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Bible verses about Leadership and Covenants
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 1:1-31

The true God is the Author of the Bible, and He used His sovereign authority to determine the revelations it contains and the sequence in which they are given. Since Adam and Eve, believing in the existence of the true God and His Word has been the principal challenge affecting the quality of life mankind thinks it must have for happiness and prosperity. These beliefs have eluded human understanding—not because God has hidden Himself, but because men refuse to accept the clear evidence He provides in the creation.

Imagine that the Creator God sat us down in a room by ourselves and presented a short film summarizing the Bible's first ten chapters. What would we see? What would it teach us about His character, purpose, and plan?

Authors and filmmakers are creators in their own way. They prepare an outline, a story flow, they wish to follow either to entertain or to educate their readers or viewers. Have we ever wondered why God began the Bible as He did? Consider this simple overview as a factor of utmost importance to our well-being in relation to life's purposes.

Have we ever consciously noted that the Bible begins in Genesis 1 with God creating order from what appears to be the result of either a destruction of a previous system or an array of disparate parts, fashioning them into a form appropriate for His next step? Either way, as the story unfolds, the role He plays emerges. The primary point is virtually impossible to miss: Supreme order and direction in what He will reveal originates in and from Him. Though normally invisible to humanity, He is clearly in control, initiating what will happen and also continuing to completion what He began.

The orderly progression of time and activity continues as God arranges, piece by piece, the environment in which later events will take place. Created elements appear in a natural progression. First, there must be light. From this point on, everything coming into view is made new and in sparkling, showroom condition.

Last of all, the two humans are designed in the image of God Himself. They, Adam and Eve—who will set in motion the human side of the action—are created, given life, and presented gifts, which are examples of His grace: earth and all it contains for their use within the boundaries He set. They immediately begin to use what God freely gave them as gifts.

What has God chosen to show us thus far? First, He is the Author of all that is. Second, He brings order out of lifeless chaos. Third, perhaps our Lord's flesh-and-blood brother sums it up best in James 1:17-18:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

What has God revealed of Himself to this point without saying a word except for what He commanded to bring into existence? It is purposefully instructive.

Genesis 1 shows that He is a God of order and that He has a distinct purpose for each step He takes. He is a God of awesome powers, moving mountains, seas, rivers, valleys, and vast oceans of atmosphere into place. Greenery and animal life appear. Nothing happens randomly. Every step proceeds as He directs. He is in control as He purposefully establishes His sovereignty over everything He has brought into existence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Ten)


 

Genesis 1:28

This verse contains the first words God spoke to mankind. The Hebrew word translated as “blessed” can also at times signify a curse. Here, without a doubt, it signifies that God's conferring of good on the newly created couple is to be shared by their descendants.

This divine act not only confers dominion over what God created, but it also establishes that, even as God is the Creator and Giver of His wonderful creation at that moment, He is also the Giver of its continued blessings through time to Adam and Eve's descendants. In His first oral communication to them—an authoritative command to spread over the earth and enjoy His creation's benefits—He desires to establish in their minds that everything before them was a gift from Him to prepare them to face life.

The physical creation of earth, which culminated in the creation of Adam and Eve, parallels the spiritual creation this same God is undertaking in us. Even as God supplied all that Adam and Eve needed for life, so is He supplying all that we need for our spiritual creation. The apostle Paul confirms this in Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Our responsibility is to hold fast to His promises in faith.

We have been given much, but much more is required of us than is required of the unconverted because God has given us gifts not given to them. This principle of God's judgment appears in Luke 12:47-48:

And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

The overriding thought in the foreground of this first and universal covenant is that the entire creation—including us and the spiritual life given us, but in context, especially earth and what it contains—is a gift from God to aid us in making our way through the physical life He has provided. This is a reality: We live and have being, and we think, plan, build, and look to the future all because of what God has done. This reality must be foundational in our relationship with Him because it provides solid footing for the humility necessary to make it work. Because He is the Giver of all good things, our thinking about ourselves in relation to Him must begin here.

In the context of Genesis 1, these blessings, these gifts, are somewhat similar to the gifts of the Spirit listed in I Corinthians 12. A dissimilarity, though, is that I Corinthians 12:11 says, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He will.” Here, God supplies gifts for functions He assigns within the church rather than for all of life. But an important similarity that we must live by is that God is still gifting to meet the needs of those He is creating, but in this case the gifts are spiritual rather than physical.

The following truth is not stated in Genesis 1-3, but it is a conclusion gathered from this covenant's entire context combined with understanding gathered elsewhere in God's Word: All of God's gifts are aspects of His grace given to aid us in succeeding within His purpose.

The emphasis should be on His purpose. For example the entire creation is a gift. Whether one is converted or unconverted, it stands as a major teaching device, and receiving it bears responsibilities. Serious and honest consideration of it should lead to answering many questions about our place in a relationship with God, and to realizing some of our responsibilities. This is why Paul declares mankind “without excuse.” The fulfillment of these responsibilities lies in the uses we make of the gifts God has given.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Five)


 

Genesis 2:1-3

As the sixth day ended, the creation week was not yet complete. One more day and a major blessing remained to be given to mankind to aid it in accomplishing God's purpose for all.

God created the Sabbath by resting on it and sanctified it as a blessing for mankind to observe in a similar fashion. God did not need to rest because He had grown tired, as we humans do (Isaiah 40:28; see Psalm 121:4). He rested as an example to us, showing what we must do on the seventh day, as well as to sanctify it as a special day to accomplish His purposes in creating us.

He did not do this for any other day. The Sabbath is part of the Ten Commandments, and as nearly the middle commandment, functions as a bridge between the law's two parts. It is the only one of the ten directly mentioned in the Edenic covenant.

Why has observance of this day fallen into such disrepute? It is not only disregarded by most, but even hated within some circles of the “Christian” world, as if keeping it is a curse. Though many do not necessarily hate it, they make no effort to observe it despite God singling the seventh day out as different from the other six days. The reason for this disregard is that, because it is so vital to our Creator's overall purpose, Satan has gone to great lengths to obscure its value.

Jesus states unequivocally in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath, a special creation, was made for the benefit of mankind. He did not make it only for the Israelites, who did not even exist when He created it. Jesus uses “man” here to stand for all humanity beginning with Adam and Eve. Jesus would certainly understand this, as He was the One who created the day for mankind (Colossians 1:15-19).

God specifically identifies Himself with no other day of the week. In Ezekiel 20:12-24, He specifically calls them “My Sabbaths” six times. He does not refer to them as belonging to Israel but to Himself. He also identifies Himself with those who keep the day, and explicitly establishes non-observance of the Sabbath as sin (Exodus 31:12-17)—and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Five)


 

Genesis 2:1-3

God sanctified or hallowed the seventh day, the Sabbath. It takes a holy God to make holy time, and He made no time holy other than His weekly and annual Sabbaths. Though people can be made holy by God, they cannot make something holy because they do not possess a holiness that can be transferred to anything else. Since only a holy God can hallow something, any day other than what God has made holy—even though billions of people may proclaim it to be holy—cannot be holy time. It is utterly impossible. No day can be holy except the one God made holy.

This means that the Sabbath is worthy of respect, deference, and even devotion that cannot be given to other periods of time. It is set apart for sacred use because it is derived directly from Him and made holy at creation. Because of God's assignment of the word “holy” to the Sabbath, this day is changed into something special. Even though it is a part of the cycle of the week, the Sabbath is separate from the other six days. It is different from the common or ordinary. The other six days are common, given for the pursuit of the ordinary things of life. The seventh-day Sabbath is a day God has reserved for man's benefit for special things, different things—spiritual things.

The Sabbath is not holy merely because God assigned it as such, though by itself, if we truly fear Him, that should be enough. How do things become holy, even things like the soil of the ground, or in this case, time? The Bible shows they become holy because He puts His presence in them. By the fact of His presence, they become a spiritual creation. God's presence is in the weekly Sabbath as well as in the annual Sabbaths, which He also created and made holy for the spiritual guidance of those He has a relationship with.

Luke writes, “So [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read” (Luke 4:16). Jesus kept the weekly Sabbath as well as the annual Sabbaths (see John 7:2, 10). The book of Acts reports the apostle Paul and the New Testament church keeping the weekly and annual Sabbaths, even Gentiles.

Nothing in the Bible changes the day God set aside and made holy at creation. The Catholic Church publicly lays claim to changing the day of worship to Sunday and charges the Protestant churches with following their lead. Can the Catholic Church make anything holy?

Everything that truly matters reveals the Edenic Covenant to be universal in application. This means that, along with everything else in that covenant God charged us to submit to, the Sabbath is still in effect. Nothing holy has been created to replace the Sabbath God created in the first week.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Five)


 

Genesis 2:15-17

This world is the way it is, not because God hid the reality of His existence and instruction from mankind (see Romans 1:20), but because mankind has chosen to ignore God's reality and the wisdom He has made available to humanity from the beginning. Adam and Eve, representing all mankind, are the case in point. As they did, so we all have done in our days.

Virtually everyone who has ever lived eventually asks, “Why is life such a struggle?” Why does life so frequently seem hopelessly mired in what is base and frustratingly difficult? The answer appears in Genesis 2-3. No other section of the Bible so clearly depicts the stark contrast between the idyllic beauty, innocence, and potential for happiness in life in Eden and the shocking judgments God hands down just a few chapters later. The lesson is clear, but mankind still ignores the reality that, as God warned, sin destroys.

It does not matter whether any other human sees the sin nor what we think about the sin. What matters is what the Creator says. Nothing can change that because what He says is reality—truth. The early portions of Genesis teach us that, when God turned mankind loose following their sins in the Garden, people used their liberty to commit sin even more freely. Almost no one took to heart the lessons contained within the first sins. Humanity continued doing what seems right rather than what is right. As Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, buts its end is the way of death."

In Genesis 4, God records the first murder. In this case, it was not one of just any man but of a humble, righteous, believing man—by his flesh-and-blood brother! In addition, God banishes the murderer from continuing any kind of relationship with Him. Fear rises in Cain's murderous heart, making life even more burdensome for him following his choice that seemed right to him.

God then gives us a brief glimpse into the life of Cain's grandson, Lamech, who, not only has multiple wives, but also boasts of having killed a man. He then warns—following the worst example of his day, his own grandfather—that should any future harm befall him, he will be even more menacing. We see humanity's problems compounding as the number of ways that seemed right increases. Through these examples, we see that mankind's arrogance, combined with his poor choices contrary to God's instruction, grew rapidly.

If a thinking and believing person ever needs a reminder that everything in life matters, the results of Adam's and Eve's sins should do the trick. Neither of them ever considered the long-range and long-lasting effects of what they were about to do. God is showing us broadly that there is no such thing as committing a sin in a corner, one that affects nobody else, because everyone and everything are part of the operation God has created. As its sovereign Governor, He actively rules what He has made. Planet Earth almost seems alive at times because everything is so interconnected.

We must avoid thinking of God's creation as being a mere machine. In addition to its amazing resilience and recuperative powers, creation also contains living, thinking, decision-making beings, either helping to maintain it properly or destroying it. Though people of no consequence in seemingly insignificant circumstances commit sins, their sins always create effects beyond the time, the place, and the people against whom they are committed. It is no wonder that Scripture likens sin to leaven. A major lesson here is that none of us lives in a vacuum. If nothing else, earth's Creator is always overseeing it and judging. Though extremely merciful, He is also just.

The lesson of Proverbs 14:12 is this: Only too late do deluded persons who ignore the reality of God and His Word discover that they are on the crowded highway to death. What God presents in His Word is not that sinners were tricked, but that they relied too heavily on their own wisdom rather than turning in humility to the God who offers to mankind a way of clear choices—His way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)


 

Genesis 2:18-20

Within the covenant, the blessing of the establishment of marriage is preceded by God preparing Adam's mind for his need for a companion suitable to him. This was no casual activity. It involved a display of the intellectual powers that God gave to Adam. God undoubtedly caused animals or groups of animals to gather for Adam to observe, study, and classify, to see what he would call them.

In giving each animal group its name, Adam demonstrated his right as God's human regent. He was given dominion over the animals, and he used that authority. Furthermore, it appears that the names Adam gave them “stuck.” They did so because he demonstrated good insight into their characteristics, and his descendants later used the names he initially gave the animals.

This exercise demonstrated to Adam that there was no one like him in the animal world. No animal was created in the image of God. If he had chosen one of them, communication and all it entails would necessarily have had to remain at the animal's level. He was now better prepared for God's gift of Eve.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Five)


 

Genesis 2:21-24

The warmth and beauty of this creation is fitting, a crown on all that God had created for the man and woman to prepare them for life in the world. Adam's response shows his pleasurable agreement with this added gift.

