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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

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Post  Admin on Thu 19 Dec 2019, 9:57 pm

Genesis 2:16-17
(16) And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; (17) but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
New King James Version   

The second death is only mentioned by name in the book of Revelation. However, as a theme, it winds throughout the Bible, always lingering in the background. But to see this, we need to understand how the Bible uses the term “death.”

There is a physical application as well as a spiritual implication, and it requires discernment to understand how the word “death” is being used in a given context. The physical application is simply the end of a human being's life, whether through age, disease, accident, or violence. The breath of life leaves the person, consciousness ceases, and the body begins to decay. This is the fate of all human beings.

But the Bible also uses death to describe the spiritual state of people who are undoubtedly physically alive. Notice Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

The death that entered the world through Adam's sin was not physical death. Adam was a flesh-and-blood human being, so his body was naturally subject to entropy. The fact that he was created as flesh meant that, at some point, his heart would stop, and the breath of life would leave. Even if he had lived a sinless life, he still would have died when his body ceased to function. Adam was never immortal; he needed to eat of the Tree of Life to live forever (Genesis 3:22). When Adam sinned, he immediately entered a state of spiritual—not physical—death, which contributed to the foundation of Satan's deception that life continues after sin.

As it remains today, Satan's treachery was effective and destructive because, like Adam, we typically live on—physically—after sinning. While Adam's physical death was a foregone conclusion due to his being fleshly, it was not the death that entered the world through his sin. Instead, spiritual death entered the world at that point and spread to all of his offspring. His sin destroyed the union mankind had with God (see Isaiah 59:1-2), without which there is no life. Accordingly, separated from God, mankind has no future beyond physical death unless God acts. The wages of sin is eternal death, and there will not be everlasting life unless God gives it as a gift.

Later in the same context, Paul substitutes the word “condemnation” for “death”:

And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense [Adam's sin] resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. . . . Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. (Romans 5:16, 18)

Adam did not physically die in the instant he sinned, but at that moment, he was brought under eternal condemnation. This is why Jesus said things like “let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22; Luke 9:60). Those who had not been called into a relationship with God were living in a state of death—condemnation—despite going about the normal activities of life. These people were devoid of spiritual life; they were the spiritual “walking dead.”

A major reason for Christ's incarnation was so that mankind could be redeemed from this state of death—condemnation—and given an opportunity for eternal life. Thus, He says, “If anyone keeps My word he shall never see death” (John 8:51). The Jews did not grasp His meaning: Those who keep His Word will never see eternal death; they will not lose the eternal life that comes from knowing the Father and Christ (John 17:3) following the Father's call (John 6:44, 65). However, He implies that those who have His Word and do not keep it will return to a state of condemnation.

— David C. Grabbe
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Post  Admin on Wed 18 Dec 2019, 11:46 pm

Proverbs 26:2
(2) Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow,
So a curse without cause shall not alight.

New King James Version  

We can understand "curse" in several ways: as the invoking of evil or misfortune upon another, or as the evil or scourge itself. The proverb primarily deals with invoking a curse against another when no justification for doing so exists. Such a curse is akin to the aimless flitting of birds, suggesting that it will have no effect. It will not "hit" its intended target.

We can definitely consider the tragedies of September 11 as a curse. However, God undoubtedly approved of it, or it never would have happened. This curse hit, and it hit hard. Therefore, we must conclude that there was more than ample justification for it falling upon this nation. The death toll was approximately 3,000 people, a horrendous figure to be sure, but it pales when compared to just one other death-toll figure: Every day in the United States over 4,000 human lives are snuffed out of existence by abortion. In the 30 days following September 11, 120,000 lives ceased to exist. Of those 120,000 abortions, 95% of them—114,000—occurred solely for the mother's convenience!

Is it any wonder that God cries out in Ezekiel 7:23, "Make a chain, for the land is filled with crimes of blood, and the city is full of violence." George Mason, whose great influence can be seen in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, wrote that sin "brings the judgment of heaven upon a country. . . . By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence [God] punishes national sin by national calamities." George Washington declared in his First Inaugural Address, "We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained."

The apostle Paul states in Romans 9:14. "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!" As a people, we are guilty and fully deserve anything He in His loving wisdom decides to inflict upon us. Most assuredly, we are not innocent victims. Individually, few of us have sinned against any of the people, groups, or nations that may have done this, but as citizens, we are part of this nation, and our well-being rises and falls with it. We have eagerly accepted God's overflowing abundance of material blessings with which He showered this nation. So when He judges that we need to be brought down a peg—or many pegs—we would do well to consider deeply the many ways we may have offended the great God who created us and gives us every breath of air we breathe.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Tue 17 Dec 2019, 5:44 pm

Genesis 3:1-5
(1) Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, "You shall not eat of every tree of the garden"?" (2) And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; (3) but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, "You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die."" (4) Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. (5) For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
New King James Version 

The word “shrewd” more closely captures Satan's character than "cunning." Shrewd means “sharp and clever in a selfish way.” Though “cunning” is not incorrect, “shrewd” has clearer connotation.

To be cunning and shrewd like Satan indicates malevolent brilliance—with the emphasis on malevolent. He is seeking to kill. His cunning is like that of a tiger, silently padding through the jungle with eyes malevolently seeking something to kill and eat.

Consider how clever his tactic was. He subtly made a suggestion rather than an argument to discredit God's authority, casting doubt about God's credibility. Satan asked, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'"

Through the tone and inflection of his voice, Satan implied that there was doubt that God told them the truth. This is shown by the way Eve replied; she corrected him. She knew from the inflection of his voice that he was really asking a question and casting doubt. When she replied, she over-corrected.

Like a good salesman, the serpent got his victim to agree with him, getting the victim to say “Yes, yes, yes,” and then, "I'll buy it!" Eve was already influenced when she gave her reply because she over-corrected.

Satan successfully magnified God's strictness in her mind, reminding her that the way is narrow. She began to agree with him, thinking about God in terms the serpent wanted her to think. She began to agree, saying “Yes, yes, yes” to the salesman's ploys.

Satan immediately minimized the penalty, saying an outright lie, "You shall not die" (3:4). Then to clinch the sale, he offers her a reward: "You shall be like God" (3:5). What a price she paid! Satan offered a reward that must have seemed so big to Adam and Eve that they could not afford to reject it. What he offered was enough to reorient their lives.

They did not catch the complete significance of what he offered, but enough to know it was big. He offered the self to become the dominating focus of life; "You shall be God." He completely reoriented their lives by turning their focus away from obedience to God toward obedience to the self. He gave them the right to choose and to set the standards of right and wrong. They bought it hook, line, and sinker.

