Whole Bible Christianity

It's a God Thing

 

God

The Word in Deuteronomy 6:4 says "Adonai Elohaynoo, Adonai echad," which means YHVH, your God, YHVH is One. The word for one here (Hebrew echad) means Unity, which implies that He is or has a manifold (many-fold) or multiplied fullness or presence, existence and manifestation. He is unlimited, outside of time and unbounded by material restraint, yet able and willing to operate within physical boundaries if He so chooses. He has no form in the sense of restriction to a particular representation, yet His structure is perfect and balanced, holy and pure. There is no shadow of turning in Him; His Word is fixed and unalterable, acting as a foundation for the creation of worlds and galaxies. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thrice holy, complete, and in need of nothing. He is the First and the Last, never beginning and never ending.

More on this topic can be found in the article elsewhere on this site titled Who's Running This Place?

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Faith

Faith has two parts - 'trust' and 'obedience.' It has to have an object, which is God and His Word for believers. We show that we trust God by being obedient to His Word. Faith is trusting obedience to the Father’s will as expressed and revealed in His Word. We enter into His Kingdom and we maintain our presence there by faith. No work can gain entrance for us, and lack of works cannot remove us. However, Faith must be accompanied by some sort of action or actions. Without works faith is dead. Faith is not just mental agreement to an idea (mere 'belief') but a life lived out according to our Father's Instructions (Torah).

Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. James 2:17 NASB95

God is the originator and finisher of our faith. It is a gift that is given according to His plan (Romans 12:3). We do not hold on to it by self-effort, nor can we earn it by self-effort of any kind. Faith is given to all men; it is the proper exercise of this gift of faith that saves us.

A person may 'believe' a train is coming, but if they don't get off the tracks do they really have 'faith?'

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Salvation

The first moment of salvation is the start of a renewed relationship to God that we obtain by His Grace and through the Faith of the Messiah. Our salvation is secure because it rests on God's Word, not because of any worth or action on our part. Related words are 'righteousness,' 'justice,' and 'redemption.'

However, salvation is only assured by continuing in trusting obedience to the Word of God. According to Scripture such as Matthew 13 (Parable of the Sower), some people will receive the Word gladly but will not continue for whatever reason. These people will fall away, but those that belong to Him will continue in Him. Those that continue are the over-comers mentioned in several other Scriptures.

Fortunately, He has not appointed any man as 'salvation police' in order to judge or condemn a person’s place in the Kingdom. Our goal is to exhort, encourage, correct, teach, and discipline our fellow Kingdom citizens. We promote community to help us edify the others that are part of the body, not to pass judgment on their condition.

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Bible Interpretation

The system of Bible Interpretation used by our ministry is the Literal. We define literal as the plain meaning intended by the author. Even though a number of different types of literature are used by the authors of Scripture (such as allegory, poetry, apocalyptic) these different types are clearly defined by the context. There is only one meaning intended by the author and that is the meaning we must try to discover from the text.

There are, of course, many applications that can be drawn from Scripture, up to and including personal applications (what does it mean to me). However, these applications should never be taught as Scripture. Far too often people find what they think is 'meaning' in the text then turn around and teach it as Scripture, when in fact what they found was a personal application. Scripture interprets Scripture, and one part of Scripture cannot override another. It is a harmonious whole and exhibits a progressive revelation. Most of the meaning in Scripture can be understood without the help of a scholar although it may take some time and effort on the part of the reader to uncover it.

The Bible is inerrant (without error) in the original languages. In some translations a few spelling or grammar errors have crept in but there is enough text in the whole Book, and enough older texts, to eliminate any substantial error through comparison and context. The English language translations are good enough that the bulk of what the Bible teaches is plainly understood if one speaks English. There is no reason to reject any of the accepted Protestant cannon, except those sections already clearly noted by the majority of translators.

See also the section elsewhere on this site called Interpretation for a extended descriptions of the literal and other methods of interpretation.

