What the Bible says about Character
(From Forerunner Commentary)
People often associate a reputation (or a good name) as a top priority for which we should strive. In fact, our reputations should be important to us, especially as they relate to our fellow man and, of course, to God. However, as we see in many cases, reputations are often more manufactured than real. This leaves us wondering, "Is a good reputation all there is to the equation, or is there more to it?"
Webster's New World Dictionary defines reputation as "the estimation in which a person or thing is commonly held, whether favorable or not; its character in view of the public, community, etc." What is unfortunate about some people's limited conception of reputation is what we often see and believe about someone may or may not be "totally" who that person is. This is especially true for those to whom we have limited exposure or those who are good at hiding the "real person" behind a facade of deception, a trait evident in many circles (politics, business, religion) today.
The philosopher Elbert Hubbard probably put it in the most succinct way when we regard reputation only on its own merits: "Many a man's reputation would not know his character if they met on the street." This is especially true with people of renown (politicians, actors, athletes) whose reputations are often skewed by the media or others, often leaving an impression that may or may not be who or what that person actually is. As Hubbard reveals, the real defining aspect, character, must be defined in his reputation to get a real picture of who and what a person is, not only as he appears.
God is so concerned about us fearing Him because, if we fear Him, we will depart from sin. Fearing God is an essential element of godly character. Developing this vital attribute will bring about abundant blessings in our lives. It is an important part of the process of salvation because we must choose to fear God in the face of all the carnal fears before us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fear of God
Obeying the fifth commandment automatically builds habits and character that promote long life (Proverbs 4:10-11). A child trained in biblical principles and God's way of life will avoid recklessness, violence, immorality, and rebellion against authority that often result in premature death.
Martin G. Collins
The Fifth Commandment
Two parties are necessary to circumcise the foreskin of our heart. In Deuteronomy 10:16, God tells us to "circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer." Here, He commands us to do the circumcising. Compare this to Deuteronomy 30:6, where God says He will perform the circumcision: "And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart." These two passages do not contradict. God cannot create perfect, righteous character—that is the character of the new man—unilaterally. We build that character as we labor with God, cooperatively working with him over, generally, an extended period of time. That is what the Latinate word collaborate means, to "labor with."
Choosing the New Man (Part Two)
This statement could be considered to be a lamentation that things would be different. However, God knew this before He entered into the Old Covenant; He was not surprised that Israel did not keep it. If anything may have grieved Him, perhaps their rebellion was worse than even He expected it would be.
To get a clear picture, one only has to recall the creation of Adam and Eve and the subsequent events in the Garden. God did not create Adam and Eve with an evil heart. Every biblical writer has recognized an innocence in the initial natures of Adam and Eve. They hid themselves from God only after they sinned. "Who told you that you were naked?" God said (Genesis 3:11).
They were confronted with choices and chose the evil way, to sin, and something happened to their minds after they sinned. This is very instructive. Their nature at creation was made impressionable, so that as they made choices, their minds or their dispositions became or conformed to the nature of the choices that they made. A conscience, a perspective, and a character began to be formed.
I Corinthians 2:11 shows that our natural mind is strong in gathering, understanding, and using material knowledge but weak in gathering, understanding, and using spiritual knowledge. In the same manner, babies are not born evil, but they become evil as a result of the influences of life in their environments.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Eleven)Related Topics: Building Character | Carnal Nature | Character | Choices | Choosing Life | Conscience | Evil | Evil Nature | Human Mind | Human Nature | Innocence | Innocence, Loss of | Nakedness as Innocence and Vulnerability | New Covenant | New Covenant, Superior to Old | Sin Destroys Innocence | Spiritual Knowledge | Spiritual Understanding | Understanding
This is the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah the Hittite. Should God have struck David down as soon as he committed adultery? It could have started even earlier, when David looked at her while she was naked in the rooftop bathtub. Or was it after he planned with Joab to kill Uriah on the frontline? Or was it after the dirty deed was done, when Uriah was actually dead? God did not step in at any of those times. Do we realize how long He waited?
II Samuel 12:15 says that Nathan departed to his house, and the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore. The whole period of gestation went by before Nathan came and said to David, "You've sinned." How far had David fallen from grace during this nine-month period since he had committed adultery? He had conspired to kill. He had actually not done the dirty deed himself, but it was attributed to him. Then he had taken Bathsheba as his wife.
Notice in II Samuel 11:27 that God had already imputed the evil to him; He had judged the matter. "But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord." This is a terrible translation. The margin has it more correctly: "But the thing that David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord." God calls a spade a spade, but He forbore to inflict the penalty for an important reason, which is found in Psalm 51. What did God's forbearance produce in David?
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. (Psalm 51:1-4)
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. (Psalm 51:10-13)
What did this episode produce in David? Repentance for sure, and tremendous growth in character. It produced Psalm 51 itself, which is a major piece of writing in all the history of the world. How many countless people has it taught repentance and the building of character? God had greater purposes here than merely punishing transgression. Remember, David did not get away with this, because when Nathan came to him, he said, "From this time on your house is going to have problems, buddy. You're not getting away with this sin. It's going to follow you for the rest of your days, and your childrens' and your grandchildrens'." If the throne of England is any witness to this, the punishment is still falling on David's house. There are problems in the family of David that frequently show up in sexual problems and war. They have terrible dynastic squabbles.
If God blasted everyone at the first sign of sin, we would never have the chance to build character. No one would ever make it into God's Kingdom. We would all be just oil spots on the road. We would never have the chance to repent and say, "God, I was wrong. Lead me in the right way. Please don't take your Holy Spirit from me. If you allow me to live, I'll teach sinners not to do as I have done."
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
ForbearanceRelated Topics: Character | Character, Building | Character, God's | David's Adultery | David's Heart | Forbearance | Forbearance, God's | God's Forbearance | God's Grace | God's Justice | God's Longsuffering | God's Mercy | God's Patience | Repentance | Repentance, Motivation For | Repentance, Opportunity for
Jehoiada the priest was not Joash's biological father, but he had acted as a father to him. He had essentially reared this king of Judah.
This passage recounts the murder that Jesus referred to in Matthew 23:35, when He said, "'You murdered [Zechariah] between the temple and the altar." It just shows what ingratitude can do to a person's thinking.
Let us evaluate Joash's character. He was a "fellow traveler." He was a leaner, a clinging vine, who did not have the resources within himself to choose his own course. Whenever he was pressured, he had nothing within to give him strength, so he drooped and spiritually died. Joash bent whichever way the wind blew. He was easily influenced by his peers. He went whatever way the crowd was going. His character reflected the crowd that he had joined. When Jehoiada was with him, and the influence was for good, then Joash was compliant and seemingly a good king. However, when he was with his peers, a bad crowd, he was afraid to buck his peers and his character plummeted. We should also add that he did not repent when he was warned.
In the end, he was assassinated and not buried with the kings (II Chronicles 24:25). Is that not an interesting contrast between him and his "father" Jehoiada, who was not even in the kingly line but a priest. Yet, he was held in such high regard that he was buried with the kings. We must conclude that Joash's character was merely programmed; it had not truly been internalized. It was not genuine.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Three Kings Are Missing From Matthew 1
Job knew what was happening, that God was creating in him. He knew that a transformation was to come into his life after he had died—"if a man dies."
God has a desire to be reunited with those who have died, with those in whom He has been working. He has a desire to finish His work!
As long as the person is in the grave, God's creative powers and efforts are not yet concluded! What He wants to do is to match the spiritual character He has created within the person while alive as a human being with a glorious spiritual body that He will give them upon resurrecting them from the dead!
Job understood this. Thousands of years ago, he knew it! Do we know it today as well as Job did then?
The second phrase, "who walk in the law of the LORD," defines what is meant by the first phrase, "undefiled in the way." To be undefiled in the way is to walk in the law of the Lord. If we understand that Old Testament laws have application under the New Covenant, then we should also understand that Psalm 119:1 was written for us. The way we can be undefiled in the way is to walk in the law of the Lord.
Walking is an action. It requires effort to get somewhere. It is doing something. There is a teaching out there that proclaims: "One cannot overcome spiritual sin by doing physical things." Yet, this is satanically deceptive because it clouds the clear picture of what God requires. God's laws have a physical application, and they are to be used, to be kept, to be observed in our life experiences - interacting with other people and the rest of God's creation. We have to observe or keep them, we have to "walk" in them, to become sanctified. Put another way, the character God is creating in us does not become ours unless His way is put into practice.
Character can be defined as a set of highly developed traits that are so much a part of our personality that we act according to them without even thinking. Character can be good or bad. What God wants is His character - holy, righteous character. Good character can be defined as highly developed skill in living. Like any other skill, it does not become really useful without practicing it. Skill or expertise does not happen magically. It is the combination of natural ability and education, training, and discipline.