From that point on, mankind has viewed God as a rival and competitor rather than a friend—Someone with whom to compete and outwit rather than cooperate, for they were now gods too!

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Mon 16 Dec 2019, 5:38 pm

 Ecclesiastes 7:21-22
(21) Also do not take to heart everything people say,
Lest you hear your servant cursing you.
(22) For many times, also, your own heart has known
That even you have cursed others.

New King James Version  

Solomon deals with what might be a lingering effect of the paradoxical trial found in verse 15. While the individual endures what transpires, it attracts the attention of others, usually close friends and family members—and they talk. This kind of talk has a tendency to intensify the trial's discomfort.

The talking might be better called “gossip,” but that is not an absolute because it may be sincere, well-intentioned conversation. Even if it is sincere, well-intended, and in no way malicious, the one experiencing the paradox may take it very hard, making overcoming more difficult.

Human nature is prone to take advantage of another's hard times, pointing out and passing on what it thinks are his or her mistakes or outright character weaknesses. But for that other person, it is like taking a punch to the gut. Every one of us will be on the receiving end of gossip, maybe even frequently.

Why is it so difficult to deal with? It damages our pride, our opinion of ourselves. The best defense against it is a clear conscience, that is, to be innocent of what the gossiper supposes of us and to be consistent in goodness, a fruit of God's Spirit. Such a person can patiently weather the passing of the gossipy storm clouds.

Though He was perfectly innocent, Jesus had to endure the taunts of others. Should we expect to escape the same? Thus, verse 22 follows with the reminder that we are in all likelihood guilty of practicing the same against others. What goes around comes around. What one sows, one also reaps (Galatians 6:7). It is a character weakness to give in to the hurt feelings, forgetting that none of us is infallible, and we might have given cause for the grief now coming back on us.

Can we remember the times we lost our tempers and called somebody a “stupid idiot”? Can we remember when we cut somebody off on the highway and given others grief? How many times have we forgotten, been late, or been outright careless in our self-centeredness? Since we have not been absolutely pure in character ourselves, we cannot claim the high ground above others, maintaining we do not deserve the gossip.

God's counsel through Solomon is that it is best just to take our licks, repent, and do better in the future without feeling we have the right to complain.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Sun 15 Dec 2019, 11:32 am

Hebrews 10:1
(1) For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
New King James Version   


Scripture clearly teaches that the Old Covenant ceremonies are symbolic of essential, New Covenant, spiritual truths. Further, the author reinforces this by saying they are "a shadow of good things to come." The verb "having" in Hebrews 10:1 is a present active participle, expressing continuous or repeated action. This means that the Old Covenant ordinances of divine service and the sanctuary are still valid and effective teaching vehicles.


Where there is a shadow, there must also be a reality. In this instance, the reality is the life of Christ—the reality we are to strive to emulate as closely as we can, "as dear children," as Paul puts it, to be "a sweet-smelling aroma" to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).


In Luke 24:27, Jesus buttresses this concept while instructing the two men on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection: "And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Jesus draws teaching from the books of Moses to show parallels with His own life.


Be careful not to make the careless mistake of thinking of the offerings as childish, insignificant, primitive, or barbaric. Undoubtedly, they are different from what we are culturally familiar. However, these quoted scriptures make it clear that God intended all along to use them as teaching vehicles. To those under the Old Covenant, the offerings looked forward to what would occur. We look back on what occurred and accept the spiritual intent of the teaching as applicable to us under the New Covenant.


The sacrifices of Leviticus stood at the heart of the worship of God under the Old Covenant. The overall image we may retain from them may indeed be of an endless number of bulls, sheep, goats, and birds slaughtered and burned with profound solemnity on a smoking altar. However, there is absolutely no doubt that they prefigured the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in His death by crucifixion. Less understood is that they also foreshadowed the depth of His consecrated devotion to God and man in His life. Even less understood is how they demonstrate the life we also are to exemplify as living sacrifices.


Is not being living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, and not being conformed to this world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds into the image of Christ our Redeemer, to be at the center of our lives once we are redeemed (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:13)?


— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Sat 14 Dec 2019, 4:52 pm

Luke 13:10-13
(10) Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. (11) And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. (12) But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, "Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity." (13) And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
New King James Version   

Luke describes the woman as crippled by “a spirit of infirmity eighteen years” and “bound” (verse 16) by Satan. Without denying the historicity of the event, Luke's placing this miracle at this point in his narrative has obvious symbolic value. Jesus' mission among the Jews was to “loose” them from crippling influences and bring them to uprightness. This miracle is a graphic example of Jesus making a literally crooked woman upright.

Jesus healed her by His words and by touching her. He could have healed her by a word only, and as seen in other miracles, He did not even need to be in the same place, city, or country. However, in laying His hands on her, He shows everyone the value of her obeying God and coming to Him. Had she refused, He could not have touched her. Nothing good comes to those who disregard God's Word (Romans 2:8; II Thessalonians 1:8; I Peter 4:17).

People often pray for the “touch” of God upon their lives, which is not a bad prayer. Yet, if we want God to touch us, we must draw near to Him. We cannot keep our distance from Him in fellowship. We must walk closely with Him at all times if we want His influence upon our lives.

— Martin G. Collins
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Post  Admin on Fri 13 Dec 2019, 9:09 pm

2 Corinthians 11:14-15
(14) And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. (15) Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
New King James Version   

The Bible does not typically portray practitioners of the occult and the demons behind them in a particularly macabre way. We moderns have been conditioned to imagine Satan, his demons, and their human minions as dark beings of pure ugliness, bearing attributes of horror and death. We have swallowed this deception from our historical culture and from the images presented by the media to entertain the masses and make millions of dollars.

Yet, while God's Word warns us against Satanic deceptions, it does not provide the standard horror movie images. In fact, it often does just the opposite, cautioning us with the fact that the Devil and his demons do their best to appear as appealing to our senses as they can be. From what we see in Genesis 3, the serpent did not repulse Eve; to her in her innocence, he was logical and quite convincing. In Ezekiel 28, the description of the king of Tyre, a type of Satan, lauds him as “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (verse 12). It describes a creature whose beauty and magnificence turned his heart proud and corrupt (verse 17).

Though he and his demons have been cast down, at least some of their beauty remains, for Paul tells us in II Corinthians 11:14-15: “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers [servants] also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” Demons do not always look like snakes, dragons, gargoyles, or goblins but have the ability to appear attractive to us when it suits them. If accosted by a ghoul, we would shrink in horror and flee. Demons, though, are all about deception, and appearing as good and beautiful is far more subversive. People are far more likely to trust a physically appealing person than an old hag or troll.

