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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE - Page 5 Empty Re: BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

Post  Admin on Fri 21 Aug 2020, 6:24 pm

Psalm 62:1-12
(1) Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes my salvation.
(2) He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be greatly moved. (3) How long will you attack a man?
You shall be slain, all of you,
Like a leaning wall and a tottering fence.
(4) They only consult to cast him down from his high position;
They delight in lies;
They bless with their mouth,
But they curse inwardly. Selah (5) My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
(6) He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
(7) In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God. (8) Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah (9) Surely men of low degree are a vapor,
Men of high degree are a lie;
If they are weighed on the scales,
They are altogether lighter than vapor.
(10) Do not trust in oppression,
Nor vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase,
Do not set your heart on them. (11) God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God.
(12) Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy;
For You render to each one according to his work.

New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

When a person is in ordinary trouble and needs help, does he not seek out someone who has more of whatever it takes to help him overcome his situation? The need may be as simple as an additional hand or a bit more physical strength, or it could be something more complex like wisdom, a specialized skill, practical expertise, or community influence. The helper's power may simply be that he or she has more experience in the area of need. The need may be legal, so contacting a lawyer is a wise move. If the need is medical, seeing a doctor makes sense. One would consult an auto mechanic if the car needs to be repaired, etc. We frequently seek the powers of others.

Psalm 62 instructs us that the supreme power in all creation is God. In verse 1, David begins to express this fact by saying that from God comes salvation, that He is our Deliverer from trouble, implying that it should be to Him that we run. In verse 2, God is our rock, meaning our foundation and source of stability, who keeps us grounded and free from unreasonable anxieties. He is also our defense; He can deflect attacks in ways humans cannot provide.

Verses 3-4 are said to David's attackers, who were attempting to undermine his reputation before the public while also seeking a way to assassinate him. He warns them that their lies will prove to be their undoing.

In verses 5-7, David turns his attention back to himself, trying to encourage himself by resolving to wait patiently upon God as his only trustworthy hope. In verse 7, he reminds us that God is our glory: We take pride in Him for all that He is. He can give us favor even before those who may be against us. He is our refuge, an unqualified place of safety in any circumstance. In verse 8, he exhorts others - friends, companions, and supporters - urging them to pray because God is a solid place of refuge in our times of trouble.

Five times in this brief, twelve-verse psalm, he exhorts himself or instructs us that God is the only sure place of refuge and of help in times of need. How can God be and do all these things? David names Him as our Rock, Salvation, Defender, Refuge, and Glory. He can hold all these titles because, as David says simply in verse 11, "Power [or strength] belongs to God."

This confronts us with a major reason why God is the only One we can rely on fully in our time of need. Power is not only something God possesses, but when we come to understand it, all power belongs to Him. All power flows from Him, and He gives it to whomever He will. God not only has power as a possession, but He can use it in any situation or distribute it as He sees fit! Who can fight God or gainsay His choice of whom He chooses to give it to? Who has sufficient power to nullify God's doing of anything He desires to accomplish?

Notice that in Psalm 62:11 the word "belongs" is in italics, meaning it was added by the translator. It is not a wrong addition but appropriate. It is as though He owns it; it is His to use and/or distribute as He alone sees fit. It begins to open an awesome thought to consideration: Nobody has power unless God provides it for his use.

Understanding this truth makes David's exhortation in verses 9 and 10 more understandable. Compared to God, men are so puny as to be nothing. They may appear strong on the surface, but with our powerful, trustworthy Resource, we do not have to retaliate stupidly or be overwrought by anxiety.

This powerful Being is on our side by His choice! We have not earned it.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE - Page 5 Empty Re: BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

Post  Admin on Thu 20 Aug 2020, 10:18 pm

Matthew 7:15-20
(15) "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. (16) You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? (17) Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (18) A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

The description here is very apt—wolves in sheep's clothing. They appear on the outside to be something they are not. When Jesus uttered this, He was probably thinking of false ministers who would insinuate themselves into the church by appearing to be sheep within the sheepfold.

Jesus uses this terminology in regard to His relationship with the church. He was the Shepherd, and we are His sheep. Here we have wolves (false ministers) who look like sheep, but it is hypocrisy. They only look that way on the outside. He tells us we will know them by their fruits. The fruit that is produced will not necessarily appear quickly. But Christ guarantees that over a period of time the church will be stripped of its true spiritual vitality in terms of the character that will be produced within the flock, making the rise of wolves in sheep's clothing more likely.

What is He saying? The implication is that Jesus is connecting belief with practice. If we believe a certain set of doctrines, we will practice something because of the teaching. A religious creed or the dogma that a group is following will produce a certain kind of conduct by the people. Belief and practice, creed and conduct—Jesus is saying they are vitality connected. In other words, the teacher cannot hide what he is going to produce. Eventually it will come out. Their false philosophies, no matter how attractive they may appear at first sight, will in the long run be exposed for what they really are.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE - Page 5 Empty Re: BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

Post  Admin on Wed 19 Aug 2020, 10:12 pm

Matthew 14:25-31
(25) Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. (26) And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. (27) But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.' (28) And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” (29) So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. (30) But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” (31) And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

We see that doubt causes fear, but we also see a hint of how we can combat that fear and get it under control. As long as Peter kept his focus on Christ, he could do the impossible, but once he began walking by sight, fear gripped him. Under its control, he was no longer able to do the impossible. Even though fear is a natural human emotion, do we control it or does it control us (see Genesis 4:7)?

Hebrews 3:12 warns, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God." We need to be on guard against unbelief. The author conjures up a picture of an enemy ready to pounce, advising us that we always need to be at the ready for its attack. We must face it and overcome it.

This verse is not talking about the normal unbelief and its fruit of fear that all people have, for fearfulness is a common human condition. As our Creator, God understands that doubts will creep in now and again. Rather, it speaks of a heart controlled by doubt, by unbelief, leading to fear that can cause us to cut and run from the living God. That kind of heart will drag a person down just as Peter's doubt dragged him down into the waters of Galilee.

The central peril of unbelief is that it breaks the trust that is the basis of our relationship with God. We can see how this worked in Satan. God created him perfect (Ezekiel 28:15), yet somewhere along the line he no longer believed that God was good and doubted that God had his best interests at heart. This doubt about God's love led to the fear that he would not get what he deserved. That fear, born of his unbelief and doubt, led to his rebellion and the most glaring example yet of departing from the living God.

Does God have our best interests at heart? Jeremiah 29:11 says, Yes! "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." As the old saying goes, this is straight from the horse's mouth—from the highest Authority in the universe. The only question is do we believe it with every fiber of our beings?

— Pat Higgins
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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE - Page 5 Empty Re: BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

Post  Admin on Tue 18 Aug 2020, 9:57 pm

Joshua 24:2-3
(2) And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: "Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods. (3) Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

This demonstrates a problem Abraham appears to have had at the beginning of his conversion, showing that he was not perfect in his obedience. It also reveals God's patience in dealing with us, as well as how little control we sometimes exercise over some circumstances. In such times, we must continue trusting God and fighting to overcome as He leads us through them and teaches us aspects of His character.

