Chapter 4:

Who Is God?

Part 2: Foreknowledge and Predestination

Many people assume that because God is Almighty, absolutely everything is under his direct control. Everything that happens, happens because he wants it to; indeed, he planned it long ago. Is this view of God correct?

The Bible says, ‘not one sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing it, and the hairs of your head are all numbered.’ (Matt 10:29, 30) And it says "The eyes of Jehovah are everywhere, watching both the bad and the good." (Prov 15:3) From this we could assume that God is instantly aware of every least movement and thought in all creation.

On the other hand, before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, Jehovah said to Abraham, "I will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it." (Gen 18:21) It would appear that knowledge of Sodom’s wickedness first came to God in angelic reports, not by his own personal presence there. Now he was making an official visit, to investigate and decide what to do about it.

Later, God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son. Just as Abraham was about to do so, Jehovah stopped him, saying, "Now I do know that you are God-fearing, because you have not withheld your son, your only one, from me." (Gen 22:12) Did God really have to test Abraham to know that? If all things were decided in advance, God would certainly have already known, because he would have planned it himself, long before Abraham was born! Evidently that is not the way God does things.

There are numerous other instances where God plainly says that he looks at people’s behavior to find out what is in their heart. For example, read Deut 8.2, 13.1-3, 2 Chron 32.31, Jer 26.2, 3 and 36.2, 3. The last two shows that Jehovah appeals to men to change their ways and can then change his own mind, if they respond well.

Yes, the Bible often calls out to us, saying, "choose life" "turn away from bad" "repent of your sins" (see De 30.19, Prov 3.1-7, Ezek 18.30-32, Acts 3.19, Rev 22.17, Matt 22.14). If, in fact, our response is predetermined, every invitation for us to choose would be a sham, a pretense. Our freedom to choose would be just an illusion. Our actions would be just like the playing of a prerecorded videotape! But is our "reality" just the playing of some great recording? If so, whose videotape would it be? Since God is the Creator, it would have to be his. That would mean every wicked "choice", every vicious crime, every cruel word, was predecided in the mind of God. God would be the source of all evil!

That makes no sense at all. The Bible is very clear in saying that God is disappointed when man chooses evil; he becomes angry when we persist in it. (Gen 6.6, 7, 1 Sam 15.11, Deut 29.19, 20) Why should he feel that way if men were only doing exactly what He had decided they would do, even millions of years before they were born? —unless God too were just an illusion, an actor on the videotape himself, reacting helplessly as the story plays itself out!

No, such a concept of God is inherently false. The Bible is true: we have free will. We can please God or disappoint him. We do indeed decide NOW which way we will go in life. And we will be held accountable for our own choices, for they are truly ours, not pre-ordained for us. —see also Deut 32.4, 5.

But of course, God does foretell the future. At Isaiah 46:9-11 we read: "I am God, and there is no other. I am God, and there is no one like me. From the beginning I foretell the outcome, and from long ago the things that have not yet been done. I say, ‘My decision will stand, and I will do whatever I please.’.... I have spoken, and I will bring it about. I have purposed it, and I will also carry it out." As Creator, certainly he can decide in advance that some specific event must happen. As necessary, he can step in to influence the flow of events so that the outcome he desires is obtained. —see also Ephesians 1:11.

So God does not foreknow the future by literally looking forward into time, nor by extrapolating from the present, detail by minute detail. For Him to merely see into the future would imply that time is greater than He is; he would have to take what must come, for what he would see must occur, or else he would not see it. On the other hand, figuring out what many, many persons would decide to do in response to a multitude of subtle circumstances would automatically negate free will; to precalculate the future in this way is to foreordain it. It would declare our "decisions" to be blind reactions to stimuli; consciousness would be an illusion. (See this exploration of the nature of time itself.)

No, God respects our freedom. So while he influences trends and events to accomplish specifically those things he wants to occur, he leaves the rest up to us, or to the natural flow of his physical laws. He can also use his intimate knowledge of the personality of his creatures to make some predictions. For example, even before Israel was settled into their land, God said that they would not turn out well. Why not? He explains: "I well know the inclination they have developed, before I bring them into the land." —Deut 31.16, 21.

Psalms 11:4, 5 says: "Jehovah —in the heavens is his throne. His own eyes see, his watchful eyes examine the sons of men. Jehovah examines the righteous one as well as the wicked one, and he deeply hates anyone who loves violence." When Jehovah looks at you, what does he see? It’s up to you.

Jehovah’s Personality

What sort of personality does Jehovah have? Is he someone you could grow to love if you knew him well? Can you be his friend? Or is he distant and aloof, as mighty rulers of this world usually are?

As chapter 1 of this book mentioned, we can learn something of how Jehovah thinks from his creative works. Life can be so beautiful! Have you ever admired a particularly beautiful sunset? Surely this proves that God has a sense of aesthetics, and he gave to us the ability to appreciate beauty too. Consider also how many kinds of delicious food there are. All of them were designed by the Creator. Our body was designed with senses not "merely to aid our survival," as evolutionists would say, but really to take delight in life. Does this not tell us something about Jehovah?

The Bible says that man was made "in God’s image." Obviously, we are flesh and blood, planet-bound material creatures, while he is "spirit," able to traverse the universe in an instant. But in immaterial ways, in matters of the heart and mind, we can resemble God. So we can learn something of him by examining ourselves. For example, are you angered at seeing injustice? Does cruelty disturb you? Do you have a sense of fair play? Do you have moral standards? Is it possible to hurt your feelings? Are you able to forgive if someone apologizes, or even if they don’t? Does your patience have limits? If so, you are reflecting how Jehovah feels about things. (see Acts 10.34, 35, Deut 16.18, 19, Ps 78.36-41, 58-62, Ezek 18.19, 20, Prov 12.10, Luke 17.3, 4)

Of course, Jehovah exhibits these qualities in perfect balance. We, on the other hand, can be very imperfect in the way we deal with our fellowmen. If you can imagine a person who is very kind and helpful, generous and sympathetic, yet who will not put up with lies and laziness and other hurtful behavior, you have some idea of Jehovah’s personality. It would take many lifetimes to really become acquainted with Jehovah. We are warmly invited: "Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you." (James 4.8) You are doing that now as you learn about him. Don’t quit. No better friend can you find. (compare Isa 41.9, 10, 13, Ps 46.1, Prov 17.17, 1 John 4.7-10.)

Should We Fear God?