For example, when I sit down at the keyboard in front of my computer, I do not have to think about where each letter is on the keyboard. Why? That information is now written within me, not necessarily because I memorized it but because I put it into practice over many years of typing. That knowledge is now a part of me, and I will never forget it. We can apply this same principle in regard to God and what He has us do. We must do God's Word, or it will never become a part of us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-One)
One who perceives the truth has a force, a beauty of character, which creates a favorable impression that opens doors and accomplishes things. Would we not rather loan money to a person we know works hard and pays his debts than a person with poor work habits who defaults on his obligations?
A wise person is one who recognizes truth, understands that he must meet his obligations and submits to it. This process produces a good witness whether the obligation to truth is met verbally or behaviorally. If a person will not do this, he deceives himself that he can somehow "get away with it," and his witness and name will demonstrate his poor character.
This principle holds true in every area of life upon which a name is built, whether in marriage, child training, employment, or health. Many run from the truth about themselves. Nothing destroys a reputation quicker and more permanently than for a person to be known as a liar or a hypocrite.
Therefore, the ninth commandment covers not only making a false witness about another or an event with the tongue, but also not bearing false witness about God by our conduct.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment (1997)
The word "name" translates from the Hebrew word sheem, which designates something as a mark or memorial of individuality, and by implication, honor, authority, or character. The King James Version (KJV) also translates it into "fame," "famous," "infamous," "named," "renown," and "report."
From this verse, we see that a good name (a combination of reputation and character) certainly should outweigh riches, prominence, position, and status. Conversely, a lack in either can leave us in a state of moral and/or spiritual poverty, seeking self-worth over godly worth.
An example of this can be seen in those who strive for political office or a promotion. They attempt to leave an impression of character with the public or a boss, but it is an impression built on a shaky foundation of duplicity. While they may have a "good" reputation, it is not supported by the real important ingredient, character, which is earned throughout our lives.
A starkly contrasting example of this is that of Jesus Christ as a man: "[He] made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7). Christ—God Himself—humbled Himself, surrendering His right to a godly reputation, yet still left the legacy of righteous character and reputation as a human.
Ecclesiastes 7:1-8 gives another example of a good name, this time compared to that of fine ointment and life and death. The chapter starts with "A good name is better than precious ointment," but goes on to say "the day of death [is better] than the day of one's birth." Ointment, in this case, symbolizes a richness or excellence that is added to a person's state, or it may represent anointing oil used to set a person or thing apart as different or special. Verse 8 concludes, "The end of a thing is better than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit."
In human terms, we know at birth we are a clean slate—we have no knowledge, understanding, wisdom, reputation, or character. Only at death, after lifelong endeavor, do we have the total life experiences to establish a good or bad name and reputation, and this occurs because of the character we have gained or failed to gain in the process.
For those who truly desire it, a good reputation and godly character are built patiently and not through devious or self-aggrandizing means. Based on this, reputation or a perceived good name is simply not enough without the character to accompany it.
All members of God's church have inherited a Family name far more valuable than any surname. We have an awesome responsibility to uphold and honor the nobility and dignity of the name of God. The reputation we create for our church, our businesses, or our institutions is the legacy we pass on to our brothers and sisters and our children.
David F. Maas
What's in a Name Anyway?Related Topics: Character | Character, God's | Conduct | God's Family Name, Honoring | God's Name | God's Name, Hallowing | God's Name, Honoring | Godly Character | Godly Character, Evidence of | Honoring God | Honoring God's Family Name | Honoring God's Name | Name | Name of God, Honoring | Name of God, Taking in Vain | Name, Value of | Reputation
A good reputation, based upon what a person is in his dealings with others, is certainly of greater worth in God's eyes than wealth.
John W. Ritenbaugh
How to Know We Love Christ
Solomon, knowing the human condition was a result of God's purpose, reveals that men can receive something good from his toilsome lot. Verse 26 lists three virtues we can derive from our labors: "For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God."
A person who combines his work with a relationship with God will receive growth in character! On the other hand, a sinner, cut off from God, must endure the drudgery of the struggle, and the rewards of his work would eventually benefit the righteous, not himself!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)
Why is the day of death better? At birth, a person is largely a blank slate - his reputation is nothing (apart from his connection with Mom and Dad), so his name is little more than a mere label. However, at his death he has built either a good reputation or a bad one.
David F. Maas
What's in a Name Anyway?
Just because the penalty does not occur immediately does not mean it will not come. Be aware! Adam and Eve set aside the teaching of God because they became convinced that the penalty—death—would not occur. When they sinned and death did not occur immediately, they were even more convinced. But death did occur, and other evil things happened in their lives that did not have to occur.
We need to understand this as part of the way God operates; He gives us time to learn lessons, to come to a better knowledge of Him, to understand cause and effect. If God reacted immediately when we sinned, it would be all over the very first time. No building of character could take place, no learning by experience, no growth in wisdom, and no understanding of human nature.
Do not be deceived because the penalty does not seem to fall quickly.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-DeceptionRelated Topics: Cause and Effect Principle | Cause and Effect, Spiritual | Character | Character, Building | Character, God's | Death | Death Penalty | Death, Contemplation of | Heart, Deceitfulness of | Human Nature | Human Nature, Perversity of | Self Deception | Spiritual Growth | Spiritual Maturity
The prophet Isaiah is saying the same thing in more detail as what Peter says in Acts 3:19: "Repent." That is how the breach, the separation, between God and man will be healed. That is how atonement is made. Atonement is not all something that Christ does. There will never be oneness with God until man does something with his free-moral agency.
The problem in Isaiah 1 is a hypocritical people just going through the motions. They were observing the rituals: burning incense, making the sacrifices. Yet, at the same time, their daily lives were filled with all kinds of unlawful acts—business shenanigans—that, according to God's law, is taking advantage of others. They were lying about the weights and balances, selling shoddy products, and as a rule, not conducting business in an upright way. They were murdering one another's reputations through gossip, and lying to one another using charm and deceit. God is saying that their lives were full of hypocrisy.
In the same way, people who today claim to be children of God, who attend Sabbath services and holy days yet have a heart full of greed, covetousness, anger, hatred, bitterness, envy, and so on, are simply hypocrites.
As it pertains to us, what we see in Isaiah is that there must be a relationship between worshipping God and our character in its practical aspect out on the streets, in our homes, in the way that we conduct business. We might say our character away from church, out of the eyesight of God's people, must reflect what we profess to believe. How can those who treat their fellows with contempt, greed, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, and revenge, do those things through the week and then come to church services before God, thinking that somehow or another they are not separated from Him? Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24, "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." That is quite plain.
Because of all these things, God treated His people Israel in the same way as pagan idols treated their worshippers. Remember, the idols are not alive; they do not have ears that can hear, eyes that can see, or mouths that enable them to speak. So idol worshippers made their lamentations, their prayers, and their praises to their idols, and the idol never responded. God says, "I am going to be just like an idol to you. When you talk to me, I am not going to talk to you, and when you look at me, I am not going to look back at you. I am not going to see you." So in this way, He became as one who is dumb and deaf. He did not respond to their prayers.
It is essential to note that God, in His wisdom, knew before creating mankind that mankind would sin. If there were to be both reconciliation and character building, He would have to provide a means that would not only satisfy the legal requirements, but also contain within it the moral and spiritual influences that would motivate a man to cooperate on his own.
We play a major part in this because God has given us free-moral agency. By and large, the Protestant world has convinced Americans, Canadians, and Western Europeans that Christ did it all for us. It is a bald-faced lie! But sometimes, we who know better act as though it all depended on God. God gave us free-moral agency so that we can respond to Him, put His Word into practice, and exemplify before others what God is like.
It would be nice to say that we live lives like Christ so much that we could say of ourselves what Christ said: "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). There is a Person who was really at one with God.
What God is trying to do with the things that He has provided—namely, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit—is to motivate man to repent—to change, to turn to God, to resist the desire to continue in sin—to work at building character and learn to live by faith.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of AtonementRelated Topics: Atonement | Building Character | Character | Cheap Grace | Conduct | Day of Atonement | Deceit | Free Moral Agency | Gossip | Hypocrisy | Idolatry | Reconcilation with Brother | Reconciliation with God | Relationships with Brethren | Relationships With People | Repentance | Repentance as Change | Responding to God | Separation from God
As these people come out of their captivity, they will have turned to God, a necessary and wonderful first step. They will have a frame of mind—renouncing self-will—where they can begin to be worked with. But this will not magically blow away their character and psychological problems. Even in our own lives since conversion, God has had to bring us face-to-face with weaknesses of character and attitude that we must overcome.