Abraham's family members were outright pagans, as was Abraham before his conversion. We need to add Genesis 11:27-32 to the mix:

This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, Ur of the Chaldeans. Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah. But Sarai was barren; she had no child. And Terah took his son Abram, and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram's wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.

Barnes Notes contains a fairly complex study of these verses, showing that Abraham actually received his initial calling when he was 70 while living in Ur of the Chaldeans. Why "initial"? Verse 31 says they left Ur and then came to Haran, adding that Abraham's family dwelt there. "Dwelt" indicates that they remained there for an extended period—it was no mere overnight stop by a group of pilgrims at a motel.

Stephen's speech in Acts 7:2-4 helps us to understand:

Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, "Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you." Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.

Stephen clearly states that God called Abraham before he dwelt in Haran, but Genesis 12:1 shows God then moved him from Haran after his father died. Apparently, Abraham's account to his father and others in the family—but most especially his father—of the things he was learning and believing in his calling persuaded them, despite being pagan to the core, that they, too, should emigrate to wherever God was leading Abraham.

Recall, however, from Isaiah 51:2 that God says that He called Abraham alone. Genesis 11:31 clearly shows Terah, the pagan patriarch of the family, leading the expedition, not Abraham. Abraham no doubt deferred to his father in this decision, but this was not God's will.

God knew that, because of Abraham's attitude, he would continue to defer to Terah. God did not want Terah's direct influence in what He was establishing through Abraham. Under Terah's pagan, patriarchal leadership, they got only as far as Haran from Ur, by itself an arduous 700-mile journey on foot!

Researchers speculate that the trip from Ur to Haran plus the sojourn there may have taken as long as five years before the party resumed the journey to Canaan. Perhaps Terah had a lengthy, lingering illness before dying. However, when the last leg of the journey was made, it was under Abraham's leadership.

God intends us to understand that the distance to the Promised Land—1,200 miles on foot from Ur to Canaan—plus the time spent getting there, illustrate the difficulty of breaking away from what we were to what God wants us to be. Unfortunately, some people never seem to accomplish the break.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Mon 17 Aug 2020, 4:40 pm

Ephesians 6:4
(4) And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

The English word "nurture" (KJV) or "training" (NKJV) indicates caring for and providing supportive instruction. The underlying Greek word more specifically involves educational feeding or instruction, as if in school or for the purpose of learning a discipline. The word thus covers verbal instruction, chastening, and the use of drills needed to produce Christian character. It does not at all indicate that any of these approaches is even harsh, let alone cruel. However, it suggests that parents follow an organized and consistent plan.

The term "admonition" or "instruction" (NIV) means a warning, drawing specific attention to verbal instruction. In summary, Paul touches on three areas vital to child-training so that children keep the fifth commandment properly. "Of the Lord" touches on the standard or quality one is to strive for. "Nurture" indicates what is physically done to and with the child in terms of consistent, regimented training, including discipline. "Admonition" draws attention to what is said and how it is said to the child.

Taken together, then, Paul clearly teaches that child-training is something that can neither be left to chance nor sloughed off with a careless, resigned attitude, as if it were merely a necessary evil. The parents' vision must be long-range. From parents applying right principles consistently will come the gradual development of understanding and wisdom in the children. These are precursors that help produce the promised long life and prosperity in the commandment.

In I Thessalonians 2:7-8, Paul uses himself and his relationship with the Thessalonian congregation as an example:

But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

He says he treated them with the tender affection of a nursing mother, striving hard so that no one could honestly charge him with taking anything from them. They personally witnessed how gently and consistently he dealt with them as a father does his children by appealing and encouraging them to live their lives to glorify God in their conduct.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Sun 16 Aug 2020, 10:57 pm

Acts 5:1-10
(1) But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. (2) And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. (3) But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? (4) While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." (5) Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. (6) And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. (7) Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. (8) And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" She said, "Yes, for so much." (9) Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." (10) Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

We can perceive a mixed bag of Ananias and Sapphira's sins involved in this tragedy. Acts 4:36-37 informs us of Barnabas' sacrificial gift for the well-being of the newly formed church. Pride and desire for acclaim motivated the couple to give a gift but without the honesty or sacrifice exhibited by Barnabas and others.

"Why has Satan filled your heart" (verse 3) is the equivalent of "Why have you dared?" They were free to give whatever percentage they set, for Peter says that the entire property sale price was under their control. Their sin lay in deceitfully alleging that the amount they gave was the whole of the sale price, when it was actually only a part. They deviously exaggerated their offering.

Some think this judgment was harsh, but Peter did not. He spoke of the sin as inspired of Satan, and the passage makes clear that both Ananias and Sapphira were fully aware of what they were doing (verses 2, 9). Conscious deceit is spiritually disastrous because trust is completely violated. They should have known better.

God interpreted their action as tempting Him, seeing how much they could get away with. Their way of reaching their goals is so opposed to the gospel that God could not allow it to go unchallenged; it would have set the whole mission of the church off course. Honesty and integrity are the standard of God's way of life. Sin is no light thing with God.

These people were living behind a deceptive façade, one similar to the idea that, if one keeps the front windows clean, it does not matter how dirty the back ones are. They allowed themselves to become tools working to destroy the family relationship of trust within the church. God forcibly reminded them and us that He will not abide that.

We must treat one another with fairness and loving kindness, or we will not be in His Family. Ananias and Sapphira are shocking reminders to us that we will not get away with deceitfully cheating or taking advantage of our brethren. God may not appear to be in the picture, but only the faithless have this blindness. The penalty will be paid—unless repented of, it is only a matter of time. Ananias and Sapphira paid quickly as a lesson to us.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Sat 15 Aug 2020, 10:56 pm

Exodus 3:7-10
(7) And the LORD said: "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. (8) So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. (9) Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. (10) Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

God is already calling them, "My people." What had they done? Had they pledged themselves to God? Had they repented? They had not done a thing yet, and God is already calling them His own.

Does He have a similar feeling of possessiveness toward those that He is going to deal with in terms of salvation? Definitely! "They are Mine!" What will He do for His own? Who will hold back the hand of God? Nobody, and that is the story. Israel got out of Egypt because God set His mind to do it. He said, "I have chosen them, and they are Mine" and they had not done a thing yet. In fact, it would be weeks before they even knew that Moses existed anymore than just what they had heard about what occurred forty years before.

There is no indication that Moses had any contact with anybody in Egypt during those forty years. He was not sending letters every couple of weeks saying, "Get ready—I am just about to return now." No, he was in the wilderness learning what it is like to be a shepherd, tending sheep, because he was going to pastor a whole nation of millions of people. He was getting his attitude straightened out. God had sent him to school to prepare. The wilderness was the school of hard knocks for someone like Moses who had been reared in a cushy palace. God probably had to knock a great deal of pride, vanity, and cockiness out of him before He could use him.

Thus, the salvation of Israel was already underway. Who does the Bible say is in charge? Who does the Bible show to be the one who has the answers to their problems? Who took the initiative? Who is doing the leading? Who is doing the providing? Even at this point, we can see that God is the One doing all these things.

