Fight!

A few months ago we examined chapter 7 of the prophet Micah, and the encouragement that this passage can give to us in times of spiritual struggle. Consider verses 8-9:

“Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy.
Though I fall I will rise;
Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me.
I will bear the indignation of the LORD
Because I have sinned against Him,
Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me.
He will bring me out to the light,
And I will see His righteousness.”

It has often been said “it does not matter how many times you fall down, but how many times you get back up,” and this passage from Micah 7 can help us find the strength to get back up and continue to fight for what we know is right.

Many of us may have imagined that when we were baptized into Christ’s body, all of our struggles with sin and doubt would instantly and permanently vanish, but this is not always the case. Paul talked about his own struggles this way:

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul knew well enough that he was not perfect, but he was willing to forget what was behind him and press on day by day. That is why he could tell Timothy as he neared the end of his life not simply “I have coasted easily and perfectly through life,” but rather “I have fought the good fight.”

I was encouraged recently by a discussion with my brethren in Christ in which we emphasized the fact that the Holy Spirit is there to help us even when we are in the midst of our struggles with sin. After all, the letter to the Galatians describes our lives as a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. When we realize that we have been in error, we can say with David:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.”

Be encouraged. If the LORD is for us, who can be against us? If we walk in the light, the blood of His Son will continually cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. No matter how many times you fall down, say with Micah, “though I fall, I will rise.” The battle belongs to the LORD.

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Scriptures & Thoughts: Covenant

What is a covenant?

Greek:

Diathéké (dee-a-THAY-kay):

a covenant between two parties, a will, testament”

Merriam-Webster’s:

Covenant:

1: “a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement; a compact

2a: “a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action.”

Testament/Will:

“an act or declaration by which a person determines the disposition of his or her property after death” – (A type of covenant, it appears.”

Conditional covenants can be made between two parties such as two men, a man and God, or men and God.

Unconditional covenants can be made from one party to another such as from God to man, man to man, or man to God.

Is it possible for modern day people to fully grasp this concept?

(Hebrews 6:13-18) 13 For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,14 saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” 15 And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. 16 For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. 17 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

(Joshua 9:3-27) 3When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, 4they also acted craftily and set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys, and wineskins worn-out and torn and mended, 5and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become crumbled. 6They went to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.” 7The men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you are living within our land; how then shall we make a covenant with you?” 8But they said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” Then Joshua said to them, “Who are you and where do you come from?” 9They said to him, “Your servants have come from a very far country because of the fame of the LORD your God; for we have heard the report of Him and all that He did in Egypt, 10and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon and to Og king of Bashan who was at Ashtaroth. 11“So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey, and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; now then, make a covenant with us.”’ 12“This our bread was warm when we took it for our provisions out of our houses on the day that we left to come to you; but now behold, it is dry and has become crumbled. 13“These wineskins which we filled were new, and behold, they are torn; and these our clothes and our sandals are worn out because of the very long journey.” 14So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the LORD. 15Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.

     16It came about at the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were neighbors and that they were living within their land. 17Then the sons of Israel set out and came to their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon and Chephirah and Beeroth and Kiriath-jearim. 18The sons of Israel did not strike them because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD the God of Israel. And the whole congregation grumbled against the leaders. 19But all the leaders said to the whole congregation, “We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them. 20“This we will do to them, even let them live, so that wrath will not be upon us for the oath which we swore to them.” 21The leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became hewers of wood and drawers of water for the whole congregation, just as the leaders had spoken to them.

     22Then Joshua called for them and spoke to them, saying, “Why have you deceived us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you are living within our land? 23“Now therefore, you are cursed, and you shall never cease being slaves, both hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” 24So they answered Joshua and said, “Because it was certainly told your servants that the LORD your God had commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land before you; therefore we feared greatly for our lives because of you, and have done this thing. 25“Now behold, we are in your hands; do as it seems good and right in your sight to do to us.” 26Thus he did to them, and delivered them from the hands of the sons of Israel, and they did not kill them. 27But Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day, in the place which He would choose.

How is a covenant different from swearing?  Didn’t Jesus say not to swear?

