Ryan McClure: As we saw in Part One, people have different ideas about God's involvement in the lives of people on Planet Earth. Deists believe that a Creator God exists but that He is disinterested in humanity ...
Ryan McClure, taking us on a journey leading 20 trillion miles from earth, asks, "Is God personally involved with His Creation?" Deists believe they can prove the existence of God from His public revelation, that is, Creation itself. However, they assert that God has left this marvelous complex and interdependent creation to manage itself. Through the private revelation given to His called-out ones, God has provided ample assurance that He is actively involved in the maintenance of His creation, a revelation which includes the accounts of His direct interface with Adam and Eve, His instructions to Noah, and His interactions with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Hagar, Gideon, and with Samson's parents. Jesus assures us that even the hairs of our head are numbered. For God's called-out ones, the receptacles of His Holy Spirit, we carry His mind and thoughts with us continually. We can be sure that the omniscient God is not far off and will never leave us.
John Ritenbaugh, rehearsing our father Abraham's thought processes as he contemplated God's "I will" promises to him, concluded that Abraham realized he would be long dead before their fruition in the fullness of time. Nevertheless, he realized he needed those unspecified blessings applied to him, blessings that would apply to a descendant far greater than himself, a descendant which would be the source of the blessing—the Lord reincarnate, with whom Abraham had been communicating. Abraham realized that his descendant could not possibly be a mere human being, but the Creator Himself. Both Abraham and his descendent David reached the same conclusion, perceiving that fulfilment would be far into the future. Further, they both realized the promised seed (originally proclaimed to Eve, beginning a lineage from Seth to Abram, Isaac and Jacob) would be born into their family line. God promised Abraham that all peoples of the earth would be blessed by him, including those non-Israelite gentile peoples who would be grafted into the commonwealth of spiritual Israel though God's special calling, followed by receiving the Holy Spirit, becoming holy seed within the dynasty of Jesus Christ. No one is physically born into this family, but must be separated spiritually from the rest of the world by a special calling from God.
Richard Ritenbaugh, citing Francis Shaeffer's observation, that bitterness rather than doctrine divides and estranges one member from of Christ's Body from another, suggests that individuals often look for a 'doctrinal' reason to cover up the real reason for leaving a congregation. Perhaps the principal cause of the estrangement between brethren can be explained by the Parable of the Leaven in Matthew 13:33, an image of a process of exaggerated growth, parallel to the mustard see analogy, in which a garden plant unnaturally grows into an imposing tree. Although many Bible Commentaries have assumed that both of these similes simply mean what started small will grow to something large, they fail to take into account the necessity of symbols remaining consistent beginning with the first mention in scripture. Leaven symbolizes corruption from sin, even as we examine the wave loaves, composed of humans laden from sin (from which they have repented). As ambassadors for Christ, already having our citizenship in Heaven, we still have sin in our nature. Interestingly, the grain offering in Leviticus 3, designated for the peace offering or fellowship offering did not contain leaven. As a biblical symbol, leaven stands for hypocrisy, false teachings, sexual immorality, vile corruption, malice and wickedness, a condition which will not exist in God's Kingdom, but is rampant in the Church of God today as it syncretizes doctrine with 'knowledge' derived from the Babylonic worldly philosophies. The woman sneaking in the leaven with three measures of meal in Matthew 13 evidently represents the Church, who surreptitiously mixed Christ's pure doctrine with a little sourdough of worldly wisdom, puffing up the church with intellectual vanity, but destroying the prospects of unity or reconciliation between the numerous splinter groups. With this leavening, Satan has destroyed the relationship between church members by corrupting the doctrines that had bound us together.