By the time they begin to realize that God is involved, we find that all they needed to do is to agree with what He wanted them to do, and He would do the work to bring them out of Egypt.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Fri 14 Aug 2020, 10:27 pm

Genesis 22:16-18
(16) and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— (17) blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. (18) In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
New King James Version  

God does not condition His fulfilling this promise on any expected behavior on the part of Abraham. Its fulfillment is not dependent on Abraham's doing something in the future. This promise, unlike the promises in the later books of the Pentateuch, is an unconditional promise.

Consider, as a second example of an unconditional promise, Genesis 12:7: "Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, 'To your descendants I will give this land.'" That is all there is to the promise. God attaches no ifs, ands, or buts to it at all. God simply says, in effect, "I will do it. Period."

The same could be said of any of the promises to the patriarchs. An analysis of Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 13:15-16; 15:18-21; 17:6-8; and 35:11-12 will yield this conclusion: In every single instance, the fulfillment of the promise does not depend on any future action or behavior God expected on the part of Abraham, Isaac, or Israel (Jacob). All of these scripturesrecord unconditional promises.

In making these unconditional promises, God revealed His purpose to the patriarchs, at least in outline. It is a purpose to which God is absolutely committed. He will not allow anything—or anyone—to stand in the way of His executing it. A good example of His resolute determination to carry out His purposes, no matter what individuals may do or think, is an incident which took place as God was about to lead the children of Israel into Canaan.

Fearful of the indigenous population, the children of Israel refused to enter the land—refused, in effect, to believe that God meant what He said when He promised Canaan to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. In their rebellion, they even determined to "select a leader and return to Egypt" (Numbers 14:4). God's people, lacking faith, were actually trying to thwart His purposes. He was so angry with their lack of faith that He thought to "strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and . . . make [Moses] . . . a nation greater and mightier than they" (Numbers 14:12). To fulfill His unconditional promises to Abraham, God was willing to destroy an entire people and raise up another through Moses, through whom He could honor His promises to the patriarchs.

As Numbers 14:13-20 indicates, Moses dissuaded God from taking such drastic action. Nevertheless, the episode illustrates the zeal God displays in honoring His promises. He means business.

— Charles Whitaker
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Post  Admin on Thu 13 Aug 2020, 1:36 pm

Hebrews 8:8
(8) Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—

  Hebrews 8:13
(13) In that He says, "A new covenant, " He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

  Hebrews 9:15
(15) And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
New King James Version  

The word "new" is translated from the Greek word kaine. This is interesting because, while it does mean "new" in terms of time, the emphasis in the use of the word, when compared to something of the same kind, in this case, covenants, is on quality - not time. Hence, the emphasis in the use of kaine is on this covenant being better rather than being newer.

In Jesus' Parable of the Old and New Wineskins, kaine also appears. Using this understanding of kaine, the difference between the wineskins is not necessarily age (though that is implied) but quality. One wineskin is dried and cracked, while the other is supple and resilient. Though it may also be newer, it is decidedlybetter.

Putting this into a modern context, we can make a comparison between a 1910 automobile and a 1995 automobile. The 1995 automobile is a continuation of the same general kind as the 1910 automobile. Both have the same necessary parts: engine, wheels, steering wheel, seats, transmission, brakes, lights, and a nut behind the wheel. But the 1995 model has made the 1910 model obsolete as a viable mode of transportation.

So it is in the comparison between the Old Covenantandthe New. Both have the same necessary parts, so that they may be considered of the same "kind," but the New Covenant is so much betterand has so much more going for it that it has made the Old one obsolete.

Is there a difference between a testament and a covenant? The word "testament" does not even appear in English translations of the Old Testament, but it appears thirteen times in the New Testament. The Greek word is quite interesting because it does not even mean "covenant" as we think of it. In fact, researchers have been able to find only one usage outside of the Bible - in classical Greek - in which this word is used in the same way that the English and the Hebrew words are. The Greek word is diatheke, and it is the equivalent of our English word "testament" or "will" - not "covenant."

A covenantis an agreement between two parties. The emphasis in on the words "agreement" and "parties." However, a diatheke is a testament or will. As in English, it is a unilateral - a one-sided - declaration of the disposition of property that a person makes in anticipation of his death. Before we die, we usually draw up a declaration of what we want done with our property, and most people do not consult with the people they want to leave their possessions to. It is usually a private matter.

Paul used this singular word - diatheke - where two different words normally would have been used. The interesting thing is that the Greeks have a word for a covenant, suntheke, "a bilateral agreement," but the apostle did not use it.

The use of diatheke - which seemingly does not fit - has given the translators great difficulty trying to determine when Paul meant "covenant" and when he meant "will" or "testament." Why did he even do this when he could have used suntheke? The overall reason is very encouraging. Paul wanted to emphasize how much God has done unilaterally - that is, that He took upon Himself to do without consulting with others involved in the covenant - to tip the scales drastically in our favor for the purpose of our keeping the covenant and making it into His Kingdom.

For instance, "God so loved the world that He gave" Jesus Christ in our stead! It was a completely voluntary act on His part. God gives us grace and forgives our sins, and we are justified on the basis of that sacrifice and on the declaration of our faith and repentance. God gives us access to Him in prayer, again on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ. God gives us the very faith that saves. God gives us His Spirit, which is a downpayment of eternal life and empowers us to keep His laws. God gives us gifts, by that same Spirit, to serve Him and the church. He promises never to give us a trial that is too great - which translates into Him giving personal attention to each of His children! He promises never to forsake us and to complete the work that He has begun in us.

Now, brethren, some of these - in a very limited form - appear in the Old Covenant. But it is no wonder that Paul wanted to emphasize better rather than "new." The Old Covenant (because of what God has unilaterally done) is but a pale shadow of the new (covenant) in terms of what God is working out. It is nothing more than a pale shadow of the promises and of the hope that is derived by those of us who understand the New Covenant's terms.

To the unconverted who read the Bible - who look into these things - these terms are so enticing that it lures them into saying that there is nothing that we have to do. Some will go that far! They will say that it has all been done for us. They can read the terms, but they reach the wrong conclusion. It leads people to say, "There is no law," and "You don't have to keep the Sabbath. It's just ceremonial." However, the truth is that it is so one-sided, so much to our benefit, that it leaves us without excuse for failure to keep the terms - and those terms include lawkeeping.

— John W. Ritenbaugh


  Ephesians 5:14-17
(14) Therefore He says:
" Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light." (15) See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, (16) redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (17) Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
New King James Version   

Notice the encouraging reason Paul gives to wake up and carefully mind how we live: "Christ will give you light." This is an outright promise that He will give us the help to do what we must do. Backed by this promise, we are to redeem the time "because the days are evil." If his days were evil, what would Paul think of ours?

This passage reveals how the early church regarded time as it applies to a Christian. For us, all days - every period in which God's people have had to live their lives by their God-given understanding, thus by faith - are evil. God's truth has always run counter to the course of this world. Thus, the truth adds a peculiar, stressful difficulty to life regardless of when it is lived. Moreover, since each called-out individual has only one opportunity to lay hold on eternal life, and must overcome, grow, and prove his loyalty to God during that time, he must make use of every experience.

