David Maas, focusing on Philippians 2:12, where Paul urges us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, takes issue with misguided theologians who have tried to create a false dichotomy between grace and works or grace and law. One of their common "proof-texts" is Ephesians 2:8-9; they emphasize verses 8 and 9, while failing to mention verse 10, which is logically connected to the preceding two verses through the conjunction gar, meaning because. Verse 10 clearly states that God has created us to do the works He was ordained for us. The scriptures are replete with cautions that God will critically appraise the works of His people. At the turn of the last century, insidious Protestant antinomian elements infiltrated into the Worldwide Church of God, savagely attacking such doctrinal concepts as "qualifying" and "building character," claiming that such concepts imply that we must work to "earn" salvation. Pointedly: We do not qualify for salvation, God has ordained that we surrender our lives to Him in order to build godly character. Because God has gifted us with free will, He cannot create character in us by fiat. Character comes only from choosing. Control over thoughts comes from choice. Christ will not control our thinking. Sanctification does not take place at the onset of our calling, but instead is a lifetime process which will not end until our death in the faith (or change at the First Resurrection). Our role in the sanctification process, insignificant as it may seem, consists of being junior partners (spiritual share-croppers), diligently cultivating the Fruits of God's Holy Spirit thought our post-calling experiences.
David Grabbe, reflecting on a notion that Sabbath-keeping is not a "salvational matter," urges that the question of a matter being "salvational" is a deceptive red herring, obscuring the real question: "Is it relational?" After Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command in a matter they must have considered "non-salvational," their relationship with their Creator suffered immediate and long-lasting damage. Consequently, they hid themselves in shame. If we had been in their place, what value would we place on a peaceful relationship with God? Jesus Christ defines eternal life as knowing the Father, and adds that if we love Him, we will keep His Commandments. Failure to obey God's commands demonstrates our disdain of them. Cultivating a relationship with God resembles cultivating a marriage relationship; if we know that some "minor" behavior annoys our spouse, we will avoid it, insignificant as we think it is. If our greatest desire is to live with God, we will do our best to live that right way, realizing that everything matters. We should not seek how much we can get away with, but instead study how we can maximally yield to His desires for us. Instead of asking if something is "salvational," we should ask if it will gradually erode the relationship between us and our Lord. Too often, our judgment of our own character is the opposite of God's assessment because we have allowed our conscience to "adjust" to compromises in areas we might consider "inconsequential." Isaiah 66:2 reminds us that God responds to those who tremble and revere His Word, focusing on the relational rather than the salvational aspect of obedience.
David C. Grabbe: Years ago, I had a discussion with a man whom I had known for quite some time, so we generally knew where the other stood on various religious topics. ...
Mike Fuhrer: Way back in the third century, a Jewish rabbi named Simlai mentioned in a sermon that the commandments (mitzvot, "commands," "orders," "precepts") found in the Old Testament number 613. ...
John O. Reid (1930-2016): Back when many of us were called, it all seemed so simple. Our big tests were keeping the Sabbath and holy hays, attending church, and making sure that we tithed and gave offerings ...
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on popular music involving the theme of romantic love as the answer to all the world's ills, remarks that the composers of these lyrics have no idea as to what love really is. The fuzzy definition of love is responsible for tolerance of sin, deviancy and liberal, multi-cultural mis-evaluations. We should have a more mature understanding of love for God and love for neighbor. The outgoing concern toward other beings begins with God the Father to Jesus Christ to us. Without godly love, real love does not exist. Real love does not exist in isolation; another being must always be the object of real love. God's plan involving the reciprocal sharing of love among members of God's Family began well before the foundations of the world, at which time a possible sacrifice for sin had to be factored in. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The love of God, through the mechanism of His Holy Spirit, works on our inner beings (our mind and spirit), making us like Him, demonstrating the love of God, loving God with all our minds (keeping His commandments) and our neighbors (including our enemies) as ourselves. The extent that we love our brethren may be an accurate gauge as to how much we love God.
The Bible makes it very plain that salvation is by grace, but it is also clear that we are 'created in Christ Jesus for good works' (Ephesians 2:10). Having explained justification, John Ritenbaugh tackles the process of sanctification, showing that the far greater part of God's saving work in us occurs after baptism!
