Charles Whitaker, focusing on Paul's admonition to the Ephesians that there be unity in the Body of Christ, suggests that, in the interests of preserving unity, God judges and then surgically separates hypocrites from real believers. This judgment-resulting-in-division model appears throughout Scripture in the episodes of the ones taken and the ones left behind, the wise and foolish virgins, the parable of the talents separating the productive from the indolent, and the good figs and bad figs in Jeremiah 24. In each of these cases, God divides the entire group into two parts, one blessed and one cursed. The archetype for this judgment-resulting-in-division pattern appears in Deuteronomy 27, where Moses directs that representatives from the twelve tribes of Israel publicly chant the Blessings from Mount Gerazim, a site without an altar, and the Curses from Mount Ebal, a site with an altar of rough stones and the Law written on plastered stones. The two venues prefigure future congregations, all of which acknowledge God's Law. The critical difference is that while the Gerizim group represents those who allow the law to be written on their hearts, the Ebal group represents those who, while giving lip service to the letter of the law, hypocritically practice sin secretly. Virtually all the curses focus on hidden sin. The hidden leavening of hypocrisy practiced by the Pharisees, using piety as a cloak for disgusting covert sins, has found its way into the Church of God. If God's Law has not been written in our hearts, completely altering our thoughts and behavior, the corporate entity in which we find ourselves will not save us from the wrong side of the judgmental cut.
John Ritenbaugh, acknowledging that sometimes the pace of the Feast of Tabernacles can be wearying, reminds us that God has commanded His people to rejoice and to develop a beneficial fear and respect for Him. Enjoying the feast to the hilt physically does not necessarily mean we had a good feast. If we do nothing to make a fine feast for someone else, we probably will not have a good feast. God commanded the Israelites to offer more sacrifices at the Feast of Tabernacles than at all the other Holy Days combined. We attain spiritual regeneration by participation. After the Babylonian captivity, people felt more inclined to serve than before, having cultivated a new appreciation for what they had lost—namely, God's precious law. Just because we are keeping God's festivals does not necessarily mean we are in sync with God's Law or His purpose for our lives. God commissioned Amos to write a powerful, stirring message to the ten northern tribes, warning them to prepare to meet their God and to change the attitudes which were polluting God's feasts. Israel, in the time of Amos, had drifted into the same moral cesspool as the modern Israelitish nations have today, laden down with corruption and bloodshed, just as America's Supreme Court has made sodomy and murder the law of the land. Amos warned against exalting symbolism over substance, clinging to Bethel as a religious shrine, while neglecting the fact that Bethel was the location where God renamed Jacob to Israel. God wants each of us individually to go through the same transformation as our father Jacob—from conniving schemer to a totally converted and submissive servant.
David C. Grabbe: ...The book's purpose appears in verses 3-4, where Jude states that he is writing to exhort his readers to fight for "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints," because of "certain men," as the apostle calls them, who had slipped in among the brethren, and were using the grace of God as license for evil. ...
Martin Collins, warning us to take our priestly responsibilities seriously, draws some parallels from the biblical examples demonstrating the purification of Levitical priests. Purification is an ongoing process in which we must put out the influences of the world. Jesus Christ, our High Priest, compels us to sacrifice ourselves through our reasonable service. The book of Malachi, with its emphasis on declining spiritual conditions, demonstrates some parallels to the state of today's scattered and damaged church, preoccupied with internal difficulties. We are being trained as a holy priesthood, called to offer unblemished sacrifices, reverently honoring our Heavenly Father's name, forcefully putting down pride, presumptuousness, and arrogance. Priests must continually demonstrate obedience to God, motivated by an attitude of service, and unhindered by laziness. A priest must focus on magnifying God's name, offering prayer as incense, and having a burning zeal for worship with no weariness and no deception. It is an honor and privilege to be called to the office of priest to assist our Elder Brother, the High Priest, and the Epitome of perfection. We must accept this office in humility, having accepted Christ's sacrifice, having pure thoughts, faithfully submitting to God, and benefitting one another.
Martin Collins, citing a Protestant commentator's article about the problem with Christmas, an article which admits pagan origin of this holiday and its contribution to religious confusion, marvels that the author wants to salvage the holiday anyway, even though it totally scuttles the truth. Human nature would rather indulge in pagan lies and idolatry, taking pleasure in unrighteousness, rather than be corrected or guided by truth. Christmas thrives in this syncretistic culture, having adopted the Roman Brumalia-Saturnalia festival, celebrating the birth of the invincible sun. The Roman Catholic Church carefully blended a little truth with a lot of falsehood in order to have the birthday of the Son of God coincide with the birth of the invincible sun. This shameless syncretism does not have God's endorsement. God does not approve of false ministers who try to appropriate God's words to promote their selfish ends, turning peoples' hearts away from Him. Pagan customs cannot be assimilated into the truth, as our forebears learned that worshipping a golden calf does not coincide with worshipping God. Christians need to extricate themselves from the worshiping of Satan. Regarding our beliefs, we must always start with God, not man, and that we regard the Bible, not human reason as our ultimate authority. Christmas seems to thrive on covetousness and the way of get, while God's holy days encourage the way of give.