Galatians 1:3-4 confirms this perspective: "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." In terms of growing and overcoming, living in a particular period in history gives a Christian no advantage. Every era, every age, is against him, and within it, he must make the most of his calling. The times have always been evil.

To the church, then, because it must operate responsibly toward God within a highly specialized understanding of life and its purpose, every age is full of the cyclical, frustrating, repetitious events that Solomon called futile vanities. Such events lead nowhere and produce a discouraging fatalism.

However, a Christian also knows that God is directing time and events to His desired end. Thus, the church's view of time is an elegant combination of both realities, realizing that it has a work to accomplish as an organization and that each individual Christian must grow and overcome within it. So, as Christians, we must face the evil of repetitious vanity produced by sin, which history clearly records, with faith in the hope of a glorious victory for God's called-out ones, which God's Word prophesies.

Thus, Paul advises in Ephesians 5:17, "Therefore . . . understand what the will of the Lord is." As we live our lives each day, we should never let what God says slip from our minds. His point is that we need to make the most of every opportunity because time is inexorably moving toward God's desired end, and it will not stop and wait for us. We do not want to be left behind! No occasion is too insignificant to do the right thing. Time is precious! We, like God, must take it very seriously.

We must not make the mistake of relegating Christian living to a mere couple of hours on the Sabbath. Christianity involves every aspect of life. Personal study and prayer are times of clarifying God's will. But we must not neglect the doing of His will as occasions arise - and they will arise every day. Woe to us if we disregard them, for they comprise the very circumstances that challenge us to overcome and grow in our seeking of God.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Tue 11 Aug 2020, 8:45 pm

Exodus 31:13-17
(13) "Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: "Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. (14) You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. (15) Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. (16) Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. (17) It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.""
New King James Version  

Consider where this covenant appears. It is in the book of Exodus, but after chapter 20, where God gives the commandments. From this we see that God proposes a special covenant, which He places in the midst of all of the instructions for building the Tabernacle. It means that, even though these people were employed to construct such an important edifice for the worship of God, they were not to desecrate the Sabbath by working on it. Even the construction of the Tabernacle had to take second place to the keeping of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath is a sign. It is not a mark. Bible usage shows that a sign is voluntarily accepted, whereas a mark is put on against a person's will. The Sabbath is a special sign. It is a special covenant between God and His people. Who are His people?

A sign can identify an occupation. One might read, "Joe Smith, Dentist"—or plumber or electrician. A sign can also give purpose for a thing; it tells us why something is being used or done in the way that it is. A sign can give directions: "This way to River City."

A sign can also bring people together with shared interests and common purposes. Some fraternal organizations have special signs that they pass to one another to identify what lodge, or organization, it is that they belong to. A sign can unify; it can bring people together. A sign can be a pledge of mutual fidelity and commitment. Signs are used by organizations to designate membership. People wear a little badge on their lapel that says that they belong to such-and-such organization, and by it members recognize one another.

This is part of the way that the Sabbath is also used. The Sabbath serves as an external and visible bond that unites and sanctifies us [sets us apart] from everyone else. Here in the United States and Canada, almost everybody else who is religious keeps Sunday or nothing. If a person keeps the Sabbath, he is being cut away from, separated from, sanctified by the very fact that he is keeping it. Though these people do not realize it yet, it becomes a sign to them that he is in the process of being sanctified. We ought to be very much aware of this sign because we are keeping it.

Everybody who has ever kept both Sunday and Saturday knows this: Sunday sets almost no one apart because everybody who is "religious" is already doing it. Big deal! What is so different about that? They are only sanctified from the people who keep no day at all. For those who are "religious," it does not sanctify them because the Baptists are keeping the day, and the Catholics are keeping the day, as well as the Mormons, the Pentecostals, the Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and the Congregationalists. All those people are keeping Sunday, and it is not separating, or sanctifying, anybody.

But once a person begins to keep the Sabbath, it immediately begins to sanctify him, to separate him from everyone else. God has a purpose that He is working out. He has made a tremendous investment in the Creation and in the death of His Son. The Sabbath is a means by which He protects His investment.

If the only reason He created the Sabbath was because we need rest, then any old time would do. Ultimately, how and why one keeps the Sabbath are the real sign. Other religious groups "keep" the Sabbath, but are they keeping it as God desires? It is how and why we keep it that makes us different—they do the sanctifying. "Sanctify them through Your truth," Jesus says in John 17:17. God's Word is truth. If people accept it and use it, they will be using the Sabbath for different purposes than others are.

God created the Sabbath to educate His people in His way. It prepares them for their witness. Suppose that a basketball coach says to his players, "Come to the gym and meet with me at such-and-such a time." But some of the players decide that they will go to a different gym, at a different time, and with a different coach. Players on a team begin to take on the qualities and the philosophy of their coach. Anybody who is familiar with athletics understands this. Those who are intimately involved in athletics say that they can always tell whether a certain player has been coached by a certain coach, say John Wooden or John Thompson. What has happened is the player has taken on the sign of the coach, and it has sanctified him from other players who are not coached by that particular coach.

The same principle is at work with God and us. He is our Coach. He has made an appointment with us to meet at a certain place, at a certain time. And if we choose not to go to where He is going to be, then we are not going to begin to take on the image of our Coach. The Sabbath was created because it both enhances and protects our relationship with God. And it provides the witness—to God, to the individual, and to the world—of who is keeping it. This is how it becomes the sign. It provides a witness.

The Sabbath exists to keep us in a proper frame of mind and to provide us with the right material to negotiate the way to God's Kingdom. We live in a grubby, grasping material world. Every day has a built-in bias towards material things, and it is very difficult to keep our minds focused on things that are spiritual. But the Sabbath, if a person is keeping it as God desires, will almost put a person into a spiritual mode, point him toward God, and force him to acknowledge Him as Creator.

The Sabbath presents us with the opportunity to consider the whys of life, to get our head on straight with the right orientation so that we can properly use the other six days. The Sabbath is the kernel, the nucleus, from which the proper worship—our response to God—grows.

Existentialist philosophers tell us that life is absurd, that all of life is nothing but a prelude to death. But keeping the Sabbath is a celebration of life! It tells us that God's creative process is continuing, that He is creating us in His spiritual image so that we might live with Him forever. For the great God, the Sabbath is a day of creation. The Sabbath ensures us that life is not absurd, but rather, it is a prelude to life on an infinitely higher and greater level. The more we become like Him, the more sanctified we are from the world. It is in experiencing the refreshing elevation of the mind that we get a tiny foretaste of what is to come.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Mon 10 Aug 2020, 5:19 pm

Romans 12:1-2
(1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
New King James Version   

Paul exhorts us to consider a principle that applies to two areas of priestly conduct, offering sacrifices and praising God. In Greek, the emphasis in verse 1 is on the word "therefore." Why? Because Romans 12:1 begins the summary of the practical application of the principles, the teachings, the instruction that Paul gives in the first 11 chapters. He is preparing to draw practical conclusions to all the doctrinal things he taught, that is, about justification, sanctification, our calling, and the Holy Spirit, including the glorious things about Israel and what will happen in the future. It is as if he is saying, "In light of everything that I have given you thus far, here's what you are to do, priests! Sanctify yourselves by being a living sacrifice."