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Legalism

This word or term is an English construct and there is no direct equivalent in Greek or Hebrew. However, it does serve to help us describe in a shorthand fashion the concept of earning merit from God through observance of a command or series of commands; merit earned through genetics; or the attempt to earn merit enough for salvation in any fashion. The problem is we cannot earn salvation from God as if it were wages that are due to us for working or being born to a particular tribal family.

But this does not eliminate the expectation of working, as best as we are able, to do everything our loving God and Father requires. Legalism does not describe the act of following God's Laws or Instructions. Almost any practice can be considered legalistic, and as a matter of fact a person can be legalistic about grace if he or she wasn't careful. It is a sad fact that most of the congregations who have thrown out God's Laws (all or part) have replaced His simple Instructions with much more complicated, legalistic systems of man-made laws.

These man-made laws have caused no end of division and strife. Wearing certain clothes or hats (or head coverings), singing only certain types of songs, no instruments allowed, only some instruments allowed, acceptable forms of communion, unacceptable forms of baptism, and even how the seats are arranged are examples of the complicated replacements for God's Law that have been manufactured. Most of these laws are not spelled out in the Scriptures but have become like the traditions of men that Jesus spoke against in the Word.

And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition." Mark 7:6-9 NASB

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Two house

The concept of Two Houses is taught in the Word when speaking of the reunification of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Two Houses are called Judah and Ephraim, referring to the split between the southernmost tribes in the Land (Judah and Benjamin) and the northern ten tribes (Israel or Ephraim) starting right after Solomon died. Ephraim went into captivity by the Assyrians about 150 years before Babylon captured Judah because they were quicker to depart from the ways of God than Judah.

All of this is pretty much unarguable. The controversy comes in when people try to identify the members of one tribe or another. Some teach that Christians are descendants of Ephraim because the ten tribes never really returned to the Land of Israel as a group. They seemed to keep migrating into Europe, intermarrying and dispersing into the general world population and losing their Israel identity, giving rise to the term 'lost tribes'.The same people teach that Jews are only descended from Judah. Some do not make an issue of genetics at all. See the articles under Identity Issues for more explanation.

We believe that the Two House teaching is legitimate when speaking of the twelve tribes, but that the Bible does not instruct us to identify the members nor does it instruct us to work for the reunification of the twelve tribes. Another obvious point in disagreement with the Two House teachings is that most Jews do not know which tribe they are from, indicating that God has already blended the two sticks of Ezekiel into one. In all cases the reunification is also said to be a work of God in His power and His timing.

The Bible also mentions people from every nation and tongue being saints, which includes Gentiles. The Two House teachers have made a mistake in our opinion by focusing on Two Houses instead of the One House of the Remnant. However, their zeal is understandable in view of the fact that many Jews (even believing Jews) reject their fellow Gentile citizens in the Kingdom. They do this by teaching that Torah is only for Jews and relegating the Torah-submissive Gentile to second-class status because they are not Jewish. We believe we are all adopted into the family of God and none are natural, and we only have one Word of God to bring us together in the unity of the Spirit.

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Sin

The first Man and Woman disobeyed the Word of God in the Garden, were exiled before eating of the Tree of Life, cut off from God, which is spiritual death, became slaves to sin, and eventually experienced physical death. The seed of the Tree of Knowledge is still reproducing and bearing fruit in their descendants, and that fruit is disobedience to the Word. Sin is defined by John as "lawlessness."

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. I John 3:4 NASB95

Iniquity is another English word used to describe 'no law.' It is frequently used to translate the Greek word 'anomia,' literally meaning 'no law.' It is curious to note that in the Apostolic Scriptures (NT) 'law' is used to translate 'nomos' or 'nomon,' but when 'anomia' is used in the Greek it is translated by some other word such as iniquity. It is only in the last couple of Bible translations (such as the NASB95) that both words have begun to be translated more consistently.

We are saved from the effects, penalties, or ultimate consequences of sin, which is permanent separation from God. We are not saved from the Law, or having to follow His Word or Will. What was nailed to the execution stake (cross) with Jesus was our transgressions of the Law, not the Law itself.