Thus, while the tone of I Samuel 28 is at times stressed, suspicious, and fearful—as one would expect when encountering demonic powers—there is nothing blatantly horrifying or even ugly in the narrative. This tells us that a demon, being manipulative to the extreme, will appear to a person in a way that he thinks will work best for his purposes. A demon will stoop to whatever trick he deems necessary, even to appearing as a minister of righteousness.

— Richard T. Ritenbaugh 
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Post  Admin on Thu 12 Dec 2019, 7:44 pm

1 Corinthians 12:10

(10) to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

New King James Version   

 
To discern spirits is a supernatural ability enabled by God's Holy Spirit that allows a person to determine the source of a spiritual manifestation, whether it emanates from God, the Devil, the world, or man. If we have this gift, God will reveal information about the presence or absence of spiritual entities. Usually, people regard this gift as useful to detect evil spiritual forces or influences. It can also detect the presence or absence of angelic intervention or the prompts of God's Holy Spirit working within us.
 
The apostle John writes in I John 4:1, "Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test [try] the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." We are commanded to examine thoroughly any spiritual teaching with our critical faculties to see whether the presenter is handling the Word of God accurately. Because evil spirits have the capacity to produce paranormal phenomena, the Scriptures exhort us to prove or test the spirits, proving all things, holding fast only to what is good (I Thessalonians 5:21).
 
It is highly imperative that we use our God-given reasoning and understanding in doing this, but we should not rely exclusively on our intellect. Likewise, it is unwise to allow our inward feelings to sway us, but we should seek the guidance of God's Holy Spirit. Undoubtedly, the most reliable guide concerning the testing of Spirits would be the Scriptures. We know that God's Word—the Bible—is truth (John 17:17).
 
We must remember that just reading or mumbling God's Word without understanding is next to useless. We have leaders who eloquently read teleprompters but have not the foggiest notion of what they are saying. Likewise, reading the Word of God without understanding makes us a spiritual "empty suit." Reading God's Word with understanding via the Holy Spirit enables us to tap into the spiritual realm, know "the things of God," and make right judgments (I Corinthians 2:10-16).
 
— David F. Maas
 
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Post  Admin on Thu 12 Dec 2019, 12:18 am

 Luke 6:46
(46) "But why do you call Me "Lord, Lord," and not do the things which I say?
New King James Version  

This verse poses a question that we need to answer correctly to make righteous use of our knowledge of God. A powerful influence works in us to justify why we do not conform to God's way more thoroughly, despite what we know. If we must learn any lesson in all of life, it is that God is God, and His Word is sure. Virtually everything in life on this earth is under the sway of Satan, working through carnal-minded men at enmity against God. The Devil's way is designed to influence men's thinking to believe that man is supreme, while simultaneously giving lip service to God as if they know Him.

What does the Bible reveal about this? Do men not have power, knowledge, and will? Of course! But what happens when they come into conflict with God's will? What happened when man tried to build the Tower of Babel? Or when Pharaoh attempted to keep Israel in slavery in Egypt? Or when Balaam sought to curse Israel? Could the Canaanites thwart Israel's invasion of the land? Did Saul manage to kill David? Could Jonah resist God's command to preach to Nineveh? Could Nebuchadnezzar execute Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Did Herod succeed in slaying the infant Jesus?

Proverbs 19:21 says, "There are many plans in a man's heart, nevertheless the LORD's counsel—that will stand." Do we consult with God before we launch into pursuing our plans? Many times, we fail to do this because He is so far from our thinking in practical, everyday situations that we do not consider if He has any plans for us as part of His will.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Dec 2019, 10:46 am

Proverbs 27:17
(17) As iron sharpens iron,
So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

New King James Version  

This is another indication from Scripture that, when we are in the companionship and the fellowship of others, we tend to shape each other. We rub off on each other.

A clear illustration of this is our relationship with our children. When a child is born, he is not born with the inflections or the twangs of the area into which he is born. Nobody has to teach anybody how to speak "Brooklynese" or "Southern." The nasal tone or drawl just rubs off. The child picks it up. It is ingrained within him unconsciously.

The same principle is at work in terms of character and personality. We rub off on each other. Are we rubbing off on each other for good, or are we rubbing off on each other for evil? Are we lifting one another up, or are we pulling one another down? We do not have to try consciously to do either. It will just happen. The world, largely, does not care how it rubs off on others - except that human nature wants people to think well of it, even while it is doing evil.

But in our Christian fellowship, we have the responsibility before God to work to rub off on each other for good. As long as we are conducting ourselves aright, it will rub off in the right way. In other words, all we have to do is work on ourselves. If we work on ourselves, then the projection of the self, the spirit that will go out from us, will be right, and it will have the right kind of impact.

God intends that prayer be an act of a free moral agent who consciously chooses to fellowship with God for the development of their relationship and the completion of himself as an individual.

Do we realize that, when we pray, we are in the presence of God, and He has the opportunity to rub off on us? It seems so simple as to be almost unbelievable, but it is right. Some of His Spirit reaches out and begins to affect us for good. Prayer is a major tool in our spiritual development through God's rubbing off on us. All the while this is happening, our minds are being subtly shaped by Him because we are in His presence.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Mon 09 Dec 2019, 8:45 pm

Proverbs 26:28
(28) A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it,
And a flattering mouth works ruin.
New King James Version   

Clearly, lying is an act of hatred. It is so bad that it can bring ruin to those it is used against, and like a boomerang, it will return to destroy those who employ it.

Here is a good maxim to live by: Never believe anything bad about a person unless you know it to be absolutely true; never even tell that absolute truth to another unless it is absolutely necessary; and remember when you do tell it, God is listening.

Galatians 6:7-8 contains an important principle: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life." All who believe God must deal with this reality. God cannot be fooled. Neither can God's law be fooled, just as the law of gravity cannot be fooled. A person cannot treat God or His law with contempt and get away with it. We are accountable to it whether we wish to be or not.

This principle teaches that what a man does to life, life does back to him. It is inescapable. "Do men gather grapes of thornbushes or figs of thistles?" Jesus asks (Matthew 7:16). The hypocrite cannot fool God's laws, only other people—and himself—for a while. This principle is instructing us not to delude ourselves into thinking that we will somehow escape its power. We must always strive to live the truth, which is a difficult job considering the heart within.

The prophet writes in Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" The Hebrew word translated deceitful can mean in this context "faithless, insincere, hypocritical, underhanded, false, dishonest, treacherous, sneaky, double-dealing, tricky, cunning, and crafty." They all apply.