In a word, yes. The Bible says: "The conclusion of the matter, everything being heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments, for that is the whole obligation of man." In Revelation 14.7 we see an angel proclaiming to every nation and people on earth: "Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of judgment by him has arrived!" But didn't Jesus say that the greatest commandment is to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength? And did not John say "there is no fear in love, for love throws fear outside; indeed, he that is under fear has not been made perfect in love"? Yet the command to "fear" God appears many times throughout the Bible. How can fear coexist with love? Can we really love God if we are afraid of him too? Would not ‘fear throw love outside’? —Ecclesiastes 12.13, 1 John 4:18, Mark 12:28-33.

The problem arises because the word "fear" has different levels of meaning. As it applies to God, close synonyms would be respect, awe, and reverence. We respect people and things which have power over us (if we have any sense, that is.) Yet we can enjoy and "love" them at the same time. For example, we love a warm campfire on a chilly night. We are drawn to its warmth and light. But we take care not to fall into it, do we not? We respect (fear) what it can do if we get careless with it. Likewise, "our God is a consuming fire." And "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" by incurring his anger. We find his mighty power awesome and even comforting, knowing that he can be our protector, but we also respect (fear) it, and do not presume to be careless or reckless with him by disregarding his standards. (Heb 12:28, 29, Heb 10:26-31; see also Deuteronomy 4.24, 2 Pet 2:1-10 and Job 9:4.)

To use another illustration: Imagine you are at the very edge of a tall building or high cliff, looking down. What is your first urge? To throw yourself wildly into the abyss? OK, so some people are crazy. But if you are normal, your heart pounds, your chest tenses with dread and you ve-e-ery carefully back away. You find yourself trembling at the thought of falling. This does not mean you feel the height hates you. It is not malevolent, trying to seek your harm. Even so, you respect it intensely. Fear is the right word.

On the other hand, if we feel in control, we are less fearful. If we stand without rope on a ledge with nothing to hold to, our attention is extremely focused on our footing. But with proper equipment and training, we could move confidently and enjoy the awesome view. The same can be said of our relationship with God: do we feel safe, or teetering on the edge? Love is that "equipment and training" that "throws out" the terror of insecurity. But it does not mean the cliff is no longer there. We always have to keep that in mind. Carelessness and overconfidence will still kill.

Do you love to swim? How do you feel about drowning? Yet you swim anyway, right? But while you enjoy your swim, you are careful, because you know that the water should remain outside your lungs. That is wisdom, possibly borne of some experience. Likewise in our walk with God: "the fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom." Be careful to respect him, and you can find great pleasure as his friend. So Psalm 25:14 really does make sense: "close friendship with Jehovah belongs to those who fear him."

Thankfully God is more forgiving than fire, gravity, or water. If we make a mistake with him, we are likely to get another chance to get it right. He is not an impersonal, uncaring, mindless force, but a personal, caring, loving Father. People naturally fear the unknown, especially if it is ominous. But we can know Jehovah, and any foreboding we may have can become deep respect. With knowledge, we can "understand" the fear of Jehovah. —see Prov 2:1-5.

Jehovah is "fear-inspiring", or awesome, to be regarded with wonder and amazement, and we also revere him, which means we add honor and esteem to awe. In a word, we worship him.

What Is True Worship?

Throughout history mankind has worshipped many gods in as many ways. There are those who chant in mournful tones in dark temples, others dance and shout, others bow to the ground again and again and again. Many pray before images or idols, speaking to them, lighting candles, even offering them food.

How should we worship Jehovah, the only true God? First, what does the word "worship" really mean? One dictionary says, "Prayer, service in reverence to a deity; intense love or admiration." Does Jehovah tell us how we should speak to him, and how we can serve him? How do we really show that we love and admire him?

Certainly we would not be doing so if we ignored what he said, and did only what we thought was appropriate, whatever ‘felt right’ to us. So the first step in worshipping God is to listen to him, which today means reading his Word. —John 14.15.

The question of true worship was raised by a sincere Samaritan woman. She had been brought up to worship God according to Samaritan thinking. Yet she did not say, "what’s good enough for Mom and Dad is good enough for me." She was interested in how God felt. One day she went to the well to draw water, and there she met Jesus. After a short conversation it became plain to her that Jesus could answer the question that was burning in her heart. Please read the account at John 4.19-26.

She wanted to know which way of worship was right: the Samaritan way or the Jewish way? Jesus’ teachings establish him as kind, understanding, reasonable and yielding. (Matt 11.27-30) No one can accuse Jesus of being a narrow-minded bigot. Yet did he say, "Don’t worry, you worship the way you like, we’ll worship the way we like, and God will bless us all"? Many people believe that way. But no, he said, ‘The time is coming when neither the Samaritan nor the Jewish way will be accepted. Rather, the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.’ Yes, truth is a word Jesus used often. Clearly the Father, Jehovah, wants us to worship him according to the way he directs: by his spirit, his word, the truth. —John 17.17.

Jehovah gave very thorough instructions concerning worship to the nation of Israel. The Ten Commandments (Ex 20.1-17) are considered to be the essence, the fundamentals, of that Law. There we find, first of all, that He is the only true God, and He will not share worship with other gods. If you are married, how would you feel if your mate committed adultery? You then have a sense of how God would feel about us if we tried to worship Him and other gods as well (Isa 42.8). In other words, fidelity, loyalty, is important to him.

Second, we learn that to bow before or address images, icons, or idols— anything material— as an aid in worship is not only unnecessary, it is foolish. In fact, it offends God very much. —see Isa 46.5-10, 44.14-20, Ps 115.4-8.

The third Commandment teaches us to be in awe of Jehovah, using his Name respectfully. Our service to him must reflect a deep respect, reverence, yes, "fear" of him. It must be of the utmost quality that we can muster. He deserves it. —Mal 1.6-14.

The sabbath law (the 4th Commandment) teaches us to set aside time to learn about Him and do work that furthers His will, not working only for our own interests.

The rest of the Ten Commandments teach us to respect the family arrangement as being ordained of God, and to love our fellowman. If we do these things, we are "not far from the kingdom of God." —Mark 12.28-34.

