Three times, James states, 'Faith without works is dead!' Here's how James' teaching agrees with and complements the teaching of Paul on justification.
Many think works and faith are incompatible, but the Bible tells us to do works of faith. What are they? These are things we must do during the salvation process.
What is faith? Is it something we work up or does God give it to us? Do we have the faith to be saved? Do we really trust God?
How do we obey this call to test ourselves, to know whether we are in the faith? A good place to start is to see how God measures faith, beginning with Abraham.
The brain is unquestionably the most complex organ of the human body. It is also the most important ...
Millions who say they believe in Jesus Christ have no salvation at all because they trust in the wrong kind of faith. Saving faith is largely misunderstood.
At times we exhibit some faithlessness, perhaps because we have viewed faith just in terms of what we do rather than what God does through His gifting to us.
The faith of God's people has been severely tested in recent years. We need to be working on increasing our faith and ridding our lives of attitudes that block faith. Then we can begin to be profitable servants.
The Bible makes it very plain that salvation is by grace, but it is also clear that we are 'created in Christ Jesus for good works' (Ephesians 2:10). Having explained justification, John Ritenbaugh tackles the process of sanctification, showing that the far greater part of God's saving work in us occurs after baptism!
It is a given that works cannot earn us salvation. However, they play many vital roles in our Christian walk toward the Kingdom of God. In this concluding article, John Ritenbaugh gives specific reasons for doing good works, showing their close relationship with holiness.
Using assumptions, some have concocted some nine conflicting calendars. The preservation of the oracles has not been entrusted to the church but to the Jews.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes the necessity of work (dressing and keeping our life, our health, our possessions, our calling, etc.). God has called us to a lifetime of productive work. We cannot allow Satan to cause us to resent working or to feel victimized, slighted, bitter, or lazy, rejecting God's ordained purpose for us—creating obedient children who work as He does. It takes hard work to live up to the virtues of God; it does not happen automatically. Living by faith requires patience but certainly not passivity; it requires that we work toward a God-ordained purpose (of which we currently do not entirely see the outcome). Both spiritual and physical healing require us to work intensely, asking for God's merciful intervention while actively working toward a solution, exercising wisdom and common sense as we consider the array of possible procedures.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the apostasy and diaspora of our previous fellowship in the 1990s, observes that those reveling in the new 'freedoms' cannot be persuaded to return to former beliefs because they no longer believe in the sanctified Word of God. Instead, many seek scholarly 'higher' criticism of the Scriptures to provide license to various varieties of sin. Like Thomas Jefferson's redaction of Scripture, modern biblical scholars, much further away (in time and understanding) from the original intent of the Scripture than contemporaries of the apostles, presumptuously pontificate, without accurate knowledge, on the intent of the Scriptures. Consequently, 'biblical' scholars, steeped in post-modernist deconstructionism, pick and choose what they pompously believe to be significant. Today, the main representatives of nominal Christianity (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant) may believe God exists and may believe in various aspects of His character, such as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipotence, love, and grace; nevertheless, they do not want to do what He says, discarding the Old Testament (and much of the New Testament) and that 'horrible' Jewish Sabbath as well as God's commanded Holy Days. Unlike the majority of nominal Christians who believe in God, the First-fruits (a select group of individuals called and set-part by God), as depicted by the Holy Day of Pentecost, faithfully follow Christ's example, allowing God to knead, pound, shape, and bake them in the intense heat of trials, making them acceptable to God, with the goal of becoming the 144,000, redeemed from the earth who will follow Christ as His collective Bride. As we grow toward that goal, we are commanded by Almighty God to live a life of obedience to His Commandments, walking as Christ walked, practicing righteousness until we get it right, and knowing that faith without works is stone dead.
Because we are all sinners, we have earned only death; justification is not earned, but must come through faith and believing God as did our father Abraham.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on God's gifts to Abel and the other luminaries in the faith chapter (Hebrews 11), suggests that all of us called-out ones are in the same spiritual predicament, needing to humbly use the gifts God has given to us, faithfully pursuing God's purpose for us. Nobody evolves into a God-being on the power of his own will. God is pleased to save those who humble themselves, allowing Him to perform a mighty work through them, giving everyone a fair chance and putting everyone in debt to Him for the purpose of creating humility. This humble submission is described metaphorically as a walk, interacting with a person (namely God), making (spiritual) progress over a period of time, and conforming to a godly lifestyle. The conversion and sanctification process depicted by this metaphorical walk takes considerable time; it took Paul 20 years to get up to speed before God used him to write scripture. The progression in Hebrews 11 is not so much chronological as it demonstrates depth and latitude of conversion or sanctification. Likewise, our walk with God should demonstrate an incremental sanctification as characterized by Ephesians 3 and Colossians 3, a benchmark that Enoch fulfilled, a benchmark that unequivocally demanded righteous works, becoming working partners with God.
The Bible abounds in metaphors of warfare, indicating that the Christian's walk will be characterized by stress, sacrifice, and deprivation in building faith.
Works are necessary for a Christian, and have not been neutralized by grace. Good works serve as the evidence of faith; faith without works is dead.
