The One Requirement

 

When I took up a pre-medical course in a Protestant [or evangelical] school, Silliman University, in Dumaguete City, Province of Negros Oriental on Negros Island in the Visayas Region, in the late 1950s, I was required to enroll in several religion classes. One subject of such a class was a survey of the Old Testament.

One particular OT verse that stood out for me was that from the book of the prophet Micah (6:8, NKJV): “He [God] has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to have mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

The small word “but” implies that God requires just one thing or a series of connected things that a man is to fulfill, in order to do what is good. This was a bit of a shock to me, because – growing up in a staunch Protestant home [See: http://www.pool-of-siloam.com/about-the-author] — I had assumed that one only needed to believe in Jesus in order to be saved (John 3:16). Later I learned about the teachings of the protestant movement’s founder, Martin Luther, on salvation by grace through faith alone – not through works (Ephesians 2:8). This is the banner which many evangelical groups carry when preaching the “gospel” to all the world. One particularly active such group is “Evangelism Explosion [or EE; see:  https://evangelismexplosion.org/about-us/.]

Through time, however, it seems that some evangelical groups, such as the church I and my siblings grew up in, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines [UCCP], have intertwined these two divine “mandates” and have come up with a “social gospel.” They believe that they should follow their Lord Jesus’ example of not only preaching the gospel but also doing good by helping the poor, healing the sick, raising the dead, liberating those oppressed by demons, etc. Thus, the UCCP promotes active participation in labor movements, charities, mission hospitals, relief efforts during calamities, etc. My elder brother, a labor union lawyer, spent himself defending the rights of laborers. My elder sister, a public health nurse, was at the forefront in seeking the welfare of health workers. My father, the first lawyer of his indigenous tribe, spent most of his years and energies defending the rights of his fellow-tribesmen to their ancestral lands, which “Christian” settlers were trying to take away from them.

Amos 5:23-24 shows that true worship requires justice and righteousness. Isaiah 58:6-10 teaches that true humility requires one to “loose the bonds of wickedness, undo heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free, break every yoke, share one’s bread with the hungry, offer one’s house to the poor, cover the naked, take care of one’s family,” etc.

Jesus taught a similar thing, in Luke 3:10-14 and Matthew 25:31-45. The apostle Paul, under Christ’s inspiration, taught that “…as we have [the] opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith [fellow-Christians]” (Galatians 6:10).

Micah 6:8 speaks volumes of our main Christian duty: to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. In fulfilling this one requirement, we will also be able to comprehend and practice The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love.

For further insights into this topic, see: Saved for Good Works, Being and Doing, and A Short and Sweet Psalm.]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
16092022

 

A Short and Sweet Psalm

Psalm 15 is a short and sweet psalm of just two stanzas, as rendered in the Scottish Psalter:

O Eternal, who shall dwell in the temple of Thy grace?Who shall on Thy holy hill have a fixed abiding place?He who walks in righteousness, all his actions just and clear; He whose words the truth express, spoken from a heart sincere.

He who ne’er with slandering tongue utters malice and deceit;
Who will ne’er his neighbor wrong, nor a slan’drous tale repeat.
Who will claim no usury, nor with bribes pollute his hand;
He who thus shall frame his life, shall unmoved forever stand.

This is one of several Scripture passages that tell us that, in order to live forever in God’s house [or kingdom], we must do certain things. It’s saying that it’s not enough to simply have “faith” or “believe” and do nothing else whatsoever, which summarizes the battle cry of the “saved by faith alone” protagonists.

The psalm begins by affirming that God’s dwelling place is a “temple of grace.” A true Christian [a true follower of Christ] begins by receiving God’s grace [unmerited pardon for one’s sins through Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary] and remaining in it,  is ultimately assured of a place in God’s kingdom. How?

The “sweet psalmist” [Israel’s King David] then enumerates a number of actions or deeds one must do: walk in righteousness, be just and clear in actions, express words of truth from a sincere heart, keep from slandering others with malicious and deceitful words [not gossiping], not exacting usury on money or goods lent, not perverting justice through bribes.

The psalmist did not intend that the above-mentioned deeds are all that one has to fulfill. These are but a few examples of how to “walk in righteousness.” Psalm 119:172  declares that “all Thy [God’s] commandments are righteousness.” Verse 142   also affirms that God’s “law is truth.” Jesus expanded this by saying “Thy [God’s] word is truth”(John 17: 17 ). Indeed Christ affirmed the Old Testament scripture [Deuteronomy 8:3] that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

“Evangelical” believers often refer to Ephesians 2:8-9 as their proof that we are saved by grace alone through faith.  However, they fail to emphasize as well verse 10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

The apostle Paul amply wrote that being justified through God’s  grace in Christ by faith, we “should be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:7-8).  He taught that we are purified to become God’s “special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

These “good works” include deeds we do for God and toward our fellowmen. Jesus summarized God’s “great commandment” as loving God above all and loving one’s neighbor as oneself (Matthew 22:37-38).

For a fuller exposition of this topic, see:  Saved for Good Works and  Being and Doing.

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr. 09112022

 

Is Mankind Inherently Evil?

 

Did God create mankind as an evil creature? Is every human child born already a sinner? These are questions that have baffled some, if not many. Some perceive the Bible as supporting those questions with a “Yes!” —
• The [human] heart is deceitful all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
• Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then you may also do good who are accustomed to do evil. (Jeremiah 13:23)
• For out of the heart [of man] proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Matthew 15:19)
• For from within the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. (Mark 7:21)
• Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5)
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)

On the other hand, some Bible verses seem to answer with a “No!” these same questions:
• Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”…..Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. (Genesis 1:28, 31)
• Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:2)

How reconcile these two views?

Genesis 1:26, 31 [quoted above] must be our starting point in understanding how God created man – “very good,” not evil like some defective product. Otherwise that would be a bad reflection on God as our Maker – just as a defective product [such as a piece of appliance] would be an embarrassment to its manufacturer, who could be sued for some “malpractice.”

As the wise King Solomon of Israel pondered: “Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, but they [human beings] have sought out many schemes” [KJV, ‘inventions’] (Ecclesiastes 7:29 NKJV).

Just as a perfectly manufactured product can become defective through misuse, abuse or simply aging, so upright man [fittingly called Homo sapiens erectus by scientists] has become flawed and faulty through the misuse or abuse of man’s freedom of choice. [See: What Is This Thing Called “Will?“My Brain Made me Do it,” and “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”]

The same was the case with Lucifer, an archangel or cherub whom God created “perfect” in his ways (Ezekiel 28:14-15). Yet Lucifer allowed pride and vanity to well up in his heart) until he thought to overthrow God and take over the reins of the whole universe (Verse 17; Isaiah 14:12-14). But Lucifer was no match to God’s infinitely superior power. He was cast back to the earth, along with his angels (Revelation 12:9). He became Satan the devil and his angels became demons. [See: Where Did the Devil Come From? and https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select Books & Booklets, and scroll down to the booklet titled “Did God Create a Devil?”

As a result of Lucifer’s rebellion, and his being cast down to earth, the earth became a waste and void. Genesis 1:1-27 relates the story of God “re-creating” the earth and life therein, before He created mankind. [See: The Comings of Christ.] Lucifer has since become Satan the devil, and his angels now demons. Satan is called the “tempter” (Matthew 4:3; 1Thessalonians 3:5). He is behind every sin that takes place in human society.