The Israelites often lost sight of the purpose of the many rules concerning worship that God had given them. They focused on slavishly observing rituals and offerings, as if they could buy God’s favor with the outward form of religion. Jesus observed: "you give the tenth of the mint and the dill and the cumin [they carefully counted out 1/10 of these tiny seeds to pay the precise ‘tithe’ required by God] but you disregard the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness!" (Matthew 23:23) In the 8th century B.C. God told them: "Of what benefit to me are your many sacrifices? I have had enough of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of animals, and I have no delight in the blood of young bulls and lambs and goats. . . Stop bringing in any more worthless grain offerings. Your incense is detestable to me. . . I have hated your new moons and your festivals. They have become a burden to me; I am tired of bearing them. And when you spread out your palms [in prayer], I hide my eyes from you. Although you offer many prayers, I am not listening; Your hands are filled with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove your evil deeds from my sight, stop doing bad. Learn to do good, search for justice, correct the oppressor, defend the rights of the fatherless child, and plead the cause of the widow." (Isa 1:11-17) Later he said: "On the day of your fasting [a show of self-denial as a form of worship], you pursue your own interests [or, congratulated themselves as pious], while you drive all your servants to hard work. . . you strike with the fist of wickedness. You cannot fast as you do today and have your voice heard in heaven. Should the fast that I choose be like this, as a day for one to afflict himself, to bow down his head like a rush, to make his bed on sackcloth and ashes? Is this what you call a fast and a day pleasing to Jehovah? No, this is the fast that I choose: To remove the fetters of wickedness, to release the bands of the yoke bar, to let the oppressed go free, and . . . to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe someone naked when you see him, and not to turn your back on your own flesh. Then your light will shine through like the dawn, and your healing will spring up quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of Jehovah will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and Jehovah will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say, ‘Here I am!’" (Isa 58:3-9; see also Micah 6:7, 8, Deut 10:12-21, Psalm 51:17, James 1:27, Matt 9.13, Hosea 6.6, and Amos 5:21-24.)

From this it is very clear that true worship is first of all a matter of trying to be like God, being loving, compassionate, just, truthful. That is the underlying purpose of all the rules that God gives us. "Become imitators of God, as beloved children." (Eph 5:1) That is true worship. "Worship" that consists primarily of formulaic ritual, no matter how costly, impressive or beautiful, is actually worse than useless: it is disgusting to God. As John put it, "He that does not love does not know God, for God is love. . . he who does not love his brother, who he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen. . . Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue [only], but in deed and truth." —1 John 4:8, 20, 3:14-18; see also Romans 13:8-10.

Sincerity Alone Not Enough

Jehovah wants us to be honest, sincere and earnest in our worship. Sophistry and compromise are unacceptable. (Matt 7.21-23, Prov 15.8, 29) Still, even a sincere person can do the wrong thing if his knowledge is inaccurate. Paul wrote of the Jews: "They have a zeal for God, but not according to accurate knowledge." (Romans 10.1-4; see also John 16.2, 3) Paul was sympathetic to such sincerely wrong people, for a very good reason: at one time he had been one of them. Because of his zeal for God, he had violently persecuted the Christian faith. (see the account at Acts 8.1-3, 9.1, 2) He believed Christianity was an unholy apostasy from the pure religion given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. He believed that God’s law required him to oppose the Christians. (Deut 13.1-18) This he was doing with all his might. Yes, he had an admirable zeal for God. There was just one problem: he was wrong.

What happened? Did God say, "that’s OK, as long as he’s sincere about it, I’ll accept that as worship to me"? Of course not. The man needed to be stopped. Did God incinerate him? No. He acknowledged and appreciated the sincerity— and enlightened him. First, he had to get his attention. So Jesus, acting in the authority given him by God, stopped him in his tracks. Paul (then known as Saul) showed his true quality by accepting the correction. Read the entire dramatic account at Acts 9.3-22. (see also Paul’s recounting at Acts 22.3-21 and 26.12-18.)

We too may at times need to be corrected by God. Will we "kick against the pricks" (resist the correction) or accept it as the loving benefit that it is? Notice how Paul felt about it in his own words at 1 Tim 1.12-16. —compare also Psalm 32.8-10.

Loving Correction From God’s Word

The practice of using images in worship dates from earliest times. It is a natural instinct to want to see the person you are speaking to. Most say that they do not worship the image or idol itself; it merely represents the invisible god they are petitioning. Most do feel, however, that their god actually looks like the image before them. And most also believe that their god acts through the image, so that having it in the house or on their person is protective. Jehovah, as the true living God, cannot be reduced to a mere symbol or an image. This is a point that He makes very forcefully, both in the citations given above and again at Isaiah 40:12-26 (please read). He refuses to allow us to use a crutch, an idol, as an aid in worshipping Him. He knows that we will quickly shift to giving the object itself the faith and devotion we should be giving to Him. He knows human nature; after all, he created us.

Most churches prominently display a cross or crucifix as a symbol of Christ. Despite its being a material object, it is often given devotion that can easily be taken as worship: no doubt you have seen someone kneel before or kiss a cross. Perhaps you have done it yourself. Millions wear a cross as jewelry, some thinking it gives protection like an amulet, others merely to advertise their profession of Christianity. But are you aware that the cross is a symbol borrowed directly from pagan religions? Indeed, history reveals that variations of the cross have been sacred symbols in many pagan religions all over the world since long before the time of Christ. Yet the first Christians did not use or display the cross; such usage is not even hinted at in the Bible. Only in later centuries, when the church began to abandon the simple purity of the original faith and bring in symbols, rituals, and celebrations from other religions to make themselves more palatable to the world, was the cross adopted as the symbol of Christ.

A variety of crosses found around the world
A variety of crosses found around the world

But did not our Savior actually die on a cross? Thinking so, many reason that it is a simple and convenient symbol of that supreme act of loving sacrifice in our behalf (more on that in the next chapter), and so displaying it shows our appreciation and acceptance of Him as our Lord. Unfortunately, a little research reveals a surprising finding: the Greek word used in the Bible for the manner of Jesus’ death is stauro'o, which means "impale" or hang upon a post. The post itself was called a stauros, which does not refer to a cross made of two timbers. It meant only a stake or post. Secular history confirms that this was the usual instrument of execution at the time.*

So according to the Bible’s original Greek, Jesus did not die on a cross. Stauros was later translated into Latin as crux, which is what the Latin-speaking Roman authority actually used to execute Christ. Eventually church tradition established this to mean a two-piece instrument of torture-execution, but historians are divided as to whether the Romans ever used the two-piece form in first-century Judaea. In the end, the exact shape the Romans used to execute Christ does not matter. He did have to be hung up on public display as a criminal, Paul explains at Gal 3:13, 14, so that detail was necessary.* But whether his arms were outstretched or not, is not important; what is important is that He gave his life for us.

God makes his feelings about both idolatry and intermixing of worship abundantly clear. True Christians, who "understand the fear of Jehovah," (they are seriously careful not to offend Him) obey His inspired command to "flee from idolatry." (1 Cor 10:14; see also vss 19-22 and James 4:4, 7, 8.) They cannot reduce their Savior to a symbol, especially not to a hideous instrument of cruelty. How can you tell if a person is a Christian, then? Certainly not by his or her jewelry. Let Jesus tell us: "By this all will know that you are my disciples," he said, "if you have love among yourselves." This love is not shown by tokens, but "just as he loved us": courageous self-sacrificing service, particularly by teaching all that he has taught us, which is what people really need. —John 13:34, 35; Matt 28:18-20.