Martin Collins, reflecting on the many struggles we all undergo as Christians, suggests that people who have no conflict in their lives cannot really be Christians. As we attempt to overcome the world, we soon realize that we battle against invisible principalities, requiring us to form a close relationship with Christ, developing His faith to subdue the pulls of the world. As God brings His children to perfection, He allows all manner of sore trials to shape us. We cannot afford to lose faith while He perfects us through afflictions and trials. The one factor that gives us the power to overcome the world is our relationship with Christ, which according to Philippians 4:13, enables us to do all things. As we walk with God, we need to exercise living faith, one that requires good works. The indwelling of God's Spirit enables us to be faithful, having a kind of second-sight into the spiritual world, making faith possible even without physical evidence.
In this Feast of Trumpets message, John Ritenbaugh reiterates that salvation is not a one time event, but a continuous process analogous to the birth process—not just immunity from death, but a total dramatic transformation of our nature into a totally new creation. Six major reasons why works are necessary (following the initial justification stage) include: (1) to undertake godly character building and preparation for God's Kingdom; (2) to give evidence of our faith; (3) to witness to the world that God is God; (4) to glorify God; (5) to prepare for a reward; and (6) to exercise living faith toward a covenant partner who has been eternally faithful.
Martin Collins, focusing on Habakkuk's stance of assuming the position of a watchman, being willing to accept God's ultimate judgment on his people even when the circumstances seem to contradict revelation, emphasizes that all of God's called-out ones are also watchmen, needing to live continually by faith, discerning, listening to, and responding to God's instructions, not only hearing them, but taking them to heart. Without having faith like Abel, Abraham, Noah. and Enoch, judging by faith rather than outward appearances, we cannot please God. Abel, Enoch, and Noah all believed God and were willing to endure temporal loss for a greater reward. Faith constitutes unshakable belief and confidence in God that He will do everything He has promised. Like the apostle Peter, we must learn that human faith, at its best, is not sufficient; Godly faith cannot be worked up, but is a gift from God which we must constantly put to use. This kind of faith comes by hearing God's Word. God holds His called-out ones to a much higher level of accountability, but He has also provided the necessary tools for overcoming and as well as for producing spiritual fruit. In spite of doubts arising from negative appearances, we need to cling to God's promises, even in the worst of times, realizing that all iniquity will be punished eventually. Like the heroes of faith, all of which had to do something to demonstrate their faith, we must be productive in our faith, understanding that faith without works is stone dead. Faith is not a preference, but rather a commitment. Even faith as little as a mustard seed is an open door to God.
God requires His people to put their faith in action, giving evidence of their hope, demonstrating godly behavior rather than abrasive carnal behavior.
God works all the time. In fact, it is the first thing we see God doing in His Book. We must follow His example to become skilled in living as He does.
John Ritenbaugh demonstrates that both the popular 'eternal security doctrine' and the 'no works doctrine' held by many mainstream Protestant organizations are destroyed by the remarkable example of Noah, who, by the generous grace of God, performed extraordinary works based upon faith in God. Like our patriarchs, we are obligated to diligently , with considerable sacrifice and works, seek a reciprocal relationship with God, putting Him first above everything else. The road that leads to eternal life is the seeking of God. As we respond to His grace by works motivated by faith, spiritual rewards accrue. Faith and works, or grace and works, are in no way contradictory, but complementary. We are to work as though everything depends upon us, but realizing that God is entirely responsible for salvation. Jesus Christ's admonition to ask, seek, and knock reflects an incremental intensity of work, self-responsibility, and perseverance. Nobody is saved without works; we are obligated to build our own spiritual ark with diligence and fear, having confidence that God will supply all our needs, providing we aggressively ask, seek, and knock, working diligently as God provides the motivation and ability to become co-laborers with Him, with the goal of becoming transformed in His Image.
The apostle James informs us that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20). Continuing in his theme of the Christian and works, John Ritenbaugh exposes just how corrupt sin is, and by this we can begin to understand just how holy God is—and just how much we need to change to conform to His glorious image.
The letters in Revelation 2 and 3 are for the end times, shortly before Christ's return. Each emphasizes repentance, overcoming, and judgment according to works.
Martin Collins, commenting on the progressive liberal media's charge that women are discriminated against, points out that the feminist-goaded media fails to take into account that more men place themselves in life-threatening, dangerous occupations which women generally eschew, often receiving less pay than women competing with men in safer occupations. Men account for 93% of the workplace deaths. The liberal, progressive media continually lies in their attempt to divide the genders, the races, and ethnic groups. Both men and women have received a judgment from God as a result of Adam and Eve's sin. For men, the ground has been cursed, and he has been forced to live by the sweat of the brow; for women, they would have anguish in childbirth. God wants to remind us of the manifestations and awful consequences of sin. God requires us to work and not deliberately seek welfare or food stamps; He also does not want us to obsess on acquiring riches. Sadly, many mainstream churches have waxed socialist in their social gospel, claiming that the early church was communistic. Our current government has catered to laziness and non-productivity by bailing out companies which underpay their employees for turning out inferior products. Mentally weak and docile men with "lace-hanky fairness" support the welfare system. Real men (and women) work hard to be charitable and generous. Our forefather Jacob worked for a scheming uncle, who changed his wages ten times, serving him as he would God. Likewise we, as God's called ones, must serve our employer as we would Jesus Christ, with a self-sacrificing attitude, desiring to benefit others. The Millennium, which this Feast symbolizes, will be a beehive of activity, with the wealth that the Gentiles will accrue as tribute, benefitting all of mankind. We must now trust God to supply our needs as we work for our employer with the loyalty we would have for God, with faith, firmness, and stability.
