CHURCH OF GOD CYBER AXILIARY
(a Montana non-profit)
for providing, free of charge, the server space
for this document below.
CGCA was formed to help spread the True Gospel of Jesus Christ out over the Internet.
The Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course
Christianity is indeed a way of life. There is no more well established fact in all of the Bible. But what, specifically, is that way, and how may we successfully live it?
The book of Acts chronicles the history of the early New Testament Church of God. It hits the high spots of the major events in briefest summary form. And in it Luke, the author, attests to the fact that to live the life of a certain way--to do certain things--to conform to certain standards.
Apollos was an early Christian who was an excellent speaker, being extremely well versed in Old Testament scriptures. He preached boldly. However, he was very much in need of better understanding--he did not quite have the whole picture. It remained for a dedicated couple in the Church of God to fill in the details.
Notice the account in Acts 18:26: " ... whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him [Apollos] unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly" (emphasis ours throughout lesson). Real Christianity then, as detailed in the Bible, is a "way" of life--God's way!
Roots in the Old Testament
Royalty, heads of state, and government officials in the apostle Paul's day recognized Christianity as a distinct pattern of life. Paul, under house arrest, defended his way of life--the Christian way--to the procurator of Judaea. Notice Felix's reaction to Paul's words: "And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them [put off any immediate action]... " (Acts 24:22).
Earlier Paul had explained to Felix: "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets" (verse 14).
A vital point: The Christian way of life has its roots in the Old Testament. It is established on the Ten Commandments, as well as other laws of God which are based on principles of the "basic ten." Though far from being devoid of pleasure, God's way definitely is not a nihilistic, libertine course in conventional pleasure-seeking.
God's way of life is the sensible way to live practically and abundantly in areas such as successfully managing your finances, building and beautifying your marriage, and even how to protect your health. Simply stated, God's law is the way to all the GOOD THINGS in life--to peace, happiness, and ultimately an eternal life of satisfying accomplishment.
God's Great Law the Standard
The apostle James refers to the Ten Commandments as the "royal law of liberty" (James 2:8-12). That is because they free their adherents from the bondage of the hurtful ways of this world.
The Ten Commandments also clearly reveal the great love God has for His human children. They are a reflection of the perfect character of God which can be summed up in the word love, for "God is love" (I John 4:16). John, often referred to as the "apostle of love," wrote: "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome" (I John 5:3, RSV).
Before His crucifixion, Jesus Christ told His disciples, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love" (John 15:10). God's love and His law fit hand in glove. They do not oppose each other as some have been misled to believe. As Jesus plainly stated, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).
The "Test" Commandment
Most who profess to be Christians today partially keep the Ten Commandments to one degree or another. But the fourth commandment has never been popular with this world's churches.
Few realize that the observance of the Sabbath day is one of the most important "signs" which identify a true Christian--one who follows the example of Christ. The Bible shows that the fourth commandment is the test commandment! The Christian's keeping of the true Sabbath is an illustration to God of his serious commitment to live by His Word.
We saw in our previous studies that God defines a Christian as one whom He has begotten by His Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9-11). In a powerful sermon not long after that memorable day of Pentecost (Acts 2), Peter pointed out something most vital concerning the receiving of God's Spirit. Notice Acts 5:32: "And we are witnesses to these things [Christ as Savior], and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him" (RSV).
A willing and obedient attitude is one of the things God looks for in a potential Son of His. God inspired Isaiah to write: " ...to this man will I look, even to him that is poor [humble] and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2).
A Christian will therefore want to obey the fourth commandment! Keeping the Sabbath sometimes involves considerable faith on the part of God's people. With the flow of this world's values, cultures and interests cascading in the opposite direction, it is not always easy to swim upstream. But the blessings are manifold to those who have the courage and faith to observe the seventh-day Sabbath.
Special Annual Days
Inasmuch as the seventh commandment against adultery includes, in principle, prohibition of all forms of illicit sexual conduct, so the fourth commandment, by amplification, includes other special God-ordained days which were given to Israel when the Old Testament Church began in the wilderness. As the weekly Sabbath is holy time to God, so are seven annual Sabbath days holy to God--all for a very good reason.
The seventh-day Sabbath looks backward as a memorial to remind us of the fact that God is Creator, Ruler, Sustainer; and it looks forward to Christ's coming rule in the Millennium when mankind will experience "rest" from war, poverty, fear and suffering. It also reveals that God has a great and wonderful purpose and a plan for all of mankind!
The seven annual Sabbaths/festivals give the overview of the working out of God's plan for man step by step. The reason man's full, awesome potential is not understood by the professing Christian world today is because most churches have neglected the very days God says are holy to Him.
A Little Known Financial Law
The weekly Sabbath and each of the annual Sabbaths are special times committed to physical rest and spiritual worship of God. In a sense we give these portions of time back to God. As we do we are rewarded with greater understanding of His way, even as we are rejuvenated and renewed physically and spiritually on these days.
Likewise, God requires that His children return a portion of their income for His use and purpose on this earth. Even though the Creator God is not limited by physical resources, He has always conducted a Work among and through human beings. Today, God desires that Christians have an active role with Him in introducing the knowledge of His way to others by helping finance His Work on earth.
Long ago, even during the time of Abraham, God used the tithing (or "tenthing") system to underwrite His Work for that time. His Church in the twentieth century employs the very same method to conduct His Work of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
The act of tithing gives us the opportunity to express our recognition of God's sovereignty and lordship over the entire earth, and over each of us individually. It is an expression of our willing and cheerful adherence to the first and great commandment--worshipping the true God and Him only.
And as with observance of the weekly and annual Sabbath days, the man or woman who fulfills God's financial law of tithing will reap the inevitable physical and spiritual blessings promised in His Word.
Obedience and Overcoming
Although the true Christian strives to be obedient to all the laws of God, he knows he cannot obey them perfectly. He soon discovers he still has besetting and recurring sins, as well as bad habits that are not easy to cast aside.
The Christian life, as revealed in the Bible, is one of overcoming and growing spiritually toward the goal of being spiritually mature like Christ. Through our studies we learned that this final change to immortal, spiritual perfection will occur at the resurrection of the dead in Christ.
In the meantime, God expects Spirit-begotten Christians to be developing more and more of the very character of Christ as they learn to follow His way of life.
But overcoming and conquering sin is impossible by human strength alone. It must be accomplished in partnership with God by the very faith of Christ--a gift from God through His Holy Spirit which He promises to give us upon repentance and baptism.
As Christians, we will still, through temptation, sometimes stumble spiritually and sin. But our loving and most merciful Father in heaven is ready and willing to forgive and restore us to the right path of overcoming and growing--if we will acknowledge our sins and ask His forgiveness.
How beautiful, encouraging and rewarding is the way of God when we understand it! Now, let's look further into the vital details of what the Christian way of life is really all about.
What Is a Real Christian?
What is a real Christian? Could you give the Bible definition? Few have studied the Bible to learn what God expects of them. A precious few know what the Christian way of life is really all about.
Jesus gave us the very basis of real Christianity in what is commonly called the "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew, chapters 5-7). This occasion actually started out as a private, personal lesson He gave to His disciples (students or learners). Jesus pointed out those characteristics, often called "beatitudes," which would clearly identify His true followers.
Before we pick up the story in Matthew 5 and focus on a few specific aspects of biblical Christianity, we suggest that you first read the entirety of chapters 5, 6 and 7.
1. What did Jesus say belongs to the poor in spirit? Matt. 5:3. When He spoke of the "poor in spirit," did He mean that they would be lacking the Spirit of God? Rom. 8:9; Luke 11:13.
COMMENT: No, Jesus isn't suggesting that they must lack God's Spirit, as did the five foolish virgins in the parable of Matthew 25. Rather, He went on to show that those who are truly humble in attitude of mind would be blessed and assured of being in God's Kingdom.
2. What are the meek in Christ destined to inherit? Matt. 5:5. Was Jesus "meek"? Matt. 11:29. Will a Christian exhibit the characteristic of meekness in the way he conducts his daily life? Eph. 4:1-2.
COMMENT: There is a difference between being meek and being weak. Jesus was meek but not weak! He endured abuse and injury with patience and without resentment. He didn't deliberately try to stir up arguments and trouble. A meek person will not try to justify the self, especially when he is wrong. Neither does he feel he is superior to others. He does not try to "get even" with others, nor get revenge.
3. What will a true follower of Christ--a Christian--be "thirsting" for? Matt. 5:6. What is the Bible definition of "righteousness"? Ps. 119:172. Did Jesus come to destroy God's great law, or to keep it? Matt. 5:17-19.
COMMENT: To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to yearn and be deeply motivated to be obedient to God--to keep His laws, which are given to us in loving concern for our own good. Those who are truly hungering and thirsting for righteousness will be studying for true understanding, and will be willing to change when they see they've been wrong, admitting their wrong beliefs, their mistakes, their sins. "Study to shew thyself approved unto God..." (II Tim. 2:15), wrote Paul to Timothy. "Prove all things..." (I Thes. 5:21), Paul said to the Thessalonians.
4. Who did Paul say are justified before God--the hearers or the doers of God's law? Rom. 2:13. Did Paul make it plain that even though the unmerited pardon of our sins is by the grace of God through faith in Christ's sacrifice, nevertheless a Christian is still obligated to God to keep His law? Read Romans 3:31 and all of chapter 6.
5. Who did Jesus say will enter the Kingdom of God? Matt. 7:21. What did the apostle Paul plainly say was most important for a Christian to be doing? I Cor. 7:19.
COMMENT: Notice that in order to enter God's Kingdom, there is DOING required--not just the confession of Christ as our Savior. God is also very much concerned about our spiritual "works" after becoming a Christian. He makes it plain that we cannot make it into the Kingdom of God just by sitting back and thinking Christ has done it all for us.
6. Unless we have the love of God, can we really be a Christian? Read all of I Corinthians 13 (the word "charity" in the King James translation means love). What are we when we lack the love of God? Verse 2.
7. Will God's love, which He imparts through His Spirit, lead one to keep His Ten Commandments--all ten of them? Rom. 13:8-10. In what way did God inspire John to confirm Paul's statement--what is the Bible definition of God's love? I John 5:2-3. How is God's love perfected in one? I John 2:5.
A Christian "Walks" with God
1. Is a Christian one who strives to follow Christ--to imitate His example--to "walk" with Him? I Pet. 2:21; I John 2:6.
2. Who is one of the first men in the Bible who "walked" with God? Gen. 5:22-24. What else are we told about Enoch? Heb. 11:5, last part. Will he be in the resurrection? Heb. 11:13, 39-40.
3. What other great patriarch walked with God in the antediluvian world? Gen. 6:9. Did Noah therefore find grace in God's sight? Verse 8. Was Noah clearly a faithful and righteous man, pleasing before God? Heb. 11:7.
4. What was God's command to Abraham? Gen. 17:1. Why could it be said that he did indeed walk with God? Gen. 26:5; Heb. 11:8-10.
5. Was God also Abraham's friend and companion? II Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8; Jas. 2:23. Did God talk with Abraham as a close friend would? Gen. 18:17-19, 23-33. (Recall from your previous studies that the "Lord" of the Old Testament was in reality the member of the God Family who later became Jesus Christ.)
6. Did God also talk with Moses as with a close friend? Ex. 33:11; Num. 12:7-8; Deut. 34:10.
7. How can we become one of Jesus Christ's friends? John 15:14-15.
COMMENT: True friends walk together and talk together freely, without fear or embarrassment. They think much alike, and are in agreement, or else they are not real friends (Amos 3:3).
8. Did God specifically command His Church in the wilderness (Acts 7:38)--the nation of Israel--to walk in His ways; that is, to obey His laws? Deut. 5:32-33; 8:6; 10:12; 11:22; 13:4; 26:17; 28:9.
9. Did God promise to walk with them if they walked with Him? Lev. 26:3, 12. Would He greatly bless them if they walked with Him? Verses 4-11.
10. But if the people of Israel chose to walk contrary to God--refused to walk in His ways--what did God say would happen to them? Lev. 26: 14-39.
COMMENT: TO walk with God clearly means to obey His commandments and laws, and to do those things which are pleasing in His sight (Lev. 26:1-3; I John 3:22). It is the only way to really be a Christian!
11. What will be a Christian's attitude toward the sinning society around him? I John 2:15-17; I Peter 4:1-4; Rev. 18:4. What will he rather be striving to live by? Matt. 4:4.
COMMENT: A Christian will no longer be able to conscientiously follow all the customs and practices of the society around him. Where he formerly "went along with the crowd" in all social activities and business practices, he will now begin to question his lifestyle. He will begin asking, "What is God's will? How does God say I should live?" He will begin saying, with Christ, "Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." And he will begin to diligently search the Bible to learn the will of God, and follow it.
Of course, God's people must live in this world (John 17:15). And even while striving to fully obey Q God--not being conformed to this world's ways (Rom. 12:1-2)--they should strive to "...live peaceably with all men" (verse 18). And if a Christian has to disagree because of biblical teaching, he does so without being disagreeable and self-righteous about it. While not "of the world" in the sense that Christ meant, those men and women of God having the Holy Spirit and a knowledge of His truth and abundant way of life, have a responsibility to be bright "lights" in the world (Matt. 5:14-16). Far from just "quietly glowing" like a 25-watt light bulb, or hiding their light "under a bushel," God's people should be exhibiting the "fruit," or characteristics, of God's Holy Spirit within them. They can reach out with friendliness and with a helping hand towards their neighbors and those they come in contact with every day. People not as yet called of God will be encouraged as they see a little of the mind and character of God in action through the living example set by individual Christians.