How can we evaluate whether our Feast is 'good' or not? Using God's criticism of Israel's feasts in Amos 5, John Ritenbaugh shows that the pilgrimage locations of Bethel, Beersheba, and Gilgal provide instruction about what God wants us to learn from His feasts.
Over the past few generations, orthodoxy in virtually every aspect of life has been discarded, indicating how perverse human nature is in its determination to rebel against God. John Ritenbaugh uses several examples from real life to illustrate human presumption, a tendency which we all share—and one God takes a serious stance against.
Three brief essays, two by Richard Ritenbaugh and one by David Grabbe, contemplate the contradictions in Christmas, the modern debate over Christmas in an increasingly secular society, and the Christmas season as a time true Christians can make a godly witness.
John Ritenbaugh maintains that the best matrix for salvation (or to come out of Babylon) is to diligently seek God, a connection lost in the Garden of Eden. Christians must rigorously practice their faith, having their senses trained, growing from immaturity to maturity. Sanctifying implies growing into perfection. We cannot seek God by standing still, but must continually pray, study, meditate, and fast, growing daily in grace and knowledge. Our biggest danger at this time is to be lured into spiritual drunkenness by the pagan Babylonian system. Our God is not what we say we worship but whom we serve. We dare not be at ease in Zion, settling on our lees- tolerant of sin and blind to our spiritual state- practical atheism or prudent agnosticism. God teaches us that the uncleanness from this world can be transferred from one person to another, but holiness cannot be transferred from one person to another.
Halloween has become the second-most popular holiday on the calendar in recent years—even to the point that Christian churches sponser parties on it. Richard Ritenbaugh shows, however, that this night of ghouls not only lacks biblical foundation, but the Bible warns us against participating in such activities.
Many think keeping Christmas is fine because it honors Christ, yet God never tells us to celebrate the day of His Son's birth. John Ritenbaugh explains that it is presumptuous on many Christians' parts to believe that such a syncretized holiday could please God.
What is worship? What should our attitude be in worship? How do we worship God? Our God is seeking people to worship Him in spirit and truth!
What is faith? Is it something we work up or does God give it to us? Do we have the faith to be saved? Do we really trust God?
John Ritenbaugh warns that it is possible to have an enjoyable feast, but not keep the feast properly, failing to derive any spiritual profit. God expects the Feast of Tabernacles to be the spiritual high of the year. Paradoxically, if we go to the Feast with the goal of physically enjoying, we may lose out on both the spiritual and physical benefits. The attitude and purpose for keeping the Feast should focus upon the spiritual: serving, growing, overcoming, transforming, and producing spiritual fruit. The lesson of Amos 5 indicates that going through the motions, perhaps superstitiously acknowledging the historical ambience of the event, but in a smug, carnal, self-indulgent mode - without including the spiritual component - makes the entire event an abomination.
The third commandment, contemplating God's name, may be the most misunderstood of all. This commandment covers the quality of our worship.
A Bible study on idolatry, concentrating on the subject of the second commandment: the way we worship.
Many fail to perceive the difference between the first and second commandments. John Ritenbaugh explains that the second defines the way we are to worship the true God.
Though the holidays of this world in some ways counterfeit God's holy days, it is obvious that they are very different. God's Word shows that we should not be involved in them!
John Ritenbaugh insists that the reprobate mind God consigned to nonbelievers (a mind incapable of moral judgment) constitutes the basis for the world's dubious standards of morality and idolatry. Discernment of right and wrong comes exclusively from doing the will of God. Idolatry derives from worshiping the work of our own hands or our own mental fabrications (imposing our own will against God's) rather than the true God (to be worshiped only in spirit and truth). Whatever consumes our thoughts and behavior (motivated by lust or covetousness for something forbidden by God's law) has become our god or our idol.
Where did we get Christmas—from the Bible, or paganism? Here are the astonishing facts which may shock you! Test yourself. How much do you know of the origin of the Christmas tree—of "Santa Claus"—of the mistletoe—of the holly wreath—of the custom of exchanging gifts?