In discussing the Holy Spirit and the Trinity, John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the Holy Spirit is never venerated as a separate being (Revelation 22:1-3, John 10:30, John 17:3). Spirit (ruach-Hebrew or pneuma-Greek), something never seen, is manifested or personified in many diverse ways such as truth, adoption, anger, courage, grace, faith, (states of mind or emotion, character, or personality) etc. In every instance it is preceded by the words "spirit of." Spirit applies to an invisible force or power within man or beast or angelic being making them unique. Our hope of glory is the "indwelling of Christ" and is used interchangeably with "Spirit of God" and "Spirit of Truth." Jesus promised a spirit of power from on high made available for His disciples (as diverse spiritual gifts) to witness of Him. The Holy Spirit, as a force or power dwelling in us, enables us to keep God's law and to receive our new nature. Pneuma and ruach represent that invisible power applied in many diverse ways manifesting in us the power of God making it possible to have an intimate family relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ, perfectly unified in purpose and composition, analogous to the relationship of husband and wife—at one in a family relationship. Ruach Ha Kodesh or Pneuma Hagion (Christ in us) provides the metaphoric glue to make this cleavage possible - making our God-family relationship manifest.
John Ritenbaugh examines our society's inability to deal with reality, turning instead to media-concocted distortions. By refusing to believe God's Word, rejecting His doctrine, society does not find God to be real (including many church-going people, who pick and choose their own beliefs apart from Scripture). He cannot be real to people who refuse to adhere to His Word, which is a far more reliable gauge of reality than the most observant eyewitness. If we allow His Word to illuminate our lives, we will make the necessary steps to conform to His will, diligently keeping His commandments. We can account for God's seeming delay in His plan by realizing: 1) His schedule is on His time, not ours; 2) a delay allows more to be called, 3) giving us more time to overcome; and 4) lawlessness has not yet reached its peak. What God puts us through is designed to reveal reality to us. Accepting His doctrine without looking for loopholes will keep us true.
John Ritenbaugh, exploring the invasion of the early apostolic church by Gnostics(interlopers who savagely denigrated the "enslavement to Yahweh, His Law, and the Jewish Sabbath," replacing it with 'enlightened' Greek philosophy- the immortality of the soul, eternal security, irresistible grace, and predestination) traces its development within mainstream 'Christianity.' An early source of Gnostic thought into mainstream 'Christianity' was Augustine, originally saturated in Manichean religion, later transferring Gnostic thought into the Catholic Church. The Protestant reformers Luther and Calvin, both heavily influenced by Augustine, taught the doctrines of eternal security, irresistible grace, and predestination. Modern evangelical leaders, continuing in this Gnostic tradition, promulgate "once saved always saved" and "unconditional love" — tolerating the most hideous abominable sins - allowing 'Christ's blood' to give license to this lawless behavior.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that after justification, for grace to be made dominant, its influence must extend beyond justification, into the sanctification stage where the believer must yield himself to righteousness, keeping God's commandments making himself a slave of righteousness. God's grace is manifested by His giving gifts, carrying us forward, making it possible to be transformed into the image of His Son. Our responsibility is to walk where God leads us, realizing that He is the one always out in front doing the creating, putting forth energy to make something happen—the change of our heart. Only those yielding themselves to the New Covenant will receive this transformation—a miraculous new creation, patterned after Christ's spiritual image. In the whole sanctification process, it is God working in us to will and to do.
John Ritenbaugh, focusing upon Deuteronomy 30:15-20, stresses that the choices we make on the day-to-day basis have long-term spiritual consequences. Only the immature think their behaviors will not catch up with them (Numbers 32:23). If we learn to fear and love God, loyalty, faithfulness and commandment keeping will naturally follow. If we love and fear God, taking God into our consciousness with every behavior, we will instinctively haste and depart from evil. Like a physical marriage, our covenant with God is based upon the driving force of love and respect.
God has often used micro metaphors to illustrate macro events. For example, in Isaiah 1:4-6, God compares the whole nation of Israel to a sick patient with an incurable disease, signalling impending captivity. The church has been alternately compared to a bride, vine, virgin, woman, mother, and body. Extrapolating from these metaphors, the condition of the greater church of God resembles a patient languishing from a deadly disease like cancer. This condition has resulted from a diet of spiritual junk food (the philosophies and traditions of the world) and abstinence from the life-sustaining bread of life (John 6:63). The words we "eat" create a faith that forms the walls of our belief system?a kind of spiritual immune system, protecting it from disease. Good health, then, is not merely a matter of diet, but an entire interactive process of prayer, study, obedience, and conformity to God's purpose for our lives.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that commandment breaking is what has scatterred the greater church of God. We have allowed the self-assured Laodicean mindset (with its ignorance and spiritual blindness) to deter us from overcoming and law keeping. In the parable of the two sons in Matthew 23:27-32, Christ makes it clear that doing the commandments is more important than knowing the commandments. If we want to be like our Savior, then we will live the way He lived, keeping God's commandments — which exemplify the highest form of love (John 14:21)
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that God's called-out ones must perpetually walk a razor's edge with the allurement of the world (leading to death) on one side and the love of God (leading to eternal life) on the other. At birth, human nature is relatively neutral, with a slightly stronger pull to the self. Inspired by the prince and power of the air (Ephesians 2:2-3), the prevailing Zeitgesist(the dominant spirit or mindset of the time) pulls the believer away from the love of God (and immortality) to the world (and death). The element which will tip the scale toward following God (there is no quick fix to conversion) is to displace the love for the world with the love for God(a gift from God flowing from His Holy Spirit - Romans 5:5) and setting our hearts on spiritual treasures (Matthew 6:19-20).
