Fruits of the Spirit (Part 2 of 2)

Fruits of the Spirit (Part 2 of 2)

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

This week we will continue our discussion of the fruits of the Spirit!

In Galatians 5, the fifth fruit listed is kindness. It can also be translated as gentleness or moral integrity. This word has a connotation of usefulness or benevolence. It is the Godly character needed so you can be employed for God’s Kingdom. This character is beneficial in helping others already in the Kingdom or leading others into it.

Once you have developed character through trials, you can be engaged in Kingdom matters. This shows us a powerful progression. The first four fruits should flourish in a believer’s life before he or she should serve in certain positions within the church. This adds further depth to Paul’s statement in I Timothy 3:6 that novices should not be put into offices of the church.

The next fruit is goodness. Like kindness, it has a connotation of usefulness and excellence. In the Bible, this word is often used of people performing good works. This not only means doing the right thing but also the way something is conducted. It is also a decision-making process where good and upright decisions are made in the life of the believer and in Kingdom work.

A believer exhibiting the fruit of goodness will not just serve God. He or she will display honor and excellence while doing so. He or she will also display uprightness in dealing with others. This requires a level of zeal that may not be present when a person is only displaying kindness.

Someone displaying the fruit of kindness is a good helper. Someone with the fruit of goodness will fight and stand for what is good, even if it means disciplining or correcting others. It is goodness performed for God and on behalf of others. Christ exhibited this when He cleaned out the Temple of the money changers (see also Matthew 25:21-23, Luke 6:45).

These two characteristics unveil a further progression of usefulness to zeal in the work of God.

The seventh fruit is translated as faithfulness or faith. There is a common faith we must all have to be saved (Romans 10:9-11). The fruit of faith is different. It manifests as continued confidence in God and can also be applied to faithfulness in the work of God with diligence and persistence.

To this end, the fruit of faith can refer to being reliable and consistent. Jesus said, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) Christ posed the question as to whether people would have faith in Him upon His return. Another question to ask ourselves is: Will we be reliable in doing God’s work in the time just before His return?

Gentleness is the eighth fruit. It can also be translated as meekness or humility. This is not martyrdom, self-piety, or a lowly countenance. The Greek word translated as gentleness was used in ancient times of an animal that was wild, but now is tame (1). It has a connotation of being strong and powerful, but refusing to flaunt these traits. In other words, meekness entails knowing the right time and situation to exercise God’s power.

Jesus had the opportunity to call forth twelve legions of angels to rescue Him, but he did not (Matthew 26:53-54). He was meek. God almost destroyed the entire nation of Israel, but Moses interceded to stop this from happening. He was called the meekest man on the earth (Num. 12:3).

This fruit might be better translated as self-restraint. With gentleness, you are allowing Him to manifest the emotions and manner of actions you should display in a given situation. To this end, we display gentleness or meekness with those who are struggling in the faith or overcoming sin. We may have victory in an area where others are weak, but we should be meek in how we treat them (because we could fall into the same sin – see Galatians 6:1-5).

These two fruits continue the progression of God’s power growing in our lives. As we mature in His power, we will be consistent and show self-restraint.

The ninth fruit and final in this progression is self-control. It is sometimes translated as temperance. This virtue was held by some Greeks to be the foundational virtue (2). Paul made it the last virtue in this series. He did this to show that this fruit is not self-control brought about by human effort. Instead, it is a self-control which comes through the Spirit of God.

To the Greeks, this virtue involved the moderation of the human desires. In Christ, the human desires are subdued first through love for Him. We forsake those desires because of abundant love. Self-control is the highest form of submission to God so that the Spirit of God has mastery over the believer. Gentleness was properly displaying power at the right time; self-control is when the Spirit of God turns disadvantages into advantages.

Consider the following example. The Pharisees tried to trick Jesus many times. The Spirit of God countered this and turned the situation from a disadvantage into Christ’s favor. Others were not able to manipulate or mislead Christ. Hence, it is self-control.