The phrase desperately wicked, which can also be rendered as "perverse" or "incurable," implies that the heart knows better but does it anyhow. It is addicted to deceit or faithlessness! Who can fathom its treachery or corruptness? We know where this came from! "The prince of the power of the air" is largely responsible for this evil proclivity because his spirit dominates life in this world (Ephesians 2:2; II Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9). He was a liar from the beginning (John 8:44), deceiving himself into believing that he could overcome his Creator (Isaiah 14:12-14)!

Solomon says in Proverbs 11:9, "The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered." This proverb comforts Christians by reminding us that we have a hedge about us. It also reminds us that, eventually, truth will out. The flipside of this is that the lies, too, will be exposed and with them the condemnation of the liar. Why is this certain? Because there is a God in heaven overseeing His children's well-being.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Sun 08 Dec 2019, 11:33 am

 Exodus 20:7
(7) "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

New King James Version   

The third commandment is certainly against common swearing, including using euphemisms so common in society. Many commonly use "gee," "gosh," "golly," "got all muddy," "cheese and rice," "Jiminy Cricket," and "doggone" to substitute for the more offensive words some carelessly spew forth. This commandment also covers the light or disrespectful use of any of God's attributes or character.

All the Divine Names and Titles in the Bible, by Herbert Lockyer, lists 364 names and titles just for Jesus Christ. Through His names and titles, God has chosen to reveal His attributes, office, authority, prerogatives, and will. Each name of God features some distinct virtue or characteristic of His nature. Thus, God has declared the glory of His nature by His names, which are not to be abused.

It is this commandment more than any other that shows how much God should be a part of our every word, deed and attitude. It shows that the test of our spiritual cleanliness is how we use the name of God, whether in truth or vanity. It indicates that a man is better off being sincerely wrong than to be a professing Christian and deny His name by the conduct of his life.

To help us know David, the Bible shows him as a shepherd, warrior, king, prophet, poet, musician and sinner, each a part of a rich nature. God is manifold times greater, yet He reveals Himself, His nature, just as the Bible reveals David. We see God in a multitude of circumstances, revealing what He is by the way He acts and reacts. He also names Himself what the circumstances reveal of Him, so whenever we see that name, it also brings to mind an aspect of His nature. Thus, He gives us a double-barreled revelation of Himself.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Sat 07 Dec 2019, 10:41 pm

 Jude 1:13
(13) raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
New King James Version   

Jude continues the nautical theme begun in verse 12 by calling the false ministers "raging waves of the sea." He describes them as storms in the church, causing trouble and turbulence wherever they go. James describes the doubting person in a similar way (James 1:6-8), as wind-tossed waves, double-minded, and unstable in everything. Such people will end up causing problems. Such waves toss people into hidden rocks, or as his brother Jude puts it, hidden reefs. Naive members can become caught in the turbulence and eventually be turned from the truth.

He then describes them as "foaming up their own shame." It is quite a picturesque phrase. He alludes to the foam on the beach after a storm. The strand is littered with all kinds of driftwood and other debris a storm can dredge up. They brag about their past feats as great accomplishments, but a godly eye sees them for what they are: shameful deeds.

He also calls them "wandering stars," another nautical allusion, this time to the movement of the planets. Mariners used the fixed stars - not the planets - to guide their ships over the trackless sea. They would align themselves toward a certain star to reach their destination. These teachers are supposed to be leaders, guides for those who are not as experienced on the road of life, but as we would say, they are all over the map! They go here and there, this way and that. It is the blind leading the blind, and anyone following them will fall into a ditch (Matthew 15:14). They are unreliable guides. They give horrible advice. They are not worth even talking to about one's problems because they will lead a person astray.

Jude foretells their fate at the end of the verse: "for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." The literal translation of this is really dark: "Their fate is the utter darkness of darkness for eternity." Lights out forever! James 3:1 says that those who are teachers will receive the stricter judgment, and this is an example of it: the utter darkness of darkness forever. God takes the deception of His people personally.

— Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Fri 06 Dec 2019, 8:22 pm

1 Corinthians 13:12
(12) For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
New King James Version   
One translator describes what "we see in a mirror, dimly," as "a riddle and an enigma." Paul suggests that now we do not see God nearly as clearly as we would like, but the time is coming when we will see Him in startling and bold clarity. He is illustrating a time-consuming process of change that gradually transforms.

The important element for us is that now, because of His merciful revelation of Himself to us, we do see a portion of His eternal glory, even if imperfectly. Others are totally blind to even the part we see imperfectly. We are in the process of becoming just like Him, and we will share His very life in glory, as I John 3:2 assures us: "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

Jude 24 provides measureless encouragement if we will believe what it says: "Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. . . ." We will be without spot, blemish, or wrinkle; we are going to experience perfection.

This is what is promised to us to enjoy when we see Him as He is, when we have the fullness of His Spirit, when we are fully redeemed. Moreover, because of the gift of God's Spirit, we are also promised a small foretaste in this life. We can know something of the joy of holiness and the hatred of sin as Christ knew them. God wants us to experience the love, joy, and peace that passes all understanding. At the time of our full redemption, God will wipe away all tears, and our joy will be unmeasured and unmixed.

Do we love God and our brethren? As the apostle John teaches, they go together; they cannot be separated. We have our failings on both scores. Because we belong to Christ, we can experience that love. Its fruits are just budding, but in the Kingdom of God, we will experience it in full flower.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Thu 05 Dec 2019, 1:13 pm

1 Corinthians 15:55-58

(55) ' O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?' (56) The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. (57) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (58) Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
New King James Version  



Is it still possible for us to sin and experience sin's sting? As long as the laws that define sin exist, the possibility of death remains because it is possible for us to break those laws. This is why verse 58 urges us so strongly to be steadfast and immovable in the work of the Lord. His work in us as individuals is to refine our character so that we never sin. We are in training to be in God's image, and God does not sin.

The term “sting” illustrates what is painful about sin. The most painful element involved in sin is death, and with death, all hope is lost. Sin kills. Do we believe that? Sin is the cause of death. The function of the laws of God is to provide knowledge of sin. God's laws give us knowledge of what to do and what not to do. Sin is still to be feared!

We must be careful, though, because our carnal nature is so deceitful that by giving us knowledge of what not to do, sin can actually play a role in arousing us to desire a taste of it, to experience its excitement. And so we can give in to sin. We must fight this desire with all our being. After God commanded her not to eat of the tree in the midst of the Garden of Eden, Eve failed to fight the intriguing desire, and she ended up sinning! God's laws have never been against us; He designed they for our good. They continue to give us guidance about what is right.

Our sins imposed the death penalty on us—and ultimately on our Savior—in the first place and still do if we continue sinning after He pays the debt. God's laws have not changed, and the penalty for breaking them remains the same despite Jesus' merciful payment on our behalf. Irrespective of the New Covenant, the laws continue to define sin. If we continue sinning, His death for our benefit is absolutely wasted. Specifically, at our baptism, His death pays only for sins committed in the past.

