Chapter 14

Choose the Way of Life

All of us have a choice to make: whose side are we on? In the end, there is our Creator, who offers life eternal with joyful purpose, and there is his Enemy, who offers a very short life of thrills and suffering ending in eternal death. This decision should be easy, but so many blindly make the wrong choice by just living for the here and now instead of looking ahead. Some try to evade making a choice, but that in fact is a choice in itself, and not the way that leads to life. If you have read this online book through to this point, you should be able to do better than that.

At Matthew 7:13, 14, Jesus puts the decision before us: “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it, whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”

You cannot be on the narrow road and the wide road at the same time; they go different directions. Note also that Jesus did not say, 'there are many paths to the mountain-top,' or 'all rivers lead to the sea,' as some religious philosophers teach. As the Son of God, Jesus knew the Way to his Father. In fact, he boldly asserted: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Either he was incredibly bigoted or he was correct. You will recognise Him as the true Way to God if you discern his personality and perceive the depth of his teaching. Far from being bigoted, he was warm and merciful, yet firm for truth and righteousness.

On the wide road there is plenty of room to wander, but those on the narrow path have to watch their step and pick their way carefully. You will stay with it only if you are quite sure that it leads where you want to go. It would be easy to convince yourself that the wide road is the right one: so many people are travelling it, and they seem to be enjoying themselves. They may be confident they will end up in a good place, if they are thinking at all where they are going. The only way we know the narrow, almost hidden path is right is that God has revealed its secret to us. We choose it because we trust Him, not because its destination is obvious at first glance.

The narrow road is in fact somewhat dangerous. Satan targets those who choose it, especially at its entrance. If you are just learning about God and trying to decide whether to step off the highway to oblivion your current friends are on, you need to check your readiness to make the leap. Like a halfway jump across a chasm, a weak and tentative choice may not work well. Prepare. Decide. Do. Jesus tells us the stakes: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his execution timber and follow me continually. For whoever wants to save his soul [puts himself first] will lose it; but whoever loses his soul [dies loyal to God] for the sake of me and the good news, will save it. . . For whoever becomes ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man will also be ashamed of him when he arrives in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” —Mark 8:34, 35, 38; see also 1 Kings 18.21.

Preparation

God has given us a mind to think with and a heart to sense what is right. Prepare your heart first: you must love what is good, true, and just. You must not be comfortable with deceit or evil. Root out pride, especially any tendency to insist that what makes you feel good has to be correct. Viewpoints that flatter us are usually wrong; get used to it. Truth does not come from within, as Satan would have you believe. With your heart humble before God and ready to listen, sincerely appeal to him for help. He can work with a properly prepared heart, but He will not help those who are simply trying to prove themselves right. (Psalm 138:6) He will help you use the mind he gave you to consider what is true about Him.

Some may tell you that you must not try to use "reason" or "logic" to learn about spiritual things. They urge you to trust your feelings, and to assume those feelings come from God. If that were true, however, the Bible would be useless, or worse, a hindrance, and certainly not from God, because it urges us to seek knowledge, understanding, discernment and wisdom. There are things in it that are not immediately easy to understand, that challenge us to think. No, God gave us a brain to use, and we must not beg off from doing so. On the other hand, the truth of God, while deep in its own way, does not require that we be a genius. It is not quantum physics. Quite humble people with very little worldly education can be wise in the ways of God.

But if you try to listen to every side of religious issues, you will find much loud argument about truth and bitter debates about words. Such ill mannered advocacy in itself tags many viewpoints as not from God, which can save you considerable time evaluating them. As the disciple James puts it, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show out of his fine conduct his works with a mildness that belongs to wisdom. Do not be bragging and lying against the truth, [which you will do] if you have bitter jealousy and contentiousness in your hearts. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, animal, demonic. For where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, reasonable, yielding, full of mercy and good works, not partial, not hypocritical.” (or as The Living Bible puts it, “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy and good deeds. It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere.”) This helps us to discern who to listen to. —James 3:13-17; see also 2 Tim 2.14, 15, 23, 24 and 1 Pet 3.15.

That does not mean truth is weak and yields to falsehood. "Wholehearted and straightforward" means being clear and definite, but even so it is as tempered with kindness as the audience permits. Jesus did occasionally speak right bluntly to those who misled and exploited others in the name of God (see Matthew 23), but that is not the way he taught those who came to him for help. Nor did he get caught up in debates and arguments. —see Matt 12.18, 19.

Of course, falsehood can be promoted sweetly, in fact it usually is. Jesus likened "false prophets" —those who advocate error in the name of God— to "wolves in sheep's covering." So look carefully. The teeth are different. Or, as Jesus said, switching metaphors, you can recognise them "by their fruits." Line up the sweet words by the not-so-sweet behavior at other times and note the contrast. Look at the final product of following their philosophy. Look at the lives of their followers. Is that what you expect true Christians to be? And look at the leaders' lives. Are they living opulently and accepting the adoration of crowds? Is that what Christ did?