Mankind’s first parents [Adam and Eve] sinned through Satan’s machinations, and had to be cast out of God’s garden, Eden (Genesis 3). But God’s love compelled God to save mankind by “fixing” man’s heart, mind, and spirit. He did this, and continues to do so, through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16). [See: Two Goats Together, The True Christ, God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the SpiritAre We All God’s Children? and Christian Formation, and The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]

A child’s heart

Every human baby born into this world starts out as “innocent” – not knowing what is right and what is wrong. That is one sense in which we can understand the “foolishness” in a child’s heart that leads him to many troubles, from which he has to be delivered and taught.

When Israel’s King David repented of his double sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah (2 Samuel 11-12), he said that his mother had conceived him in sin (Psalm 51:5). That’s the way all of us were begotten/conceived and born – by sinful fathers and mothers. But we were not born as sinners. It is as we grow up in an imperfect family and in a sinful society that we “catch” and learn sinful ways, as egged on by Satan, the “tempter.”

The young King Solomon of Israel admitted that he was a “little child” and asked God to give him an understanding heart so he could discern between good and evil (1 Kings 3:7-9). Little children are also described as persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left (Jonah 4:11).

Numbers 14:29-31 shows that God looks on as “little ones” those below 20 years of age, whom He allowed to enter the Promised Land, while most of those older and who sinned were excluded from entry.

Does this mean that a child or even a teenager can go scot-free with any mischief or rebellion even after being chastised? No. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 commands that such a son [or daughter] be put to death.

When Jesus urged people to “become as little children” (Matthew 18:2), He meant that they should emulate little children in their humility, trust and faith in God. This is not to say that children are born perfect, despite their humility and trust in their parents’ provision. Children do commit things against God’s law – commit sin – more from ignorance than bad intent. Still they have to be taught and learn obedience. [See: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets, and scroll down to the booklet titled “The |Plain Truth About Child Rearing.”]

I trust that this article provides some added dimension to my previous articles Is There Ever Any Good in Man? and A Law-abiding Universe – But Man!]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
17082022

The Conversion Therapy Controversy

In the last decade or so a heated controversy has arisen among leaders of societies around the world over “conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy” – “Sexual Orientation Change Efforts” [SOCE]. Psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists have sounded the dire warning, supposedly, about “The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity” of the LGBTQ community, and are joined by human rights advocates. [See: https://www.hrc.org/resources/the-lies-and-dangers-of-reparative-therapy, https://www.wired.co.UK >Science>Health, “Resolution on Empirical, Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts” https://www.cpu.org/about/policy/sexual-orientation.]

Among the dangers cited are depression, anxiety, drug use, hopelessness, and suicide. The last link cited above affirms “the longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health profession is that homosexuality per se is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation…. Homosexuality per se is not a mental disorder… Since 1974 the American Psychological Association [APA] has opposed stigma, prejudice, discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and has taken a leadership role in supporting the equal rights of lesbians, gay, and bisexual individuals.”

The target of these professionals’ advocacy are the values held by some faith-based organizations [religious or church groups], on the one hand, and those held by lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights organizations and professional and scientific organizations, on the other. These latter organizations oppose the idea [of faith-based organizations] that homosexuality is symptomatic of developmental defects or spiritual failings and that SOCE, including psychotherapy and religious efforts, could alter homosexual feelings and behaviors.

The APA, however, encourages collaborative activities in pursuit of shared professional goals between psychologists and religious communities, when such collaboration can be done in a mutually respectful manner that is consistent with psychologists’ professional and scientific roles.

Enter the law-makers

Coming into the fray are law-makers who have moved to ban or make illegal or criminal any efforts at conversion or reparative therapy for LGBT individuals. [See:   “‘Conversion Therapy’ laws – Movement Advancement Project”https/www.lgbtmap.org>equality-maps>conversion-therapy.]

In reaction to this legislation, some religious counselors or conversion practitioners are protesting such a law as violating their basic human right to freedom of religion and the right to practice their divinely ordained calling. [See: Devising Evil by Law.]

Amidst the cloud of this controversy, what can an LGBT person who sincerely wishes to change his or her sexual orientation and behavior hope for?

God’s word on SO conversion or change

Many advocates against SOCE assert that they have never found a case of a 100% conversion of an LGBT person, and dare anyone to present such a case, if any. Perhaps people who have indeed come out of such orientation and behavior are too apprehensive about their reputation to issue a detailed testimony of their sexual journey. Ephesians 5:12 says that certain secret matters are too shameful to even mention. Nevertheless, some ex-LGBT persons have courageously testified about their journey to change.  [See: https://changedmovement.com.]

In addition, we have the Biblical testimony by no less than the apostle Paul himself that, apparently after having personally dealt with them, he knew that certain church members among the LGBT community of his day had changed through the power of God’s spirit to transform their minds and behavior.  Since Paul’s letters have now become a part of the Holy Scriptures, whose words are truth (2 Peter 3:15-16; John 17:17) , we can be confident that Paul did not merely write what he did without actual basis in fact. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 [NKJV] Paul wrote:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed [cleansed of sin – “justified” or made just or righteous through the forgiveness in Christ’s sacrifice of His shed blood at Calvary], but you were sanctified [made holy] in the name of the Lord Jesus by the Spirit of our God.

Psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists and law makers/enforcers cannot one-sidedly dismiss the possibility of LGBT persons to ever change their orientation and behavior through efforts by faith-based practitioners. As the APA resolves, there should be mutual respect between these two camps for their differing roles.

In this regard, I recommend that you read carefully my website articles The Rainbow Connection and Does God Require Us to Do the Impossible?

In the ultimate analysis, each one of us will one day be called to accounting of our every thought, word, and deed before Christ’s judgment seat (Matthew 12:36-37). May we be found worthy of God’s kingdom!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
26072022

The Church of God in the Wilderness

Now when the dragon [Satan, Verse 9] saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child [Verses 1-2, referring to spiritual Israel, the spiritual mother of Christ and all Christians, Galatians 4:28]. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time [3-1/2 years], from the presence of the serpent. So the serpent spewed water [symbolic of an army] out of his mouth that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:13-17, NKJV)

 

For decades the Worldwide Church of God [WCG] held the belief that the above-quoted scripture referred to itself as the “woman” who flies or flees to the wilderness, from the persecution that Satan the devil will perpetrate upon God’s people during the 3-1/2-year period of the “Great Tribulation” [often called “Satan’s wrath,” from Verse 12]. And for many years some church members – even leaders – believed that the “wilderness” that the church was going to be brought into was Petra – a desert area in the Middle East country of Jordan.

So strong was this belief that, when the Filipino brethren of the WCG observed the Feast of Tabernacles in Baguio City in 1968, I was involved as the master of ceremonies in a festival show which the WCG young people put on during the feast. The show was titled “Picnic in Petra,” a fanciful “picnic” which the brethren from all over the world held supposedly in Petra while celebrating the festival there. My future wife, the former Pacifica A. David, took care of teaching the dance numbers, while I took care of coaching the vocal numbers.

In those days we did not realize the logistical challenges that living in Petra would pose. The WCG magazine for its members, The Good News, published an article titled “We Fled Petra,” which detailed the many challenges that the brethren would have to contend with if indeed that was their “place of safety.” [See:  https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “The Good News,” 1960-1969, scroll down to the issue of October-November 1966, pages 5-6, 23-24.]

Despite these, the brethren went on sheer faith that Petra was their “place of safety” during the Tribulation.  After WCG founder and pastor-general Herbert W. Armstrong [HWA] died in January 1986, the church floundered, and became split up into dozens of splinter groups. Among these was the Philadelphia Church of God [PCG] led by Gerald Flurry. These brethren believed that in 1992 or thereabouts they would be “whisked” into the safety of Petra as religious persecution of true Christians by the “beast” in cahoots with the “false prophet” would befall them (Revelation 13:1-18). [See: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklets titled, “Who Is the Beast?” and “The Mark of the Beast.”]

