What the Bible says about
Living as God Lives
(From Forerunner Commentary)
"Lean on" is used here in the sense of relying upon or trusting someone or something for help or protection. The object of our secure trust is the Lord, a most reliable object of confidence!
When we lean against a wall or on a cane, we trust it to support us. If it should fail to do its job, we will fall to the ground and perhaps be hurt. In a figurative sense, in times of distress we lean on members of our families or friends; we rely upon them for encouragement, support, help, or protection. In this verse, "lean on" functions figuratively. Relying on our own understanding is compared to leaning on a cane that cannot bear our weight; it is unreliable for support. It is dangerous for a person to rely upon mere human wisdom or understanding because it is likely to fail him.
Acknowledging the Lord in all our ways means keeping Him in mind in every event of our lives. Godly living is not to be confined to the Sabbath, for God is involved in each moment of each day. His instruction covers our lives from waking up in the morning to going to sleep at night. He wants us to remember Him all the time and to trust and obey Him to guide our conduct in everything we do.
That "He shall direct your paths" suggests that God will "smooth" or "make straight" the road of our lives. This is a promise that God will go before us and remove many of the obstacles from our path. He wants us to be successful, so if we trust Him and follow His instructions, He will lead us forward, sweeping many of our potential problems to the side. How encouraging!
My Parents Won't Let Me!
What does "the fear of the LORD" entail? Another proverb, Proverbs 9:10, helps us to understand: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." While Proverbs 8:13 defines what the fear of the Lord is, Proverbs 9:10 shows what it produces. Understanding the effect of the fear of the Lord will help us to understand the cause.
This verse uses a Hebraism in which the two clauses are written in parallel. The "fear of the LORD" in the first clause is linked to "knowledge of the Holy One" in the second, while the "beginning of wisdom" corresponds to "understanding." Most translations hide the fact that the Hebrew word rendered as "Holy One" is actually plural. It refers to both holy, divine Beings—the Father and the Son. We can more fully grasp this in conjunction with John 17:3, where Jesus says that knowing the Father and the Son—having personal, intimate knowledge ofthe Holy Ones—is eternal life.
In tying these things together, we see that the wisdom and understanding in Proverbs 9:10 are not abstract concepts but are related to eternal life. They are foundational to being able to live eternally. The reverential awe and respect—fear—of God is what produces wisdom in making sound choices, in having good judgment, in understanding cause and effect. The fear of God makes for a good life—not just for the self, but also for everyone for all time.
James describes such "wisdom from above" as "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (James 3:17). These elements produce a good life, a life of spiritual wisdom. All of them are opposites of evil, of causing harm. Godly fear causes a man to evaluate properly and to arrive at the correct conclusion about what he should or should not do. Ultimately, the fear of the Lord teaches us to live eternally—to live with the skill that the Father and the Son have in living.
Returning to Proverbs 8:13, we can see how hating evil fits into this. When we are vehemently opposed to all that does harm to life and liveliness, and our lives reflect this, we are beginning to live as God does. However, we have to put wisdom in the context of eternity. What may seem "harmless" in the short term may bear evil fruit in the long term. Unless we are able—and willing—to look as far forward as possible to see the outcome, we may not be able to see the harm.
Because of man's fickle and shortsighted nature, God has explicitly defined what is good and evil in His law, and the evil that is defined is sin. It may not be immediately obvious to mankind that burning incense to the Queen of Heaven causes harm because mankind is shortsighted enough not to realize that he is paying homage to a worthless substitute of the true Creator, the One who gives life. Thus, God spells out that we can have no other gods (Exodus 20:3).
Mankind may not see the harm in a "little white lie" (Exodus 20:16), but the One "who inhabits eternity" knows that truth and life are inextricably linked. When falsehood enters in, so do defilement and ultimately death.
Humanity may not be aware of the harm caused by coveting (Exodus 20:17), but the One "who knows the end from the beginning" and who created the human intellect and human heart, knows that sin begins in the heart. The best way to stop sin at its source is to help mankind to guard his heart, before any sin can be produced.
David C. Grabbe
Hating Evil, Fearing God
Despite our humble, modest circumstances, are we living abundant lives? Despite our lack of toys, a mansion on the lake, or a Rolls-Royce on our driveway, are our lives better than we ever expected? Or do we feel that life has passed us by, serving us the dregs instead of the wine? If so, could it be that we need a change of perspective?