As shown in chapter 12 of this book, Jehovah has established a united and loyal people in the end times. Although not perfect themselves, they are the agents he has chosen, they are his provision to guide and teach you. They will patiently assist your growth to Christian maturity. Of course, if you are isolated from them by circumstance beyond your control, that does not condemn you to failure; God's power is not limited by his people. —see Ephesians 4.11-16.

Because Satan is the "world ruler of this darkness," he provokes intense attack against any viewpoint that could diminish his influence, especially the peaceful teaching work of God's people. So, in looking for truth, do not look for views that are popular or uncontroversial; the truth will be carried by a kindly, respectful and calm people who are widely despised, ridiculed and persecuted. If this causes you to avoid getting involved, Satan has won in your case. Have the courage to investigate what true Christianity teaches. Then have the courage to let it change your course in life. You will encounter resistance at every step. That is part of your training. It weeds out the indecisive. To succeed, you must be able to see beyond the "me" and "now." Satan contends that you are just an animal and will react to fear by flight or submission. You prove you are a human by rising above the instinctual reactions Satan tries to provoke. —Ephesians 6:11, 12; 2 Timothy 3:12; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 1 Peter 5:8-10; Hebrews 11:27.

Decisions

As your knowledge and understanding grows, some new things you learn will excite you to talk about them to friends and relatives. Do not be dismayed if they receive it suspiciously or even reject it violently. That comes with the territory, as Jesus said. Those we love may not love us back anymore, and that is sad, but remember that is not our choice, it is theirs. We did not make them our enemy with the truth. (Gal 4:16) As Jesus said: “Do not think I came to put peace upon the earth; I came to put, not peace, but a sword. For I came to cause division, with a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a young wife against her mother-in-law. Indeed, a man’s enemies will be persons of his own household. He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:34-37) In other words, this is worth it, but you have to be willing to accept serious loss to gain it. Not that your family will always be estranged; once they see you take this so very seriously, they may get curious and look into it, and accept the truth as well. Your kindly manner through it all will also help. —see Romans 12:17, 18, 21 and 2 Timothy 2:24-26.

At one point in your progress, you will be moved by the Lord's call: ‘Go, make disciples of people of all the nations, teaching them all the things I have commanded you.’ (Matthew 28:19, 20) You may not know enough yet to feel confident, but you are sure of some essential things and want to share them with everyone who will listen. God's people are organised to accomplish this very work before the end comes (Matt 24:14), so they will happily provide the support and training you will need. This takes you beyond your family and friends, out to the world, which can be even more intimidating. Actually many are hungry to hear what you have and you may very well do a lot of good. God has chosen not to use overt miracles to back up his ministers now, although we may wish he would. But he knows what he is doing, and you may see his hand at work doing subtle miracles as you find and help those who, like you, have been praying to know him. —1 Corinthians 3:5, 6, 9.

As your appreciation and devotion grows, you will pass many points of decision that call on you to improve something about yourself. Each successful adjustment in viewpoint and behavior will move you closer to the realization that God is real and is helping you. You will finally say: ‘this is the path I want to stay on forever.’ You do not need to study until kingdom come before making up your mind. At this level you are in fact already stepping onto the path of life, so that if the end should arrive today, God would have mercy on you. But there is one more step he expects you to take. Jesus mentioned a "gate" that is at the beginning of the path of life. What is that?

Choosing the Way of Life

As explained in chapter 5, Jesus gave his life to "cover" mankind's estrangement from God. You have already studied and accepted that. Now God expects you to show how much you understand it: he wants you to give up your life for him. No, not that, no kool-aid involved. 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15 says: “[Christ] died for all . . . that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.” We give up our selfish, independent life-course and decisively take the path of life that God puts before us, without looking back or feeling any regrets. This decision is so complete that it is likened to dying and being raised up to a new life. It is a dedication, like a personal covenant with God, a promise he will accept— and hold you to. —See also Galatians 2:20.

As with any covenant, there is a ‘signing ceremony,’ a formal way to establish it. God has chosen baptism as a way for us to ‘sign’ this covenant of new life before all witnesses. The word is Greek, and it means ‘to dip under’, so you allow your whole body to be submerged (briefly, no drowning!) under water, then raised up. This actually symbolises your death and resurrection. Paul wrote to the Christians in Colossae: “For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.” —Colossians 2:12, NLT.

Christ himself was baptised, which in his case meant the formal end of his ordinary life and the beginning of his sacrificial course, his missionary ministry that ended with his death faithful to God. He was baptised by John (the Baptizer, of course), who along with others witnessed God's acceptance of this presenting of himself for service. (John 1:32-34)baptism photo courtesy of Birmingham News Following that example, all Christians thereafter were baptised by those who preceded them. So you cannot baptise yourself; if you are isolated, God temporarily accepts your prayer of dedication until such time as a properly witnessed baptism is possible for you. Note also that unbelievers, or those who do not properly represent God, cannot rightly baptise you. Preachers of churches that insist on teaching things offensive to God could hardly officiate acceptably at such an occasion.