If we are not following the true gospel that Christ proclaimed, we will wind up somewhere other than the Kingdom of God!
A summary of the Covenants, Grace, and Law series, reiterating the differences in the Covenants and the respective places of grace and law in God's purpose.
In John 6:26-29, Jesus upbraids the 5,000 people who had followed Him because they had sought Him out for the wrong reason. Instead of desiring the truth He taught them, ...
Kim Myers, reminding us that the Egyptian army perished on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, suggests that the army typifies the aggressiveness of sin determined to utterly destroy us. He suggests we are admonished to diligently deleaven our homes demonstrating to God that we are serious about getting rid of sin. Getting rid of sin is difficult, demanding economic and social sacrifices. We should be willing to give up anything for the Kingdom of God, controlling our speech, thoughts, behaviors, and even our lives. Jesus Christ gave up everything to spare us from the death penalty. Once we have come out of sin, we cannot go back to our previous behaviors. There are works required in addition to faith to overcome and get rid of sin. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins indicates that work is required to grow in grace. The rich young man could not give up his lifestyle (evidently his last bit of leaven) for the Kingdom of God. We cannot grow in grace without works.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that both Jesus and Abraham rose above their emotional pulls by exercising living faith- a faith built on a foundation of incremental acts of obedience. Living faith can never be separated from works, nor can it ever stand independently or inertly as if in a vacuum. James points out that as the body without the spirit is a lifeless corpse (James 2:26), faith without works is equally dead. God's Holy Spirit (given as a part of the New Covenant) provides the primary driving force or the motivation for obedience (good works) which pleases Him, causing us to be regarded as a new creation.
In this Unleavened Bread sermon, Richard Ritenbaugh asserts that learning God's way (and unlearning Satan's way) takes a lifetime- spiritually speaking, perhaps the most difficult and arduous task on the entire earth. Over a lifetime, with our cooperation, God fashions us into vessels of honor. The commands to eat unleavened bread outnumber the commands to refrain from eating leavened bread three to one, indicating that the most efficient way of eliminating sin is to do righteousness (eating God's word and applying its principles in our lives) If we do good, we won't have the time to do bad. The epistle of James applies to the Christian after the justification process has begun, indicating that after receiving forgiveness, after receiving God's implanted word, we are obligated to fulfill God's purpose in our lives, yielding to trials, bringing forth the fruits of character by doing (not just hearing) God's word. Paul and James steadfastly agree that faith without works is stone dead.
While we must express some of our own faith as we come to salvation, the great bulk of "saving faith" is a gift of God, given graciously and miraculously as part of God's creative process in us. In particular, John Ritenbaugh uses the examples of Abel and Enoch to illustrate the pattern of faith through which God walks His people.
In Galatians, Paul took issue with the Halakhah, not God's word. Halakhah was a massive collection of human opinion that placed a yoke on its followers.
Having experienced the turmoil of the Catholic—Protestant clash, the framers of our Constitution did not want any sect dictating religious doctrines or practices.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that the seven "I will" promises given to our forefather Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3 were truly "big deal" foundational promises impacting the lives of multiple billions of lives up to the present day and that Abraham and that Abraham could fathom them only by calculating within his limited nervous system. Abraham calculated, adding things up in order to esteem those things which he learned to be truly important. To Abraham, God's words were a beacon, directing him how to live his life. Abraham believed in the counsel God gave him, redirecting his steps to accommodate this counsel, advice which all God's called-out ones are obliged to follow. Everything hinges on whether we, as our father Abraham, are willing to live by faith. When God read Abraham's mind, He found no skepticism, but found instead trust and faith, qualities we are to emulate. If we do not believe God, we will not submit to Him. We begin with faith, and the works automatically follow. Faith motivates us to keep the law, steering us away from the death penalty which is the automatic curse for disobeying the Law. Before God established the Old Covenant, a sign or guidepost anticipating the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, Abraham (as well as Abel and others before him, and David and others after him) realized that a promised Seed-an incarnation of God—would eventually emerge as a Savior, making possible the forgiveness of sins for all of Adam's offspring (Abraham's spiritual seed, which included the Gentiles) who would call on Him and follow His guidance and counsel.
What many religious people do not seem to understand is that justification before God is just the beginning of something far more involved—and that is living by faith. John Ritenbaugh covers the faithful life and work of Noah, illustrating that walking by faith with God is a practical responsibility.
With all the military metaphors in the Bible, there can be no doubt that God likens the Christian life to a fight, a war, against the evils and temptations we face daily. In this light, John Ritenbaugh begins to examine Hebrews 11, the Faith Chapter, showing that the patterns revealed in it provide deep instruction for us in our Christian fight.