J. Paul Getty, at the time perhaps the richest man in the world, said, "I hate and regret the failure of my marriages. I would gladly give all my millions for just one lasting marital success." He possessed the money to live whatever lifestyle gave him the most satisfaction, but at the end of his life, he came to realize that a good, enduring marriage meant more to him than riches. He died feeling like a failure at what life is really all about.
King Solomon lived a similar life of wealth, power, and privilege. The book of Ecclesiastes chronicles his lifelong experimentation with various lifestyles, projects, possessions, hobbies, and creature comforts. What does he ultimately conclude about how humanity should live?
Solomon's conclusion is totally compatible with Jesus' statement in John 10:10. Jesus did not come promising us wealth, prestige, and authority on earth (although He does promise us these things in the world to come), but He came with good news from His Father about how to attain eternal life (John 6:40). Like Solomon's, His message is very clear, ". . . if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).
The big "secret" is that the abundant life is contained in the keeping of God's commandments, in tandem with the grace supplied through Jesus Christ. John writes, "And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:16-17, ESV). Jesus came to give man the means by which he could properly keep God's commandments; His grace puts commandment-keeping in its proper place. Once a person is living this way—what Paul calls "walk[ing] in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16-25)—his life is naturally going to be abundant because he is no longer under the penalties and curses that breaking the law exacts (see verse 18). His life will be pleasing to God, and He will bless him, now and in the life to come (Psalm 19:11; Proverbs 11:18; Matthew 6:33; Revelation 11:18; 22:12)!
Are our lives abundant? Are we reaping the rewards of following God's way of life? Have we begun to enjoy the benefits of keeping God's commandments?
Every Sabbath, we enjoy the benefits of keeping it holy (Exodus 20:8-11), including physical rest, time with our families, fellowship with our brethren, and communion with and instruction from God. It may not be "exciting," but it is living as He wants us to live.
The same is true of keeping the other commandments. If we have happy families and marriages, we are reaping the benefits of keeping the fifth and seventh commandments (verses 12, 14). If people find us trustworthy and honest, we are being rewarded for keeping the eighth and ninth commandments (verses 15-16). If we are content in our circumstances, our peace of mind derives from practicing the tenth commandment (verse 17).
Moreover, if we see spiritual growth taking place, and if we are producing good fruit in our lives, we are experiencing the results of a strengthening relationship with God, encapsulated in the first four commandments (verses 2-11; Matthew 22:37-38). Such a relationship with our Creator is the key to abundant living, for there is no greater, more satisfying accomplishment than that among men!
When we reach this point, we will have learned the godly perspective, and we will know that the life of God we live is definitely abundant living—no matter what our circumstance (Philippians 4:11)!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are You Living the Abundant Life?
The very wording in this exhortation implies that Israel did exactly what He did not want them to do. They sought satisfaction and fulfillment in the world—things that do not satisfy. They believed the world's word and practiced as it did, thus rejecting God and His Word.
But we must not follow their example. What does it mean to seek the Lord? Amos 5:4, 14-15 trumpets to us:
For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: "Seek Me and live. . . ." Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the LORD God of hosts will be with you, as you have spoken. Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Note that this is written to Israel, to whom God had already revealed Himself. Therefore, Seek Me most certainly does not mean, "Look for Him in order to find Him," but "Seek Him in order to be like Him in the conduct of His life, to know His will so one can submit." Instead of being like a normal wife, Israel eagerly pursued ways to be unfaithful to her Husband, God, which is why He calls her "contrary" in Ezekiel 16:34.
Ezekiel 33:10-11 clarifies and adds emphasis to this:
Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: "Thus you say, 'If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?'" Say to them, "As I live," says the Lord GOD, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?"
The phrase "as I live" in verse 11 appears many times in Ezekiel. In all other cases, it is an oath, but in this one case, there is an alternative meaning: It is simply the answer to the question asked in verse 10, "How should we then live?" The answer: "'As I live,' says the Lord."
It does not mean to live on the same level but to live as God would live if He were a man. This way is spelled out in great detail in the commandments, statutes, and judgments. In addition, God gives many examples from the lives of others to clarify exactly what He wants, especially the life of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh (John 1:14).
What God proposed to Israel and to us is an entire way of life that covers every possible choice that might confront us. This way is the only way, the one way that will produce abundant life and at the same time prepare us for God's Kingdom.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?
Jesus Christ is the desire of all nations; people are yearning for Him, longing for Him, even though they do not know it. They are yearning for solutions, wisdom, power, understanding, vision, and love, and He is all those things. He will bring them all with Him. He is going to bring with Him what He is—His undivided mind that is filled with the way that He and the Father have lived for all eternity. He will instill this way of life into their minds.