Feminists take issue with Scripture's reference to Eve as a “helper” (Genesis 2:18, 20), but there is nothing demeaning in the term. It simply means “one who helps.” God Himself is referred to as our “help” several times (see Psalm 115:10-11). Remember, Genesis 1:27 asserts, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” With both sexes created in God's image, neither can claim superiority.

With our knowledge of DNA, it makes perfect sense for God to have built Eve from a small portion of Adam's body because his body already had within it every means for Eve to be his perfect female match. Adam did not know this technical, biological reality, but he was still in naming-mode after his experience with the animals. So, when he saw her he said, in effect, “She is me!” meaning she is like him, not like an animal, naming her “woman.” (In Hebrew, “man” is ish and “woman” is isha.) Each was made to be the perfect companion for the other. The concluding comment in Genesis 2:24—that a man and his wife are to become one flesh—reinforces this.

Today, marriage is not at its most stable state in our Western cultures. Yet, God's intention is plain. When asked about divorce and remarriage, Jesus declares God's original intent in Matthew 19:8-9. Mankind's marriage problems do not stem from God's creation of the institution. They lie in the hardness of heart of both men and women.

Jesus' clear statement is the reality that the modern demand for “equality”—especially from feminists—opposes, and such opposition affects the stability of marriages to such an extent that more than a third of all marriages end in divorce. Some remarry and divorce several times, throwing both family life and society into turmoil. The entire culture is badly fractured.

Feminist anger over God's making Eve for Adam reveals that they are anti-God in their outlook on marriage. They forget, or conveniently overlook, that Adam was made for Eve too, and in addition, that she was made from man, meaning that she was part of him. Genesis does not suggest in any way that she was created as man's servant. Adam himself perceived her as a delightful companion.

Are men and woman equal? The answer depends on the particular context. Generally, they are not equal in physical feats of strength, for instance, but they are equal in many ways, especially in mental and spiritual terms. Both are created in the image of God, which starts them on the path to being fit companions for each other. Both are under moral responsibility to God. No place in Scripture states either a man's or a woman's sins are the worse. Both men and women are recipients of God's grace and can be forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ. Both are equal in terms of being offered salvation and receiving eternal life and reward in God's Kingdom.

The true cause of marital problems lies in the ignorance of both men and women of their responsibilities within a marriage. Compounding this is another reality: the self-centered, carnal character of each personality involved. These two factors—ignorance of responsibility and selfish carnality—result in multitudes of mistakes and misapplications in many areas of the relationship, creating discouragement and anguish rather than satisfaction and joy, as God intended.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Five)


 

Genesis 2:24

In the New King James Version, Genesis 2:24 reads that the man and woman are to “be joined to” each other, while the King James Version uses the more traditional term, “cleave to.” These phrases are important because in them God is signaling to those studying into His purpose for marriage that achieving the oneness He desires in marriage is difficult. If the couple is not truly cleaving to one another, the marriage will not produce good fruit, and the two may slip apart from each other rather than grow ever closer.

The Hebrew term underlying “join” or “cleave,” dâbaq, is a strong word that has the literal sense of two being held together by force, as when one person captures another. It has a figurative sense of being “glued to” through positive family care. In a marriage-and-family situation, it portrays a bond of consistent, sacrificial loyalty and devotion.

The word appears in Ruth 1:14: “Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung [dâbaq] to her.” The account shows Orpah remaining in the nation of her birth, distancing herself from Naomi, but Ruth, who clings to her mother-in-law, remains with her and accompanies her to Judea.

This same loyal devotion is what God is looking for from each partner in a marriage; a voluntary, sacrificial giving of themselves in loyalty, devotion, and affection so oneness is produced.

The loving efforts toward oneness in marriage are types of what is needed for the Christian to become one spiritually with the Father and the Son. Both partners in a marriage are to give themselves completely to achieving a human type of the oneness that the Father and Son exhibit in Their relationship. God created this process as a deliberate parallel in terms of our overall goals in life. The goals in both a physical marriage and a spiritual relationship with God are in principle essentially the same—achieving oneness. Some individual characteristics are different, of course, because one goal is physical and the other is spiritual.

These attitudes and actions have impact beyond an immediate family situation. As God unveils His truths through the beginning portions of the Bible, the reader is led to the logical conclusion that, as the populations increased and communities were formed, community needs were filled through family organization. There were no governments, churches, schools, businesses, etc., before marriage and family. Those other institutions took a long time to form. The meeting of community needs arose from the patterns in use within the organized family that the Creator God ordained.

God's creation of marriage and family provided the model. Following the pattern of the father's authority in the family, community government formed. The same basic process was involved in the founding of schools beyond the children's most basic needs. Thus, colleges, universities, and schools of all kinds were developed to meet the needs of communities. One would be hard pressed to name any community institution that does not have some direct or indirect connection to meeting family needs.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Six)


 

Genesis 2:25

Moses reports this immediately after the comment that marriage partners were to "become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Adam and Eve were literally naked. Once they sinned, though, they immediately looked for something to cover themselves (Genesis 3:7). God draws attention to it to focus our attention on mankind's failure.

“Naked” is used as a descriptor 104 times in Scripture. Depending on the context, it can indicate innocence, purity, defenselessness, vulnerability, helplessness, humiliation, shame, guilt, and judgment. At times, it may indicate several of these qualities within a single context, so the context must be read carefully to grasp how it is specifically being used.

In Genesis 2:25, it indicates good qualities: purity of mind and conduct, innocence, and perhaps also vulnerability. God is setting up the impending radical difference that was the fruit of destruction by sin, using the term to help illustrate the depth of their fall through the sins that followed.

Overall, God's instruction in this context smashes the false notion that many have: that sin is of minor concern as long as nobody gets hurt. How? This episode teaches there is no such thing as a sin that does no damage. It always destroys, and sometimes in multiple areas of life. The damage may not visibly or immediately appear to the perpetrators.

Genesis 3:7 is revealing in terms of what happened immediately after their sins: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” The earlier context offers no indication that their being naked before God and each other had caused even the slightest embarrassment. Once they sinned, they not only realized their nakedness, but with the realization they also felt a sense of shame. They knew they had committed something evil—sin. If there was no shame, why would they seek to cover themselves? The fruit of sin was beginning to grow.

So they hastily searched out the best covering they could find, but what they used—fig leaves—was in reality totally inadequate. The nakedness was not the problem, the sins were. That was not all they did:

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (Genesis 3:8-11)

What was the damage tally from this one event?

First, their sin immediately changed their hearts. They did not have to wait around for somebody to be injured or offended. Sin instantly altered the purity of their thoughts, as shown by the actions they took to “protect” themselves.

Second, their sins damaged their relationship with God. The wrong kind of fear entered the relationship and began separating Him from them. God did not change, of course, but sin immediately marred the quality of the relationship.

Third, their sins distorted their relationship with each other. They could no longer look at each other with the pure innocence they had before, having shared in an evil deed and accused each other and Satan.

Fourth, their sins altered their views about themselves. They knew in their heart of hearts that they had done an evil thing. Their reaction was to justify themselves and shift the blame to others.

Adam and Eve's choice was costly. Their disloyalty exposed their proclivity to sin on their very first exposure to temptation, costing them a relationship with God. They established a sinful pattern of life, as shown in the fruit of their marriage, which is evident in the sinful lives of their children. Finally, their sins cost them the blessing of living in the Garden of Eden.

It was not an encouraging beginning for humanity. Yet, because God is patiently merciful, He has called us, revealed His purpose to us, and given us His Spirit. We now have the fabulous opportunity to learn from their examples and use His gifts in a righteous way.

Though sins are committed by insignificant people in seemingly inconsequential circumstances, they always have effects beyond the time, place, and perpetrators of the transgression. A major lesson we must learn from this is that we do not live in a vacuum; this creation's Creator is always overseeing it and judging.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Six)


 

Genesis 2:25

This statement acts as a bridge, connecting directly to mankind's first sins, exposed in Genesis 3. Their nakedness played a revealing role, instructing us about what happens when we sin. Undoubtedly, their nakedness in verse 25 was literal, not merely figurative.

Combined, the terms “naked” and “nakedness” are used 104 times in Scripture, a high number for fairly uncommon words, indicating their importance. Depending on the context, the terms can figuratively indicate innocence, defenselessness, vulnerability, helplessness, humiliation, shame, guilt, or judgment.

At times, nakedness may indicate several qualities within the same context or even within the same sentence, the different figures adding clarity to our understanding. A person may have to read the context carefully to grasp how God is specifically using it. In Genesis 2:25, He is using this distinctive illustration to portray Adam and Eve's innocence and purity of conduct. In Isaiah 47:1-3, Jeremiah 13:26, and Ezekiel 16:37, nakedness emphasizes Israel's and Babylon's significant declines, falls from being seen as respectable national powers to being judged as despicable prostitutes by all who beheld them among the nations. They became objects of wondering scorn rather than of emulation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Seven)


 

Genesis 3:6

One of the most prominent aspects of mankind's first sin is that in one sense, nothing spectacular happened at all. Lightning did not flash, and thunder did not crash and reverberate through the sky. There was no great earthquake; no huge crevasse opened at their feet and threaten to swallow them. We can take a lesson from this too: Most sins occur beyond the sight and hearing of others, and most people take pains to hide them.

Taking pains to hide one's sins suggests that if no one sees them, a person can get away with them, and nobody is the wiser. Even with this first sin, time seemed to move on as though nothing happened—despite being one of the most momentous events in mankind's history, affecting everybody born since!

Our first parents' sins are the first indication that no sin is done in a vacuum, that a sin can be committed that affects nobody else. In Scripture, sin is typified by leavening. No one must induce leaven to do what God created it to do. Like yeast, sin spreads and infects others.

This process also sets a pattern for God's reaction to sins that we commit. There is almost never any outward indication that one sins. Notice that God called out to them in the cool of the day, suggesting the passage of some time since the sin occurred. It was certainly after they had time to dress themselves in fig leaves. Perhaps God called out to them in late afternoon or early evening.

God certainly did not arrive on the scene in a terrifying manner—with fire, hailstorm, and thunder. Apparently, He was calmly walking. But notice that the Bible indicates that Adam and Eve reacted in terror of meeting with Him. The knowledge of their sin against their wonderful Creator filled them with great anxiety, to say the least. The sins were working internally, creating stresses in anticipation of His reaction. They knew enough about His character to know they had done wrong, and despite knowing they could not hide from Him, they nonetheless still attempted to do it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Seven)


 

Genesis 3:7-11

A reason God asked the questions of Adam is to make those of us reading this think about the subject of nakedness as it applies to its scriptural use and thus to our spiritual life. The answer is obvious: Nobody told them. Before their sins, they were naked, but they were not aware of their nakedness. They simply accepted it as normal; they saw nothing unusual about it because they were naked from their first awareness of being alive.

This contains a vital lesson, one that is either never learned or quickly forgotten after being made aware of it. When Adam and Eve sinned, the first apparent result to them, the sinners, was that they were immediately aware of their nakedness. In this novel way, their proclivity to sin was exposed to them. Their innocence was forever destroyed.

A change happened in their minds or hearts, with no effort on their part. God created this reaction in them to bring an awareness of sin to their consciences, and guilt and fear became part of their “normal” makeup. Knowing immediately that God was aware of what they had done, fear entered their perception of themselves and their relationships. They no longer looked at others and events with their former innocence. Their reaction to all this was pathetic, making clothing of fig leaves, as if to cover their sin, and hiding from God after hearing His voice.

God teaches this object lesson to those who are part of His new spiritual creation so they can be aware of their spiritual deficiencies. Consider the typical reaction people have when exceeding the speed limit on the highway and suddenly discovering a patrol officer with a radar gun clocking the speed of those passing his position. Similarly, most people resent the cameras that governing authorities have installed throughout cities to enable them to watch what is going on. Psychologists tell us most people become irritated when stared at.

Why do people react this way? Those under observation, believing their lives are being inspected, fear what the observers will learn. They feel exposed; they may even feel naked, though they are fully clothed. Yet, rioters have no qualms about breaking into a store and looting whatever is not nailed down because they know they can easily get away with their thievery since the authorities' attention is elsewhere. It is as if they and their sins are invisible. Many people steal because they believe no one is watching. How wrong they are! Not only is God watching, but their own conscience is too.

Before Adam and Eve sinned, they had done nothing wrong. They had nothing to be embarrassed about, even before God. This points to a safe conclusion that God had instructed them thoroughly about the Two Trees. If they had not been taught, they would have had no understanding that their actions were wrong (Romans 3:20). The moral perfection of both was erased in an instant.