He means that, due to God's great gifts to us, it is "reasonable" for God to expect us to sacrifice ourselves. Sometimes modern Bibles will render this word as "spiritual," which is a correct alternative. The Greek word underlying it appears only one other time in the Bible, and in that place it clearly means "spiritual." Here, though, it means "reasonable," that itis right that we should be a sacrifice. It is logical, rational, to do this.

The "therefore" brings an exciting conclusion to his thought. He is saying that everything we do, every activity in all of life, is to be an act of worship in service to God. Everything! We are to live our lives as living sacrifices—except on those days that we want to do our own thing? No, not at all. God owns us, and He wants our lives lived all the time—every day, 24/7—as a living sacrifice. We are to sacrifice our lives to Him because it cost the life of His Son to give us the privilege of drawing close to Him.

So, He has every right to ask this of us. It is logical. It is rational for Him to demand it of us. In this case, even as Jesus is portrayed in the offerings of Leviticus 1-7, we, as His brethren, are both the priest making the offering and the offering that is being sacrificed.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Sun 09 Aug 2020, 9:51 pm

Ephesians 6:10-14
(10) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. (11) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (13) Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (14) Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
New King James Version  

Notice the number of times in these few verses that we are exhorted to stand. We must hold our ground as we fight against the pressures of Satan and this world. In verse 11, Paul tells us to "stand against" the Devil's tricks. In verse 13, he encourages us to prepare "to withstand in the evil day" and "having done all, to stand." In the next verse, he concludes, "Stand therefore" and put on the armor that God can supply.

There are two things to notice here. First, we are to stand firm. Paul does not instruct us to be agile or swift of foot. To the contrary, he advises us not to move; we are to stand on a firm foundation, as it were. We are to be securely grounded, rooted and unmoving. A person living a life of integrity is not shifty, but has solid convictions rather than preferences that vary with circumstances.

Second, Paul details the armor we need to "take up." He lists several pieces of "the whole armor of God," but "the breastplate of righteousness" deals mostly closely with integrity.

Most soldiers in Paul's day wore a breastplate, and even today, the most basic protection offered to police and soldiers is the armored or bulletproof vest. The Roman breastplate, primarily made of bronze and backed with leather, was worn around the chest, protecting the heart and other vital organs. In Paul's spiritual analogy, the breastplate guards the heart, the seat of our attitudes and emotions. In other words, if we are to stand firm in the truth, our heart must be protected!

Interestingly, the translation of the New Testament by J.B. Phillips renders "the breastplate of righteousness" as "integrity your breastplate." Paul instructs us to protect our heart, our love, and our emotions with a breastplate of integrity! As part of the equipment each Christian needs to stand firm in the spiritual war we have been recruited to fight, we must fasten integrity right across our chests to provide protection. What happens when a soldier takes off his breastplate? He opens his soft abdomen to attack; he is unprotected! Spiritually, the heart becomes vulnerable, apt to be turned away.

— Mike Ford
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Post  Admin on Sat 08 Aug 2020, 10:54 pm

Luke 17:21
(21) nor will they say, "See here!" or "See there!" For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

"Within" is translated from entos, used only twice in the New Testament. Its primary meaning is "inside," as it is rendered in Matthew 23:26: "Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also." However, when used in conjunction with a plural noun, entos means "among" or "in the midst of." In Luke 17:21, entos is used with "you," and from the context, we can see that Jesus was speaking to a crowd of Pharisees, who had come to question Him about the Kingdom of God (verse 20). "You," then, is plural. "The kingdom of God is among you" is best.

Most modern translations have recognized this grammatical error and translate entos as "among" or "in the midst of." Some texts, like the New King James and the New International versions, persist in using "within," though they note in the margin that "among" is an alternative.

Even without this technical knowledge of Greek, we could have easily understood that "within" is a poor and misleading translation. Christ was answering a question posed by the Pharisees, and He replied directly to them: "He answered them and said, . . . 'For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.'" But how could the Kingdom of God be within His most bitter enemies? How many times did He reveal them to be hypocritical and misleading the people? Theologically, it is quite impossible to think that His Kingdom would be in the Pharisees.

It is only after He had made this remark that He turned to His disciples (verse 22) and explained what He meant. The subject of the entire section (verses 20-37) is stated most explicitly in verse 30: "Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed." All along, He had been explaining His second coming! When He returns, He will set up His Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:9).

If the Kingdom is still future, how could He say that "the kingdom of God is among you"? To answer this, we must return to the four common traits of a kingdom: a king, who rules by law over a number of subjects who live within a certain territory. The primary trait is that a kingdom must be ruled by a king; otherwise, the country has some other form of government. A king of any nation is the chief representative of that nation. And the King of the Kingdom of God is none other than the living Jesus Christ!

Pilate specifically asked Jesus, "'Are You a king then?' Jesus answered, 'You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth'" (John 18:37). So as the King of God's Kingdom, He could truly tell the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was among them.

— Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Fri 07 Aug 2020, 1:12 pm

2 Chronicles 9:22-28
(22) So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. (23) And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart. (24) Each man brought his present: articles of silver and gold, garments, armor, spices, horses, and mules, at a set rate year by year. (25) Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king at Jerusalem. (26) So he reigned over all the kings from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. (27) The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedar trees as abundant as the sycamores which are in the lowland. (28) And they brought horses to Solomon from Egypt and from all lands.
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

God's Word provides an example of compromise for us to learn from, if we are wise enough to heed it (Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:11). This example comes from the life of the wisest king ever to live, one whom God blessed with wisdom that no one could gainsay, who had wealth and ability no one had ever possessed before. God loved this man greatly—He even spoke directly to him more than once, and because of the man's humble response, blessed him far beyond what he requested. This king, a man of peace and learning, was commissioned to build the most beautiful Temple to God in Jerusalem. The man, of course, was Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba.

To understand why Solomon's compromises seemed so small and insignificant to him when he succumbed to them, we have to understand the situation of Solomon's reign. We could compare it to America today. As Psalm 18:43-44 suggests, David and his armies had essentially subjugated all of the world that mattered at the time. King David of Israel was "the head of the nations," and faraway kings he did not even know trembled at the mention of his name. As the sole superpower in the region, wealth poured into Israel. When Solomon was made king upon David's death, not a nation on the face of the earth would have considered attacking Israel. It was just too strong.

So, Solomon ruled the known world, and as time progressed and in that strength, he did not see the need to obey God fully in all that He had commanded the kings of Israel to do. In his power and wealth, he saw no problem with compromising just a little with God's instruction. As we will see, Solomon failed completely in his old age, but the seeds of that failure were sown early in his reign.

His sounds like the perfect, storybook career until we notice God's instruction to kings in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, which specifically warns against multiplying horses, multiplying wives, and multiplying silver and gold. Was Solomon unaware of these instructions? Of course not. David, a man who knew God's law intimately, would have been sure to instruct his son in them and have him write a copy of the law as commanded. Surely, Solomon could not have been ignorant of them. He, then, must have known it was wrong to import horses and chariots from Egypt, but because of his wealth and might, he must have considered this infraction too minor to take seriously.