Following Christ, we too embark on a course that could end in our death at the hands of enemies. Not that it has to do so in order to be fulfilled; our willingness to so die is all God expects. (Philippians 2:5-8) This is not something we can choose for anyone else.*

This is a serious step. We must not return to a lifestyle that violates our oath of dedication. Paul explains this clearly at Romans 6:2-11: “Seeing that we died with reference to sin, how shall we keep on living any longer in it? Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him through our baptism into his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, we also should likewise walk in a newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall certainly also be [united with him in the likeness] of his resurrection; because we know that our old self was impaled with him, that our sinful body might be made inactive, that we should no longer go on being slaves to sin. For he who has died has been acquitted [or freed] from his sin. Moreover, if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ, now that he has been raised up from the dead, dies no more; death is master over him no more. For the death that he died, he died with reference to sin once for all time; but the life that he lives, he lives with reference to God. Likewise also you: reckon yourselves to be dead indeed with reference to sin but living with reference to God by Christ Jesus.” —For more detail, see the supplementary chapter Who are Sons of God?

After your baptism, God views you as having died with reference to sin; you now walk in a newness of life. Your old personality, the person you were, was impaled with him, so you should no longer go on being slaves to sin. You are now living with reference to God by Christ Jesus and in the future, you shall also live with him. So, Paul says, in 6:12-14, “Do not allow sin to reign in your mortal body so that you should submit to its desires. Do not be presenting your body members to sin as weapons of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, also your members to God as weapons of righteousness. For sin must not be master over you.” —see also Colossians 2:12, 13, 3:1-10.

This new way of life means we are vigilant and determined to walk with God in a way that honors and pleases him, and we have his spirit to help us in that. Even so, despite our conscientious efforts we still have some weakness and imperfection, so we may stumble and even get off course at times. Paul admits this next in his letter to the Romans: “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my body members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members. Miserable man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death? Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So, then, with my mind I myself am a slave to God’s law, but with my flesh to sin’s law.” Paul contrasts the "self," or mind, with the "body," or fleshly impulses. These are now at war, but this is a war we will win, as long as we let God guide us. —Romans 7:22-24, 1 Cor 10:13.

Paul amplifies on this in Romans chapter 8. He says (vss 8-11): “Those who are in harmony with the flesh cannot please God. However, you are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this one does not belong to him. But if Christ is in union with you, the body indeed is dead on account of sin, but the spirit is life on account of righteousness. If, now, the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in you.” Of course the body is not literally dead, it is still putting up a bit of a fight to return to sin, as Paul earlier lamented; but there is now the sure prospect of fully escaping that situation in due time. Our "mortal" (dying) bodies will be made "alive" (no longer dying, no longer chained to fallen impulses). Christ was raised up in the spirit; we are already raised up to be spiritual persons ('minding the spirit', verses 5 and 6), and will in the end be perfected in that regard.

Some teach "once saved, always saved." They think that once God declares you saved (at the moment you say "I believe" and have an emotional "born-again" experience*) then no amount of misbehavior can reverse it. That conviction is based on emotion, not scripture. True, when for your faith God transfers your parentage from Adam to Christ and raises you to that newness of life, your name is "written in a book of life." But the ink on that page is not yet indelible, as Jesus plainly warned spirit-begotten Christians in the ancient Sardis congregation: “Nevertheless, you do have a few names in Sardis that did not defile their outer garments [by indulging in sin], and they shall walk with me in white ones [meaning holiness, purity], because they are worthy. He that conquers will thus be arrayed in white outer garments; and I will by no means blot out his name from the book of life, but I will make acknowledgment of his name before my Father and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5) "Blot out" means the name is there, but can be removed. This point is abundantly clear in many other passages: see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Philippians 3:12, Colossians 1:22, 23, 2 Timothy 2:12, 2 Peter 1:5-11, Matthew 24:13, Hebrews 3:14.

Washed Clean

The baptism performed by John and later by Christians would not have seemed a strange new ritual to the Jews of the time. Their traditions involved many baptisms, ritually cleansing utensils and washing the arms and feet, plus immersing themselves in mikva'ot, small pools dedicated to that one purpose. Archaeologists have found hundreds of mikva'ot in Jerusalem alone dating to that time. This ritual bathing was to restore purity after a religiously contaminating event. For example, in the Law, a woman's monthly menstruation made her impure, so after it was over, she would immerse herself in a mikveh to be clean before God until the next cycle. These "baptisms" are not mentioned in the ancient Law but were a well-established tradition in the first century. No soap was involved; it was enough for the person to be covered by the water, quite similar to the Christian baptism. Having a witness to the ritual was not required, but was usual.