We can deduce another effect of their sin: It changed their attitudes toward each other. Besides God and the Serpent, Adam and Eve were the only ones around, and when they sinned, God was nowhere in sight. Despite there being only the two of them, the awareness of their nakedness motivated them to cover up in the presence of each other. Before their sins, they were not aware of either their own or the other's nakedness. If there was no sense of shame or embarrassment between them, why cover up? Yet, with sin, their attitudes toward each other had changed. It is as if each felt their nakedness needed to be hidden from the other. Humiliation, too, now appears to be a part of their relationship. Their untainted feelings for each other that had existed since their creation began to turn immediately.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Seven)


 

Genesis 3:11-13

God asks the questions to impress them on their minds, allowing Adam and Eve to convict themselves with thoughtful and honest answers. Honest, yes, and very revealing. Both cast a measure of blame away from themselves. They plainly believe that they are not to blame and should not bear full responsibility for their transgressions.

Thus began mankind's practice of self-justification in defense of sin. But neither Satan nor anyone else made them sin. Nobody twisted their arms. Notice how the sin of self-justification intensifies the original sin. By attempting to dodge responsibility, claiming that circumstances made them sin, they compounded their sin by lying.

Adam's sin is particularly egregious, blaming God's gift to him, Eve, whom he had held in such high regard just moments before. In a somewhat roundabout manner, he is blaming God, essentially saying, “God, if you hadn't given me this woman, I wouldn't have sinned!”

Similarly, Eve says, “If You hadn't allowed that Serpent into the Garden, I wouldn't have sinned.” Today, we might say that it is in our genes to sin; that we grew up in a bad neighborhood; that our parents failed to teach us; or that our father or mother was a drug addict or alcoholic. Some of those circumstances may be true, but they do not make us sin.

God is teaching us that, regarding sin, circumstances offer us little assistance when under God's judgment. Should a situation that invites sin arise, it is our responsibility to exercise faith and control ourselves, remaining in alignment with God's righteousness. When he told his audience that he had done something wrong, comedian Flip Wilson claimed, “The Devil made me do it!” and everybody laughed. But that, too, is simply a backhanded way of blaming God, as He created the angelic being who became the Devil.

We can reach a couple of brief conclusions from our evaluation of Adam and Eve's experience:

First, if we do not honestly and fully accept responsibility for our sins before God, we will surely reap their grim effects. Sin's fruit, regardless of the circumstances in which it is committed, is always the same. When sin occurs in the course of history makes no difference. Adam's and Eve's sins occurred at the outset of mankind's history, and they are still affecting us. Not every sin has this level of power, but the potential exists. Besides the death of the sinner, like leaven, sin's effect is to spread from its initial point of origin.

Second, as shown by Adam's and Eve's excuses, self-justification tends to blind us to God's goodness, His gifts, because it intensifies what originally occurred. In our haste to absolve ourselves, we forget things that God has provided us: life itself, a mind that can gather information, the ability to reason, the ability to remember, and a spirit that, not only makes us human, but confers the potential to be like God. Adam's blaming of God for His gift of Eve reveals his horrendous ingratitude for what he had been given.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Seven)


 

Genesis 3:14-15

Six thousand years later, the Israelitish people and modern-day Christians living by faith are still anticipating the Promised Seed's second coming in glory. When God gave this judgment, there was little information within the sign to use as an identifier except that Eve was the only female at that time, and she had as yet no children. However, her first child was a son, and the anticipation began. She probably assumed that he was the Promised Seed. She was wrong—he was a murderer.

She had a third son, Seth (Genesis 4:23-25), and he was not the Promised Seed either, but he did become an ancestor of the Promised Seed. The Promised Seed's lineage can be traced from Seth through Noah to Abraham, Jacob, Judah, King David, and finally, Joseph and Mary when He was born in Bethlehem, Judea. The sign took around 4,000 years to come to pass after God's judgment of the Serpent in Genesis 3.

As the centuries slid by, God occasionally added reminders and more precise descriptions of the Promised Seed so that, if the Israelites believed Him, they could more accurately identify the Messiah's appearance when God sent Him. God kept His word. He did send Him, and He performed His responsibility admirably.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eleven): Signs


 

Genesis 3:16-19

The matter of leadership—whether nationally, locally, at home, on the job, or on the team—has always been a vexing problem for mankind. “Always” should be taken literally because Genesis 3:16-19 reveals it was a major part of several issues that triggered mankind's circumstances ever since, down to this very second. After Adam's and Eve's sins, God imposed curses, at the same time pointedly stating why this major flaw in man's character helped to trigger the human condition that persists today.

Notice that God mentions to Adam, whom He had appointed as leader of the family through which He intended to populate the entire earth, “You have heeded the voice [counsel] of your wife.” In other words, he had failed to lead the only person who was then under his authority. He took her counsel rather than do what God had commanded him to do, and thus he sinned. The context does not state why he did so, but what resulted was an act of idolatry. He put her counsel before God's, breaking the first commandment.

How long did Adam ponder the challenge of the serpent's arguments to break God's commandment by eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? A few seconds? A few minutes? Whatever it was, in comparison to the amount of time that has passed since, it remains as little more than a flash of lightning. Yet, consider how this seemingly minor sin motivated God to react.

This singular episode in Eden illustrates how seriously God treats sin as compared to how lightly we tend to take it. It was a brief moment in time, when Adam, along with Eve—only two people—failed to exercise leadership by obeying God's simple stricture. What they chose to do instead has brought far more difficult lives on billions of people—difficulty that otherwise may have never occurred. Life, righteousness, and sin do not operate in a vacuum. There is no such thing as sin that does not hurt others, as some so foolishly think or proclaim to justify themselves.

Ecclesiastes 7:29 makes a telling statement regarding our creation: “Truly this only have I found: That God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” Solomon intends that we understand Adam and Eve to be representative of all mankind. However, Genesis 3 makes clear that they exercised their leadership by leading us into sin. In so doing, they led us all to fall from the pinnacle of human innocence in which they had been created.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part One)


 

Genesis 6:5-8

It was the Creator God who initiated a work through Noah. He and his family did not volunteer. Within this is an awesome truth: Those who received grace in this context were also the only ones who were set apart from the violent, churning mass of humanity on earth, becoming the only ones to survive the Flood. Take note of when they received this grace.

Did the grace they received place them in a favorable, in fact, an enviable position? Absolutely! Grace, then, including its direct connection to God's gift of sanctification, becomes the starting point for encouraging, stimulating thoughts since this particular grace appeared in the midst of a life-threatening situation.

As the Flood story unfolds and the devastating Flood actually comes as God said it would, it becomes clear that our Creator specifically sanctified Noah and his family for deliverance before the Flood occurred. They were specially set apart to be saved from certain death in the Flood.

Do not misunderstand, though. The apostle Paul admonishes in Philippians 2:12-13:

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

The grace God gave them was not a get-out-of-jail-free, do-nothing ticket to life. Paul's warning is not presented in the sense that we must work for salvation but that we must continue what we have begun as a result of God's calling. We must be witnesses before others of what we have received (verses 14-16). Noah and his family had to faithfully carry out responsibilities that God's grace enabled them to accomplish. They built the ark, testifying by it to those around them. They carried out their responsibilities because they lived by faith.

In like manner, we, too, have received grace and are, like Noah and his family, specifically sanctified by God for our calling into the church and for deliverance from what lies ahead. We, too, have not received a free ticket to everlasting life but bear responsibilities within our calling. We, too, must faithfully live God's way of life, glorifying Him by our conduct. God knows how to deliver us out of temptations (II Peter 2:9), but He will not necessarily draw us away from them. We are already facing such temptations, which are gradually intensifying in the pressures they apply as time moves toward Christ's return.

What does this mean to us practically? Recall the reassuring encouragement of Genesis 8:1, when God remembered Noah in the midst of the devastating Flood, even as it was killing everybody not in the ark. This is written to reassure us, not Noah, as his trial was over when this was written.

The marvel in this is not that God remembered but that Noah remembered. Through the 120 years of building the ark, then after entering the ark when the rains came, and the fountains of the great deep erupted with gigantic earthquakes, spouting huge and powerful gushes of water, still Noah did not forget God. A boiling sea pitched him and his family about like a cork. For a year and ten days, their every view was only of incessantly lurching water. How quickly would that get old?

It is truly one of the amazing realities that, in the midst of this churning maelstrom of wind and water, Noah remembered. How easy it would have been for him to be focused entirely on his own safety! In addition, the first thing he did upon leaving the ark was to sacrifice in thanks to God (Genesis 8:20). Like God, he had not forgotten.

The lesson for us is that God was right there with them as they bore the events He was accomplishing through them. Because of His presence, they were saved. It thus becomes clear that grace given in the process of sanctification is the first step toward salvation because God is with us the entire way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Ten)


 

Genesis 6:5-13

At this forbidding juncture, God reveals a spiritual doctrine that is supremely vital to our daily lives and ultimately to our salvation. If we do not grasp this doctrine and set its seriousness firmly in mind, it will throw off our understanding of who God's elect are, and we will greatly undervalue the degree of accountability and appreciation we owe to God for His mercy.

It is appropriate to dig into this doctrine at any time, but it is especially appropriate now because of the nature of the period we are living through. The Bible itself, combined with the daily news reports, indicates the time of Jesus' return is drawing near. Many believe that we are in the beginning stages of what has been called “the crisis at the close.” Consider how similar those pre-Flood times are to our own. As God tells the story in His Word, we are only into the sixth chapter of the first book, and the end of mankind, except for the few who would be spared, was near at hand!

This similarity brings up a critical question for all of us to consider soberly: Who was saved from the devastation of the Flood? Every person did not die in the Flood. We need to think this through because the Flood most definitely came, just as the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, as prophesied by the same unchanging God for our time, will also surely come.

The answer to the critical question is that only those God specifically spared were saved. He specifically names them. God's “grace” is the overall general reason, but the specific aspect of His grace that preserved their lives is that they were sanctified—set apart—for salvation from the Flood.

In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the root words underlying “salvation” mean the same thing. Both terms mean “given deliverance,” implying prosperity despite impending disaster. In this specific instance, the impending disaster is the prophesied Flood. God's first step in delivering some was to sanctify those He chose, Noah and his family.

Sanctification is of major importance to those of us called into God's church, as I Thessalonians 4:3-5 points out: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like Gentiles who do not know God.” Sanctification (Greek hagiasmos) is the noun form of the verb sanctify, which means “to set apart for God's use, to make distinct from what is common.” Thus, those called into the church are set apart by God, as were Noah and his family, for His glory, for salvation from prophesied disasters, and for becoming like Him.

II Peter 2:5 carries the Flood record further: “[For God] did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing the flood on the world of the ungodly.” Noah and his family faithfully responded, doing what God sanctified them to do. Noah not only built the ark, which became the physical means of their salvation, but its construction gave them the time and opportunity to explain to the world why it needed to be built. Noah preached to mankind of God, of their sins, and of the prophesied certainty of the Flood if the people chose not to repent.

From this example, we must grasp God's intention in His sanctification of us. Noah and his family did not save themselves. Like Noah and his family, we are required to respond faithfully to what God has ordained us to do. We must understand that we are God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), and the responsibilities He assigns are part of His creation of us in His image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)


 

Genesis 6:5-6

Just like its spiritual father, Satan, mankind uses God's beautiful creation self-centeredly and destroys.

In Genesis 1-3, we see God graciously giving mankind wonderful gifts to enjoy life. He provided them with long lives and brilliant minds to make use of earth's resources. In Genesis 6, though, we see humanity destroying virtually every good gift in its savage disrespect for Him and what He had made. An ever-increasing population was living nearly without restraint. Perhaps the most astounding detail in this whole mess is what all this did to God: He was grieved in His heart that He had created humanity.

To appreciate the Flood and the covenant that resulted, we need to grasp a major factor that directly led to it. God does not judge impatiently or carelessly; He is merciful and gracious, His actions always motivated by love. Everything He does is in the best interest of His purpose and with the well-being of others at heart. Even considering those two factors, what God did in using an overwhelming Flood to wipe out the entire human population in a matter of a few days is sobering. Undoubtedly, God had good cause.

We have no figures at hand to show how many lives perished, but in 1,600-plus years, combined with their brilliant minds and long lives, not only the population could have been abundant, but the development of the earth's material resources may also have been extensive and advanced. We look forward to having those details revealed in the resurrection.