Martin Collins, noting that the Book of Malachi is a post-exilic transition, link, and bridge book between the Old and New Testaments, indicates the dating of the book can be determined contextually, namely that the temple had been rebuilt, and the Jews were under a civil ruler before the death of Nehemiah. Malachi, one of last Old Testament prophets, is oriented to the future. John the Baptist arrived 400 years later. The same attitudes existing at that time are prevalent today. The offenses mentioned are 1) arrogance—-mankind's thinking man thinks that he knows better than God, 2) mixed marriages, and 3) neglect of tithes. We can see these attitudes by noting the use of the words "wherein," "in what way," and "how." The Priests, asking "How?" seven times in the wrong way in Malachi. In Genesis 18:23-33, Abraham asked God "how?" with respect. Malachi lists four personal failures of the Priests in Malachi 1:6-14. The Priests 1) offered defiled sacrifices on God's altar, 2) harmed the people, 3) were responsible for disparaging the Priest's office, and 4) demonstrated a brazen defiance of God. True ministers must: 1) show a proper relationship to God—fear equals reverence; 2) exhibit a personal commitment to the truth of God's Word; 3) demonstrate of integrity characterized by Godly character and devotion, faithful and Godly, in submission and obedience; and 4) guard the truth and be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in them.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that if Jesus Christ is not who He said He is, He would be the most successful charlatan in the history of the world. The understanding that Jesus Christ is the God of the Old Testament has always been challenged. God's called-out ones do not have pre-eminence in intellectual prowess, but God has made the truths of the Bible clear through the Holy Spirit, making available the spiritual gifts of faith and understanding, enabling us to decipher the mysteries of the Bible. Jesus' point of origin (having been with the Father and coming down from heaven) gives Him credibility that Moses or any other religious leader could never have. The Son (having inhabited eternity with the Father as a member of the God-kind) was also known as the Word, by whom the world was created. In this capacity, He has always interfaced between mankind and the Father, having primacy as our Lord, Master, and Ruler of creation.
John Ritenbaugh, refuting the fallacious Trinity doctrine, reiterates that Christ Himself asserted the superiority of the Father as the One True God. Jesus serves as the revelator, channel, and the image of the great God, providing the only means through which we have access to Him. John expresses that Jesus has continued to serve as the Revelator of the Father, having been identified as the God of the Old Testament. The pronoun with in John 1:1 actually should be translated toward, as in "toward God." The Word was the same Being as Yahweh, Adonay, or El Shaddai in the Old Testament. Christ demonstrated His power to take on the outward appearance of a variety of human forms, including that of a slave, divesting Himself of the prerogatives of His identity as the God of the Old Testament. We are obligated to follow His example of humility, working out our salvation with fear and trembling.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on God's presence in the pillar of cloud and fire, suggests that it is a vital part of the meaning of the Days of Unleavened Bread and depicts God's visible presence and protection, His Shekinah, which appeared continuously for forty years above the Tabernacle. God has appeared to many people in various forms and in various degrees of glory. We dare not fixate or limit God's appearing to one form or another. Ultimately, God's glory is His awesome goodness and righteous character, embodied in Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth. His glory is composed of all those things that are part of God's way and character. Remarkably, these godly attributes may and should (by means of the Holy Spirit, Christ in us) be transferred to us, unifying us with the Father and the Son, our hope of eternal glory.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that only God, not man, can determine whether something or someone is holy or authentic as opposed to profane and strange. God will accept only what He has set apart or designated as holy or authentic, such as the sacred fire in Numbers 16 (symbolizing God's cleansing and purifying power) as well as the fuel and the incense. The 250 men offering strange or profane fire in their censers represented a blatant refusal to accept God and His standard of righteousness. The bronze covered altar made with the censers recovered from the charred remains of the rebels constitutes a stark reminder of the folly at rebelling against holy things, replacing God's standards with human standards.
John Ritenbaugh points out 700 references to the act of eating, all providing contexts or vehicles of serious spiritual instruction. Banquets invariably provide springboards for instruction, from Abraham's entertaining of angels, to Joseph's banquet for his brothers, to Esther's banquet for Haman to Belshazzar's feast featuring the handwriting on the wall to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Banquets- eating or refraining from eating- not only display God's faithful provisions and human righteousness, but eating (or refraining from eating) displays tests of a person's morality such as Adam and Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit, the sign of keeping the covenant (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14) and Christ's refusal to be tempted by food (Matthew 4). Eating reminds us that God's provision and human need also apply on a spiritual level.
John Ritenbaugh stresses that good works are something that take place after the process of salvation has begun. Good works are the effects of God sending forth His Spirit and deliverance, but the works are not the cause of our deliverance. God's creative effort did not end with the physical creation or our election, but God continues to work, giving His called out ones the motivation and the power to do His will (Philippians 2:13) to the end that we might exemplify His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)- a new spiritual creation shaped and patterned after God's image, having the ethical and moral character of God.