The solutions to man's problems will come because He is sitting on the throne of nations. But we have been called to seek Him now and not fail where Israel failed. It is in the process of seeking Him that we become just like Him. This is what God expects us to do with our life now, and we must do it. We must show Him that we are thankful for our calling, for His forgiveness, for His Spirit, and then seek Him to be one with Him.
This is the solution now to both coming out of Babylon and avoiding Laodiceanism. It is to seek God with all of our heart in order to have the oneness of His mind. We are not to seek Him just to find Him, because He has already taken care of that by calling us to give us access to Him. Our seeking is to facilitate our coming to know Him so that we can be like Him. Thus, prayer, Bible study, meditation, occasional fasting, and obedience, driven by gratitude and passionate desire to be like Him and with Him, are the keys to oneness with Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
God wants us to learn to honor our parents because the family is not only the basic building block of society, but also of the Kingdom of God. The godly principles learned and the character built within the human family unit is transferable into the spiritual family relationship of the Kingdom of God. God expects a transference from parents to Him of the character and manner of living derived from keeping this commandment.
Parents are His representatives, His agents, to begin preparations for the Kingdom of God. Thus the creative majesty and power of God is honored and revered in the parents when children obey them.
This passage is directed toward Judah generally and toward the priests specifically at a time when the institution of marriage was under attack. Idolatrous marriages with foreign women were common, as was divorce. Today, marriage is under attack generally, but specifically from perverse same-sex unions. The Jews of Malachi's day wondered why, despite giving their offerings to God, they were receiving no blessings from Him. His answer: their idolatrous marriages and covenant-breaking divorces. He specifically states that a purpose of marriage is that He wants godly children to be produced. These marriages were not producing godly children.
The Hebrew word that is translated as "godly" is elohim, used here as an adjective. It means "filled with reverence and love for God; devout, pious; belonging to or emanating from God." Godliness and holiness are not specifically the same: Godliness is a respectful, reverential attitude, while holiness indicates living as God does. As attributes, as qualities of character, they are absolutely inseparable.
The conclusion is inescapable. After creating Adam and Eve and announcing that He had created them in His image, God immediately establishes the family through marriage. Marriage, therefore, plays an important role in God's overall purpose of creating man in His image. This fact provides the fifth commandment with its greatest degree of significance.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment
In Luke 4:4, Jesus tells the Devil, in response to the first of his temptations, "It is written: 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'" This is not some general statement that allows us to choose what we will and will not obey, but a requirement for each of us, to the best of our ability, to follow every word of God in living our lives before Him. To do this takes real faith. God has given us "the way of righteousness," a revelation this world just cannot comprehend, and He is looking for evidence that we not only assent to it but are also living it.
It is the works of obedience that change us, that reflect that we are striving to live as God lives. This is what God counts as proper evidence of our faith. In James 2:17, 20, 26, the apostle informs us that, without works, our faith is dead, and these works are defined as putting into practice the instructions of God in our lives, just as Abraham did on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:2-12).
When God saw Abraham's obedience to His instructions, He said, "Now I know that you fear Me!" As hard as it is for us to measure up to what Abraham did in being willing to sacrifice his only son in obedience to God's command, God should be able to say this about each one of us. Do we have the faith to live by every word of God?
Humbling ourselves in obedience—especially when it hurts—makes a powerful statement to God.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Will Christ Find Faith?
Worship, which is our response to God, is what we give in our devoted service. The worship of God involves the totality of life, therefore it cannot be confined to a particular location. Earlier, Jesus says, "Neither in Samaria, nor in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem." He means that God is not confined to any one place, nor is the worship of Him confined to any one place. Likewise, it cannot be confined to just an hour or two on a particular day because in a biblical sense the worship of God is our response to Him in all of life. So He cannot even be isolated to an hour or two on the Sabbath.
We have to respond to Him in our home: in the way we speak, act towards one another, rear our children, conduct our homemaking practices. Worship has to do with the way we work, with the way we drive our cars, with the way we dress, with the way we use our eyes, ears, nose, mouth—everything! It involves the totality of life, because religion is a way of life. Christianity is a way of life that impacts on every area of our being.
The second commandment deals with how we worship God. The focus of our worship is to be on imitating Him. We are to use no material aids in doing this because no man can capture God in a work of art, a statue, a picture, or a symbol. God wants us to concentrate on what He is and not on what He looks like.