Why did God not want Israel's kings to import warhorses? Armored warhorses and the chariots they pulled can be compared to today's tanks, which are devastating when fighting foot soldiers. A nation with this level of war materiel put their reliance on it as it made the army such a powerful fighting machine. Why should a nation trust an invisible God to fight its battles when it could see rank upon rank of seemingly invincible horses and chariots?

God wanted His people to rely on Him. Solomon knew this, since he wrote in Proverbs 21:31:"The horse is prepared for the day of battle: but deliverance is of the LORD." The issue of importing horses may have seemed a small thing to Solomon, but it was important to God. From all indications, his compromise in this matter began his slow separation from God.

Compounding his compromise concerning warhorses, by the end of his reign, Solomon had a substantial harem (I Kings 11:1-3). As he began his reign, would Solomon have considered "multiply[ing] wives for himself," especially to this extent? Probably not. When he was tender of heart, needing God to help him rule this great people and kingdom (see II Chronicles 1:7-12), he doubtless walked carefully, making sure he did what was commanded in everything. But once secure in knowledge, wealth, and power, he began to forget the God who had spoken to him, placed him in power, and given him all that he had.

Perhaps Solomon's reasoning went something like this: "When I imported horses from Egypt, there were no adverse consequences, so what would be wrong with taking additional wives for political reasons?" We do not normally see the results of sin immediately, yet they inevitably come. At some point, he learned this principle, writing in Ecclesiastes 8:11: "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." In any case, knowing this did not help him, as I Kings 11:4-8 records.

Wise Solomon fell victim to the same temptations that the rest of us so often face. He compromised on what he thought were small concerns—matters he probably considered well into the gray areas—to do things his way rather than God's. The danger of such reasoning is that small compromises weaken character, and over time, they lead to major sins. For Solomon, the results were devastating. His experience is a warning of what will befall us if we follow his example of compromise.

The psalmist writes in Psalm 111:10, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and a good understanding have all they that do His commandments: His praise endures forever." Solomon's compromises gradually but inexorably distorted his understanding of God's laws and ways. He slowly drifted away from God, so that when he was old, unbelievable as it seems, he allowed his wives to turn his heart from the God that had given him everything.

From the "minor" infraction of importing horses, Solomon eventually condoned and was at least an accessory to the sins of idolatry and outright murder, sins that he would never have considered committing at the beginning of his reign. For, at the end of his life, Solomon worshipped Ashtoreth, Milcom, Chemosh, and Molech, the last having rituals that called for children to be given to the fire of his altar. By giving his royal sanction to worshipping these pagan deities, he set a precedent that was followed by many of the kings of Israel and Judah after him.

— John O. Reid (1930-2016)
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Post  Admin on Thu 06 Aug 2020, 11:24 pm

 Revelation 4:8-11
8) The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
"Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!" (9) Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, (10) the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
(11) "You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created."
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version
 
The One who receives continuous praise and submission from these awesome angelic beings is our Savior and Creator. Without directly saying it, this passage touches on a major issue in this great purpose He is working out: that, unlike Satan and His demons, will we be loyal, faithful, to our Creator God, as He works out and governs His purpose for each of us personally? Or in our impatience will we resist and rebel?
 
Verse 11 contains the key statement that is vital to our living by faith: He created all things in the first place and all—including us—is created for His purpose to be fulfilled. The King James Version translates this phrase, "For You have created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created."
 
Satan could not accept this. Consider deeply what has resulted! So we need to take this sobering thought down to our level and to our time and examine it in more detail against the issues of our own lives.
 
Can we live by faith that He is, that He knows what He is doing with our lives, and that by His merciful act He has included us as part of His good pleasure? Can we accept that He knows exactly where His creative efforts are headed and what it will take to form and shape us into what He pleases? At the same time, we know His goal for us only vaguely, yet we must fully accept whatever He brings to bear on us for His purposes.
 
— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Wed 05 Aug 2020, 10:15 pm

Colossians 3:5
(5) Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

The Greek word underlying "covetousness" is pleonexia, which means "the desire to have more." This is among the ugliest of sins because it involves idolatry as well as its effects on others. The Greeks defined it as "the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others." It is further described as "ruthless self-seeking," the kind of attitude that the arrogant and callous person has, assuming that others and their things exist for his own benefit.

The desire for more money can lead to theft; the desire for more prestige, to evil ambition; the desire for more power, to tyranny; the desire for a person's body, to fornication and adultery. Paul identifies covetousness as idolatry because, in the place of God, it puts self-interest for illicit things. A man sets up an idol in his heart because he desires to get something from it. So he serves it to get that something rather than to obey God's commandment. That, very simply put, is idolatry.

The essence of idolatry is to get for the self in defiance of God. However, we have to give ourselves to God if we want to overcome illicit desires. Paul says to "mortify" (KJV) or "put to death" (NKJV) whatever is sinful. That does not mean to practice ascetic self-discipline—it means to kill. The Christian must kill self-centeredness. In his life, he must make a radical transformation, a shift of the center of his life. It is the same principle as described by Matthew 5:29. Everything that keeps a person from fully obeying God and surrendering to Jesus Christ must be surgically excised from his conduct.

The tenth commandment, then, has a function similar to the first. They both act as governors, controlling whether we keep the others.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Tue 04 Aug 2020, 9:41 pm

Ezekiel 20:10-13
(10) "Therefore I made them go out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. (11) And I gave them My statutes and showed them My judgments, 'which, if a man does, he shall live by them.' (12) Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them. (13) Yet the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they did not walk in My statutes; they despised My judgments, 'which, if a man does, he shall live by them'; and they greatly defiled My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them in the wilderness, to consume them.

  Ezekiel 20:15-16
(15) So I also raised My hand in an oath to them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, 'flowing with milk and honey,' the glory of all lands, (16) because they despised My judgments and did not walk in My statutes, but profaned My Sabbaths; for their heart went after their idols.

  Ezekiel 20:18-21
(18) "But I said to their children in the wilderness, 'Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols. (19) I am the LORD your God: Walk in My statutes, keep My judgments, and do them; (20) hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.' (21) "Notwithstanding, the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, and were not careful to observe My judgments, 'which, if a man does, he shall live by them'; but they profaned My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the wilderness.

  Ezekiel 20:23-24
(23) Also I raised My hand in an oath to those in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the Gentiles and disperse them throughout the countries, (24) because they had not executed My judgments, but had despised My statutes, profaned My Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on their fathers' idols.
New King James Version   Change Bible versions

Verse 24 gives a concluding statement as to why Israel was taken into captivity. There are two possibilities regarding Israel's Sabbath breaking. 1) Israel completely rejected God's Sabbath for another day. This possibility exists due to the instances of the "My/their" or "Mine/yours" contrast, that is, My Sabbath as opposed to your Sabbath. 2) They polluted the Sabbath by careless, self-centered observance.

The probability is that they did both—some people completely rejected the Sabbath, while others carelessly observed it. However, it was because of Sabbath-breaking, a type of idolatry, that they went into captivity.

When we look at secular history, even biblical history, and society around us, how to keep this day is a mixed bag. On the surface, what we see in the New Testament is rigorous legalism from the Pharisees or asceticism from the Gentiles. Today, we might call that an extreme "rightism" or perhaps a reactionary conservatism.