(James 5:33-37) 33“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ 34“But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. 36“Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.

How many covenants are mentioned in scripture?

Genesis 9-Noah/flood, Genesis 15-Abraham, Exodus chapter 20-31-Moses/Law, Deuteronomy 11-blessing/curse, etc., also the new covenant in Jesus blood.

Also:

(Joshua 24:19-28) 19Then Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins. 20“If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.” 21The people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.”22Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the LORD, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23“Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and we will obey His voice.” 25So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God.” 28Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his inheritance.

(2 Samuel 7:12-17) When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, 15 but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’” 17 In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David.

Distinctions between different covenants:

(Galatians 3:16-19) 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.

19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

(Jeremiah 31:31-33) 31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Consider the new Covenant in Jesus blood, Matthew 26, etc.
This covenant is clearly distinguished from the Law of Moses, for instance, in Jeremiah 31, above or Hebrews 8, below.

What signs are associated with covenants in scripture?

See Joshua 24 reference above – the stone that was set up.

(Genesis 9:8-17) 8Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9“Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. 11“I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations;13I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.14“It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, 15and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.16When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

(Genesis 15:5-21) And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. 7 And He said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” 8 He said, “O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?” 9 So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. 11 The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.
12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. 14 But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. 16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”
17 It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying,
“To your descendants I have given this land,
From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:
19 the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite 20 and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim 21 and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”

(Exodus 31:12-18) 12 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 13 “But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. 14 Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. 15 For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death. 16 So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’ 17 It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.” 18 When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.

(Ruth 4:7-12) 7Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange of land to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the manner of attestation in Israel. 8So the closest relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” And he removed his sandal. 9Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses today that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. 10“Moreover, I have acquired Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, to be my wife in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased will not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place; you are witnesses today.” 11All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem. 12“Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the LORD will give you by this young woman.”

(Matthew 26:26-29) 26While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29“But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

What does it mean that the Bible is divided into “Old and New Covenant/Testament?”

(Hebrews 8:6-13) But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. 8 For finding fault with them, He says,
“Behold, days are coming, says the Lord,
When I will effect a new covenant
With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
9 Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers
On the day when I took them by the hand
To lead them out of the land of Egypt;
For they did not continue in My covenant,
And I did not care for them, says the Lord.
10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
After those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws into their minds,
And I will write them on their hearts.
And I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.
11 “And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen,
And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
For all will know Me,
From the least to the greatest of them.
12 “For I will be merciful to their iniquities,
And I will remember their sins no more.”
13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

(Matthew 5:17) “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

Is it ever okay for a covenant to be nullified?

(2 Timothy 2:11-13)  It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.


(Numbers 23:19) God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Notice the covenants in Genesis 9 and 15 above for example.  There were no conditions mentioned in these covenants that would nullify them.

Romans 9-11 explains in great detail how God is not being unfaithful to Israel when He extends salvation to both Jews and Greeks, and only through Christ.

(Romans 1:16)  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

But what about cases in which God explicitly makes the covenant conditional at the time it is entered into?

(Deuteronomy 11:13-17, 22-28) 13 “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, 14 that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. 15 He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. 16 Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. 17 Or the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you…

22 For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him, 23 then the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you. 24 Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours; your border will be from the wilderness to Lebanon, and from the river, the river Euphrates, as far as the western sea. 25 No man will be able to stand before you; the Lord your God will lay the dread of you and the fear of you on all the land on which you set foot, as He has spoken to you.
26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today;28 and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known.

But what if we enter into a covenant and then realize we have made an oath to do something that we actually should not do?

Consider the situation in Joshua 9.  Consider also the following two situations:

(1 Samuel 25:21-26, 32-35) 21 Now David had said, “Surely in vain I have guarded all that this man has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him; and he has returned me evil for good. 22 May God do so to the enemies of David, and more also, if by morning I leave as much as one male of any who belong to him.”

23 When Abigail saw David, she hurried and dismounted from her donkey, and fell on her face before David and bowed herself to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the blame. And please let your maidservant speak to you, and listen to the words of your maidservant. 25 Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him; but I your maidservant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent.