12. What steps has a Christian already taken to be recognized by God as one of His children? Acts 2:38. What has God bestowed upon him as a free and unearned gift according to his obedience? Same verse and Acts 5:32. ("Holy Ghost" is an archaic rendering in the King James Version and should rather read "Holy Spirit.")
COMMENT: A Christian has been conquered by God. His "carnal," naturally antagonistic attitude toward God (Rom. 8:7-8) is now broken. He has come to realize he had sinned against God, having broken His Holy, righteous law (I John 3:4). Therefore he cried out to God and asked His forgiveness for those sins through the sacrifice of Christ, and a lifting of the death penalty which every sin incurs (Rom. 6:23). Then he submitted to the ordinance of baptism which illustrated to God his deep sincerity.
And as he expected God to stand behind His promise to beget him spiritually by the Holy Spirit, as a result of his repentance, baptism and the laying on of hands, he was indeed imbued by the Spirit of the Father and became a spiritually begotten child of God. It was then that he became a TRUE Christian ! (Rom. 8:9-10.)
13. What does God call the person who claims to "know" Christ, but refuses to walk in His ways--refuses to keep His commandments? I John 2:4. What will the one who says he is a Christian actually be doing? Verses 3, 5-6. How does this corroborate Solomon's summation of every individual's responsibility to God? Eccl. 12:13.
COMMENT: A Christian has sincerely repented of his sins and is striving, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to LIVE by his Savior's teachings. He is seeking to do God's will in every aspect of his life as revealed in the Bible. And he is becoming a recipient of the happiness and blessings that come with obedience to God!
The Ten Commandments
The Jesus Christ of your Bible always preached the gospel of the government (or kingdom) of God. He proclaimed: "...repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Over and over again the Bible teaches repentance from sin, which is the breaking of God's great spiritual law (I John 3:4) summed up in ten great universal principles--the Ten Commandments.
As we have already learned in our study of the Bible, repentance is the first step toward salvation. Before God will forgive our sins, we must repent of (turn from) breaking His law. Solomon concluded: "... Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Eccl. 12:13). Modern man is frustrated and incomplete because he lacks the living, vital contact with God that can come only by obedience to His Commandments!
Let's review several vital facts about the Ten Commandments, and see how they apply to the Christian way of life.
1. Are all ten of God's commandments conveniently listed for us in the Bible? Ex. 20:1-17; Deut. 5:6-21.
2. Since neither of the two previous biblical listings of the Decalogue is numbered in the text, how may we know that there are ten? Ex. 34:28; Deut. 4:13; 10:4.
COMMENT: It is interesting to note that the second commandment is omitted from some early non-biblical listings, and the tenth commandment arbitrarily divided into two parts to make the number add up to ten. But it is not logical to divide the commandment against coveting into two parts consisting of not coveting 1) our neighbor's wife and 2) our neighbor's house. The last phrase of number ten plainly summarizes both aspects of coveting by telling us not to covet "any thing that is thy neighbor's" (Ex. 20:17). It is evident that Paul understood this commandment by his simple statement: "Thou shalt not covet" (Rom. 7:7). (If you haven't done so already, be sure to send for our free booklet, The Ten Commandments, for a much more detailed study of all ten points.)
3. Did the patriarch Abraham--the "father" of the faithful (Rom. 4:16)--think it was important to keep God's commandments? Gen. 26:5. What was the prophet David's attitude toward obeying God's law? Read Psalm 119 in its entirety.
COMMENT: Both Abraham and David were commandment keepers. They had great respect for God's law. That is one of the reasons why they will both hold very responsible positions in the future government of God on earth. David wrote: "O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day" (Ps. 119:97). David's daily habit was to ponder and study God's law. It was a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path (verse 105). His obedience to God's commandments made him wiser than his enemies (verse 98). Throughout this Psalm, David declared how he loved God's law and used it as a guide in his life.
4. Did Jesus Christ Himself obey the Ten Commandments? John 15:10. Did He teach others to obey them? Matt. 19:17-19.
COMMENT: These verses in Matthew 19 clearly show that Jesus specifically meant the Ten Commandments. He knew that God's ten-point law would bring peace, fulfillment and joy to any individual or nation that would choose to obey it.
5. Does the Bible show that the very church Jesus built would today be teaching obedience to, and literally endeavoring to keep, the Ten Commandments and other instructions of Christ? Rev. 12:17; 14:12. (Chapter 12 of Revelation personifies God's Church as a woman.)
COMMENT: The Worldwide Church of God today upholds God's law. It recognizes that God set in motion a law that, to the degree it is obeyed, would bring humanity every good thing--abundant well-being--a full life. God's Church says with David: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105). It recognizes that God's law is one of His greatest gifts to mankind.
6. Is the law of God holy, just and good? Rom. 7:12. Does peace of mind come from keeping the Ten Commandments? Ps. 119:165.
COMMENT: No one who consistently breaks God's law can have real peace of mind. He will have fears and frustrations, and often a guilty conscience. But the person who keeps God's laws has a clear conscience. He is at peace with God, with himself, and with his neighbor. He has "the peace of God which passeth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7). The law of God is the way to peace, to happiness, to joy. It is one of God's greatest gifts to mankind--given to make man happy, to lead him into the full, abundant life, to protect his happiness and lead him into eternal life. All the evil extant in the world today is caused by disobedience to the Creator's laws.
7. How did Jesus expand the keeping of the Ten Commandments? Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28. Did John understand this principle? I John 3:15. Did Paul understand the spiritual aspects of God's law? Rom. 7:14.
COMMENT: Contrary to the belief of some, Jesus came not to do away with the Ten Commandments, but to teach and show by example how to live by the spiritual intent of the law. In Old Testament times God required only a physical, mechanical and visible obedience from the "church." In other words, obedience only in the letter. This, as we know, was because the Old Testament Church of God--the nation of Israel--was not given opportunity to receive the Holy Spirit to help them obey the spiritual intent of the Ten Commandments, as well as the letter of the law. But in New Testament times God has made His Holy Spirit available. He desires that His Spirit-begotten children follow Him in the spirit--the fullness--of His law.
To be sure His disciples of all ages understood this new, "magnified" (Isa. 42:21) style of law keeping, Jesus singled out the commandments barring murder and adultery as vivid examples. He taught that now we are not only to abstain from the physical acts of murder and adultery, but we are also to eschew hatred and adultery in our thoughts as well.
Hatred against another human being is the spirit of murder. Sexual lust is the spirit of adultery. Christ extended the influence of God's commandments to include our innermost thoughts and attitudes. Let's notice how the Bible shows this seemingly impossible task can be accomplished, albeit still imperfectly because of our humanity.
8. How did Jesus Christ of Nazareth sum up the great Ten-Commandment Law of God? Matt. 22:36-40. What is the basic characteristic of God's very nature and character? I John 4:16.
COMMENT: The Ten Commandments are expressions of the divine love of God because they reflect the very character of God, which is summarized by the word love. This love, as we learned in the previous lesson, is not just another form of human love, but the divine love that comes directly from God through the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Since God is love, Jesus showed that the whole spiritual intent and purpose of God's law is love. The first four commandments show us how to love God, while the last six of the Ten Commandments show us how to love our neighbor--all fellow human beings.
9. If we possess and exercise God's Spirit, will the love of God that it imparts enable us to "fulfill"--to obey--God's spiritual laws? Rom. 5:5; 13:10.
COMMENT: The divine love of God imparted to human beings by the Holy Spirit is expressed within the bounds of God's law--the Ten Commandments. It is manifested first of all in adoration and worship of God and literal obedience to Him; and then in outgoing concern, compassion, kindness and service toward other human beings.
The love of God enables us to fulfill the spirit of the law. It was the very tool that Jesus Christ used to intensify, magnify and fulfill the law Himself. As the apostle Paul explained: " ...he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, you shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:8-10, RSV). (More about how God helps us to keep His spiritual laws will be covered later in this lesson.)
10. Could there be any truth whatsoever in the widespread belief that love fulfills the law of God in such a way that the keeping of it is no longer necessary? I John 5:2-3; John 14:15; 15:9-10; II John 5-6.
COMMENT: The apostle John placed a great deal of importance upon love. But never did he or any other inspired writer of Scripture say that love put away, superseded or destroyed the law of God. John, who was a close friend and disciple of Jesus Christ, made it plain that one who truly has the love of God is obeying all of the commandments of God.
11. Is it possible to "earn" one's salvation through obedience to God? Rom. 6:23. And yet, can anyone enter God's Kingdom as a lawbreaker? Matt. 7:21; 19:17-19.
COMMENT: A word of qualification is necessary here. We are not saying that you can "earn" your salvation by keeping either the Ten Commandments or any other law of God for that matter. Eternal life is clearly a gift from God! No man or woman could earn it in ten thousand lifetimes of keeping the Ten Commandments! But neither can you enter into eternal life as a lawbreaker! (Rom. 6:23.) Jesus Christ plainly and emphatically stated that as Christians we are to endeavor to keep the Ten Commandments with our whole beings and His spiritual help, trusting in Him to mercifully apply His sacrifice in our behalf when and where we fall short, and as we repent (I John 1:7-9).
"Remember the Sabbath Day"
The majority of churches today envision Sunday as having replaced the seventh-day Sabbath. Somehow they have come to assume that the fourth commandment is no longer applicable in what they call the "New Testament Dispensation." Then there are those who feel that it is not necessary to keep any specific day as a Sabbath at all. To them, every day is a "spiritual" Sabbath.
Let's look directly into the Word of God for the truth about this key commandment.
1. When, how and by whom was the Sabbath "made"? Gen. 2:1-3; Mark 2:28.
COMMENT: Jesus Christ is the "Lord of the Sabbath because He made it! (Recall from our past studies that Christ is the "Lord" of the Old Testament, and the Creator of all things.) Christ "created" the Sabbath by the act of resting on the seventh day of creation week. He put His divine favor upon and set apart for a special use and purpose a 24-hour period of time that was to occur once every seven days following that first Sabbath.
2. For whom did Jesus say the Sabbath was specifically made? Mark 2:27.
COMMENT: "The Sabbath was made for man," declared Jesus. It was made far less than a day after man himself was created. The Sabbath was set apart at Creation for the benefit of all mankind. (Since Adam was the first man, he therefore stood as the representative of the whole human race which has descended from him.)
3. How did Christ intend the Sabbath to serve man's needs? Ex. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15.
COMMENT: Notice that God made the seventh day of the week holy--and He commands us to keep it that way. The Sabbath, then, is holy time. And it was made to be a great blessing for all humanity. The word "Sabbath" means "rest" in the original Hebrew. Simple physical and mental rest and refreshment after a grueling work week is an obvious reason for the Sabbath. Human beings need periodic rest and deliverance from the trials and troubles that seem to result from "just living." Man needs a retreat from the normal routine, time off in which to rest and reflect, to be recharged, reenergized and restored physically.
But the true meaning and purpose of the Sabbath goes far beyond physical, mental and perhaps even emotional respite. For the seventh-day Sabbath is inextricably interwoven into God's transcendent purpose for creating man in the first place. Modern man desperately needs this period of time in which to have spiritual union with God. Time in which to think more about God, to worship Him (both in private and in fellowship with others), to meditate upon man's place in the universe and grasp more fully the PURPOSE for his existence.
4. Was the observance of the Sabbath day to be a special "sign" of identification between God and His people Israel? Ex. 31:13-17.
COMMENT: A quick review of a portion of Israel's history is in order at this point. Recall that the Israelites had been the slaves of Egypt for several hundred years. While in Egypt, Israel was forbidden to worship the true God. They were forced to work seven days a week. Consequently, they forgot God's laws and the knowledge of the true Sabbath day which they had received from their progenitors Jacob (renamed Israel), Isaac and Abraham.
After God miraculously delivered Israel from the hands of their cruel taskmasters, He revealed the exact seventh day to them by supplying a double portion of manna on the sixth day of the week (Friday) and withholding it on the seventh day (Saturday), and commanding them to rest on that day (Ex. 16:22-26). (Recall also that the miracle of the manna continued for their entire 40-year sojourn in the wilderness--verse 35.) After revealing the true Sabbath day, God codified the Sabbath commandment at Mount Sinai by including it as one of the ten great commandments which He wrote on two tables of stone.
In order that Israel would especially remember that the eternal God is the Creator, Sustainer, and Supreme Ruler over all His creation, God singled out Sabbath observance as the one great "sign" by which they could always be reminded of who He is, and who they were. Many other nations had laws which paralleled some of the laws of God. Some had fairly tight moral laws, usually criminal ones (i.e. against murder, stealing). But none had a law requiring them to keep the Creator's Sabbath day. Therefore it was the one law of God which would make Israel stand out.
And so God doubly commanded Sabbath observance by making a separate covenant with His people Israel. (The Sabbath was already one of the Ten Commandments which were given to Moses shortly before.) It was to be an everlasting covenant (Ex. 31:16), and would identify the people of God. Likewise today, the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath is one of the "signs" which helps to identify those who compose the true church of God on earth.
5. Doesn't the Bible plainly reveal that a real Christian is one who has become a spiritual Israelite--has become one of Abraham's "seed" through Jesus Christ? Gal. 3:28-29; Rom. 4:16; 9:4.