This word can also indicate being master of one’s situations. In the gospels, Jesus said, “I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me” (John 14:30). The devil had no hold on Christ. There was nothing in Him that Satan could manipulate, though he tempted Him many times. Disadvantageous situations were transformed into advantageous ones. Obviously, Christ had the highest level of submission to God that has ever existed. As we continue to submit to God, we will taste of this fruit.

We can see a steady progression as we look at these nine fruits. It starts as we fall in love with our Savior. This continues as we experience Joy from being part of God’s Plan. Our radically changed lifestyle brings conflict from others, but peace within. As we endure trials, we do not over react or lash out. Once we have passed these first four tests, our character is prepared for Kingdom work. At this point, we become useful to Him and others. As we are used by God, we develop a zeal for His holy things. Our zeal then becomes channeled into reliability. Reliability then grows into humility as God teaches us the proper way to respond to certain situations. Lastly, God turns disadvantages to advantages as He is in complete control. The first four Fruits prepare someone to enter into the ministry. They build the character of God within us so that we can serve God. The last five are attitudes and Godly character that increase the fruitfulness of an individual’s life in the Work of God.

We can have spiritual gifts without fruits, but true spiritual fruit will always bring about the gifts (see Matthew 7:21-23, I Cor. 13). The Fruits of the Spirit ensure that the gifts we use build something that lasts. The spiritual gifts are meant to be an extension of the fruits. Jesus said that we are His disciples by the fruit we bear (Matthew 7:16, 12:33, Luke 6:44). These nine fruits allow the world to see the character of Christ in our modern world.

Bibliography

(1) Barclay, William. The Letters to the Galatians and the Ephesians. Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1958.

(2) Smith, Richard M. Studies in the Greek New Testament. Nashville: Publishing House Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1893. p 105.

(3) Strong, James. Strong’s Concordance. Published: Nashville: Abingdon, c1980.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

President, Bible Sabbath Association (www.biblesabbath.org)

 

The Fruits of the Spirit (Part 1 of 2)

The Fruits of the Spirit (Part 1 of 2)

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Before Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He taught about the importance of producing fruit. In John 15:1-8,16 , He said, “1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples…16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (NIV)

These verses show us that the Lord expects us to produce fruit for His Kingdom. In fact, we are appointed to bear fruit that lasts (verse 16). What fruits does the Lord expect from us?

Jesus’ teaching in John 15 is linked to the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-25. In these verses, Paul lists nine of them. They are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (NIV).  They are a series of attitudes that allow others to witness the Kingdom of God and thus give God the Father glory.

Before we can delve into the meaning of these fruits, one must understand that they operate differently than the gifts of the Spirit (nine of them are listed in I Cor. 12:1-10). A person can choose whether or not to exercise one of the gifts. On the contrary, the fruits of the Spirit simply grow as we walk with God.

Think of a tree. You cannot make fruit grow by shaking a tree. The tree must be nurtured, watered, and have a proper environment for the fruit to grow. We do not choose to manifest these fruits by human effort; they spontaneously manifest as we yield to the Spirit and Word of God (water) and obey Him in trials (sunlight). We choose to obey God, and they spontaneously manifest. To this end, the fruits are not nine characteristics that come from human effort.

A second factor to keep in mind is that we cannot define these characteristics by the way we view them in our culture. They must be viewed from the perspective of the Word of God and the life of Christ. He is the vine, and we are branches (John 15:1-5). We must take in from His example. Consider the first fruit: Love. In our culture, love tends to be looked at as merely a feeling. This is not the way love is viewed in the Bible. We tend to view kindness and meekness based upon a person’s countenance. As you will come to understand, this is not the Biblical context for these terms. The Spirit of God is the resurrected Christ living inside of us (Col. 1:27); these fruits are Christ’s characteristics manifesting in our vessels. We can see these in His life.

