John Ritenbaugh, in Number Eight of his series on the background of the Book of Hebrews, emphasizes that, although flesh withers like grass, the instruction (Torah) of God's Word is not "done away," but rather endures forever. Salvation comes through grace, but grace does not "do away" with the Law, as a careless interpretation of Acts 15 may lead those laboring under an antinomian agenda to think. Those who assume the Jerusalem Council did away with the Old Covenant forget that the elders were careful to instruct the gentiles to abstain from sexual immorality, idols, things strangled, and blood—all strictures squarely residing in the Law. The lesson we learn from the decision of the Council was that Christ's words trump everything; the Council sharpened (not nullified) the meaning of circumcision and animal sacrifices to focus on their spiritual intent. The Council established that Christ's words enjoy primacy over those of angels and prophets. The decision of the Council established the ground rules in the process of formulating the doctrines of the Israel of God, doctrines which the writer of the Epistle of Hebrews, later codified. The Epistle to the Hebrews emphasizes that spiritual growth and ultimate glorification depends on an individual's relationship with Christ. The centerpiece of the Book of Hebrews is Christ, the God-man, the Messiah, our Savior, our High Priest—our lifeline to sanctification and glorification.
John Ritenbaugh, examining the socio-cultural milieu before the writing of the Epistle to the Hebrews, explains the difficulties experienced by the new Jewish converts to the Gospel. The powerful testimony of the recently risen Christ, combined with the apostles, who had spent 3 ½ years under His tutelage, were the main factors behind the fast growth of the church to 6,000. The Jewish leadership deemed these converts to be traitors to the of the religious heritage of Judaism. The estrangement these people felt is similar to that experienced by today's people of the true God. Christ told His Apostles not to become fixated about the fulfillment of prophecy, but instead to engage in the work He had given them. God's people today have the same no-nonsense orders Christ gave to His original Disciples, namely to take the Gospel to all nations. God's worldwide institution, the Israel of God, makes a transition to a New Covenant, not 'doing away with the law' but making it applicable to both Jew and Gentile. Repentance and baptism replace circumcision as the spiritual sign of the New Covenant. The Council of Jerusalem indicated that Jesus Christ's words and behavior proved the final word on New Covenant decisions, bringing about a significant change in practice.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the widespread belief in many pagan cultures that local tribal deities claim territoriality over their adherents' land, maintains that God had to disabuse Israel from believing such nonsense, using scattering and exile to partially accomplish His purpose. God is sovereign over the entire earth; His power is not venue-dependent. When Nebuchadnezzar had enough of Judah's rebellion, he transported the entire ruling class to Babylon, including Daniel and his companions. God used this event to scatter Judah and Benjamin through the prominent cultures of the earth. Jeremiah sent a letter in 597 BC, giving specific instructions to the captives as to how to conduct themselves in Gentile cultures, assuring them that they would be in this predicament for seventy years, after which God would rescue them. They were to improve their skills, buy houses, plant gardens, raise families, and be model citizens. Although they were not to assimilate inwardly, they were to blend in wherever God's Law was not violated. They were not to make a nuisance of themselves by proselyting, a principle still in effect today for God's called-out ones. In post-exilic times in Persia, God used concealed Jews (exampled by Mordecai and Esther) to ascend to levels of prominence on behalf of their people. Esther (her Persian name, a variety of Ishtar) and Mordecai (his Persian name, a variety of Marduk, a Babylonian deity) served as a kind of protective covering, enabling them to quietly carry on God's purpose. Paul applied the essence of Jeremiah's letter to Christians living in this present evil age, admonishing them to lead a quiet life, mind their own business, stay aloof from governmental affairs and set a godly example through diligence and good works.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reviewing Charles Hughes Smith's findings that the entire status quo is a fraud, reiterates that the financial system, the political system, national defense, the healthcare system, higher education, mainstream corporate media, and culture are all hopelessly corrupt. Science fiction writer, Theodore Sturgeon, claims that 90% of everything is pure garbage, prompting economist Gary North to proclaim that we have a responsibility to salvage the 10% that has not yet deteriorated. The vast majority of the current $20 trillion-dollar national debt stems from fraud. Because histories are usually written from the viewpoint of the victors (that is, the cultural survivors), we can never be sure about the extent of fraud and prevarication in historical narratives from previous civilizations. Nothing has changed over time, as is reflected in the contents of the missing 28 pages of the 911 Commission report, suggesting nefarious Saudi involvement in the World Trade Center attack. In this cesspool of prevarication, we have received a life preserver from Jesus Christ, receiving sanctification in His Truth, protecting us from curses. Accepting and living in God's truth has the inexorable effect of separating us from the world. As we continue to feast on the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, we worship God in spirit and truth, a worship which centers around a spiritual relationship with God rather than a physical place. God is not tethered to any geographical place as was believed by the woman at the well and Naaman the military leader; God is omnipresent and omniscient. Eternal life is to know the Father and the Son. God wants a living relationship, like He enjoyed with Abraham, who was the friend of God. We should continually live and think on the same wavelength as God does, maintaining a close relationship with Him as we continue in the sanctification process. The book of John throughout characterizes Jesus as Truth, our standard and model of true living, the vine to which we must cling, faithfu
Richard Ritenbaugh, recalling his underwriter training course at Transamerica Insurance, in which he learned of the hundreds of billions of dollars of fraud which occur annually in auto, health, disability, welfare, and Medicare, asserts that every part of our modern Babylonian culture has been plagued by fraud and cheating, a cancerous system described in Revelation 18, which God Almighty will have to destroy. In contrast to the world's embracing of fraud and deceit, God's called-out ones are obligated to eat the bread of sincerity and truth, not only for the Days of Unleavened Bread, but for our entire lives. As the apostle Paul warned the Corinthian congregation to purge out the leaven of malice and consume the unleavened bread of sincerity (inward activities), he knew that wickedness or truth are the manifestation of these inner activities. Thought precedes behavior; sin (gossip, rape, murder, adultery) begins in the heart. A heart without guile does not allow a poisonous foreign admixture. We must live our lives from a pure motive, unalloyed virtue, having unsullied Christian character with evil purged out. The Word of God is the source of energy to turn our convictions into genuine behavior; we must be, but we must also do, marrying our profession of true faith with pure unalloyed godly conduct. Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well demonstrates the motivating power of doing God's work as ingesting food. Worshiping in spirit and truth involves dedicating our time, and attitude in developing a relationship with God.