When properly evaluated, there are no discrepancies in scripture; God is not the author of confusion. God does not enlighten us until we are mature enough.
Our conviction reveals itself in living by faith. Moses is a stunning example of how a convicted Christian should live — with loyalty and faithfulness to God.
John Ritenbaugh clarifies some difficult terms which Protestant theologians have misapplied, characterizing God's holy law as a "yoke of bondage." If we fail to realize that Paul's focus in the Galatians epistle was justification (rather than the whole salvation process of sanctification and glorification) we could become confused. The Old Covenant had no provision for justification nor did it provide a mechanism to change the heart. The antinomian argument ignores that Christ also puts a yoke of responsibility on New Covenant participants (Matthew 11:29-30). The yoke of bondage Paul referred to was a syncretism of Halakhah- the code of regulations added by the Pharisees- and Gnostic ascetic ritualism, neither a part of God's Law. God's Spirit and law keeping are not contradictory.
Commitment to a course of action is essential for physical or spiritual success. Faith motivates and sustains right action, protecting us from the yo-yo like fits of starting and stopping. Shallow or incomplete faith is contrasted with complete or mature faith. Our simple faith must transform into mature or enduring faith, which enables us to metaphorically see God. The honor roll in Hebrews 11 consists of plain, ordinary individuals who out of weakness, by trusting God, were made spiritually strong. Likewise, our faith, a gift from Almighty God, can be made strong and life-sustaining, leading us toward salvation if we move beyond recognition through evaluation and ultimately into action.
Richard Ritenbaugh asserts that the epistle of James stresses both faith and works, emphasizing those factors necessary for growth, enabling us to produce a bountiful harvest of fruit. We are to exercise humility and impartiality, taking particular effort to bring our tongues under control, being cautiously slow to speak, acknowledging God in all our thoughts. We are obligated to do practical works of goodness and kindness to our brethren, being solicitous of their needs, and making intercessory prayer for them. To him who knows to do good but doesn't, it is sin. Eating unleavened bread is equivalent to practicing good works.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that Paul's target in Galatians 2:16 was a syncretism of Judaism with strict Pagan ascetic Gnosticism and certainly not God's law. We need to avoid the Protestant ditch of "Christ did it all" leading to no attempt at law keeping or at best an apathetic assent to its value. Paul makes it abundantly clear that Christ did not free us from the death penalty in order to turn us into lawbreakers. Though God did not design the law to justify; without the law telling us of what to repent of, we would have no clue as to which path to take. The secret to successful law keeping is Christ living in us through God's Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20; Romans 5:5) Christ will empower us, but will not live our lives for us. The marching orders for our pilgrimage derive from God's Word- containing His holy law.
John Ritenbaugh, suggesting that most of us resemble the Samaritan woman in our understanding of the value of our calling, maintains that our relationship with God is our sole protection from carnal human nature and the deadly pulls of the world. Whatever consumes our time has the power to either edify or distract us. Faith and works are interchangeable components in our salvation, demonstrating a cause-and-effect relationship. The apostles Paul and James preached the same message, approaching the faith-works coin from different sides. Faith grounded in truth produces works in agreement with truth. Faith without godly works resembles an automobile without an engine. As a minority religion, God's Church appeared on the world scene in the midst of cultural upheaval. Peter's message on Pentecost led not only to exponential growth, but also to vicious persecution. As God stirred the cultural pot then, so He is doing today, on the cusp of Jesus' return. The frightful conditions during the First Century are only typical of the horrific times yet to come. To weather these horrendous conditions, we will need the encouragement of the Epistle of Hebrews.
Becoming equipped for leadership requires that we discipline ourselves in following God's way of life, allowing the mind of Jesus Christ to be in us in.
John Ritenbaugh reminds us that under both the Old and New Covenants, refusal to keep to keep God's Law severs our relationship with Him. Like loving parents who give rules to their children to protect them from danger, our Loving Father has given us His Spiritual Law to protect us and bring us quality life. In the manner of Satan the Devil, who convinced Adam and Eve that God's commands restricted freedom, the misguided proponents of the anti-law bias or mentality have convinced many in our former fellowship that the Sabbath, the Holy Days, tithing, and food laws are harsh and restrictive elements of Old Covenant bondage. New Covenant justification does not do away with God's Laws (nor with human nature or carnality for that matter) but creates the circumstances through which faith is enhanced, producing sanctification and purification, bringing God's purpose (to restore all things) to perfection.
Are we 'once-saved, always-saved'? Once God grants us His grace, are we assured eternal life? The fallacies of the doctrine of 'eternal security' are exposed.
God has invited us into a love relationship—one in which He has already shown Himself to be absolutely faithful. If we truly love Him, severing our affections with this world, we will meet the demands of becoming holy. God's Holy Spirit enables us to have this love (Romans 5:5), but we must actively use it or lose it. We must seek God as ardently as we would a physical love relationship, spending quality time with Him. If we make no effort to pursue this relationship, it cools. Similarly, unfaithfulness (idolatry) will destroy it. Obedience (expressing our love toward God and proving that we trust Him) will strengthen this relationship, giving us a higher quality, more abundant life and increased blessings.