In today's world, though, we are confronted with the other side of the coin. We do not even begin to know how to keep the Sabbath because, from our earliest days, our culture's emphasis has been on Sunday, a day that cannot be kept holy because it was never made holy!

The cycle of six workdays and one day of rest and worship is a legacy of the Bible. But in fairly recent history, society has undergone a radical transformation because of scientific, industrial, and technological achievements. A shorter workweek provides us more leisure time. Businesses, however, make every effort to make the best use of time, to maximize production by scheduling work shifts so that the weekly cycle becomes a blur.

We have come to the place where we think that time totally belongs to us, and we can use it as we good and well please. This, in turn, makes a person very conscious of his free time. What does almost every individual do? He does the same thing that a business does. Every bit of time in a person's life is booked up because he wants to get the most out of life.

Even among those who are reasonably religious, the result has been that Sunday has become the hour of worship. The older among us can probably remember that, in the community, Sunday was once set aside very seriously. People did not work. They usually spent the day at home. Maybe the most secular thing they allowed themselves to do was to read the Sunday newspaper. Some, perhaps, did not even listen to the radio on Sunday because, to them, the day was holy.

But over the years, Sunday worship—which used to be kept somewhat as God expects us to keep the Sabbath—has now become, even among religious folks, an hour rather than a day of worship. People go to church for that one hour then perhaps return home. Or, maybe they go to a Sunday brunch at a restaurant. They spend the rest of the time on that day either making money or seeking their own pleasure.

All the while, the real Sabbath is ridiculed or ignored. This is what confronts us when we begin trying to keep it. A similar environment even affects those who continue to keep it. When we look in the Bible, we find that God does not give us many specifics as to how to keep it. God does, however, give us a number of broad principles, and He expects us to extrapolate from those principles in applying them.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Mon 03 Aug 2020, 8:59 am

eremiah 25:5-7
(5) They said, "Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD has given to you and your fathers forever and ever. (6) Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will not harm you." (7) Yet you have not listened to Me," says the LORD, "that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

"The works of your hands" indicates something that comes from man's mind, not the Creator's. Their gods were their own creation, even as their standards were their assessment of right and wrong. Regardless of how men approached life, whether religious or irreligious, atheistic or agnostic, their gods and standards came from minds not in contact with the true God.

This has interesting and devastating ramifications. The nature of idolatry is such that its effect is more subtle than with other sins. The trauma it produces is usually obscured by the penalties brought on by other sins that spring from the original idolatry. Sometimes, the penalty comes so much later that it is virtually impossible for the carnal mind to connect it to the idolatry that began the process.

But the effect of breaking commandment number one is to break number two. Once a person is no longer worshipping the Creator, he must put something else in His place. Man will worship something, and as we have seen, what he worships is almost invariably himself! Even when he is worshipping the works of his hands, he is worshipping himself because he created his idol.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Sun 02 Aug 2020, 10:34 am

Exodus 20:15
(15) "You shall not steal.

New King James Version   

It is easy to blame our tendency to steal on the lust of human nature. It is certainly true, and if we scrupulously track our desires and rein them in before they overcome us, we will significantly reduce stealing. But what is interesting are the excuses we give ourselves and others for the stealing we do. Unless we keep our conscience razor sharp, it is easily dulled by rationalization.

It is not infrequent to hear someone at work complain, "They won't let you make an honest living any more." The blame for not being scrupulously honest is shifted to "they." People make the same justification at every level. A study of business ethics by a Harvard graduate student revealed that most junior executives place the responsibility for their unethical practices upon the expectations of management.

Sometimes we apply a double standard of judgment to what we consider the rich and the poor or small business and corporations. A child may begin a lifetime of petty theft by justifying the stealing of a toy from a "better off" playmate because "he has lots of toys and won't miss this little one." For the same reason, juries award excessively high damages because a corporation has plenty of money and can afford it, or if they are insured, the insurance company will pay it.

We also distinguish between personal property and public. In our minds, stealing from the government is different from robbing our neighbor. My wife and I once had a landlord who firmly proclaimed that he never stole from his friends!

Ultimately, what we steal from corporations or the government we must pay back in higher prices and taxes. The effect may not be immediate, but it is the only effect that can occur. Neither the corporation's nor the government's pockets are so deep that they can just absorb multiple, individually small losses.

Another double standard is making a distinction between large and small thefts. It is almost as if a small theft is excusable simply because it is small and thus of no account. Some parents, to "save" some money, unwittingly introduce their children to stealing by lying about their age to save a few cents on a bus trip or movie ticket. Hardly any thief begins his life of crime by stealing "big." They begin "small" and work themselves "up the ladder" to more grandiose and exciting adventures in thievery. One can hardly expect a child to develop honor for his parents in an atmosphere of parental thievery.

— John W. Ritenbaug
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Post  Admin on Sat 01 Aug 2020, 7:10 pm

Amos 5:10
(10) They hate the one who rebukes in the gate,
And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly.

New King James Version   

If a person does right, people will begin to persecute him. It may, very sadly, even happen right inside the church.

Amos confirms that the first thing that occurs if we really are undergoing transformation—if we have had an encounter with God—is that we will turn to God's truth. Our attitude will change toward God's truth. The author of Psalm 119:97 says, "O, how I love Your law!" He was in love with it. To him, it was so good to be able to look into God's Word. If a person loves something, what does he want to do with it? Talk about it! Share it with other people. Is that not what happens to the newly converted person? Indeed, it is. One can almost guage a person's conversion by how he loves the Word of God, for "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."

Amos states these truths so succinctly. All we need to do to understand it positively is turn what he says around backward. If we really do seek God, we are going to love His Word. We will hang on everything that comes out of His mouth—because we will see it for what it is. The most valuable thing a person can possess is the Word of God.

These people in Amos showed every evidence of a refusal to be governed by truth in their lives.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Fri 31 Jul 2020, 10:32 pm

Job 3:23-26
(23) Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden,
And whom God has hedged in? (24) For my sighing comes before I eat,
And my groanings pour out like water. (25) For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me,
And what I dreaded has happened to me. (26) I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;
I have no rest, for trouble comes."
New King James Version   

Job tried hard to project a certain image. This was not entirely wrong, but despite his righteousness, his projection was far from the perfection that he may have thought he was showing, as the testimony of his three "friends" indicates. In fact, it was fraught with a major failure in his heart, which God clearly saw and determined to cleanse him of.

Suddenly, Job's image of himself is shattered before his eyes. What is he to do? Should he defend his image of himself or repent? To repent may have been quite embarrassing, but as the story unfolds, we see that Job does not perceive that anything is wrong with him. Even if something were wrong, it would have been a major embarrassment to have it exposed. He is so aware of himself as a human being that, for quite a while, he does not perceive that the problem resides in his heart. Therefore, he does what we all do: He defends and justifies himself.

The book of Job is the story of the destruction of Job's self-image. It can also be summed up as the book of human nature. His friends are unsuccessful in their efforts because they perceive his condition as being the result of the sins that he has committed; what he is going through is just retribution for conduct that Job has managed to hide from others for many years. However, God's comments to Satan in Job 1:8 and 2:3 reveal that this is not so: Job is an unusually righteous person, as far as the conduct of his life is concerned.