In reviewing Jerusalem's history, Martin Collins maintains that the archeological and topographical confusion associated with the city of Jerusalem typifies the chaos extant in the world's major religions, many of which locate their spiritual roots in it. Ironically, the city whose etymology means "city of peace" is presently one of the most violent and bloody locations on earth. Despite its spectacular, international reputation attained under the rule of kings David and Solomon, Israel's harlotry and rejection of God's covenant gave Jerusalem an increasingly unsavory association, calling for its impending judgment and destruction. The heavenly Jerusalem, the Jerusalem from above—Mount Zion, typifying the glorified church—transcends the earthly Jerusalem, becoming the true source from which the law will flow following Christ's second coming and during the Millennium.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that things written in the Old Testament were written entirely for Christians. The operations of both the Old and New Covenants overlap. The differences focus on justification, access to God, and eternal life, but not doing away with the law (especially the Sabbath) which Protestant theologians would have us believe. Modern Christianity, like the mongrelized Samaritan religion, is a syncretized mixture of some biblical truth with unadulterated paganism. To worship God in spirit means to put heart and mind into applying God's law, with a circumcised heart (Philippians 3:3) realizing that the motivating principle behind every one of God's laws is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts through the power of God's Spirit. (Romans 5:1-5)
John Ritenbaugh, observing that Abraham did not live out his days in the land of promise, insists that it is not where one is, but the relationship with God that is more important. Abraham's offspring had to realize that they could not receive God's favor on Abraham's coattails, as in the largely superstitious behavior of erecting shrines and making pilgrimages to Beersheba, Gilgal, and Bethel. Based on his long friendship with God, Abraham could systematically calculate the reliability of God's promises even in the lack of visual evidence. Having sterling faith, he knew that God would never "play dirty" and consequently remained unswerving in his commitment to God.
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 points out that Amos severely chides Israel for exalting symbolism over substance, superstitiously trusting in locations where significant historical events occurred: Bethel- the location of Jacob's pillar stone and Jacob's conversion; Gilgal- the location where the manna ceased and the Israelites partook of the produce of the land; and Beersheeba —the location from where Jacob journeyed to become reunited with his family. Consequently, Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheeba became associated with hope, possession, and fellowship. Amos seems to suggest, "it's not where you are, but what you are — or what you become." Instead of superstitiously regarding these locations like the shrines of Lourdes or Fatima, God's called out ones need to make permanent internal transformations in their lives. Likewise, going to a particular site for the Feast of Tabernacles is worthless if our lives are not permanently transformed by a close relationship with God, motivating us to keep His laws, and reflect His characteristics.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon the encounter of Jesus with the woman of Samaria, perhaps an exemplification of the entire unconverted world, but also symbolic of a church, initially hardened, self-willed and skeptical when called out of the world, but afterwards zealous and energized when enlightened by the truth. As Jesus revealed Himself to her and exposed the disgusting details of her past, so God does the same thing to us when we are called. As the woman had to be drawn away from false concepts of worship, we must be weaned away from poisonous superstitions and false doctrine polluting our worship of God. Only those who attain the Spirit of God within their inner beings will worship God in spirit and in truth. Spiritual sacrifices include humility, fidelity, and service. As the woman had to be diverted from using the living water for selfish purposes, we must learn to derive satisfaction from serving others, emulating Christ's example of becoming energized by doing the work of God, planting and reaping the spiritual harvest.
Receive Biblical truth in your inbox—spam-free! This daily newsletter provides a starting point for personal study, and gives valuable insight into the verses that make up the Word of God. See what over 145,000 subscribers are already receiving.