COMMENT: God made the special Sabbath covenant with Abraham's physical "seed." It was to be obeyed throughout their generations. Today, all Spirit-begotten Christians have become Abraham's spiritual "seed" through faith in Christ, and are therefore under. the same obligation to keep the Sabbath day!
6. Was Jesus Christ a Sabbath keeper? Luke 4:16, 31.
COMMENT: Jesus regularly attended the local synagogue on the Sabbath in His own town "as His custom was." He met with them in fulfillment of His own command to convoke for worship services every Sabbath day (Lev. 23:3). This is the day He would obviously observe since He is the One who originally made the Sabbath and ordained that it be kept holy!
7. Is there biblical evidence that the early New Testament church also observed the Sabbath? Acts 13:13-15, 42-44; 14:1; 17:1-2; 18:1-11.
8. Was it Paul's "manner" (Acts 17:2), even as it was Christ's "custom" (Luke 4:16), to keep the Sabbath because he felt like it, or because Jesus Christ dwelt in him? Gal. 2:20. Does Christ's will remain the same forever? Heb. 13:8.
COMMENT: It is quite plain that the apostle Paul observed the Sabbath day. And if Christ lives His life in us today through the Holy Spirit as He did in Paul, then we will also be keeping the same day Jesus and Paul kept!
9. What are all Christians warned in Hebrews 3:8-13? Was rebellion, especially Sabbath breaking, the reason God prevented those ancient Israelites from entering His "rest"? Ezek. 20:12-13, 15-16.
COMMENT: Because Israel had become rebellious and polluted His Sabbaths, God did not allow that generation to enter the Promised Land--a symbolic type of the Kingdom of God. Those Israelites under Moses were on their way to the Promised Land, even as God's Spirit-begotten people today are aiming at the goal of entering into God's Kingdom. That is what the writer is saying in Hebrews, chapters 3 and 4! Let's notice further:
The word "rest" in Hebrews 3:11 is translated from the Greek katapausis and is defined as "rest" or "place of rest." As used in this verse, it denoted for ancient Israel the rest from the rigors of the wilderness by entering the Promised Land. This is a TYPE of the Christian's spiritual rest--being born into the KINGDOM OF GOD--made immortal!
10. Was it primarily because of their unbelief that the Israelites disobeyed, and therefore were prevented from entering God's "rest" for them--the land of Palestine? Heb. 3:19; 4:1-2.
COMMENT: Because the Israelites disbelieved God and therefore lacked faith in Him, they "hardened their hearts." They went on to profane God's Sabbaths when He made that the very testing point ("that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no"--Ex. 16:4); therefore God said of that generation, "They shall not enter my rest."
And none, but faithful Joshua and Caleb of that generation, did enter the Promised Land. But the children born along the way during the 40 years did enter with Joshua. God had originally promised this land to Abraham for his descendants, and regardless of Israelite sins, God was bound by His promise. Notice that before the second generation of Israelites crossed the Jordan River into Palestine Joshua said to the men of three tribes: " ... The Eternal your God bath given you REST, and bath given you this land" (Josh. 1:13).
11. But if New Testament Christians believe, and obey God, may they enter their "rest"--eternal "rest" in God's Kingdom? Heb. 4:3, first nine words.
COMMENT: The equation is very clear: Real belief in God equals active obedience! If a person truly believes God's Word, he will be obeying it.
12. Will true believers be keeping God's weekly Sabbath day as a symbol of their future rest in God's Kingdom? Heb. 4:9.
COMMENT: The vital meaning of this verse has been obscured by the King James rendering of the word "rest." Everywhere else in chapters 3 and 4 of the epistle to the Hebrews, the English word "rest" is translated from the
Greek word katapausis. However, in verse 9 of chapter 4, "rest" is translated from the Greek sabbatismos, meaning the keeping of the Sabbath. So, because of the future "rest" (katapausis)--the Kingdom of God--spiritual Israel is to enter, there remains for them a sabbatismos--a keeping of the Sabbath day. This means that Christians will enter the future "rest" of God's Kingdom even as they now keep the weekly Sabbath which looks forward to it!
Most other translations correctly render Hebrews 4:9 in the English. Even the margin of the King James version renders it: "There remaineth therefore a keeping of a Sabbath to the people of God." The Revised Standard Version has it: "So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God." The Jerusalem Bible: "There must still be, therefore, a place of rest reserved for God's people, the seventh-day rest."
13. What further encouragement are Christians given about entering God's eternal "rest"? Heb. 4:10-11. Where may they go for the help--the faith--needed to obey God? Verses 14-16.
COMMENT: Notice how the Revised Standard Version renders verses 10-11: "For whoever enters God's rest [the Kingdom of God] also ceased from his labors as God did from his [on the seventh day following the six working days of creation]. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience [as did ancient Israel]."
God's seventh-day Sabbath is not to be treated lightly, for the Sabbath is both a memorial and a shadow. It is a memorial of Creation and a foreshadow of the coming eternal "rest" that Spirit-begotten Christians will enter when born into God's eternal Family.
14. Did God command the entire nation of Israel to assemble ("convoke") on the Sabbath? Lev. 23:3; Num. 28:5. What are New Testament Christians admonished regarding the assembling of themselves? Heb. 10:25-26.
COMMENT: YOU may be interested to know that as early New Testament Christians assembled together on the Sabbath day, likewise God's Church in this age assembles for worship services on God's holy Sabbath. The Worldwide Church of God has congregations all over the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Europe and other parts of the world. Every Sabbath, God's people meet to receive spiritual instruction and inspiration from the Word of God as expounded by the ministry of His Church (Eph. 4:11-13).
(The Worldwide Church of God publishes an in-depth booklet on the subject of the Sabbath titled, Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath? Be sure to request it if you have not done so already.)
The Seven Annual Sabbaths
God has a master plan by which He is bringing about the fruition of His awesome purpose for mankind. And His Son, Jesus Christ, plays the central role in God's little-known plan for man. This plan is outlined in the form of seven annual Sabbaths/festivals which Christians are to observe for a vital purpose.
Just as the weekly Sabbath pictures the Christian's goal of entering into eternal "rest" as a glorified, Spirit-born member of God's Family, these annual observances give the step by step overview of the working out of God's plan for man. Not only does each festival picture a great event in God's plan in vivid terms, but the yearly observance of these days by God's people further impresses the knowledge of God's plan on them, and continually reminds them of their part in it.
It was not until the days of Moses that God began to reveal the details of His plan for working out His purpose for mankind. God formally introduced these festivals through Moses to His nation Israel--His "church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38).
Since throughout most of human history man has been close to the soil in providing his own food and sustenance, God originally used the yearly agricultural harvests of Palestine as symbolic types of His spiritual harvests of human beings. Today, however, due to large segments of the world's population neither farming nor even living close to agricultural areas, sometimes it is difficult to appreciate, in a spontaneous way, the spiritual analogies and understanding to be derived from these festivals.
Today we can understand from the teachings of Christ and the apostles, that God intends the spring harvest festivals to picture to His Church repeatedly year by year the fact that all of those He has called to become His Spirit-begotten children since Christ's first coming are only the "firstfruits"--only the relatively small beginning of His great spiritual harvest of human beings into His immortal family. Later, as pictured by the festivals of the autumn harvest season, God will call the rest of humanity to salvation!
In the 23rd chapter of Leviticus, we find a summary of these festivals. The first three festival periods, beginning with the Passover, are memorials of the first part of God's plan. They picture the "first-fruits" of God's spiritual harvest. The last four festivals look forward to the future and show how God will reap the latter great autumn spiritual harvest of billions of people.
As we commence this introductory study of God's annual festivals and what they signify for modern man, let's notice a few facts from history. The Encyclopaedia Britannica bears witness to the fact that the early New Testament Church of God kept the biblical festivals in a new and different way. "The sanctity of special times [current religious festivals such as Easter and Christmas] was an idea absent from the minds of the first Christians, who continued to observe the Jewish festivals [of Lev. 23], though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed" (vol. 7, p. 859, 14th edition, emphasis ours).
Most Bible commentators and scholars will agree that the many passing references to these annual occasions in the New Testament indicate that in the times and environment of the early church their observance was known, accepted--even taken for granted. Most importantly, Christ and the Church of God customarily kept the annual festivals and their Sabbaths: "In the early Christian Church the propriety of celebrating the festivals together with the whole of the Jewish people was never questioned, so that it needed no special mention" ( The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 1, p. 628).
However, it is obvious from a study of the Bible that God's annual festivals took on a new significance in the apostolic Church and were transformed into Christian celebrations. Jesus Himself played a major role in this by His teaching and example.
1. Who does the Bible say originated these annual festivals and their Sabbaths? Lev. 23: 1-2.
COMMENT: Notice that these are not the "feasts of the Jews" or "feasts of Moses," as some have thought--they are God's own feasts which He originated and gave to His people to keep year by year.
2. Did God specifically say that His annual feasts were to be observed in addition to the weekly Sabbath? Lev. 23:37-38.
3. What is the first festival to be observed each year? Lev. 23:5. When did God institute the very first Passover? Ex. 12:1-14.
COMMENT: The festival of the Passover begins God's master plan for mankind. The Passover pictured in advance the great sacrifice--the crucifixion and death--of Jesus Christ ("our Passover lamb"--I Cor. 5:7; I Peter 1:19) for the sins of mankind. After His death, the Passover became a memorial of that sacrifice. Notice:
4. What new way of observing the Passover did Jesus institute shortly before His death as He kept the Passover with His disciples? Luke 22:8, 15-20.
COMMENT: While instituting the new symbols of the wine and the bread, picturing His shed blood for the forgiveness of our sins, and His broken body for our physical healing (I Pet. 2:24), Jesus gave a command: "This DO in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). The Passover is a memorial of Christ's sacrifice for our sins which He wants Christians to especially "remember" once every year of their lives.
5. What completely new ceremony did Jesus also institute in connection with this New Testament Passover observance? John 13:1-17, especially verses 14-15.
COMMENT: On the occasion of His "last supper," Jesus left a very significant example for His disciples to follow henceforth. Notice that this ceremony of the washing of His disciples' feet had nothing whatsoever to do with the Old Testament observance of the Passover. It was then being instituted for the very first time by Jesus Christ Himself. He was taking this last-minute opportunity to institute an observance which His disciples in all ages were to keep annually from that time forward! Foot-washing depicts the attitude of humility and service to others which Christ always exhibited, and which He desires that each Christian strive to imitate (verse 16-17).
6. What observance follows immediately after the Passover? Lev. 23:6-8; Ex. 12:15-20.
7. Were the first and seventh days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread holy days on which the people were to assemble themselves, much the same as they would on a weekly Sabbath day? Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:7-8.
8. Did New Testament Christians ever observe this festival? I Cor. 5: 7-8. What is the obvious meaning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Verses 1-2, 6-7.
COMMENT: A study of these passages in I Corinthians 5 shows that the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which the Corinthian Christians were observing, pictures the putting away of sin. Leavening, therefore, is a biblical type or symbol for sin (verse 8) because sin, like physical leavening used in bread to make it rise, not only can cause a person to swell with vanity and become puffed up in God's sight (verses 2, 6), but can also spread throughout a group of people.
Paul warned the Church of God at Corinth that they should put out of their fellowship the person who was openly sinning (verse 1). Paul urged decisive action because, as he reminded them, "...a little leaven leavens the whole lump" (verse 6). Permitting sin to continue unabated and openly before all the congregation would, in time, cause others to gradually let down and begin slipping back into former sins. Sin would spread into the lives of other Christians by the poor example of just one as certainly as a little leavening in bread dough eventually causes the whole loaf to rise--to become puffed up!
We saw that the Passover is to remind us that Jesus paid a tremendous price for our past sins. He offered something more valuable than anything we could offer--the sacrifice of His perfect, sinless life. Then the Days of Unleavened Bread, which immediately follow the Passover, remind us that we must strive to put all sins OUT of our lives. This festival pictures putting the leaven of sin away from us and our renewed resolve to live in harmony with God's laws henceforth. Thus we are to annually rededicate our lives to continual spiritual growth--overcoming the remaining leaven of sin in our lives, and the recurring sins that beset all Christians from time to time.
9. What is the next annual festival that God ordained? Lev. 23:9-16. Was this another holy day of rest on which the people were to assemble themselves? Verse 21.
10. What new name was given in the New Testament to this Old Testament festival of "Firstfruits"? Acts 2:1.
COMMENT: The term Pentecost means "fifty" in the Greek. This is the only annual Sabbath whose exact calendar date is determined by counting. The first New Testament Pentecost occurred on the fiftieth day after Christ's resurrection. (For a full explanation of how this day is properly computed, you may write for our free article titled "How to Reckon the Day of Pentecost.")
11. What is the vital meaning of the festival of Pentecost (or "Firstfruits") for New Testament Christians? Acts 1:4-5; 2:38. Are Spirit-begotten Christians the "firstfruits" of God's great master plan? James 1:18; Rom. 8:23.
COMMENT: The New Testament festival of Pentecost is now a memorial which pictures the first arrival of the Holy Spirit from God to beget repentant believers for the first time. This first Pentecost therefore marked the birth of the New Testament Church. It was the first time God made the Holy Spirit available to mankind to this extent.