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that there is a very clear "them and us" demarcation in God's mind regarding which is the true way and which is not. We were formerly children of Satan (John 8:44) until God rescued us from this evil system (Ephesians 2:3), making us at odds with the entire world (I John 5:19). The churches of this world have attempted to appropriate the name of Christ and the grace concept, but then vigorously have thrown out God's law. The acid test indicating God's true church consists of obedience of His laws (John 14:15) including the Sabbath (Exodus 31:16-17), preventing the confusion and shameless compromising (the fruits of disobedience) which characterize the majority of the world's religions.
God's Ten Commandments are the divine law and standard that regulate human conduct. As our world testifies, they are still very much needed today!
In this Unleavened Bread sermon, Richard Ritenbaugh asserts that learning God's way (and unlearning Satan's way) takes a lifetime- spiritually speaking, perhaps the most difficult and arduous task on the entire earth. Over a lifetime, with our cooperation, God fashions us into vessels of honor. The commands to eat unleavened bread outnumber the commands to refrain from eating leavened bread three to one, indicating that the most efficient way of eliminating sin is to do righteousness (eating God's word and applying its principles in our lives) If we do good, we won't have the time to do bad. The epistle of James applies to the Christian after the justification process has begun, indicating that after receiving forgiveness, after receiving God's implanted word, we are obligated to fulfill God's purpose in our lives, yielding to trials, bringing forth the fruits of character by doing (not just hearing) God's word. Paul and James steadfastly agree that faith without works is stone dead.
John Ritenbaugh insists that God does not love everybody equally. Nowhere does He tell us to prefer the world of the ungodly, adopting the pagan customs of the world's religions. Though God commands us to love our enemies, He does not tell us to be kindly affectionate to them. Though God says He is not willing that any should perish, universal salvation is not a doctrine of the Bible. The objects of God's love in John 3:16 are His children who have reciprocated His love by keeping His laws. God loves His own.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that Paul's target in Galatians 2:16 was a syncretism of Judaism with strict Pagan ascetic Gnosticism and certainly not God's law. We need to avoid the Protestant ditch of "Christ did it all" leading to no attempt at law keeping or at best an apathetic assent to its value. Paul makes it abundantly clear that Christ did not free us from the death penalty in order to turn us into lawbreakers. Though God did not design the law to justify; without the law telling us of what to repent of, we would have no clue as to which path to take. The secret to successful law keeping is Christ living in us through God's Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20; Romans 5:5) Christ will empower us, but will not live our lives for us. The marching orders for our pilgrimage derive from God's Word- containing His holy law.
John Ritenbaugh answers the question "Is there a scripture that states such and such no longer needs to be done?" The Bible is an unfolding revelation, moving from the physical to the spiritual ramifications—revealing an ever-sharper focus on God's purpose. The Law (including the judgments, ordinances, and statutes), far from being done away, has the purpose of showing us our faults and outlining the way of mercy and love. The animal sacrifices and ceremonies were intended to foreshadow a more permanent spiritual reality—subsumed, but not done away. The Old Testament was written with the New Testament Church in mind, written in the context of an earlier culture. We need to see behind the law a presence of a Holy God with whom we seek to share a relationship.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that love is not a feeling, but an action- defined by John as keeping God's commandments (I John 2:3), the only means by which we can possibly know Him, leading to eternal life. While what humans consider love is self-centered and carnal, God's love is essentially others-centered. When God begins the love cycle, by His Spirit, He gives us His love; then it only becomes matured in us as we use it (loving God and loving our neighbor by the keeping of His Commandments). If we don't use it, then it bounces off from us and nothing is accomplished. Using God's love may be compared to learning to skate; the more we use it the stronger it gets. Beginning as a feeling, it doesn't become love until an action is taken.
In this foundational message on the Passover, John Ritenbaugh insists that the annual reaffirmation of the covenant—through the Passover—is at the heart and core of an on-going relationship with Jesus Christ and God the Father, a life-and-death choice beginning the process to perfection. The Passover, specifically commanded on the fourteenth at twilight(dusk), is a memorial of God's passing over the firstborn covered by the blood, distinctly different from the memorial of "going out from Egypt (Unleavened Bread).
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