Now that you know these things, are you moved to act to please Jehovah, the only true God? Why not look around your home and ask yourself if you have anything that would offend Him? What should you do with it? —see Deut 7.25, 26; see also 2 Cor 6.14-18.*

Further, when you see a church that displays a cross, you can know at once that they do not understand how God views that symbol and their worshipful misuse of it. Surely if they knew, they would quickly remove it. Surely they would not be insensitive to His express feelings, preferring what is popular and traditional over what God himself says. You might try sharing these facts with them. What kind of reception do you expect? Would Jehovah prefer that you say, "It doesn't matter, as long as they feel good about it"? Would He be pleased with you if you joined with them in their way of worship?

If you try to worship God in the way that pleases Him, He will notice your sincere efforts. Listen to the advice King David gave to Solomon, his son: "And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart and with a delightful soul, for Jehovah searches through all hearts, and he discerns every inclination of the thoughts. If you search for him, he will let himself be found by you." (1 Chron 28:9) The blessings of having God’s favor are beyond counting. You will live forever, and never regret your decision to serve God. —Mal 3.16-18, Psalm 37.29, 34, 37.

However, Jesus said: "No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14.6) Why did he say that? Why do we need anyone’s help to draw close to God? That is the subject for the next chapter.

Review Questions  |   Back to top  |  Printer-friendly version

Valid XHTML 1.0!

Deut 8:2
You must remember all the way that Jehovah your God made you walk these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, to put you to the test so as to know what was in your heart, as to whether you would keep his commandments or not.

Deut 13:1-3
In case a prophet or a dreamer of a dream arises in your midst and does give you a sign or a portent, and the sign or the portent does come true of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us walk after other gods, whom you have not known, and let us serve them,' you must not listen to the words of that prophet or to the dreamer of that dream, because Jehovah your God is testing you to know whether you are loving Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul.
[This does not mean Jehovah lends power to agents of false gods; rather, in allowing such agents to work signs by the power of Satan, he permits our loyalty to be tested. Some Bible writers speak of everything God permits, no matter how evil, as positively wrought by His hand. We should not take that phrasing literally, as James states plainly, "God himself tries no one with evil." (James 1:13) The point here is the purpose of such test: to discover the strength of our loyalty.]

2 Chron 32:31
When the spokesmen of the princes of Babylon were sent to ask him about the sign that had happened in the land, the true God left him alone to put him to the test, to get to know all that was in his heart.

Jer 26:2, 3
"This is what Jehovah says, 'Stand in the courtyard of the house of Jehovah and speak concerning all of the cities of Judah who are coming in to bow down at the house of Jehovah. Say everything that I command you to say. Do not take away a word. Perhaps they will listen and return, each one from his bad way, and I will change my mind over the calamity that I intend to bring on them because of their evil deeds.'"

Jer 36:2, 3
Take a scroll, and write in it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the first day that I spoke to you in the days of Josiah to this day. Perhaps those of the house of Judah will listen to all the calamity that I am thinking of doing to them and turn back from their evil ways, and I may forgive their error and their sin." [Note: they did not.]

Deut 30:19
I take the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you today, that I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the curse; and you must choose life so that you may live, you and your descendants.

Prov 3:1-7
My son, do not forget my law, and may your heart observe my commandments, because they will add many days and years of life and peace to you. May loyal love and faithfulness not leave you. Wear them as a necklace, and write them upon the tablet of your heart. Then you will find favor and good insight in the eyes of God and man. Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not become wise in your own eyes. Fear Jehovah and turn away from bad.

Ezek 18:30-32
"Therefore I shall judge each one of you according to his ways, O house of Israel," declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. "Turn back, yes, turn completely away from all your transgressions, so that they will not be a stumbling block causing error for you. Throw off from yourselves all your transgressions you have committed and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit, for why should you die, O house of Israel? For I do not take pleasure in the death of anyone . . . So turn back and keep living, O you people.

Acts 3:19
Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from Jehovah.

Rev 22:17
And the spirit and the bride keep on saying: "Come!" And let anyone hearing say: "Come!" And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone who wishes take life's water free.

Matt 22:14, AV
"Many are called, but few are chosen."

[Why would God call anyone he had already decided not to choose? Does he play games with us? What sort of God would that be? No, the invitation to life is extended to many, but only those who accept it correctly are chosen.]

Gen 6:5-7
Then Jehovah saw that the man's wickedness was great on the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time. And Jehovah regretted that he had made men on the earth, and he felt hurt at his heart. So Jehovah said: "I am going to wipe men whom I have created off the surface of the ground, man together with domestic animals, creeping animals and flying creatures of the heavens, for I do regret that I have made them."

[the word translated "regret" here means "have a change of mind or feeling about." God was not saying that he felt creating mankind had been a mistake; rather, reacting to their bad behavior, he decided at that time (not eons earlier, as predestinarians believe) to end the situation by killing them off. Clearly, God usually allows us to choose our course, and he then decides what he will do about it in response. Predestination disallows any idea of God changing his mind, ever. To them, everything is always going just according to plan.]

1 Sam 15:11
I do regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from following me and he has not carried out my words.

Deut 29:19, 20
But if someone hears the words of this oath, and he boasts in his heart, saying, 'I will have peace, though I will keep on walking in the stubbornness of my heart,' . . . Jehovah will not want to forgive him, rather, Jehovah's fierce anger will blaze against that man, and all the curse written in this book will come upon him, and Jehovah will indeed wipe out his name from under the heavens.

Deut 32:4, 5
The Rock, perfect is his activity,
For all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness, who is never unjust;
Righteous and upright is he.
It is they who have acted ruinously;
They are not his children, the defect is their own.
They are a crooked and twisted generation!

Ephesians 1:11
With whom we are in union and were assigned as heirs, having been foreordained according to the purpose of the one who accomplishes all things as he decides according to his will...

Deut 31:16, 21
16 Jehovah now said to Moses: "Look! You are dying; and this people will certainly get up and commit [spiritual] prostitution with the foreign gods of the land to which they are going. . . and they will certainly forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. . . Then when many calamities and distresses come upon them [due to their disloyalty], this song will serve as a witness against them (for their descendants should not forget it). For I well know the inclination that they are developing, even before I bring them into the land about which I have sworn."

Acts 10:34, 35
God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Deut 16:18, 19
You should appoint judges and officers for yourself in all your cities that Jehovah your God is giving you . . . and they must judge the people with righteous judgment. You must not pervert judgment. You must not be partial or accept a bribe, for the bribe blinds the eyes of wise ones and distorts the words of righteous ones.

