pattern of works. However, it points to the fact that the verification that one loves God is moral. God determines the standards of morality, not men who say they love God yet often ignorantly go their own way in many areas of life. Without the keeping of the commandments, there is no other means acceptable to God to identify that we are in union with Him (John 14:15; I John 2:3-5).
This does not mean that love ends with these works—in fact, just the opposite. Keeping His commands, which express godly love, only begins the process. It is by this means that we make our witness to the world. The apostle John writes, "But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him" (I John 2:5). Thus, this process also produces the boldness and confidence that enable us to overcome our anxious fears and conform our life to His.
We were created, called, and granted forgiveness upon confession of faith for this very purpose. In Romans 8:28-30, the apostle Paul confidently declares:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, and 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.
Romans 5:2 reminds us that we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Our goal is set, but now we learn it is conformity to Christ that leads to glorification. Justification by itself is wonderful, but it only begins the process.
Can we honestly say that our walk is every bit as pure as His walk? If we are honest, we freely admit that, in comparison, our walk is irregular, inconsistent, and sometimes thoroughly misguided. Our actions, reactions, words, and attitudes are all too often not in accordance with Christ. We take Him into situations He never would have gotten into Himself. It should be evident why we need Passover each year. It is comforting and encouraging to remember God's mercy—that because He sees us as Christ, He gives us time to recognize what we are, repent of it, yield, and progressively conform to His Son's image.
The days of sacrificing are most assuredly not over—only what is sacrificed has changed. No longer are blood or grain offerings given but things of immeasurably greater value. Our life given in total devotion to walking as our Creator and Elder Brother Jesus walked is the sacrifice that brings conformity to Him. Before our calling, our lives may have been filled to the brim with status, activities, and things we felt were important to our well being. However, in many cases, such things must be jettisoned to accomplish this.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Nine): Conclusion (Part Two)
The fact that Paul states Enoch walked with God suggests a relationship had been established between them. Enoch had thus already experienced what Abel's example teaches. Enoch's example takes us to the next logical step in a faithful person's movement toward glorification. In his arrangement of examples of faith, Paul is emphasizing, not chronological, but experiential order, that is, faith as experienced in practical life. In a true life of faith, walking with God follows justification.
"Walk" and "walking" are the Bible's most frequently used metaphors for two related concepts. Depending upon the translation, they are used almost three hundred times to indicate interaction with another and making progress toward a destination. Somewhat related but used to a lesser extent, "walk" or "walking" indicates the passage of time as a person continues in a chosen direction of life and lifestyle. For example:
» Psalm 1:1: "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly."
» Proverbs 4:14: "Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil."
» Daniel 4:37: "And those who walk in pride He is able to abase."
» Micah 6:8: "And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"
» Psalm 119:45: "And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts."
Scores of similar descriptions are scattered throughout the Bible. They provide a composite picture of the wide variety of the facets of the godly person's and the evil person's manners of life. Since Amos 3:3 shows that two cannot walk together unless they agree, a person walking with God illustrates that the two are in agreement. This does not mean the person is perfect, but it does imply God's acceptance of him at that stage of his life.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)
The world generally interprets the statements regarding Enoch being translated (as in the KJV and other translations) to mean that Enoch was taken to heaven. That is simply untrue, as it contradicts other scriptures. For instance, Hebrews 9:27 states, "And it is appointed for men to die once." In context, this is showing Christ's commonality with mankind: Even as it is appointed for men to die once because of sin, so the perfect Christ died once as a sacrifice in mankind's behalf to pay for sin. If what the world says about Enoch's translation is true, Enoch did not die, creating a contradiction in Scripture.
Jesus makes an authoritative declaration regarding what happens after death in John 3:13, "No one has ascended to heaven but He that came down from heaven," meaning Himself. Who would know better than Jesus? "No one" certainly includes Enoch. Peter declares in Acts 2:29-34 that one as great as David has not risen to heaven either, but is still in the grave.
Hebrews 11:32 lists several other significant people of faith who served God with zeal. The section concludes, "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us" (verses 39-40). These and many more unnamed saints are awaiting the resurrection of the dead and glorification in God's Kingdom. This also applies to Enoch.