The 1990s passed, and nothing of the sort expected by the PCG took place. Naturally many members felt let down and became disillusioned and left the church. A similar thing had happened earlier, in 1972, when many brethren thought they would be taken to a place of safety [Petra], before events as supposedly taught in HWA’s booklet “1975 in Prophecy.” [Many had misconstrued this, although HWA explained that he wasn’t setting the date or year, but that scientists and other savants were predicting that dire things would take place in 1975 amidst all the science-made wonders in technology, health care, etc.]

Nevertheless the sunny promise of a “place of safety” implied by Revelation 12:14  encouraged Church of God members – whatever their shade of persuasion may be – to push on with the “Work” of the church. Thus dozens of splinter groups from the original WCG have put up their own publications, radio and TV programs and websites. [See: exitsupportnetwork.com>offshoots-of-worldwide-church-of-god.]

The original WCG had considered its founder and pastor-general (HWA) as a “voice crying in the wilderness” (Isaiah 40:3) – preparing the way for the return of Jesus Christ.  As such, Mr. Armstrong was looked by some as the end-time “Elijah,” as John the Baptist was at Christ’s “first” coming (Matthew 11:7-13).

At some point certain WCG leaders thought that HWA would be a team with his son Garner Ted [GTA] to broadcast the end-time message or gospel as the prophesied “two witnesses” |(Revelation 11:1-10). Both Armstrongs have died, and no “two witnesses” have surfaced, although there must be a host of “volunteers” for the honor – or horror!

That being said, however, Christ’s revelation about such “two witnesses” stands to be fulfilled surely in God’s own time and way. We cannot simply dismiss the controversy regarding their identity as so much ado over nothing.

In the ultimate analysis God has the sole prerogative to appoint His “two witnesses,” whose message will surely be heard worldwide [no big problem, with satellite TV and internet broadcasting these days]. Meanwhile, the “beast” power and his “side-kick” the “false prophet” will persecute the remainder of the Church of God that fail to escape into the safety of the “wilderness,” and will eventually kill the “two witnesses who will, however, be resurrected to immortal life together with the elect saints at Christ’s return.

Ways to look at “wilderness”

In Revelation 12:14 “wilderness” is rendered from the Greek eremos, which means “lonesome waste,” “desert” [Strong’s Concordance]. Thus it has been easy to associate “wilderness” with a desert place such as Petra in Jordan.

The same Greek word is translated as “wilderness” in Matthew 3:1, 31; Mark 1:3; Luke 1:80; 3:2; and John 1:23, where John the Baptist is said to have been preaching his message calling people to repentance. Likewise, John 3:14 and 6:31, 44 speak about the wilderness where Moses and the children of Israel sojourned – a desolate place, where they survived only through God’s miraculous provisions. The Hebrew word rendered as “wilderness” throughout the Old Testament is midbar. This seems to be the parallel to the wilderness of Revelation 12. In bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt to Himself [in the wilderness], God described Himself as having borne them on “eagles’ wings” (Exodus 19:4) – in a similar manner that God will give the New Testament church “two wings of a great eagle” so that she might fly into the wilderness, where she will be protected and nourished, just as the Israelites were all through their wilderness sojourn (Exodus 15:22-17:7).

The essential safety and well-being of God’s people both in the Old Testament and New Testament settings will be through God’s divine, miraculous provision. Without this, there simply is no way for the people to survive in a desert environment!

In the same way, whether God’s people are whisked away to some wilderness, or remain wherever they may be during these end-times, God can supernaturally protect and provide for His faithful children.  Any place can be a “place of safety” where God spreads His protective arms [or “wings”] over His people. Psalm 91 promises that when we are close to God in prayer, Bible study and meditating on His word [dwelling “in the secret place of the Most High,” Verse 1], we will have such security and protection in the face of all manner of harm or evil, wherever we may find ourselves.  To such a one God promises with certainty:  “He shall call, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation” (Verses15-16).

The apostle Paul admonishes us: “…It is high time to awake out of [spiritual] sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we [first] believed” (Romans 13:11). The apostle Peter, quoting Psalm 34: 12-16, wrote:

He who would love life
And see good days,
Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
And his lips from deceit,
Let him turn away from evil and do good;
Let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil. (1 Peter 3:10-12)

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
25062022

The Storge Love of God

 

In my article The Four Faces of Love I gave some space to explain one of the four faces of love, in the Greek language, which is storge. An example of this kind of love is the natural (or instinctive) love or care which a mother hen has when she squawks to call her chicks to take shelter under her brood when danger threatens, such as when a hawk flies overhead.

I was going to insert an expansion of this love of God into this article, but thought I’d rather write a separate article to explain this. So here it goes.

The picture of a mother hen was the same image Jesus Christ used of Himself in addressing His fellow-Jews: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37)!

The unknown psalmist used a similar image of God:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High [in prayer], shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Him I will trust! Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler! And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand [such as has happened in recent years due to the COVID pandemic, which has claimed the lives of millions worldwide. [See: Pandemic Pandemonium! and The Omicron Scare]; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward of the wicked. Because you made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling. For He shall give you His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample under foot. Because he has set his love upon Me [by obeying God’s commandments (John 14:15, 21; 1 John 5:2-3)], therefore I will deliver him, I will set him on high, because he has known My name, he shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him, with long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation(Psalm 91:1-16).

The “sweet psalmist (Israel’s King David) famously wrote about God’s protective love: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

This shows that God does allow us to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” – to experience life-threatening circumstances. But He tells us not to fear, for surely He will see us through and comfort us.

In what has been commonly called “the Lord’s Prayer” Jesus teaches us to ask God: “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).

James, Jesus’ half-brother, tells us: “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13). Instead, it is Satan, called the “tempter,” (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5) who tempts us by stirring up the lusts within us to commit sin or transgress God’s law. We are to ask God, as Jesus taught, to “deliver us from evil [or the evil one – Satan].

James further exhorted: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8). Indeed, too easily does sin beset or snare us (Hebrews 12:1). But we are to look to Jesus, so we can endure our temptations and triumph over them (Verse 2).

That is how the apostle Peter triumphed over his weakness. Jesus told Peter that Satan had desired to have him and to sift him as wheat (Luke 23:31). But because Peter still looked to Jesus, He saved him. Even when he lost faith to walk on water because of fear, Peter called to Christ to save him, and He did (Matthew 14:28-31).

Although Peter had denied Jesus thrice, Jesus looked on him with compassion; thus Peter cried bitterly when he realized his weakness – a show of his repentance. Thus Jesus was able to use Peter mightily to advance His cause and gospel.

As the Church of God observes the Day of Pentecost this coming 05 June, may God’s Spirit [which God poured out on Christ’s disciples on Pentecost day in A.D. 33] give you the strength to overcome whatever sin or sins you may be struggling with, and help you to obey Him and be saved! [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience and The Higher Law of the Spirit.]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
14052022
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The Strength of Sin

 

In his famous “Resurrection Chapter” (1 Corinthians 15) the apostle Paul wrote: “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law” (Verse 56).

The word “strength” (in both the KJV and the NKJV) is rendered from the Greek dunamo, from where we derive the words dynamo and dynamic – meaning or having to do with force or power, strength.

Some people, whom the apostle Peter describes as being “untaught” (KJV) or “unlearned” (NKJV) [from the Greek amathes, meaning “ignorant”] and “unstable” [from the Greek asteriktos, meaning “unfixed” or “vacillating”] were those in God’s Church who “wrest” [from the Greek strebloo, meaning wrench, torture or “pervert”] the apostle Paul’s letters, “in which are some things hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:15-16).