Psalm 78:36-41, 58-62
They tried to fool him with their mouth, and lie to him with their tongue. Their heart was not steadfast with him; they were not faithful to his covenant. But he was merciful; he would forgive their error and not bring them to ruin. Many times he curbed his anger, and he would not rouse up all his rage. He kept remembering that they were flesh, that the spirit is going forth and does not come back. How often they would rebel against him in the wilderness, and make him feel hurt in the desert! Again and again they put God to the test, and they grieved the Holy One of Israel. . .
58 They kept offending him with their high places, they kept inciting him to jealousy with their carved images. God heard and became furious, so that he came to utterly despise Israel. He finally forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent in which he resided among them. . . He handed over his people over to the sword, against his inheritance he became furious.

Ezek 18:19, 20
You people will say: "Why is it that the son does not have to bear guilt for the error of his father?" But the son has done what is just and righteous; he has kept all my statutes, and he keeps doing them. He will surely keep living. It is the soul who is sinning that will die. A son will not be condemned for the sins of his father, nor will a father bear no guilt for the sins of his son. The righteousness of the righteous one will be credited to him alone, and the wickedness of a wicked one will be charged to him alone.

Prov 12:10
The righteous one cares about the soul [life, or welfare] of his domestic animals, but the wicked are cruel even in their 'mercy'.

Luke 17:3, 4
If your brother commits a sin, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. Even if he sins seven times a day against you and he comes back to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him.
[that is, if he means what he says. Jesus is not saying we must believe an obvious lie, or put up with someone who is clearly not trying. "Repent" means actual contrition, not a pretense. We are to follow God's perfect example, and his patience can indeed run out.]

Isa 41:9, 10, 13
So I said to you, “You are my servant; I have chosen you, and I have not rejected you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not look around [in panic], for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes, I will help you. I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.” . . . For I, Jehovah your God, am grasping your right hand, the One saying to you, “Do not be afraid. I will help you.”

Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and strength, a help that is readily found in times of distress.

Prov 17:17
A true friend is loving all the time, and is a brother who is born for times of distress.

1 John 4:7-10
Beloved ones, let us continue loving one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God. Whoever does not love has not come to know God, because God is love. This the way God has shown us his love: God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might gain life through him. The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be a peace-making sacrifice to cover our sins.

Ecclesiastes 12.13:
The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.
1 John 4:18:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear out, because fear restrains us. Indeed, the one who is fearful has not been made perfect in love.
Mark 12:28-33:
One of the scribes . . . asked him: "Which commandment is first of all?" Jesus answered: "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah, and you must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.' The second is this, 'You must love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to him: "Teacher, you spoke well, in line with truth, 'He is One, and there is no other besides him'; and to love him with one's whole heart and whole understanding and whole strength, and this loving one's neighbor as oneself, is worth far more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."

Heb 12:28, 29
Seeing that we are to receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us continue to have His undeserved kindness, through which we may serve God acceptably, with godly fear and awe. For our God is also a consuming fire.
Deuteronomy 4.24
For Jehovah your God is a consuming fire, a God requiring exclusive devotion.
Heb 10:26-31
If we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but [rather] a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a burning indignation that is going to consume those in opposition. Anyone who has disregarded the law of Moses dies without compassion, upon the testimony of two or three. How much greater punishment do you think a person will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God and who has regarded as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has outraged the spirit of undeserved kindness with contempt? For we know Him who said: "Vengeance is mine; I will repay"; and again: "Jehovah will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
2 Pet 2:1-10
However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These will quietly bring in destructive sects, and they will even deny the owner who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will follow their brazen conduct, and because of them the way of the truth will be blasphemed. Also, they will greedily exploit you with counterfeit words. But their judgment, decided long ago, is not moving slowly, and their destruction is not sleeping. Certainly God did not refrain from punishing the angels who sinned [see Genesis 6], but threw them into Tartarus [in Greek myth, a place where one could see all that one desired, but never reach it. Not a real location; here it means not being allowed to do all they want], putting them in chains of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment. And he did not refrain from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a flood upon a world of ungodly people. And by reducing the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them, setting a pattern for ungodly people of things to come. And he rescued righteous Lot, who was greatly distressed by the brazen conduct of the lawless people (for day after day that righteous man was tormenting his righteous soul over the lawless deeds that he saw and heard while dwelling among them). So, then, Jehovah knows how to rescue people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people to be destroyed on the day of judgment, especially those who seek to defile the flesh of others and who despise authority.
Job 9:4
He is wise in heart and strong in power. Who can resist him and come off uninjured?

Prov 2:1-5
My son, if you accept my sayings, and treasure up my commandments, by making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to discernment, and if you call out for understanding and raise your voice for discernment, if you keep seeking for it as for silver, and you keep searching for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the knowledge of God.

John 14:15
If you love me, you will observe my commandments.

John 4:19-26
The woman said to him: "Sir, I see you are a prophet. Our forefathers worshiped in this mountain; but you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where persons ought to worship." Jesus said to her: "Believe me, woman, The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation begins with the Jews. Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for indeed, the Father is looking for ones like these to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth." The woman said to him: "I know that Messiah is coming, who is called Christ. Whenever that one comes, he will declare all things to us openly." Jesus said to her: "I am he, the one speaking to you."

Matt 11:27-29
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one fully knows the Son but the Father, neither does anyone fully know the Father but the Son, and anyone to whom the Son is willing to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will feel refreshment deep within yourself. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.

John 17:17
Make them holy by means of the truth; your word is truth.

Ex 20:1-17
I am Jehovah your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
[1] You must not have any other gods besides me.
[2] You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be enticed to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God requiring exclusive devotion, bringing punishment for the error of fathers upon sons, upon the third generation, even upon the fourth generation, of those who hate me; but showing loyal love for a thousand generations, of those who love me and keep my commandments.
[3] You must not use the name of Jehovah your God in a worthless way, for Jehovah will not leave the one unpunished who uses his name in a worthless way.
[4] Remember the sabbath day to hold it sacred. You are to labor and do all your work for six days, but the seventh day is a sabbath to Jehovah your God. You must not do any work, neither you nor your son nor your daughter, not your slave man nor your slave girl, not even your domestic animal nor your alien resident who is inside your gates. For in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and he began to rest on the seventh day. That is why Jehovah blessed the Sabbath day and made it sacred.
[5] Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live a long time in the land that Jehovah your God is giving you.
[6] You must not murder.
[7] You must not commit adultery.
[8] You must not steal.
[9] You must not testify falsely as a witness against your fellowman.
[10] You must not desire your fellowman's house. You must not desire your fellowman's wife, nor his slave man nor his slave girl nor his bull nor his donkey nor anything that belongs to your fellowman.