It was on this first Pentecost that the first of the "firstfruits" of God's first small spiritual "spring harvest" began to be reaped. These new Christians were begotten by the power that would help them to overcome and grow spiritually, thus preparing them to be born into God's Family at Christ's coming. God knows that for us to overcome our human weaknesses, to be thoroughly and successfully "unleavening" our lives, our puny human willpower and abilities are not enough. We need the supernatural strength of His Holy Spirit. This is the third logical step in God's master plan intended to help each one of us succeed in our purpose for living.
12. What is the next festival, or annual "Sabbath," of the seven described in Leviticus? Lev. 23:23-24.
COMMENT: The Day of Trumpets primarily depicts the triumphant return of the powerful living Christ to set up the Kingdom of God on earth (Rev. 11:15). You will remember that the first resurrection occurs at the second coming of Jesus Christ which is announced by the blast of a trumpet (I Thes. 4:16-17; I Cor. 15:52).
13. Does the overall meaning of the Feast of Trumpets encompass more than the second coming of Christ? Rev. 8:1-2,6; 10:7.
COMMENT: Notice that it is the Feast of Trumpets, plural (Lev. 23:24), not just the "Feast of the Last Trump." When ancient Israel was wandering in the wilderness, they became accustomed to the blowing of trumpets for many purposes: the calling of assemblies, the signal to march or halt, "officer's call," or as a warning. Much like the use of bugles in the military, ancient Israel came to recognize various sounds as having specific meaning.
There is a parallel between trumpets sounding alarms of warning in ancient Israel and the function of the Work of God today (Isa. 58:1). There is also a relationship between the angelic trumpet blasts, signaling the imminent return of Jesus Christ, and the continual warning and witness conducted by God's Work today which is preparing the way for the return of Christ. The successive angelic trumpet blasts and accompanying cataclysmic events on a worldwide scale just prior to Christ's return will serve as final warnings to a heedless, sin-ravaged world!
14. What annual Sabbath follows only nine days after the Feast of Trumpets? Lev. 23:26-32; 16:2-34, especially verses 29-31.
COMMENT: The rituals required of the Old Testament Levitical ministry on the Day of Atonement are described in great detail in the 16th chapter of Leviticus. Suffice it to say here that the live goat, upon whom all the sins of Israel were to be confessed, and which was led into the desolate wilderness, represents the restraining of the Devil upon whom the guilt of all the sins of mankind will be laid after Jesus Christ returns.
Satan, who is called the "god of this world" (II Cor. 4:4), and is described as the "prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2), being the father of sin (John 8:42-44), will be restrained by Christ from further deceiving and leading the masses of mankind into sin. No longer will he be able to "broadcast" his attitudes of vanity, lust, and greed into people's minds.
At the Devil's "chaining" (Rev. 20:1-3), the symbolism of Leviticus 16 will have become reality. The minds of men, formerly closed tight by Satan and his demon cohorts, will now at last be opened by the Spirit of God, and all humanity will readily accept and receive forgiveness of their sins through Christ. They will be able for the first time to understand God's master plan of salvation for them. Then, and only then, will mankind become "at one" with Christ and the Father, as symbolized by the Day of At-one-ment.
15. How are we to observe the Day of Atonement? Lev. 23:32.
COMMENT: The Day of Atonement is perhaps the most unusual holy day as far as what God expects us to do during it is concerned. For it is the one day on which God has commanded us to fast--to "afflict our souls" or bodies. (For biblical proof that afflicting one's soul means to fast, compare the following passages: Ps. 35:13; 69:10; Isa. 58:3; Ezra 8:21.) What, exactly, is fasting? What is its purpose? The purpose of fasting is to humble oneself--to help us to see ourselves as we really are. And to see God as He is.
Fasting on the Day of Atonement means denying oneself food and water for 24 hours--from sunset to sunset (or evening to evening--Lev. 23:32). Fasting is not penance--not a hunger strike to try to get one's way with God. A Christian is to fast in order to humble his or her own fleshly mind with its carnal will, and to draw closer to God and His righteous way (Isa. 58:6-11).
Thus fasting on the Day of Atonement is a vivid reminder of the state of mind necessary for salvation--of the humility, the godly sorrow, the earnest seeking for God's way--a condition to which this world will have been brought by the catastrophic events culminating in the return of Jesus Christ!
16. What important seven-day festival and integral annual Sabbath day follows the Day of Atonement? Lev. 23:33-35; Deut. 16:13.
COMMENT: The Feast of Tabernacles was also called the "Feast of Ingathering" (Ex. 23:16; 34:22) because this seven-day festival fell just after the autumn harvest season. The whole nation observed this feast after the final, main harvest was in (Lev. 23:39).
17. Did Jesus keep the Feast of Tabernacles? John 7:2, 8-11, 14. Did everyone know that Jesus always kept God's feasts and was certain to be in Jerusalem for its observance? Verse 11.
COMMENT: Because of continually mounting persecution, Jesus wisely chose not to travel openly in Judea (verse 1). However, verses 1-10 show that He did risk His life to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Even though He went secretly, He openly taught in the temple during the middle of the Feast (verse 14).
18. What is the divinely set theme for the yearly observance of the Feast of Tabernacles? Deut. 16:14-15. (Notice the words "surely rejoice." Other translations render this "be altogether joyful.") Does God intend for everyone--regardless of age, social strata or economic level--to rejoice in this feast? Verse 14.
19. Does God intend for a man to take his wife and children to rejoice with him at the Feast of Tabernacles? Deut. 16:14; 12:5, 7, 12. Are they to live in "booths"--temporary dwellings (corresponding to motel and hotel rooms, lodges, etc., today)--at the place designated for the observance of this feast? Lev. 23:42,40.
COMMENT: The Feast of Tabernacles is full of spiritual meaning for Christians today. Simply put, the Feast of Tabernacles portrays for us the wonderful World Tomorrow under the righteous rule of Jesus Christ--1,000 years of peace, prosperity and joy for the billions of mankind who will live in this utopian age. It is during the Millennium that the great "autumn harvest" of human lives will begin to be gathered into the Kingdom of God--born again as divine members of the Family of God.
Just think of it! Satan will have been immediately deposed at Christ's return. Then there will follow one thousand years of peace and prosperity. Those who are the "firstfruits" of God's spiritual harvest--first born into God's Family and co-heirs with Jesus Christ--will join Him in ruling this earth. They will be given the privilege of bringing saving knowledge to every human then alive.
New generations will be born in the Millennium, and humans will soon again number billions! Perhaps these could be called "second fruits," for each will live a life of overcoming as Christians today will have lived. Over and over God tells us that the Feast of Tabernacles is a time of exceedingly great rejoicing. For ancient Israel it was a time of rejoicing because the abundant winter's store was taken in just before the Feast. But in the Millennium, the happiness, joy and prosperity pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles will come about universally under the enlightened rule of Jesus Christ. Obedience to the spiritual principles of God's laws and God's revealed way of life will make the World Tomorrow a gloriously happy place. God's great autumn festival gives His Spirit-begotten children today freedom to think on His purpose and how to fulfill it. The Feast of Tabernacles is intended to separate and free them from the world. Dwelling in temporary habitations for an entire week away from their everyday surroundings, away from their jobs, their customary thoughts, and most negative influences, they picture by their observance of these seven days the universal freedom and peace of the Millennium.
The Feast of Tabernacles as observed today is actually a tiny, but happy, foretaste of the joyful World Tomorrow when the Spirit of God will lead every human. These are days of concentrated teaching by God's ministers--days of continuous, genuine Christian fellowship. Christians at the Feast demonstrate now, by the way they live together in harmony, what this whole sin-sick, unhappy world COULD and WILL be like!
Worldwide Church of God members enthusiastically look forward to observing the Feast of Tabernacles every autumn at one of dozens of festival sites located throughout the world. Outstanding convention sites are leased by the Church in the United States, Canada, the British Isles, Europe, Australia and other countries of the free world (and even in one iron curtain country!) to enable brethren to meet for services during this seven-day festival. Between services, members also participate in various exciting, fun-filled church-sponsored activities for young and old alike, as well as other special attractions which are unique to each site. The sincere concern and fellowship, the spiritual nourishment and just plain good fun whets one's appetite for the next year's feast, making the ordinary "vacations" of the past seem humdrum by comparison!
20. But does the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles mark the end of God's plan for humanity? Isn't it God's will that all who have ever lived should come to the knowledge of salvation? II Peter 3:9; I Tim. 2:4.
COMMENT: Thus far we have seen how those who have been privileged to be called of God through the ages, especially from the first coming of Christ up unto the end of the Millennium, fit into God's marvelous master plan. But what about the billions of people from the time of Adam down to our time (including perhaps most of your loved ones) who were not called of God?
Billions have never even heard the name of Christ, let alone heard of God's great plan of salvation! What of the millions under atheistic Communism? Are they doomed to eternal death, never even having had a chance to hear the truth? Would this be fair of a loving God? Can you imagine a merciful and just God condemning innocent little children--some of whose lives may have been cut short before they could either walk or talk--to remain dead for all eternity without the knowledge of God's happy way of life?
How, then, are they to learn of salvation? The answer is revealed in the final step in God's master plan. God has, in His fairness, planned for everyone who has ever lived--men, women and children--to receive the very same opportunity for salvation you are being given. Just as the week is not complete without the Sabbath day, so God's master plan is not complete without God's seventh annual holy day.
Seven in the Bible is a number signifying completion and perfection. Without the knowledge of this seventh annual holy day, you can't understand the perfection of God's master plan--that God's mercy to mankind extends even beyond the Millennium! In order to understand this final phase--the windup--of God's plan, we must understand the last of God's annual holy days, symbolizing the Last Great Judgment.
21. Was there an "eighth day" of worship held immediately following the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles? Lev. 23:36. Is it the final festival--the final annual Sabbath of rest? Verse 39.
COMMENT: The last annual High Sabbath is observed immediately after the Feast of Tabernacles. But because of its close proximity to this feast, it naturally was associated with the Feast of Tabernacles and was called the "eighth day." In the New Testament it is referred to as the "last day, that great day of the feast" (John 7:37).
22. Revelation chapter 20 holds the key to the meaning of the "Last Great Day." As we already know, verses 4-6 essentially speak of the resurrected saints ruling with Jesus Christ on earth for 1,000 years. But exactly what is said in the first sentence of verse 5?
COMMENT: These are not "the dead in Christ," but simply--the dead--those billions who are not Christ's--who have never been begotten and converted, who may never have even heard the name of Jesus Christ. Note that the first part of verse 5 in the King James Version is in reality a parenthetical expression. Here's how it should read: "(But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.) This is the first resurrection."
The sentence, "This is the first resurrection," refers to the resurrection of the righteous dead in Christ just before the 1,000 years. "But," John makes clear, "the rest of the dead"--those who never had a chance to understand God's truth--would not come up in a resurrection "until the thousand years were finished." This resurrection--after the 1,000 years are finished--is the second resurrection in time order.
23. How does John further elaborate on the second resurrection? Rev. 20:11-13. How are these people judged? Verse 12.
COMMENT: The Greek word translated "books" in Revelation 20:12 is biblia, and it is from this exact word that we derive our English word "bible." Check it in your dictionary. The "books" that are opened are the books of the Bible! They will be opened to the understanding of the billions of people who have never yet heard the name of Christ or been able to understand the true message of God's Word--those who have never before been able to participate in God's master plan of salvation. This is the same outpouring of the spirit of understanding--of "living waters"--that Jesus Christ referred to on that last great day of the Feast of Tabernacles! (John 7:37-39.)
24. How did Jesus refer to this special "day," or period of judgment for peoples who have yet to hear the wonderful message of salvation? Matt. 10:15; 11:20-24; 12:41-42.
25. Where else in the Bible is this resurrection to judgment described? Ezek. 37:1-14. Are these dead clearly raised to physical human life--again to have corruptible human bodies made of flesh and bone--to rely on air to sustain their physical existence? Verses 5-10.
26. What is God's promise to these resurrected peoples? Verses 13-14. Isn't this obviously the same outpouring of God's Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ spoke about in His enigmatic sermon on the "last great day" of the Feast of Tabernacles? John 7:37-39.
COMMENT: Recall in chapters 10, 11 and 12 of Matthew that Christ first mentioned the peoples of Sodom and Gomorrha. Then in order: Tyre and Sidon, Sodom again, Nineveh in Jonah's time, and finally the Queen of Sheba. All of these examples (people who lived in different generations) are compared to the citizens living in the cities and towns of Jesus' generation (the vast majority of whom did not understand or believe Christ's message). Jesus tells us that they all are to be resurrected with the generation that lived during His time on earth!
Jesus gave enough representative examples of generations of people living at widespread and different times in human history to substantiate the fact that most of humanity will be alive, together, at the same time on this earth. There will be pre-Flood men and women, all twelve tribes of Israel, those who lived during the Middle or Dark Ages, etc., and everyone living even now who will not have had the opportunity to come to Christ simply because they were not called by God to receive their opportunity for salvation during their lifetime. (See John 6:44,65.)
This group includes all people of all times everywhere on this earth, excepting, of course, those who will be born of God in the first resurrection--or those relatively few incorrigibly wicked people who will be resurrected in the third resurrection to have their part in the lake of fire, which is the second and final death (Rev. 20:14-15).