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Love

Love is an action word, not a description of an emotion. If the Father merely had “good feelings” about us there would have been no salvation. We learn what love is by following the Father’s and the Messiah’s examples. Love is acting for the benefit and well being of others regardless of their position, and regardless of our emotions. In this way it is related to faith, both of which have the element of obedience. Limiting love to emotions only or words only causes hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is saying or teaching one thing but doing something different.

It is impossible to Love God or each other apart from His Word. When we follow one of His Instructions we show love for our Father and return some of the love He lavishes on us. Our love for each other flows from our loving relationship with God. The more we understand the Word and practice it the better and more 'loving' our relationship with God and each other.

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Sanctification

Sanctification is the continuation of our renewed relationship to God. When we obey the call to turn from the direction we are going and re-turn to His Ways (t’shuvah), we embark on a process that will end in redemption of all that we are.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 NASB95)

Though God knows who will overcome, and takes measures to keep His children in Him, from man’s viewpoint it is a process, and an open question until we die. Therefore we ought to behave toward our Father, and treat one another, in the manner in which He has prescribed in His Word.
As we study His Instructions (Torah, Laws, Word) and implement them, we are proceeding in sanctification. The word 'sanctification' literally means to 'make holy' or set apart. It is a lifelong process, and is aided (or hindered) by our study and implementation of His Word (or lack of it).

The so-called Laws of the Old Testament (Tanakh) are part of this sanctification process. After conversion, we start with what we know to be right and do those things. The more we study and fellowship with the other members of our community (congregation) the more we understand and the more we need to implement the new understandings.

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Gifts

God the Father, through His Spirit, has given gifts to the members of the body, for the edification (building up) of all members. These gifts are to be used according to the Word of God, and always lead people (or point) to that Word. If a gift is used in such a way as to lead away from the Word (which is possible), the person using the gift is undoubtedly being led by a spirit but not the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to exercise a gift in a godly manner apart from the Word of God.

Each Kingdom citizen is also given gifts for the purpose of building up one another. God calls some to help with various leadership roles, some to teaching roles, and some to wait on tables as examples of some of the gifts. All roles and gifts are of value to the Kingdom, none are worthless or unimportant. A place should be made for all to exercise their respective gifts for the edification of the body.

More on the Holy Spirit and gifting is discussed in the article elsewhere on this site titled Christian Faith and Practice through the Spirit.

Israel

Originally the name given to Jacob after he wrestled with the angel of the Lord, the people descended from Jacob are also called Israel. The meaning is a little obscure, but apparently means something along the lines of 'struggled (or contend) with God.' This group of people was chosen by God to be separate or distinct from the nations (see Gentiles) and to witness or testify on God's behalf by following His Word and Ways. They are the focal point of God's rule on the earth (after the Messiah), the 'apple of His eye,' and remain so in spite of Satan's efforts to exterminate them. Israel remains because God said they would, and His Word cannot change. The so-called 'church' has not replaced Israel in spite of efforts to the contrary.

Israel is physical and also spiritual. Just because someone is born naturally into Israel does not mean they are automatically in God's family. Those who are 'born again' become part of spiritual Israel, also called the Remnant. But physical Israel is no less important than spiritual Israel. Both are integral parts of God's plans, and neither will be neglected or forgotten by Him. Physical Israel has the pre-eminent place as the 'elder brother' to the Gentile. They have been blessed with the Torah (instructions) of God including the Covenants, and they have (more or less) preserved God's Words for the rest of the world.

Israel is also a geographic location. It is the Land promised to Abraham and his descendants by God, covering an area much greater than the present day boundaries of Israel. One day soon those boundaries will be restored at the coming of our Messiah.

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Tradition

A tradition is literally something that is 'handed down.' In this sense all of the Bible is tradition. However, there are many traditions that are made by men and not all of them are good. We believe that those traditions that are handed down to us by God are the ones that the entire community should practice. If He says we should do something, then we should make it a priority. If He says not to practice something, it should be avoided. If He does not say one way or the other, and if there are no other sections of the Word that say anything against it, then it is probably okay.