John Reid, inspired by the early farming experiences of one of his sales colleagues, reflects that the Feast of Tabernacles (a harvest season) depicts the reward of diligent management of time and resources. The images of plowing (breaking up clods), sowing seed, cultivating, and harvesting are applied to our spiritual condition of overcoming.Reaping rewards are depicted in both farming and building metaphors. We have to be careful what we sow and what we build, proving our faith by concrete deeds, obeying what God would have us do, overcoming our carnal natures, yielding to God's shaping power, letting our lights shine, guarding our minds, and glorifying God in our example.If we are diligent in our sowing, building, or training, the rewards will be awesome.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that a spiritual Israelite, following Jacob's example, undergoes a metamorphosis in which his own stubborn, self-centered will is broken so that God's creative work can be completed within him. Abraham, whose very name connotes faithfulness, learned to work through fearful catch-22 dilemmas, walking by faith rather than sight, carefully calculating on the basis of his previous and on-going relationship with God. Likewise, God today, as master teacher, carefully and methodically guides His students to higher levels of understanding and trust. We need to exercise devotion to God (faith, works, and worship) in every area of our life, from marriage, work, or human relationships- coupling iron clad faith with concrete works of obedience.
Richard Ritenbaugh reiterates that the command to eat unleavened Bread outnumbers the command to refrain from eating leavened bread three to one, indicating that if we actively engaged ourselves in studying God's word and doing righteousness, we wouldn't have time or place to participate in unrighteousness. Ingesting God's word and actively applying its principles gives us life-sustaining energy to fulfill our personal commission.The book of James had to be written as a counterbalance to antinomian elements that had crept into the church around 60AD, twisting Paul's writings, teaching that grace nullifies the need for works — a condition which has an eerie parallel today. James emphasizes the works required for sanctification after the justification process has been completed. Doing good, like eating unleavened bread, is proactive, displacing sin by righteousness.
Martin Collins, identifying reasons why false teachers are able to entice people out of God's church, asks us which "button or buttons" would someone have to push in order for us to leave the truth of God. The doctrines of grace and Christian liberty have been perverted to become synonyms for tolerance of sin. Similarly, the doctrine of faith was twisted into spiritual inactivity or an anti-works mentality. Faith and works were never meant to be mutually exclusive or adversarial concepts, but instead complementary; faith without works is stone dead. Peter warned us that people unskilled in the Word (scoffers) have deceptively twisted Paul's letters to advocate deadly lawless antinomian heresies. These intellectually gifted heretics have been extraordinarily persuasive, but obviously lack the fear of God. We must be sufficiently skilled in God's Word (using prayer, Bible study, and meditation through the help of God's Holy Spirit) to safeguard ourselves against the enticements of Satan, our human nature, and these scoffing false teachers, guarding the truth, developing an iron-clad steadfastness and progressively developing Christian virtues (identified by Peter as knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love) clear-sightedly and diligently practicing these godly behaviors, following the example of our Elder Brother Jesus Christ, producing abundant spiritual fruit, enabling us to make our election sure.
Understanding our obligation to Christ leads to a deeply held, personal loyalty to Him. John Ritenbaugh explains that our redemption by means of Christ's sacrifice should make us strive to please Him in every facet of life.
John Ritenbaugh examines the three levels of faith exercised by the roll call of the faithful in Hebrews 11: (1) Faith that motivates (2) Faith that provides vision, and (3) Faith that brings understanding- accumulated incrementally by calculating or adding up the evidence God has provided for us. Abraham, the father of the faithful, did not have a 'blind faith,' but it was based upon observation of God's proven track record of faithfulness. Like Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, or Moses, we are also called upon to give up a relatively stable life (the seeming 'rock solid' certainty of world) and embrace the tenuous life of a pilgrim, soberly calculating or adding up the certainty of God's promises- based upon God's proven faithfulness in our life- relying on the motivation, vision, and understanding of an incrementally developed mature faith.
We must avoid forgetting the connection between past and present, especially as our forebears had to battle outer and inner enemies of God's truth.