It is not easy for human nature to surrender its dominance over one's life. Human nature's first step backwards—to giving up its dominance over our lives—is usually a grudging willingness to share time and energy with God. Yet, when Jesus is asked, "What is the first and great commandment," He replies that we are to love Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Notice, it is not just with part of our lives but everything. The second commandment has to do with how to worship Him, and anything less than what Jesus states in Matthew 22:37 will affect the quality of our worship.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)
What does He mean by "life . . . more abundantly"? A problem arises when discussing this concept due to the apparent subjectivity of the term "abundant." What is abundant living for one person may be absolutely unsatisfying for another. A hard-charging, A-type businessman - into exotic vacations, sports cars, and rock climbing - would not consider a rocking chair on the porch, a vegetable garden out back, and a weekly round of golf at the local course to be fulfilling, yet they would probably suit a retired senior citizen just fine. One person's bowl of cherries is another's bowl of cherry pits.
The Greek word Jesus uses in John 10:10 to describe the kind of life He came to teach His disciples is perissón, meaning "superabundant," "superfluous," "overflowing," "over and above a certain quantity," "a quantity so abundant as to be considerably more than what one would expect or anticipate." In short, He promises us a life far better than we could ever envision, reminiscent of I Corinthians 2:9, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (see Isaiah 64:4). Paul informs us that God "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20).
However, before we begin to have visions of palatial homes, classic automobiles, around-the-world trips, and wads of pocket money, we need to step back and consider what God says comprises "life." Once we determine His view of living, we will have a better grasp of what kind of blessings we can expect as Christ's disciples. All we need to do is glance around at our and our brethren's situations to know that wealth, prestige, position, and power in this world are not high-priority items on God's list of blessings (I Corinthians 1:26-29). In terms of economic, academic, and social strata, most of us come from the lower and middle classes, and we tend to remain in a situation similar to the one in which we were called (compare I Corinthians 7:20-24).
Perhaps the most telling biblical definition of life - particularly eternal life - is uttered by Jesus Himself in John 17:3: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Note that this definition makes no mention of length of days, health, prosperity, family, occupation - in fact, the only thing it does mention is knowing God!
What can we take from this?
» God is not overly concerned with the physical circumstances of our lives. It is enough that He assures us that we need not worry about what we will eat or wear (Matthew 6:25-32; Philippians 4:19).
» Eternal life, the kind of life in which a Christian is truly interested, is not determined by duration but by a relationship with God. This is why, once we are converted and impregnated with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are said to have eternal life already (I John 5:11-13), though not, of course, in its fullness.
» Eternal life - the life God offers us through Jesus Christ and His teaching - is thus about quality, not quantity. Put another way, the abundant life is life as God lives it (Ezekiel 33:10-11; I Peter 2:21; I John 2:6), for once we truly come to know God, we will desire to emulate Him.
» Physical blessings, then, may or may not be byproducts of God's way of life; neither our wealth nor our poverty is a sure indication of our standing with God. Certainly, God desires that we "prosper in all things and be in health" (III John 2), but the bottom line is "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (verse 4), not that we live like royalty.
» Finally, a Christian's life revolves around, as Peter puts it, "grow[ing] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18). This suggests that the abundant life is a process of learning, practicing, and maturing, as well as failing, recovering, adjusting, enduring, and overcoming because, in our present state, "we see in a mirror, dimly" (I Corinthians 13:12).
As humans, we are naturally oriented toward material things, but as Christians, our perspective must change. Paul admonishes, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died [in baptism], and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:2-3). To us, life - and our perception of abundant life - is a whole new ballgame!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are You Living the Abundant Life?
This catches the essence of what Christian life and overcoming are all about. Notice the setting here. A small group of Gentiles ask Philip for an audience with Jesus. John does not record one word of what they said, and the context distinctly suggests that Jesus speaks before they ever say a word. He responds to the fact that they want to see Him.
Two thoughts must have exploded into His mind simultaneously. He first recognized that the people who wanted to see Him were Gentiles. He must have envisioned across the expanse of time the huge multitudes of their populations being converted, growing, overcoming, and entering the Kingdom of God.