There is a large difference between a conviction made into a tradition and Scripture itself. Far too often, a conviction or tradition is taught as if it was Scripture, when it is not clearly commanded one way or the other. This causes people to divide and cease fellowship, but this solution should be saved for much more important issues if needed. We should be able to follow the biblical traditions together as a community and allow for individual differences of opinion on those of man's traditions which are open to interpretation.

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One Law

The doctrine of one law refers to the belief that God's Law or Mosaic Law applies to all believers. More properly, it should be called One Body, One Faith as Paul did.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.(Ephesians 4:4–6, ESV)

The Word of God Ministries believes that there is only one faith, including all of God's instructions, which also includes the Law or Torah.

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Divine Invitation

Some people believe that the Torah or Law is a requirement for Jews, but that anyone else (Gentiles) has only a "divine invitation" to follow the Law if they want to. This is an unbiblical and weak mixture of church anti-law teachings and Jewish insistence that the Law is only for Jews. This is one of the reasons our book Whole Bible Christianity was written.

We believe that the Law is binding on all believers in the same way as all of God's instructions apply to all people, believer or non-believer. We do not see any place in Scripture where God set up two different kingdoms, or two different households, or split His living oracles into separate pieces for different bodies.

Dispensationalism

The easiest way to sum up this doctrine is to use the standard description: God deals with different people at different times in different ways. Every churchgoer has been taught this doctrine whether they know it or not, and we used to believe and teach it also. Until we started reading and doing the whole Bible. Then we found out that God has been consistent through the ages. He has always been operating according to His promise, and His goals have been the same since the beginning. He has one faith, one body, and one baptism.

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The Satan

The Satan is an actual, existing, individual person. He was the guardian of God’s Holiness at one time, but sin was found in him and he was exiled from his place in the heavenly order. He tempted the first people to disobey the Word of God and in so doing they became his slaves. He usurped the authority over the earth originally given to man and rules with an iron fist in defiance of God. He has a plan to bring the people of the world together in a unified kingdom that is to be openly ruled by him. He has attempted on a number of occasions in the past to implement this plan by raising up rulers who have attempted to unify all the people of the world into one 'nation.' He will attempt again soon, with a person called the Lawless One.

Grace

Grace is the combined mercy and beauty of God in action; mercy in the giving of His Words to us, and beauty in the giving of His Son to us (John 1:17). He would have been a just God if He had not moved to save us, but without compromising His Justice and Holiness He offered to die in our place, so now we can know Love and freedom from slavery to our sin.

Grace is not permission to sin, nor is it in opposition to the Laws of God. Grace is the favor of God bestowed on undeserving humanity through the giving of His Words, His Son, and His Spirit.

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Repentance

Repentance (Hebrew t’shuvah - turning) is the beginning of faith, or the restarting of our walk with Him. Genuine repentance is accompanied by a change in actions. It includes restitution as a genuine sign of the turning, and making as many things right as is known about. If a person was a thief before repentance, then after repentance he ceases to steal, and repays what he stole with interest.

Repentance is commanded by God, to all people. So salvation begins with obedience to a command.

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Acts 17:30 KJV

Sometimes repentance (including restitution) can take time, either because a person does not know about the effects his or her actions had on someone else before repentance, or because it takes time to realize what was wrong. As we study and practice the Word of God, more things are brought to our attention that require a corrective action. Sometimes it has been too long and a person may pay restitution in a little bit different fashion than he or she would have if the restitution had been paid right away. For instance, the wronged party might have passed away, so restitution could not be paid directly. But perhaps a family member of the wronged party would be a good substitute. This is not meant to prescribe exact restitution guidelines, only to suggest possibilities.

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Jews

A Jew is known today as an Israeli. They have become interchangeable terms. The word Jew comes from 'Judah,' one of the tribes of Israel. The name Judah means 'praised' and contains the idea of 'praising with uplifted hands.' Israelis became known as Jews (or those of Judah) because after the time of Solomon the other ten tribes departed from the worship of the one True God, eventually going into captivity years before Judah. So the only tribe to (sort of) continue worshipping God while all twelve were in the Land was Judah (with Benjamin), and after the other ten were removed from the Land they were the only tribe left period.