Isa 42:8
I am Jehovah. That is my name; I do not share my own glory with anyone else, nor my praise with graven images.

Isa 46:5-10
To whom will you liken me or make me equal or compare me that we may resemble each other? There are those who lavish out gold from their purse, they weigh out silver on the scale. They hire a metalworker, and he makes it into a god. Then they prostrate themselves, yes, they worship it. They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it and put it in its place, and it just stands there. It does not move from its place. They cry out to it, but it does not answer; it cannot rescue anyone from distress. Remember this, and fix it firmly in mind. Take it to heart, you transgressors. Remember the events of long ago, that I proved to be God, and there was no other. I am God, and there is no one like me. From the beginning I foretell the outcome, and from long ago the things that have not yet been done; I say, “My decision will stand, and I will do whatever I please.”

Isa 44:14-20
There is one whose business is to cut down cedars. He takes a certain kind of tree, an oak, and he lets it grow strong for himself in the forest. He plants a laurel tree, and the rain makes it grow. Then it has becomes fuel for man to burn. So he takes part of it to warm himself; he builds a fire and bakes bread. But he also makes a god and worships it. He makes it into a carved image, and he prostrates himself to it. Half of it he burned up in a fire. On half of it he roasts the meat that he eats, and he is satisfied. He also warms himself and says: "Aha! I am warm as I watch the fire." But the rest of it he makes into a god, into his carved image. He bows before it and prays to it and says: "Save me, for you are my god."
They know nothing, they understand nothing, because their eyes have been shut so as not to see, their heart so as to have no insight. No one reflects in his heart or has knowledge or understanding, saying: "Half of it I burned up in a fire, and on its coals I baked bread and roasted meat to eat. Should I then make the rest of it into a detestable thing? Should I worship the dried-out wood of a tree?" He is feeding on ashes. His own deluded heart has led him astray. He cannot save himself, nor does he say: "Is there not a lie in my right hand?"

Psalm 115:4-8
Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of human hands.
A mouth they have, but they cannot speak;
Eyes they have, but they cannot see;
Ears they have, but they cannot hear.
A nose they have, but they cannot smell.
Hands they have, but they cannot feel.
Feet, but they cannot walk;
They make no sound with their throat.
Those making them will become just like them,
All those who are trusting in them.

Mal 1:6-14
"A son honors a father; and a servant his master. So if I am a father, where is the honor due me? And if I am a master, where is the fear due me?" Jehovah of armies says to you priests who are despising my name. But you say: "How have we despised your name?" By presenting polluted offerings on my altar. And you say: "How have we polluted you?" By saying: "The table of Jehovah is something to be despised." And when you present a blind animal as a sacrifice, you say, "It is nothing bad." And when you present a lame or sick one: "It is nothing bad." "Try presenting them, please, to your governor. Will he be pleased with you, or will he receive you with favor?" says Jehovah of armies. And now, please, appeal to God, that he may show us favor. With such offerings from your hand, will he receive any of you with favor? . . . . also: Who among you is willing even to shut the doors [of the temple]? For you men will not even light my altar without being paid to do it. "I find no delight in you," says Jehovah of armies, "and I take no pleasure in any gift offering from your hand." "For from the rising of the sun to its setting, my name will be great among the nations, and in every place sacrifices will smoke for me, and offerings will be made to my name, as a pure gift; because my name will be great among the nations," says Jehovah of armies. But you men are profaning me by saying, "The table of Jehovah is polluted, and its fruit, its food, is something to be despised." You also say, "Look! How tiresome!" and you sniff scornfully at it . . . And you bring me something stolen, and lame, and sick. Yes, you bring such things as a gift! You really expect me to be pleased with that? . . . Cursed is the cunning one who has a sound male animal in his flock, but he makes a vow and sacrifices a blemished one to Jehovah. "For I am a great King," Jehovah of armies says, "and my name will be awe-inspiring among the nations."

Mark 12.28-34
One of the scribes who had come up and heard them disputing, knowing that he had answered them in a fine way, asked him: "Which commandment is first of all?" Jesus answered: "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah, and you must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.' The second is this, 'You must love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to him: "Teacher, you spoke well, in line with truth, 'He is One, and there is no other than He'; and to love him with one's whole heart and with one's whole understanding and with one's whole strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is worth far more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." At this Jesus, discerning he had answered intelligently, said to him: "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

Micah 6:7, 8
Will Jehovah be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of torrents of oil? Should I give my firstborn son for my revolt, the fruit of my body for my sin? He has told you, O earthling man, what is good. And what is Jehovah expecting from you? Only to act with justice and to love loyalty, and to walk modestly with your God!

Deut 10:12-21
Now, O Israel, what is Jehovah your God asking of you? Only this: to fear Jehovah your God, to walk in all his ways and to love him and serve Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul; to keep the commandments of Jehovah and his statutes that I am commanding you today, for your own good. Look, to Jehovah your God belong the heavens, even the heavens of the heavens, the earth and all that is in it. But only to your forefathers did Jehovah draw close and express his love, so that he chose you, their offspring, out of all the peoples, as you are today. So you must cut the impurity from your hearts and stop being so stubborn. For Jehovah your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the God great, mighty and awe-inspiring, who treats none with partiality and does not accept a bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless child and the widow and loves the foreign resident, giving him food and clothing. You too must love the foreign resident, for you became foreign residents in the land of Egypt. Jehovah your God you should fear. Him you should serve, to him you should cling, and by his name you should swear oaths. He is the One you should praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and awe-inspiring things that your own eyes have seen.
Psalm 51:17
The sacrifices to pleasing to God are a broken spirit; A heart broken and crushed, O God, you will not reject.
James 1:27

The form of worship that is clean and undefiled to our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself unblemished from the world.
Matt 9.13

Go, then, and learn what this means, 'I want mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came to call, not righteous people, but sinners.

Hosea 6.6
For in mercy I take delight, and not in sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than in whole burnt offerings.

Amos 5:21-24 I do hate, I despise your festivals, and I do not enjoy the odor of your solemn assemblies. Even if you people offer up to me whole burnt offerings and gift offerings, I shall find no pleasure in them, and I will not look with favor on your communion sacrifices of fatlings. Spare me the din of your songs; and let me not hear the melodies of your stringed instruments. Let justice flow forth like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

1 John 3:14-18
We know we have passed over from death to life, because we love the brothers. The one who does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has everlasting life remaining in him. By this we have come to know love, because that One gave his life for us; and we are under obligation to give our lives for our brothers. But whoever has the material possessions of this world and sees his brother in need and yet refuses to show him compassion, in what way does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let us love, not in word or with the tongue, but in deed and truth.