In this Last Great Day sermon Richard Ritenbaugh asserts that the Lake of Fire (Second Death or Third Resurrection), dreadful as it initially appears, produces both immediate as well as ultimate benefits or good. As a deterrent against sin, the Lake of Fire has an immediate benefit for those who, after having accepted Christ's sacrifice, might be tempted to sin (Hebrews 10:26-27, 12:26-29, II Peter 3:10-11). The future benefit of the Lake of Fire will be a thorough scouring of all evil, perversion and filth from the universe, ushering in an eternity without the pain or misery of sin (Zephaniah 3: 14-15,Revelation 21: 8, 27). As God's called out ones, our time of judgment (our Great White Throne Judgment) begins right now (I Peter 4:17, II Peter 1:3-11)
John Ritenbaugh, focusing upon II John 5, an epistle which cautions about deceivers who would denigrate the value of work, considers the straining on the point "we cannot earn salvation" a red herring, diverting our attention from the true value of Christian work. God indeed judges the quality and quantity of what we do in our Christian responsibilities. Our calling is a vocation; work or labor is vitally important in our calling. God is our model regarding work, mandating that we produce fruits of righteousness. Christ admonishes that our highest regard should be seeking the Kingdom of God and righteousness. We work for Christ as His slaves. Profit from life is produced by work, requiring sacrifices of time and energy. Christians have been created for the very purpose of doing good works which God has prepared for us. We will be continuing in this work for all eternity. Christian works were never intended to save us; Jesus' works as our Savior and high Priest is what saves us. Doing the works provides practice in God's way of life, engraving in us His character, providing a witness to the world, glorifying God. It takes work to put things in order and prepare for the return of Christ. Three parables in the Olivet prophecy (The Two Servants, Wise and Foolish Virgins, and the Talents) emphasize the necessity of work in the preparation for Christ's return. One's faithfulness in productivity does not transfer to one who has been a slacker. We are all being scrutinized and judged by Almighty God as to what we do, especially as it related to our service to our fellow servants. Whatever we sow, regarding our relationships with one another, we will reap. Sin (of commission or omission) describes the failure to maintain God's standards. The failure to work is sin. Works do not save us, but everyone who is saved works. We will be judged and rewarded according to our
John Ritenbaugh, after recapping the parallels and differences between the pilgrimage of ancient Israel and the Israel of God, affirms that God intends that we go forward, prodding us onward as well as blocking us from returning to spiritual Egypt. God has always abundantly supplied our needs, even though we have tried His patience by yielding to temptations. God has given us major tools, such as His written word (Truth) and His Holy Spirit. The trials we go through are part of His providence, putting us into humility and determining what really motivates us. God not only gives His children Truth, He enables us to understand it and use it, preparing or empowering us to reach the Kingdom of God. Jesus, as our High Priest, is able to supply continually what is needed. Regarding the Truth, there is no place for neutrality in our lives. It is not good enough merely to be clean. We cannot make a religion of emphasizing what we can not do. We cannot stand still; evil can be conquered, but it cannot be destroyed. The best way to avoid evil is to do good. If we habitually do good, it becomes difficult to sin.
Focusing upon II Corinthians 13:5, John Ritenbaugh cautions us of the futility of assenting to a code of standards we do not intend to apply. Belief without conduct equals a dead faith leading to death. Works give evidence that we really do believe and have the Holy Spirit in us. What we believe (correctly or incorrectly) will inevitably produce works. According to a survey conducted by Barna, a large segment of professing Christians have rejected major tenets of the Bible (in effect, calling Jesus Christ a liar) fashioning their own subjective, private religions, giving themselves license to sin in selected areas and fostering a tolerance for hideous societal perversions. Rejecting a biblical world-view, unfaithful modern Israel has degenerated into a habitation of demons. As God's called out ones, we are admonished not to conform or follow suit, but to yield to God's purification.
A poor spiritual diet will bring about a weak spiritual condition. What the mind assimilates is exceedingly more important than what the stomach assimilates.
Martin Collins discusses the apostle Paul's epistle to the Thessalonians, a group of dispirited, despairing Christians who had been bombarded by false teachings that the Day of the Lord had already come, prompting many to quit their employment, rest on their laurels, and become busy-bodies, as well as leading the leaders to express doubt and fear that the congregation would ever make the grade. Paul encourages the bewildered Thessalonians, suggesting that the purposes for the suffering they were now enduring consists of (1) growing in spiritual character, providing examples to the other congregations, (2) being prepared for future glory, and (3) glorifying Christ today. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to thank God for their salvation, surrender without complaint, ask God to give wisdom, and to watch for opportunities to serve, waiting patiently for God to work His purpose. We cannot be so excited about Christ's return that we neglect our own overcoming and character development. Because God's Church is under judgement now, we cannot rest on our laurels, but we must submit to God's summons to a life of purity and sacrifice. God can and will supply strength and power to all those who have been called, but our aspiration and goal of conforming to His image has to motivate our current performance. If we humbly trust in God, all of our works will bear fruit. In order for God to grow a church, the faith of its members must be strengthened through trials, love must increase, and hope must persevere, enduring under trial. Tribulation produces perseverance, which in turn leads to reciprocal glory with Christ.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the multiple nuances of the Hebrew words translated into the English word "wisdom," suggests that an acquired skill for living represents the common denominator in all of these definitions. Godly wisdom is only attained with a high degree of training. Carnal wisdom, through the labyrinth of life, has practical value even without a spiritual context, but living by faith requires that we trust and obey God in those areas where we do not have all the facts. Faith is a spiritual work. Wisdom is not hidden and is readily available if we retain God in our thoughts. Wisdom and the fear of the Lord are inextricably bound together. Both wisdom and foolishness produce fruit according to their nature. Wisdom produces life; foolishness produces death. We reap what we sow. If we repent of our sins, and cry out for understanding, we will receive knowledge, discernment, and God's Holy Spirit. Wisdom must be continually sought after. God wants us to use wisdom to change ourselves, humbly replacing our perspective with God's perspective. Only God gives wisdom. God gives wisdom as a component of His grace to His family, far more valuable than gemstones. Godly wisdom, incompatible with pride and arrogance, cannot be mined out of the earth, and it is more valuable than anything so mined, transferable through the Millennium into eternal life. The fear of the Lord is the source of spiritual wisdom.