However, Judah also fell into idolatry and also were dispersed into captivity. It just took them longer and they maintained their identity better than the other ten tribes. In modern times the Jews have lost most of their tribal identity and are known as the physical descendants of Jacob. All of those descendants are known as Jews. The Jews have a pre-eminent place in God's plans, and will continue to maintain their identity as long as God has anything to say about it.

For more on these concepts see our article Identity Issues and chapter three of our book Whole Bible Christianity.

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Government

The Kingdom is governed by God through His Word. He has given some to be apostles (emissaries or sent ones), some to be teachers and some to help with various other functions within the body. The body is composed of groups of people in different geographic locations we call congregations or communities. All congregation members are responsible to be in the Word on a daily basis, either to help lead or to check on the leaders to make sure they are still following the Word.

There is clear Scriptural evidence that the congregation should be led by a group of men called elders rather than by one person called a pastor. There is also clear evidence that all congregation members are involved in building community with each other. We are all accountable to follow God's will as revealed in the Word. God's feasts as summarized in Leviticus (like the rest of His Word, even if you want to call it Law), help to draw the individuals composing the communities together. It is not impossible to properly follow God outside of a community arrangement, but a properly functioning community is very important. The individual is not designed to function alone, and as he or she connects with others the glory of God is displayed more effectively.

A community or congregation can be defined as 'two (or three) people meeting in His (My) name.'

“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:18-20 NASB95)

The Scriptural model seems to be many small congregations meeting in houses or small meeting centers. The so-called 'super church' is in direct contradiction to the Scriptural model. Communities, it seems from the Word, should be smaller 'neighborhood' gatherings, and involvement with each other should be on a daily basis instead of the once or twice a week 'church' meeting.

The purpose of a community is for hearing the Word and practicing it with the fellow members of the community. Included in the goals of community life is to 'bear one another's burdens,' for 'older men or women to teach the younger men or women,' for 'teaching, correcting, reproof, encouragement and rebuke,' and to 'provoke one another to love and good deeds.'

Through these goals God is honored and glorified, and our God and Messiah is lifted up before men. For more on the concept of government, see the page titled Starting A Whole Bible Assembly. Also see Identity Issues.

Resurrection

The Bible tells us that there will be a resurrection of all people, both the just and the unjust. The 'just' are those who accept the Word of God and do what He says, and the unjust are those who maintain their rebellion against Him and His Ways. All people will 'exist forever,' but some in a state of everlasting life (the presence of God) and others in a state of everlasting death (separation from God).

There may be three parts to the resurrection as illustrated for us in 1 Corinthians 15:23&24.

But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.

It seems as if the first part of the resurrection was our Messiah which happened 2,000 years ago. The second part will be those that belong to Him, the timing of which is before He begins His reign on earth ('the just will live and reign with Him'). The third part is at 'the end' which seems to indicate the time for the unjust to be resurrected. There will be only one resurrection even if it does happen in three parts as indicated by Hebrews 9:27 (it is given for a man once to die and after that the judgment). The Bible does not mention anything relating to multiple resurrections for the same person (reincarnation).

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The Promise

The promise was made in the Garden by God to Adam and Eve that the seed of the woman would come to set things back right (crush the serpents head and get a bruised heel in the process). This promise was repeated with added details to various individuals such as Abraham, David and the prophets. The promise is what binds together the whole of Scripture, and of course this promise is our Messiah Jesus the Christ. With His death (the bruised heel) He crushed the power of the deceiver (the serpents head). In the next phase of promise fulfillment God will run out of patience with the world system or kingdom and Jesus will come back to establish His kingdom. At the end of 1,000 years of the kingdom of Jesus on earth the deceiver will finally be consigned to a place without God (or as near as possible without Him), thus fulfilling the promise to end the kingdoms of the world.

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Replacement

Some think The Church has replaced Israel. Part of these people think Israel has been permanently replaced, and another part think replacement is only temporary and Israel will for a while at the end of the age be once again in first place with God.