26 “Now therefore, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, since the Lord has restrained you from shedding blood, and from avenging yourself by your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek evil against my lord, be as Nabal… 32 Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, 33 and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand. 34 Nevertheless, as the Lord God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you, unless you had come quickly to meet me, surely there would not have been left to Nabal until the morning light as much as one male.35 So David received from her hand what she had brought him and said to her, “Go up to your house in peace. See, I have listened to you and granted your request.”


(Judges 11:30-36) Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, 31then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” 32So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD gave them into his hand. 33He struck them with a very great slaughter from Aroer to the entrance of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.

     34When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. 35When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.” 36So she said to him, “My father, you have given your word to the LORD; do to me as you have said, since the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon.

 

“Oh, my God!”

It isn’t uncommon for a child to be taught certain things not to say as they grow older. One of the phrases that might frequently be taught against, in a Christian family, is “Oh, my God.” As a child, the meaning of this commandment may not hold the same significance to the individual as it would when he or she was older. It’s when the individual is older and more mature in their faith that a comprehension and fulfillment of the commandments noticed in Scripture can be done. This particular commandment is one that we read of in the Old Testament, yet remains to be one of the most kept from our youth today.

In Exodus 20:7 we can read that, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain (NASB).” The context surrounding this verse is of course the Lord giving the 10 commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. In the previous chapter, it can be read that the Lord’s presence on the mountain was so bold that the only visible thing was the smoke from fire which God came down in. As Moses and the people were approaching the mountain, the people were afraid of the absolute power that escaped through flashes of light and roaring sounds from within the smoke. Descriptions such as this capture what the essence of God is intended to sound like from the mouths of man. From scenarios like this it is also deducible to notice the difference between declaring the Lord’s name in vain and simply declaring His excellence.

‘For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. (Hebrews 6:13-16 NASB)’ This Scripture adds to the idea of the Lord’s name carrying such a significance through time, that even the Lord swears by His own name. Having no entity greater than He, He was forced to swear by His name.

The sanctity of the Lord’s name alone is enough to strike fear in the hearts of the strongest men. In the account of the Exodus 3, Moses asked the Lord what he should say when the people of Israel ask Who sent him to them. The Lord’s reply is one that fully encompasses the identity and longevity of His existence. God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you. (Ex. 3:14 NASB)’” Because of God’s nature, there was no other description needed. When taking into consideration the thought at large then, to say with adoration and respect for the power He has over life, “Oh, my God,” would not be an unacceptable phrase. Within certain situations one may find him or herself, the only words that seem fitting to say, when expressing the feelings that are stirring inside, are just statements declaring Who He is. In regards to a being that had no beginning, no boundaries, and no body adequately described by physical or worldly things, mankind can’t create a phrase special enough to match His attributes. Therefore, saying in vain the name of such a being would not a follower, worshipper, or glorifier make. His creation is to admire His handiwork and glorify His greatness.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1 ESV)” This is verse is known by many and is referenced often when anyone is looking for the right words to describe what might be in their mind. When the psalmist wrote these words, the overall attitude surrounding this verse and the verses following it was astonishment. When reading things such as this it reminds us that the name of our Creator is one to be in constant fear of! This is not to say that we should be scared of His power, but that we should be in a constant state of humility and respect. If the spirit behind the phrase is one that centers itself around moods such as these, then there should be no fear or odd feelings about saying “Oh, my God!” This crucial difference is what marks the separation between the words of adoration and the words that we teach our children not to say.

 

Things God has Done for Us

Given us life: “For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’” (Acts 17:28)

Formed us in the womb: “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” (Proverbs 19:13)

Allowed us to live until this day: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15)

Provided us with food and goods: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mathew 6:32-33) “And yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17)

Sent His Son to Suffer as our Savior: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Sent out His word so that we can hear it: “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

Allotted to us faith: “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)

Granted us repentance: “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18)

Shown us grace and mercy: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Given us spiritual gifts: “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.” (Romans 12:6)

Granted us what wisdom we have: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

Given us the Holy Spirit: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”(Luke 11:13)

Given us absolutely everything: “For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Holiness”

What does holiness mean?
The common answer to “what is holiness” is: to be set apart. This is accurate. Holiness also carries the specific connotation of being different or distinctive, and of being consecrated for a particular use.