The problem is not what Job was doing but a flaw in what he was. His defect is not one of outward action but of inward thought, especially in how he perceived himself in relation to God, but also to fellow man. It is a matter of the heart.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Thu 30 Jul 2020, 12:32 pm

2 Timothy 2:13-18
(13) If we are faithless, He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself. (14) Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. (15) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (16) But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. (17) And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, (18) who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.
New King James Version   

People in the congregation were getting into arguments about genealogies, meanings of words, and technicalities about the law of Moses. Paul called these arguments ungodliness. These arguers probably felt that they were more righteous than anyone else, but Paul calls it ungodliness. Why? Because of what it was producing: disorder and disunity. If it was producing disorder and disunity within the congregation, it was not producing an environment for growth. Peace had gone by the wayside.

Paul also says in verse 16 to "shun" those things. Shunning denotes walking away from someone or something, turning one's back on it. These kinds of arguments do not produce the right kinds of fruit. To the contrary, Romans 14:17 says the Kingdom of God is represented by "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

This is an example of ungodliness within a congregation, but a more common application appears in a context like Romans 1:18, 28-32:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. . . . And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Most of these behaviors and attitudes listed here as ungodliness are what we are more familiar. They can also occur within a congregation of the church of God. In this context, though, we find the unholy marriage of idolatry with immorality—true ungodliness.

In the context of Titus 2:11-13, we can understand that when grace truly comes into a person's life, the Christian will consciously repudiate and utterly reject ungodliness. It will not happen all at once, but if he or she is growing, the Christian will be moving precisely in that direction.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Wed 29 Jul 2020, 8:56 pm

Jeremiah 25:3-5
(3) "From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, this is the twenty-third year in which the word of the LORD has come to me; and I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but you have not listened. (4) And the LORD has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. (5) They said, "Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD has given to you and your fathers forever and ever.

  Jeremiah 25:7-9
(7) Yet you have not listened to Me," says the LORD, "that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt. (8) "Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: "Because you have not heard My words, (9) behold, I will send and take all the families of the north," says the LORD, "and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations.
New King James Version   Change Bible versions

Jeremiah was God's prophet at this time, when Judah was just about to suffer captivity. He was God's last major prophet—the last one He sent to appeal to the Judeans before their society, their civilization, came to an end. What was Jeremiah's complaint? "For twenty-three years I've been speaking to you, and you're not listening." And because they did not listen, by the time of Jeremiah 25, the nation had already been defeated, and a small group of refugees was on the run trying to save their lives. So Jeremiah made it very plain: "You didn't listen."

This is typical of why Jesus admonishes us to listen. They heard, but they did not listen. The direct result was ultimately the pain of warfare, but also all of the disruptions in society before the war actually broke out—the kind of things that our culture is struggling with now—things similar to the drug scene, rampant murder, all kinds of disease, and so forth. God said if they would only repent, He would heal them.

They did not listen. They did not repent. They did not get healed. Instead, they went through war and into captivity, and these few had to flee for their lives. God is saying what almost any parent would say to a child in a similar situation: "I told you not to do that, but you wouldn't listen." How many times have we said that to our children?

Why did Judah not listen? The answer is not difficult. They did not listen because, to them, the word spoken by God's prophets carried no authority. They dismissed it as a little thing, of having no consequence. It carried no authority with them because the people had no faith in God's sovereignty.

Because these people had made the covenant with God and had been taught by one of God's prophets, if asked if they believed in God, these Judeans would have replied, "Yes, I believe in God." But the practical reality is that they had no faith in God; they lived as if He were nowhere around. They did not have faith that He had the power to do what He said or that He cared enough about them to do it. In a word, they did not have living faith.

Why is it so important to listen to God's message? Because it is to those who listen and believe the message that God's summons comes and through whom God's work is done.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Tue 28 Jul 2020, 10:10 pm

Jeremiah 7:22-23
(22) For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. (23) But this is what I commanded them, saying, "Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you."
New King James Version   

Jeremiah says that God never commanded offerings and sacrifices when the Old Covenant was made! He is talking about the generation to whom God gave His law and with whom He made the Old Covenant. It is easily understood why no other sacrifices are given in the Old Covenant except for the Passover (see Exodus 23:18). God does not mention them because He did not require them under the terms of the Old Covenant. All He wanted Israel to do was to keep the Ten Commandments, the statutes, and the judgments that He had already given to them with one exception—the Passover, the only sacrifice that He required!

This is one reason why the New Covenant did not perpetuate the other sacrifices, even though the Old Covenant became obsolete: The sacrifices were never a part of it in the first place. In terms of Passover, the symbols changed to bread and wine, but we still keep it.

There are three reasons why true Christians keep Passover even though it is also part of the Old Covenant. First, like the Ten Commandments, they preceded the making of the Old Covenant. Passover was commanded in Exodus 12, enforced, and practiced before Israel ever got to Mt. Sinai. Second, it is commanded in the New Testament and shown by the example of Christ and the apostles. Third, Passover is included within the statutes of God as a corollary of the fourth commandment. It is a festival and therefore to be kept.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Mon 27 Jul 2020, 7:05 pm

1 Peter 3:8
(8) Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;
New King James Version  

A short definition of courtesy would be “polite behavior that shows respect for other people.” Does God have anything to say about courtesy? Remember the “Golden Rule”? Jesus exhorts His disciples in Matthew 7:12: “Treat others as you want them to treat you. This is what the law and the prophets are all about” (Contemporary English Version).

If we truly lived by this, we would always treat others with courtesy. Chivalry would not be dead. For those younger folks who may not know, chivalry was an ancient, knightly code emphasizing the virtues of service to others, honor, love, and courtesy.

Consider, for instance, how we treat the “hoary head(s)” among us. Leviticus 19:32 commands us: “Show respect for old people and honor them. Reverently obey Me; I am the Lord” (Good News Bible). There have been times when I have come up on the rear of a slow-moving car and muttered, “Come on, grandpa, let's go!” only to remember that I, too, am a grandpa!

In all seriousness, though, do we revere the older folks as we should? Do we encourage our children to go last in line at a potluck? Do we take the time to do the simple things like teach our kids to look an adult in the eye when he or she speaks to them? Do we insist that they say, “Yes, sir [or ma'am],” not interrupt an adult conversation, hold doors for them, and generally, as God urges, “Show respect for old people and honor them”?

Why would we be impolite to the elderly—or anyone, for that matter? Why not move over on the road and let others going faster drive by? Why be rude to sales clerks and wait staffs? Why not use the simplest of courtesies like “please” and “thank you”?

The apostle Paul gives the answer in Philippians 2:3: “Don't be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves” (Contemporary English Version). Now that is truly a hard thing to do. I can hear it now: “Treat others more important than moi? How can that be? The left lane was built for me! All others must go around. Why, if I were to move over and let you by, then I would lose face. I would be admitting defeat. I would be a loser in life's rat race.” Most people fail to consider that, even if they win the rat race, they are still a rat!

— Mike Ford
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