Christian baptism has significant differences, the most obvious being that it is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Just as Christ gave himself as a sacrifice "once for all time," such that we do not have to keep offering sacrifices for our sins as the Law required, so a person is baptized once* and does not have to repeat the symbol of dying to sin and being raised to a new life. These two are of one piece, as the baptism also means "baptism into Christ" or "baptism into his death."

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That is, if done properly. It would not be valid if it was done without understanding its meaning, or it was performed by an agent not qualified to do so.

Even so, comparing baptism to a bath, a washing, does appear in inspired scripture. Some have misunderstood the comparison; the literal water does not itself wash away our sins. Scripture also says that Christ's blood "cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7) And it says we "wash our robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Rev 7:14) Blood is red, not white, so this is obviously figurative. It is our acceptance of Christ as our redeemer, as evident in our following him faithfully, that moves God to view us as washed clean from wrongdoing. Likewise, the "bath of water by means of the word" (Ephesians 5:26) and "the bath that brought us to life" (Titus 3:5) both allude to baptism, but do not mean that we are cleansed or saved by the act of baptism alone. As Ananias told Saul: “Rise, get baptized and wash your sins away and call upon his name.” (Acts 22:16, ftn Rbi8) Paul, especially as a Pharisee to whom ritual washing was extremely important, would have not dismissed the obvious link between the words "baptize" and "wash". But if not at the moment, then he soon would have understood that it was not the water that cleansed him of sin. Rather, it was accepting Christ as Lord and "calling upon his name," that is, taking the Way He led, that would cover his sin. Baptism was merely a symbol of that faith. (See James 2:14-26, John 14:12.)

It is not a symbol or ritual in itself that saves us. Paul, despite his background as a Pharisee, understood this. He wrote to Titus: “When the kindness and the love for man on the part of God our Savior was manifested, owing to no works in righteousness that we had performed but according to his mercy, he saved us through the bath that brought us to life and through the making of us new by holy spirit. This spirit he poured out richly upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior, that, after being declared righteous by the undeserved kindness of that one, we might become heirs with a hope of everlasting life.” —Titus 3:4-7.

The Christian Sabbath

God saved the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt. He brought them through the Red Sea, then through a wilderness to a mountain. There he gave them a code of Law, with Ten Commandments at its heart. One of these was the Sabbath: every seventh day they were to abstain from all gainful work. Why this law? It was not for playing games or sleeping in; they were to use the time for spiritual education, and appreciative worship of the living God, Jehovah, who had given them rest from their slavery. It was to teach them that the most important rest is not relaxing physically; it is being "at rest" with God. —Isaiah 58:13.

The pattern for the Sabbath was God himself, who "rested" on a seventh "day" from his creating work. (Genesis 1:31, 2:2, 3) God has unlimited energy and cannot get tired, so this means he was satisfied with the completion of his earthly creation. So the Sabbath was to be a symbol and reminder of their satisfying, peaceful relationship with Him, and their dependence on Him for prosperity and life. They could skip a day of work without going hungry. Life is not just about doing for oneself. Pause and think about God sometimes.

After receiving the Law, the Israelites had to trek though the harsh desert wilderness for forty years, finally reaching the Jordan River. God again opened the floodwater barrier before them, allowing them to enter their place of rest, the Promised Land. In his letter to the Hebrews, chapters 3 and 4, Paul parallels the Israelites’ experience with the Christian congregation. We too are set free from slavery to this world. In passing through the Red Sea, Israel was "baptized into Moses," who led them; Christians are "baptized into Christ," who leads us. We too accept God's will (the "law of the Christ") and follow the path in this world (the wilderness) that he directs. In due time we will reach passage into our Promised Land: for those who will reign, their 'Jordan' is literal death and resurrection to heaven, while for those who will live in the earthly paradise, the 'Jordan' could be either entry into the Millennial reign, or the whole Millennium itself, at the other end of which we reach perfected, tested unending life. (See chapters 5-10 of this book for details.) —1 Cor 10:1, 2; see also Exodus 19:5, 6 and Jeremiah 31:31, 32.

The Israelites' journey was prolonged due to lack of faith; ours is simply our life in this world, however long that may be. Paul quotes Psalms 95:7-11, where God warns us “Do not harden your hearts as on the occasion of provoking to bitter anger, as in the day of testing in the wilderness, where your forefathers put me to the test and tried me, despite seeing my works for 40 years. That is why I became disgusted with this generation and said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not come to know my ways.’ So I swore in my anger, ‘They shall not enter into my rest [resting-place, Ps 95:11].’” —Heb 3:8-12.

For their faithlessness that generation died in the wilderness and did not enter into God's rest, the Land of Promise. They had ritually observed Sabbath days but failed to understand their purpose. Paul exhorts us to do better: “Let us therefore do our utmost to enter into that rest, for fear any of us should fall into that same pattern of disobedience.” How do we enter into rest with God? Not by observing a literal Sabbath, which was just "a shadow of things to come." We do it by keeping the true Sabbath, which Paul explains: “For the man that has entered into God's rest has also himself rested from his own works.” We leave behind self-centered works. We give up trying to save ourselves apart from God using our own wit, wealth, or weapons. In Christ we are truly "at rest", at peace, satisfied, with God, and He with us. —Hebrews 4:11, 10; Proverbs 3:5-7, Colossians 2:13, 14, 16, 17.