Rom 13:8-10
Do not owe anything to anyone except to love one another; for whoever loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. For the laws, "You must not commit adultery, You must not murder, You must not steal, You must not covet," and whatever other commandment there is, is summed up in this saying, "You must love your neighbor as yourself." Love does not work evil to one's neighbor; therefore love is the law's fulfillment.

Matt 7:21-23
Not everyone saying to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and do many powerful works in your name?" Yet then I will reply to them: "I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!"

Prov 15:8, 29
8 The sacrifice of the wicked ones is detestable to Jehovah, but the prayer of the upright is a pleasure to him.
29 Jehovah is far away from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

Romans 10:1-4
Brothers, the goodwill of my heart and my supplication to God for them are indeed for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to accurate knowledge. For because of not knowing the righteousness of God but seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.

John 16:2
Men will expel you from the synagogue. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will imagine he has offered a sacred service to God. But they will do these things because they have not come to know either the Father or me.

Acts 8.1-3
Saul, for his part, approved of [Stephen's] murder. On that day great persecution arose against the congregation that was in Jerusalem; all except the apostles were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. But devout men carried Stephen away to bury him, and they made a great mourning over him. Saul, though, began to ravage the congregation. Invading one house after another, he would drag out both men and women and turn them over to prison.

Acts 9:1, 2
But Saul, still breathing threat and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that he might bring bound to Jerusalem any whom he found who belonged to The Way, both men and women.

Deut 13:1-18, paraphrased for length:
In case a prophet or a one who foretells by dreams arises in your midst and gives you a sign or a portent while saying, “Let us walk after other gods, gods whom you have not known, and let us serve them,” and the sign or the portent does come true, you must not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer. . . After Jehovah your God you should walk, and him you should fear, his commandments you should keep, to his voice you should listen, him you should serve, to him you should cling. But that prophet or that dreamer should be put to death, because he encouraged rebellion against Jehovah your God. . . You must remove what is evil from your midst. In case your brother, or your son or your daughter or your cherished wife or your companion who is like your own soul, should try to allure you in secrecy, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods,” . . . you must not give in to him or listen to him, nor should you show pity or feel compassion for him or protect him, but you should kill him without fail. Your hand should be the first to come upon him to put him to death, and the hand of all the people afterward. You must stone him to death, because he sought to turn you away from Jehovah your God, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and become afraid, and they will not do anything bad like this again among you.
In case you hear it in one of your cities, “Good-for-nothing men have gone out to try to turn away the inhabitants of their city, saying: ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’” you must look into the matter, making a thorough investigation and inquiry; and if it is confirmed to be true that this detestable thing has been done among you, you should without fail slaughter the inhabitants of that city with the sword. Devote it and everything that is in it, including its livestock, to destruction by the sword. All its spoil you should collect into the middle of its public square, and you must burn the city with fire, and its spoil will serve as a whole offering to Jehovah your God. It must become a permanent heap of ruins. It should never be rebuilt. You should not take for yourself anything at all set apart for destruction, so that Jehovah may turn from his burning anger and show you mercy and multiply you. For you should listen to the voice of Jehovah your God by keeping all his commandments, so as to do what is right in the eyes of Jehovah your God.

Comment: Despite appearances, this did not mean that entire cities had to die because of just a few turning apostate among them. Rather, it had to be carefully established that the city was tolerating and accepting the treason/apostasy. It also goes without saying that the Israelites rarely if ever followed this law. Nevertheless, we can see why Paul felt justified in his murderous hatred of the Christians, who had been branded as apostates by his superiors. One wonders why there were not thousands more like him. Perhaps those hypocritical leaders did not have as many followers as they thought.

Acts 9:3-22 (paraphrased for length)
Now as he was traveling he approached Damascus, when suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him, and he fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" He said: "Who are you, Lord?" He said: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." . . . So Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he did not see anything, and he neither ate nor drank.
There was a disciple named Ananias in Damascus, and the Lord said to him in a vision: "Rise, go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man named Saul, from Tarsus. For, look! he is praying, and in a vision he has seen you come in and lay his hands upon him that he might recover sight." But Ananias answered: "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, about all the harm he did to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to arrest all those calling upon your name." But the Lord said to him: "Go! because this man is a chosen vessel to me to bear my name to the nations as well as to kings and the sons of Israel. For I shall show him plainly how many things he must suffer for my name."
So Ananias went to the house, and laid his hands on him and said: "Saul, brother, the Lord, the Jesus that appeared to you on the road along which you were coming, has sent me so that you may recover sight and be filled with holy spirit." And immediately, what looked like scales fell from his eyes, and he recovered sight. He then got up and was baptized, and he ate some food and gained strength.
He stayed for some days with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately in the synagogues he began to preach about Jesus, that this One is the Son of God. But all those hearing him were astonished and would say: "Is this not the man that ravaged those in Jerusalem who call upon this name? Did he not come here for the purpose of leading them off bound to the chief priests?" But Saul kept on acquiring more and more power and was confounding the Jews that lived in Damascus, as he proved logically that Jesus is the Christ.

Acts 22:3-21 (paraphrased for length)
(Paul addresses an angry mob in Jerusalem:) "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but educated in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strictness of the ancestral Law, being zealous for God just as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and handing over to prisons both men and women, as both the high priest and all the assembly of elders can bear witness. From them I also obtained letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I was on my way to bring those who were there bound to Jerusalem to be punished.
"But as I was getting near to Damascus, suddenly out of heaven a great light flashed all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ . . . At that I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Rise, go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything it is appointed for you to do.’ But since I could not see anything due to the blinding brilliance of that light, I arrived in Damascus led by the hand of those who were with me.
"Now Ananias, a devout man according to the Law, well reported on by all the Jews dwelling there, came to me and, standing by me, he said to me, ‘Saul, brother, have your sight again!’ Then I looked up and I could see him. He said, ‘The God of our forefathers has chosen you to come to know his will and to see the righteous One and to hear the voice of his mouth, because you are to be a witness for him to all men of the things you have seen and heard. And now why are you delaying? Rise, get baptized and wash your sins away by your calling upon his name.’
"But when I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, ‘Hurry up and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your witness concerning me.’ And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves well know that I used to imprison and flog in one synagogue after another those believing upon you; and when the blood of Stephen your witness was being spilled, I was standing by and approving and guarding the outer garments of those doing away with him.’ And yet he said to me, ‘Go, because I will send you out to nations far away.’"