At the same time, He anticipated their questions. "What must I do to be saved? What must I do to have eternal life? What must I do to be in Your Kingdom?" How does He answer them? He tells them, "You must quit living your life the way you do." He was not, on this occasion, concerned about specific behaviors but rather the overall principle—the force that drives carnal human life: self-centeredness. So important is what Jesus says that God's voice thunders in agreement out of the heavens:
Then a voice came from heaven, saying, "I have glorified [My name] and will glorify it again." Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to Him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake." (verses 28-30)
Notice, beginning in verse 24, how Jesus' response unfolds. He uses a simple, understandable illustration: Unless a seed is planted in the ground and dies, it bears no fruit. Only when its life is sacrificed does it bear any fruit. This applies both to Jesus and to any of His followers. He sacrificed His life, and its fruit until now is the church, but multitudes more will be added as God's plan unfolds.
The same principle holds true in our lives. The fruit that leads to eternal life is produced when the individual sacrifices himself in service to others, God and man. In verse 25, Jesus teaches that the person who attempts to preserve rather than sacrifice will end up losing what he spent his lifetime attempting to preserve. Meanwhile, those who readily sacrifice their lives keep living right on into the Kingdom of God.
It is interesting to note that John uses two different words, both of which are translated as "life." The first is psuche, usually translated "soul," which simply means physical life. The second is zoe, and John usually attaches it to the adjective "eternal," causing it to mean the spiritual vitality of God.
In verse 26, He reinforces His instruction regarding sacrifice by commanding us to do as He does. In this case, this is what "follow Me" means. It is not merely walking behind on the same general course but completely "aping" or imitating Him—doing exactly what He is doing. In this particular teaching, it points to the sacrifice of our lives. He was already living this way, and He would complete His life of selfless service by sacrificing it in death. "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). However, we must understand that laying down one's life is a continuous process. He expects us to follow in His steps, do what He does, bear what He bears, love what He loves.
To most of those who call themselves "Christian," Christianity is a theory to be accepted rather than a life to be actively and daily lived out. Many apparently have the vague idea that what Christ does for us and offers to us enables us, while remaining what we are, to evade the consequences of being what we are and to reap a destiny that is not naturally ours. If we believe this, we must seriously consider II Corinthians 5:10: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." At the end of our lives, we will receive from God what we are living! God wants to see us living like Him, and He will honor those who do.
However, making the sacrifices to live His way is costly to human nature, which resists strongly. Jesus says in Mark 8:34-38:
Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
Why does Christ have to say things like this? Because human nature is driven by the impulse that the only way to the things a person deeply desires is through self-centered, assertive, competitive concentration on getting what it wants. We all have this drive; however, individuals differ in the strength of human nature in them and the methods they employ to achieve their goals. Jesus says the self must be denied because human nature is driven by pride and covetousness.
Of course, the Bible is not urging us to court martyrdom. It is speaking of a general approach to life, of crucifying the self-centered impulses of human nature. This means subordinating a clamoring ego with its preoccupation with "I," "me," and "mine"; its concern for self-assertion; and its insistence on comfort and prestige. It is denying the self for the sake of embracing Christ's cause. To be ashamed to live this way of life is equivalent to being ashamed of Christ Himself.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Six): Eternal Life
Here, Christ does not use the term "immortal" or "endless," to define eternal life, but He describes a kind and quality of life in terms of knowledge and a relationship with the Father and Son, a very intimate relationship.
Do not be misled by the limited Strong's definition of the word translated "eternal" in this verse. A more complete lexicon like Spiros Zodhiates' Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament gives a more precise usage—how the word is used in the Bible rather than merely in classical Greek. Zodhiates says that the word refers to the "life which is God's" (p. 107). The life of God is more than endless, and that is what is important here. He adds, "It is to be understood as referring not only to duration, but more so to quality. That is, it is not merely life that is eternal in duration, but is primarily something different from the natural life of man, i.e., the life of God."
The Daily Bible Study Commentary: John (Volume 2) by William Barclay contains this comment:
There is another important thought in this passage, for it contains the great New Testament definition of eternal life. It is eternal life to know God and to know Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Let us remind ourselves of what eternal means. In Greek, it is aionis. This word has to do, not so much with duration of life, for life which went on forever would not necessarily be a boon. Its main meaning is quality of life. There is only one person to whom the aionis can properly be applied, and that is God. Eternal life is, therefore, nothing other than the life of God. To possess it, to enter into it, is to experience here and now something of the splendor and the majesty, and the joy, and the peace, and the holiness, which are characteristic of the life of God. (p. 207)
John 17:3 also contains the word "know." To understand eternal life, we must also understand how this word is used here. It undoubtedly contains elements of intellectual knowledge, understanding, discernment, information, and familiarity. However, this word suggests more than this because the Old Testament regularly uses "know" to describe sexual knowledge. Sexual knowledge between a husband and wife is the most intimate of knowledge. Husband and wife are no longer two but one flesh. In this regard, in John 17:3, the important thing is not the sexual act but the intimacy of heart and mind that in true love precede the act. To know God, therefore, is not merely to have intellectual knowledge of Him, but it is having an intimate, personal relationship with Him like the nearest and dearest relationship between two people.