These considerations indicate that two factors made Him decide to destroy nearly all life and begin all over again: 1) a profound change in the quality of life combined with 2) what was developing in people's minds. God did not have an attitude of defeat or failure. Instead, He primarily considered the result of what was occurring in people's minds. It was a sobering judgment but not nearly as bad as what would have been produced had He allowed events to continue. His judgment provides us a clear understanding of His loving character.

God's reaction was guided by what He saw regarding mankind's sins. In His experience with humanity at this point, He concluded that sin should not be understood as a mere imperfection in character but as a hostile, infecting, poisonous, and destructive force relentlessly driving people to even greater excesses. Added to this reality is an element that significantly raises the level of seriousness: Sin is not merely murder, lying, coveting, thievery, etc., but a vicious motivation buried deeply in men's hearts that generates evil almost incessantly.

God's statement that “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” is not an exaggeration. The heart is a generator of evil by nature (Matthew 15:16-20). In Ecclesiastes 7:29, Solomon reminds us, “Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” How far mankind had fallen from the pinnacle of purity and righteousness Adam and Eve contained when created by this same God! How radically that beautiful creation had changed!

Sin, then, is not merely what one sees on the outside. Far more challenging to understand and deal with is the reality that it is an internal matter; sin is generated from within. This is all the more interesting because Jesus later admonishes us not to look on the outward appearance in making judgments (John 7:24). Yet, we must do this because we lack the godly powers to judge as God does.

I Samuel 16:7 says that in His judgments God looks on the heart. From this incident, the wisest of all Beings, God Himself, teaches us a valuable principle of judgment: When the heart becomes so consistently wicked that evil is its natural course of action, nothing can be done to change it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Nine)


 

Genesis 6:7-9

In verse 9 is the first use of the term “grace” in the Old Testament. Others like Adam and Eve certainly received a measure of grace from God because He could have killed them on the spot for their disloyalty in submitting to Satan since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Abel, Seth, Enoch, and others undoubtedly also received grace. These men appear to have been converted (see Hebrews 11), and their sins forgiven.

Notice it says, “Noah found grace.” It is stated this way so we understand that he did not earn it by his conduct; it was given as a gift, which happens to every converted person. This is not all it says about Noah. Regarding his conduct, Genesis 6:9 states: “This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” The word “perfect” does not refer to his ancestry but to his habitual, daily conduct.

The terms “just,” “perfect,” and “walked with God” all signify his conduct among those in his family and community. Noah was a righteous man who could be trusted because people knew he kept the laws of God. “Walking with God” denotes one so close to God in his manner of life that He would keep company with him because he was obedient despite all the corruption surrounding him on every side. That he was perfect (“blameless,” KJV) among his contemporaries suggests he had no major flaws in his character. In addition, II Peter 2:5 calls him “a preacher of righteousness.”

We need to make sure we are correct regarding Noah and grace because we want to be consistent and accurate about receiving grace. Scripture always shows grace as something given by God; it is never earned. Genesis 6:8, then, does not say Noah received grace because his life already reflected all those good attributes, but that he was conducting his life righteously because God had given him grace. His conduct was proof that he found favor with God. God gave grace, and Noah then began living his life in a godly manner. The favor—grace—empowered him to behave as is recorded here.

An additional result of finding grace was to separate or sanctify him from all others on earth whom God had not sanctified for the purpose the Bible goes on to show. The grace, the favor, the gifts of God, always precede anything produced within His purpose and calling.

Noah stood out because he responded correctly to the grace, the gifts, the favor, God gave him, and so God called him righteous. Likewise, we have found favor, grace, and gifts in God's calling of us, so we need to evaluate whether we are responding as Noah did to the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

We must not just rush by this first mention of grace in the Bible, which God purposely and deliberately inserted here. He also intentionally used the term “found” so we will understand that Noah's conduct was a fruit of God's grace, not something inherent that made God call and use him. It was as if Noah was walking a path and came upon a great treasure that changed his entire life from then on. The Creator God put the treasure there for him to find.

Grace is a gift of God to enable us to reach our goals within His purposes. Like Adam and Eve and like Noah, we play essential roles in what is going on—but not until after God gives His gifts. Adam and Eve failed. Noah succeeded. We can see from Noah's record that grace leads to righteous conduct, walking with God, blamelessness, and making the right witness. In addition, grace provides salvation from the destruction to come. Without grace, there is no new creation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Nine)


 

Genesis 6:8

What Noah did that is truly noteworthy is that he believed God and yielded. Thus, he walked with God and was blameless and righteous—but only because God gifted him first. This is why Genesis 6:8 tells us that “Noah found grace.” The powers to accomplish what he did were not in him by nature. He found grace, and it changed his life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Ten)


 

Genesis 6:11-13

We can easily reach a conclusion about humanity by comparing the Bible's overview of mankind's pre-Flood activities with our more detailed daily news reports. Together, they suggest that we are experiencing times increasingly similar to those just before the Flood. This leads us to an unavoidable conclusion: What God did through the Flood proves that the cataclysm did not solve the problems that reside in the hearts of human beings. What is in man's heart created the necessity for humanity to witness that major disaster as part of its history. The internal stain was still there after the Flood waters drained away; the massive execution of earth's population did not erase the evil motivations of man's self-centered nature. That must be accomplished by another means.

By putting them to death, the Flood did clear the population of a vast number of troublemakers. However, only God's merciful and generous grace, as Noah and his family received, changes a person's heart and thus his or her conduct. Our hearts are changed by God initiating our calling, revealing Himself, granting repentance, giving His Spirit, and then personally working with us in a close, personal relationship. By this means, we are created in the image of God. This is the only permanent solution.

This fact should have the effect of causing us to resolve to follow through by willingly cooperating with God within the relationship created by His merciful calling. What practical, spiritual counsel will enable us to negotiate these times, which are so similar to what Noah went through?

In short, our salvation is to yield to God's guidance, as seen in Noah's story. His attitude and conduct become our practical, human example and spiritual guide. Just as he persevered in building the ark and trusting God to preserve his family through the Flood, we should put the same effort into preparing for God's Kingdom.

Genesis 7:1 provides us with a simple but meaningful instruction: “Then the LORD said to Noah, 'Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.'” Noah did not hesitate when God commanded him to do this, as his labors in building the ark were ending. This command states the qualification to meet our time's spiritual challenges. Noah faithfully lived righteously within the difficulties of the times.

The biblical record shows that God oversaw and provided safety for Noah and his family during those challenges beyond their control. He will do for us as He did for them. The Flood of our times is not one of water but an overwhelming “flood” of deception combined with threats of violence against us. It is already upon us to some small degree. As far as can be determined, nothing of this world will turn it aside. In fact, it is already named in the Bible—our Flood is called the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Ten)


 

Genesis 6:18

This verse is notable partly because it contains the first use of the term “covenant” in Scripture, falling under the unwritten “Law of First Mention.” In the remainder of the Bible, it appears 252 more times. It is a significant term because of what “covenant” means to our relationship with God.

Theologians attach many definitions to it, such as the simple “a promise.” Charles Hodge defines it as “a promise suspended upon a condition, and [to which God] attached to disobedience a certain penalty.” Another termed it as “a bond sovereignly administered.” Modern legal terminology is adequate: “A covenant is a legal document establishing the terms of a relationship between parties involved together in the accomplishment of a purpose.”

Despite Genesis 6:18 being the first time “covenant” is used, it is not the first time the sense of a covenant appears in the Bible—and definitely not the last. It is but one of many to come as God's purpose unfolds. What does a covenant accomplish that assists both God's purpose and mankind's understanding of the life the Creator has given him? Humans need a clear understanding of this question if they are to have a good relationship with God. Deuteronomy 29:29 gives the answer: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Covenants, sometimes specifically and sometimes broadly, spell out each party's responsibilities within a relationship the parties have formed to accomplish a purpose. Biblically, a covenant may not be formally proposed and executed by God with man, as the sense of a covenant within a given context may be apparent to a thoughtful reader. Thus, what researchers call the Edenic Covenant is indeed a covenant even though it is not formally proposed, as the terms of the relationship between the Creator and those He created in Genesis 1 are easily discerned. Adam and Eve were to obey the Creator's rules as He personally revealed them and to do so without sin.

In like manner, some researchers perceive a second covenant, which they call the Adamic Covenant. Again, it is not formally proposed by God to Adam and Eve because their sins and the judgments God imposed so obviously altered life and the relationship between God and humanity. A formal declaration of a new covenant was not necessary. It appears after our first parents' sins and God's judgments, since those factors so seriously and obviously altered the relationships among all concerned.

Mark this truth well: The sins and their judgments altered not only the lives of Adam and Eve but also all who came after. Thus, their effects touch us too because those sins and God's judgments dramatically changed the world we live in (see Romans 8 for an expansion on this thought). Each covenant reveals God's purpose more explicitly to meet the demands of His purposes, but overall, as the “Big Picture” unfolds through the course of the Bible, it also reveals that His central purpose has never changed from the beginning. God declares in Malachi 3:6, “I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.”

The “Big Picture” reveals that God's purpose from the beginning has been to make man in His image and likeness. God did not cause us to sin; we have deliberately chosen to sin. We must live by faith and keep His commandments. We are saved by grace through faith, which is a gift of God. We must repent of sin and accept Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the earth, as our personal Savior. We must grow to love God with all our soul, mind, and might, and love our neighbor as ourselves.

The motivation for our submission to God has always been the wonderful mixture of trust in His Word—faith—combined with a deep, personal love for Him for what He is in His character. New elements are introduced with each covenant, as God's purpose is progressively developed to expand mankind's understanding. Each distinguishing mark of His purpose unfolds as humanity needs to understand its place in what is happening within God's creative process.

The Noahic Covenant, like the Edenic Covenant, is also a universal covenant. Though it is made with Noah, its purpose is to redefine the relationship between God and all mankind in the world that arises after the Flood. Only eight people remained. At least partly, this covenant was given so that Noah and ultimately all humanity could come to know that the Flood did not abolish the covenant following Adam's and Eve's sins and the application of God's judgments. Though the Flood was devastating, mankind is still bound to obey what was previously ordained. The Noahic covenant announces that the Flood did not change God's purpose. It did not wipe away man's original responsibilities, just the lawbreakers.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Nine)


 

Genesis 7:17-23

Amid the prevailing violence of the pre-Flood world, God singled out Noah, called him, and began giving him the grace he needed to complete what likely seemed like an impossible assignment. He spent one hundred and twenty years preaching, undertaking the hard labor to build the ark, and enduring the mockery of his neighbors. When the Flood came, he faced torrential rains combined with earthquakes that produced frighteningly huge waves on an endless sea, making him fear for his family's survival. While never knowing a period of absolute calm, he cared for the animals, including the birds sent out to reconnoiter conditions outside. When one did not return, and the ark settled into the soft but stable soil, the lifesaving voyage ended, and the reestablishment of life on earth began in a world of absolute calm dominated by silence.

From beginning to end, Noah's story has the sense and appeal of a fantastic fictional tale. Within it are events that may remind us of a superhero conquering every challenge devised by a mysterious villain to keep him from accomplishing his mission, and saving his family despite the sacrifices. Since God Himself reports Noah's work through Moses, his story is not fiction; one man lived the entire experience. Moreover, every person born on earth since descends from this one man and his wife.

We do not have to search long to find the cause for God's judgment: man's unending determination to fill his life with every vile form of sin he could imagine. Humanity needed to be saved from itself before millions of minds became so set on sinful ways of living that they could not repent. The step God took—sentencing almost all of mankind to death—was, in reality, an act of divine mercy before humanity reached that point of no return.

This current generation of humanity is living in an atmosphere of widespread violence, which Jesus warned in His Olivet Prophecy would be similar to the state the world was in as Noah was finalizing the housing of the animals God brought to him. The beginning of the Flood was only days away.