Acts 26:12-18
(Paul recounts his experience before a court:) "While doing this as I was traveling to Damascus with authority and a commission from the chief priests, I saw at midday on the road, O king, a light beyond the brilliance of the sun flash from heaven around me and around those traveling with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice say to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? To keep kicking against the goads makes it hard for you.’ But I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet. This is why I have appeared to you, to choose you as a servant and a witness both of things you have seen and things I shall make you see respecting me. And I will rescue you from this people and from the nations, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those sanctified by faith in me.’

1 Tim 1:12-16
I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who imparted power to me, because he considered me faithful by assigning me to a ministry, although formerly I was a blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man. Nevertheless, I was shown mercy, because I was ignorant and acted with a lack of faith. But the undeserved kindness of our Lord abounded exceedingly along with faith and the love that is in Christ Jesus. This saying is faithful and deserving of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these, I am foremost. Nevertheless, I was shown mercy so that by means of me as the foremost case, Christ Jesus might demonstrate all his patience, making me an example to those who are going to rest their faith on him for everlasting life.

Psalm 32:8-10
I will give you insight and instruct you in the way you should go. I will give you advice with my eye upon you. Do not make yourselves like a horse or mule without understanding, whose spiritedness must be curbed with a bridle or halter before they will come near to you. Many are the pains of the wicked, but the one trusting in Jehovah is surrounded by His loyal love.

Isaiah 40:12-26
Who has measured the waters in the palm of his hand, and measured the heavens with the span of his hand? Who has gathered in a measuring [cup] all the dust of the earth, or weighed the mountains with a balance beam, and the hills on a scale? Who has taken the measurements of the spirit of Jehovah, and as an advisor can teach him anything? With whom did he confer to gain understanding, or who teaches him the path of justice, or teaches him knowledge, or shows him the way of true understanding? Look! The nations are as a drop from a bucket; and as the film of dust on the scales they are regarded. Look! He lifts up the islands as fine dust. Even [forested] Lebanon is not sufficient [wood] to keep a fire burning, and its wild animals are not sufficient for a burnt offering. All the nations are as something nonexistent in front of him; he sees them as nothing, an unreality. To whom can you people compare God, what likeness can you put next to him? The craftsman has cast an idol, and the metalworker overlays it with gold, he forges silver chains for it. He selects a tree as his contribution, a tree that will not quickly rot. He searches out a skillful craftsman, to prepare a carved image that will not topple over. Do you people not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? There is One who dwells above the circle of the earth, to whom the inhabitants thereof are like grasshoppers. He is stretching out the heavens like a fine gauze, he spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He reduces high officials to nothing, he makes the judges [or rulers] of the earth as if they never were. They are hardly planted, they are hardly sown, their stem hardly taken root in the earth. One has only to blow upon them, and they dry up, and the wind will carry them away like stubble. "To whom can you liken me to make me his equal?" says the Holy One. "Raise your eyes toward heaven and see. Who has created these things? It is the One who brings out their army by number, he calls them all by name. Because of his vast dynamic energy and his awe-inpiring power, not one of them is missing."

Isaiah 42:8
"I am Jehovah. That is my name; I share my glory with no one else, nor my praise with graven images."

Galatians 3:13, 14
Christ by purchase released us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of us, because it is written: "Accursed is every man hung up on a stake."

Deut 21:22, 23
If a man commits a sin deserving the sentence of death, and he has been put to death, and you have hung him upon a stake, his dead body should not stay all night on the stake. You should be sure to bury him on that same day, because the one hung up is something accursed of God.

1 Cor 10:14, 19-22
Therefore, my beloved ones, flee from idolatry. . . What, then, am I saying? That what is sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No; but I say that what the nations sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons. You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be eating from the table of Jehovah and the table of demons. Or are we inciting Jehovah to jealousy? We are not stronger than he is, are we?

James 4:4, 7, 8
Adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is making himself an enemy of God. . . . Subject yourselves, therefore, to God; but oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones.

John 13:34, 35
I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.

Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”

Deut 7:25, 26
You should burn the graven images of their gods in the fire. Do not find their silver and gold ornamentation attactive, and take it for yourself, for this would ensnare you. It is something detestable to Jehovah your God. You must not bring any detestable thing into your house and thereby become something devoted to destruction like it. You should utterly loathe it and absolutely detest it, because it is something devoted to destruction.

2 Cor 6:14-18
Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and 'Good-For-Nothing'? [meaning Satan.] Or what share [partnership] does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God's temple have with idols? For we are a temple of a living God; just as God said: “I shall reside among them and walk among them, and I shall be their God, and they will be my people.” “‘Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing; and I will take you in.’” “‘And I will become a father to you, and you will become sons and daughters to me,’ says Jehovah, the Almighty.”

Mal 3:16-18
At that time those who fear Jehovah spoke with one another, each one with his companion, and Jehovah kept paying attention and listening. And a book of remembrance was written before him for those fearing Jehovah and for those meditating on his name. "And they will be mine," said Jehovah of armies, "in that day when I produce a treasured possession. I will show them compassion, just as a man shows compassion to his son who serves him. Then you people will surely again see the distinction between a righteous person and a wicked person, between one serving God and one not serving him."

Psalm 37:29, 34, 37
29 The righteous will possess the earth, and they will live forever upon it.
34 Hope in Jehovah and follow his way, and he will exalt you to take possession of the earth. When the wicked ones are done away with, you will see it.
37 Take note of the one who keeps integrity, and keep the upright one in sight, for the future of that man will be peaceful.

Review for Chapter 4

What is God's name, and why is it not widely known?

Why should we honor God's name?

What does God's name mean?

What is the Trinity? Where is it found in the Bible?

How did Jesus prove he was not God?

How is Jesus one with his Father?

How are we one with God?

Why do people vehemently insist God is a Trinity?

Where is heaven?

What is "spirit"? Describe the variety of ways the word is used in scripture.

What is Holy Spirit?

How does God foreknow the future?

Who decides your future?

How is man made "in God's image"?

How should we fear God?

What is true worship?

What is the principle of each of the Ten Commandments?

What is the underlying purpose of all of God's law?

Why is truth important?

What is the origin of the cross as a religious symbol?

Why should our worship be uncontaminated?

Restore Scripture View

Paul here quotes from scripture written in Hebrew, which has no word for a two-piece "cross"; the Hebrew word means "post", just like stauros does. (Under the Law, a criminal was executed first by stoning, then the corpse might be mounted on a post for public shame. See Deuteronomy 21:22, 23 in the scripture link above.)
This does not mean you must remove everything you own that contains a picture of a cross, including your dictionary! Even an old family King James Bible with a cross embossed on its cover might be kept; but since you no longer view it as you did before, you would not prominently display it, as if you still took it to signify your devotion to Christ.