So when Paul said “there remains a sabbath resting for the people of God,” he meant not the traditional Sabbath observance, one day out of seven, but a true spiritual resting, seven days out of seven. (Heb 4:9) Some today teach that keeping a literal seventh day is a key requirement for salvation, but they are focusing on the shadow, not the reality. —see Galatians 4:9-11.

Of course you can still dedicate any day or hour for yourself, on any schedule you choose, to personal spiritual education and worship. (Romans 14:5) Having such a regular schedule is a good idea. And if you are a family head, you may establish such a schedule for your family. But you cannot teach that your schedule must be followed by everyone in the congregation on pain of death. Nor should you believe that God will reject you if you vary from your devotional routine. Your local congregation has a schedule of meetings and activities for education and worship, which you should respect and support to the extent that you can. But again, God does not exact the death penalty for a single infraction on this schedule, like he did for the literal Sabbath. Are you not glad?

The Real Life

What really is the purpose of life? The One who is the Source of all life is the "happy God", the God who "is love." Life should be sweet, and at times it is. As we have shown by many scripture references, Jehovah, the "One who causes to become," will not allow the rebellion led by Satan his enemy to continue much longer. When Satan and his kind are gone, and the Earth has been restored to the beautiful, peaceful Paradise it was meant to be, ah, that will be the real life! This is no mere idealistic dreaming, it has a Rock-solid guarantee. Our purpose for existing is really just to enjoy existing, in such a way that all others with us can enjoy it just as well, for all time. When that is true, our Creator will be finally completely satisfied with the work of his hands.

Satan wants to deny you this wonderful future. He says, "the price is too high! They will take away your freedom! They will make you a zombie! You have to do everything you are told! You won't be allowed to think for yourself! Don't go that way! Stay with me! You'll be fine, I promise! Have fun! Do whatever you want! Indulge in every selfish pleasure! That is the Real life!"

No, the price is not too high. All you have to relinquish is independence, not freedom. Within God's will there is wide latitude for choice. You can really enjoy life without being bad. God gave you a brain didn't he? So why would he then forbid you to think? Just do it with care. Those who stay with Satan most assuredly will not be fine. Don't believe him, he is the original Liar. He is the one that makes people into 'zombies', stumbling sadly through life with leaden feet, slaves to their 'bokor', Satan himself.* Christ has broken the spell, he has set us free. We now know the truth, and the Truth has set us free. He is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." At the beginning of his ministry he announced, using Isaiah's prophecy, ‘The spirit of Jehovah is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to proclaim a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release, to proclaim the year of goodwill of Jehovah.’ He now urges us: "get a firm hold on the real life," "get a firm hold on the everlasting life for which you were called." —1 Tim 6:12, 19.

Will you answer that call?

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1 Kings 18.21
Then Elijah approached all the people and said: “How long will you be limping upon two different opinions? If Jehovah is the true God, go following him; but if Baal is, go following him.” And the people did not say a word in answer to him.

Psalm 138:6
For Jehovah is high, and yet the humble one he sees,
but the lofty one he knows only from a distance.

2 Timothy 2:14, 15, 23, 24
Keep reminding them [leaders in the Christian congregation] of these things, charging them before God as witness, not to fight about words, a thing of no usefulness at all because it overturns those listening. Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright. . . . Turn down foolish and ignorant questionings, knowing they produce fights. A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil.

1 Peter 3:15
Sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.

Matthew 23
Using verse 23 as a sample: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you give the tenth of the mint and the dill and the cumin [small spice seeds], but you have let go of the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness. These things are required, but not to leave off the other things. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat but gulp down the camel!”
Much more in the rest of the chapter.

Matt 12.18, 19.
Look! My servant whom I have chosen, my beloved, whom my soul has approved! I will put my spirit upon him, and what justice is he will make clear to the nations. He will not wrangle, nor cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the broad ways. [that is, his voice raised in anger]

Ephesians 4.11-16.
He [Christ] gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ; in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried back and forth by every wind of teaching, by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error. But speaking the truth, let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ. From him all the body, by being harmoniously joined together and being made to cooperate through every joint that gives what is needed, according to the functioning of each respective member in due measure, makes for the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Ephesians 6:11, 12
Put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil, because we have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.
2 Timothy 3:12
In fact, all those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.
2 Corinthians 6:3-10
In no way are we giving any cause for stumbling, that our ministry might not be found fault with; but in every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers, by the endurance of much, by tribulations, by cases of need, by difficulties, by beatings, by prisons, by disorders, by labors, by sleepless nights, by times without food, by purity, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by holy spirit, by love free from hypocrisy, by truthful speech, by God’s power; through the weapons of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, through glory and dishonor, through bad report and good report; as deceivers and yet truthful, as being unknown and yet being recognized, as dying and yet, look! we live, as disciplined and yet not delivered to death, as sorrowing but ever rejoicing, as poor but making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.
1 Peter 5:8-10
Keep your senses, be watchful. your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone. But take your stand against him, solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world. But, after you have suffered a little while, the God of all undeserved kindness, who called you to his everlasting glory in union with Christ, will himself finish your training, he will make you firm, he will make you strong.
Hebrews 11:27
By faith he [Moses] left Egypt, but not fearing the anger of the king, for he continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.