How much time do we have before God gives the signal for Jesus to return to earth to establish the Kingdom of God? Before His crucifixion, even Jesus did not know the time of His departure from heaven, so we do not know either. He admonishes us to be ready at all times.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eleven): Signs


 

Genesis 9:8-17

The events and challenges Noah faced were not concluded until God sealed a covenant with post-Flood humanity. Some massively destructive events have occurred on earth, but except for the Flood, they have all been localized events, despite affecting millions of people: volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, hurricanes, and extremes of weather. The Flood is by far the most devastating event ever to occur on Planet Earth since God created Adam and Eve. Except for the eight people God sanctified before Noah began his work, it executed the population of the entire earth in one massive judgment determined and accomplished by the sovereign God. No destructive event comes close to matching it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eleven): Signs


 

Genesis 12:1-3

The part of these seven-fold “I will” promises that applies most directly to the Promised Seed is the final one. Abram was a mere man, though he would live to be 175 years of age. However, in no way could he be called a blessing to all nations, so he understood that the promise would be fulfilled by a descendant. When to this is added that the descendant will be a blessing to all nations on earth, he understood that the promise applied, not only to one generation, but to all nations for all time. Therefore, the last promise included that the Promised Seed, an eternal being, would be born from his family.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eleven): Signs


 

Genesis 18:16-19

What He says encompasses far more than early childhood training from parents, but it is included within its scope. It is vital that the “twig” be bent in the correct direction before the age of accountability arrives so that the child is prepared to recognize and resist the pressures of life from Satan's system. Thus, Proverbs 22:6 admonishes us with sound counsel: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part One)


 

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

The parental responsibility to provide correct guidance in leading their children is so important that God emphasizes it in Deuteronomy 6 immediately after Moses recounts the giving of the Ten Commandments and the formal ratification of what we know as the Old Covenant.

Child-training in the way of God is correct parental leadership. This passage establishes that God holds it to be a major responsibility not to be passed off to anyone else. To do this, the parents must practice the way of God to the best of their abilities in every aspect of life. In this way, the children are not only verbally taught God's way, but also witness it in action right in their own home. This is not happening in this nation, providing powerful evidence to all who believe God as to why it is crumbling from within. Godly leadership is produced within families practicing godly ways.

Most people are unaware that the word “leadership” does not appear even one time in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. “Leader” appears only three times, and all forms of “lead” appear only 81 times. There is a good reason for this: The focus of God's persuasion to live His way of life is on following it. The terms “follow,” “followed,” “follows,” “followers,” and “following” combined appear 258 times—three times more than all forms of “lead” combined. We are frequently urged to follow Christ, the way of God, or the examples of the righteous. We are also urged to imitate the apostle Paul and Christ (I Corinthians 11:1), another form of following.

What is most important about leadership is that leaders are in reality followers. They follow either some person who has set a pattern that brought him success or some way of doing things to achieve success in an endeavor, whether in business, athletics, scholastics, or a way of life that brings growth—and perhaps brings God glory.

This is God's concern. Christianity is a way of life that God greatly desires us to follow. In Acts 16:17, it is called “the way of salvation”; in Acts 18:25, “the way of the Lord”; in Acts 19:9, it is simply called “the Way.” Jesus was the greatest leader who ever lived, never sinning even one time, yet He declares in John 7:16, “My doctrine is not mine, but His who sent Me.” Jesus led. He was in fact the very pinnacle of leadership because He followed the way of God perfectly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part One)


 

Deuteronomy 7:6-8

God is following a pattern He established long ago in performing His creative efforts. He reveals it in His dealings with Israel, and He is still following it to this day.

Nothing in Deuteronomy 7:6-8 would give the average Israelite a puffed-up mind on the subject of God's calling of them to work in and through them for His creative purposes. He makes it plain that He did not deliver them or work with them because of anything they had already accomplished as a nation. They had been a bunch of slaves!

Through the apostle Paul, God exposes a humbling yet accurate truth about those He has called into His church. We must come to grips with it because a humble recognition and acceptance of this reality is necessary for His purposes. We can compare what God says about us with what He said about Israel in Deuteronomy 7. I Corinthians 1:26-31 describes us in this way:

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

God is following the same pattern in calling Christians into the church. We are described as “foolish,” “weak,” “base,” and “despised.” It sounds a great deal like lowly Israel. The only major difference is that He called Israel as an entire nation at once, but He calls Christians into His church one at a time. Incidentally, when He calls us, we, too, are a slave people—unwitting slaves in most cases, living under Satan's thumb and taking orders from him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Two)


 

Deuteronomy 7:6-8

Verse 7 introduces a denial, which can be paraphrased as, “You should not think I gave you this grace because of anything in you, anything you have done, or anything you have been part of.” Yet, in verse 8, He says, “But I have given it to you because I love you.” Putting these two thoughts together, He essentially says, “I love you because I love you.” That seems illogical to us, but it is the logic of grace.

If God acted on our good qualities, it would remove grace entirely from the picture because the gift or gifts would be earned. They would no longer be freely given gifts of His love. We must understand that we are not merely undeserving. Because of our sins, we deserve death for any sin we may commit along the way with Him to salvation, regardless of how slight or unintentional we may think it is. He gifts us because He loves us no matter how He chooses to state His reasons for giving them to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Nine)


 

Deuteronomy 7:9-11

God desires faithfulness in meeting our responsibilities as disciples of Jesus Christ. If we could fulfill our responsibilities sinlessly, it would glorify Him tremendously, but given the record we have already shown by our lives, that is unrealistic. Deuteronomy 7:9-11 draws attention to this vital trait by showing us God's character in reference to a covenant.

God, who cannot lie, states His record to be one of faithfulness, and He will certainly continue to be so. However, our record is questionable at best. We need to show God in our pattern of living that we believe Him and love Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Five)


 

Deuteronomy 18:15-18

In this, God adds honor to the life and reputation of Moses as both the governing leader and legislator of Israel. Moses is a clear type of Jesus Christ in both of these offices. However, in this case, the passage emphasizes the office of prophet. True believers have respected Moses to a degree few other leaders of any nation have been. The Promised Seed, the Messiah, will be like Moses but far greater still.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eleven): Signs


 

2 Samuel 7:18-29

David's humility about himself and his deep respect for God are clearly shown in his response. He, a converted man, was stunned by what God promised, understanding the expanse and depth of God's words as few others who have ever lived. His response is clearly juxtaposed with God's promise so we can perceive a distinct picture of the personality of a person who truly pleased God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eleven): Signs


 

2 Chronicles 33:1-10

It would be hard to name a king of Israel or Judah who led his nation into more evil. Yet, incredible as it is, God's Word reveals that Manasseh repented of much of it. His repentance was not a hollow one. He changed so completely that he did a complete turn-around, tearing down the idols he had erected previously and making God's commanded sacrifices at the Temple. Nowhere is he directly evaluated as doing good in God's sight, but he did some good works to clean up some of the evil mess he had created. God's evaluation of him seems to be softened considerably, considering what could have been recorded.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part One)


 

Psalm 51:7-10

David grasped the major difference between the hearts of God and humans. He uses the same Hebrew term for “create” as Moses uses in Genesis 1:1, when God created the heavens and the earth. Man's heart does not have the foundational goodness of our holy God's heart.

His primary request in the psalm concerns his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and the arranged murder of Uriah. He first craved forgiveness and cleansing of those sins, but he also undoubtedly wanted his heart to be created anew so that he would never repeat such sinful conduct. He desired the nature of his heart in pristine condition so he could truly glorify God. David is asking God to fulfill in him what Paul speaks of in II Corinthians 5:16-17:

Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

This renewal of the heart is not simply godly righteousness legally added to a carnal human heart. The new heart is not merely a repair of the old one. David speaks of an entirely new, clean heart and of a mind generated and motivated by God's Holy Spirit. It is a completely new creation of God, paralleling what Adam underwent as God created him in Genesis 1. Was not Adam a new creation at that time?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)


 

Proverbs 13:14

This verse succinctly expresses the teaching of the entire book of Proverbs. The figure of a fountain is especially apt when we consider the dryness of Judah's weather. A fountain or spring may be the difference between life and death, even as wisdom can be at times.

The Hebrew word torah underlies “law” in this verse. “Teaching” or “instruction” more literally expresses its meaning rather than “law.” The foolish ignore wisdom for the sake of their carnal desires and plunge toward painful problems—perhaps even death—that they could have avoided if they had only submitted to the truth contained in either God's or man's wisdom. The Living Bible renders this verse with pointed counsel: “The advice of a wise man refreshes like water from a mountain spring. Those accepting it become aware of the pitfalls on ahead.”

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)


 

Proverbs 14:12

At its heart, Proverbs 14:12 instructs mankind in a vital truth: No truth is clearer, more direct, and more rewarding than God's truth. Nobody else's truth can exceed the reliability of God's truth, and in fact, it is impossible for Him to lie (Hebrews 6:18). The Amplified Bible provides this expansion: “There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death.” Yet, no deception is present when God and His Word are involved.

The word “death” at the proverb's conclusion is a clue that its instruction deals primarily with a choicein any circumstance of whether to sin. Within Proverbs, this verse is only one among many dealing with the human proclivity to make bad choices motivated by devious carnal desires to get the most and best for the self.

We all fall victim to the truth expressed in Proverbs 14:12. Adam and Eve, after being warned directly and personally by God, nonetheless almost immediately did what God had said not to do. The urge to satisfy our desires despite warnings exists for us just as it did for them. That we, too, sin after He reveals Himself to us is significant evidence that we truly do not respect and believe God as we should.

A great deal more evidence exists within Proverbs of how deeply pride is engrained in our character, persuading us to forge our way ahead rather than follow the wise counsel of men, let alone that of God. We may not fall into immediate death, but we do fail to achieve the success we had hoped for through carnal impatience, avoiding hard work, or even sheer hardheadedness because we refuse to follow sound counsel.

Proverbs 14:12 depicts a person following a path on a journey, which applies directly to all of us because, since our calling, we are on the way of salvation (Acts 16:17; 18:25-26). The Hebrew term underlying “right” more specifically means “straight” or “level,” but it also contains moral implications. The same Hebrew word is translated in verse 11 as “upright,” clearly showing its moral connotations.

Notice the strength of the scorn the proverb projects onto the traveler: The first phrase of the verse is singular (“a way”), but in the second phrase, it is plural (“ways”). Since no wise, human counsel appears in the context, it is safe to assume that in this case the counsel comes from God. Regardless, the fool will not listen to His advice.

Thus, as he begins to walk, he perceives a way open before him. This path shows promise of delivering happiness, power, and a long life, despite his being warned that things can easily go wrong in many ways with his preferred choice. Even so, he is blinded by his pride from the lesson God is teaching, which is clear: In God's way of life, there are no shortcuts to success. His instruction must be followed if one seeks to avoid the pitfalls that will arise.

Proverbs 12:15 follows the same basic path of teaching as Proverbs 14:12, reading, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” The Revised English Bible [REB] translates this more strongly in alignment with Proverbs 14:12: “A fool's conduct is right in his own eyes; to listen to advice shows wisdom.” The REB moves the focus from a person merely thinking, which may lead to rejecting counsel, to literal conduct, showing that he clearly rejected the good counsel God made available. Some are so proud that they tend to think of themselves as rarely wrong. In relation to God, the humanist thinks of himself so, always thinking he knows best. Yet, those who really do know God recognize that the humanist is unaware of the weakness of his relationship with God, and thus they know he is foolish.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)


 

Proverbs 15:19

Everybody would love to hit on a “get-rich-quick scheme” to avoid the rigors and slowness of a tried-and-true way. Those in “get-rich-quick mode” love to find ways to cut corners, quickly getting the job completed and the payment in hand.

The proverb colorfully likens such a person's way to a hedge of thorns. A hedge of thorns, while not life-threatening, is at least irritatingly painful from the hundreds of small wounds that could have been avoided by laboring with wisdom rather than trying to make a quick buck at another's expense. The ignored wisdom leads to the sluggard being constantly hindered by obstacles he has himself created. The Revised Standard Version's translation supplies a clear contrast: “The way of the sluggard is overgrown with thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.”

An element in the proverb that we may easily overlook is that laziness is contrasted with uprightness, a reminder that an element of immorality tinges the sluggard's sloth. The immorality often manifests in a form of dishonesty, as the sluggard attempts to hide the realty of his indolence in “reasons” as to why he accomplished so little or failed to carry his portion of the load.

Again, the instruction aligns with Proverbs 14:12 in that the lazy person's attempts to avoid work produces penalties. The straight course, the tried-and-true one, is ultimately the easiest to walk and produces the most. That is God's way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)


 

Isaiah 3:12

“Lead” is a verb, indicating the activity of the subject of the sentence. According to the Reader's Digest Encyclopedic Dictionary, its definitions are quite extensive, comprising a long paragraph. A few are “to go ahead so as to show the way”; “to guide as in giving directions”; “to conduct as with an orchestra or choral group”; “to cause to progress by or as by pulling or holding, thus to draw along as with a cart”; “to be in command of as in controlling the actions or affairs of”; “to serve as”; “to influence or determine the ideas, conduct, or actions of”; and “to induce and motivate.”