(Leviticus 20:26) You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

Hebrew:
Qodesh – sacred, consecrated, set apart, distinct
The furnishings of the tabernacle were holy because they were set aside for only that purpose. They were consecrated to the Lord’s service.

Greek:
Hagios – holiness, distinctiveness, full dedication to the Lord. Also translated as “saint” and as “sanctification.”

Can a person be holy, or only God?
People are repeatedly called holy in the Bible. Holiness does not necessarily mean perfection, but distinctiveness and consecration to a particular use.

“To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints.” (Romans 1:7)

“And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27)

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

“as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Ephesians 5:3)

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.” (Philippians 1:1)

(1 Corinthians 3:16-17) Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

(1 Peter 2:9) “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

We are called to this holiness:

(1 Peter 1:15-16) But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

We must have it:

(Hebrews 12:14) Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Of course, God is more holy than us because He is perfectly good and we are not, and because even when we are perfected into the image of His Son, He will still possess qualities and identities, such as being the creator or having omnipotence, that we will not.  He is holy on a whole other level.

(Revelation 15:4) “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” 

Why is God’s word called the Holy Bible?
(Romans 1:2) which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,

It is certainly unique and distinctive:

(2 Timothy 3:16) All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

(Isaian 40:8)“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”

 What is a saint and how is this concept related to holiness?
A saint literally is a “holy one.” The same definitions and connotations associated with holiness should describe a saint.  (And all Christians are referred to as saints, see question about people being holy.)

Are Christians “holier” than their neighbors?
Yes, Christians should be different, peculiar, in a way that their non-Christian neighbors are not.

(2 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

(1 Peter 2:9) “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

But remember, holiness in an indication of being consecrated, but not necessarily of being perfect.

(Romans 3:23) All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

(Ephesians 2:8-9) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

(Romans 3:27) Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.

A typical “holier than thou” attitude us boasting in better behavior. Instead, we ought to humbly acknowledge the special status that God gives those who respond to His invitation.

(Luke 18:11-14) “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 How can I fight for and grow in holiness?
(Leviticus 17-26) These chapters are called the holiness code. And while they do contain a lot of “don’ts” they also contain a lot of positive admonitions to be productive and godly.

(Luke 11:24-26) “When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ “And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. “Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”

(Romans 12:2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

(Philippians 4:8) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

(1 Thessalonians 4:3-5) For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God.

(John 17) “Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth”

 Can a person be holy and still relate and connect to the world?
God was holy, yet He pitched His tent with the wayward Israelites.
Jesus was holy, yet he walked among the spiritually sick.

(John 17:15-19) “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” 

What does holiness look like in the real world?
One who abstains from what is impure, even when it is not popular.

(2 Timothy 2:21) Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

(James 1:27) Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

(1 Thessalonians 5:23) Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 7:1) Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

We must have an attitude that makes the Spirit welcome. Since the Holy Spirit is He who makes us Holy.

(1 Corinthians 3:16-17) “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

(Ephesians 4:30) Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

(Psalm 51:10-12) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
 

 

What do we Know about the Holy Spirit?

We MUST have the Holy Spirit

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)

“You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9)

God Gives the Spirit to us

Those who ask:
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13)

Those who repent and are baptized:
“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38)

Those who obey Him:
“And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:32)

What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)

“But I have written very boldly to you on some points… so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:15-16)

“…if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

“…and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

“…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:16)

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…” (Romans 8:26)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Getting the Fruit of the Spirit

In Acts 2:38, Peter preached the gospel to thousands of people at one time. When many of them wanted to respond, he instructed them all, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 19:2-5, Paul became deeply troubled when he met some men who said that they had been baptized, but that they did not have the Holy Spirit:

“He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

In John 3:5, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Notice something about all three of these passages: they emphasize the importance of the Holy Spirit in baptism and spiritual rebirth.

Galatians 5:22-23 gives a beautiful list of positive character traits, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” All of these traits, we are told, are the fruit of the Spirit.