Christ's death is the means, the way, that opens the door for completing the perfection of our character into His image in preparation for the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit God gives us through the laying on of hands is the means of keeping His laws far more perfectly than before our calling. Sins committed after accepting His shed blood can put one on the road to the Lake of Fire because His death did not remove our obligation to obey the law. We must repent of sins committed following baptism so they do not produce more severe consequences.

God's laws still exist and are still in force, guiding us in living God's way.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Wed 04 Dec 2019, 1:01 pm

2 Timothy 2:5
(5) And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
New King James Version  

The apostle takes this metaphor from athletics. He advises Timothy that, if he is striving to win in his ministry, he will not be crowned unless he disciplines himself to follow the rules.

In games (whether it is a card game, croquet out in the backyard, basketball, or whatever), one is often confronted with the opportunity to bend or to break the rules. The player must discipline himself, or face the penalties - or even find himself disqualified. If one breaks the rules in football, he receives a 5-yard, 10-yard, or 15-yard penalty. In some games, the rule-breaker just gets thrown right out! The athlete, then, must discipline himself.

Yet, Paul is using this in regard to members of God's church. If we desire to be crowned, we will have to strive within the rules. We will have to discipline ourselves. In Timothy's case, the rules are scattered throughout Paul's epistle to him. In terms of the Sabbath and the annual feast days, they are the only days in the entire Bible that God designates as "holy." They are part of "the rules."

God never gives His approval to Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, but only the seventh day, the Sabbath. He never gives His approval to Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and all of the other manmade holidays, but only the ones He points out to us in Leviticus 23. If we are going to strive for the mastery within the rules, they are what we will have to live with and use in the proper way.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Tue 03 Dec 2019, 11:54 am

Hebrews 9:15-17
(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. (16) For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. (17) For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.
New King James Version  

Christ did this so that we can serve God. Thus, in order for us to serve God personally, we must be close to Him. Sin separates! What does sin do to relationships, either with humans or with God? It divides. When a person steals from another, do they become closer? If a spouse commits adultery, does that bring a married couple closer? No, it drives them apart. If a person covets something belonging to another person, does their relationship blossom? Sin separates.

Above all, it separates us from God. How can we be close to Him as long as we are sinning? Something had to be done, first of all, to bridge the gap: The sins had to be forgiven. Therefore, Jesus Christ, when He qualified by being blameless, voluntarily offered Himself to be the sacrifice that would overcome the division.

Before He did this, knowing He would die, He made out a will. He said, "When I die, those who take advantage of My death will inherit what I have inherited." The inheritance is to be in His Family! With it goes all the other promises: the promises of the Holy Spirit, eternal life, all the gifts, continual forgiveness, etc.

Whatever is needed, He will supply it. He will continue to stand between God and us, for a priest is one who bridges the gap between different parties to bring them together. He is saying, "When I am resurrected, I will always stand in the gap and be there when you need Me, and I will administer the Spirit of God."

Being brought close to God not only enables us to serve Him, it also enables the Father to serve us. Because we are in His presence, He can distribute to us the gifts than enable us to continue. Christ, then, is shown to be the Sacrifice for forgiveness of sin; the Mediator of peace between God and us; the Testator who died, passing on the benefits to us. These benefits work to remove the flaw, allowing us to keep the terms of the New Covenant.

We can then have a sustained and wonderful relationship with God. We can have His laws written on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10) and so be transformed into His image, qualified to share the inheritance of the promises with Him because we are like Him.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Sun 01 Dec 2019, 9:32 pm

Matthew 9:29
(29) Then He touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith let it be to you."
New King James Version   

Jesus says, "According to your faith let it be to you," similar to His words to the centurion whose servant was dying in Matthew 8:13. In both cases, the condition for the miraculous cure is faith. Faith opens the door for divine blessing; its lack closes the door. Christ could do few mighty works in Nazareth due to the people's lack of faith (Matthew 13:57-58). Similarly, salvation is a great work, but unbelief prevents it. It is important to study the Word of God to increase faith, as it comes by hearing or reading God's Word (Romans 10:17).

"Their eyes were opened" is more than a description of a literal action; it is also a Hebrew figure of speech. The Jews thought of blind eyes as "shut," and seeing eyes as "open." Jesus removes two men's blindness—they can now see and comprehend what was once closed to them. Thus, the opening of the eyes also suggests spiritual understanding.

Most people do not grasp the value or the meaning of Scripture, but Christ can open a person's eyes to enable him to understand His Word just as He did for His disciples after His resurrection (Luke 24:16-31, 45). The psalmist prays, "Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law" (Psalm 119:18).

— Martin G. Collins
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Post  Admin on Sat 30 Nov 2019, 10:27 pm

  Isaiah 27:12-13
(12) And it shall come to pass in that day
That the LORD will thresh,
From the channel of the River to the Brook of Egypt;
And you will be gathered one by one,
O you children of Israel.
(13) So it shall be in that day:
The great trumpet will be blown;
They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria,
And they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt,
And shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.
New King James Version   

There is no doubt about the context in which this appears. A great trumpet is going to be blown, undoubtedly the seventh trumpet. What will happen at the seventh trumpet? The context says that God is going to bring the children of Israel back into their land, showing God making a judgment that involves, not only the people of Israel, but also the land of Israel.

The word that is translated "thresh" is not the ordinary word for that activity. Ordinarily whenever threshing is done, the Bible shows the grain either laid on a firm surface and then beaten with a stick, or taken in hand and beaten against something solid, like a wall. The purpose for this is to break the wheat berries from the stock, and it generally takes a fair amount of force to do this.

The word "thresh" here does not indicate that kind of threshing but a method that is more careful and gentle. This word is applied when a person gently strikes an individual piece of fruit—like an apple, peach, or pear—from the branch, or when the tree is gently shaken so that the fruit falls out.

Here is God's judgment. At that time, the children of Israel will not be in a condition in which they will need to be beaten. Taking all of the scriptures on this together, we find that they will be returning to their land weeping, their wild spirit broken. It has been broken, of course, through the tribulation and the Day of the Lord. So as He is gathering, He is doing it one by one, leading them, as it were, by the hand.

At that time it is God's judgment that the children of Israel will need more than the usual amount of concern. He is indicating not just a separation from the nations, but that an act of purification is also taking place.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Fri 29 Nov 2019, 9:08 pm

Hebrews 10:35-39
(35) Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. (36) For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
(37) "For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
(38) Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him." (39) But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
New King James Version   
 
This is not the first time faith or its opposite, unbelief, is mentioned in Hebrews. The very purpose of the entire epistle is to recapture, build, and sustain in its recipients their faith in the superiority of Jesus Christ Himself and in His message, the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
 
Notice the strong, earlier statements Paul makes regarding unbelief:
 
» Hebrews 3:12, 19: Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. . . . So we see that [the Israelites in the wilderness] could not enter in[to the Promised Land] because of unbelief.
 