Think of the horrors these people will have witnessed: wholesale murder in death camps, perhaps the cold-blooded butchering of their children and other loved ones. They may have lived as slaves in great degradation, having no choices, separated from loved ones, always wondering what happened to them, fearful that they will never eat another meal, and always facing the betrayal of others seeking favor and trying to survive. What will these experiences have done to their minds? Because of the need to survive, such circumstances can cause a person to become wholly self-centered.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Rule!
Given insight into what God would soon do, Amos was distressed over whether Israel could survive. God relented both times, probably as a result of Amos' prayer. But because of His earlier pronouncements and the people's lack of repentance, there is a sense that God would not postpone Israel's punishment much longer.
The first vision of Amos 7 may be a natural calamity of locusts rising out of the earth and destroying the crops and the grasslands "after the king's mowings," a practice akin to our income tax. Without the late crop, the first cutting for the king would be sparse, and without produce for their personal needs, the people would starve. God decided that Israel would be protected from natural calamity in the main, but a few people may suffer very badly and may even die.
The second vision, a divine fire, could literally be fire on the earth. "For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God" (Deuteronomy 4:24; see 29:20). Fire, in biblical symbolism, is a purging and purifying punishment against sin (Malachi 3:2-3; Hebrews 12:29). To save and turn the people back to morality and obedience, God decrees a purifying fire to come upon Israel, probably in the form of a divinely inspired war. Again, God relents, giving the nation another chance to repent.
This exchange between Amos and God illustrates a wonderful method He uses to teach us what we need. God sometimes leads us into situations that force us to decide what we really need. We ask Him for it, and then He gives it to us. We think He answered our prayer—and He did—but He also led us to pray the prayer (see Romans 8:26)! He guides these situations so that we come to think like Him! When He wants to produce character in us, He will work in whatever way is necessary to build it.
We can learn much from this technique. In our earnest prayers, we cry out to Him, believing we truly need what we have requested. We should also pray to understand how God is working, molding, shaping, and leading us to grow and overcome. When we finally see things from His perspective and pray that prayer, He will respond.
That is what He wanted from Israel: He desired the Israelites to understand that they should return to Him. However, Amos 7:9; 8:3, 10; and 9:1 indicate their destruction would be total because the people did not respond.
The example of ancient Israel's shortsightedness has present-day implications for spiritual Israel—God wants His people to look through the coming crisis and see that He brings it to pass, controls it, and sets its limits. He will use it to bring about His purpose in individual lives or in the life of the nation. In the near future, conditions will become so difficult that, if possible, even the elect will be deceived—"but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:24, 22).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)
Meekness is rooted in God, and therefore we must pursue it. Because it is a quality of God's character, we must exert effort to make it part of our character. Although we may be experiencing adversity, as the meek we should still appreciate God's good and gracious will.
Martin G. Collins
Uncleanness, or the defilement of this world, can be transferred from one person to another, but holiness cannot. Likewise, righteousness, character, and preparedness for God's Kingdom cannot be transferred from person to person because they represent internal qualities, matters of the heart.
Holy character and righteousness are personal matters, intangibles that accrue from spending long periods of time learning, applying, and honing spiritual skills in the daily experiences of life. It is too late when one needs a skill immediately, and it is not there. The same is true of character: It cannot be borrowed. Perhaps more importantly, we cannot borrow a relationship with God.
This ought to teach us that opportunity knocks and then passes. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the foolish virgins fail to anticipate the possibility that the Bridegroom might come later than they expect. When they are awakened, there is no time to do anything except fill their own lamps. This proves that nobody can deliver his brother. Each person, within his relationship with God, determines his own destiny.
The Laodicean's faith, however, has become perfunctory. He attends church and is involved with brethren socially, but privately, he merely goes through the motions in much the same way as the Israelites did in Amos' day. Absent is the fervency that develops through careful analysis and evaluation of the world and its corrupt promises against God and His holy promises.
God shows that the unprepared will not be admitted to His Kingdom. We should not construe this as a calloused rejection of a person's perhaps lifelong desire, but we should realize that the Laodicean has rejected the Kingdom of God on a daily basis over a long time! God is not unfair in His judgment. He gives the Laodicean what he showed he wanted. God reciprocates in kind.
Perhaps we can understand God's judgment if we imagine what ours would be if we were engaged to someone who never prepares for our upcoming marriage. What person would want a wife or a husband who had no enthusiasm for the marriage? Or perhaps we can compare it to a person who meets someone who would make a wonderful mate, but despite having ample opportunity and mutual admiration, the relationship never develops due to the other's being constantly distracted.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year
One of the types of righteousness for which we are to hunger and thirst is the one that occupies the greater portion of our life after conversion. Notice how Jesus states this beatitude. He does not say, "Blessed are those who have hungered . . . ," but rather, "Blessed are those who hunger [do hunger, KJV]." This hungering and thirsting is a continuous state, and it must be this way for the second kind of righteousness, elsewhere called pursuing holiness, going on to perfection, or growing in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Frequently the Bible calls it sanctification. None of these terms is specifically righteousness, but all are contained within its broad meaning. This righteousness is created in us, imparted to us by God's Holy Spirit following justification as we experience our relationship with God. It is seeking godly character to be prepared for living in His Kingdom.
God cannot create His holy and righteous character by fiat. It requires the willing and freely given cooperation of the called; by exercising their free moral agency, they submit to Him in the experiences of life. Submission is difficult, and thus Christianity is no cake-walk through a garden. Jesus often warns that it will require a devotion to Him of such degree that all else must be secondary to Him. We are to bear our crosses and count the cost (Luke 14:26-28). He also warns, "The way is difficult and narrow" (Matthew 7:14), and "He who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). The trek of the ancient Israelites through the wilderness is a type of the Christian's pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. Their wilderness experiences expose a number of pitfalls that can destroy a Christian's faith and enthusiasm for continuing to the end.
Through this beatitude, God presents us with a serious challenge. Because it is continuously needed, it establishes a demanding requirement. How much do we want goodness, the righteousness of God? Do we want it as much as a starving man desires food or a parched man wants water? Do we so lack vision that we will give up our faith as all the Israelites, save Joshua and Caleb, did in the wilderness? According to Hebrews 4:1, though they heard the good news, they did not believe it sufficiently. They, therefore, died in the wilderness, their pilgrimage finished before they reached their goal. Rather than submit, they resisted God until their deaths. Apparently, they did not hunger for it.
Most of us have a desire for God's Kingdom and His righteousness, but it is, to our detriment, frequently nebulous rather than sharp. When the time comes to make a choice, we are not prepared to make the required effort or sacrifice that the righteousness of God demands. It is situations like these that reveal that we do not desire righteousness more than anything else.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness
It may seem strange that Jesus passes so quickly from peacemaking in the previous beatitude to persecution—from the work of reconciliation to the experience of hostility. But we come to learn from life's experiences following conversion that, however hard we try to live peacefully or to make peace through reconciliation, some refuse to live at peace with us. Indeed, as this beatitude shows, some take the initiative to oppose, revile, and slander us. We must live with and adjust to the fact that persecution is simply the clash between two irreconcilable value systems. God has called us, selected us, to represent Him in patiently enduring and even overcoming persecution as part of our witness and preparation for His Kingdom.
God is not without sympathy for the difficulties these challenges pose for us, but He calls us blessed, counseling us to "rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is [our] reward in heaven" for successfully overcoming persecution. We should realize we do not earn the reward because we are doing only what we are supposed to do (Luke 17:7-10). But God freely gives the reward; He promises it as His gift.
We are to face persecution remembering "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). When it comes upon us, we should not retaliate like the world, sulk like a child, lick our wounds like a dog in self-pity, or simply grin and bear it like a masochistic Stoic. Our Savior tells us to rejoice in it because it proves the authenticity of our faith, puts us into a noble succession of towering figures of faith who have preceded us, and guarantees us great reward in the Kingdom. It may also put us into the company of many martyrs exalted in God's Word.
Above all, persecution for His sake brings us into fellowship with the sufferings of our Savior. Our love for Christ should be so great that we rejoice that it has come upon us on His account. If He suffered so much to give us this awesome future, why should we not gladly suffer a little for Him?
Persecution is a blessing in disguise designed to bring out the best of Christian character. From it we frequently become aware of weaknesses in our character. Persecution's pressures are humbling. They make us understand that our spiritual infirmities are so great that we cannot stand for a single hour unless Christ upholds us. How true are His words, "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
Persecution can also keep us from certain sins because it makes us more vividly aware of the impossibility of friendship with the world. Seeing we cannot have both the world and the Kingdom, it can help us set our resolve to live righteously. "And not only that," the apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:3-4, "but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope."