Hosea 4:6 provides an interesting example of the practical effect of "knowing": "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children." God's implication is clear. If they had possessed knowledge of God, they would have had the power to avoid being destroyed. Nobody in his right mind wants to be destroyed. Ignorance might be bliss, but this verse shows it can be dangerously life-threatening.
Consider the implications of a lack of knowledge in the area of physical law. A person who does not know the power of electricity, nitroglycerin, carbon monoxide, drugs, or certain medications could pay for his ignorance with his life. Or, even if a person's ignorance of these things does not kill him, he might have the quality of his life severely impaired through a maiming, debilitating injury. However, when they are used with knowledge, they can do worthwhile things. Similarly, knowing God opens to men the freest and most rewarding expressions of an abundant life.
What if a person does not know of God's righteousness? Proverbs 11:6 says, "The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the unfaithful will be caught by their own lust." What a person does not have cannot deliver them, thus they are injured or destroyed. Isaiah 11:9 shows that during the Millennium, the knowledge of God will cover the earth like a vast ocean. This is what will make the Millennium so wonderful!
Eternal life is more than just endless life. The biblical eternal life includes power to produce quality living superabundantly far beyond merely existing forever.
We should touch briefly on its sexual aspect. Genesis 4:1, 17, 25 each contain the Hebrew word yada'. It has a wide variety of possible applications, one of which is "to lie by man." In each case in Genesis 4, it is translated as "knew," since that is its basic meaning. The Hebrews used it to describe the sexual part of the relationship between husband and wife; thus, it suggests intimacy. When applied to God, it highlights not merely being acquainted with Him but, as we would say today, being "inside His head." The corresponding Greek word, ginosko, translated "know" in John 17:3, can be and is used in the same way as yada' in Hebrew (see Luke 1:34).
To know God thus includes a wide range of mental, emotional, and experiential knowledge. The fruit of this intimacy includes love, reverence, obedience, honor, gratitude, and deep affection. We come to know Him as sovereign Ruler, Master, parent, brother, friend, Savior, and Lawgiver. We would never know this mixture of admirable qualities and authority without getting close to Him. They compel us to yield to Him with all of our heart while we strive to obey and glorify Him.
In summary, John 17:3 points to Jesus' indicating that eternal life is not merely endless, though that is its dominant sense, but that those who have it live intimately with God and conduct their lives as God does—otherwise, there would be no close intimacy with Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Six): Eternal Life
It is a measure of how important "being one" with the Father and Son is that, in this most important prayer delivered on the last night of Jesus' life, Jesus requested of the Father that we be "one with them" four times! In that sense, it is the most important request in this prayer that we become one with them.
Will a human being sacrifice for a good and moral purpose? Yes, we will if we believe God, and believe that He loves us. That last element is not easy, as it takes a lot of experience with Him to know that He loves us, and that He loves us every bit as much as He loves Jesus Christ. Notice what verse 23 says: "You . . . have loved them as You have loved Me." As means "equal to"! We have no trouble believing that God exists, but we have a great deal of trouble believing that God loves us. Yet, it is necessary for becoming one with Him, and returning that love back to Him. Human beings will sacrifice if they can get a good handle on their lives, believing God, and believing that He loves them.
Becoming one with the Father and the Son is accomplished through a number of factors, but none is more important for us right now than beginning to live as they live in preparation for being with them. No other way of life is acceptable to them, because no other way of life is in harmony with the way that they live.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Salvation can easily and accurately be described as "being at one with God." As long as we are separated from God, we do not have salvation. When we are "at one" with God, it means that we are becoming like Him, that we are walking along the same path with Him and will be saved.
Jesus Christ's death bridges this impossible situation for us. We can then begin to contribute to being at one with God. What remains yet undone, despite the gap being bridged, is a change in character and in attitude that must be worked in us in order for us to become like God. It takes living God's way for us to become like God. This is why humility is necessary.