The first fruit of the Spirit is love. It is the first fruit because the Spirit of God is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5). We need the Love of God to love God and others. We cannot love with our carnality. This is the starting place and foundation of our faith. When you are first saved/converted, a mindset of love should overflow from within your vessel. The Greek word for love is agapeo. It is a decisive mindset where we desire to make any cost to please God. Jesus gave us this example by being our sacrifice (John 15:9-13). This fruit is first displayed by a person’s decision to obey the Word of God. As an example, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Instead of doing things our way, we begin doing things His way. We will treat others in a Christ-like manner. Agapeo love will manifest as action.

The second fruit is joy. We think of joy as simply being happy, but it is much more than that. Joy is a realization that your life has value to God in this world. This fruit also arises in our hearts and minds as we realize what He has done for us and others (Savior, redeemer, deliverer, provider, healer, etc.). This is why the disciples had joy when they heard about the work of God in the life of others (Acts 15:3). Said another way – this joy comes about as a person fulfills their intended purpose as a member of God’s family. This joy grows as we obey God (see John 15:9-11); one reason for this is that our Kingdom reward increases. The fruit of joy intensifies in our lives.

These first two fruits (Love and Joy) represent the first phase in the life of a believer. When a person first receives the Holy Spirit, they fall in love with God. There is joy from our new life. The next phase comes when we are growing in Christ and face trials.

Peace is the third fruit. In our modern culture, we define peace as the absence of war or conflict. Jesus told us there would be conflict in our lives for serving Him. He said that even our family would become our enemies (Matthew 10:34-39).  The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, and it means wholeness. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). The fruit of peace is the inner wholeness that comes from walking with God.

Our lives are falling apart on the outside, but this outward environment has not changed our inward resolve to obey Him. God’s Spirit consoles us in this process and makes us whole in the trial. Jesus said we should not be troubled or afraid when He spoke about His peace. In the world, there is peace only when there is a lack of conflict. With Christ, there is peace with or without conflict. Of course, we must live in peace with others. This means having a wholeness of relationship (when possible) and not merely an agreement to avoid conflict. Through prayer, His peace will guard our hearts and minds. It surpasses human understanding because wholeness in the midst of outward turmoil is beyond our natural mind (Phil. 4:6-7).

The next fruit is patience. It can also be translated as endurance, perseverance, or longsuffering. In America, the word patience has a connotation of waiting for something. The Greek word literally means to breathe very passionately for an extended period of time. To have fruit that lasts, we must have trials that last. Some trials do not last long in terms of human time, but they seem long when we go through them. Patience manifests as we endure in trials. When we are provoked to act, we refrain. Our normal, fleshly reactions are restrained so that the longsuffering Christ had for us may be visible to others. In these tough situations, we allow our Savior to work out situations beyond our control instead of working them out by our human understanding. We must also have patience when we deal with others. After all, the Lord shows us patience and endures with us while we learn from Him.

When we experience the fruits of peace and patience, God’s character is being refined in us. This is preparing us to be used even more for God’s Kingdom Work.

Next week, we will finish by covering the last five fruits.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

President, Bible Sabbath Association (www.biblesabbath.org)

 

Sabbath Meditation #15 – The Gates of Heaven

Sabbath Meditation #15 – The Gates of Heaven

By Kelly McDonald, Jr

“The LORD says: ‘The gate of the inner court that looks toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the Sabbath day it shall be opened, and on the day of the new moon it shall be opened…The people of the land shall worship at the door of that gate before [paniym] The LORD on the Sabbaths and on the new moons’”  (Ezekiel 46:1, 3).

“For if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, seeing there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law, who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, even as Moses was warned by God when he was about to make the tabernacle, for he said, ‘See, you shall make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain’” (Hebrews 8:4-5).

In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle/Temple structures were built to pattern heavenly things. As we survey the entire Bible, we understand this even more. For instance, three of the furniture pieces from the earthly structures are also mentioned as having Heavenly counterparts: the menorah, the altar of incense, and the Ark of the Covenant (Rev. 4:5, 8:1-5, 11:19).