If many of the ancient peoples described in Matthew's gospel would have repented, as Christ Himself said they would have if He had personally come to them in their day; they will most surely repent when resurrected after He has already ruled for a thousand years on an earth dominated by peace, prosperity and well-being. This vast resurrection to mortal life opens their period of judgment--not sentencing. (Sentencing is merely the final act in the process of judgment.) A decision must be rendered based on how each individual responds to the Word of God. (This same "judgment" is now upon Christians who have been begotten by God's Holy Spirit today--I Peter 4:17.) And since every individual will have the fullest single opportunity for salvation, each will in effect be rendering their own verdict by the choices they make while living during this period of "judgment."
But if you become a Christian now in this age, and if you remain faithful unto death, you will be privileged to partake of a "better resurrection" (Heb. 11:35) at Christ's second coming. It's better simply because you have the opportunity to receive a greater reward than those who will live the Christian life during the last judgment period, or even those who will have lived during the Millennium! (More about your potential "reward" a little later in this lesson.)
We have seen that all of God's annual Sabbaths/festivals are built around the annual harvest seasons in Palestine. But it is the spiritual harvest that God is interested in! Old Testament Israel was reminded of their dependence upon, and relationship to, Almighty God by this seasonal cycle of harvest festivals. Now God's faithful New Testament Christians can receive the vital lifesaving knowledge of God's master plan for His spiritual harvest through the observance of these SAME DAYS!
What one wants to remember, he must review regularly. As Spirit-begotten Christians observe each annual festival in its season, they are reminded of God's master plan for the salvation of all mankind, and their individual part in it. God's annual holy days give one the opportunity to "act out," in a sense, the purpose for which he or she was born.
Through the years, God's church has grown in the understanding of the spiritual meaning of these annual holy days. Unlike the world's holidays which show no practical purpose or plan whatsoever for human existence, God's annual Sabbaths/festivals reveal the full scope and meaning of His great purpose for mankind. In this introductory study we learned that God's annual Sabbaths and their related festivals not only teach us His plan of salvation, they point us directly to our Savior Jesus Christ. He is "our Passover" (I Cor. 5:7).
It is by "putting on" Christ that we put sin out of our lives, as pictured by the Days of Unleavened Bread. Christ is the first of the "firstfruits," and it was after His resurrection that He sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was sent to spiritually beget those whom the Father would call, thus enabling them to fulfill His law, successfully overcome sin in their lives, and grow spiritually.
It is Christ who is going to intervene in world affairs, pictured by the Feast of Trumpets and become King of kings and Lord of lords, putting down the despotic rule of man and Satan, the arch deceiver, as portrayed by the Day of Atonement. With the influence of the devil and his demons now gone, all mankind will have opportunity to become "at one" with Christ through baptism and the receipt of the Holy Spirit. Christ is coming to set up His government in the Millennium, making this earth a veritable utopia--pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles.
Billions will be born into the Family of God during this golden age. His people, which the Bible terms "saints," are now preparing the way for, and are representatives of, that Kingdom by following in Christ's footsteps. Finally, Christ shall make salvation available to everyone who ever lived, but never heard or understood the truth, in the last great step--the Last Great Day picturing the last judgment period--in His plan. This will be the conclusion of His personal sacrifice as the Savior of mankind.
God's church today has retained the precious truth concerning His master plan and purpose here on earth for you! Around the world God's true church--composed of converted, Spirit-begotten children of God--is faithfully observing all of God's festivals every year. (For a more detailed explanation of these annual Sabbaths/festivals, please write for our two free booklets titled Holidays or God's Holy Days--Which? and How Often Should We Observe the Lord's Supper?)
Tithing and Giving in a New Spirit
We have seen that the weekly Sabbath and the annual Sabbaths/festivals, and many other Old Testament laws, are now observed by Christians with a new and different spirit and approach (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28). We are about to see that God's law of tithing also takes on new meaning today. Remember the apostle Paul wrote that "... We are able ministers of the new testament [or the New Covenant]" (II Cor. 3:6).
Christianity is a way of life. It has everything to do with the way we live our daily lives--our day-in, day-out association with others, our business practices--even the way we handle our money. Remember that God is Creator, Owner, and Proprietor of everything we see around us. God therefore has a prior claim to ownership of all that has been produced out of the earth. As David wrote: "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein" (Ps. 24:1). All the gold and silver belongs to God (Hag. 2:8). God created everything and by virtue of that creation He owns it all--including mankind. There is really no way that we can "reimburse" God for what He has done for us as our Creator.
So why give a tithe of our increase to God? Tithing is a part of God's "give way" of life. God wants us to learn how to give and share for the good of others, and for our own good! God uses the tenth He claims for Himself for proclaiming to the world His gospel of peace, joy, happiness, prosperity and eternal life. For lack of this knowledge, the world has been under a curse!
God's law concerning what we produce and earn can be compared to a contract. He wants us to understand that we are working with Him in a partnership. God allows us to live and work on His earth--to cultivate the land and produce the food we eat. He allows us to cut down His timber and build the houses we live in, and to use all His resources in producing thousands of products for our own use.
But God is a very generous partner. He basically reserves only 10 percent for His Work on earth. In the Garden of Eden, God reserved just one tree for Himself. That remained His. He never gave that one tree to Adam and Eve for their use. They had no right to eat of its fruit. When they, filled with greed to possess all, reached out and took the fruit of that forbidden tree, they sinned--they STOLE from God.
Today, the same Satan that deceived Eve would gladly have you believe that all of your income--or all the produce of your land--is yours. But don't you believe it! Let's understand what the Bible has to say about tithing.
1. How did the patriarch Abraham honor the Creator, Owner and Sovereign over all things? Gen. 14:17-20; Heb. 7:1-4. To what extent did God bless obedient Abraham? Gen. 13:2.
COMMENT: Abraham was a tither. He gave a tenth part of the spoils of battle to God. The context of these verses in Genesis clearly shows that God received His due before any further disposition of the goods to others was made. Abraham thus acknowledged that God was the source of all his blessings.
Abraham became an exceedingly prosperous man because he was mightily blessed of God. And the biblical record shows he continued to be obedient to God for the rest of his life (Gen. 26:5).
2. Was Melchizedek God's priest? Gen. 14:18; Heb. 7:1-3.
COMMENT: Tithing is revealed in the Bible as God's system for financing His earthly ministry. Prior to the Levitical priesthood and the Mosaic dispensation, the ministry was that of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was God's representative on earth and He received the tithes from God's faithful servants at that time. Melchisedec, "...having neither beginning of days, nor end of life... abideth a priest continually" (Heb. 7:3). Yes, He probably was High Priest even from the time of Adam! And the ancient patriarchs financed this ministry of God on earth by the tithing system.
3. What did Jacob promise God he would do with all his increase? Gen. 28:20-22. Was he prospered? Gen. 30:43.
COMMENT: Jacob promised to give God the tithe of his increase from that time forward. Over the years of his life God did bless him a great deal because of his faithfulness; there was hardly enough space in the country for all his cattle. Jacob apparently continued as a life-long tither, never forgetting the One who had caused him to prosper (Gen. 48:15).
4. Before the time of Moses, the tithe had been paid directly to Melchizedek. But after Israel's deliverance from Egypt, who did God say was to receive the tithe? Num. 18:21, 24. To whom were the Levites themselves to pay a tithe of their income (of the tithes they received from the people)? Verses 26-28.
COMMENT: God had set Aaron's family in highest authority over the Levites (verses 2-3, 6), so the priests received a tithe from the income of all the other Levites.
5. What different use was to be made of this tithe for that time? Num. 18:21.
COMMENT: Melchizedek, the member of the Godhead who became Jesus Christ (write for the free article which proves the true identity of Melchizedek), selected the Levites to be His ministers. God's ministry through the Levitical priesthood was a material, ritualistic ministry of reminding a carnal nation of their failure to obey His laws (Jer. 7:22-24).
So Christ (Melchizedek) ordained a change in the tithing law--He turned the tenth He had always personally received over to the Levites for their support. Christ thereby transferred receipt of the tithe to the Levitical priesthood for their support. But there was no spreading of the gospel worldwide at that time. God's plan for that dispensation merely called for the Levites to teach the people the law in the letter, and to administer the physical rituals and sacrifices. And the people were commanded to bring their tithes to them.
Hebrews chapter seven clearly shows that tithing had long been an ongoing financial principle by the time God formally instituted ancient Israel's civil law through Moses and made tithing a law. The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that tithing is not Levitical (of the descendants of Levi) or "ceremonial" (see verses 5, 8-10). It did not begin with the administration of the Levites and therefore is not ended now that there is no longer a Levitical priesthood extant in the world. Rather, according to verses 11-17 of Hebrews seven, God changed the priesthood back to the spiritual priesthood of Melchizedek. The Levitical Priesthood was superseded by the priesthood of Jesus Christ--the Melchizedek priesthood restored! And so there was also a change as to who should now receive the tithe (verse 12). Christ has authorized His New Testament ministry to accept the tithes in order to do the spiritual Work of God!
The New Testament era was ushered in when Melchizedek (Christ), who abides as our High Priest continually (Heb. 7:3; 4:14-16), became a mortal man so He could be sacrificed for the sins of all mankind and make the Holy Spirit available to those whom God calls. Christ came to this earth to inaugurate a NEW kind of ministry--a spiritual ministry. It is a ministry of SALVATION--a ministry of PROPHECY--a ministry of WARNING, as well as GOOD NEWS. Christ's commission to all His true ministers is, "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations... Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..." (Matt. 28:19-20). And, referring to our day, He said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end [of the age] come" (Matt. 24:14).
Jesus Christ came to qualify as the Ruler of this world. And He came to train messengers who would proclaim to an unbelieving and slumbering world His soon return to establish the government of God on earth. Christ personally chose His original twelve apostles, or ministers, to carry on the work He began. Today the true ministers of Jesus Christ are to perform an even GREATER WORK for this end time!
But which church today is carrying out Christ's commission? Do you know? Jesus said He would build His church (Matt. 16:18). And He did build it! Have you found it? Jesus Christ established one church--not hundreds of differing, disagreeing denominations. One church which was to carry on the work He began. That church first comprised His apostles and disciples whom He empowered with His Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). And Christ's true church has continued through the ages until this very day!
Somewhere on earth today are the true ministers of God. As the end of this age approaches, they will be carrying out Christ's commission with POWER. They are making plain the GOOD NEWS of the soon-coming Kingdom of God. Without fear or favor, they are explaining the laws of that Kingdom.
And they are making plain and clear the hundreds of prophecies referring directly to this end time. In these critical, chaotic days approaching the end of an age, the carrying on of God's true ministry is a worldwide mission which is reaching MILLIONS of people. It is a huge undertaking and it requires not only the financing of the personal needs of hundreds of ministers and other laborers, but the employing of tremendous facilities for proclaiming Jesus' world-shaking gospel of the Kingdom of God UNTO ALL NATIONS!
And these high-powered facilities that have been made available for His purpose--radio and television stations and printing presses which reach vast multitudes of people never before possible in any past age--cost a great deal of money! Today, God has provided for the financing of His powerful spiritual ministry by the same system He has used for millennia--the tithing system.
6. Does the Bible show that both nations and individuals can literally "steal" from God directly? Mal. 3:7-12.
COMMENT: Can anyone afford to rob God? Stealing from God is a very serious matter! It would be sheer folly to toss it off with a casual shrug of the shoulders as if God does not notice. Although tithing is giving a tenth of one's income, you cannot give "your" tithe, in this sense: It is not yours to give--it already belongs to God. He has put a "no-trespassing" sign on it; it is the first tenth which He has reserved unto Himself. It is only after we acknowledge God's prior claim over that first tenth of our income that we have legitimate claim to the other nine-tenths.
7. What does one come under when he or she breaks this fundamental financial law of God? Mal. 3:9.
COMMENT: Does anyone who lives in America, or Britain, or Australia doubt that these Western nations are, in fact, under some horrible curse in spite of their comparative wealth? It's almost a contradiction in terms--blessings and cursings at the same time--yet news of our latest financial debacles are regular headlines in the United States, Britain and other English-speaking countries in the Western world.
8. What is God's simple solution to our financial problems? Mal. 3:10. Does He challenge us to put Him to the test--to "prove" Him--to see if He really will bless us? Same verse.
COMMENT: God does not offer us complex, hard to be understood solutions to our financial problems and curses. The simple equation is: Give to God what is His and He will reward us with blessings. God has a thousand ways of making what you do pay off bigger. If you work diligently, and are faithful in giving Him His portion, He works with you, blesses your effort, causes your partnership with Him to produce and earn more!
Those who faithfully give God His tenth find that the 90 percent that is left seems to go further than the 100 percent ever did before. Thousands of Worldwide Church of God members, and co-workers in this great Work of God, have remarked that there seems to be an unwritten law which cannot be put down in a budget--a law that causes their money to always stretch further when they tithe faithfully. (Read the following scriptures in connection with this principle: I Kings 17:8-23; II Kings 4:1-7; 42-44; Matt. 14:17-21; 15:34-38; Heb. 13:8.) At the same time, by giving the tenth which God reserves for Himself, people become more conscious of their money--they budget and plan more carefully, and waste less of their incomes.
9. What should be our attitude in giving God the tenth that belongs to Him, and even an occasional offering as we are able? II Cor. 9:6-7.
COMMENT: A generous attitude is foundational to God's "give" way of life. God is a generous giver! He hopes that His children will reflect a like generosity, within their limited means. The apostle Paul made this crystal clear: "The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (II Cor. 9:6-7, RSV).