We can see from Jesus' prayer and from our own experience (and from the history of man) that mankind is not at one with God, yet that is God's aim. Satan motivated Adam and Eve, and subsequently all the rest of mankind, to separate themselves from God. As long as Satan can keep us separated from Him, salvation is impossible. Satan's thinking, which was passed on to Adam and Eve and then to us, is that we all have the right to set our own standards or codes of right and wrong. He has convinced mankind that they have the same prerogatives and that these Satan-inspired, man-made standards can produce abundant prosperity, good health, peace, and a sense of well-being in our lives.
But they do not, and that is the problem! Humbling oneself means giving up that devilish notion and submitting to what God says. He has given us free moral agency to choose whether to obey His standards and codes, not the freedom to set our own.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility
Notice how many time He says "may be." The English word "may" implies possibilities—permission for a thing to occur, not its certainty.
In other words, Jesus' prayer shows that those in a covenant with God will have to desire unity in the same way that God does. It is a possibility that we can have it. We have permission to have it, but it is not certain yet. That unity hangs in the balance, depending on the way that we react within the relationship. Thus, He is praying that it will happen, but it is a "maybe."
The reason we need to desire unity in the same way God does is so that we can prepare for it by doing God's will, by exercising faith. Then we will be prepared to live in the same way that He does for all eternity with Him.
A husband and wife cannot be one unless they are both prepared to live the same way as the other and to make any sacrifices that might be necessary to blend the lives together. So when they marry, their union is a "maybe." The possibility exists if the two will make the efforts to make the "maybe" absolute. As Christians, we must desire this unity enough to make the right choices and sacrifices to marry Jesus Christ in His Kingdom. It is not a "done deal" yet!
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part Three)
Notice that Paul separates "immortality" from "eternal life" as though they are different. The words assuredly share a common idea, that is, both indicate a long, enduring period. Immortality simply means "unending existence" because the being does not corrupt, decay, and die.
However, "eternal life," as used by the Bible's writers, includes something "immortality" does not, introducing a shade of difference between the two words. Unfortunately, in many minds, "immortality" corresponds exactly with "eternal life." They are not the same.
Perhaps a good way to illustrate this is to refer to the Greek myths with their pantheon of gods. In these myths, the gods had immortality but—by biblical definition—not eternal life. This is because immortality speaks only of endless life, not its quality. The Greek gods acted, reacted, and had passions and attitudes just like human beings, mere mortals, whereas eternal life in the biblical sense is life lived the way the true God lives it. It indicates the totality of life, which, as we will see, we already possess in principle. To put it into a more human setting, eternal life is to live life endlessly according to the will of God.
John 5:24 helps us to begin to understand when Jesus says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." Notice that he who believes has already passed from death to everlasting life. We can connect this to Ephesians 2:1: "And you He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins." Before repentance and conversion, God views us as dead even though we are physically alive.
Though we possess animal life, before God's calling we are totally unaware of the spiritual life of God, even as those who are physically dead are unaware of the pleasures, cares, and amusements of the living. They hear no music, enjoy no food, can see neither beauty nor ugliness—they are unaware even of people trampling on their graves! Before conversion, we are likewise unaware of the spiritual life of God, the beauty of holiness, and the joy, power, abundance, peace, honor, and glory of that life. Conversion is a life slowly expanding into a new dimension that we never knew existed before—everlasting or eternal life.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Six): Eternal Life
2 Corinthians 5:10
It does not matter how much prophecy we know, whether we can recite from memory large portions of Scripture, or know perfectly every doctrine's technicalities (I Corinthians 13:1-3). In terms of judgment, what matters is whether we are striving to live what we know to be the way God lives because it is how those in His Kingdom will live. His way is the way of love, and love is something we do.
Humanly, the opposite of love is hate. This is because we judge things largely according to the senses. Love, therefore, is a strong feeling for a person or thing; hate is a strong feeling against. However, this definition is not biblical. Biblically, the opposite of love is sin. Like love, sin is also something we do. According to I John 5:3, love is keeping God's commandments, and sin, then, is the breaking of His commandments. Though feeling is certainly involved in biblical love, the will of God and truth play a far larger part.
Seriously consider this: If we sin, then biblically, we do not love God, our fellow man, or for that matter, ourselves, because sinning means we have taken steps toward committing spiritual suicide! If we do this, it also means that we do not appreciate that God has given us life and has given His life so that we can claim His awesome promise of living eternally with Him.