As discussed in the last Sabbath Meditation, there is one earthly Temple structure that will be built in the future. It is described in the book of Ezekiel. We learn that this Temple will have a gate which is only open on the seventh-day Sabbath and the New Moon.

This allows us to learn yet another reason why we rest from labors and other activities on the Sabbath. By following God’s instructions concerning the Sabbath, we are positioning ourselves to receive from Heavenly Temple.

Recall that not even physical manna fell from Heaven on the Sabbath (Exodus 16). There was a greater revelation than Manna to be received. It cannot come by work or selfish ambition. It can only be received through the blessed Sabbath rest.

Our body is also called God’s Temple (I Cor. 3:16-17). The gate to the Heavenly temple is open every Sabbath; is your temple prepared and open to receive its blessing?

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr

BSA Presidentwww.biblesabbath.org

Sabbath Meditation #15 – The Gates of Heaven

Sabbath Meditation #15 – The Gates of Heaven

By Kelly McDonald, Jr

“The LORD says: ‘The gate of the inner court that looks toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the Sabbath day it shall be opened, and on the day of the new moon it shall be opened…The people of the land shall worship at the door of that gate before [paniym] The LORD on the Sabbaths and on the new moons'”  (Ezekiel 46:1, 3).

“For if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, seeing there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law, who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, even as Moses was warned by God when he was about to make the tabernacle, for he said, ‘See, you shall make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain'” (Hebrews 8:4-5).

In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle/Temple structures were built to pattern heavenly things. As we survey the entire Bible, we understand this even more. For instance, three of the furniture pieces from the earthly structures are also mentioned as having Heavenly counterparts: the menorah, the altar of incense, and the Ark of the Covenant (Rev. 4:5, 8:1-5, 11:19).

As discussed in the last Sabbath Meditation, there is one earthly Temple structure that will be built in the future. It is described in the book of Ezekiel. We learn that this Temple will have a gate which is only open on the seventh-day Sabbath and the New Moon.

This allows us to learn yet another reason why we rest from labors and other activities on the Sabbath. By following God’s instructions concerning the Sabbath, we are positioning ourselves to receive from Heavenly Temple.

Recall that not even physical manna fell from Heaven on the Sabbath (Exodus 16). There was a greater revelation than Manna to be received. It cannot come by work or selfish ambition. It can only be received through the blessed Sabbath rest.

Our body is also called God’s Temple (I Cor. 3:16-17). The gate to the Heavenly temple is open every Sabbath; is your temple prepared and open to receive its blessing?

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr

BSA President, www.biblesabbath.org

Fasting on the Sabbath in the Middle Ages

Fasting on the Sabbath in the Middle Ages

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In the first two parts of this series, we reviewed the early history of fasting on the Sabbath. To read parts one and two, click the following links: Part 1 [click here] and Part 2 [click here].

The concept of mandatory fasting every weekly Sabbath is never suggested in the Bible. It was introduced through the heretic Marcion in the mid second century AD. Most of Christianity, including the Roman Church, initially condemned Marcion and this practice. However, the Sabbath fast was later utilized by the Roman Church as a tool to denigrate and demean the Sabbath’s importance. In the early 400s AD, Pope Innocent I made it mandatory. At times, those who refused to comply were ostracized.

In part two of the series, we reviewed how the Eastern Churches refused the practice of a mandatory Sabbath fast. The Trullan Synod was held in the early 690s AD with the approval of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian II. It condemned the Saturday fast imposed by Rome on the basis of the fourth/fifth century work called The Apostolic Canons.

After this brief review of fasting on the Sabbath, we can now move into sources in the Middle Ages on this subject. The Sabbath fast continued to appear in Church History.

Opposition to the Sabbath fast reached its height in the ninth and eleventh centuries. In 867, Photius I was the patriarch of Constantinople. This position meant to the Eastern Churches what the Pope/Bishop of Rome means to Western Churches.