The giving principle is elsewhere stated in the pages of the Bible. Jesus showed that a giving spirit brings an automatic boomerang-like effect. "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again" (Luke 6:38).
Solomon reiterates the very same axiom in his writings: "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days" (Eccl. 11:1-2, RSV). God's blessing WILL come in God's own time and God's own way. Again, "One man gives freely, yet grows richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. A liberal man will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered" (Prov. 11:24-25, RSV).
All of these verses just repeat in different words, the time-tested principle restated by many writers throughout the Bible: "What you sow you shall reap" (Gal. 6:7).
10. In what way did Jesus uphold the principle of tithing? Matt. 23:23. Notice the last part of the verse.
COMMENT: Isn't that rather clear? Jesus said that spiritual qualities such as judgment, love, mercy and faith are more important than carefully and strictly paying tithes on every little plant that might grow in your garden--especially when that strictness led to self-righteousness. But Christ said "not to leave the other undone"--not to fail to pay your full tithe as God requires.
11. Is tithing a kind of worship, as well as an expression of faith toward God? Heb. 11:6.
COMMENT: Tithing is much akin to prayer. Prayer to God is an offering of one's deepest heartfelt intent coupled with thanksgiving and gratitude. Tithing and the giving of our material substance are exactly in the same category. It is an act of worship to God--a demonstration of love, gratitude, respect, honor and esteem for the Creator--a sign of submission to the will of God, an acknowledgment of His lordship and dominion. Tithing, like prayer, is an act of faith in God. As such, it is the heart and core of what Christianity and conversion are all about. Tithing is a deeply personal act of worship when done in faith. It is an acknowledgment that God is there--that He REALLY EXISTS--and that He is able to "supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19).
There is simply no way anyone can prevent God from blessing those who step out on faith and tithe to their Creator. Experience has proved there is an automatic blessing for being obedient to our great eternal God if that obedience is coupled with faith. Remember that you tithe to God, not to any man! You are recognizing, when you give God His tithe, that He has placed a prior claim on your income. You are recognizing that He EXISTS, and that He is a "rewarder of them that diligently seek him"! Yes, tithing is an act of faith--a spiritual act, like prayer--and without faith, it is impossible to please God.
But suppose someone says, "I have no confidence in the way the tithe will be used." May he therefore refuse to give his tithe or stipulate exactly by whom or for what purpose it will be used? Let's understand. The individual's responsibility is to pay God's tithe to those whom he has proved to be doing God's Work. Deciding how the tithe is to be used or spent once it is given is not his responsibility. That is God's responsibility. It is God's tithe and it is up to Him to direct how His servants use the money.
12. Should Christians be "fellow-helpers" to the truth? III John 8. Are they "fellow-laborers" in spreading the gospel? Phil. 4:3; I Cor. 3:9; II Cor. 6:1.
COMMENT: The amazing growth in the power and effectiveness of the Worldwide Church of God over the years has been possible only through the combined efforts of thousands whom Jesus Christ has called to help financially support His Work through their tithes and offerings. In the earlier years of God's church, only a handful of people could be reached with the gospel. But as the number of dedicated members and co-workers who voluntarily sent tithes and offerings increased, so has the scope and power of God's Work.
Money is a storehouse of value. It can be used selfishly or it can add power and increased effectiveness to the Church of God so it can fulfill His commission. It is by the collective efforts of many whom God has called to share in the glorious opportunity to be "fellow-laborers" that makes it possible for this world to hear and read the true gospel of Christ today.
Even the expense of printing and mailing this course of Bible study was made possible by the tithes and offerings given to God's Work. God's "tithe" is that 10 percent which He reserves for Himself. And yet, it is actually spent wholly for man's benefit--in bringing the knowledge of the blessings of God's government to mankind! God's way is to give--without charge--His truth to any and all who will ask. By involving His "fellow-laborers" in this awesome commission, they share in the blessing of bringing others into the Family of God.
Truly it is "more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). By honoring God with our substance, our own material needs will be supplied, for God promises: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" [Matt. 6:33). Christ gave His disciples (and us also, if we seek to follow His ways) a precious spiritual principle. He said: "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.... For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:20-21). If you will invest a tenth of your income in the Work of God, you will find that your own interest in the things of God will develop and grow. And as your involvement in the great work of this church develops, and you nurture it with prayer and study to know God's will for your life, you will be overcoming and growing in the very character of Jesus Christ: "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
Why not make your investment an eternal investment? Make God your financial partner. Put your heart and God's tithe into the work that He is doing; the work of warning all nations of impending global troubles; the Work that is publishing the message of the GOOD NEWS of tomorrow's world--a world that will at last be living under the loving guidance of our Creator God. Why not "prove" God?
The Christian Fight!
The Word of God tells us that all who will follow the Christian way of life will have to face three deadly enemies. These three enemies tend to discourage us from overcoming sin and developing the very character of Christ.
These deadly foes tend to lead us away from faith in God, from relying on God, from walking with God. They can come between us and God--divide us from Him. They tend to put wedges into our minds that will grow and grow, separating us from the guidance and power of God's Holy Spirit. God says these deadly enemies must be defeated and He tells us how to do it!
1. Does Paul show there is effort involved in living the Christian life--that eternal life is worth fighting for so as not to let it slip from one's grasp? I Tim. 6:12; I Tim. 1:18-19. Whose "soldier" was Timothy? II Tim. 2:3-4.
2. Did Paul steadfastly follow God's way of life--did he know, shortly before his death, that he had WON the Christian fight? II Tim. 4:6-8.
3. Is the Christian's warfare against physical armies? Or is it a spiritual warfare? II Cor. 10:3-4. Just what is it that a Christian is to fight against? Verse 5.
COMMENT: The first enemy in the Christian's daily warfare is his own "human nature" with its inordinate lusts (Gal. 5:19-21). This nature in us rationalizes cleverly, sometimes producing deceitful and degrading impulses--vanity, lust, greed, etc. We are enticed to sin, to break God's spiritual law, thus cutting us off from Him. Our nature can destroy us spiritually, unless we resist its wrong impulses.
4. What is the second deadly enemy of all Christians? Is it the world around us? Gal. 1:4. What should be a Christian's attitude toward the world's social order with its glitter, glamour, status-seeking, and alluring appeal? I John 2:15-17.
COMMENT: John is speaking about this worldly system around us--this "cosmos." It is from the original Greek word Cosmos, translated "world" in I John 2:15, that English words such as cosmopolitan, cosmography, cosmopolite, etc. are derived. John was referring to the societies of this world, so much of which are literally built on and motivated by the vanity, lusts, and greed of human nature. Because most people have been deceived (Rev. 12:9), they don't understand how so many of the world's ways could be wrong in God's sight. Nevertheless, this world's ways do bombard Christians continually with temptations which can seduce them from following Christ!
5. Should Christians strive to avoid the evil that is in the world? II Cor. 6:14-18; Rev. 18:4. Does this mean that any who would love God and seek to live the Christian way of life should therefore move away from populated areas? John 17:15-18. Notice especially the first part of verse 15.
COMMENT: Christ's prayer in the seventeenth chapter of the gospel of John shows that God does not expect Christians to move to the mountains and deserts to escape the world's distractions! Rather, they should strive to be separate spiritually and abstain from its ways that are defined as sin in the Bible. From earliest childhood we conformed to the customs and practices which we learned from the teachings and examples of others. We merely accepted without question most of the practices and lifestyles of the society around us. But as we learn about God's way, we are to conscientiously apply ourselves to the new life in Christ. "Be not conformed to this world," said Paul, "but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12:2).
Unless we cease from conforming to those ways of this world which are contrary to God's will, we will not grow in the character of Christ or overcome spiritually. The many snares in the world could be compared to an obstacle course which challenges and strengthens a good soldier in training. Christians must learn to hurdle those obstacles.
6. Do people always appreciate the person who tries to live according to God's law? I Peter 4:3-4; John 15:18-20; 16:33. How should a Christian respond to those who might be antagonistic toward his life in Christ? Matt. 5:43-47; Rom. 12:20-21.
COMMENT: God does not want us to hate the people in the world, even though some may attempt to persecute and ridicule us for following God's way. Since they are potential Sons of God, we are instructed to love them! Someday, perhaps because of our Christian examples of genuine concern, service and compassion for people in general, some of them, too, may turn to God and be converted (Matt. 5:14-16). Nevertheless, eventually God will open their minds and show them His glorious truth so they can become Christians too, as is depicted by the last step in God's master plan.
7. What, or who, is the third great enemy of every Christian? I Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7. Isn't Satan the devil ultimately responsible for inspiring the inordinate characteristics of human nature and for all the evil in this world? II Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2. Has he indeed deceived the whole world? Rev. 12:9.
COMMENT: Satan, the devil, formerly the great archangel Lucifer who was originally created perfect in his ways (Ezek. 28:15), acquired his satanic nature by his own reasoning and choice. As we learned in Lesson 9, humans have in turn acquired Satan's nature from early childhood and we call it "human nature." Notice how Paul described this natural frame of mind: "... the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7).
But once the Holy Spirit of God is added to a person's mind, he then has the power to resist the attitudes of self-centeredness, lust, greed, vanity, jealousy, envy, resentment, competition, strife, bitterness, and hate which are broadcast to the mind by Satan.
No person is compelled to respond to and obey these impulses from Satan. The devil has no power to FORCE anyone to think or do wrong! But the unsuspecting automatically do so without realizing what is taking place in their minds. Most people just drift along, responding to emotions and impulses which often find expression in their fleshly drives and vain pursuits.
Thus Satan, the "god of this world," the "prince of the power of the air," is actually working in the unsuspecting all over the world today. That is why it is "this present evil world," and why it is so thoroughly deceived today!
8. After your begettal by God's Holy Spirit which makes you a Christian, will the devil try to beguile you again--to deceive your mind--and lead you away from Christ and His ways? II Cor. 11:2-4. Did some in Paul's day begin to fall victim to the devil's promptings once again? Verses 13-15; Gal. 1:6-8; 3:1.
COMMENT: Conversion does not disconnect Satan's wavelength. He continues to broadcast the attitudes of his nature. When Jesus spoke of overcoming, He referred to overcoming these ways of Satan, which are contrary to God's way. It seems that few, even among converted Christians, fully realize the supreme need to be constantly aware of Satan's efforts to get them to turn from God's way of government back to his way. Those who have turned from his way are fighting to OVERCOME his subtle urgings, and are striving to remain true to God's way--the way of God's government. They are the ones Satan hates. He is especially interested in destroying them! Without God's protection and restraining power over Satan, which He promises to grant us if we remain close to Him, none could ever make it! Before Jesus Christ could qualify to restore the government of God and rule all nations, He had to withstand Satan's most severe temptations. That supreme struggle is recorded in the fourth chapter of Matthew. Notice how the devil attempted to deceive and influence Jesus Christ to sin against God.
9. When Jesus was extremely hungry, how did the devil appeal both to human vanity and hunger? Matt. 4:1-4. And to the human desire for prestige, glory, and power? Verses 5-9. What were Jesus' immediate responses? Verses 4, 7, 10. What was the outcome of this titanic spiritual battle? Verse 11.
COMMENT: Christ overcame the devil. Jesus resisted Satan, conquered him, and showed His MASTERY over him! When He gave the devil an order, he had to obey. He slunk away, knowing he was defeated in this supreme spiritual encounter of all time. Christ overcame the devil's wiles by the Word of God. He responded to the devil's temptations by citing the appropriate scripture that applied in each situation. He knew the Word of God thoroughly. He KNEW God's will. Therefore, the devil could not deceive Him!
10. Are Christians today also to resist the devil with the truth God has revealed to them? I Peter 5:9. What must the devil do if resisted steadfastly? James 4:7.
11. What instructions on fighting against the impulses and attitudes of the devil does God give through Paul? Eph. 6:10-12. What are Christians to puton in order to fight this spiritual battle? Verses 11, 13. Of what does God's spiritual armor consist? Verses 14-20.
COMMENT: "Truth" refers to the inspired Word of God (John 17:17), the first piece in the Christian's spiritual armor. The "breastplate of righteousness" is obedience to God's commandments (Ps. 119:172); the "gospel" is the message of the coming Kingdom of God when Christ will rule this earth and bring it peace. The "shield of faith" refers to the faith of Jesus Christ which can be within us (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:9)--not just to our own human, physical faith. This faith is God's gift imparted by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
And it is this faith--Christ's faith put within us--that will enable us to conquer and overcome sin!
The "helmet of salvation" is the knowledge of what salvation is, what it involves, what it's all about--the very purpose of life. In other words, it is the knowledge of the TRUE GOAL and potential destiny of mankind--that of becoming divine members of the Family of God!
The "sword of the Spirit" refers to the written Word of God--it is the Christian's only offensive weapon in fighting the devil and his wiles (Heb. 4:12). It cuts the enemy's tactics and strategies to ribbons, and shows us what the enemy is up to. The final thing Paul mentions in fighting Satan and his wiles is "prayer." Christians are to draw close to God in persevering prayer (I Thes. 5:17), praying for all of God's people, the ministry of God's church, and themselves.
This is the way to defeat--to OVERCOME--Satan and to force him to flee! This is the perfect strategy for defeating human nature and the allure of this world, since they are both essentially motivated by the devil. If Christians will diligently follow this formula, their success in overcoming all three deadly foes will be guaranteed.