Stripped of all possible nuances that might affect God's judgment, this is the stark reality of what faces us once God has opened our eyes and revealed His purpose to us. It brings to the fore that, if we love what He has revealed, then we must hate sin because it destroys everything God's wonderful revelation stands for.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment
With the arrival of Jesus Christ on the scene, there was no need for the agreement—the Old Covenant—to continue. This does not mean God's laws are obsolete, but that the agreement between God and the physical children of Abraham is no longer necessary because there is now a New Covenant that far exceeds the old one in terms of promises and benefits, in addition to the fact that God has divorced Israel (Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8). No longer is property or homeland a goal but the entire earth. No longer is physical health an aspiration but a new spiritual body that is not subject to disease or decay.
Christians are not bound by the Mosaic covenant, that "guardian" that was intended to keep Israel pointed in the right direction until there was a means by which they could receive a new heart and have access to God through the Holy Spirit. So the Old Covenant is not what we have agreed to, but it should be noted that the laws contained in "the law" (Pentateuch) still have paramount merit, because they are an extension of God's character and mind. There is no need for animal sacrifices, because Christ has fulfilled that, but there are still many lessons that can be learned through contemplating those laws. Other laws, such as the purity laws, may indeed still have a physical application as well as a spiritual one. God recorded those statutes and judgments for our admonition (I Corinthians 10:11), and they help us to see how God lives when we examine them in the light of Christ's ministry and teaching. Obeying them does not make us righteous in God's eyes or earn us salvation, but "a good understanding have all they that do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10). By them, we can learn to live as God lives (Matthew 5:17).
David C. Grabbe
In His mercy, God fulfilled what Jesus said in John 6:44, and began to draw us. He started to bridge the gap and to give us life. We were dead because of sin, but He made us alive and began to give us light.
In this context, "life" means more than endless or eternal life. It implies a "quality" of life, for endless life is a blessing only if its quality is good. Thus, the definition of eternal life must include quality of life.
God revived us, as it were, resurrecting us from a state of spiritual death to life. He revived us, not just to give us eternal life, but to change the quality of our lives. This is a given, because why would He revive us if we are going to return to the same kind of sinful life that spiritually killed us in the first place? No, He revived us from spiritual death to make possible a different kind or level or quality of life, one that includes the ability to fellowship with Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 4)
2 Timothy 1:10
What powerful words! He brought life and immortality. We have life—mortal life—but not immortality. Could "life," in context with the word "immortality," be a different kind of life than we are now living? We should be on the way to living this new life brought by the gospel. But it is not the kind of life human beings ordinarily live.
What kind of gift would immortality be to give eternal life to those who murder, rape, pillage, plunder, abuse children, or live in any other sin? If they were given immortality, would they not continue to do the things they had been trained from a child to do? Without a doubt, they would.
The life Paul writes about is the kind of life that came through the message of Jesus Christ. Contained within the gospel is God's life, a quality of life that God lives to which He is willing to add immortality. It is a powerful part of the good news of the Kingdom of God. Paul stated in an earlier epistle, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation" (Romans 1:16). And the gift of the Spirit God has given is one of power (II Timothy 1:7).
What is the gospel? It is just words, ideas. But those words impart power! They motivate our lives. They give us the will to do things in righteousness. They give us drive, endurance, perseverance, patience, hope, faith, understanding, gentleness, goodness, kindness, vision, direction. They give us a path for our lives, a way of living that produces a quality of life to which God will add immortality. God is training us in His way of life.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!
1 John 5:11-13
Eternal life is more than endless living. It includes fellowship with God and at least beginning to live life as God lives.
When God gave us eternal life, He gave us something unique, a life different from the one we were living before our calling. At that time, we were "dead" in trespasses and sins because we were living a life that produced death. Those still in the world continue to live this kind of life by nature. Do they have fellowship with God? Do they walk with Him as friends because they agree with Him about how to live and to remain at His side endlessly?
Understanding this fellowship aspect is important to understanding eternal life. "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3). God created humanity for fellowship, and by nature, we seek it out on many levels. Many find it through hobbies, the arts, politics, intellectual pursuits, social organizations, and sports. The greatest and highest form of fellowship, though, is with God and others who share the common desire to live like God always and whom He is transforming to that end. This fellowship is reserved for those whom God summons.
This means an independent Christian is a contradiction in terms. The Christian church is a community fellowship comparable to a body of which Christ is the Head (I Corinthians 12:12-31). Hebrews 10:25 commands us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Fellowship is not just friendly conversation and geniality. The Bible's writers show plainly it is a tightly knit relationship marked by self-sacrificial love manifested in mutual service, concern, prayer, labor, and helpfulness.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Six): Eternal Life
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