» Hebrews 4:2: For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
 
These are weighty statements. The Israelites failed to accomplish their responsibility of walking from Egypt to the Promised Land primarily because of one weak element in their character. They did not believe God or His messenger Moses. They did not listen thoughtfully or yieldingly.
 
Because of the warning contained within Hebrews 10:35-39, chapter 11 places the virtue of faith in direct contrast to the sin of unbelief by exposing what unbelief caused to occur. The Israelites drew back in fear rather than trusting God and boldly going forward. Thus, the main point of the epistle of Hebrews is that they will be destroyed who, by failing to put their trust in the living God, shrink back from this Christian war we have been called to fight, whereas those who believe will be saved.
 
— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Thu 28 Nov 2019, 7:39 pm

 1 Corinthians 1:18-21
(18) For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (19) For it is written:
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." (20) Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (21) For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
New King James Version   

We need a voice - a preacher, a true minister of God - to make the message clear.

By nature, our desires are likely to run amok. We think we know what we want, but we do not always know what we need. A minister's function within the church is to lead us from what we want to what we need.

A brief article excerpted from an old Fortune magazine article chided church pastors for following rather than leading their flocks. The result, it said, was a vicious, downward spiral of spiritual disillusionment in the congregates. The following quotation from that article is quite insightful:

There is only one way out of the spiral. The way out is the sound of a voice. Not our voice, but a voice coming from something not ourselves, in the existence of which we cannot disbelieve. It is the earthly task of the pastors to hear this voice, to cause us to hear it, and to tell us what it says.

This statement is backed up by Romans 10:13-17:

For "whoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah said, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

How can people call on God if they never heard of Him and do not know Him? Paul answers that they cannot hear without a preacher. A preacher cannot go unless he is sent, commissioned as an ambassador with a message revealed to him. Paul's summary is that faith - saving faith - arises from this combination of acts after the message is heard and believed. Faith comes by hearing the Voice of God spoken through a duly ordained messenger of God. This, in effect, means that only He who sends the message can designate who bears it!

In addition, Paul is not simply describing the beginning of faith, but its beginning and all of the progress made by faith throughout a person's conversion. The very strength of faith is by hearing and believing. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Faith is the key that opens the door of salvation, but only to those who will hear and believe and redirect their lives accordingly.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Wed 27 Nov 2019, 12:08 pm

Hebrews 11:3
(3) By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
New King James Version   


We need to understand three words here. The first is "worlds," which is the Greek aion meaning "ages," "periods of time," or "dispensations." The author is not referring at all to the created world—the earth. He means periods of time.

The second word is "framed," which gives the impression of a person building something, but that is not the author's intent. The same word appears in Hebrews 10:5, "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared." This translation points to a different connotation.

The third word is "word." Normally, a Bible student would probably immediately think of logos as being the Greek for "word," but such is not the case here. It is instead the Greek word rhema, which means "the revealed word."

A good paraphrase of verse 3, then, would be: "By faith we understand that the ages were prepared by the revealed word of God." This verse is telling us that there is an unseen hand somewhere that is guiding the course of the periods through which mankind has lived! In other words, God is working out a purpose! People with faith look to the purpose He is working out and what He has revealed, and they see His hand guiding the destiny of nations as well as individuals.

This is an interesting, encouraging, faith-building concept because God is never far from the thoughts of a faithful person. Such a person, because he has had the mystery of God revealed to him—the purpose He is working out—begins to see God in everything that is happening because God is his companion. He has a relationship with Him. Because of his fellowship with God, he tries to see everything through God's eyes, as it were.

When God calls, one of the miracles He works in us by His Spirit gives us insight into His movements in the history of man. The Christian begins to see God in his environment, the earth—and discovers that it is all under God's control.

We can see where God says, "I raise up kings. I put down kings." Sometimes these are "the basest of men," but because we are beginning to think like God, we understand why He does such things. In Romans 13:1-2, we find out that all governments are ordained of God. He at least permits them to govern, and sometimes He directly installs them.

God is guiding and controlling events. Men think they are in control of what is happening, and some even think Satan is in control. No, God is in control. He is working out a purpose, and Satan is subject to Him and can only do what He allows him to do.

The psalmist says that God is not in all of the ungodly man's thoughts (Psalm 10:4). Andre Maurois, a French philosopher and writer, once said, "The universe is indifferent. Who created it? Why are we here on this puny mud heap, spinning in an infinite space? I have not the slightest idea, and I am quite convinced that no one has the least idea." This is the way man looks at things, but Christians had better not look at them like this because they will not operate by faith. If we are operating by faith, we can begin to see events and circumstances in their fuller scope, as well as how they fit and how important they are to the purpose God is working out.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Tue 26 Nov 2019, 8:28 pm

Romans 13:8-10
(8) Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. (9) For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (10) Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
New King James Version   

In verse 8, Paul has presented us with an interesting paradox. On the one hand, he states that we should owe no man anything that he can rightfully claim from us, yet on the other hand, we must owe everyone more than we can hope to pay—perfect love. By this, he extends and intensifies the concept of obligation. We must be more scrupulous within the limits of the customary concept of indebtedness, and we must infinitely widen the range within which they operate.

Was it not our failure to meet our obligations to God and man that accrued the unpayable debt in the first place? Now that the debt has been paid, we are under obligation, not only to strive to avoid falling into the same trap, but to expand and perfect the giving of love. The paradox is more apparent than real because love is not merely one's duty added to others, but is the inclusive framework within which all duties should be performed. Love is the motivating power that frees and enables us to serve and sacrifice with largeness of heart and generosity of spirit.

However, as long as we view love merely as the keeping of God's laws, we are stuck on a low-level, letter-of-the-law approach to righteousness. That is most assuredly a vital and necessary aspect of love, but there is far more to love. That level of love can be merely one of compulsion, and be done in a "just because" attitude: "I must love this person, but I don't have to like them." This may suffice for a while, but Paul, by drawing upon Christ's teaching, unveils an entirely new significance to the concept of obligation.

Of what level was the love of the fallen woman who washed Christ's feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them with her lips, and anointed them with costly oil? Was her conduct merely to keep a commandment, or was it an exquisite expression of a heart freed to give its all?