1 Corinthians 15:56 is one such difficult scripture. I have read about someone stating with presumed authority that Paul is here saying that, by God supposedly removing the law, sin has no more power or strength over a person, and the “sting” [from the Greek kentron, meaning “center” or point – prick with poison] of death, which sting is sin, can no longer affect man.

One can point to Romans 4:15, which says: “because the law brings about wrath: for where there is no law there is no transgression [sin].” It is thus easy to conclude: “Do away with the law, and you do away with sin!” [See: No Such Thing as Sin?]

But that is one hasty conclusion and fails to consider the whole counsel of Paul’s writings as well as all of the Scriptures.

Romans 7 is Paul’s clarification of the relationship or connection between the law and sin. True, Paul declared that, in Christ, we have “become dead to the law” (Verse 4). He also declared: “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death” (Verse 5).

Lest we be tempted to conclude that the law of God has a bad influence on us, Paul hastened to say, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said ‘You shall not covet’” (Verse 7). Paul then continued: “But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead [‘slept’]” (Verse 8).

There is a common observation about the baffling behavior of my fellow-Filipinos, which may or may not be the case with other nations. It is this: that where a notice or sign says, “Bawal Magtapon ng Basura Dito” [“No Dumping of Garbage Here”], there, precisely, we find people throwing their garbage! The same goes with the notice “Bawal Umihi Dito.” [“No Peeing Here.”]. Right there, in some corner of a building men go to relieve their bladder!

Were the notices bad in themselves? No, they were meant to maintain sanitation and order in the designated places. But somehow people find those prohibited places convenient for their purposes (or needs?), and so they disregard the intent of the notices, and that despite any penalty or fine for disobeying the instruction.

In the same vein, Paul continued: “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment [of God] holy, and just and good” (Verse 12).

Paul then analyzed the irony of our human nature. “Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin [become clear as such] was producing in me death through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful, For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to do well is present with me; but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Verses 13-20).

Pondering this quandary, Paul was driven to despair – until he found the ultimate solution: “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!

In chapter 8 Paul explains how Christ is able to help us obey the law of God. In a word, we can only do so with the help, and through the power, of Christ’s Holy Spirit. [See:  God’s Spirit and Obedience and The Higher Law of the Spirit.]

God’s law abides forever

Contrary to the belief of many professing Christians, Jesus Christ did not come to abolish the law or commandments of God. He categorically said: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven [if they get there at all!], but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven; for I say to you, that Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds…. the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Verses 17-20).

The psalmist said: “The law of God is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7). How can something perfect be done away with? God’s law – as does all His Word – abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23, quoted from Isaiah 40:6-8).) Psalm 119:142 affirms that God’s “law is the truth.” And Christ declared: “Your word is truth” (John 17:15).

As a Christian hymn says, “God’s grace [is] greater than all our sin.” The Son of God – Jesus Christ – is God’s gift [Greek, charis] of grace to sinful mankind because He died on Calvary’s cross so we can receive pardon from all our sins and thus become righteous with God, [See: The Ransomed of the LORD.]

As the Church of God observes God’s Feast of Unleavened Bread from the 16th of April through the 22nd this year, may our brethren find strength in Christ to overcome the sins that so easily beset us, thus helping us to make it to God’s glorious kingdom!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
16042022

Life After Death? Or Death Before Life?

 

Many people are obsessed with the “after life” –life after death.  Cultural practices of many countries include the placing of worldly goods and riches in the tomb of their departed ones, in the hope that the dead will be amply provided for in the “next life.” It’s a vain practice that ignores the old saying, “No, you can’t take it with you to your grave.”

In the Philippines among the archeological finds in Tabon Cave on Palawan Island is a clay piece believed to be a burial jar, the cover of which has an image of a man and his companion riding a boat – supposedly to transport them to a “better place.”

People have many mistaken ideas about What Happens to Man After Death?  However, God’s word – the Holy Bible – has a definite and unequivocal say on this matter, among others.

Another matter that the Bible is concerned with, but which only a few people think about is death before life.  There are several facets to this matter.

The most crucial facet is the death of Jesus Christ before we human beings can have life – not just physical life in this present world — but everlasting life, or immortality, as we may call it.  The second Person in the Godhead – called the Logos [Greek for “Word” or “Spokesman”] had to empty Himself of His divinity in order to become a mortal human being, so He could die to pay the penalty [“wages,” Romans 6:23] of mankind’s sin: the penalty of death. Thus man would not die or “perish” but instead have everlasting life (Philippians 2:5-8; John 3:16). Jesus offered His life on Calvary’s cross as a “ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6). [See:  The True Christ, Forgiveness in the Bible, and The Ransomed of the LORD.]

The next facet of death before life is embodied in Christ’s saying in Luke 9:23-24 – “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life [by following one’s own ways contrary to God’s] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”

The cross was the cruel Roman device to execute criminals through slow but sure death.  Christ commands that anyone who will follow Him needs to take up his own cross daily – to die to his old, sinful self every day, in order to find everlasting life [be saved].

The apostle Paul, whom Jesus especially ordained to preach His gospel, put it this way:  “Shall we continue in sin [so] that grace may abound?  Certainly not!  How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism unto death, [so] that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Paul explained that “our old man [our previous sinful life] was crucified with Him, [so] that the body of sin might be done away, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  For he who has died [to sin] has been freed from sin.  Now if we died in Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that /Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more.  Death no longer has dominion over Him.  For the death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God.  Likewise, you also reckon yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Verses 8-11).

Paul admonished:  “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your [bodily] members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Verses 12-13).  We are to become “slaves of righteousness” instead of slaves of sin or unrighteousness – uncleanness or lawlessness [Verses 17-19).  Thus we will have [the] “fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life (Verse 22).

It is such people – true Christians – who, though now physically dead [who “sleep in the dust”] will “awake… to everlasting life” and “will shine like the brightness of the firmament…like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:2-3).

Jesus spoke of this same event:  “…all who are in the graves will hear His [Christ’s] voice and come forth [arise] – those who have done good [the righteous], to the resurrection of life [everlasting]” (John 5:28-29).

Paul confirmed these words when he wrote about the “coming of the Lord,” when “He will descend from heaven with a cloud, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we [Christians] who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord [in His kingdom on earth]” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

Paul also wrote about this in his famous “resurrection chapter” – 1 Corinthians 15, especially Verses 51-55.

Another facet of the matter of death before life concerns everyone.  Paul declared:  “…it is appointed [by God] for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).  That judgment comes when Christ, the Judge of both the living and the dead” returns to judge the earth (Psalm 98:9; Acts 10:42).

Those who have died without Christ in their lives will be resurrected to mortal life at the end of Christ’s 1000-year reign on earth (Revelation 20:5).  [See:  This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.]  This will be their opportunity to have God’s book [Greek biblia] – the Holy Bible – opened to their understanding (Verse 12), so that, as they would, their names would be written in The Book of Life (Verse 15), assured of receiving everlasting life.

Death before life will be celebrated by faithful Christians this year as they observe God’s commanded festival of the Passover, picturing Jesus’ supreme sacrifice at Calvary’s cross.  This ceremony will be observed in the evening of April 9.  The rest of God’s “spring festivals” – the Days of Unleavened Bread – pictures the Christians’ need to put away sin in their lives, to be observed on April 11-16.

May all of you who read this article become true participants in this arduous journey from death to glorious life!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
19032022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life After Death? Or Death Before Life?