Government may be the most important subject in the Bible because it touches on how Christians are to govern themselves under the sovereignty of God.
Richard Ritenbaugh insists that, as Christ's disciples, we have been called for a life of sacrifice'sacrificial giving as a way of life (Romans 12:1). Often we fail to grasp: 1) the desperate emotion expressed by Paul in the word beseech, 2) why he so urges us, 3) that while dead sacrifices can be made only once, living sacrifices are offered continually, 4) the totality of the sacrifice, 5) the strict qualifications of the sacrifice, and 6) that sacrifice (reasonable service) is the essence of true worship. We can only bear fruit by abiding in Christ, demonstrating love by keeping His commandments, and asking Him continually for what we need. As Christ sacrificed for us, we are called to sacrifice for others'our reasonable service, responding concretely to needs. Love is an action, a behavior, rather than an emotion, graphically described in I Corinthians 13.
John 6 has always been a difficult chapter to explain. However, within his series on the physical/spiritual parallels in the Bible on eating, John Ritenbaugh shows how clear Jesus' teaching is and what it means to us.
John Ritenbaugh, using the term "malignant narcissism" (from M. Scott Peck's book "People Of The Lie") to describe the blind Laodicean pride which denies our inherent sinfulness and imperfection by means of clever self-decptive quibbling and equivocation. Accepting one of the most pernicious gifts of Protestantism (no works mentality), the Laodicean doesn't know that it takes mental work and exertion to produce faith; it does not come by magic or by mere acceptance of certain knowledge. The Good Samaritan parable teaches that unless one practices doing good rather than just knowing good, his faith will be severely compromised.
The Parable of the Talents teaches the need for diligence in using the gifts of God. God expects us to use our talents to His glory and in the service of others.
John Ritenbaugh tackles the eternal security doctrine, a teaching that militates against good works, something that God had ordained for all of us. Works demonstrate our faith, our response to God's calling and His freely given grace. Reciprocity is always a part of our relationship with God. Trust is a response to God's tests. Abraham's response to God reciprocated his love back to God. The indictment against the Ephesian church stemmed from their lack of reciprocity (or first love). When our expectations have not been met, it becomes hard for us to maintain our zeal. We need to maintain the intensity to actively hear God's message. If we do not actively exercise our minds, work to maintain our relationship to Christ, and become dead to the world, we will drift away. We cannot allow what Christ is to slip from our minds. Where there is no love for Christ, there is no salvation and no membership in God's family. As in human love or infatuation, if we love another person, we like to think about him/her; likewise, we need to have Christ dwelling in our hearts at all times.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that understanding comes through sacrifice and that our lives alternate between light (understanding) and darkness (confusion). Abraham's experiences teach us not to try to force God's will by contrivances of the flesh. When any sin or self- will is involved, the fruits of such an endeavor will be bitter and disappointing (as was the incident involving Abraham and Hagar). Abraham's righteousness equated with his acquired humble unflinching trust in God rather than his skill at law keeping. The gift of grace comes only to those who yield to God by faith, establishing a warm working relationship with Him, performing righteousness through the power of His Holy Spirit.
Catholics and Protestants, because of lack of belief, do not find the Bible a sufficient guide to salvation. They claim to believe Christ, yet disobey.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that humility is not an obsequious demonstration of low self esteem, but instead it is a proper estimate of our relationship to God, which is a choice to act and behave as a servant or slave. If we would follow Christ's example of humility, we would have automatic unity. We need to have both the inclination and the follow-through act of humility and lowliness of mind. We have to cultivate the same attitude as our Elder Brother as He esteemed others above Himself. Faith, praise, gratitude, thanksgiving, and humility all work together at building character. Perseverance in prayer and faithfulness causes our faith to increase and rescues us from pernicious worldliness.
Bill Onisick, reminding us God has called us to walk by faith in our Savior as Abraham's spiritual children, focuses on a figure some might deem an unlikely candidate for inclusion in Christ's ancestry. Rahab, the brothel keeper, protected the Israelite spies from capture, knowing that God had determined to level sinful Jericho. Parallel to the symbolism of the blood over the door on the Passover, Rahab wove together a scarlet cord to enable the spies to escape and to identify her dwelling as the only part of Jericho that was to remain standing. Because of her resolute action on behalf of the spies, God "granted" Rahab into the line leading to David and Christ. As a spiritual daughter of Abraham, Rahab proved that the just shall indeed live by faith.
Charles Whitaker, reflecting on God's practice of working in patterns, points out that God has wired our minds to think in patterns, such as circles. Gestalt psychologists have demonstrated that, given a set of dots that suggest a circle, our minds are prone to automatically fill in the pattern. Other ubiquitous patterns that God has created take the form of dichotomies, such as day-night, land-sea, male-female and Jew-Gentile. The members of true dichotomies must be mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive. Hence, day and night are mutually exclusive, and there is no other alternative outside of the two genders God created, male and female—attempts of mankind aside. God's dichotomies are firmly fixed in this under-the-sun order of things. While God can manipulate these dichotomies, mankind is unable to alter the parameters established by God's dichotomies. Mankind, however, often attempts to change God's dichotomies, as feminists in the matter of gender. Likewise, the world's false religions have built a dichotomy of faith and works, while the Scriptures clearly show that no such dichotomy exists. We need to be thankful for all God's patterns, and be careful that we don't misuse them.