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE - Page 10 Empty Re: BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

Post  Admin on Mon 25 Nov 2019, 8:25 pm

Revelation 11:6
(6) These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.
New King James Version   

Like the last two verses, this one has obvious references to the Old Testament. The first miracle—no rain falling in the days of their prophecy—refers specifically to Elijah's 3½ year drought (I Kings 17-18). The second—waters turning to blood—is an obvious reference to the first plague that Moses brought upon Egypt (Exodus 7:14-25). This seems to be a return to the way God's servants worked before Jesus Christ came—specifically focusing on Elijah's and Moses' works.

The word "power" appears again. When somebody says, "These have power," we think in terms of energy or force or strength to do something. However, the implication of "power" here is authority. God gives them the authority, or the right, to cause these things to happen. In a way, they are given carte blanche to do what needs to be done.

In studying the lives of Elijah, Moses, and others of the prophets, we do not often see them going to God and saying, "Now, what should I do at this point? God, you know our enemies are coming, and I'm not sure what I should do." No, they just do whatever needs to be done. In II Kings 1, when the groups of fifty men and their captains come upon Elijah, the prophet was not sitting there and praying at the top of a hill, saying, "Oh, they're getting close. God, tell me what to do." He just called for fire from heaven and destroyed them. So, the Two Witnesses are given much the same authority at the time of the end. These two will have been trained and prepared by God to such an extent that they will know what to do. They will call upon God, and He will answer with power.

We do not find Jesus, for that matter, beseeching God for instruction about what to do. If someone came to Him for healing, He healed him. If someone needed a demon cast out, He cast out the demon. Once one has God's Spirit—and is in line with God's will—then these decisions are easier to make because, as Paul says in I Corinthians 2:16, "We have the mind of Christ." As we grow, we develop more of that mind of Christ, and we should be able to make decisions as Christ would make them.

So these Two Witnesses will be very much like Christ. They are witnesses of Him, as it says in the literal translation of verse 3. They are, in a way, some of the best representatives of Jesus Christ and His character that will have ever walked this earth. They will act like Christ as much as any two men can, and people in the world will see these two people as like Christ—and eventually treat them as they treated Christ.

— Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE - Page 10 Empty Re: BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

Post  Admin on Sun 24 Nov 2019, 4:39 pm

Matthew 5:3-12
(3) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(4) Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
(5) Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
(6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
(7) Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
(8) Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
(9) Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
(10) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (11) "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. (12) Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
New King James Version   

During His earthly lifetime, Jesus demonstrated these qualities in His own person, and He expects us to do likewise. It is interesting and noteworthy that God places the Sermon on the Mount near the beginning of the very first book in the New Testament, immediately after Jesus begins to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Also of note is that it follows His call for repentance - for deep, heartfelt, sincere, and radical change in a person's thinking and way of life. This change is what causes conversion to God's way. Then the Beatitudes appear as the preamble to the best-known sermon ever preached, teaching intended for those who have repented and are being converted.

We must not be deceived into thinking Jesus intended the Beatitudes for eight separate groups of disciples, some of whom are meek, while others seek righteousness, and yet others endure persecution. Far from it! These are eight distinct qualities of the same group, all of whom are to be poor in spirit, merciful, mourning, making peace, etc. Nor should we pass them off as intended only for an elitist group singled out from among the disciples, thus forming a kind of spiritual aristocracy. They are Christ's specifications of what every disciple ought to be. All of these qualities should characterize each of His followers.

Just as surely as every Christian character should produce all nine segments of the fruit of the Spirit, so Christ's eight Beatitudes describe His ideal for every citizen of God's Kingdom. Unlike the gifts of the Spirit, which He distributes as He wills to different members of His body to equip them for different kinds of service, the Beatitudes are qualities each Christian needs. We cannot escape our responsibility to seek them all.

Each beatitude pronounces the person who possesses that quality as "blessed." We need to understand this word because, as some have rightly noted, the Greek word used by Matthew, makarios, can also be translated as "happy." Happy, however, is not the correct translation in this context. Happiness is subjective; the same things do not always make everybody happy. And we can certainly rule out mourning as a producer of happiness. Instead, Jesus makes objective judgments about the state of the citizens of God's Kingdom. He declares, not what they feel like, but what God thinks of them. People with these qualities gain His approval. Because God thinks well of them, they are "blessed." God's blessing is far broader and exceedingly more important than merely being "happy."

The second half of each beatitude reveals what the blessing is. Just as surely as all eight of the qualities should be part of each Christian, so each should share in the eight blessings. As the eight qualities provide broad overviews of our responsibilities, the eight blessings give us insight into the broad privileges that come to us because we are meeting our responsibilities and God is pleased.

Are the promised blessings intended for the future or now? The answer is both. God does not expect a Christian to have to wait until the future becomes the present to be blessed. Although we must endure heavy trials and pressures from time to time, is it not possible to be blessed with contentment and a sense of well-being - rather than a troubled spirit and debilitating anxiety - while patiently going through them?

Is not the Kingdom of God a present reality that we can, as Paul says in Colossians 1:13, be "translated into" in the here and now? Can we not obtain mercy and be comforted now? Can we not become children of God now, and in this life have our hunger satisfied and thirst quenched? The reality is that all eight blessings have both a present and future fulfillment. We enjoy the firstfruits now, yet the full harvest is yet to come. As R.G.V. Tasker, professor of New Testament exegesis at the University of London, writes, "The future tense . . . emphasizes their certainty and not merely their futurity. The mourners will indeed be comforted, etc." (The Gospel According to St. Matthew, p. 61). We receive some of the blessing now but much more later.

John Donne, author of the poem used in the song, "No Man Is an Island," says of the Sermon on the Mount: "All the articles of our religion, all the canons of our church, all the injunctions of our princes, all the homilies of our fathers, all the body of divinity, is in these three chapters, in this one Sermon on the Mount." No doubt he employs a measure of hyperbole here, but it indicates the esteem that those who search deeply into this message hold for it. The Beatitudes are this profound message's introduction, paving the way for us to receive the rest. They are like a verbal bomb blast that forcefully gathers our attention by establishing standards of responsibilities of great height and depth.

Attempts to classify them into groups have met with some success, but John Chrysostom (AD 347-407) described them simply, "as a sort of golden chain." Like the Ten Commandments, each stands alone, but at the same time it is firmly linked to all the others, making a complete set of qualities each child of God must have to be in His Kingdom. One commentator sees the first three beatitudes as having overlapping qualities and combines them in one link, the following four in a second link, and the eighth as a final link in a three-link chain. The simplest grouping is probably the best, however. The first four, dealing specifically with one's relationship with God, sets the stage for the final four, which have more to do with one's relations to man.