Many people are obsessed with the “after life” –life after death. Cultural practices of many countries include the placing of worldly goods and riches in the tomb of their departed ones, in the hope that the dead will be amply provided for in the “next life.” It’s a vain practice that ignores the old saying, “No, you can’t take it with you to your grave.”
In the Philippines among the archeological finds in Tabon Cave on Palawan Island is a clay piece believed to be a burial jar, the cover of which has an image of a man riding a boat – supposedly to transport him to a “better place.”
People have many mistaken ideas about What Happens to Man After Death? However, God’s word – the Holy Bible – has a definite and unequivocal say on this matter, among others.
Another matter that the Bible is concerned with, but which only a few people think about is death before life. There are several facets to this matter.
The most crucial facet is the death of Jesus Christ before we human beings can have life – not just physical life in this present world — but everlasting life, or immortality, as we may call it. The second Person in the Godhead – called the Logos [Greek for “Word” or “Spokesman”] had to empty Himself of His divinity in order to become a mortal human being, so He could die to pay the penalty [“wages,” Romans 6:23] of mankind’s sin: the penalty of death. Thus man would not die or “perish” but instead have everlasting life (Philippians 2:5-8; John 3:16). Jesus offered His life on Calvary’s cross as a “ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6). [See: The True Christ, Forgiveness in the New Testament, and The Ransomed of the LORD.]
The next facet of death before life is embodied in Christ’s saying in Luke 9:23-24 – “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life [by following one’s own ways contrary to God’s] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
The cross was the cruel Roman device to execute criminals through slow but sure death. Christ commands that anyone who will follow Him needs to take up his own cross daily – to die to his old, sinful self every day, in order to find everlasting life [be saved].
The apostle Paul, whom Jesus especially ordained to preach His gospel, put it this way: “Shall we continue in sin [so] that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? Threfore we were buried with Him through baptism unto death, [so] that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

Paul explained that “our old man [our previous sinful life] was crucified with Him, [so] that the body of sin might be done away, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died [to sin] has been freed from sin. Now if we died in Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that /Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. Likewise, you also reckon yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Verses 8-11).
Paul admonished: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your [bodily] members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Verses 12-13). We are to become “slaves of righteousness” instead of slaves of sin or unrighteousness – uncleanness or lawlessness [Verses 17-19). Thus we will have [the] “fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life (Vewrse 22).
It is such people – true Christians – who, though now physically dead [who “sleep in the dust”] will “awake… to everlasting life” and “will shine like the brightness of the firmament…like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:2-3).
Jesus spoke of this same event: “…all who are in the graves will hear His [Christ’s] voice and come forth [arise] – those who have done good [the righteous], to the resurrection of life [everlasting]” (John 5:28-29).
Paul confirmed these words when he wrote about the “coming of the Lord,” when “He will descend from heaven with a cloud, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first, b Then we [Christians] who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord [in His kingdom on earth]” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
Paul also wrote about this in his famous “resurrection chapter” – 1 Corinthians 15, especially Verses 51-55.
Another facet of the matter of death before life concerns everyone. Paul declared: “…it is appointed [by God] for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27|). That judgment comes when Christ, he Judge of both the living and the dead” returns to judge the earth (Psalm 98:9; Acts 10:42).
Those who have died without Christ in their lives will be resurrected to mortal life at the end of Christ’s 1000-year reign on earth (Revelation 20:5). [See: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.] This will be their opportunity to have God’s book [Greek biblia] – the Holy Bible – opened to their understanding (Verse 12), so that, as they would, their names would be written in God’s Book of Life (Verse 15), assured og receiving everlasting life.
Death before life will be celebrated by faithful Christians this year as they observe God’s commanded festival of the Passover, picturing Jesus’ supreme sacrifice at Calvary’s cross. This ceremony will be observed in the evening of April 9. The rest of God’s “spring festivals” – the Days of Unleavened Bread – pictures the Christians’ need to put away sin in their lives, to be observed on April 11-16.
May all of you who read this article become true participants in this arduous journey from death to glorious life!

Pedro R. Melendez, Jr.
19032022

Life After Death? Or Death Before Life?

Many people are obsessed with the “after life” –life after death. Cultural practices of many countries include the placing of worldly goods and riches in the tomb of their departed ones, in the hope that the dead will be amply provided for in the “next life.” It’s a vain practice that ignores the old saying, “No, you can’t take it with you to your grave.”
In the Philippines among the archeological finds in Tabon Cave on Palawan Island is a clay piece believed to be a burial jar, the cover of which has an image of a man riding a boat – supposedly to transport him to a “better place.”
People have many mistaken ideas about What Happens to Man After Death? However, God’s word – the Holy Bible – has a definite and unequivocal say on this matter, among others.
Another matter that the Bible is concerned with, but which only a few people think about is death before life. There are several facets to this matter.
The most crucial facet is the death of Jesus Christ before we human beings can have life – not just physical life in this present world — but everlasting life, or immortality, as we may call it. The second Person in the Godhead – called the Logos [Greek for “Word” or “Spokesman”] had to empty Himself of His divinity in order to become a mortal human being, so He could die to pay the penalty [“wages,” Romans 6:23] of mankind’s sin: the penalty of death. Thus man would not die or “perish” but instead have everlasting life (Philippians 2:5-8; John 3:16). Jesus offered His life on Calvary’s cross as a “ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6). [See: The True Christ, Forgiveness in the New Testament, and The Ransomed of the LORD.]
The next facet of death before life is embodied in Christ’s saying in Luke 9:23-24 – “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life [by following one’s own ways contrary to God’s] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
The cross was the cruel Roman device to execute criminals through slow but sure death. Christ commands that anyone who will follow Him needs to take up his own cross daily – to die to his old, sinful self every day, in order to find everlasting life [be saved].
The apostle Paul, whom Jesus especially ordained to preach His gospel, put it this way: “Shall we continue in sin [so] that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? Threfore we were buried with Him through baptism unto death, [so] that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

Paul explained that “our old man [our previous sinful life] was crucified with Him, [so] that the body of sin might be done away, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died [to sin] has been freed from sin. Now if we died in Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that /Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. Likewise, you also reckon yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Verses 8-11).
Paul admonished: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your [bodily] members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Verses 12-13). We are to become “slaves of righteousness” instead of slaves of sin or unrighteousness – uncleanness or lawlessness [Verses 17-19). Thus we will have [the] “fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life (Vewrse 22).
It is such people – true Christians – who, though now physically dead [who “sleep in the dust”] will “awake… to everlasting life” and “will shine like the brightness of the firmament…like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:2-3).
Jesus spoke of this same event: “…all who are in the graves will hear His [Christ’s] voice and come forth [arise] – those who have done good [the righteous], to the resurrection of life [everlasting]” (John 5:28-29).
Paul confirmed these words when he wrote about the “coming of the Lord,” when “He will descend from heaven with a cloud, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first, b Then we [Christians] who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord [in His kingdom on earth]” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
Paul also wrote about this in his famous “resurrection chapter” – 1 Corinthians 15, especially Verses 51-55.
Another facet of the matter of death before life concerns everyone. Paul declared: “…it is appointed [by God] for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27|). That judgment comes when Christ, he Judge of both the living and the dead” returns to judge the earth (Psalm 98:9; Acts 10:42).
Those who have died without Christ in their lives will be resurrected to mortal life at the end of Christ’s 1000-year reign on earth (Revelation 20:5). [See: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.] This will be their opportunity to have God’s book [Greek biblia] – the Holy Bible – opened to their understanding (Verse 12), so that, as they would, their names would be written in God’s Book of Life (Verse 15), assured og receiving everlasting life.
Death before life will be celebrated by faithful Christians this year as they observe God’s commanded festival of the Passover, picturing Jesus’ supreme sacrifice at Calvary’s cross. This ceremony will be observed in the evening of April 9. The rest of God’s “spring festivals” – the Days of Unleavened Bread – pictures the Christians’ need to put away sin in their lives, to be observed on April 11-16.
May all of you who read this article become true participants in this arduous journey from death to glorious life!