Galatians 4:16-20
Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth? . . . my little children, with whom I am again in childbirth pains until Christ is formed in you. . . . I am perplexed over you.

Paul was here trying to convince some Christians who had gotten attached to an incorrect viewpoint, that adhering to the Law of Moses would save them. When he tried to reason with them that that was untrue, they reacted defensively, angrily. Sometimes, your best efforts just don't work at first. But at least we today benefit from what Paul wrote.

Romans 12:17, 18, 21
Return evil for evil to no one. Provide fine things in the sight of all men. If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men. . . Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.

2 Timothy 2:24-26
A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed; as perhaps God may give them repentance leading to an accurate knowledge of truth, and they may come back to their proper senses out from the snare of the Devil, seeing that they have been caught alive by him for the will of that one.

Matthew 24:14
This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

John 1:32-34
John also bore witness, saying: “I saw the spirit coming down as a dove out of heaven, and it remained upon him. Even I did not know him, but the very One who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘Whoever it is upon whom you see the spirit coming down and remaining, this is the one that baptizes in holy spirit.’ And I have seen it, and I have borne witness that this one is the Son of God.”


What, then, is Apollos*? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, even as the Lord granted each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow . . . For we are God’s fellow workers. You people are God’s field under cultivation, God’s building.

*Apollos was another Christian minister contemporary to Paul the apostle, who helped establish the congregation in Corinth. Note that all ministers (which means 'helper' or 'assistant') are like tools in God's hand as he 'cultivates his field' to grow his people, a very honorable position. But God does the real work. We should humbly not forget that.

Galatians 2:20
I am impaled along with Christ. It is no longer I that live, but it is Christ that is living in union with me. Indeed, the life that I now live in flesh I live by the faith that is toward the Son of God, who loved me and handed himself over for me.

Philippians 2:5-8, NWT
Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.

1 Corinthians 7:14
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified [made clean] in relation to his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in relation to the [Christian] brother; otherwise, your children would really be unclean, but now they are holy.

(That doesn't save the unbelieving adult, but it does put the children out of harm's way, unless they themselves choose a wayward course.)

Isaiah 58:13
If in view of the sabbath you will turn back your foot as regards doing your own delights on my holy day, and will actually call the sabbath an exquisite delight, a holy day of Jehovah, one being glorified, and will actually glorify it rather than doing your own ways, rather than finding what delights you and speaking a word. . .

Genesis 1:31, 2:2, 3
After that God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good. . . And by the seventh day God came to the completion of his work that he had made, and he proceeded to rest on the seventh day from all his work that he had made. And God proceeded to bless the seventh day and make it sacred, because on it he has been resting from all his work that God has created for the purpose of making.

Colossians 2:12, 13
For you were buried with him in baptism, and in him also you were raised up together through your faith in the operation of God, who raised him up from the dead. Furthermore, though you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcised state of your flesh, God made you alive together with him. He kindly forgave us all our trespasses. . .

3:1-10
If, however, you were raised up with the Christ, go on seeking the things above, where the Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Keep your minds fixed on the things above, not on the things upon the earth. For you died, and your life has been hidden with the Christ in union with God. When the Christ, our life, is made manifest, then you also will be made manifest with him in glory. Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of those things the wrath of God is coming. In those very things you, too, once walked when you used to live in them. But now really put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth. Do not be lying to one another. Strip off the old person with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new, which through true knowledge is being made new, according to the image of the One who created it.

1 Cor 10:13
No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.

Romans 8:14-16
For all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.

In the context, Paul was addressing persons selected to reign with Christ, so some of his words have special meaning to them; however, as he himself says, "all" who are led by God’s spirit are "adopted" as sons. The "spirit of adoption" is a token of his approval, of assurance of his acceptance. By it we are moved to cry out to God with joy, "Abba!" That Aramaic word means "Daddy!" or "Papa!", which means we feel not a distant, formal sonship with God but a warm, loving and trusting relationship to him. And yes, it is more than being his "friend." All whom he approves are his friends, but he does not wall some off as mere friends and welcome others in as favored "sons". "In Adam all are dying, in Christ all will be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:22) Either God refuses our baptism and still sees us as sons of Adam and still condemned, or he accepts our baptism and raises us up to that "newness of life" and now sees us as sons of Christ (and by extension, of himself) with the prospect of endless life. We cannot be sons of nobody.
Note also that the adoption is not finalised until the person actually attains perfection: Romans 8:23 says, “We ... who have the firstfruits, namely, the spirit [of adoption mentioned in verse 15], yes we ourselves groan within ourselves, while we are earnestly waiting for adoption as sons, the release from our bodies by ransom.” This "release from the body" has a literal meaning for those who are raised up in a spirit body (1 Cor 15:44), but it has a wider meaning: all who are ‘rescued from the body undergoing this death’ as Paul said at 7:24, are "set free from corruption." (8:21) This includes those whose natural bodies are healed on earth during the Millennium; they too are "released from their [mortal] body." On passing the final test, their adoption is complete; until then, all whom God receives with favor are acknowledged with this "spirit of adoption." See the supplement Who Are Sons of God? for more detail.