With the support of the Emperor, Photius excommunicated the Western Churches. His reasoning rested on five points of disagreement. The first point listed was fasting on the Sabbath. He went so far as to say that the Latins were “…forerunners of apostasy, servants of Antichrist who deserve a thousand deaths, liars, fighters against God” (Catholic Encyclopedia: Photius of Constantinople). Of course, Photius might have said some of these things because the Pope tried to depose and excommunicate him.

This schism was healed during the patriarchy of Antony II (893-895), but this reunion did not last. The anti-Roman sentiment left by Photius’ supporters carried on for centuries into the future.

The permanent separation of Western and Eastern Churches occurred in 1053/1054. This is called the Great Schism. The patriarch Michael Cærularius sent a letter to the Pope complaining about several points of practice that he believed to be unorthodox. Among them was fasting on Sabbath. He closed all the Western Churches in Constantinople and the schism again was established.

Not long after this, Pope Gregory VII changed the Saturday fast from a complete abstention of foods to that of only meats. In the Council of Rome 1078, canon seven ruled that no one should eat meat on Saturday unless another church festival occurred on that day of the week (Mansi, 20:510).

In this same century, Saturday was dedicated by the Catholic Church to Mary. Pope Urban II, who declared the first Crusade, was behind this official declaration. At the Council of Clermont in 1095, he commanded that “It is mandatory for all Christians that they should recite the office of the Blessed virgin on every Sabbath day” (Mansi, 20:820-821). The 16th/17th century Cardinal Caesar Baronus lists this as canon 33 of the council (Annles Ecclesiastici, volume 18, 1869, p 22).

The practice of fasting from meat on the Sabbath and honoring Mary became intertwined over the following centuries. We have a timeline of some councils that confirm this conclusion.

1219 – The Council of Toulouse – Canon 3 ruled that clergy were required to go to church on Saturday to honor Mary.

1229 – Council of Toulouse – Canon 25 enforced a fine of 12 denarios if someone did not attend any of the sacred services of the church. It adds that people were required to attend services to reverence Mary on the evening of the Sabbath (Mansi, 23:200).

1337 – Council of Avignon –In canon 5, clergy in the Catholic Church were required to fast from meat on Saturdays in honor of the Virgin Mary. They hoped this would set a good example for the laity.

1351 – Council of Besiers – In canon 7, all those in the clergy were required to fast from meat on Saturdays.

1368 – Council of Lavaur – Canon 90 instructed all clergy to fast from meat on Saturdays for Mary. In canons 123 and 124, those Christians who prayed for the pope during the mass of Mary on Saturday would receive an indulgence.

1450 – Council of Constantinople – This Council was an attempt to reunite the Latin and Greek churches just before the fall of Constantinople.  Among the disagreements they attempted to work out was the Saturday Fast of the Latin Churches. It was not long after this that the city of Constantinople was overtaken by Muslim invaders.

This gives you a brief history of the Sabbath fast during the Middle Ages. It became a requirement sometimes on everyone and at other times just on clergy to abstain from meat and honor Mary on the Sabbath. This is the most likely explanation as to why the Roman Catholic Church practices Saturday mass today.

Mandatory Sabbath fasting is not a practice that we should adopt. Also, the Sabbath was dedicated to God. Christ is Lord of the Sabbath, not Mary. These non-Biblical practices gradually were adopted by the Roman Church.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

President, Bible Sabbath Association (www.biblesabbath.org)

Seven New Testament Reasons for Christians to Keep the Sabbath

Seven New Testament Reasons for Christians to Keep the Sabbath

by Jeff Reed

As a Sabbath keeper I am usually perceived by non-Sabbath-keeping Christians as a legalist, outdated, or not fully understanding grace. They believe that the Fourth Commandment has either been done away, changed, or is kept by Jesus living in us. In this article I don’t want to look at why those arguments are flawed. Instead, I believe it would be more constructive to focus on seven New Testament reasons Christians should keep the Sabbath.