Pedro R. Melendez, Jr.
19032022

Life After Death? Or Death Before Life?

Many people are obsessed with the “after life” –life after death. Cultural practices of many countries include the placing of worldly goods and riches in the tomb of their departed ones, in the hope that the dead will be amply provided for in the “next life.” It’s a vain practice that ignores the old saying, “No, you can’t take it with you to your grave.”
In the Philippines among the archeological finds in Tabon Cave on Palawan Island is a clay piece believed to be a burial jar, the cover of which has an image of a man riding a boat – supposedly to transport him to a “better place.”
People have many mistaken ideas about What Happens to Man After Death? However, God’s word – the Holy Bible – has a definite and unequivocal say on this matter, among others.
Another matter that the Bible is concerned with, but which only a few people think about is death before life. There are several facets to this matter.
The most crucial facet is the death of Jesus Christ before we human beings can have life – not just physical life in this present world — but everlasting life, or immortality, as we may call it. The second Person in the Godhead – called the Logos [Greek for “Word” or “Spokesman”] had to empty Himself of His divinity in order to become a mortal human being, so He could die to pay the penalty [“wages,” Romans 6:23] of mankind’s sin: the penalty of death. Thus man would not die or “perish” but instead have everlasting life (Philippians 2:5-8; John 3:16). Jesus offered His life on Calvary’s cross as a “ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6). [See: The True Christ, Forgiveness in the New Testament, and The Ransomed of the LORD.]
The next facet of death before life is embodied in Christ’s saying in Luke 9:23-24 – “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life [by following one’s own ways contrary to God’s] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
The cross was the cruel Roman device to execute criminals through slow but sure death. Christ commands that anyone who will follow Him needs to take up his own cross daily – to die to his old, sinful self every day, in order to find everlasting life [be saved].
The apostle Paul, whom Jesus especially ordained to preach His gospel, put it this way: “Shall we continue in sin [so] that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? Threfore we were buried with Him through baptism unto death, [so] that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

Paul explained that “our old man [our previous sinful life] was crucified with Him, [so] that the body of sin might be done away, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died [to sin] has been freed from sin. Now if we died in Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that /Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. Likewise, you also reckon yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Verses 8-11).
Paul admonished: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your [bodily] members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Verses 12-13). We are to become “slaves of righteousness” instead of slaves of sin or unrighteousness – uncleanness or lawlessness [Verses 17-19). Thus we will have [the] “fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life (Vewrse 22).
It is such people – true Christians – who, though now physically dead [who “sleep in the dust”] will “awake… to everlasting life” and “will shine like the brightness of the firmament…like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:2-3).
Jesus spoke of this same event: “…all who are in the graves will hear His [Christ’s] voice and come forth [arise] – those who have done good [the righteous], to the resurrection of life [everlasting]” (John 5:28-29).
Paul confirmed these words when he wrote about the “coming of the Lord,” when “He will descend from heaven with a cloud, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first, b Then we [Christians] who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord [in His kingdom on earth]” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
Paul also wrote about this in his famous “resurrection chapter” – 1 Corinthians 15, especially Verses 51-55.
Another facet of the matter of death before life concerns everyone. Paul declared: “…it is appointed [by God] for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27|). That judgment comes when Christ, he Judge of both the living and the dead” returns to judge the earth (Psalm 98:9; Acts 10:42).
Those who have died without Christ in their lives will be resurrected to mortal life at the end of Christ’s 1000-year reign on earth (Revelation 20:5). [See: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.] This will be their opportunity to have God’s book [Greek biblia] – the Holy Bible – opened to their understanding (Verse 12), so that, as they would, their names would be written in God’s Book of Life (Verse 15), assured og receiving everlasting life.
Death before life will be celebrated by faithful Christians this year as they observe God’s commanded festival of the Passover, picturing Jesus’ supreme sacrifice at Calvary’s cross. This ceremony will be observed in the evening of April 9. The rest of God’s “spring festivals” – the Days of Unleavened Bread – pictures the Christians’ need to put away sin in their lives, to be observed on April 11-16.
May all of you who read this article become true participants in this arduous journey from death to glorious life!

Pedro R. Melendez, Jr.
19032022

Life After Death? Or Death Before Life?

Many people are obsessed with the “after life” –life after death. Cultural practices of many countries include the placing of worldly goods and riches in the tomb of their departed ones, in the hope that the dead will be amply provided for in the “next life.” It’s a vain practice that ignores the old saying, “No, you can’t take it with you to your grave.”
In the Philippines among the archeological finds in Tabon Cave on Palawan Island is a clay piece believed to be a burial jar, the cover of which has an image of a man riding a boat – supposedly to transport him to a “better place.”
People have many mistaken ideas about What Happens to Man After Death? However, God’s word – the Holy Bible – has a definite and unequivocal say on this matter, among others.
Another matter that the Bible is concerned with, but which only a few people think about is death before life. There are several facets to this matter.
The most crucial facet is the death of Jesus Christ before we human beings can have life – not just physical life in this present world — but everlasting life, or immortality, as we may call it. The second Person in the Godhead – called the Logos [Greek for “Word” or “Spokesman”] had to empty Himself of His divinity in order to become a mortal human being, so He could die to pay the penalty [“wages,” Romans 6:23] of mankind’s sin: the penalty of death. Thus man would not die or “perish” but instead have everlasting life (Philippians 2:5-8; John 3:16). Jesus offered His life on Calvary’s cross as a “ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6). [See: The True Christ, Forgiveness in the New Testament, and The Ransomed of the LORD.]
The next facet of death before life is embodied in Christ’s saying in Luke 9:23-24 – “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life [by following one’s own ways contrary to God’s] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
The cross was the cruel Roman device to execute criminals through slow but sure death. Christ commands that anyone who will follow Him needs to take up his own cross daily – to die to his old, sinful self every day, in order to find everlasting life [be saved].
The apostle Paul, whom Jesus especially ordained to preach His gospel, put it this way: “Shall we continue in sin [so] that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? Threfore we were buried with Him through baptism unto death, [so] that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

Paul explained that “our old man [our previous sinful life] was crucified with Him, [so] that the body of sin might be done away, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died [to sin] has been freed from sin. Now if we died in Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that /Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. Likewise, you also reckon yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Verses 8-11).
Paul admonished: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your [bodily] members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Verses 12-13). We are to become “slaves of righteousness” instead of slaves of sin or unrighteousness – uncleanness or lawlessness [Verses 17-19). Thus we will have [the] “fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life (Vewrse 22).
It is such people – true Christians – who, though now physically dead [who “sleep in the dust”] will “awake… to everlasting life” and “will shine like the brightness of the firmament…like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:2-3).
Jesus spoke of this same event: “…all who are in the graves will hear His [Christ’s] voice and come forth [arise] – those who have done good [the righteous], to the resurrection of life [everlasting]” (John 5:28-29).
Paul confirmed these words when he wrote about the “coming of the Lord,” when “He will descend from heaven with a cloud, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first, b Then we [Christians] who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord [in His kingdom on earth]” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
Paul also wrote about this in his famous “resurrection chapter” – 1 Corinthians 15, especially Verses 51-55.
Another facet of the matter of death before life concerns everyone. Paul declared: “…it is appointed [by God] for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27|). That judgment comes when Christ, he Judge of both the living and the dead” returns to judge the earth (Psalm 98:9; Acts 10:42).
Those who have died without Christ in their lives will be resurrected to mortal life at the end of Christ’s 1000-year reign on earth (Revelation 20:5). [See: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.] This will be their opportunity to have God’s book [Greek biblia] – the Holy Bible – opened to their understanding (Verse 12), so that, as they would, their names would be written in God’s Book of Life (Verse 15), assured og receiving everlasting life.
Death before life will be celebrated by faithful Christians this year as they observe God’s commanded festival of the Passover, picturing Jesus’ supreme sacrifice at Calvary’s cross. This ceremony will be observed in the evening of April 9. The rest of God’s “spring festivals” – the Days of Unleavened Bread – pictures the Christians’ need to put away sin in their lives, to be observed on April 11-16.
May all of you who read this article become true participants in this arduous journey from death to glorious life!