Martin Collins warns that if we look upon the Book of Daniel as a puzzle of confusing prophecies, we miss the more important point that the book provides practical strategies to remain Godly in a godless venue. In Daniel's time, there were intense pressures to conform to the world's idolatrous systems, with the world having the upper hand. In spite of appearances, God is in control of history. If we trust God, we will eventually triumph over the present evil. Following the successful invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, it appeared that God's cause was lost, but this catastrophe had been planned by Almighty God, who is sovereign over time all the time. The Lord God of Israel is always in charge of the events of history, no matter what state His people might be in. Nebuchadnezzar was a prime example of radical secular humanism, exalting his pride, boasting of his accomplishments, rejecting the influence of God, and suffering a humiliating bout of insanity for his pride. God is sovereign and He is able to bring the secular city down. Like Abraham, as well as Daniel and his friends, we must, by exercising faith, forsake the temptations and pulls of the world, concentrating on the future promises or spiritual rewards God has prepared for us. While we endure temptations and fiery trials, we learn that God is proving our faith and trust in Him. We must be wary of how the mainstream religions and pop culture has redefined religious terms, perverting the original intent. We must acquire faithfulness and holiness (involving separation from the world's culture) because (1.)Scripture demands it, (2.) it is the ultimate purpose for which Christ came into the world, (3.) it is the only evidence we have a saving faith in Christ, (4.) it is the only proof we sincerely love the Father and Son , (5.) it is the only evidence we are the children of God, (6.) it is the most effective way to do go
The healing of the paralytic is a remarkable event. Significantly, Jesus honors the faith of the paralytic's friends who lowered him through the roof.
We are intrigued by supernatural power, and many seek to display it. Yet the Scriptures show the activity of the Holy Spirit in ways that are commonly missed.
Often physical prosperity works against godly character and spiritual well-being. To be rich toward God means to seek His Kingdom first, live His way, and trust Him.
John Ritenbaugh, soberly reflecting on the $19 trillion dollar national debt and with 25% of American private citizens two days away from bankruptcy, he warns that the prudent shouldn't continue to live in a fool's paradise, but should make common sense preparations, like the ant, (Proverbs 6:6-8) storing up provisions for at least a season. Prophetic warnings are given to motivate preparation. Both the watchman and the one who hears (Ezekiel 3:17) have a grave responsibility to make prudent economic and spiritual preparations for bad times, tightening belts, helping themselves and others through the tough times.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon the insidious affliction of welfare mentality, the attitude in people who believe that because they are, they are owed something. Human nature has not changed from the days of the Israelites, who thought they were entitled to more (Numbers 11:4). By contrast, many biblical examples exist of people of integrity whose word is their bond, who keep their word even to their hurt. The parable of Matthew 20:1-6 warns against the welfare mentality, thinking other people have been given more than we have been given. Because God is completely just and fair in all His ways, we have an obligation to be content with what He has granted us, to allow Him to use us for whatever purpose He has set for us.
John Ritenbaugh discusses the depth of our beliefs, showing the difference between our preferences and our convictions. He looks at both legal and spiritual ramifications of this subject.
Persistence in prayer does not mean an incessant pestering God into action. God always looks at our petitions from the vantage-point of His purpose.
John Ritenbaugh insists that because what we believe automatically determines what we do; it is impossible to separate faith and works. If our source of belief is not grounded in Jesus Christ, we will be held captive to our traditions and our works will be contaminated. If our belief is grounded in Christ (our Spiritual Bread and our High Priest), we will have a relationship with God and access to eternal abundant life, leading to works (fruits of the Holy Spirit) that glorify God. The word "draw" in John 6:44 implies that there is some degree of carnal resistance or reluctance to accept God's calling. If we do not metaphorically eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood, ingesting the Word of God daily, we will die spiritually. The moral and ethical demands of these Words often make them "hard sayings," but yielding to these demands (having an intimate relationship of God- living the way God lives in every aspect of our lives) will incrementally develop the character and the spiritual mind, bringing about eternal abundant life.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the woman at the well in John 4 could easily represent the church, initially called out of the world in an immoral state, having a confrontation with Christ leading to an insight into ones own sins, ultimately bringing about total repentance or change in behavior, resulting in going out and leading others to Christ. The second sign in the book of John, the healing of the nobleman's son reveals that God will heal those who demonstrate ardent desire, humility, submission, and trust. The healing of the man at Bethesda also indicated an intensity of desire, a determined effort to obey Christ's command, and a cooperative effort on the part of the person being healed. With healing automatically comes the responsibility to change behavior and repent. Jesus takes the opportunity to impress upon the Pharisees the difference between works that cause burdens (work that profanes the Sabbath) and works that relieve burdens or extend mercy. God the Father and Jesus Christ never cease working for the well being of creation.