In summary, a leader is one who goes ahead or in advance of, acting as an influence on others, whether by design or incidentally as an example. Note that forcing others is not implied by the term, though it occurs in some cases in actual practice. What we can more obviously infer is that a leader is a guide who influences by example, which allows others to follow more easily. For instance, a leader will encourage people to join a team to achieve an objective.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Two)


 

Isaiah 9:6-7

This revelation does little to define the Messiah in His appearance as a human to crush the ruler of this world and free humanity from the serpent's spiritual grip. However, it describes the greatness of His leadership that will be reflected in the wisdom of His works before being enthroned as the ruler of the World Tomorrow. As King of kings, He will be the Mighty God who rescues and then endlessly rules humanity in the peace it has always desired but could never achieve.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eleven): Signs


 

Isaiah 59:1-8

Isaiah 59 portrays an entire culture in collapse. What is reported there took place about 120 years before Judah's devastation by Nebuchadnezzar's armies in 605 BC. Until being conquered, Judah was still holding together as a nation, so the chapter provides insight into what the self-centered leadership was producing on a more day-to-day basis. In the first eight verses, Isaiah lists Judah's immoral activities.

This passage appears like a report from God through Isaiah on how He sees the collective cultural chaos produced as each citizen's sinfulness contributed to the wickedness of all who were living in Judah at that time. It is delivered as though God is a prosecuting attorney presenting his case before a court for judgment. After reading such a condemning report, one can only wonder whether any more than a mere handful of citizens were actually obeying God! In the same way, we can confidently judge from the news reports we hear daily in the media that the quality of life in the United States is approaching the same condition.

Notice how the Revised English Bible renders the first three verses:

The LORD'S arm is not too short to save nor His ear too dull to hear; rather, it is your iniquities that raise a barrier between you and your God; it is your sins that veil His face, so that He does not hear. Your hands are stained with blood and your fingers with crime; your lips speak lies and your tongues utter injustice.

The people are indeed suffering from the chaotic immorality that surrounds them, and some are truly appealing to God to bring it to a merciful end. They have prayed and fasted about the situation, but God did not react. He provided no answers. He effected no changes. He did not raise up righteous and dutiful shepherds to provide good guidance and instill peace. Indeed, it seemed as if He had not even heard! Or if He had heard, He seemed not to have enough time or strength to do anything to bring the agonies of this kind of life to an end. Why?

Verses 2-3 contains the answer: Surprise, surprise—the very people appealing to God to end the crisis in their communities were guilty of committing the same sins that were responsible for intensifying the crisis. Despite crying out to God, they were not repenting of their own sins! In the meantime, God is waiting for the beginning of a truly sincere and substantial change led by the people crying out to God. He wants them to begin obeying His Word and restoring justice in all their doings.

We can apply this to the ever-worsening situation in the United States. Many people in this nation still hold sincerely to a substantially correct understanding of God and His purposes for mankind. They understand to some degree where the present immorality can lead. Because they fear what is coming and are suffering some degree of misery due to the nation's spiritual decline, they are probably praying about these things.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Two)


 

Isaiah 66:1-2

Perhaps humility stands above all character qualities He desires to be created in us. The humble submit to Him in love. Their submission is love expressed in their actions.

Maybe His desire for humility in us is a response to Satan's pride, which destroyed him and will destroy all who follow him. Ezekiel 28:17 says of Satan, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings that they might gaze at you.”

The arch-rebel does not choose to be humble and submit, but being humble is clearly a choice, as I Peter 5:5-7 admonishes:

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Those who are humble will deliberately and willingly submit to His gifts.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Nine)


 

Ezekiel 34:1-10

God is identifying that, over the course of Israel's history, a chief cause of its despicable behavior and the resulting cultural deterioration was an almost continuous breakdown of leadership. He uses the term “shepherd” to identify the source of the cause, but we need to consider it in more detail because a shepherd is generally associated with a person who leads sheep. We will see that the figurative use of “sheep” is the focus in this context.

In Isaiah 1, God describes Judah as “a people laden with iniquity.” God personified the nation, describing its breakdown as a diseased body: “From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it” (Isaiah 1:6). The nation was corrupt and deceived from the lowliest citizen in the realm all the way to the highest, most powerful governmental leader.

It is easy to assume that in Ezekiel 34 “shepherd” refers only to Judah's religious ministry. Jesus directly refers to Himself in John 10:11 in such a way: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” However, minister is not the only occupation to which the Bible applies the term. A clear and perhaps surprising example appears in Isaiah 44:28, where God Himself calls Cyrus, a Gentile king, “My shepherd.” In II Samuel 5:2, David is commanded by God to “shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.” (See also Numbers 27:15-19.)

Shepherds of literal sheep were providers, guides, protectors, and their constant companions. Thus, they were figures of authority and leadership to the animals under their care. So close is the connection between shepherd and sheep that, to this day, separate flocks can mingle day or night at a well, and a shepherd has only to call his sheep, and they will separate themselves to gather to him. In Genesis 31:38-40, Jacob witnesses to the closeness of a shepherd to his flock, as does Jesus in John 10:5.

The Bible uses the term “shepherd” in Ezekiel 34 to designate anyone responsible for giving guidance to a community. In today's language, in a national sense “shepherds” includes the president or prime minister or royalty, for that matter. It also includes representatives in the legislature and court justices all the way down to the local level. In addition, besides governmental functions, in principal it also includes leaders of corporations and in education, most especially in universities that exist to train the next generation of community leaders. We must not forget the leadership provided by entertainers and media figures. In other words, “shepherd” broadly includes anybody who should be providing righteous leadership over others.

Then comes what might be the most important shepherding category of all, because they are closest to us and have the most meaningful relationship with us—parents. A noteworthy example regarding the impact of parental leadership is that of Adam and Eve. The Bible provides no specific instances of why things turned out as they did, but it is clear that Adam and Eve did not follow through on God's teaching as well as they could have. In the first generation after their sin, they played their roles in producing a murderer.

We find a distinct answer on Adam and Eve's shepherding of Cain when we combine two principles from Scripture. God says in Ezekiel 18:20: “The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” To this we add the apostle John's statement in I John 3:11-12: “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous.”

God's judgment in Genesis 4 does not lay the greatest weight of blame on Cain's first guides and leaders, Adam and Eve. John shows Cain to have been a disciple of Satan. Everyone who sins bears in himself the greatest burden of guilt. There is no doubt that people become enslaved to sinful thinking, but no one can excuse himself from a huge measure of blame.

Righteousness and sin are serious responsibilities; in the end there is no dodging the burden. Every human being has had less-than-perfect family, church, neighborhood, school, and work associations, having been given some measure of guidance through them. But God's Word is clear: God's judgment is fair, and each person is judged individually on the basis of his own record.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part One)


 

Ezekiel 34:1-5

Godly leadership existed in short supply throughout most of Israel's relationship with God. The scriptural record chronicles that an occasional Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, or another good leader arose among them, but Ezekiel 34 succinctly summarizes Judah's leadership, in particular, as shepherds who ruled for their own well-being rather than the citizens'. Such leadership does not produce good results.

Normally, a shepherd is a person who leads a flock by serving the sheep through his care for them in many areas of a sheep's life. However, in a context like Ezekiel 34, the terms “shepherd” and “sheep” are being used in a figurative sense. A shepherd is a human leader in some position of authority, and sheep designate human citizens the leader has authority over. It is also helpful to understand that “shepherd” includes far more than the religious ministry. It includes, in short, leadership in government, education, business, entertainment, and media, reaching all the way to parents in the family home.

God created the domesticated sheep to be among the most dependent of all animals. They are so dependent upon the leadership of a human shepherd that it seems a wonder that they survive in the wild at all. Sheep are quite timid by nature, easily frightened, as well as subject to many diseases and easy prey for predators.

In like manner, humans need quality leadership in important areas of life, or because of Satan's influence on the carnal mind, human community life tends to degenerate into a mode of survival of the fittest, resulting in large numbers of people living as little more than slaves of those mightier than they are. For the majority, life in such a community becomes a hopeless existence.

The prophet penned Isaiah 3:12 over a hundred years before Ezekiel 34 was written, but it exposes that community life in Judah was already in severe decline: “As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths.”

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Two)


 

Micah 5:1-5

This prophecy does not necessarily state where the Messiah would be born but that the home base, town, or city of the family of the Promised Seed would be Bethlehem Ephrathah. He was indeed born there. David's particular family line (see Ruth 4:18-22) begins with a son, Perez, that Tamar bore to Jacob's son, Judah. Five generations later, Salmon was born into that family line, and his son was Boaz, who married Ruth the Moabitess. These two, who made their home in Bethlehem (Ruth 1:1, 19; 2:4), produced Obed, who fathered Jesse, David's father. Jesse and David were also from Bethlehem (I Samuel 16:1, 4, 18).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eleven): Signs


 

Matthew 7:9-11

Mankind is evil! In this case, Jesus did not use evil to indicate “essential wicked character,” but more along the lines of “given to do acts of wicked conduct,” indicating an inclination. Though unconverted and not specifically sanctified to be created in God's image, a worldly person can on occasion do a good thing. Some uncalled people do them consistently. However, doing some good things now and then does not make an individual good by nature. Thus, doing good does not signify that a person is a called, sanctified, and converted child of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)


 

Matthew 15:15-20

This “heart” issue is the reason for the apostle Paul's statement in II Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” The new convert is a new creation, a parallel to Adam and Eve in their creation. God formed them both in His image (Genesis 1:26), though the material source of them was of the earth, which God also created. Isaiah 64:8 affirms what is occurring in those whom God calls: “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.”

In like manner, in the new creation, the new convert, it is God who calls (I Corinthians 7:15), who provides faith (Ephesians 2:8), who grants repentance (Acts 5:31), and who gives His Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32). Just as God provided the means for Adam and Eve to function responsibly toward Him, so has He also supplied the means we need to function responsibly as a new creation.

His purpose is to create us in His spiritual image, so that we have qualities of heart and character as He does. These qualities will enable us to provide leadership as members of the government He will establish under Jesus Christ at His return. The prophecy of Isaiah 9:6-7 speaks of this government:

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

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Three)


 

Matthew 15:16-20

The heart of man is inclined to evil by nature, which is why humanity has behaved as it has throughout history. Jesus clearly exposes the basic, evil nature of the heart of man, so the good it does is sufficient neither for carrying out the responsibilities God has laid on those He has sanctified nor for salvation itself. The human heart needs to be changed through a new creation, the spiritual workmanship of the holy God. This new creation is not merely a repair job like fixing a flat tire. The generator of goodness must be good within itself; goodness must be its essential nature.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)


 

Matthew 19:17

Jesus is plainly stating that, since God is the only One who is good, no one among all humanity can truly claim to possess goodness. No one's goodness rises anywhere near the level of God's goodness. Jesus, however, then explained to the rich young ruler what he needed to do. As God in the flesh, He knew what the young man needed to do to get on the road to godly goodness, so He taught Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)


 

Luke 3:21-22

No sign announcing His identity could be more clear. The long-awaited Promised Seed, Messiah, Redeemer, Savior, and Creator—all in one living, divine Being—had arrived on earth to do His work and was duly announced as no other had ever been.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eleven): Signs


 

Luke 4:16-24

First, note the sign He gave them and all those who claim to follow Jesus: Our Savior keeps the Sabbath. Second, the more arresting sign, everyone in the synagogue understood His reading from Isaiah 61:1-3 to refer to the Messiah's responsibilities, and Jesus boldly stated, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” By this, He claimed divine anointing (messiah means “anointed”), and He declared that He would set them free from what held them in bondage, another sign of the Messiah. Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph and Mary—the Man who lived next door, as it were—announced with beautiful words and great conviction that He was the Messiah.

For this reason, the townspeople quickly turned against Him and attempted to kill Him by casting Him off a cliff. To them, His words were blasphemous, making Him deserving of death. God spared Him, but three-and-a-half years later, the Jews insisted that Pilate crucify Him on the same basic charge.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eleven): Signs


 

Luke 14:25-27

Jesus demands submission to Him above everything else in life, including the self. If we think that is not costly, we need to think again! Discipleship can cost a person his relationship with the family he was born into, his livelihood, and even at times his life. At issue is how much we value the life our Savior gave to pay for our sins, as well as the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. Is our treasure in heaven, or are our hearts still bound to earth and its ways?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Three)


 

John 3:1-7

Jesus describes the beginning of the process that ultimately leads to salvation and the Kingdom of God. We could also say that this is what triggers a person's calling into the church. He reveals to Nicodemus that the spiritual Creator God must deliberately begin the process. It is not an event that will randomly happen when an individual shows an interest in matters of the Kingdom of God. The new creation will take some time, as the person must be taught of God, experience life in a relationship with Him, and voluntarily cooperate with Him within the relationship.