Romans 8:5, 6
For those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those in accord with the spirit on the things of the spirit. For the minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace.

Alternate renderings of "the minding of the spirit": "to focus our minds on the Spirit" (ISV) "to be spiritually minded" (King James).

1 Cor 9:24
Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may attain it. Moreover, every man taking part in a [sport] contest exercises self-control in all things. Now they, of course, do it that they may get a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. Therefore, the way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air; but I pummel [get tough with] my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.

Philippians 3:12
Not that I have already received it or am already made perfect, but I am pursuing to see if I may also lay hold on that for which I have also been laid hold on by Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:21-23
You who were once alienated and enemies because your minds were on the works that were wicked, He [God] now has again reconciled by means of that one’s [Jesus] fleshly body through his death, in order to present you holy and unblemished and open to no accusation before him, provided, of course, that you continue in the faith, established on the foundation and steadfast and not being shifted away from the hope of that good news which you heard.

2 Tim 2:12
If we go on enduring, we shall also rule together as kings; if we deny, he also will deny us.
[applies literally to those who are selected to actually rule as kings, but figuratively to all who conquer death (Rev 2:7, 11; 21:6, 7; Romans 5:17, compare James 1:12).

2 Peter 1:5-11
Supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control endurance, to endurance godly devotion, to godly devotion brotherly affection, to brotherly affection love. For if these things exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful regarding the accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For if these things are not present in anyone, he is blind, shutting his eyes, and has become forgetful of his cleansing from his sins of long ago. For this reason, brothers, all the more do your utmost to make the calling and choosing of you sure for yourselves; for if you keep on doing these things you will by no means ever fail. In fact, thus there will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Matthew 24:13
He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.

Hebrews 3:14
For we actually become partakers of the Christ only if we make fast our hold on the confidence we had at the beginning firm to the end.

Revelation 2:7
To him that conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Revelation 2:11
Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations: He that conquers will by no means be harmed by the second death.

Revelation 21:6, 7
And he said to me: “They have come to pass! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To anyone thirsting I will give from the fountain of the water of life free. Anyone conquering will inherit these things, and I shall be his God and he will be my son.”

Romans 5:17
For if by the trespass of the one man death ruled as king through that one, much more will those who receive the abundance of the undeserved kindness and of the free gift of righteousness rule as kings in life through the one person, Jesus Christ.

James 1:12
Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him.

(In Romans 5 and James 1 above, the kingship is clearly more figurative than literal, meaning a triumph over death.)

1 John 1:7
If we are walking in the light as he himself is in the light, we do have a sharing with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Rev 7:14
These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

James 2:14-26
Of what benefit is it, my brothers, if a certain one says he has faith but he does not have works? That faith cannot save him, can it? If a brother or a sister is in a naked state and lacking the food sufficient for the day, yet a certain one of you says to them: “Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,” but you do not give them the necessities for their body, of what benefit is it? Thus, too, faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself. Nevertheless, a certain one will say: “You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith apart from the works, and I shall show you my faith by my works.” You believe there is one God, do you? You are doing quite well. And yet the demons believe and shudder. But do you care to know, O empty man, that faith apart from works is inactive? Was not Abraham our father declared righteous by works after he had offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? You behold that his faith worked along with his works and by his works his faith was perfected, and the scripture was fulfilled which says: “Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness, and he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’” You see that a man is to be declared righteous by works, and not by faith alone. In the same manner was not also Rahab the harlot declared righteous by works, after she had received the messengers hospitably and sent them out by another way? Indeed, as the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

John 14:12
Most truly I say to you, He that exercises faith in me, that one will also do the works that I do.

1 Corinthians 10:1, 2
Our forefathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea and all got baptized into Moses by means of the cloud and of the sea.

Romans 6:3 (shown earlier) mentions being "baptized into Christ." See also Galations 3:26, to be discussed later.

Details: Israel accepted the covenant with God at the mountain, which made them his special property. A large "mixed company" of non-Israelites that escaped Egypt with them were also subject to the Law, but they were not party to that covenant. The spiritual Israel of God (those chosen to reign from heaven with Christ) accept a new covenant, which makes them his special property in place of natural Israel, who broke their covenant. The mixed company today are people of all nations who will be blessed with life on the paradise Earth.