  1. Jesus kept the Sabbath.

We read many accounts that Jesus was always teaching on the Sabbath. Sometimes He would explain a spiritual truth through a healing. On one occasion He explains a misunderstanding that arose concerning His disciples picking grain. He was teaching through example and focusing on proper understanding of the Fourth Commandment. Luke 4:16 tells us clearly that “as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” A custom is an established observance that brings meaning into our life. Jesus’ custom started at creation and continued in His human life. “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). I’m pretty sure that includes His customs.

  1. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.

The observances we keep reflect the God we serve. Many different religions have different practices and ceremonies honoring their gods. What Christians observe should honor our God. One of Jesus’ Sabbath lessons ended with him making the conclusion “Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). By keeping this day we are declaring that Jesus is our Lord. It is a way we honor and worship Him.

  1. The Sabbath was made for us.

Also as part as this same lesson to the Pharisees He explains that “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). We are physical creatures and we often find ourselves tired or weary from the challenges of life. The Sabbath was created to give us rest. It gives us opportunity to recharge so that we can function correctly the other six days of the week. It is how the Creator made us. It is a wonderful gift from God that we should rejoice at the wisdom He had in its creation. Importantly, you can only understand how great this gift is by keeping it.

  1. The Apostle Paul kept the Sabbath.

“Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2). On several occasions we see Paul keeping the Sabbath. This is the same man who wrote 28 percent of the New Testament. In his letters he continually emphasized the importance of keeping the law for Christians. Not for the purpose of salvation but in response to our salvation through Christ. “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12). He was a Sabbath keeper and understood its importance in our relationship with Jesus.

  1. Luke directly refers to the Sabbath commandment.

In the book of Luke we learn that the women who were at the crucifixion of Jesus afterward prepared spices and fragrant oils to anoint His body. Then “they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56). Luke wrote this account at least thirty years later. Notice that he does not refer to it as “the former Sabbath” or “the Jewish Sabbath” but as a commandment in the present tense. And this was after His crucifixion, a point in time where some believe the commandment was changed.

  1. Jesus’ instruction shows that the Sabbath will be important in the future.

In referring to the future event that will precede great tribulation, Jesus advises to “pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath” (Matthew 24:20). If there was no longer going to be a Sabbath command after His resurrection, why would He make this statement? The answer is simple. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

  1. Sabbath keeping remains for the people of God.

“There remains therefore a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). This verse can be easily overlooked as supporting the Sabbath because the Greek word sabbatismos is translated as rest. Some Bible translations translate it more correctly as “sabbath rest.” When this word is used in other ancient Greek literature it usually means a “keeping of the sabbath.” So Hebrews 4:9 is essentially saying that “there remains a keeping of the sabbath for the people of God.” This emphasizes the theme found in Hebrews 4 connecting the seventh-day rest with the rest that comes as we are diligently obedient to Christ.

These are seven New Testament reasons for Christians to keep the Sabbath. There are actually many more and I encourage you to visit the Sabbath topic section of our website for additional in-depth studies.

This blog was originally written by Pastor Jeff Reed with the Church of God International. It was posted on February 28, 2019 by the Church of God International. We encourage you to follow their blog at: https://www.cgi.org/news-and-events/.

Understanding Isaiah 1:13-15

Understanding Isaiah 1:13-15

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Many verses are commonly cited to dissuade people from keeping the Sabbath. Among them is Isaiah 1:13-15, where God said: “Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals. I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!”

Is this verse a condemnation of keeping the Sabbath? Or is there some other message being communicated? Let’s look deeper.

When we study the Bible, we learn that the Lord calls the Sabbath HIS. “…but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God…” (Exodus 20:10a). “There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord” (Lev. 23:3). And of course, Christ called Himself Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28).

In each of these instances, God took personal possession of the Sabbath day calling it “My Sabbath.” When we read Isaiah, the Lord uses the term “your” to signify the celebrations the Israelites were keeping. The use of the word “your” in Isaiah means that they were keeping their own Sabbaths, not those that belong to God.