Why "Overcoming" is so Important
The Bible speaks a great deal about "overcoming." Let's understand exactly why it is so important in living the Christian life, and what bearing that overcoming has on the "occupations" of born-again Christians in the Kingdom of God.
1. Did Jesus Christ become perfect? Heb. 2:9-10. Notice especially the last part of verse 10. What did Christ say He expects of those who would claim to be His followers? Matt. 5:48. Who are they to become like? Eph. 4:13.
COMMENT: As we learned in the previous lesson, Jesus spoke of becoming perfect. But exactly what kind of "perfection" was He talking about? In the original Greek, the word for "perfect" is teleios, which also means "complete." In other words, Jesus means that His followers are to become fully grown and spiritually mature. Obviously, we cannot become absolutely perfect until the resurrection when God will complete the process and give us new, perfect spiritual bodies with a perfect--sinless--nature that will be like God's. But in the meantime, God wants us to strive to perfect His spiritual character in us by obeying His commandments, and overcoming and rooting sin out of our lives.
2. Even though Christ was the very Son of God and possessed the Holy Spirit without measure (John 3:34), did He still have to learn obedience? Heb. 5:8-9. Did Christ "overcome"? John 16:33. Did He resist temptation? Heb. 4:15.
COMMENT: Jesus Christ became perfect through the trials and tests of human experience. He overcame the temptations of the devil, His flesh, and the world around Him. In spite of opposition and temptation, He kept God's commandments perfectly. Thus He was able to become the Savior of mankind and the supreme example of spiritual maturity Christians are to be striving to emulate. The Bible shows that striving to perfect the spiritual character of Christ is an ongoing process of overcoming throughout the Christian life--of putting sin out of our lives, learning to control and rule over the downward pulls of our nature.
3. Just how important is overcoming to your being in God's Kingdom and receiving a reward? Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26-27; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7.
COMMENT: Through overcoming the sinful pulls of the flesh, the world and the devil, our spiritual character is being perfected--we are building the very character of God. And the more we overcome, the greater the responsibility we will be capable of exercising in Christ's government on earth. Thus the greater will be our reward! But no one can overcome for us. It requires putting forth effort on our part, together with the help of God's Holy Spirit, to become the kind of spiritually minded and motivated person God can use in His Kingdom. And just as with Christ, our overcoming involves "good works."
4. Does the principle of Matthew 24:46-47 illustrate that it is those who OVERCOME to the very end--those who are still growing in character at Christ's return (or at their death, if that comes first)--who shall inherit God's Kingdom and receive a reward?
5. Does II Peter 1:5-9 also show there is need for continual growth in the virtues of Christian character as long as a person lives? Does verse 10 imply that those who don't continue to grow and overcome will not make it into God's Kingdom?
To Become Inheritors with Christ
1. Because Jesus Christ overcame during His human life and was "born again" by a resurrection, where is He presently seated? Rev. 3:21. Have all the angels, authorities, and powers been made subject to Him under His Father? I Pet. 3:22; Eph. 1:20-22; I Cor. 15:27.
2. What will be Christ's official title when He returns to rule the nations of earth? Rev. 19:16. Will there ever be an end to the increase of His glorious government? Isa. 9:6-7.
3. Just how great is the authority which Christ has already inherited? Heb. 1:1-2; Matt. 28:18.
COMMENT: Notice how the Moffatt translation renders the original Greek of Hebrews 1:2: "But in these days at the end he has spoken to us by a Son--a Son whom he has appointed heir of the UNIVERSE...!
4. Will Christ be the only inheritor and ruler of this earth and the vast universe? Or will there be co-rulers, "joint-heirs," with Him to share His great inheritance and responsibility? Rom. 8:16-17; Rev. 21:7.
COMMENT: We, if we have become true Christians, are now the Spirit-begotten "children" of God. We are heirs--joint-heirs with Jesus Christ to inherit and rule EVERYTHING God has created! Notice also the second chapter of Hebrews. Beginning with verse 6, the apostle Paul quoted Psalms 8:4-6: "What is man, that thou [God] art mindful of him?" Yes, why should the great God be concerned about us mortals? Why were we born?
Here is the answer: "Thou hast put ALL THINGS in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not [to be] put under him" (Heb. 2:8). Do you grasp that? Absolutely nothing God has created is excepted. We were BORN TO RULE! The awesome destiny of mankind is co-rulership first of this earth, and then the vast universe with Jesus Christ! But not until we have qualified and been "born again" as members of God's Family.
Thus far only Jesus Christ, the "first born among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29), has received this power. So "... now [today] we see not yet all things put under him [man]. But we see Jesus...crowned with glory and honour" (Heb. 2:8-9). He alone has received the power and glory we are to receive when we, too, are born of God at the resurrection of the dead. Can you begin to grasp the magnitude of these sure promises of God?
5. In what capacity is Christ now serving true Christians? Heb. 4:14-16. COMMENT: As the High Priest of all Spirit-begotten children of God, Christ is always available to help them in times of need. He takes special interest in their spiritual development, helping to prepare them so they can eventually inherit "all things" with Him!
Why YOU Should Want to Rule
Many are surprised to learn that the Bible says so much about ruling in the Kingdom of God. Some doubt that they could ever qualify to rule over others. Perhaps even you have thought, "But I don't want to rule. I just want to serve God and live my life as a Christian."
History right down to the present is replete with accounts of rulers, politicians and bureaucrats who have abused their power and served their own interests, while calling themselves "benefactors" or servants of the people (Luke 22:25-26). Small wonder that many people have little desire to emulate such authority.
Jesus Christ, who has qualified for the greatest position of rulership under the Father in the coming Kingdom of God, said He came to be a servant (Luke 22:27). What an apparent paradox! Let's see how and why service to God actually entails rulership.
1. How does a truly converted Christian express service to God? Matt. 25:24-36.
COMMENT: We serve God when we help and serve our fellowman. Christ said "... Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me" (verse 40). This troubled world is filled with needy, sick, and lonely people. Hundreds of millions in this world would benefit from even basic instruction in how to improve the quality of their physical lives, including their everyday cleanliness and hygiene! Above all, they need to know the very truth of God--His purpose and plan for mankind, and how to assure their entry into God's Family. This whole world has a crying need to understand the Word of God!
Christ came to serve, not to be served (Matt. 20:28). The foot-washing ceremony which He established shortly before His crucifixion symbolized this attitude of service. We should want to imitate Christ's example (I Pet. 2:21; John 13:17).
A deeply converted Christian will want to help change this world and help others to share in the blessings of God's way of life. That is, in fact, what the return of Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom [government] is all about! All Spirit-begotten Christians are, in reality, now training for a vital role in that government of the wonderful World Tomorrow under Christ's leadership and rule. The Christian life, then, is one of overcoming, growing, preparing, and developing for service through rulership in the Millennium, as well as serving others here and now!
2. What will the saints be doing in the Kingdom of God during the Millennium? Read Revelation 3:21, 2:26, 20:4-6 once again.
COMMENT: We read of "thrones," "judgment" and "reigning." These scriptures indicate that Christians will receive positions of rulership in God's Kingdom. All who are converted and learning to overcome now will eventually be "kings and priests," or rulers of various kinds in the Kingdom of God (Rev. 5:10). That is the very purpose for which we were created. Our ultimate destiny, if we accept God's calling, is rulership of the world--and eventually the entire universe--under Christ. Yes, we were BORN TO rule.
3. By what principle can a person of ordinary ability and humble opportunity in this life ever qualify to take on far greater responsibility in the Kingdom of God? Luke 16:10.
COMMENT: We learn to rule by being faithful--conscientious--in whatever we do. We must put into practice in our daily lives the principles and laws we learn from God's Word. Even the person who considers himself or herself as having only a little ability and natural talent, can qualify to rule in God's Kingdom. We learn to rule tomorrow by learning to manage our own affairs and responsibilities today, no matter how small they may be.
God is no respecter of persons or sexes (Rom. 2:11; Gal. 3:28). What sex we were born has no bearing on our reward in God's Kingdom. Our future reward will be determined solely by the degree of our "works" in this life. Note: It is by God's "grace" that we will attain His Kingdom--attain immortality as God's gift. But it is by our works that we will attain an office of responsibility--an opportunity for greater service, for doing more good--once we are born into God's ruling Family.
As our Savior and elder brother--"the firstborn among many brethren"--Jesus Christ has already qualified for the highest office under God the Father in the coming World Tomorrow. No one else can ever receive the position of rulership the Father has promised Him. Notice a few other positions which are mentioned specifically in scripture.
4. To whom has God promised rulership over the united nation of Israel? Ezek. 37:21-22, 24. What positions of rulership did Jesus promise to give each of His twelve apostles under David? Matt. 19:27-28. Has God alluded to others who will be in His Kingdom? Heb. 11:4-40.
COMMENT: Other overcomers have gone before us and are to be in God's Kingdom. They have already qualified for responsibilities in God's ruling Family, though God has not specifically revealed their positions to us in the Bible. But every individual will have a tremendous job to do, for an entirely new civilization must be built on earth during the Millennium (to say nothing of the universe beyond)--built this time to God's specifications. It will take many different, vital jobs to recreate world society as God would have it.
5. Will there really be enough opportunities to serve for all who have overcome down through the ages? John 14:1-3.
COMMENT: By speaking of the temple ("my Father's house") having many "mansions" ("rooms" in the Revised Standard Version and other translations), Jesus illustrated the concept that there would be places for many assistants in the government of the Kingdom of God on earth, when Jerusalem will be the millennial world capital. "I will come [back to earth] again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am [headquartered in the temple of God on earth], there ye may be also" (John 14:3). Christ assures us that He and the Father will have ample opportunities and challenging, interesting positions of responsibility for everyone who is born into God's ruling Family!
You CAN Overcome!
The newly Spirit-begotten Christian has embarked on an exciting new way of life. But as with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Paul, God knows that Christians will occasionally stumble spiritually--they still can and will sin (I John 1:8-9). But our merciful God promises to forgive us if we repent, and will strengthen us so we can continue to overcome and be granted eternal life in His glorious Kingdom.
God does not call people to the true Christian way of life to be losers. He does not want any to miss out on the rewards and joys of eternal life in His Family (II Peter 3:9; I Tim. 2:4). But God will not do it all for us. We have our part to do! How is it possible to continue to overcome, to press on toward the eternal goal, to strive toward the perfection of the character of Jesus Christ and be born into God's Family? Through the FAITH OF CHRIST--Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Paul said: "I CAN do all things [overcome any trials, test, trouble, or sin] THROUGH CHRIST which strengtheneth me." (Phil. 4:13.)
SO CAN WE!
Yes, through Christ we can please God, fulfill His law, and overcome! Let's understand.
1. Did Paul, an apostle of God who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, actually say that Christians must "work out" their own salvation? Phil. 2:12. Also notice II Peter 1:10.
COMMENT: SO Christians, immediately upon initial conversion, have something they must begin to do, not only then, but for the rest of their natural lives. The Christian life involves "works"--it involves doing something! The Christian life presupposes putting forth the effort to "overcome." Christ said: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). God's way of life is one of productivity, growth and exciting challenge.
2. Then can we earn our salvation by our own works after all? Rom. 6:23; Phil. 2:13.
COMMENT: As mentioned earlier, eternal life is a gift of God. You cannot earn your salvation by your works. However, the Christian still has his part to do. The Bible tells us that we must disencumber ourselves of habits and sins that enslave us. We must thwart ungodly, unchristian patterns that would ultimately destroy us (Rom. 6:23). But how? Through our own human power and our own willpower alone? No, not a single one will ever conquer the influences of the world, the flesh and the devil through human strength alone.
Benjamin Franklin, one of the five principal founding fathers of the United States, once set himself to attain the goal of moral perfection. Here is an excerpt from the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin: "It was about this time that I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other."
But before long Dr. Franklin found the task no easy one. Continuing with his autobiographical testimony: "But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care was employed in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention: inclination was sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was [in] our interest to be completely virtuous, was not sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the contrary habits must be broken, and the good ones acquired and established, before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of content" (emphasis ours).
3. What similar frustrations did Paul experience over the expressions of his carnal nature? Rom. 7:7-25. Notice especially verses 15, 19 and 23.
COMMENT: Paul found that when he tried to resist his human nature, bad habits and sins would not easily be dismissed. In fact, when his attention was drawn to eradicating his personal sins they seemed to become more pronounced. Paul, the apostle that God inspired and used to write at least thirteen books of the New Testament, cried out "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (verse 24).
Of course, Paul did overcome. He wrote the following words to His young protege shortly before his death: "...the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing" (II Tim. 4:6-8, RSV). Notice how Paul succeeded in overcoming.
4. What, or who, is the KEY to Christian overcoming? Phil. 4:13; John 15:5; I John 4:4; Rom. 8:37.
COMMENT: Jesus Christ, who once defeated Satan (Matt. 4) and qualified to become "King of kings and Lord of lords," will again defeat Satan and this world's influences through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit! He told His disciples to be of good cheer because He had overcome the world (John 16:33). John further testified that the One who dwells in every true Christian through the Spirit of God is greater than Satan (I John 4:4).
5. But didn't Jesus say He could, of Himself, do absolutely nothing? John 5:30.
COMMENT: Think of it. Even the very Son of God said He could do nothing (no spiritual works) by His own human power. If Christ, when in the flesh, had no faith in Himself, how much less, then, can you and I accomplish by trusting in ourselves? Few realize that Christ's obedience and even the miracles He performed were not done by any supernatural power of His own. ALL His spiritual works were done literally through faith in God's power, setting a marvelous example for us.