— John W. Ritenbaugh


2 Corinthians 2:11
(11) lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
New King James Version   

The New King James translates "devices" as "wiles." We could also translate this word as "contrivances," "techniques," "stratagems," "plans," "procedures," "plottings," or "schemes." Whichever we choose, he has ways that are designed to achieve a particular goal.

A device, stratagem, technique, or contrivance might be thought of as being a tool to carry out a certain function. But in this context (see the notes at II Corinthians 10:3-5) the implication is that the device is primarily mental. He is clever and crafty. He possesses ingenious subtlety, but he also has a modus operandi that presents us with clues about his influence and tends to give him away, rendering much of his cleverness inoperative and making him easier to defeat.

The idea is to catch him as he begins to use his devices to twist us mentally to agree to the line of reasoning that he wants us to follow. If we can catch it as it begins, we will not be entrapped by it. We know that Adam and Eve did not catch it, and they were led astray.

One of a Christian's primary defenses against Satan, of course, has to be a prior awareness of his modus operandi—particularly his desire to turn good into evil. Perhaps nothing could be more devilish than to do such a thing. And in this very context, Paul suggests that Satan can get to a person through a spiritual quality that is good.

— John W. Ritenbaugh


John 1:1-3
(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God. (3) All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
New King James Version 

As this passage patently declares, the Word is Jesus Christ. He is God and is the Creator God of Genesis. “All things were made through Him.”

“Word” here is translated from the Greek logos. Strong's Concordance begins its definition as “something said.” In his Key Word Study Bible, Spiros Zodhiates begins his entry with “to speak.” Recall the method the Creator God used to create: He used words; He spoke. The Logos, the One who speaks, spoke this world and everything in it into existence (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, and 26).

Paul also testifies in Colossians 1:16 that Christ was the Creator:

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

Paul repeats John's idea in John 1:1 of the world being created “through Him,” indicating that Another authorized the works carried out by the Word. In the same verse, John affirms that another God Being was present: “the Word was with God.” Genesis 1:26 begins, “Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image.'” The “Us” is the Word and the other God, the One we now know as the Father (John 17:5).

In His last message to His disciples, Jesus confirms that He continued to follow the creation pattern. He spoke the words given to Him by the other God, God the Father: “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me . . .” (John 17:8).

In Genesis 1, the Creator God is called “God,” translated from the Hebrew word elohim. While this Hebrew word is plural in form, it often appears in combination with singular verbs and adjectives, indicating a body, group, class, or family that contains more than one member. John's description agrees. Both were God, both with the surname Elohim, of the Family called God, which is currently composed of the Father and the Son, as revealed in the New Testament.

— Pat Higgins


1 Peter 1:2
(2) elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.
New King James Version  

Peter's words are intended, not merely to instruct, but also to encourage. We listen to God's Word because God Almighty Himself personally chose us to do so. That needs to sink into our brains and become part of how we operate our lives. We are the chosen of God, elect according to His foreknowledge. That is, before we ever knew of the true God, He was watching us. He was monitoring us and waiting for the opportunity that, at just the right time, He would reveal Himself to us in just the right circumstance, just the right environment to give us the best opportunity to respond to the truth.

We can expand this process out to include the whole church. The church exists because God willed it so. The church does not exist because of human goodness, hopes, aspirations, vision, or dreams. It exists because of the eternal purpose of God, which is both a tremendous honor and responsibility.

God, working through His Spirit (notice, "in sanctification of the Spirit"), sets us apart, consecrates us, or makes us fit for His calling. God is a creator. That fact is what Peter explains here. His calling is the first step to prepare us to inherit His Kingdom. We should not limit the calling just to the initial time that He entered our lives, and we began to understand. His calling ultimately includes the whole process.

Peter states the goal He has in mind as "obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." It is the Spirit of God that makes the calling of God effective. It is a singular act, but at some time in our lives, He "messed with" our brain—He turned the light on—and we began to respond. He did this as a singular act at a specific time, but His calling is also a process that begins with that initial act and ends with resurrection into His Family. The sanctification of the Spirit of God ties all of it together.

The initial act by God opens our mind, which is the beginning of sanctification. It is like being given a second start, which Paul calls "regeneration" (Titus 3:5). Then comes the sanctification that arises with growth, overcoming, and becoming more like God. Finally, there is glorification, which is the ultimate in sanctification. The whole process is encompassed by the calling of God, and the Spirit of God ties all of these steps together.

— John W. Ritenbaugh


Ezekiel 9:1-8
(1) Then He called out in my hearing with a loud voice, saying, "Let those who have charge over the city draw near, each with a deadly weapon in his hand." (2) And suddenly six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with his battle-ax in his hand. One man among them was clothed with linen and had a writer's inkhorn at his side. They went in and stood beside the bronze altar. (3) Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer's inkhorn at his side; (4) and the LORD said to him, "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it." (5) To the others He said in my hearing, "Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. (6) Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were before the temple. (7) Then He said to them, "Defile the temple, and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!" And they went out and killed in the city. (8) So it was, that while they were killing them, I was left alone; and I fell on my face and cried out, and said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Will You destroy all the remnant of Israel in pouring out Your fury on Jerusalem?"
New King James Version  

Ezekiel's blood must have run cold when he heard God's judgment, which appears in the last verse of the previous chapter: "Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them."

Continuing the vision in Ezekiel 9, it relates a partial execution of that judgment. It is important to note here that the prophet witnesses God actually leaving His portable throne (described in detail in Ezekiel 1). At this point, "the glory of the God of Israel" actually demounts from it and removes, as verse 3 records, "to the threshold of the temple." So He has taken His place in the Temple, but not on the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies. He is, in effect, in the gate, a place of judgment.

And this is a momentous judgment. In verses 5-6, God commands some of the angels, "Go . . . through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women." This is a summary judgment on the entire populace of Jerusalem!

When Ezekiel heard this command, how did he respond? Certainly not in a self-righteous, I-told-you-so manner. When he is alone with God, the angels having left on their mission, he falls on his face in apparent anguish, crying out: "Ah, Lord GOD! Will You destroy all the remnant of Israel in pouring out Your fury on Jerusalem?" (verse 8).

This is a vital question. Ezekiel is concerned about the people and about the scope of God's judgment. Like Lot, he lived in his own kind of Sodom, in his own type of Gomorrah, and he felt anguish over the sin that he saw and heard and over its consequences—as it were, tormented by what was happening around him. Ezekiel was emotionally and spiritually tormented or tortured, not by what the pagans were doing around him, but by what the leaders and the people of Israel were doing in his immediate environment—and even in the Temple! Their wickedness and what they were about to suffer for it are what tormented this righteous man. In vision, he must have witnessed a terrible slaughter, and the trauma and shock of that vision affected him most acutely. Indeed, a prophet of God has no pretty job.

— Charles Whitaker
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