 

Many people are obsessed with the “after life” –life after death. Cultural practices of many countries include the placing of worldly goods and riches in the tomb of their departed ones, in the hope that the dead will be amply provided for in the “next life.” It’s a vain practice that ignores the old saying, “No, you can’t take it with you to your grave.”

In the Philippines among the archeological finds in Tabon Cave on Palawan Island is a clay piece believed to be a burial jar, the cover of which has an image of a man riding a boat – supposedly to transport him to a “better place.”

People have many mistaken ideas about What Happens to Man After

Many people are obsessed with the “after life” –life after death. Cultural practices of many countries include the placing of worldly goods and riches in the tomb of their departed ones, in the hope that the dead will be amply provided for in the “next life.” It’s a vain practice that ignores the old saying, “No, you can’t take it with you to your grave.”

In the Philippines among the archeological finds in Tabon Cave on Palawan Island is a clay piece believed to be a burial jar, the cover of which has an image of a man riding a boat – supposedly to transport him to a “better place.”

People have many mistaken ideas about What Happens to Man After Death? However, God’s word – the Holy Bible – has a definite and unequivocal say on this matter, among others.

Another matter that the Bible is concerned with, but which only a few people think about is death before life. There are several facets to this matter.

The most crucial facet is the death of Jesus Christ before we human beings can have life – not just physical life in this present world — but everlasting life, or immortality, as we may call it. The second Person in the Godhead – called the Logos [Greek for “Word” or “Spokesman”] had to empty Himself of His divinity in order to become a mortal human being, so He could die to pay the penalty [“wages,” Romans 6:23] of mankind’s sin: the penalty of death. Thus man would not die or “perish” but instead have everlasting life (Philippians 2:5-8; John 3:16). Jesus offered His life on Calvary’s cross as a “ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6). [See: The True Christ, Forgiveness in the Bible, and The Ransomed of the LORD.]

The next facet of death before life is embodied in Christ’s saying in Luke 9:23-24 – “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life [by following one’s own ways contrary to God’s] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”

The cross was the cruel Roman device to execute criminals through slow but sure death. Christ commands that anyone who will follow Him needs to take up his own cross daily – to die to his old, sinful self every day, in order to find everlasting life [be saved].

The apostle Paul, whom Jesus especially ordained to preach His gospel, put it this way: “Shall we continue in sin [so] that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism unto death, [so] that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

Paul explained that “our old man [our previous sinful life] was crucified with Him, [so] that the body of sin might be done away, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died [to sin] has been freed from sin. Now if we died in Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that /Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. Likewise, you also reckon yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Verses 8-11).

Paul admonished: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your [bodily] members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Verses 12-13). We are to become “slaves of righteousness” instead of slaves of sin or unrighteousness – uncleanness or lawlessness [Verses 17-19). Thus we will have [the] “fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life (Verse 22).

It is such people – true Christians – who, though now physically dead [who “sleep in the dust”] will “awake… to everlasting life” and “will shine like the brightness of the firmament…like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:2-3).

Jesus spoke of this same event: “…all who are in the graves will hear His [Christ’s] voice and come forth [arise] – those who have done good [the righteous], to the resurrection of life [everlasting]” (John 5:28-29).

Paul confirmed these words when he wrote about the “coming of the Lord,” when “He will descend from heaven with a cloud, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we [Christians] who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord [in His kingdom on earth]” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

Paul also wrote about this in his famous “resurrection chapter” – 1 Corinthians 15, especially Verses 51-55.

Another facet of the matter of death before life concerns everyone. Paul declared: “…it is appointed [by God] for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27|). That judgment comes when Christ, he Judge of both the living and the dead” returns to judge the earth (Psalm 98:9; Acts 10:42).

Those who have died without Christ in their lives will be resurrected to mortal life at the end of Christ’s 1000-year reign on earth (Revelation 20:5). [See: This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.] This will be their opportunity to have God’s book [Greek biblia] – the Holy Bible – opened to their understanding (Verse 12), so that, as they would, their names would be written in The Book of Life (Verse 15), assured of receiving everlasting life.

Death before life will be celebrated by faithful Christians this year as they observe God’s commanded festival of the Passover, picturing Jesus’ supreme sacrifice at Calvary’s cross. This ceremony will be observed in the evening of April 9. The rest of God’s “spring festivals” – the Days of Unleavened Bread – pictures the Christians’ need to put away sin in their lives, to be observed on April 11-16.

May all of you who read this article become true participants in this arduous journey from death to glorious life!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
19032022

 

 

Pleasures Forevermore

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. — Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)

In today’s society people seem bent on getting as much pleasure as they can, while they can. From the most exotic gourmet foods, to the latest computer games, to the most avant-garde of fashion, people seem to be on an endless quest for more. But, after the momentary thrill or fun is over, most feel a sense of emptiness.

Why is this?

It’s fine as long as the pleasure comes from doing what is right and good in God’s sight. As it has been said, fun that’s good is fun today and still fun tomorrow. But in more cases than not, people get pleasure from doing what is wrong or sinful in God’s view.

Hebrews 11:24-25 [NKJV, throughout] speaks about the Israelite leader Moses, a man of faith who, “when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin…” The KJV renders the last phrase as “the pleasures of sin for a season.” The pleasures don’t last! And they could be fraught with guilt, conflict and confusion.

The pleasurable sin may be gorging on the most exotic menu of meat forbidden by God’s law [Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14; see: Did Christ Cleanse All Meats?], indulging in sexual acts contrary to God’s law [see: The Faces of Love, The Rainbow Connection and The Deceitfulness of Sin], and the list of such pleasures can be quite long.

The pleasures of sin are often intense, accompanied by some physical, emotional and psychological highs. Even if people engage in lawful or legitimate pleasures, there is an end to the experience. Like music that starts slow then builds up in tempo to a crescendo and a climax, it suddenly ends, or softly fades away – and then it’s all over. Then silence! God’s word says that everything we might enjoy in this present age will all “perish with the using” (Colossians 2:22).

We sing about “Endless Love.” But is there really such a thing? Lovers may relish a long relationship, but how can their love last forever when one or both of the partners eventually die, as God has appointed for all men (Hebrews 9:27)? [See:  What Happens to Man After Death?]

Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 declares the grim end of all human experiences: “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten, Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished. Nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.”

How can pleasures last forevermore?

In order for anyone to enjoy pleasures forevermore, one has — first of all – to have or receive everlasting life! That’s what it means to be able to stand in the presence of God in His full glory, as Psalm 16:121 says – for no mortal man can see God’s full glory and live (Exodus 33:17-20).

How then can we have everlasting life? That exactly was the question which a rich young man asked Jesus. Notice what Jesus told him: “…if you want to enter into life [everlasting], keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:16-17).

By our own human merits and power we cannot possibly keep God’s commandments. The apostle Paul wrote: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7).

It takes the Holy Spirit of God and of Christ to work in our minds and bodies so we can obey God’s commandments and thus live forever (Verse 13). [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience and The Higher Law of the Spirit.]