Spiritually, the Father is totally involved right from the get-go. As the ultimate Creator and Sovereign Ruler, in His salvation process, nothing happens randomly to those He calls. One of the central issues in this spiritual creation is God's sovereignty over His purposes on the one hand, and on the other, as shown by history, mankind's lack of submissive conversion. God, through His creative wisdom and powers within the relationship, must bridge this huge gap. If He is not involved in the birth process from the very beginning, framing us in His image, how can He truly be called our Father?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)


 

John 6:44

We are all aware of this truth to some degree, but do we understand and appreciate the matchlessness of what we have received as thoroughly as we need to for success in our calling?

Did Jesus really mean “no one”? Was He generalizing, or did He literally mean it? Is there always “open season” in terms of salvation, that is, is it accessible to anyone who wants it?

As a point of contention, this doctrine has faded somewhat, but 400 years ago, as the Protestant Reformation ignited, it was a major issue. It is still Catholic Church teaching that from the moment of birth everybody has good within them. It just needs to be developed. So, at any time in a person's life, all he needs to do is to hear the gospel, agree with what he heard, accept it because it connects with the good already in him—and he is on his way to salvation, adding to his goodness and holiness by righteous living. The Protestant reformers did not agree, as they believed, in this case, what the Bible says.

This doctrine marks a major division of beliefs between those called “evangelicals” and other Christians. What the Bible teaches on it is mind-bending and humbling. We can see the biblical truths regarding this doctrine unfold by examining what our Savior said Himself, as well as what His apostles added.

Jesus says in Matthew 9:12-13: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (see Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32). Everyone—and that term is all-inclusive—whom the Father draws to Christ for spiritual salvation is not good but spiritually sick, a sinner. Additionally, the word “repentance” implies that those brought to Christ for forgiveness and salvation do not possess goodness but are evil, since only those spiritually enabled to see the need to repent would come to Him for spiritual healing. “Good” people would not.

In Romans 3:10-18, Paul adds emphasis to the exposé of mankind's character:

There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.

This passage is a major indictment of mankind. Notice the terms he uses—“none” and “all,” that is, none is good, all are evil. David, the author of Psalm 14 from which Paul drew Romans 3:10-18, believed this truth a thousand years before the apostle, and in Psalm 14, David attributes this declaration to God Himself. Do we dare accuse God of lying about those He created?

Matthew 19:17 is exceptionally clear: “So [Jesus] said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Jesus is plainly stating that, since God is the only One who is good, no one among all humanity can truly claim to possess goodness. No one's goodness rises anywhere near the level of God's goodness. Jesus, however, then explained to the rich young ruler what he needed to do. As God in the flesh, He knew what the young man needed to do to get on the road to godly goodness, so He taught Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)


 

John 8:31-37

God chose to illustrate our enslaved condition through His rescue of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from their bondage to Egypt. He desired to free them from their servitude and establish them as a separate nation of their own, a people free to determine the quality and outcome of their lives. Once at liberty, they were no longer subject to the orders and decisions of the pagan Egyptians.

Working through Moses, God succeeded in His purpose, and Israel was settled as a free people in their own land. However, the Israelites never truly learned the lesson of what having the liberty to choose required of them. John 8:31-37 gives evidence of this when Jesus confronted them about it nearly 1,500 years later.

Even during the Israelites' wilderness journey after being freed from Egypt, the flaws in their thinking began to surface in their conduct. Within just two years, they rejected the righteous leadership of Moses, refusing to exercise their liberty to choose to enter the Promised Land and take it as their possession.

The result of that dreadful choice was that every Israelite adult over twenty years of age except for Joshua and Caleb perished on the journey. Thirty-eight years later, the younger generation entered the land under Joshua and took it. However, after he died, the nation quickly deteriorated from the dynamic bastion of righteousness that God intended, choosing to abandon the godly causes that they had followed under Joshua. In their decline, the Israelites showed they were still enslaved by their own carnality.

John 8 proves that, despite possessing both biblical and historical records—as well as being taught by the very God of creation right in their presence—individual Israelites failed to choose to be free of the spiritual slavery to which they were currently in bondage. Why? They never overcame the slave mentality that their ancestors learned in Egypt and which they succeeded in passing on to successive generations.

Like their ancestors, they were slaves of sin and passed the same self-centered thinking processes on to their children. They persisted in the same old, carnal ways. They were each unwilling to make the changes in their thinking that God demanded after He called them out of Egypt. Why, despite their advantages, did they not change?

John 8 is proof of how tightly bound we are to the anti-God carnality ingrained in our hearts. The Jews ended Jesus' teaching session with their violent intentions toward Him so filling their hearts that He escaped only because God intervened to protect His life. They grasped that He was telling them that they had to makes changes in their thinking, but they could not bring themselves to make them. They could not change because they were deeply enslaved by a deadly combination of factors. Simply stated, they did not believe who He was and what He said. Rather than submit to them, they fought against these truths.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Three)


 

Romans 1:18-20

To some level, even the uncalled and unconverted are answerable to Him for the conduct of their lives. This truth is important. God has given life and breath to all, and He upholds all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). Thus, creation and God's sustaining oversight of His creation tie everybody to Him even before conversion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Four)


 

Romans 2:11-16

Mankind, even before an individual's calling and conversion, is equipped with some basic knowledge and guidance regarding right and wrong. But most conclusive of all is Romans 1:18-20, where God confirms that all humanity, including the unconverted, are to some degree “without excuse.” Thus, He warns that, despite His being out of sight, we must be aware that, though merciful, He is watching and exercising His authority.

Theologian Cornelius Van Til perceptively observed:

There is not a place in all the universe where man can go and say, “This is my private realm.” No button he can press and say, “Here I step outside God's jurisdiction.” There is not a square inch in God's creation over which Christ is not Sovereign, that He cannot say, “This is mine.”

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Four)


 

Romans 3:10-18

This passage is a major indictment of mankind. Notice the terms he uses—“none” and “all,” that is, none is good, all are evil. David, the author of Psalm 14 from which Paul drew Romans 3:10-18, believed this truth a thousand years before the apostle, and in Psalm 14, David attributes this declaration to God Himself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)


 

Romans 8:7

The Greek word underlying “carnal” is sarx, which Strong's Concordance says refers literally to the meaty part of an animal or man. However, it has several figurative usages that commonly appear in the Bible.

The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible adds that sarx “is either the equivalent of the English word 'material' or describes human nature when under the domination of its lower, unregenerate impulses.” “Carnal” describes the way we humans think and act without the influence of God's Holy Spirit that we receive when we are called, repent, and are converted. The carnal mind focuses on using circumstances in life to please the self.

In many modern translations, sarx is often rendered as “flesh,” its literal meaning. In the context of Romans 8, it is translated as such in the New King James Version to clarify that spiritually, there are two classes of people. Those who live according to the flesh allow their lives to be determined by their sinful nature. They set their minds on—are most deeply interested in, constantly talk about, engage in, and glory in—things that pertain to the self.

Those in the other category live according to the Spirit. They submit to the Holy Spirit's influences, concentrating their attention on, specializing in, and choosing what is important to God's Holy Spirit. In the conflicts between the pulls of the flesh and the influences of God, the first group sides with the self, and the second group sides with God, despite knowing that choosing that way may entail considerable sacrifice.

In Romans 8, Paul reminds church members that it is impossible to be on both sides at once. This choice is basic to our attitudes and sets the direction of our lives: We are either on God's side or sinful human nature's side. If a person persists in siding with the flesh, which is worldliness, then he must expect the world's doom. Conversely, if the things of God and His Kingdom are a person's chief concern, he can expect God's love to be shed abroad in his heart (Romans 5:5) and his future to be full of unspeakable joy, as Paul later declares.

In the apostle Paul's writings, “flesh” clearly indicates spiritual weakness. He teaches us that a person living by the flesh cannot be justified before God or please Him because the flesh does not appreciate God's priorities. Living with a fleshly outlook leaves an individual vulnerable to the power of sin to excite him to temptations, self-gratification, pride, pursuit of praise, envy, selfishness, impatience, and a definite unwillingness to sacrifice for spiritual well-being. As Paul teaches, the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak because it is not inclined to believe God.

It is the flesh, stirred to action by Satan, that drives this world. Even so, we must be clear on an important truth: Satan cannot make us sin. Scripture says unequivocally that the sins committed belong to those who committed them. Adam's and Eve's sins were not forced by Satan. He reasoned with Eve, and she chose to believe what he suggested and then transgressed. Neither was Adam forced by Satan to sin, nor was he deceived as she was. He chose to follow his wife into sin without Satan's arm-twisting.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Seven)


 

1 Corinthians 11:3

The apostle Paul states an order of authority established by God that we need to understand. By means of the parallel between deity and mankind in God's order, Paul shows that a wife's submission to her husband in marriage does not imply her inferiority. How? In the parallel, Christ is not inferior to God the Father. All that God's order defines in this case is subordination. As the Father and Son are equally divine, the husband and wife are equally human. Even as the Father and Son have different roles in their relationship, so do the husband and wife in God's purposes for the family.

In terms of government, there is a distinctive and deliberate similarity between the two organizations. Government is merely a system of operation, a means of directing and controlling so that the purposes of an organization are achieved. Though the Son is one with the Father, being of the same substance, power, and glory, He nonetheless voluntarily submits to the Father. In human marriage, husband and wife, like the Father and Son, are also essentially the same. In marriage, the submission of a woman to her husband is also intended to be voluntary.

It is at this juncture that Satan, using men he controls through subtle deceits, has dealt a devastating blow to our culture.

“Humanist” is a descriptor given to those who have abandoned a belief in God and religion. Some people refer to such people as “secularists.” Most of them claim atheism. Many of them are university-educated and earn salaries that place them in upper-middle-class income brackets. They also tend to be in positions of authority in government, business, education, and entertainment. Their reputations in the community often carry a great deal of influence. However, having abandoned God, their true spirituality and morality are terribly skewed, making their influence anti-God.

Satan, using the humanists' influence, has convinced a large percentage of the public that sex and love are the same, a major departure from what was once generally believed in American culture. Sex and love are not equivalent. Love is so much greater in importance than sex that there is no adequate comparison.

Humanists have also managed to convince many that everything is morally irrelevant. This, too, is untrue, but many fail to think it through. In reality, moral irrelevance actually drives marriages apart.

In God's standard of morality, He is quite specific. For example, within marriage, sex is totally, completely, and absolutely limited to one's legal partner in that specific marriage. There are no exceptions.

We find another restriction in I Corinthians 7:3-4:

Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

Even before marriage, both the man's and the woman's body belongs to their future spouses. Their bodies are not theirs to “just play around with.” This teaches us that fornication contributes to weakening a marriage that has not even occurred yet! Each partner in a marriage belongs to the other even before the marriage takes place. It is therefore each person's responsibility to preserve the body's sexual purity for the one he or she will marry.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Six)


 

Philippians 3:13-15

We must not allow ourselves, like so many in the world, to consider that salvation is as easy as falling off a log. Did Jesus have to suffer hatred and persecution? Did the apostle Paul endure many tough trials? Certainly, each follower of Christ named in Hebrews 11 had to experience similar things in their times of service. We must adopt the mindset the apostle Paul followed to keep himself on track.

He urges us not to allow our attention to be diverted toward some earthly desire that our carnality finds appealing and soon morphs into a need. Consider Adam and Eve's example. Despite the fact that they literally saw God and walked and talked with Him, how quickly their thoughts were turned away by Satan's presence and the highly desirable allure of what he presented! We must be aware of our vulnerability given the “right” time and appeal. A person can stay focused only for himself, so Paul implores us to keep our eyes on the goal God has revealed to us.

Jesus taught us to be keenly aware of where our treasure is (Matthew 6:20), and Paul exhorts us to be focused on our heavenly calling (Colossians 3:1-4). We are all somewhat different in what helps keep us inspired, motivated, and focused and thus more willing to trust God, patiently pressing on and persevering day by day to the end of the course He has set for us.

For me, it helps considerably when I can grasp a logical progression of steps that lead to understanding. In me, this is combined with a worldview that is simultaneously vast in scope yet sharply focused so that I can see myself as a cog in a vast and wonderful plan He is directing. Not that I think I am a vital part of that plan, but I am certainly involved in it. This is such a significant and humbling honor that I do not want to disappoint Him!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Three)


 

Colossians 3:1-4

In reality, every leader follows someone who trod the path before him. We follow Christ. Though we cannot literally see Him, we walk with Him. However, we can read what He did and taught because God has provided us a faithful witness of what we need to follow to be prepared to serve under Him in His Kingdom. We must faithfully abide by what we are shown in His Word.