At first glance, persecution seems contradictory to the way and purpose of God. Though we certainly do not wish it upon anyone, and though we sincerely hope we do not have to face it, we can understand in the broad overview that, because of the enmity of Satan, it is inevitable. And in reality, it is a disguised blessing, designed to complete our preparation for God's Kingdom.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 8: Blessed Are the Persecuted
Houses in the ancient Middle East were frequently made of sun-baked clay or loose stones. Because of this, thieves found it comparatively easy to dig through the wall to enter and steal. Thieves represent the ungodly world that continually seeks to take everything we have and return to us nothing but trouble (Isaiah 56:10-12; John 10:10). Moths and rust attack consumable things, but thieves look to steal enduring treasures for themselves.
All three metaphors, moth, rust and thieves, merge into one lesson: the futility of an earth-centered life. Taken together, these three stealthy destroyers demonstrate the folly of amassing earthly goods for their own sake. If no other destroyers come against us, old age is like a moth that ruins our beauty and wholeness, disease is like rust that corrodes our bodies, and death is like a thief that breaks in and steals everything we possess. A grim Spanish proverb says, "There are no pockets in a shroud." We can take nothing with us but the character we have built (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Job 32:8).
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Treasure
What do we actually do to "seek first the Kingdom of God"? How do we in our daily actions put God first? How do we take Christ's abstract statement and turn it into concrete steps that we can employ in our lives? One answer is Luke 21:36. Seeking God—is the solution to all our problems. Luke 21:36 gives us the first step in implementing that solution—praying always. This is a foundation on which to build eternal life.
By being in conscious and constant communication, we are acknowledging God. We are bringing Him into the picture, obeying Matthew 6:33 by seeking Him first. When we do that, we create the opportunity to put some interesting dynamics into action that will facilitate overcoming.
Could we have any better companion than God? With no other could we possibly find better fellowship. God designed prayer to be an act by a free-moral agent who consciously chooses to be with Him to develop their relationship. When we pray, we acknowledge that we are in the presence of God, giving Him the opportunity to rub off on us, like iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17).
When person A rubs off on person B, it implies that B becomes a little more like A—he begins to take on the other's characteristics. The same holds true with the relationship between God and us. Who has the easier time dealing with temptation—God or us? Of course, God does (James 1:13)! It follows, then, that if the more God rubs off on us, the more we become like Him—the more successful our battle against temptation becomes. The more God rubs off on us, the more the battle becomes God's, not ours.
To have the right kind of fellowship and relationship with God, we have to be aware of the reality that we are always in His presence; He is "a God near at hand" (Jeremiah 23:23). Because God has promised never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and since we are the Temple where His Spirit dwells (I Corinthians 3:16), God is constantly with us. For His children, the question is never whether He is present, but whether we acknowledge His presence. Praying always accomplishes this.
If being in the presence of a friend of fine character improves us on a human level (Proverbs 13:20), how much more true is this when we are in the presence of God Himself, the very definition of character and wisdom? That is how He can rub off on us: We are with Him, in His fellowship, in His presence, through prayer. When it comes to His children, He is never way off somewhere, if we would but acknowledge this fact.
God designed human beings to adapt to their environment. Before conversion, this world and its influences were molding us into an anti-God form. Acknowledging God's presence is the antidote that counteracts the influence under which we have lived since birth.
God's calling is an invitation to fellowship with Him, and getting to know Him is our salvation (John 17:3). If this is so, then the means—prayer—is a vital part of the foundation on which we need to build. That is the message of Luke 21:36. Praying always leads to overcoming, and both will lead to an escape from God's wrath and fellowship with Christ on into God's Kingdom.
Notice another illustration of the power of presence. What happens to us when we are around people who are pessimistic, angry, fearful, whining? Compare that to our reaction when around those who are positive and enthusiastic, facing life with gentle humor, determination, and energy. The former can quickly drain and depress us, while the latter can energize and enthuse us. In these situations, a literal transference of a spiritual attitude takes place. However, as we increase our physical distance from either of these examples, their power to influence erodes.
What happens on the human plane is no different from what happens spiritually. The spirit—good or bad—of people radiates out from them. It can affect, even change our spirit. Likewise, Satan's spirit permeates our environment, influencing us unless we choose to counteract it.
That choice is praying at every opportunity, willingly submitting ourselves to the persuasion of the most positive, righteous, and unchanging attitudes that exist in the entire universe! This is why after prayer, after spending time in the presence of God, people can feel peace, joy, or confidence. On the other hand, they can also feel humbled and chastened because God has led them to remorse and repentance. Prayer changes things—us.
Praying Always (Part Four)Related Topics: Acknowledging God in Our Lives | Acknowledging God's Presence | Character | Character, God's | Communication with Christ | Communication with God | Communion with Christ | Communion With God | Fellowship with Christ | Fellowship with God | Godly Character | Iron Sharpens Iron | Overcoming | Praying Always | Praying at All Times | Praying Every Moment | Praying in all Times | Praying without Ceasing | Relationship with Christ | Relationship with God | Seeking First Kingdom of God | Seeking God | Temptation | Temptation, Resisting
True Christianity is not an easy way of life. Yet many of this world's religious groups that call themselves Christian would have us believe that accepting the blood of Jesus Christ is the end of all of our problems.
That claim, though, is misleading at the very least—and an outright lie at the most, depending on the material supporting such a claim. Many influences attempt to knock a Christian off the path entirely or in any case cause him to stumble. A Christian must be discerning, taking great pains to maintain his balance against three primary enemies: his human nature, the world, and Satan. Regardless of his age, social status, education, or gender, these foes dog his heels.
The Christian truly has a fight on his hands, if he is serious about glorifying God by his life and achieving the growth that will give God abundant evidence of his sincerity in seeking Him and being in His character image.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)
Moses asked to see the visible glory of God, and He proclaimed His name verbally. Jesus is saying, "If you want to see the mind and nature of God, if you want to see His attitudes, look at Me." God reveals Himself and declares His glory to us through the life, works, and words of Jesus of Nazareth as He opens our minds by His Holy Spirit.
Jesus is "the way" because of all mankind, only He, unmarred by sin, has intimate knowledge of God. Knowing God depends on our knowledge of the truth about Jesus. He shows the way we must walk, the direction and manner of living and relating to others. This is precisely the knowledge Jesus gives. Many times when we ask directions in a strange city, the response confuses us because we are unfamiliar with the town. But when we ask directions of Jesus, He says, "Come, follow Me, and I will take you there."
Some people may teach truth, but He embodies truth; He is "the truth." A man may teach geometry, and his character may not affect his teaching. But if one teaches moral truth, character is paramount. Keeping the third commandment properly revolves around knowing the truth about God and His way.
Colossians 1:15; 2:9 are among the strongest statements in the Bible about the divine nature of Jesus: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. . . . For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." He not only is equal to and reflects God, but He also reveals God to us because He is God. He is completely holy and has authority to judge the world.
We can have no clearer view of God than by looking at Christ. He is the full revelation of God to man. He is the complete expression of God in a human body. He is unique: God became a man, imposing upon Himself the same time-space limitations as other men.
He had every opportunity to waste time, get sick, eat gluttonously and become overweight, drink and experience a hangover, "fly off the handle" in anger, or attack others when someone pricked His vanity. He could have become bitter from rejection or depressed when things did not go His way. He could have worked or played with intense competitiveness to "win at all costs." He had to face death, His own as well as of loved ones. He could have felt "the deck was stacked" against Him.
The gospels show God coping with life on the same terms as men. Now we can really see what kind of character God possesses. Jesus' life gives us firsthand knowledge of what the true way of life is, allowing us to cooperate with Him in His purpose. Among many other things, we see God teaching, healing, sacrificing His life, correcting in love, guarding His flock, and patiently counseling.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment (1997)
In the New Testament, the Greek word eleeo occurs only once (Matthew 18:33, "pity"), and it means "to be kind," "tender." In contrast, self-pity is the opposite—not tenderness to oneself but an abusiveness that causes great stress and harm. It shows faithlessness by breaking the first commandment in placing oneself higher in importance than the Creator God. This obsession with self interferes with God's development of righteous character in us.
In essence, self-pity is excessive love of oneself. Thus, a simple cure for self-pity is caring for someone else's welfare more than self—in a word, selflessness. Outgoing concern, love toward others is outlined by the Ten Commandments, for they show love toward God and love toward neighbor. The saints who overcome Satan and the world are known by the trait that "they did not love their lives to the death." They are willing to lay down their lives for their friends (John 15:13).
Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 10): Self-Pity
We must do good works to be blessed with eternal life, and all who have eternal life do such works. Our Savior expects us to become coworkers with Him in our salvation, as well as the salvation of all mankind. Paul writes, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
God's great law is His way of life! God chooses to live by the Ten Commandments, and they reveal His excellent character. To enter His Family, we also must live by God's law, which helps us to develop godly character. This is how closely eternal life is linked to keeping the commandments.