The term taken away (NKJV) or translated (KJV) in Hebrews 11:5 simply means "transferred." Enoch was transferred or conveyed from one place on earth to another to escape violence aimed against him. In this other earthly place, he died like all men.
We experience a spiritual form of this, as Colossians 1:13 shows: "He has delivered us from the power of darkness, and conveyed (translated, KJV) us into the kingdom of the Son of His love." Because we are justified and therefore reconciled to God through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, our true spiritual citizenship is now transferred to the Kingdom of God. The implication of this is that with this transfer comes the obligation to live and walk representing the Kingdom of God's way of life. Enoch's walk by faith tells us that he set aside his own carnal preferences and will, bowing in obedience before God's will and submitting his life to God's desires for him. Enoch did so by faith, which is why he pleased God.
Jude 14-16 adds a factor that needs consideration:
Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." These are murmurers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.
Abel was a keeper of sheep and suffered a violent death. Enoch, however, was a preacher and undoubtedly walked to the beat of a different drummer than those around him. As a preacher, he probably gave messages that made others feel ill at ease with him, and it appears that this put him in danger of a violent death, precipitating his miraculous transfer to a safer place.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)
Notice our example of faith, Abraham, the "Father of the Faithful." As Abraham had the knife raised to sacrifice his son, the only evidence he had was the words of God. Abraham could believe God—take Him at His word—or believe all the evidence he could see that the son of promise would die before God fulfilled His promises. Abraham could not "see" what God was going to do. As far as Abraham was concerned, Isaac was dead. The only "evidence" he had that it all would work out was God's words—the promises God made to him.
God also needed evidence. God did not know for sure what was in Abraham's heart (Genesis 22:12) until Abraham made the decision to trust God rather than all the physical evidence around him. The patriarch's actions proved he would walk by faith and not by sight.
To walk is an action. So even the phrase "walk by faith" demonstrates that living faith requires action. Our evidence is God's words. God's evidence is our actions.
We are in the same boat as Abraham. So says Galatians 3:6: "You have exactly the same experience as Abraham. Abraham took God at his word, and that act of faith was accepted as putting him into a right relationship with God" (William Barclay). Just as Abraham had to choose between believing God and believing the circumstances he could see, God also has to put us into exactly the same position. He must find out what is the true intent of our hearts—the depth of our faith. God needs to "know" that we will trust Him, no matter what, before He commits to a permanent, eternal relationship with us.
Faith—What Is It?
1 John 1:7
We know what walk means. It implies how we conduct our lives. I John is a letter written to a church congregation, and he is instructing church members that fellowship hinges on walking in the light. This is how we are to have fellowship with one another.
The context of this instruction is quite interesting. Protestantism focuses heavily on the initial forgiveness of sin that takes place upon belief at the beginning of salvation. Thus, their evangelists have altar calls. People come down before the altar and confess their sins and accept Christ as their Savior. Once they do this, these people are considered "saved" and "born again." Their doctrine—that of eternal salvation—continues in this vein, that is, once that occurs, salvation is basically assured. So a great deal of emphasis is put on the initial repentance and forgiveness of sin.
However, notice this verse in its context. John writes, "If we walk in the light. . . ." An individual cannot walk inthe light until he is called and converted. This walking occurs after conversion. He continues, "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship. . . ." The fellowship depends on what we do after the initial repentance. Amos writes, "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3). It cannot be done. We do not have fellowship with people that we do not agree with. Agreement is shown by the way that we conduct our lives—by the way that we behave under our belief system.
". . . and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all unrighteousness." This phrase, in context, is the game-breaker. The apostle is teaching that further cleansing, further forgiveness, hinges on our obedience to God after we are converted, for "walking in the light" is synonymous to being obedient or living righteously. Forgiveness after conversion works exactly the same way as the forgiveness we were given before we were converted. It hinged on whether we had repented and had begun obeying God.
Clearly, salvation is a process!
What we must understand here is that forgiveness, cleansing, and even fellowship is not a once-for-all act; but it is a process—even as growing in the grace and knowledge is a process, even as the writing of God's law on our heart is a process. Cleansing is a process. The quality of the fellowship depends upon all of these things. So, if we walk in the light, we have fellowship and His blood cleanses us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twelve)
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