We can cross reference this conclusion by reading the book of Kings. In chapter 11, we learn that King Solomon took many foreign wives. Eventually, he began to serve their gods; he turned away from the True God. As a result of this sin, the Lord prophesied that 10 of the tribes would be torn away from him. They would be given to one of the men under him named Jeroboam.

As prophesied, the northern 10 tribes of Israel were taken away from Solomon’s son Rehoboam and given to Jeroboam. The remaining tribes remained with Rehoboam. Early on in his reign, Jeroboam began to worry that the tribes would go back to Solomon’s son. Out of fear, he did turned away from God.

In I Kings 12:25-33, we learn how he established his own feast the eighth month in an attempt to replace The Feast of Tabernacles, which occurs in the seventh month. I Kings 12:33 reads, “On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings.” Jeroboam established this feast after his own reckoning. He also set up golden calves and allowed anyone to serve as priests, which violated God’s covenant with Aaron.

Ezekiel prophesied about this further: “Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them” (Ezekiel 22:26).

In Isaiah 1:13-15, God rebuked the Israelites for honoring their own Sabbaths. These were days that they established – not God. At the same time, they refused to honor His Sabbath. They purposefully shut their eyes to the observation of God’s appointed times. Let us not do the same.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Leadership in the 21st Century

Leadership  for the 21st Century

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In the 21st century, we find ourselves in a unique situation. The world is interconnected in a way in which it likely has never been before. We have emails, text messages, social media, etc. While we have these conveniences, we also are becoming alienated from what it means to be human. Said another way, our own interconnectedness with each other seems to be replacing the need to have a genuine understanding of one’s own identity as a human.

Because this paradigm seems to be sweeping the world, Church leaders must guard themselves from behaviors detrimental to others. This is especially true in America because Christianity has been so commercialized. What do I mean by this?

Too often leaders can treat people like they are a means to an end rather than individuals with God-given intrinsic value. Ministers who do not consider the needs of others can fall into the trap of seeing people as instruments to reach goals.

This can create what I call the “fill in” attitude. Church leaders can be guilty of just trying to find anyone to “fill in” positions at church without regard to their personal/spiritual needs or even their spiritual maturity. This opens the way for people who are unprepared or who have a lack of character to be assigned roles in Church. This means the people are serving in a capacity they either should not be in or are not ready for. This can lead to abuse, immorality, and/or cause burn out.

As leaders, we must recognize the gifts of others and employ them in a way that brings God the glory. However, we must also connect with people and treat them in a way so that we do not forget that they are human.

Some questions to consider as a Church Leader when you seek to delegate tasks:

  • How well do you know the person? Have you taken the time to get to know them?
  • What gifts does a person have? Are you asking them to perform a task that they can actually carry out?
  • Are they actually ready to use that gift or do they need nurturing?
  • If they need nurturing, is there a way that you can gently and lovingly nurture them over time to use that gift?
  • Does the individual have the character and spiritual maturity to serve in the position that you are asking them to serve in? (The individual needs to display consistent character over a period of time before they can be trusted with any of God’s work. Keep in mind – some tasks require more spiritual maturity than others.)
  • What are the personal needs of that individual? Are they overwhelmed or going through a difficult time? They may not be able to handle the rigors of certain tasks (or any at all). Be aware of this and sensitive to their situation.

We cannot request something from someone that they are not able to produce. Nor can we expect someone to produce something that they do not have the character to properly represent. Moreover, we cannot push tasks on people that they are too overwhelmed to properly carry out.

Verses that can help us with this process: Leviticus 19:11-18 – Do not defraud others; Love your neighbor as yourself; Luke 22:24-30 – leaders are called to serve; Galatians 6:1-5 – Bear one another’s burdens; Romans 12:3 – Let us not think more highly of ourselves than we should; Romans 13:8-10 – Love one another. Phil. 2:3 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition and esteem others higher than yourself; I Timothy 3:1-13 – Standards for certain offices in the church and instruction that new believers should not serve in these positions.