God promises He will be faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9). The apostle Paul declares God is faithful (I Corinthians 1:9). Both Jesus and Moses are declared faithful (Hebrews 3:1-2), and all of those leaders named in Hebrews 11 were faithful in their times of service. Now is our time to walk faithfully beside them. To be faithful is to be trustworthy, reliable, and responsible in our interactions with both God and man.

What must we do? What must we follow? The same basic things the heroes of faith did. It is easy to say we must keep God's commandments, which is certainly true. However, notice that those great leaders of the past are all mentioned for accomplishing some task more specific than keeping the commandments. Keeping the commandments is a general responsibility for all, and doing so is important in itself. Yet, each leader also achieved a specific responsibility: Abel made a sacrifice, Enoch walked with God, Noah built an ark, Abraham offered Isaac, Moses stood fast before Pharaoh, etc.

We need to understand our calling to be more specific and distinct than being “merely” one of a multitude in the church. How specific it is for each called individual is not yet known. Even so, being individually and personally called by the Father is awesome all by itself.

The apostle Paul shows in I Corinthians 12 that we must not think our calling is merely random, a coincidence. Such thinking glorifies neither God's genius nor His magnanimous generosity in stooping to call us. God is following a plan. He is creating a family team, and within His actions, nothing happens by chance, not even our calling:

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. . . . But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. . . . Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. (I Corinthians 12:12-13, 18, 27-31)

God is expanding His Family, the church, and at the same time filling positions of responsibility to be faithfully performed by the elect. The church is called and formed as a body of people led by the Holy Spirit to do works representing God. There is undoubtedly some overlap in what the elect are required to achieve, but plainly, everyone does not perform exactly the same specific responsibilities.

No employer, be it a large corporation or an individual entrepreneur, looks for potential employees who cannot perform the available positions. No one, when first converted by God, is prepared to perform the tasks He has in mind for him, but each one has the potential to do just that if he will submit to the training God assigns. God is calling, training, and fitting us into the Body to follow Christ faithfully wherever He leads.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Three)


 

Hebrews 3:1-5

Apart from Jesus, the quintessential biblical leader among men is Moses. The author of Hebrews chooses him from a fairly long list of possible candidates to compare most favorably to Jesus. It should be of great interest to us that the overall characteristic that the author chooses to encompass Moses' leadership is faithfulness.

As the author of Hebrews develops his theme of the greatness of Jesus Christ, he undoubtedly chose Moses as his human example because the people to whom he was writing already considered Moses to be the greatest leader in their more than 1,700 years of history, beginning with Abraham. Jesus Christ, though, is incomparably greater than even Moses.

The “house” to which the author refers is not a building but people within an institution, the nation of Israel that descended from the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, God used Moses, born into the family of Levi, son of Jacob, several generations later, as the human instrument through which the Patriarchs' descendants were formed into a nation.

In the record God gives us of Moses, how many situations do we see that are jam-packed with the need for clear and unambiguous leadership? Moses was God's prophet, giving the Word of God to those being formed into a nation. He also served them as priest, being the intermediary between them and God, establishing the functions of the Levitical priesthood. Moses delivered God's laws to the Israelites and led them into making what we call the Old Covenant with God.

It was also Moses who served as Israel's first political leader, the one to whom the nation looked for governance. He is nowhere called a king, but the Bible testifies that he functioned, under God, as Israel's human governor and judge both in its internal needs and in its dealings with other nations as it proceeded to the Promised Land. In addition, Moses was a military leader when hostilities called for his guidance.

In every area in which guidance is needed for a nation, Moses' example of greatness under God is superior. One of his greatest characteristics is often overlooked because his other more visible characteristics seem to overshadow it. But God did not pass over it, noting it for our guidance:

Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.) (Numbers 12:1-3)

None of his outstanding qualities, high-ranking positions in the nation, or obviously correct decisions in behalf of all concerned ever “went to his head.” He consistently remained kind, moderate, and even-handed toward those under him, and just and fair in his dealings. He was approachable.

With these excellencies in mind, we must not overlook Deuteronomy 18:15, which records of Moses: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.” In the inspired sermon that Peter delivered to those Jews listening on the Day of Pentecost when God gave of His Spirit to mankind, he drew on this verse to pointedly reveal that this verse applies directly to Jesus Christ. In this case, Jesus was “like Moses” but far greater because, as the apostle Paul later wrote, Moses was merely a servant in the house, while Christ is its Builder. The apostle chose well in naming Moses as his comparison to Christ. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to find a human leader greater than he.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Two)


 

Hebrews 4:12-14

Is our faith in God's existence of such clarity and strength that we know that we stand spiritually naked before Him in every circumstance in life? Our fear of Him should not be terror but a profound respect that motivates us to bring honor to Him always.

He is not our enemy but our Savior. He is striving, not to “catch us in the act,” but to spare us from the destructions of sin, which, as we saw in the example of Adam and Eve, changes the heart in an evil direction. Consider how mercifully He dealt with them when He could have obliterated them. That same, unchanging God deals with us in the lives we live before Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Seven)


 

Hebrews 11:7

The Bible does not explain how Noah became aware of the grace he had been given. Even so, it enabled him, first, by sanctifying him and giving him the spiritual faith to respond properly to the warning God gave. Hebrews 11:7 reveals that Noah reacted by moving with godly fear, that is, with a deep reverential respect, indicating that, though he was awed by the complexity and size of what God had charged him to do, he nonetheless immediately accepted the task and began doing what he could.

Genesis 6:9 adds detail to Noah's character, describing him as “just,” “righteous,” or “godly,” and saying that he “walked with God.” The latter phrase suggests that, despite all the conflicting corruption surrounding him, he moved through life in step with God, doing his work alongside Him.

It also says he was “perfect in his generations” or “blameless among his contemporaries.” “Blameless” is a kind of code word that indicates he was justified by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. He was a converted man.

Notice that the verse does not say Noah received grace as a result of already conducting his life with all those good attributes. Instead, he was leading his life righteously because he had first found God's grace, the gifting by which God enabled him. The way he lived his life is the proof that he had found God's favor and then began conducting his life as Scripture describes. The favor, the grace, empowered him to accomplish what is recorded. God follows this pattern with everyone He sanctifies.

James 2:17-18 tells us that true faith will reveal itself by what it produces. The product will be in agreement with God's righteousness, and it will separate, set apart, that person from those around him who do not have the same faith. The grace, the favor, the gifts of God, always precede anything produced within the purpose and calling of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Ten)


 

1 John 5:3

In I John 5:3, love is clearly defined, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” Sex has no such specific definition anywhere in God's Word. “Keep” implies the activity of guarding and doing so by means of our conduct. Thus, the Bible defines love as an action not a feeling. Actions also include right attitudes. Feelings are certainly involved, but they are not the primary element that makes love the positive influence that God intends.

A vivid example is rape, which involves a sexual action, but it is most certainly a forcible attack against another. It cannot be considered an affectionate action in any way. It is the forceful taking of a momentary pleasure while simultaneously injuring another. Such a vile act hardly builds oneness, by any stretch of the imagination.

Love is outgoing concern, behavior that seeks the good of the one loved at least equal to the love of self. This element greatly facilitates husband and wife becoming one in all aspects of life (see Genesis 2:24). If a marriage is built around sex, it may indeed last, but it will probably lead to intense emotional frustration and may even produce adultery by one or the other or both. Sex was not created for that purpose. It is one among many expressions of love, one fully intended by God to be expressed—but only within marriage. It is an intimacy reserved only for the one other person sharing the relationship.

By “commandments,” I John 5:3 means all of God's commandments that bear on what love is, not merely the Ten Commandments. Major adjustments may have to be made if a marriage is going to produce the pleasures God intends. God's intention is achieved by cultivating the lawful interests and aspirations of both to each other. This is not easy to do because the carnality within us asserts our self-interests so quickly and sometimes so strongly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Six)


 

Revelation 5:9-10

Revelation 5:9-10 provides a vision of what we are being prepared for. This incomplete vision presents a generality that points specifically to Jesus Christ. The issue in the vision is finding One who is qualified to open a certain scroll. Beginning in Revelation 6, we find that the scroll contains visions of events that will occur beyond the time of chapter 5, events both before and after Christ's return. The issue of opening the scroll is resolved because Christ, the Lamb of God, is qualified to open it due to what He has already accomplished. He has been prepared to open it.

His qualification is important because it sets an example for us. Revelation 5:10 speaks to what is most critical to us concerning our present lives as God's called, as well as to what we will be doing in the future. Christ has appointed the people mentioned in verse 9 to be a kingdom of priests to serve our God and to bear a measure of rulership. They are selected to fill such responsibilities because they, like the Lamb, Christ, have been prepared to render these services in God's behalf. These preparations are taking place in the lives of Christians right now.

Note that “kingdom of priests” is a better translation of the Greek in verse 10 than “kings and priests,” as the King James and New King James versions render it. By the word “reign,” verse 10 indicates that rulership is definitely in view in addition to priestly responsibilities. There can be no doubt that both ruling and priestly positions include shepherding responsibilities, so the positions that await Christians in God's Kingdom require leadership training to prepare those God will assign to them after Christ's return.

By way of contrast, the world's approach to salvation focuses almost exclusively on merely being saved. As important as that is, it pays little attention to any other purpose and responsibility connected with being saved. However, this period prior to our transformation into the Kingdom of God has a major purpose: to prepare to continue serving God at a far higher level of responsibility after Christ returns.

God does not call people who already possess the leadership qualities He desires they practice in His Family Kingdom. Instead, He calls those with potential, gifts them with the raw materials they need, and then creates them individually into what He desires for them in terms of purpose and position.

We are being created in the image of Christ, and leadership is what God is looking for in us. Not that each of us is leading vast numbers of people, but we are learning leadership by overcoming the carnal nature and growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. How? By faith in God's existence and in His Word—by following His way of life—we are deliberately and with full purpose, choosing to allow ourselves to be transformed into His image.

The fruit of following this program under our High Priest's direction and the Father's oversight is leadership in God's way. If we happen to lead others, it is primarily by example. We are not forcing this way of life on others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Two)


 

Revelation 5:9-10

The issue in the vision of Revelation 5 is finding One who is qualified to open a certain scroll that contains a listing of events that will occur beyond the present time, both before and after Christ's return. The issue is resolved because Christ, the Lamb, is qualified to open it because of what He has already accomplished. He is our Redeemer and thus qualified. His qualification sets an example for us to follow in our Christian lives.

Verse 10 concerns us most. It helps to know that the term “kings and priests” is better translated as “kingdom of priests,” as numerous modern translations render it. Christ has appointed the redeemed (verse 9) as a kingdom of priests to serve our God and to bear a measure of rulership (“we shall reign on the earth”). They are appointed to a responsibility by Christ because they, like Him, have been prepared to render these services in God's behalf.

Beyond the priestly functions, rulership is clearly in view for the redeemed. Christ will appoint only those already prepared for these positions. Both rulership and priestly functions contain shepherding responsibilities. A priest is an individual especially consecrated to the service of a deity as a mediator between the deity and his worshippers.

Note two passages of Scripture that confirm what we are being prepared for:

» You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. . . . But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (I Peter 2:5, 9)

» They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. (Revelation 14:3-4)

Both of these future positions help us focus on what we are to do within our calling now before the events of Revelation 5 and 14 occur. We must prepare to lead in the Kingdom of God. The world's approach to salvation focuses almost exclusively on being saved by confessing Jesus Christ as Savior. As important as that is, it pays little attention to any other purpose and responsibility attached to it.

However, this period prior to our ultimate admission into the Kingdom of God has a major purpose: to be prepared to continue serving God at a remarkably higher level of responsibility after Christ returns. We are being created into Jesus Christ's image, and leadership is what God is looking for in us. He does not need to see us leading vast numbers of people, but He wants to see leadership in spiritual growth as we overcome our carnal natures.

How? We are to be living sacrifices, deliberately choosing to allow ourselves to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ through obediently following His way of life. If we lead others in this life, it is primarily by example, as we are not forcing God's way on others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Four)


 

Revelation 14:1-5

This vision, like the similar one in Revelation 7:1-8, shows another degree of specificity in God's purpose. The numbers are similar, but in Revelation 7 the origin of each is from one of the tribes of Israel. By way of contrast, those in the church are from all nations. Those in Revelation 7 are not shown headed for a specific position within God's Family, but those in Revelation 14 are given a specific responsibility. In any case, God is pursuing specific purposes in dealing with us, so we must consider that His training of us in this life may also reflect shades of difference from person to person.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Three)


 

 




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