Works of Faith (Part 1)Related Topics: Character | Character, Building | Character, God's | Commandment Breaking | Commandment Keeping | Commandments, Breaking | Commandments, Keeping | Commands of God | Created for Good Works | Eternal Life | Eternal Life, Conditions for | God's Law | God's Workmanship | Good Works | Good Works, Necessity of | Law "Done Away" | Law Keeping | Lawkeeping | The Ten Commandments | Works | Works as Evidence of Growth | Works, Christ's Emphasis Upon
The guests do not enter the wedding hall immediately. Those gathered from the highways would be inappropriately clothed, so time is given them to clothe themselves in proper attire provided by the king (Isaiah 64:6; Zechariah 3:3-4). The parable suggests that, not only did the man not have on a wedding garment, but he did so intentionally. He decides against clothing himself properly, even though the appropriate clothing is available. His presence at the wedding is a sign of his rebellion against the king's authority and majesty, symbolized by the feast. When the man realizes his sin against the king's order, he is speechless as his judgment is pronounced.
The wedding garment, conspicuous and distinctive, represents a person's righteousness. It symbolizes the habit of sincerity, repentance, humility, and obedience. It replaces the street clothes that stand for the habits of pride, rebellion, and sinfulness. Biblically, beautiful clothing indicates spiritual character developed by submission to God (Revelation 3:4-5; 19:7-9). Paul exhorts Christians to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" like a garment (Romans 13:14). Clothing, then, represents a Christ-covered life, and as a result, character consistent with God's way of life.
Following the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus continues without a break in His teaching to His disciples. This continuity of thought makes the Parable of the Talents (verses 14-30) a fitting complement to the preceding parable. Jesus is careful to balance His instruction by teaching another important requirement for His servants to fulfill prior to His return. He does not want His disciples to assume that the previous parable constituted His entire warning.
In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus reveals the necessity of developing inward character, but in the Parable of the Talents, He combines that need with the encouragement to manifest good works. The virgins teach us the need to watch and be ready; the talents teach us our responsibility to work until His return.
Jesus knew the human tendency to think that, because He was there in person, His disciples did not have to work, leading to laziness and freeloading as a person becomes dependent on the support of another. Thus, He urges His disciples, not only to be ready by watching for His return, but also to work diligently toward it. The first parable portrays the virgins waiting for their Lord, which requires mental and spiritual preparation and watching, while the Parable of the Talents shows the servants of the Lord working for Him, which entails profitable activity.
The wealthy man (referred to as "lord" by his servants) is "the Son of Man," Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:13). His journey into the far country parallels Christ's departure into heaven after His ascension. The servants stand for the twelve disciples and thus all the followers of Christ down through the ages, and the talents they receive represent the spiritual gifts Jesus passes on to His servants. The absence of the lord from his home pictures the absence of Christ's visible presence on the earth, and his return is Jesus' promised return.
The trading that the servants are expected to do during their master's absence suggests the faithful use of spiritual gifts and opportunities for service that Jesus' disciples are expected to practice. On the master's return, he commends the servants, showing what will happen at Christ's return, when each Christian's service will be rewarded. The judgment on the one servant who failed in his trust is a warning against not using or misusing his gifts. [Note: The phrase, "The kingdom of heaven is" (verse 14), is in italics, meaning that it is not in the original, but was added by translators for clarity.]
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Talents (Part One)
In this parable, Jesus describes one who hears His words and does them as a man who, when building his house, digs his foundation deeply and upon rock. When a flood threatens it, the house remains intact on its secure base.
Jesus' metaphor in the parable is apt: A man's character is like a house. Every thought is like a piece of timber in that house, every habit a beam, every imagination a window, well or badly placed. They all gather into a unity, handsome or grotesque. We decide how that house is constructed.
Unless one builds his character on the rock-solid foundation of God's Word, he will surely be swept away by the flood now inundating the world. As I Corinthians 3:11 says, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
Of the two builders in the parable, one is a thoughtful man who deliberately plans his house with an eye to the future; the other is not a bad man, but thoughtless, casually building in the easiest way. The one is earnest; the other is content with a careless and unexamined life. The latter seems to want to avoid the hard work of digging deep to ensure a strong foundation, and also takes a short-range view, never thinking what life will be like six months into the future. He trades away future good for present pleasure and ease.
The flood obviously represents the trials of life. Frequently, the trials of life descend upon us either through our own lack of character or because of events in the world around us. Is our house strong enough to withstand the onslaught of the horrendous events of the end time? Can it even withstand our own weaknesses?
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Flood Is Upon Us!
At the beginning of our conversion, usually during counseling for baptism, we are asked to consider this passage seriously. Verses 26-27 are particularly important because loyalty to Christ is the issue in this context. Jesus makes it plain that, after entering into the New Covenant, our highest loyalty is to Him.
This is extremely important because the character of every life is determined by the loyalty that rules it. Peter confirms Jesus' words in Acts 5:29, saying, "We ought to obey God rather than men." He made this affirmation following Jesus' crucifixion. Persecution was imminent against the fledging church. However, we must understand that the world is always a threat against our loyalty to Christ. Life is a mixture of choices and compulsions, and many of our values have their source in the world. These values exert an ever-present pressure to conform to them, thus we must be aware.
The pressure to make moral choices is the furnace in which character is forged. Our compulsions to make choices come in two varieties: 1) forced, as by a gun to our temple that demands, "Do this or else," and 2) unforced, the pressure of old habits, perspectives, and attitudes engraved in our character, hangovers from our past. Thus, the past and the present both push at us to choose. What we choose determines where our loyalties lie and thus whether we commit idolatry. If we are not thinking carefully, idolatry is an easy sin to fall into.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment
The nobleman owned the money, but the servants had to trade with it. However, the goal contemplated by the nobleman was not moneymaking as much it was His servants' development of character. Those who are diligent and faithful in serving Christ are commonly blessed in being made blessings to those around them. Jesus commands His disciples to improve and increase their talents, understanding and making the most of them, as well as to increase their capability of doing good and to do it until He returns (I Corinthians 12:7-11; Ephesians 4:7-16).
Jesus emphasizes His return and receipt of the Kingdom, at which time His Father would grant Him all legal rights (I Corinthians 15:23-28). In such a Kingdom, the King must have trusted and competent servants to assist Him in governing. We have the promise that, if we suffer with Him and work with Him now, if we are diligently faithful to Him, we will reign with Him (Revelation 3:21; 5:10; 20:4, 6). God has given us abilities and truth to use and develop, and we are held accountable for our efforts and effectiveness in using them for the benefit of our King and Savior.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Minas
Teachers who say that works are unimportant are spreading lies—by confusing the issues, by blunting the incentive to keep the commandments of God and to make the right kind of choices, by making people think that they do not have to do any works. Understand, however, that works are not required to save us but to ensure that we are changed!
What does God want to see when we come before the judgment bar, as we are now during our Christian lives? He wants to see evidence to prove that we are indeed His children. His judgment is based upon what we have done; the Bible says repeatedly that judgment is according to our works.
I am not qualifying here the quantity or the quality of our works. God is so merciful! Paul tells us in I Corinthians 3:15 that, even though our works are burned up, we ourselves will be saved. Even though the works are of poor quality, at least we have worked! We did not just sit there, dead in the water. We apparently pleased God enough to show that we wanted to be in His Kingdom.
That judgment is in His hands. But we should recognize that He does require works. The works are not for justification but for sanctification. The works aid in the transformation of our character to the image of God. The works aid in our growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. The works help to produce change. It is a cooperative effort that we do with God.
And I can guarantee you that, if a person does not make the efforts to change, he would be totally unhappy in the Kingdom of God. He would be like a fish out of water, because everybody in that Kingdom is going to be holy. Everybody in that Kingdom is going to do—they are going to live holy lives. (An unholy person wouldn't fit, and so he won't be there.)
Satan is trying to destroy God's purpose by subtly confusing the necessity of good works, and therefore stopping the process of sanctification through a perverted teaching on grace, law, and covenants. But remember this: Hebrews 12:14 tells us that without holiness—a holiness that we have to strive for—"no man shall see the Lord."
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Nine)Related Topics: Character | Good Works | Good Works, Necessity of | Growing in Grace and Knowledge | Holiness | Holy | Judgment According to Works | Justification | Justification by Works | Sanctification | Sanctification as Growth | Works | Works as Evidence of Growth | Works, Christ's Emphasis Upon | Works, Judgment According to | Works, The Necessity of Good
Not only does Jesus characterize Himself as truth in John 14:6, but He also adds in John 17:17 that "[God's] word is truth." In I Corinthians 15:45, 47, Paul refers to Jesus as "the last Adam" or "the second Man," the beginning of a new order, of an entire race or family of beings just like Him, just as all of mankind is in the image of our first forefather, the first Adam.