Whole Bible Christianity does not accept replacement. Paul says there is only one Body. This body is made up of all who believe God throughout the millennia. All believers are part of the one Body of Christ. Israel as a physical nation has people that are not all Israel. So does the Church and the Synagogue. The only reason replacement theology was created was to justify the creation of a separate entity called the church.

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The Word of God

The Tree of Life is the Word of God. All who eat of it will have eternal life, those who refuse to eat will be exiled from the paradise still future, condemned to eternal death. It is also an actual tree with actual fruit. The Bread of Life (a.k.a. Jesus) is another form of this Word. To partake of the Tree of Life is to receive the seed of the Word and reproduce or bear fruit in keeping with obedience to that Word.

Torah is all the instructions of God revealed to us in what we call the Bible, but also specifically the first five books. It is the Word of God, the Bread of Life, which we are to consume by reading or hearing and produce fruit by obedience which leads to eternal life. It is eternally existent and does not change, and exhibits the same characteristics as God. It is love (John 15:10, 12-14), light and lamp (Proverbs 6:23; Psalm 119:105; Isaiah 8:20; Revelation 21:23, 22:5); life (Deuteronomy 4:1, 32:46-47; Proverbs 1:17, 8:33-36; Matthew 19:16,17); seed (Matthew 13:18-23), instructions (Isaiah 1:10; Exodus 16:4 24:12; Jeremiah 35:13; Job 22:22, 36:10; Psalm 78:1; Zephaniah 3:1-7; Malachi 2:1-9, Proverbs 1:2,3,7,8 4:1,2; Romans 15:4; Ephesians 6:4; 1Timothy 1:5; 1Thessalonians 4:1, 5:12; 2Tim 4:2); law (Jeremiah 6:18-19; Zechariah 7:12; Deut 5:5 17:11, 27:1-3, 26, 30:10,14, 32:46,47; John 15:25; Acts 6:2-4,7 13:44,48,49, 28:23; Romans 9:28,31,32; 1Corinthians 15:2; Galatians 5:14); commands, judgments, teachings & ways (Isaiah 2:3; Proverbs 5:12 7:2 8:10 1:8 4:2 3:1 6:20-23; Jeremiah 32:33; Deuteronomy 4:1; 2 Chronicles 15:1-7; Matthew 4:23 7:28,29 9:35 13:54 15:9 28:20; Acts 2:42 4:2 18:11; Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 14:26); wisdom, and truth (Psalm 119:43,44,142 138:2; Proverbs 23:23; Malachi 2:6; 1 Kings 2:3-4; John 17:17, 18:37-38, 8:31-32; James 1:18, 21-23,25). It is the straight paths for our feet and a light to our way.

All these references are typed out in the article elsewhere on this site titled The Word of God.

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Redemption

Redemption is salvation and sanctification combined. We are redeemed (purchased) by the blood that the Messiah Jesus shed for us at His execution. We are not our own, we were bought with a very dear price. We look forward to our full redemption at the resurrection, when we will receive new bodies and creation will be restored. In the meantime, we have been marked as His own by the giving of the Spirit and a changed life. We were slaves to sin and now we are slaves to righteousness.

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The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God, is also known as the Remnant, Congregation, Church, Called Out Ones, olive tree, bride, and the Body of the Messiah. It is made up of all who submit to the will of the Father, even in a small way. According to the Parable of the Hearers (Matthew 13), some in the Kingdom will show growth but will not show fruit or endure, while others will endure and produce fruit in different measures. Those who endure and produce fruit are saved, while those who “fall away” are not saved. The end condition of each person is an open question from a human perspective until the day of physical death. It is therefore possible that an individual may start on the road to obedience but refuse to continue and appear to “lose” their salvation, when in reality they never had it to begin with. It is also possible that a person who appears to be unresponsive to the Word can show sudden and startling growth.

It is very difficult to tell if a person is actually 'in' the Kingdom or not, so we must treat them as members if they claim they are. All who claim to be a brother or sister are held to the impartial standard of the Word, not the whim of the assembly. This protects the body member from the “tyranny” of the legalist, who rejects the plain meaning of the Word in favor of a self-generated system of law, giving the legalist the control instead of the Word.