It is no wonder that the Spirit is so important, if these things are the fruit that follows from Him. If these things are the fruit of the Spirit, how can we expect to have them without first having the Spirit? That would be like trying to create an apple without first having an apple tree, or painting a tennis ball orange and claiming it is an orange, or planting soybeans and hoping they sprout into corn. As with any other fruit, if you want the fruit of the Spirit, get the Spirit, and then you can enjoy His fruit. It’s the only way.

This is why producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is not simply about “trying harder” or just “being a good person.” Until we are washed in Christ’s blood and filled with His Spirit, we can never hope to be righteous in His sight. As Isaiah 64:6 says, all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.”

 May we spread the good news about Jesus’ blood and God’s Spirit, and the wonderful things they can do, and rather than grieving that Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), may we all make that Spirit welcome in our hearts and lives, that we may enjoy His fruit.

An Outline of the Book of Romans

Colosseum in Rome
The following is an overview of Romans based on our weekly Sunday Morning Bible Study at Mankato Church of Christ from June-July, 2015.

Introduction.
Paul addresses himself to the Romans and expresses a desire to come see them. (1:1-17)

 No one is justified by works.
The world is a dark place, spiraling downward into sin. (1:18-32)
Even “good, moral people” fall short. (2:1-29)
Being a Jew does have some advantages, but NO ONE has the ability to justify himself to God based on his own merits. (3:1-20)

We are justified by grace through faith in Jesus.
Salvation is made available to us through Jesus Christ. (3:21-5:21)
It is a gracious salvation, it is not deserved. (3:21-5:21)
We access it by faith. (3:21-5:21)
Faith is a trust in God despite discouraging circumstances, and is completed and evidenced by obedience. (4:18-25, James 2:14-26)

We are not only justified, but also sanctified.
This salvation is not merely forgiveness, so that we may continue in sin that grace may abound. It is also comprised of a transformation, as we die to sin and are set free from our slavery to it. (6:1-23)

How and why the Old Law has been done away with.
How can Jews simply lay aside the Old Covenant law code? Because they died to it when they died with Christ, that the law of the Spirit might replace it. (7:1-6)
Are we saying that the law is bad? Not at all, but that sin has used it to ruin us. We are in desperate need of Jesus Christ, not merely the law, to solve this problem. (7:7-25)

Sanctification by the power of the Spirit.
It must remain amply clear that living according to the flesh still leads to death, even under this new covenant. (8:1-13)
Walking not according to the flesh but in righteousness is achieved by following, setting the mind on, and being indwelled by God’s Spirit. It is a matter not merely or rule keeping, but of inward change. (8:1-8:27)

What a glorious plan God has made, that He should justify us to Himself, that Christ Himself would not condemn, that having given us His Son, God would also give us all that we need. (8:26-39)

God is not breaking any promises to Israel.
God always knew that not all Hebrews would be saved, and that the Gentiles would come in, and has spoken accordingly through the prophets. (9:1-33)
The invitation is certainly open to all Jews, since Christ is the fulfillment of Judaism. (10:1-11:6)
Gentiles ought not to be arrogant about this, for though God may use them to make the Jews jealous, He can just as easily remove them from the plan if they display unbelief. (Romans 11:7-36)

Therefore, give your life to God.
In light of this doctrine, your service and your sacrifice to God is to give your life to Him. (12:1-2)

Your relationships with fellow Christians should be mutually edifying. (12:3-13)
You should treat your enemies with kindness rather than revenge. (12:14-21)
You should be in subjection to your government. (13:1-7)
All of your relationships are to be governed by the law: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (13:8-14)

Do not judge your fellow Christians over matters of personal opinion. (14:1-12)
Avoid causing a brother to stumble by your actions, even if those actions are not inherently sinful. (14:13-23) 

Closing thoughts and reminders
Accept and edify each other. (15:1-12)
Paul’s expression of personal joy at the success of the congregation and the salvation of the gentiles (15:13-21) and reaffirmation that Paul wants to visit. (15:22-33)
Warning about those who cause divisions. (16:17-20)

Greetings to many diverse Christian brethren. (16:1-16, 21-24) 

All glory to God through Jesus Christ. (16:25-27)