Many can say, "I have told you the truth." However, Jesus did not just tell the truth, He embodied it. He put truth into a visible, concrete form so all who so desire can see it. What credibility that gives! A teacher can present a mathematical, grammatical, scientific, or historical truth, and what kind of a person he is does not matter much. However, if a person teaches or administers moral truth, his example—what he is in his character—is all-important. Do people want to be lectured on purity by an adulterer or on honesty by a liar and thief (Romans 2:21-24)?
"Truth" in John 17:17 is the Greek word aletheia, which means "reality, the manifested, unconcealed essence of a matter." Truth is the reality lying at the foundation of a righteous example. It is pure unadulterated reality.
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
Satan is Christ's diametrical opposite, one hundred percent unmodified deceit. God's entire plan is based on the premise that the converted know that God is true. If He is not true to His Word or to His own way of life, how can He be trusted? We must live by faith in this true Being and in what He says! Truth forms the basis, the foundation, the reality, for a person's conversion.
Consider this: There is a personal, living, almighty God whose ways and laws are intrinsically right—they are true. Therefore, a person who has God's Spirit and is honest, who is willing to speak the truth and acknowledge it when it is shown to him, and who will use it in everyday, practical situations must eventually become like the One he models himself after.
God is making us kings and priests, that is, leaders and teachers of a way of life based on revealed truth. He will not have anyone in His Family who does not embody truth as Jesus did. In other words, we, too, will be truth personified. However, for this to occur we must live it to the best of our abilities now.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment
Having love does not nullify God's law. John, an apostle and close friend of Jesus Christ, emphasized love. However, not once did he say that love nullifies or supersedes the Ten Commandments. Indeed, by keeping the commandments, the love of God is perfected in us (I John 2:5). The Ten Commandments constitute a spiritual law that is inexorable and eternal, producing faith and happiness and righteous character that pleases God.
Martin G. Collins
The Ten CommandmentsRelated Topics: Character | Character, Building | Character, God's | God's Law | Keeping Commandments | Keeping Commandments as Love | Law | Law "Done Away" | Law is Holy | Law is Spiritual | Love | Love as Keeping Commandments | Love for Christ | Love for God | Love of God | Ten Commandments | The Ten Commandments
Sanctify means "to render or set apart as pure," and when we obey God's Word, we are set apart and purified. Jesus confirms here that everything that God originally authorized to appear in the Bible is truth. This means that every law, statute, illustration, example, and principle is good for us, helping us to have a better life now by building godly character in us.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
The Whole Truth
It is not without validity that most of our impressions or beliefs about our family, close friends, and acquaintances automatically involve knowledge about their character as a part of their reputation. Obviously, our interactions give us insight to these people's characters and reputations, whether our perceptions are true or false. Those who know us best will see any growth of character or lack of it. Even so, some can have blind spots in relation to a particular person (for instance, a mother may ignore her son's flaws), or the person may have a talent for concealing their shortcomings, even from those closest to them.
We see a positive side of this in Acts 6:1-3, where the apostles tell the church to choose seven men to become deacons. One of the criteria was that these men were to be "of good reputation," which translates from the Greek word martureo, meaning "to be a witness, that is, to testify (literally or figuratively)." The KJV also renders martureo as "give [evidence]," "bear record," "obtain a good honest report," "be well reported of."
These men were to show evidence of God's Spirit and wisdom in their lives, a combination of a good name as well as growth in character. It is interesting that, because they knew them best, the people were to select these men according to their character.Related Topics: Blindspots | Character | Character, God's | Deacons | God's Character | God's Holy Spirit | God's Holy Spirit, Evidence of | Godlike Characteristics | Godly Character | Godly Character, Evidence of | Name, Value of | Reputation | Spiritual Blindspots | Spiritual Character | Spiritual Wisdom | Wisdom, Godly | Wisdom, Spiritual | Witness | Witness, Quality of
Romans 5:5 says, "The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit." Thus, we did not have the love of God until we had His Spirit. Without God's Spirit, we could not possibly keep His commandments, for love is "keep[ing] His commandments" (I John 5:3). If we cannot keep His commandments, God cannot create His character in us, and He will not allow us to enter His Kingdom. Therefore, anyone not having His Spirit will not be there.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Final Harvest
Sanctification and justification are not the same. They are, however, different processes within the same purpose, and they are definitely related issues. They both begin at the same time: when we are forgiven, justified, and sanctified. Justification has to do with aligning us with the standard of God's law that in turn permits us into God's presence. We will never be any more justified than we are at that moment; justification does not increase as we move through our Christian lives.
Some believe that Jesus Christ lived and died only to provide justification and forgiveness of our sins. However, those who believe this are selling His awesome work short. As wonderful as His work is in providing us with justification, His labors in behalf of our salvation do not end there. Notice that verse 10 says we are "saved by His life." Jesus rose from the dead to continue our salvation as our High Priest. God's work of spiritual creation does not end with justification, for at that point we are far from complete. We are completed and saved because of Christ's labor as our Mediator and High Priest only because He is alive.
Sanctification unto holiness continues the process. Hebrews 2:11 states that Jesus is "He who sanctifies," and those of us who have come under His blood are called "those who are sanctified." Note these verses carefully:
» John 17:19: And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
» Ephesians 5:25-26: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.
» Colossians 1:21-22: And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. . . .
» Titus 2:14: . . . who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Sanctification has a definite purpose that is different from justification. In one respect, justification—as important as it is—only gets the salvation process started. Sanctification takes a person much farther along the road toward completion. It occurs within the experiences of life generally over the many years of one's relationship with the Father and Son. How long did God work with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and the apostles to prepare them for His Kingdom? By comparison, will our perfection be achieved in just a moment?
Sanctification is the inward spiritual work that Jesus Christ works in us. Notice His promise, made on the eve of His crucifixion, in John 14:18: "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." Moments later, when asked by Judas, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?" (verse 22), Jesus replies, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (verse 23). These clear statements show that Jesus would continue His work with them following His resurrection.
As our High Priest, He continues that work in us after our justification. He not only washes us of our sins by means of His blood, but He also labors to separate us from our natural love of sin and the world. He works to instill in us a new principle of life, making us holy in our actions and reactions within the experiences of life. This makes possible a godly witness before men, and at the same time, prepares us for living in the Kingdom of God.
If God's only purpose was to save us, He could end the salvation process with our justification. Certainly, His purpose is to save us, but His goal is to save us with character that is the image of His own.
Notice Hebrews 6:1: "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God." This verse and those immediately following confirm that, at the time of justification, we are not perfect or complete. Justification is an important beginning, but God intends to complete the process of spiritual maturation that He began with our calling. When sanctification begins, our Christian walk truly begins in earnest.
Sanctification, then, is the outcome of God's calling, faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, justification, and our becoming regenerated by God through receiving His Spirit. This combination begins life in the Spirit, as Paul explains in Romans 8:9: "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."
At this point in Christian life, the principles of Christianity must be practically applied to everyday life. At this juncture, it might help to recall what righteousness is. Psalm 119:172 defines it succinctly: "My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness." The apostle John adds to our understanding in I John 3:4: "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." Both rectitude and love concisely characterize the same standards, the Ten Commandments, and we are required to labor to perform both.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Four)
If we are regenerated children of God and led by His Spirit, we will exhibit His character and spiritual image. Before God summoned us, began to reveal His truth to us, forgave us, justified us, and imparted His Spirit to us, our spiritual father was Satan! We were no better than the Pharisees, whom Christ told that they were of their father, the Devil, because they were doing Satan's works (John 8:39-47). Children display the characteristics of their parents, so Christ judged the Pharisees to be the children of Satan because they were exhibiting the Devil's characteristics.
Before God intervened in our lives, we, too, were the children of Satan (Ephesians 2:1-3) because we were exhibiting his spiritual characteristics. However, God began to redeem us and called us into a relationship with Him, which, as Romans 8:15 says, was symbolically an adoption. God was not our original father, but He took on that role after He extracted us from the grasp of Satan, sin, and this world.
Verse 16 reiterates that the Holy Spirit is intended to provide a witness of who we are and who God is. If we allow the Spirit to lead us, we are sons of God. It follows that, if we are sons of God, then we will be exhibiting the same characteristics as our Father! When we exhibit God's characteristics, we are a witness to the world of His character and the way He lives.
Under the New Covenant, with access to the Holy Spirit, the quality of our witness must be much higher than what God expected of physical Israel. To whom much is given, much also is required (Luke 12:48)! If our neighbors, co-workers, or family members look at us, and all they see are people who go to church on different days, do not eat certain foods, give multiple tithes on their income, and do not believe in the Trinity, are they seeing anything different than Old Covenant Israel, who did not have the Holy Spirit? Certainly, God's law will set us apart from the world because the world is against God, but merely keeping the letter of the law will not provide the complete witness that God is looking for.