Isaiah 35:10 promises: “And The Ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads, they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

They will experience such joy that God and His angels in heaven have, as when even a single sinner truly repents (Luke 15:7, 10). As the ransomed and redeemed of Christ, true Christians will rule with Him at His return to earth (Revelation 20:6). They will help Him teach surviving mankind the way of God and lead them to repentance. What boundless joy they will experience as these mortal subjects of Christ’s rule come to repentance and eventually receive everlasting life also.

This is everlasting joy, with pleasures forevermore that all will enjoy in God’s glorious kingdom. Quoting Isaiah 64:4, Paul wrote: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9). What a magnificent and glorious future awaits all true Christians, who love God and keep His commandments (John 14:15, 21; 1 John 5:2-3).

Can we even begin to fathom the joys and pleasures which we as Christ’s true followers will experience forever in God’s presence? Can you imagine what pleasures we will enjoy in God’s presence?

• While we will no longer marry nor experience the delights of marital sex (Matthew 22:30), who knows what greater pure ecstasy will be ours in the loving embrace of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and other members of God’s divine family?
• As divine, immortal beings in God’s kingdom, we will not need food for sustenance. But Revelation 22:1-2 describes the “tree of life” in New Jerusalem, the eternal City of God. The tree will bear twelve kinds of fruit, one each month. The family of God will eat the fruit for the sheer pleasure of it such as we’ve never savored in this present life. The tree’s leaves will be for the healing or health of the nations. There will be “no sickness, toil, or danger in that bright world” to which we go (as the American spiritual song says, reflecting Revelation 21:4 and Isaiah 35:10).
• Excellent wines, taken moderately, are one of life’s delectable pleasures. Judges 9:13 says that wine “…cheers both God and man.” Jesus’ first recorded miracle was turning water into wine – and that of superior quality too (John 2:1-10).
• Fine, beautiful music is one of the human delights of this present life. Can it ever surpass the pleasures of heavenly and angelic music? Can the gifted in God’s divine family compose and make even more sublime music (Isaiah 35:10; 51:3)?
• God will re-landscape the earth and restore its Eden-like beauty (Isaiah 51:3).
• What excitement can we look forward to as we join God in “planting” the heavens (Isaiah 51:16)—perhaps starting new creations (Revelation 21:5)?

Meanwhile, we may – and will – suffer troubles while in this present world (Acts 14:22). But let’s take courage from Paul’s testimony: “For I consider that the sufferings of thus present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18) – the “redemption of our body” [from death and decay] (Verse 23). Paul also comforts us: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians10:13).

With the power of God’s Spirit we can overcome the temptations of Satan and his demons, the pulls of our evil society and our carnal, fleshly selves—all that could hinder us from making it to God’s glorious kingdom. [See: Does God Require Us to Do the Impossible?]

Let us overcome and endure to the end, and we will be saved (Matthew 24:13) – have everlasting life in Christ’s kingdom, and there enjoy pleasures forevermore in God’s presence!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
25022022

The Faces of Love

 

In most parts of the world February is celebrated as “the month of the heart” or “the month of love.” This is a good time, as any, to learn more about the different faces or facets of “love” and thus practice them faithfully in our lives.

The word “love” has been overused and often abused. People say, “I love flowers, noodles” – or what have you. All they really mean is that they have a fondness or appreciation for such things as they like.

The Greeks have three or four words that express the different aspects or faces of love. Let us take them up one by one, and see what light the Bible – God’s word – can shed on them.

First, we have the Greek word eros. In the Greek pantheon of gods, Eros was the god of love. From eros we derive the word “erotic” – meaning having to do with the sexual act. Some call this “romantic” love.

In His original intent and design God purposed that erotic love should be between a man and his duly married wife. In Genesis 1:27 [NKJV, throughout] we read: “So God created man in His own image: in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Verse 28 continues: “Then God blessed them, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

From this we learn that from the beginning God intended that a man and a woman – in marriage, as we shall see later – reproduce their kind [“mankind”] through the sexual capacity He gave each one to produce offspring – to bear “fruit,” be “fruitful” and “multiply” in numbers.

Genesis 2 details God’s creation of woman after He had created man [Adam]. Verses 19-20 show how Adam was given the task of naming all the other creatures, but none of them was found to be compatible with him. God saw this and said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to [appropriate or fitting for] him” (Verse 18).

Verses 21-22 show how God then created woman out of the man’s rib and presented her to Adam, saying: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Thus God thereby instituted marriage between a man and his wife.

The phrase “one flesh” is explained elsewhere in the Bible as having sexual union or intercourse [see 1 Corinthians 6:15-16]. Genesis 4:1 says: “Adam knew his wife [a reference to having sexual or “erotic” relation], and she conceived [became pregnant with child].” This sexual union, done in love, also binds the couple more strongly to each other.

To protect this God-intended marriage between a man and his wife, God commanded: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). Thus God prohibits having sexual [erotic] relationship with some other person than one’s spouse. To do so destroys the couple’s relationship and adversely affects their children and family.

Furthermore, God instructs, through the apostle Paul: “The wife does not have authority [KJV, “power”] over her own body, but her husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:4). Paul also wrote: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality, that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel [one’s wife] in sanctification [holiness] and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” ( 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).

Thus, any manner of sexual activity except that between a husband and his wife is prohibited, not approved of, by God. This includes self-masturbation, adultery, homosexuality, incest, bestiality (all of the latter four forbidden in Leviticus 18:6-20, 23-24; 20:10-15, 17, 19-21).

Abstention from any sexual or erotic activity outside of marriage may be a formidable challenge. But it is something God can help us with (Matthew 19:3-12). [See: The Rainbow Connection and Does God Require Us to Do the Impossible?]

The next face of love is philia. From this we derive the word “filial love” – love for one’s family. “Phila” is used as a prefix to indicate “love for.” Thus: “Philadelphia” [brotherly love] and “philosophy” [love for wisdom], etc.

Caring for one’s own is a natural drive God placed in man to help preserve oneself and one’s family. The Greeks have another word for this: storge. We see this even in the animal kingdom, as when a mother hen squawks to her chicks to get them to hide under her brood when a hawk flies overhead, or if some other danger threatens. Male lions guard the territory of their family [called “pride”] from invaders, and with the lioness bring in meat for their young ones or cubs.

Even non-Christian people have a natural drive to provide for their own family. That is why it is a shame and reproach for a Christian man, especially a husband or father, to fail to perform this duty. Paul told Christians: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1Timothy 5:8).

There is nothing sexual, as such, about philia. However, it has been used in some English words to denote forbidden sex, as in pedophilia [engaging in sexual acts with children, boys or girls] and philandering [having sex with a person other then one’s spouse – adultery]. These acts do not express true, God-ordained love.

The last and noblest face of love is agape. It is the kind of love that God has for mankind – a love given to someone not deserving of it. In a famous Bible verse we read: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Verse 5 continues: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Paul wrote: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly…But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified [made righteous] by His blood, we shall be saved from [God’s] wrath through Him. For if when were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:6-10). And: “[We are] justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation [payment for sin] by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith [who believes] in Jesus” (Romans 3:24-26).

In return, God expects us to love [agape] Him also. He has made that possible “…because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit [that] was given to us” (Romans 5:5). The gospel writer John [also called “the apostle of love”] wrote: “By this we know that we love [agapeo] the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3). Quoting Jesus, John also wrote: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (Verse 21).

We could sing “I love You, Lord” as much as we can, but if we don’t keep Jesus’ commandments, we don’t really love Him! [See: The Law of Christ and The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love.] True love involves obedience to God’s commandments and laws. The essence of God’s law is love for God and for one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40; Romans 13:8-10).

With this knowledge I trust that you will “…increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we [Paul and company] do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
21022022