Supporting scriptures:
Exodus 12:37, 38
And the sons of Israel proceeded to depart from Rameses for Succoth, to the number of six hundred thousand able-bodied men on foot, besides little ones. And a vast mixed company also went up with them.
Exodus 19:5, 6
“Now if you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words that you [Moses] are to say to the sons of Israel. [note, not to the non-Israelites there with them.]
Jeremiah 31:31, 32
“Look! There are days coming,” is the word of Jehovah, “and I will conclude with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant; not one like the covenant that I concluded with their forefathers in the day of my taking hold of their hand to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt, which covenant of mine they themselves broke, although I myself had husbandly ownership of them.”
This is fulfilled in the true Israel, as explained in chapter 6 of this book.

Proverbs 3:5-7
Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight. Do not become wise in your own eyes. Fear Jehovah and turn away from bad.

Colossians 2:12-14, 16, 17, NWT
. . . for you were buried with him in his baptism, and by relationship with him you were also raised up together through your faith in the operation of God, who raised him up from the dead. Furthermore, though you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcised state of your flesh, God made you alive together with him. He kindly forgave us all our trespasses and blotted out the handwritten document against us [the Law covenant], which consisted of decrees and which was in opposition to us; and He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake [the execution post of Christ]. Therefore let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath, for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ.

Under the Law, the literal Sabbath, and the festivals and the other observances, were all mandatory. Willfully breaking any of them was punishable by death. Paul could not have said what he did if that were still true. What God requires now, and it will still end in death if ignored, is the spiritual sabbath from selfish and wicked works. Not one day out of seven, but seven out of seven. "24/7" as they say today. Even our gainful employment must be for the higher purpose of serving God, not for enriching or exalting ourselves.
(The other observances also shadowed things pertaining to Christ, some of which Paul discusses later in his letter to the Hebrews, but that is beyond the scope of this book.)

Galatians 4:9-11
But now that you have come to know God, or rather now that you have come to be known by God, how is it that you are turning back again to the weak and beggarly elementary things and want to slave for them over again? You are scrupulously observing days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that somehow I have toiled to no purpose respecting you.

Paul felt compelled to repeatedly remind Jews who became Christians: the formal observances of the Law were foreshadows of Christian fulfillments. You have the fulfillment now, quit clinging to the shadows!

Romans 14:5
One man judges one day as above another; another judges one day as all others; let each one be fully convinced in his own mind. [that is, for himself. Once again, Paul could not have said this if God's Law that certain days had to be held sacred, on pain of death, were still binding.]

Isaiah 61:1, 2
The spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah is upon me, for the reason that Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to the meek ones. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to those taken captive and the wide opening of the eyes even to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah and the day of vengeance on the part of our God; to comfort all the mourning ones.

Review for Chapter 14

What decision must we face?

How can you ready yourself to make the leap to God's side?

What does baptism mean?

What is the "newness of life"?

How do Christians observe the real Sabbath?

What is the real life?

What will you do now?

Restore Scripture View

There is no need to baptize infants. Minor children may be judged by God as if they were part of their most faithful parent or guardian (1 Cor 7:14) so the fear of hell that inspires infant baptism is unfounded. God is not a cruel judge, inflexibly following rigid rules even if it means innocents get killed.

On the other hand, children whose parents are both wicked do not have any scriptures that say God will judge them distinctly from their parents, unless the child itself acts to distinguish himself from his parents' position. This hard fact may be applied more softly in the outworking; we will not know until we are there to see it. We do know that wicked men and women have conceived literally billions of fetuses, many of which they aborted or destroyed as human sacrifice shortly after birth. Is God obligated to offer eternal life to every unique individual coded by the DNA of every sexual liaison that has ever occurred? One scripture, Hosea 2:4, seems to answer "no, he is not." It says, "To her sons I shall not show mercy, for they are the sons of fornication." So if you want your children to be blessed, you need to behave yourself.

Ecstatic experiences occur in almost all religions, even those that have nothing to do with the Bible or Jesus. So a deeply moving religious experience should not by itself be taken as proof that you have been reborn. The true testimony of the spirit that you have been accepted as a son of God is more of a quiet steady assurance, a certainty of who you are with God. And that confidence never makes you arrogant or too sure of yourself— your strength comes from God, not from within. There are unfortunately many who very confidently feel saved, yet they continue to indulge in attitudes and behavior that God condemns. It is easy to delude oneself with wishful thinking, to let emotion control what you believe. Having the spirit certainly does not mean that every idea that pops into your head is from God. God says, "Study to show yourself approved." That means more than resting on a "Oh My God!" moment. —2 Timothy 2:15, AV. See Romans 8:14-16.
A little literary license there, as zombies are not real, although there are drug addicts that come rather close. They do help you visualize the point. Jesus used at least one parable that was not strictly real to life, as explained in chapter 10.