This is not to denigrate the royal law of liberty to any degree. Acts 5:32 says God gives His Spirit only to those who obey Him. However, one can be nominally obedient, keeping God's law in the letter, without making a truly effective witness for God.
David C. Grabbe
The Pentecost Witness
Paul actually left one step out here; he could have added sanctified. Sanctification is the period between justification and glorification during which we become holy, when the growth takes place.
Everything in regard to this issue exposes a process. We are to consider ourselves pilgrims heading toward the Kingdom of God, gradually being transformed into the image of God along the way. The qualities of character, whether human or godly, are not produced instantaneously but through the everyday gathering of information, weighing it, making the necessary choices, setting our wills, and watching to see the results.
Even as Israel had to walk out of Egypt and across the wilderness to the Promised Land—or there never would have been a change in their situation—so must we live this process to grow to become like God and be in His Kingdom. The laws of God are written on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10; Jeremiah 31:33) by life's experiences while we have a relationship with God. Like everything else in life, it is a process that has a beginning and end.
Like every educational system, it moves from simple to complex. It moves from that which is clearly stated in the letter of the law to what is less apparent and depends upon a background of instruction, experience, and results. It depends on faith in and love for God and love for man that have grown in a person to aid him in properly understanding, applying, and practicing the spirit of the law.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Nineteen)
When we are tempted, God will help. He will provide a way out, not to avoid temptation, but to meet it successfully and to stand firm under it. This is testing as permitted and controlled by God to produce sterling character that is a reflection of His own.
God is faithful and will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear and successfully conquer. He challenges us to meet the temptations that spring up before us on the road of life, beat them down, learn the lessons, and move on to receive the crown of life. He promises to be with us every step of the way. We can be
when He will give us our reward (Revelation 22:12).
Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?
The veil Paul speaks of is the carnality of a deceived mind formed and shaped in the world's Satan-manipulated cultures. It is so antagonistic to the true God and His Word (Romans 8:7) that it fights the very approach of God to heal them through a great, freely given gift, just as the first-century Jews opposed and rejected Christ.
However, be aware that the miraculous removal of this veil of blindness by God, through the wonderful gifts of His Spirit and of a great hope, also places an obligation on us. With the blindness gone, we are granted the ability to choose between God's way and the world's way for the first time in our lives. Choosing to submit to God provides our witness of God, as well as being the means of building the character God greatly desires to create within us.
However, the effects of the self-centered way of life we have absorbed through the course of this world remain in our attitudes and characters, becoming what must be overcome. It will dog us all our converted lives as a means of testing our determination to be in God's Kingdom, as well as our love and loyalty to our God and Savior.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Three)
What Paul writes here agrees perfectly with Isaiah 64:8 and Job 14:14-15. God has a desire for the work of His hands. He is a Master Potter, and we are the clay. Here, the apostle puts it in New Testament terminology: "We are His workmanship." God is creating us in Christ Jesus. The Creator is still creating. He is molding, fashioning, changing us, transforming us to possess His own noble, righteous, holy, spiritual character. Salvation, then, is actually a process of creating character.
This is why the ministry exists. What does God mean by this? Perfecting is a term that can be used to refer to "setting a broken bone." It means "putting into the condition in which it should be." The ministry guides and directs us into a spiritual condition acceptable to God. The saints are being prepared for the duty of ministering in divine things. We are not just called to be saved; we are called to perfection - developing the mature, spiritual character we must have to serve in divine matters. There is a whole world that will one day soon require conversion, and it is for this we are now being trained!
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
At His return, Christ will transform a saint's outward appearance so that it will conform to His resurrected body and match the essential character of the person as well—the character God created within the person. He will give each Christian a glorious body to match his glorious character—the character of God!
Paul writes a charter for Christian thought. We are to center our minds on these exalted things - not pornography, not violence. Those are things of this world, and in this regard, our minds are such that we are like sheep. No other domesticated animal can eat such a wide variety of different vegetables and herbs, seemingly without very much damage. Things that will kill a cow will not kill a sheep. In a similar way, we are capable of taking things into our minds that, seemingly, are not doing any damage at all, but they are definitely not providing the right kind of sustenance for the right kind of thinking.
It becomes our responsibility, then, using the power of God's Spirit with which He anoints us, to choose to think on things that are true, pure, noble, just, lovely, of good report, praiseworthy, and honest. Not much in mass media fits this description. It is our choice, but that is the purpose for which God wants His Holy Spirit to be used.
If we instead think about evil, we will act evilly - we will be evil, because action follows thought. It is as simple as that. Thoughts come from what our minds have been fed, and thus what our minds have been fed will determine how we will act. What we think upon will determine our character and our attitudes.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 3)
This is a prayer of Paul's in which he makes a bold request on behalf of that congregation. It contains great encouragement for us. Paul requests their complete sanctification and preservation as holy until they die or God finishes His activities on behalf of the church at Christ's coming.
Sanctification is the part of salvation that deals with our progressive growth in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ—or put another way, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ—or in yet another way, into God's image. God is faithful in carrying out His part in the building of Christian character. God's faithfulness guarantees the progressive perfection of a Christian's life. He is not like men who begin a project, lose interest, run into difficulties, consider it too hard to overcome, or become impatient and quit. He does not begin a work and then get disgusted with it and turn to something else. He does not begin and, finding He lacks the resources to finish, give up. Men do this, but God never stops until He is finished. He does not finish until He is satisfied.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness
"The express image" is from a single Greek word, from which comes our word "character." The word appears only here in the New Testament.
William Barclay explains that it literally describes "the impress that a seal leaves on wax," so he renders that part of Hebrews 1:3 as, "He [Christ] is the exact impression of his [Father's] being, just as the mark is the exact impression of the seal." Physically, a seal can make an impression only by making contact, which is exactly what must happen to us spiritually. For God to make us in His "express image"—to stamp His character on us, to give us the gift of His qualities—requires contact, that we be in His presence. Praying always does just that.
This verse also suggests that godly character is not really the result of battling temptation, a battle we are powerless to win on our own. Rather, character is created by our continual, conscious choice to be in contact with Him, to submit everything we are to Him, to acknowledge that He is the only source of strength, and then to trust—to have faith in (I John 5:4)—His love and willingness to do battle for us, to give us the gift of His character.
Praying always is that first step in overcoming—submitting. Then He can take over to do what we are not able to do on our own. After our decision to submit, He may still require certain actions from us, to take those few steps in faith—our walk with God—but then we have Him on our side, giving us guidance and strength.
Even in the world, we can see the power of character. While character can make an ordinary man extraordinary, a lack of character can make an extraordinary man quite ordinary. Character has power because it connects us with divine wisdom. Without character, we are limited to human intelligence, and most of history is a record of its woeful inadequacy. Character links us to a godly intelligence that can see the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). A person who exercises character exercises faith. He may not foresee the good it will bring, but he trusts that the divine intelligence behind his faith knows more.
If we are not continually praying, we will be using human intelligence with the same ratio of success that history has shown it to have. Praying always, striving always to be aware of His presence, allows His Spirit to rub off on us. God has chosen praying always as a primary method to allow us to get to know Him, to receive His character as a gift, to overcome, and to receive eternal life and salvation.
If God has given us this powerful tool, why do we not use it more? Why do we not seek God for every decision, every thought?
Praying Always (Part Four)Related Topics: Character | Character, God's | Communication with God | Godly Character | Overcoming | Prayer | Prayer as Contact with God | Prayer as Fellowship | Praying Always | Praying at All Times | Praying Every Moment | Praying in all Times | Praying without Ceasing | Submission to God | Submission to God's Will
This verses contain a vivid contrast to Ecclesiastes 1. In nature, everything is undergoing constant change from one generation to another. In contrast, God changes not; He is permanent.
Though Solomon reaches the despairing conclusion that the crooked cannot be made straight, God is saying to His children, on the other hand, that now is the time to effect positive, worthwhile changes with His help. These changes will eventually become a permanent part of our personality because the great Creator is working within us.
We find ourselves, then, in a situation where life appears to be vain and absurd, but for the Christian it is not. God has designed things so that we, being able to see the contrast, consciously make the choices in our lives to move toward the permanent and eternal, effecting the changes we need to make in our character to be carried through the grave.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 1)
Though the author speaks specifically of the high priest, all priests who ministered before God were included within the scope of this law. Clearly, God is vitally concerned about the purity of heart, character, attitude, motive, and service of those who serve Him. Because we are to serve Him every day, this requires specific and continuing daily attention.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart
We can learn a great deal about why patience is so vital by comparing the process we are going through to an artist sculpting a work from a piece of marble. Chip by chip over a period of time, an artist uses hammer and chisel to shape a conception from a raw slab of rock until the finished figure is revealed. God is doing much the same with us except we are living, raw material with mind, emotions, and the liberty to allow or disallow the Artist to continue. If we are impatient, not allowing the Creator to complete His artistry by our constant yielding to His tools, we will never be perfect and entire.