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Free Will

According to the Word there is no such thing as free will in the sense that modern man means the term. Romans 6:16-18 tells us that we are in one of two conditions. Humanity is either sinful or saved from sin; slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness; in bondage to the flesh or in bondage to God. Jesus says in Matthew 12:30,

"He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters."

All through the Scriptures we are taught that there is no 'in between.' God's will is the only will that is truly free, but even He is constrained by His own character and attributes. If God did not step in to save us we would not be saved, because we cannot save ourselves from the consequences of a sinful life (death). Fortunately, we do have the God-granted ability to choose the Messiah through the blood of His once-for-all sacrifice. After this choice is made, we become free to follow Him (slaves to righteousness). Our apparent 'free will' has been purchased for us at a very great cost.

To a certain extent, and from man's viewpoint, we have the ability at the moment to choose from among many courses of action that which we desire to do. But connected with this ability to choose is a concept often overlooked - responsibility. In exercising our choice we also have the responsibility to choose wisely. Since everyone is 'free' to choose God, yet many do not, their final condemnation will be just.

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Gentiles

A Gentile is known today as a non-Jewish person, but if the word is traced in the Scriptures sometimes they are described as 'nations' (as in not God's people or even 'the masses') and sometimes as 'strangers' or 'foreigners.' The Hebrew word for the Gentile is goy (singular) and goyim (plural). In one sense the Gentile is a person who is not naturally a part of God's covenants with Israel, and in another sense even Israel is called goyim. However, just because a person may not have been born into physical Israel doesn't mean he or she is not able to be adopted into the family of God. In fact, all members of God's family are adopted. A person that is only born in the flesh is not automatically part of God's family. All people must be 'born again' in order to enter the permanent form of His family or Kingdom.

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Rapture

The word 'rapture' is derived from a Latin word (rapturos) used to translate the Greek word for 'caught up' or 'snatched away' (harpazo) used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. It is intended to describe the quick change of living people to a different body and their removal from the earth after dead believers are resurrected (see also 1 Corinthians 15:50-58). This is a doctrine that in recent times has been developed all out of proportion to the Scriptures. It is only mentioned a couple of times in direct relation to the Resurrection. But while the so-called 'rapture' is only mentioned a few times, the resurrection is mentioned a great deal.

A large part of the discussions surrounding this doctrine are related to the timing of the rapture. Much of the hype borders on hysteria, and the focus has become 'escape' rather than God and His Word. The complications are due to the type of theology used. Some have a 'literal' view, some think there is always a 'deeper meaning' (allegorical). Some impose a dispensational view point on the Scriptures, some see only through a covenant theology presupposition.

We feel the biblical teaching is that, although it is an actual event, it is appended to the resurrection of the righteous. There is plenty of biblical evidence to show that the resurrection may not happen according to the imaginary timetable set up by the dispensationalists. We should be prepared for any eventuality dictated by the plans of God and not the whims of popular thought, even if it does sell lots of books and movies. The 'easy escapism' of the current pre-tribulation rapture theory will probably turn out to be a false hope. But our God is certainly able to protect His children through the coming tribulation just as He did the Israelites during the plagues visited on Egypt.

Covenants

A covenant is essentially an agreement between two people, where behavior is regulated by one person towards the other person. A covenant can be one-sided or two sided (or more). One sided means that only one person's behavior is regulated, and two sided means the behavior of both parties is regulated. An example of a one-sided covenant (commonly called unconditional) is the covenant of God with Noah not to destroy the earth with a flood again. An example of a two-sided covenant (commonly called conditional) is the one made at Mt. Sinai between Israel and God (blessings if you do 'these things,' curses if you don't). The Covenants in Scripture are clearly spelled out, and we do not believe that any others exist, such as the so-called covenant of grace that is a main feature of Covenant Theology.

A one-sided covenant could also be called a promise. A promise, for instance, was made by God to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15 concerning the seed of the woman who we know as Jesus the Messiah. All covenants, whether conditional or unconditional, could be considered to be centered around this promise of a Messiah, and we believe that to be true.

See the section elsewhere on this site called Theology for a discussion of Covenant Theology.

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