6. What was the source of Christ's dynamic faith? John 14:10-11.
COMMENT: The Father who lived in Jesus through His Holy Spirit made His obedience to God's law possible! Christ had the very faith of God.
7. Are Christians to live by faith? Heb. 10:38; Rom. 1:17. But is having faith in God's power all that is required of us today? Rom. 3:31. Is faith without obedience a dead faith? James 2:20-22.
COMMENT: The Bible very plainly testifies that each individual Christian has a part in the salvation process. Nevertheless, some professing Christians have been taught that Jesus lived a good life for us--obeyed God's law in our stead. But we have seen that a Christian is not excused from overcoming, growing in spiritual character, and enduring in spite of all opposition or temptation to quit. These scriptures make it crystal clear that having faith does not excuse us from accomplishing these spiritual works.
This is a great mystery to those who don't understand. Since we must do these things to be saved, yet are utterly unable to do them of ourselves, it is natural to conclude that either God sent Jesus to do it for us and thereby excuse us from accomplishing it, or else to become discouraged and be tempted to quit trying! The true answer is the key to salvation. It is FAITH. Faith in God's POWER--the same kind of living faith Jesus had!
8. By whose faith is a Christian's "righteousness"--his obedience to God's spiritual law--made possible? Phil. 3:9; Rom. 3:22; Rev. 14:12.
COMMENT: Spirit-begotten Christians have the very "faith of Jesus." It's not just our faith in Him, but His FAITH--the very spiritual faith through which He obeyed God's laws--placed in us and ACTING in us!
9. Does the Bible call Jesus the author and finisher of our faith? Heb. 12:2-4.
COMMENT: A more accurate translation of the phrase "author and finisher" is "pioneer and perfecter." Jesus led the way, as our pioneer, setting us the supreme example of living faith. But Jesus also perfects His faith IN us! Here's how:
10. Did the apostle Paul plainly state that Christ lived in him? Gal. 2:20. How did Christ live in him? Phil. 2:5; Rom. 8:9-10. Then did Paul live his life by Christ's faith dwelling in him? Gal. 2:20 once again.
COMMENT: Paul didn't live by his own faith. The mind of Jesus Christ dwelt in Paul through the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit of God implanted in Paul's mind the same faith that can be in your mind! This faith--the very faith of Jesus Christ--will enable you to live an overcoming life as did the apostle Paul!
11. Is the very faith of Jesus Christ, by which we receive eternal salvation, a gift of God? Eph. 2:8-9. Is this faith one of the results of having the Holy Spirit? Gal. 5:22. Does it enable you to do "good works"? Eph. 2:10.
COMMENT: The faith that saves is the faith of Christ. Yes, Christ's faith--not your faith. And the Christ who can live in us by God's Spirit will impart His strong faith to you and me, which makes our spiritual obedience and overcoming possible!
12. What must you do to receive the very faith of Jesus Christ? Acts 2:38. Must you be willing to obey God? Acts 5:32. And must you first show faith toward Christ before He will give you His faith? Acts 20:21; Rom. 1:17.
COMMENT: God will give His Holy Spirit and the resulting faith of Christ only to those who meet these prior conditions. Repentance is toward God and means that we have decided to change the entire course of our life--to quit sinning against God and sincerely desire to begin living by all His commandments. We utterly abhor not only our old inful way of life, but also the natural inclinations of our carnal mind which has been swayed by the devil (Rom. 8:7; Eph. 2:2).
Then we must show our own faith, or belief, in the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus Christ, shed in order to pay the death penalty which our past sins have incurred. Upon our faith in the reason for His ID death--our acceptance of him as personal Savior from our sins--and then our baptism in water, God is bound by His Word to give us His Holy Spirit. Yes, it does take our own faith to believe in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. But that faith doesn't save us! Only when the Holy Spirit comes into us to beget us spiritually, and we receive the faith of Christ implanted within us, do we obtain saving faith! And it all comes as a free gift from God. We could never "earn" it.
13. Once we receive God's Holy Spirit, must the faith that it imparts grow? II Thes. 1:3.
COMMENT: Faith is not implanted in our mind whole and complete when we receive the Spirit of God. Faith must grow. It must be nourished in order to develop. It needs exercise and practice. That faith must grow by testing and by our works. It must be living faith.
14. Let's reexamine the example of Abraham--the "father" of the faithful (Rom. 4:16) and the one God called His friend. How did God perfect faith in Abraham? James 2:21-24. Especially notice verse 22.
COMMENT: Abraham was a close friend of God. And, as a result, he received the help to set an outstanding record of faith. If we will let the Holy Spirit flow through us, then we, too, can be close friends of God as Abraham was, and be perfecting faith as he did. Good friends spend a lot of time together in conversation. They discuss life, their goals, problems, and listen willingly to each other. If you are a close friend of God, then you will want to talk to Him. You will also be listening to Him talk to you. Often! And you will often think about and ponder His words. Notice what Christ has to say about this two-way conversation.
15. How did Jesus teach His followers to converse with the Father? Luke 11:1. What is the general format we should follow when we pray? Verses 2-4; Matt. 6:9-15. Should we repeat words aimlessly, or by memory? Matt. 6:7-8. Should we pray in a private place, where we can be alone with God? Verses 5-6.
16. Should we not only pray for our own needs, but also for God's Work, His ministers, and the Spirit-begotten children of God's Church (the "saints")? Eph. 6:18-19. Who was an outstanding example of this kind of praying? Col. 4:12-13.
COMMENT: When you pray to God, you are actually talking to Him. You are coming into His presence, taking His time, and letting Him know how you feel about certain things, how you think about certain problems which arise, and asking Him for His guidance, counsel, advice, and help in solving the problems before you. When you pray for the needs of others and the needs of God's Work, God listens! He is very much concerned about the welfare of all His people, and the crises and trials His Work experiences, as well as your own personal welfare.
God is not far off or aloof to His spiritual children. He wants us to come to Him often, to talk to Him in prayer, to commune with Him to receive the help we need to live the Christian way of life. He also wants us to listen to Him when He speaks to us. How does He do this? Through His inspired Word. When you read and study the scriptures, God is actually talking to you through them. They are His words to you. Notice the enigmatic analogy Jesus used to illustrate this point.
17. Is Jesus Christ the personification of the Word of God? John 1:1,14. Does He therefore tell us to "eat His flesh"?! John 6:50, 53, 57. What was He talking about? Verse 63.
COMMENT: How can one "eat" the flesh of Christ? He certainly did not mean that His disciples were to become cannibals! He was talking figuratively. He was actually referring to His words. As He said in John 6:63, "...the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." When you study your Bible, you are "eating" the flesh of Christ. That is, you are "devouring" His words, which are life-giving. They are spiritual. They impart life. They show you the way into God's Family. Learn to let Christ, and the Father, speak to you from the Bible. Absorb the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5) and allow the Word of God to guide and direct you.
God's way is so plain and simple when we understand it. We are able, after all, to press toward the goal of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ, to strive toward the perfection of the character of God through the FAITH OF CHRIST--"Christ in us, the hope of glory." And it is all accomplished as a result of having the Holy Spirit in us, and as we exercise it. We are to obey God's laws and live the Christian life as if we were doing it all through our own effort, but because "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak," God makes up the necessary difference. Like Paul who was mindful of his own human limitations, we look to God for the help to accomplish His purpose in us--"for my weakness makes me strong in him" (II Cor. 12:10, Phillips New Testament in Modern English).
Through Christ YOU, TOO, can conquer every sin, surmount every obstacle, defeat every foe, and overcome every hindrance which stands to thwart your way into God's Family! Remember the apostle Paul exuded Christ's confidence. He was SURE! He was CERTAIN! Paul walked, talked, and lived with Christ and the Father through the Holy Spirit within him. He had the very faith and assurance of Jesus Christ. So can you!
It's Up to You
You were born with the potential to become a member of the universe-ruling Family of God--to have a part in governing, teaching, and guiding the world in the Millennium and in the Last Judgment period--and after that, to help rule the entire creation of God for eternity!
This is the awesome destiny God offers to mankind! Have you begun the salvation process toward this marvelous goal? Analyze your own life and character. Have you begun obeying God? Are you growing spiritually? Are you developing--growing--in self-control? In the ability to restrain wrong desires, selfish motives or vanity? Are you replacing bad habits and attitudes with right thoughts and deeds?
If you suddenly had some really great responsibility thrust into your hands to direct--perhaps a major department of a city--perhaps a vast manufacturing concern with many subsidiaries--would you be able to direct and carry out that responsibility as God would have it done? Well, the test is this: If you are now rightly directing the little powers in your control, such as your temper, your voice, your passions and emotions, or your present perhaps small income, then you probably could be entrusted to properly carry out at least a somewhat larger responsibility.
But if you have not yet begun to learn to control and constructively guide even these little powers in your care, then how could God entrust you to handle far greater responsibilities in the Kingdom of God? If you don't learn to be faithful even in the use of your present income, who will entrust to your care the true riches, and the great powers of God?
Ask God for the understanding and wisdom to rightly use and direct the comparatively little powers, abilities and responsibilities that are now yours so you can be a faithful and productive servant of God. Strive to be faithful over what God has already given you, so that one day Christ can say to you: "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over MUCH..." (Matt. 25:21, RSV).
This life is the training ground. We learn to rule by performing our responsibilities faithfully and by learning to rule over ourselves as we live the Christian way of life. Preparing to rule in God's Kingdom begins with submission to His rule now. God will not save any person He does not govern. So learn God's laws. Study them. Think about them. Live by them. And with the help of God's Holy Spirit, overcome your human nature, the pulls of the world, and the wiles of Satan the devil.
Seek God by drawing closer to Him in prayer and study. Change! Grow spiritually. Continually build the character of God until death, or until the moment Jesus Christ returns when God will instantly change our weak, inadequate bodies into powerful, sinless, glorified spirit bodies! (Phil. 3:20-21.) Then you will be ready to rule with Christ. Our awesome destiny is that of helping to rule the earth and the universe beyond as a member of the God Family! It's a breathtaking, exciting, incredible calling! A glorious, wonderful future! Have you begun to qualify for it? It's up to you.
TEST YOUR MEMORY
This quiz is designed to help you remember the important facts you learned in the lesson. You simply circle or underline each correct answer. After you've finished the test, check your choices with the correct answers at the end of this lesson, and then rate yourself.
1. To "walk" with God means A. to obey God's commandments and laws as revealed in the Bible. B. to be a close friend of Jesus Christ and His Father. C. to follow in Christ's steps, striving to emulate His example. D. all of the above.
2. The Ten Commandments A. were for the physical nation of Israel until Christ came. B. are expressions of God's love and character. C. can be kept by a person merely exercising His own willpower and self-determination. D. were a necessary evil before Christ, and have since been nullified by God's grace.
3. Obedience to God's law A. can "earn" your salvation. B. is no longer necessary since Christ kept the law for us. C. removes the need for God's grace. D. should be the earnest desire of every Christian.
4. The seventh-day Sabbath A. was "made" by Christ by His resting on the last day of Creation week. B. was devised by men for worship purposes. C. was never set apart by God as holy time for holy use. D. is Sunday, the first day of the week.
5. Which one of the following annual Sabbaths or festivals pictures the dramatic return of Jesus Christ? A. The Passover. B. The Feast of Trumpets. C. The Day of Atonement. D. The Last Great Day.
6. Tithing A. is not a God-ordained obligation upon Christians today. B. is God's system for financing His ministry which is proclaiming Christ's Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world. C. was an idea of Moses which he imposed on ancient Israel. D. epitomizes the "get" way of life.
7. Which one of the following is not a mortal enemy of all Christians? A. Satan the devil. B. The distractions in society which lead us away from God. C. The Spirit which begets us. D. Our own, oftentimes deceitful, rationalizing natures.
8. A Christian's reward A. will be awarded as a result of God's "grace." B. will be determined by his own effort and individual works after he becomes a Christian. C. cannot be earned. D. is the same as God's "gift" of eternal life.
9. The faith that enables one to live the Christian way of life A. is supplied by each Christian. B. can be "worked up" if one is a true believer. C. is the very faith of Jesus Christ imparted by the Holy Spirit. D. is not a "fruit" of the Holy Spirit.
10. Christians derive spiritual help and encouragement from A. God's Word, the Bible. B. the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit. C. Christ who is their "High Priest" (Heb. 4:14 16). D. all of the above.
TRUE OR FALSE
11. A Christian, by biblical definition, is one who simply professes to be one. T F
12. To "become perfect" (Matt. 5:48) means to gradually mature spiritually. T F
13. The foot-washing ceremony depicts an attitude of superiority and lordship over others. T F
14. Christians learn to rule themselves in this life to qualify for service in the Millennium. T F
15. Only the "overcomers" will become co-inheritors of God's creation with Christ. T F
Draw a line from each phrase column to the correctly related right-hand column. in the left-hand . phrase in the right-hand column.
16. Obedience to God
17. God's tithe
C. Jesus Christ
19. Our Passover
"E. A tenth
F. Passover lamb
G. An offering
ANSWERS TO QUIZ
1-D 5-B 9-C 13-F 17-E 19-20 correctexcellent
2-B 6-B 10-D 14-T 18-A 16-18 correctgood
3-D 7-C 11-F 15-T 19-C 13-15 correct fair
4-A 8-B 12-T 16-H 20-I