It is easy for us to magnify our burdens. Notice, however, what grumbling did for the Israelites in the wilderness when God finally responded. Would we rather have our trial or grumble and receive what the Israelites did? We must begin to cultivate the habit of thinking of life, including all of its trials, as being God's way to shape godly character in us.
James makes what seems to be a paradoxical statement in James 1:2: We should count our various trials as joy. Why? Because verse 3 says that doing so produces patience! We need patience so God can mold us into His likeness. Even God cannot produce godly character by fiat. James is teaching us that we should not measure the experiences of life by their ability to please our ambition or tastes but by their capacity to make us into God's image. If we have any vision - and a zealous desire to live as God does - we can welcome our trials as steps in God's creative process and meet them with patience and hope.
Perfection in this life is to become what God wants us to become. What could be better than that? If we understand that our lives are in God's hands as He molds and shapes us, then the meanings - the eventual outcome - of joy and sorrow are the same. God intends the same result whether He gives or takes. The events of life are merely the scaffolding for shaping us into His image, and we should meet them with patience as He continues His work. This will work to flatten out the emotional extremes we tend to experience.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience
The apostle Paul charges us to "pursue peace . . . and holiness." Pursuing anything requires the expending of energy; it is often very hard work. Pursuing holiness especially goes strongly against the grain of the carnal, anti-God nature residing within us, leftover from following the course of this world.
Further, Paul adds that we must pursue holiness because "without [it] no one will see the Lord." It is true that, while we are justified, we are also sanctified. Being set apart is an aspect of holiness. However, the responsibility of pursuing remains because God wants our holiness to be, not a static state, but a dynamic, living, practical, and working part of our character. This character is built through experience after we have been given access to Him. We must seek and build it through cooperative association with and because of Him and our Lord and Savior.
A number of motivations exist for doing so. The first - a no-brainer - is because we love Him. Jesus says in John 14:15, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." Another motivation springs from friendship. Jesus explains in John 15:14, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you."
Do we want to please God? Jesus remarks in John 8:29, "I always do those things that please Him." Do we want to be in God's Kingdom enough to walk His way of life entirely, regardless of what God may demand of us? Joshua and Caleb did on the journey to the Promised Land. Jesus declares in John 17:4, "I have finished the work which You have given Me to do." He paid a huge price, and He made it.
We are told to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in every circumstance because both of these are part of God's will (I Thessalonians 5:17-18). We are also to study "to present [ourselves] approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed" (II Timothy 2:15). Each of these is a labor that falls upon anyone who appreciates God for what He has done and for what He so generously and freely provides.
Do we want to witness for God, bringing Him glory by our labors of love? Is this not what all the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 accomplished? According to Hebrews 12:1, they constitute a great cloud of witnesses. Abel's work of faith still speaks (Hebrews 11:4); Noah's witness condemned the world (verse 7), and Abraham's faith drove him to seek "the city . . . whose builder and maker is God" (verses 8-10). Hebrews 11:39 declares that all of those named or implied in the chapter obtained a good testimony through faith.
They worked in various ways, and they will be in the Kingdom. Undoubtedly, God included in His Book the witness of the shining examples of their labors so that their lives might prod us to do likewise in our own.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Six)
Holiness starts in one's relationship with the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Justification through God's merciful act of grace opens the door of access to Him, as well as the door to the Kingdom of God. Justification is entirely an act of God, a legal action on our behalf that we accept by faith because He does not lie. Others do not easily discern our justification, since in most cases it has no outward manifestation.
While sanctification unto holiness begins at the same moment as justification, it is a progressive, creative, time-consuming work of God within us. Unlike justification, sanctification cannot be hidden because it appears in our godly conduct. By it, a witness is made that God dwells in us. Where there is no holiness, there is no witness to glorify God.
So we see that justification and sanctification are two separate matters. They are related - indeed, they cannot be separated - but we should never confuse them. If one partakes in either, he is a partaker of both, but we should not overlook the distinctions between them.
Christians cannot take sanctification for granted. We must pursue it until we are assured that we are sanctified. Our course is clear: We must go to Christ as forgiven sinners, offering our lives to Him by faith, crying out to Him for the grace we need to enable us to overcome all the flaws in our characters.
. . . but, speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Close communication with Christ is the source of the perception, motivation, and energy to discern flaws and overcome them. It is a biblical principle that whatever God requires, He provides what we need to accomplish it. Thus, we are to draw from this inexhaustible well and be renewed every day in the spirit of our minds (verses 23-24). In John 17:17, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus asked the Father to sanctify us by His truth. Will God not answer that prayer, especially when we desire to be sanctified to be like His Son? He most certainly will answer it so that our sanctification will continue.
Perhaps a word of caution is in order, and with it an admonishment that we also ask for patience. Growth does not always come quickly. In addition, as we grow in knowledge, at the same time we become more perceptive of our flaws. The more we know, the more flaws we see, and this can become humiliating and discouraging. The humility it produces is good, but the discouragement is not so good if it halts our growth.
Paul faced this, writing of it in Romans 7, but he most certainly did not let it stop him. By the time he finishes his discourse, he declares resoundingly that he knows he will be delivered by Jesus Christ. Sinners we are when we begin, and sinners we find ourselves to be as we continue - we will be sinners to the very end. Salvation is by grace, is it not? Our absolute perfection will not occur until we are changed "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" (I Corinthians 15:52).
While reaching for God's holiness, we should not let our goals ever be anything but the highest. We should never let Satan convince us that we can be satisfied with what we are right now.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Six)
Temptation does not originate with God, and it is impossible to tempt Him to sin. His character is so strong and fixed that temptation has no power over Him. Nevertheless, God tests and approves us while we endure temptation. As we resist temptation, God teaches us lessons about His way of life, thereby refining our character.
Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?
The manna that fed Israel was spread on the ground for all to see and gather (Exodus 16:4, 35). Hidden manna, symbolizing God's Word, is concealed from the rest of the world; it is special insight from God that feeds the soul and sustains spiritual life. In the ancient world, a white stone was given to one under judgment as an absolution from guilt, a black stone to the condemned. A white stone signifies innocence through forgiveness and grace to enter the Kingdom of God. The new name reflects the holy character built by the repentant overcomer. These gifts, though certainly special and wonderful, are available to every true child of God.Related Topics: Character | Character, God's | Character, Holy | God's Word | God's Word as Manna | God's Word as Spiritual Food | Hidden Manna | Holiness | Holy Character | Innocence | Jesus Christ as the Bread of Life | Manna | Overcoming | Spiritual Manna | Word of God | Word of God as Manna | Word, God's | Word, The
Works are very important to the book of Revelation—seven times in chapters 2 and 3, and four or five other times in the rest of the book. Christ's concern is that His people are working.
The main purpose of the book of Revelation is not merely to give us insight into what is coming. It is also to convince the Christian that his loyalty, his devotion, his steadfastness, his suffering, and perhaps even martyrdom, is not in vain—that he is assured of a wonderful future. The reason for the stress on works is that character is not formed merely by knowing something but by knowledge combined with putting it to work until it becomes a habit. Over time, habit becomes character, and character follows the person right through the grave!
If we are not working, emphasizing loyalty to the Person of God and to His way, making every effort to overcome Satan, the world, and the self-centeredness within us, resisting with all of our being the temptations to do what is natural, carnal—if we are not expending our energy, and spending our time working out our own salvation with fear and trembling—it is very likely, then, that we are not going to have the character necessary to go through the grave. The wrong works will follow us, and we will not be prepared for the Kingdom of God.
Thus, what a person has done, that is, what he has worked on in this lifetime, follows him through the grave—either into the Lake of Fire or the Kingdom of God.
The book is designed to focus attention on what is of greatest concern to Christ for His people. He wants to ensure that they do not give up or become weary due to the great pressure of the times, and that they instead endure, persevere, and be loyal and steadfast to the very end.
His concern at this time is not preaching the gospel as a witness, but the salvation and continued growth of those He already has. The quality of the witness is directly tied to the quality of those making the witness. What good is it to have this wonderful, awesome message—the gospel of the Kingdom of God—carried by those who are poor examples of what it says? Christ's first priority is to ensure the spiritual quality of those who make the witness, and then the quality of the witness is ensured. We cannot let the cart get ahead of the horse. The one naturally follows the other. First things first.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works
Find more Bible verses about Character: