"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" The Purpose Of The Commandment (1:5) by Mark Copeland


The Purpose Of The Commandment (1:5)


1. The idea of "commandment-keeping" is not a popular one among many
   people today...
   a. Some equate it with what they call "legalism"
   b. Others look at keeping any kind of commandment as an unpleasant
      1) Perhaps a carry-over from childhood?
      2) Where they feel like they were constantly being "commanded" to
         do things?

2. Yet keeping the commandments of God should not be looked upon by
   Christians in this way...

   "Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart,
   [from] a good conscience, and from] sincere faith," (1Ti 1:5)

3. What is the purpose or goal of any commandment from God...?
   a. Is it only to enjoin blind obedience?
   b. Or is there a noble purpose behind the commands?

[Our text (1Ti 1:5) suggests the latter, so let's examine what Paul
reveals about "The Purpose Of The Commandment"...]


      1. Which is as far as some go with the Word of God!
         a. They study it, discuss it, debate it, defend it
         b. In Bible class, conversations, publications, etc.
      2. Unless they obey it, all is in vain!
         a. They fail to fulfill its ultimate purpose:  to produce love!
         b. Their religion is a vain religion, not a pure religion - Ja
         c. "The purpose of all revelation and the test of all religion
            is character and conduct." - MacLaren

      1. Both love for God and love for man - cf. Mt 22:35-40
      2. Concerning our love for God
         a. It begins with, but goes beyond adoration, praise and
         b. True love for God is realized when we keep His commands
            - 1Jn 5:3; Jn 14:15,21
      3. Concerning our love for man
         a. It begins with, but goes beyond any active good will or
            affection we might have
         b. True love for man is also realized when we keep God's
            commands - 1Jn 5:2

[So the goal of any command of God is love.  Not just any love, but a
love that springs forth from a good source...]


      1. 'Pure' can also be translated 'clean', suggesting that which is
         from impurities
      2. To love with such a heart requires purification, which comes
         obedience to the truth - 1Pe 1:22-23
      3. Have our souls been purified by obeying the truth?  If not...
         a. We will be plagued by spiritual impurities (e.g., greed,
            covetousness, envy, pride)
         b. We will be unable to love God and man as we should
      4. Those with 'pure hearts' are the ones who will be truly blessed
         - Mt 5:8

      1. 'Conscience' is defined as "that process of thought which
         distinguishes what it considers morally good or bad, commending
         the good, condemning the bad, and so prompting to do the
         former, and to avoid the latter." - Vine
      2. The love God desires is that which comes from a person with a
         'good conscience'
         a. To have a 'good' conscience, it must be properly set
            1) Like a clock, it is accurate only when properly set
            2) Otherwise it might lead us astray - e.g., Ac 23:1; cf. 26:9-11
            3) A good conscience is one that is set according to God's
         b. To have a 'good' conscience, it must be properly cleansed
            1) For no matter who we are, we are sinners!
               a) God says so - Ro 3:23
               b) So does our conscience - Ro 2:14-15
               c) Any who deny this have 'rejected' or 'seared' their
                  conscience - cf. 1Ti 1:19; 4:2
            2) What can 'cleanse' our conscience?
               a) Not any OT sacrifice or worship - He 9:9-10
               b) Rather, the blood of Christ - He 9:14
      3. Only with a conscience 'cleansed' from dead works can we
         a. Love both God and man
         b. Love with a pure heart and good conscience!

      1. Some translations use 'unfeigned' instead of 'sincere' (ASV,
      2. It is translated elsewhere as 'without hypocrisy' (Ro 12:9) or
         'genuine' (2Ti 1:5)
      3. The word 'faith' involves two interrelated concepts:
         a. A strong conviction in that which is believed
         b. A strong trust in the object believed
      4. A 'sincere faith' would be:
         a. A true, honest to God, conviction
         b. A true-hearted trust in God and Jesus
      5. This kind of faith comes only from the Word of God 
          - cf. Ro 10:17; Jn 20:30-31
      6. Without such faith, the love God desires is not possible!


1. What kind of religion do you have...?
   a. One that consists in little more than religious talk?
   b. Or one that produces genuine love for God and man, manifested in

2. If you desire the religion that pleases God, it must be the kind that
   expresses itself in love:

   "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails
   anything, but faith working through love." (Ga 5:6)

3. Yet that kind of love comes "from a pure heart, from a good
   conscience, and from sincere faith"...
   a. Which is the goal of every command of God
   b. Who dare says that keeping the commandments of God are not

Are you willing to let the commands of God create in you "love from a
pure heart, from a good conscience and from sincere faith"...?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Egyptian Magicians, Snakes, and Rods by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Egyptian Magicians, Snakes, and Rods

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Most everyone who has ever read the biblical account of the ten plagues in Egypt cannot help but remember the scene in which Moses and Aaron threw down their rod that became a snake, and Pharoah’s magicians imitated the feat. The biblical account states:
And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments (Exodus 7:10-11).
In regard to this account, many have wondered how the magicians of Egyptian could have possessed the miraculous power to imitate the sign that God had given to Moses and Aaron. Did the magicians truly possess supernatural powers by which they could convince Pharaoh, or could there be some other explanations for the events that transpired with the rods? In regard to these questions, the biblical text does not definitively offer any conclusive answers. There are, however, other clues that seem to indicate that the Egyptian magicians used sleight-of-hand trickery devoid of supernatural ability.
Egyptians have long used the snake in their religious and ceremonial rituals. Many murals, ancient Egyptian paintings and carvings, and written texts portray this animal in connection with ancient Egyptian snake charmers, magicians, and even Pharaohs. In fact, many of the golden burial casts used to intern the ancient Egyptian kings have a sculpture of a snake coming from the forehead of the regal personality. Furthermore, the snake is commonly associated with certain gods of ancient Egypt. In regard to this affinity for the serpentine, the ancient Egyptians often used snakes in charming ceremonies and other practices. Due to this close association with the creature, they would certainly have become quite skilled at capturing, handling, and displaying snakes.
In their celebrated commentary series on the Old Testament, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comment on the incident between Moses and Aaron and the Egyptian magicians:
The magicians of Egypt in modern times have long been celebrated adepts in charming serpents; and particularly by pressing the nape of the neck they throw them into a kind of catalepsy, which renders them stiff and immoveable, thus seeming to change them into a rod. They conceal the serpent about their person, and by acts of legerdemain produce it from their dress, stiff and straight as a rod. Just the same trick was played off by their ancient predecessors.... [A]nd so it appears they succeeded by their “enchantments” in practicing an illusion on the senses (2002, 1:295, Exodus 7:11-14).
The idea that a skilled magician could use a snake in such a way is no novel concept in the world of magic tricks. Walter Gibson, in his book Secrets of Magic, states that there is a certain type of snake that can be made motionless by applying pressure just below its head. Gibson also notes that the particular species of snake suitable for this stunt happens to be the naja haje (or haja), otherwise known as the Egyptian Cobra (as cited in “Case Studies,” n.d.). Along similar lines, Rod Robison, a comedy magician from Tucson, wrote: “Turning a rod into a snake, for instance, is easily accomplished by the same method modern day magicians turn a cane into a flower or handkerchief. I’ve seen the ‘cane to snake’ performed by magician Allan Rassco. Believe me, it’s impressive” (1999).
In truth, there is nothing inherent in the biblical text that would suggest that these magicians possessed any supernatural powers. Sleight-of-hand trickery can easily account for the “powers” possessed by the Egyptian magicians. While the magicians could at least make it look like they possessed amazing abilities, they could not withstand the power of the Almighty God. Their feeble attempts to mimic the miracle performed by Moses and Aaron was thwarted when God manifested His power by causing the rod of Moses and Aaron to consume all the other rods of the magicians (Exodus 7:12).


“Case Studies” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.autobahn.mb.ca/~ggilbey/para7.html.
Jamieson, Robert, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown (2002 reprint), A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Robison, Rod (1999), “But I Saw Him Levitate!”, [On-line], URL: http://www.dtl.org/article/robison/levitate.htm.

Dying Before Baptism? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Dying Before Baptism?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

The New Testament clearly states that water baptism is necessary for salvation (see Lyons and Butt, 2004). But one of the most frequently used arguments against the necessity of baptism for salvation is the idea that “God would not do that.” The question is asked, “What if a sincere believing person is on his way to be baptized and dies right before he gets to the water? Are you telling me that God would send that person to hell just because he did not make it to the water?” At first glance, this argument may seem legitimate. Upon further investigation, however, it is easy to see that it is simply a play on emotions, and in no way disproves the necessity of baptism for salvation.
The “God-would-not-do-that” argument can be used against almost any commandment in the Bible. For instance, the Bible repeatedly says that a person must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 10:11; John 8:24; et al.). Suppose, then, that a Christian had just begun to tell the story of Jesus to an older gentleman, when suddenly that gentleman has a massive heart attack and dies without getting to hear the rest of the story, and thus did not have the opportunity to believe. Should we, therefore, do away with the biblical command to believe in Jesus Christ, simply because a theoretical scenario can be concocted in which a potential convert dies moments before his compliance? To ask is to answer. Nor, with a wave of the hand, can we do away with the biblical command to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
Consider also the fact that the Bible plainly states that God wants all people to be saved. In 2 Peter 3:9, the inspired apostle wrote: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel was instructed by God to convey this message to the Israelites on God’s behalf: “‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live’” (Ezekiel 33:11). The apostle Paul told the young preacher Timothy that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). Therefore, if a person truly and honestly wants to become a Christian by being baptized for the forgiveness of his sins as God commanded, then God (Who wants all to be saved and is watchful of each individual human) certainly would provide an opportunity for that person to obey His commandment to be baptized. If no sparrow falls to the ground apart from God’s knowledge (Matthew 10:29), and God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), then we can be sure that His providential care will ensure that each person is given a fair opportunity to respond to His commands.


Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2004), “Taking Possession of What God Gives: A Case Study in Salvation,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2546.

Does The Word "Perfect" Really Mean "Perfect”? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Does The Word "Perfect" Really Mean "Perfect”?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Nailing down accurate definitions to words remains one of the major problems in communicating any message to another person. It has been said that, in an argument, the person or party who defines the terms always wins. When it comes to the Bible, and claims of its alleged errancy, skeptics often employ the tactic of assigning certain meanings to the biblical language that the original words do not necessarily have. In many instances, the skeptic will take words, and impose upon them a twenty-first-century meaning that was not intended in the original text. Then they will demand an answer to this “obvious contradiction.”
To illustrate, consider Dan Barker’s book, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist. He claims that a biblical contradiction exists between Romans 3:23 and Job 1:1 (1992, p. 171). He argues that Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (NKJV). But in Job 1:1, the man from Uz named Job was described as a man who “was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and turned away from evil.” Forcing the word “perfect” in Job 1:1 to mean what most twenty-first-century Americans take it to mean, Barker insists that a person cannot be “perfect” (defining the word as sinless, morally without error) and at the same time be sinful.
Granted, if the word translated “perfect” in Job 1:1 means “absolute sinlessness,” then Barker has a solid point. But a brief study of the original word quickly shows that the Hebrew and Greek words that frequently are translated “perfect” in our English Bibles do not always mean sinlessness. In their monumental work, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Harris, Archer, and Waltke addressed specifically the word used in Job 1:1. The Hebrew word tōm, translated in Job 1:1 as perfect, has a number of different usages. The word, or one of its derivatives, is used in Genesis 17:1 where God told Abraham to “be perfect.” And all Israel was instructed to “be perfect” in verses such as Deuteronomy 18:13, 2 Samuel 22:33, and Psalm 101:2,6. After listing these uses in their wordbook, the authors quote the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible as saying, “the words which are rendered in English by ‘perfect’ and ‘perfection’ denoted originally something other and less than ideal perfection” (1980, p. 974, emp. added). In another authoritative Hebrew word study, Gesenius observed that the word translated as “perfect” can mean “integrity of mind” or “innocence.” He further commented that the word is used of “simplicity of mind, which is opposed to mischief and ill design” (1979, p. 866). Obviously, then, the Hebrew word in Job 1:1 that is translated “perfect” did not mean “sinlessness,” but was used instead to describe a person who was attempting to follow God’s commandments to the best of his or her ability.
It is inexcusable for any person to demand that a contradiction exists between two Bible passages, when he or she will not even take a few minutes to look up the actual meanings of the words in question. Such poor “scholarship” is lazy at best, and dishonest at worst. Whenever a word in the Bible seems to contradict another thought listed therein, one of the most common ways to reconcile the two is to look up the definitions of the original word. If Dan Barker had done that, he would have known that we are not instructed to be “perfect”—in the sense of sinless in 2 Corinthians 13:11. Nor are we to “hate” our family in the twenty-first-century American sense of despising, loathing, and abhorring (see Butt, 2003).
Furthermore, the fact that language changes, and the meanings of words must be studied, can be seen by observing different translations. For instance, when Paul explained to the Thessalonians what is going to happen when Jesus returns, he stated that the Christians who “are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:15, KJV, emp. added). If we do not examine the meaning of this word, it seems to suggest that the Christians who are alive when Christ returns will not stop those that “are asleep.” That, however, is not what the Greek word phthano means. Other translations show that the this word, translated “prevent” in the King James Version, simply means, “precede” or “go before.”
Before any person presumes to point out an alleged discrepancy in the Bible, the very least that person could do is to study the meaning (in the original language) of the words in question. If such a study were carried out in an honest and forthright fashion, countless pages would be removed from the skeptics’ Web sites and books. Let us all, therefore, strive to be “perfect” in this area.


Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith In Faith—From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).
Butt, Kyle (2003), “Hate Your Parents—Or Love Them?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/601
Gesenius, William (1847), Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), 1979 reprint.
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer Jr., and Bruce Waltke, eds. (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).

Does the Bible Teach Geocentricity? by Bert Thompson, Ph.D. Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


Does the Bible Teach Geocentricity?

by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


Does the Bible teach that the Sun revolves around the Earth, in contradiction to modern scientific knowledge on this matter?
The medieval Catholic Church maintained that the Bible taught geocentricity (i.e., that the Sun and planets revolve around the Earth) as opposed to what we now know as the Copernican idea of heliocentricity (i.e., that the planets all revolve around the Sun). This situation began when Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria restated the ancient Ptolemaic geocentric theory in the second century after Christ, and was able to predict the motion of the celestial bodies with far greater accuracy than the existing theory of heliocentricity. Somewhere along the line, scientific dogma became enshrined in theological dogma, and passages in the Bible were found to consecrate Ptolemy’s theory. According to the theologians, man was the focus of God’s creative act, and therefore the Earth must be the center of God’s creation. After all, if we were dwelling on one average planet, rotating around one average star, in one average galaxy in an infinite Universe, how could we be the sole focus of God’s attention, and why should His only Son be sent just to this middling planet, as the Bible suggests?
Needless to say, this revolution of thought provided great fuel for the atheists, skeptics and agnostics. According to Paul Steidl:
The truths of God’s word and the work of Jesus Christ in no way depend on our position.... If anything, our lack of a unique position in the natural universe is only an illustration of the natural man’s lack of a unique position before God (1979, p. 6).
In other words, the presence of our material selves in the material Universe is not as important to God as our immortal souls. On the other hand, it is difficult to doubt that God has placed our planet in just the right place, and set it in motion in just the right way, to benefit the survival of humanity.
Copernicus submitted his ideas in the early sixteenth century, stating that geocentricity was incorrect after all. Some of Copernicus’ ideas could not be defended scientifically, but science generally had little to do with the attacks on this theory. Calvin, for instance, criticized Copernicus by appealing to passages in Joshua and Psalms that supposedly show the fixity of the Earth relative to the Sun. Galileo came along a hundred years later and firmed up the Copernican theories with better mathematics and with more accurate and numerous measurements. Unlike Copernicus, Galileo was persistent, arrogant, and prepared to stand up to the wrath of the Inquisition. Galileo’s assertion that the Bible should be interpreted in light of man’s knowledge of the natural world, and that Scripture should not have authority in scientific controversies, did little to endear him to church leaders. Thus, rather than being the case of “science versus the Bible,” it was “dogmatic scientist versus religious dogmatism.” This, of course, is not all the story; the remainder would be covered in a good history book.
One of the passages used to defend the biblical basis of geocentricity was Joshua 10:12-14, and later references to the same event, in which Joshua prayed, “Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; And thou, Moon, in the valley of Aijalon” (v. 12), that he might defeat the numerous armies assembled against his people. God immediately answered Joshua’s prayer, and in the following verse he wrote: “And the Sun stood still, and the Moon stayed.” Keil and Delitzsch have suggested that either the day appeared long to the warriors of Israel because of the greatness of the task they performed (i.e., defeating the enemy), or that God miraculously caused the day to be lengthened so the Lord’s army could perform its task. The former is consistent with similar language in other parts of the Old Testament, and the latter explanation is totally consistent with God’s infinite power over the Universe (1982, 2:106-112). In any case, as Joshua goes on to say in verse 14, “there was no day like that before it or after it.” Thus, whether miraculous or not, to say that these verses teach that the Earth continues to stand still, and that the Earth is the center of the Universe, is both a gross misinterpretation and a misapplication of the verse. This passage does not teach geocentricity, despite Calvin’s claims to the contrary.
In addition to Joshua 10, Calvin used Psalm 93:1 in defense of geocentricity. The verse simply suggests that the Earth is stable, and cannot be moved, but is it trying to say that the Earth is totally motionless in every sense? As the passage is primarily concerned with God’s majesty and power, it is more likely that the psalmist is saying, “Who but God could move the Earth?” Besides, the Earth is set in an unchanging orbit around the Sun, all the while rotating at a steady speed on a fixed axis.
Psalm 19:6 is a passage that often is cited as another example of Scripture teaching pre-Copernican astronomy. In this verse, the Sun is said to move, rather than the Earth, and therefore is said by some to imply that the Sun revolves around the Earth. There are many other verses in the Bible that talk about the Sun “going down” or “rising up.” This hardly should be surprising, however, since events in the Bible often are written in accommodative or “phenomenal” language—i.e., the language used to express phenomena as man sees them. Even today we teach our children that “the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west,” and astronomers and navigators use the Earth as a fixed point for purposes of simple observation, expressing distances and directions in relation to it. The weatherman on the evening news often will state that the Sun is going to “rise” at a certain time the following morning and “set” at a certain time the following evening. Why does no one accuse him of scientific error? Because we all are perfectly aware of, and understand, the Copernican view of the solar system, and because we likewise understand that our weatherman is using “phenomenal” language.
In addition, scientific foreknowledge could be claimed from Psalm 19:6 if a more literal interpretation was applied in the following way. Astronomers now know that the Sun moves in a gigantic orbit around the center of the Milky Way galaxy; traveling at 600,000 miles an hour it would take the Sun 230 million years to make just one orbit! It also is believed that our galaxy is moving with respect to other galaxies in the Universe. The Sun’s going forth is indeed from one end of the heavens to the other. In any case, there is no way to substantiate the claims that the Bible teaches geocentricity, or that it promotes any other anti-scientific concept.


Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1982 reprint), Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Steidl, Paul (1979), The Earth, the Stars, and the Bible (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed).

"Righteousness, Self-Control, and Judgment to Come" by Trevor Bowen


"Righteousness, Self-Control,

and Judgment to Come"


What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it limited to receiving the forgiveness of our sins? Have we reduced Christianity to regular attendance of the scheduled worship services? Has our religion been streamlined to a checklist adherence of doctrinal positions? Is evangelism the only goal of the gospel? Or, does Jesus' teaching consist of something more?
Certainly, various aspects of true Christianity are represented by these activities; however, as we conveniently simplify Christ's will to a select set of blessings and responsibilities, we will inherently distort these points beyond their intended place, overlooking crucial and vital components of the gospel. One such issue that may be minimized is morality. As you read the following account of Paul's preaching to Felix, please notice the following inspired breakdown, summarizing Paul's gospel message of reason:
But after certain days, Felix came with Drusilla, his wife, who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned of righteousness, and self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was terrified, and answered, "Go thy way for this time; and when I have a convenient season, I will call thee unto me". (Acts 24:24-25)
Based on this verse, a necessary component of all gospel preaching must be the proclamation of God's standard of righteousness and morality. Adherence to this standard requires self-control, which also must be taught. Ultimately, we must warn of God's pending judgment that awaits all of us. Failure to do this is a disservice to those we teach, and it is a dereliction of our duties before God (II Corinthians 5:10-11). Consequently, this series of articles is focused on disseminating the moral requirements of the Lord's kingdom. Because morality relates to the transformation of our inner man, our concern for righteousness manifests our desire for a personal closeness and intimate relationship with our Savior. Following this theme, the remainder of this article will examine the need and motivation for Christian morality.

Why "Righteousness"?

Sin, as evidenced by our guilt and desire for forgiveness, implies the existence of a standard, for without law, there is no transgression and no sin (Romans 4:15). What is this standard to which God has called all of us?
"... as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy.'" (I Peter 1:14-16)
In brief, God has called us to a standard that is consistent with His own character. In ancient days, God made a covenant with the Hebrews, also known as the Old Law. This law contained many ritual regulations to maintain ceremonial holiness; however, these carnal ordinances were symbolic of the spiritual holiness, which God now requires of us today ("a shadow of things to come" - Colossians 2:16-17; Galatians 3:19, 23-24). Does this mean that God was unconcerned with man's heart during the days of the Old Covenant? What do you think?
With what shall I come before the LORD, And bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8)
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. (Deuteronomy 6:5-6)
They hate the one who rebukes in the gate, And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly. Therefore, because you tread down the poor And take grain taxes from him ... For I know your manifold transgressions And your mighty sins: Afflicting the just and taking bribes; Diverting the poor from justice at the gate. ... Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. ... I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream. (Amos 5:10-24)
Do these Old Testament passages reflect an Old Testament God, Who cared only about external ceremonies? Absolutely not! Not only was God more concerned with the internal man, it was essential that one's heart be right and that he manifest a personal life of righteousness; otherwise, all the outward rituals were performed in vain!
Has God relaxed His moral requirements for righteousness under the New Covenant? Although many of the outward rituals have been eliminated, God's desire for a truly righteous heart and moral life have only been further emphasized under the New Law:
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
Not only does this passage reinstate several of the basic moral requirements from the Old Law, it also illuminates the actual connection between these moral requirements and the inward man - love. Our obedience to these righteous requirements is an expression of our love for our fellow man and even for God (Matthew 22:36-40). Therefore, living righteously not only exhibits a humble, submissive spirit before our Lord, but as we mature and understand more about God's law, it manifests a desire to reciprocate God's love and to reflect God's love upon others - to love others as He loved us (I John 4:10-12). These are just three of the reasons why we should keep God's righteous commands. Other reasons include, but are not limited to:

What "Self-Control"?

As is self-evident from common experience, God's righteousness is not compatible with the desires of the carnal man:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)
Therefore, to become a child of God, one of the first things we must do is to repent and give up the ways of the carnal man:
I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:1-9).
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, (Acts 3:19)
Of what sins should we repent? What good works should we do in the place of the old? No single passage contains all the possible answers to these questions. One must study the Bible diligently, and as he does so, he will better learn God's requirements for him. However, here are a few passages that clearly list sins, which we must avoid, and righteousness, which we should perform:

Sinful works of the flesh:

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6:9-10)
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Righteous works of the spirit:

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. ... But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-25)
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:2-8)
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. ... (Colossians 3:12-14)
Many more passages could be multiplied, like Romans 12:1-13:14, Galatians 6:1-10, Ephesians 4:17-6:20, etc. Virtually every book of the New Testament contains some admonition unto good works, which is one of the primary reasons for our purification (Titus 1:16; 2:11-3:8).
How does one repent from dead works and turn to works of righteousness, morality, and holiness? Certainly, God's grace is an inseparable component of this answer, but the link in the chain of salvation, which we wish to emphasize here, is self-control. God does indeed graciously provide us with the tools needed for mastering our own bodies:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (II Corinthians 10:3-5)
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints ... (Ephesians 6:10-18)
However, if we do not take advantage of these tools, then they will do us no good. God does put His armor on us. He does not stick His sword in our hand, neither does He make our decisions for us. Therefore, we must exhibit self-control, choosing to give up the "the passing pleasures of sin" in exchange for the reward of Christ (Hebrews 11:24-26). Moreover, we must recognize our weaknesses and go so far as to avoid the situations that provide occasion for sin (Romans 13:12-14). It is no wonder that self-control and temperance is a reoccurring theme found throughout the Scriptures (I Corinthians 9:24-27; I Corinthians 7:2-9; Galatians 5:22-23; I Timothy 2:15; 3:2, 11; II Timothy 3:1-5; Titus 1:8; 2:2; II Peter 1:6; ).
Clearly, if we do not exercise self-control, our carnal flesh will continue to seek sinful satisfaction. However, as we have seen, God gives us the tools to overcome and master the flesh. Furthermore, He gives us the motivation to use and gain experiences with these tools. We have examined some of these already, but we have reserved the most direct motivation for last, which we will now examine.

Beware "Judgment to Come"

As has already been mentioned, the carnal man is incapable of understanding the nobility of God's holy requirements. It should be no surprise that the worldly man may scoff at the virtues of God's love, especially bestowing such love on our enemies, as God did for us (Romans 5:6-8; I John 4:9-10, 19). Likely, the carnally minded man will be skeptical of God's wisdom and purpose contained within His laws. However, there is one divinely provided motivation that even the most depraved beast understands - punishment and reward!
It seems that God has provided this motivation to move even the most calloused soul, if He will but believe. As illustration of this point, please notice that many of the passages, which we previously examined, include some warning of judgment to come as reason for repentance:
but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear (I Peter 1:15-17)
... who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived ... (I Corinthians 6:9-10)
... shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
... and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. (Colossians 3:5-8)
Once we realize that we will each stand before God Almighty and give a personal account for actions done in our body (II Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10-12), suddenly the gospel takes on a whole new light of practical significance. There is a day appointed for judgment, our judgment. If we do not repent and seek to work the righteousness of the Lord, then we will stand condemned:
"Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:29-31)
As Paul observes, the certainty of this judgment is bound to the resurrection of Jesus. The evidence that God provides to sustain our faith in Jesus and the resurrection, is the same evidence that assures us of our coming judgment before God. Therefore, we cannot dismiss the potential of an eternal judgment without denying Jesus' resurrection from the dead. God's judgment is real. It is coming. And, hell is as eternal as the saint's reward in heaven (Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46). "God is not mocked". Do not deceive yourself into thinking you may escape the judgment of God (Galatians 6:7-8).


How should you react to this message? The recipient of Paul's message, Felix, responded correctly at first: - "Felix was terrified". Unfortunately, Felix's final response was not consistent with his initial reaction. He found a way to put off repentance.
Although this may be unacceptable to some, the gospel does lead off with bad news, if you do not already know it: We are sinners and have fallen short of God's glory intended for us (Romans 3:23). We must repent and exercise self-control, because judgment awaits all of us, including eternal condemnation for the unrepentant and unrighteous (Revelation 20:11-21:8). The possibility of missing paradise in God's heaven and instead spending eternity with all the wicked beings of all time in a place of torment and punishment should chill us to our bones. The question that remains, which only you can answer is, "What is your response to the reasoning of the gospel message?" Will you, like Felix, be terrified but put off a positive decision until a more convenient time, which will never come. Or, will you like the Jews on Pentecost, seek a remedy to your predicament - the good news of the gospel?
"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. (Acts 2:36-41)
As you read through the remaining articles in this series, remember: God has set up a standard of righteousness, which He expects you to keep. If all other noble motivations fail, do not forget that there is a judgment to come.

Trevor Bowen