John Ritenbaugh, citing Romans 1:20, reiterates that the invisible things of God are clearly seen through the things that are made. The numerous scriptural references to angelic beings (experiences of Abraham, Lot, and Daniel and the references to Michael, Gabriel, and Satan (the Prince of Persia) indicate that the spiritual entities have tangible substance. The main proof text of the "no parts, no shape or form" teaching (John 4:24), far from teaching that God has no body, indicates that spiritual substance is just as real as natural substance, except that it is a much higher type of matter, governed by higher laws including refined feelings, emotions, and thoughts. We have abundant testimony from the both the special revelation (God's Word) and the general revelation (the Creation) that God and angels are not universal nothingness floating around in nowhere.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that when the Worldwide Church of God adopted the concept of the Godhead as a closed trinity, spiritualizing God into a vague, incomprehensible hazy essence, they destroyed the vision or goal that God set before mankind: to create man in His image. These misguided individuals, assuming that incorporeal is an antonym for shape or form and that spiritual things cannot have form, glibly state that all the scriptural references to God's characteristics are figures of speech. Jesus, the second Adam, the express image of God, did not take on a different shape or form when He was transfigured before the disciples. Taking on the image of the heavenly does not vaporize one into shapeless essence. Along with the eyewitness accounts of men who saw God - like Abraham, Jacob, and Moses - we also have the promise that we will see Him face to face when glorified as a member of the God Family.
Abraham's example has taught us that in our attempt at living by faith, we do not have a smooth transition from begettal to maturity, but the annoying or pesky problems we deal with are gradually removed (gradually disconnected) or conquered by faith and our relationship with God. God removes us from our problems in an unraveling process, sometimes taking us backwards through the consequences of the bad habits we have accumulated, educating us to examine and analyze the process that produced the sin in the first place. Character cannot be created by fiat, but must be created in a climate of free moral agency, learning the consequences of our mistakes (as had Abraham, Sarah, and Lot) as well as the consequences of our right behavior. From Lot's example, we learn not to blend or syncretize God's ways with the world's ways.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon Abraham's example of going to war. Even though God does not glorify war, there are spiritual parallels we can learn from it, including discipline and self-sacrifice. Abraham was willing to lay down his life to rescue his nephew Lot. His sacrifice shows us what kind of effort and sacrifice is needed to wage spiritual war, getting the Gospel out despite the militant resistance of Satan and his demons. They are masters of keeping us off balance, keeping the pressure on us, dogging our heels, trying to make us miss the mark, and preventing us from rescuing others held captive. Anyone involved in the work of God is in a spiritual war, often experiencing enervation and temptation to compromise. God provides faith and energy in those occasions to overcome and endure.
John Ritenbaugh explains that Stephen ignited the ire of the Hellenistic Jews, a group passionately devoted to the temple, law and land as a defensive reaction to their historical scattering. Stephen rebukes them for their reactionary (almost superstitious) devotion to the past or reverence to a specific temple location, advocating instead a pilgrim mentality, realizing that God is not confined to a fixed location. Stephen points out that historically, God has dealt with His people without land or temple, but instead through a series of deliverers (Joseph, Moses, and ultimately, Jesus Christ), initially unrecognized or rejected by their own people. Stephen suggests that his audience has rejected the Deliverer and has replaced it with an idol (of worshiping the temple) as their forefathers had turned to a golden idol, while rejecting God and His living law.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes the importance of exercising faith and hope, patiently plodding along day-by-day toward our spiritual goal. Many of the pillars of faith had to wait many years (Abraham, for example, waited over 25 years before he saw the beginning of the fulfillment of God's promise) for the fruition of their faith's target. With godly hope, we need to envision the possibility of successful accomplishment of God's purpose for us, realizing that God has bound that promise with an oath and that Jesus Christ (having empathy for us) intercedes for us as High Priest. Melchizedek, a prototype as well as equivalent of Christ, establishes the validity and dignity of Christ as High Priest. The divine appointment of Jesus as our High Priest precedes our divine calling, more important than genealogy or external physical characteristics.
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