There are certainly other verses on this subject, but these are some very important ones to guide us in this process. As we lead in the 21st century, let us not be found guilty of allowing attitudes of this world – such as the tides of commercialism and collectivism – to drown out individuality and the image of God.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President (www.biblesabbath.org)

The People of God Must Preserve the Blessings of God

The People of God Must Preserve the Blessings of God

by Kenneth Ryland

“[T]he right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave.” —John Adams

A friend and I were talking at church about the great blessing for the people of God that is the United States of America. We have the freedom to assemble as we wish with whomever we wish. We can study the Bible without interference. We have the freedom to travel from place to place to preach the gospel, and we have the incredible blessing of wealth to carry the message

of Christ beyond our borders to the farthest reaches of this earth. What more could any Christian ask in this world? I truly believe that if the USA did not exist, God would find a nation to bless with freedom and wealth in order to carry his message of salvation to the entire world.

Given that the Great Creator of the universe has laid in our laps all of these blessings, why do we insist on placing the care of these blessings in the hands of godless men? We are loathe to take up the challenge to govern, so we elect leaders who constantly seek to raise our taxes, restrict our movements, and limit our God given freedoms…”

(this article is an excerpt from the May-June 2006 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 7, click this link: http://biblesabbath.org/tss/519/tss_519.pdf

 

Sabbath Meditation #14 – Drawn Into His Presence

Sabbath Meditation #14 – Drawn Into His Presence
by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

“So he drove out the man; and he placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24)

“Cain left The LORD’s presence, and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” (Genesis 4:16)

“1 Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looks toward the east. 2 Behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east… 4 The LORD’s glory came into the house by the way of the gate which faces toward the east. (Ezekiel 43:1-2, 4)

46 “‘The Lord The LORD says: “The gate of the inner court that looks toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the Sabbath day it shall be opened, and on the day of the new moon it shall be opened…The people of the land shall worship at the door of that gate before [paniym] The LORD on the Sabbaths and on the new moons”.  (Ezekiel 46:1, 3)

When Adam and Eve dwelt in the Garden of Eden, where the first Sabbath was honored, the presence of God was with them. God would come down in the cool of the day and fellowship with them. After they transgressed in the Garden, they were driven to the East. In the very next chapter, Cain killed his brother. He also went out from the presence of the Lord to the East.

The Hebrew word translated as presence is paniym. It means to be in the face of someone and by extension their presence. It does not refer to general location, but instead to a person’s face being directed towards you. All of the pleasantness (or lack thereof) that comes from that person’s presence is implied when paniym is used.

For instance, God had a good purpose for Cain – and it could have been fulfilled. God directed His attention or presence towards him and even spoke to him. Unfortunately, Cain turned away from that purpose. He subsequently left God’s presence – His face, attention, and purposes.

When we read the prophetic books of the Bible, we learn about events that will take place in the future. Among these is the building of a Temple to honor God that has never been constructed; it is described in the book of Ezekiel. It will be gigantic in size!

God explained that this Temple will have an inner court gate that faces to the East! This gate will be open every Sabbath and the glory of the Lord will enter into it! The people will also come and worship in the presence the Lord through that same gate.

When we read the Bible, God declares the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10). Let us connect the verses we have reviewed.

Since the beginning, mankind has gone astray to the east, away from God’s presence or face. The Sabbath exists in part as a reminder that God desires us to be in His glorious presence. He desires to see you directly in His presence so you can receive all of the benefits of being near Him.

“Seek The LORD and his strength. Seek his face [paniym] forever more.” (I Chronicles 16:11)

While we should always seek the face of God, there is a special time when God’s face can always be found: the Sabbath. While we have all strayed away from His presence, to the east, His Sabbath is open every week to receive us back.

Throughout the week, God is beckoning us to dwell in His presence on Sabbath. His face will be fully turned towards us. Honoring the Sabbath involves setting aside those things that keep our face from being turned towards Him.

Will we accept His invitation?

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr

BSA President, www.biblesabbath.org