Assembly Summary: Keep the Doors Open

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 17 seconds.

Mr. Gerald Weston began the final Assembly of the year, “People tend to fall into one of several categories.” Some individuals map out their futures early on and single-mindedly dedicate themselves to their goals. For example, he noted Deion Sanders—a first-round draft pick for the National Football League in 1989. Sanders won two Super Bowls, was elected for eight NFL Pro Bowls, and was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2011. Achievers know what they want in life and pursue it relentlessly. But another category Mr. Weston gave was the under-achievers. “These expect others, including God, to be responsible for their success—to do it all for them.” Rather than taking initiative, they make excuses, develop a “victim” complex, blaming others, or wait for a lucky break.

What Do You Want to Do in Your Life?

“Most of us fall into a third category—those who are willing to work hard but struggle to figure out what they want to do.” As a young man, Mr. Weston wanted to be a forest ranger and a “smoke jumper”—a wildland firefighter who jumps out of planes to fight forest fires. Then, at Ventura College, he switched his major from geology to social work to English. “I confess, I didn’t have a clue what to do with my life. And how can a young person be expected to know what to do—at age eighteen, for example—when the whole world is out there?” He asked, “So what do you do to figure that out if you’re in this category?”

What is Your Primary Goal?

“Let’s begin with our primary goal.” Deion Sanders’ goal was to be the absolute best at football, and arguably, he was. But later, he admitted his aim had been flawed—he titled his autobiography, Power, Money, and Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life. Mr. Weston said, “Sometimes, we think we know what we want, but it’s not always what God shows us we should want.” Matthew 6:33 contains what a Christian’s main goal should be. Ultimately, every decision and action should have this end in mind. Mr. Weston said, “But does that mean God will do everything for us?” He held up his Bible, “Not according to this instruction book here.”

What Are You Doing to Prepare?

Young people may wish to be independent or to get married and raise a family. “But when you look at these goals,” Mr. Weston emphasized, “the question is what are you doing to prepare for that?” He told a story about a high school friend who would talk about his dreams and plans for life. The friend wanted to move to northern California, living off the land while training to become a baseball star—yet he never played on any kind of organized team. This friend went to Ambassador College for a year and then dropped out. He had told Mr. Weston he wanted to be a city planner, yet he threw away the opportunity to build and design cities under Christ in the Millennium. He told Mr. Weston once, “You know what I’m really afraid of? I’m afraid that I will wake up and be forty years of age and not know what I want to do.” Mr. Weston said, “And that happened. The door was open to his dream, but he never prepared himself for that open door.”

Open Doors

People open or close doors by the decisions we make. Mr. Weston commented, “My father always said, If you can read, write, and do arithmetic, you could have a job.” Without basic education, fewer opportunities come. But if a young person educates himself, perhaps developing his public speaking skills or learning a second language, opportunities arise. In Daniel 1, four young men were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon to work in the king’s palace (v. 4). They were “young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand….” Mr. Weston pointed out that while they couldn’t have controlled their lack of blemishes or good looks, they certainly had developed their knowledge and understanding and as a result, doors (opportunities) opened to them. “As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all wisdom and literature” (v.17). Mr. Weston explained God didn’t pour knowledge into their minds using a funnel—they had to read literature and learn wisdom. “These were young men who had certain native ability, but they developed it with hard work.”

“Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men.”

– Proverbs 22:29

“The harder you work at a young age, the more the doors are opened for other opportunities. But if you spend all your time goofing off, you close doors.” Even if a young person is struggling to figure out what they want to do in life, by having the right primary goal and preparing for their future, with God’s help, opportunities for success will open to them. Mr. Weston encouraged the students as they move forward after Living Ed, “Keep the doors open. Only if you have prepared yourself, will you be able to walk through those doors when opportunity knocks.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Course Spotlight: Seven Lessons from Passover to Pentecost

The journey from Passover to Pentecost is one in which we have opportunities to truly come to know God and to develop the trust and dependence that is to be the basis of our ongoing relationship. The seven weeks of their journey from Egypt to Sinai, from the wave sheaf offering to God’s thundering from Mount Sinai taught them seven lessons.

Course Spotlight From God’s Feast Days: Pentecost

Digging Deeper: The Oracles of God

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 8 min. 40 sec.

Did you know that the Bible refers to God’s spoken and recorded revelations by the term oracles?

When writing to the Church of God in Rome, the Apostle Paul used this term that  was familiar to Jews but that is rather unfamiliar to Christians today. Some may think this word refers only to pagan oracles. Some may wonder what God’s oracles are and why they were given this name. This Digging Deeper delves into these questions with a brief word study that will further open our understanding of God’s inspired and preserved word. It will also explain the demanding responsibility of God’s people to faithfully preserve and promote it.

Our focus verses for this word study are: Romans 3:1-2 KJV  “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?  (2)  Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” This was Paul’s reply to his question concerning the advantage afforded by God to the Jews. Paul reminded them they had been privileged to receive the word of God that at first was spoken directly by God but later inscribed for permanence.

Sayings and Revelations

In the plural, the oracles of God appears three times and the phrase the lively oracles appears once in our New Testament: Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11. They were described as living since the living God had spoken them at Sinai. The word oracles is translated from the Greek word logion (plural of logos), literally meaning “sayings”. In simple terms, this was the common first-century synonym  for the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament.

Richard Watson’s Biblical and Theological Dictionary explains that oracle “… denotes something delivered by supernatural wisdom; and the term is also used in the Old Testament to signify the most holy place from whence the Lord revealed his will to ancient Israel, 1 Kings 6:5, 19-21, 23. But when the word occurs in the plural number, as it mostly does, it denotes the revelations contained in the sacred writings of which the nation of Israel were the depositories” (e-Sword 13.0).

God’s oracles were not always in written form. The CARM Theological Dictionary reports: “God’s method of communicating these oracles varied from dreams and visions (Numbers 12:6-8), to wisdom (Proverbs 30:1), and even the Urim and Thummim (Numbers 27:21; 1 Samuel 14:337 [SIC])” (e-Sword 13.0). Another source of divine guidance was the high priest’s breastplate. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words declares, “Divine ‘oracles’ were given by means of the breastplate of the high priest, in connection with the service of the tabernacle, and the Sept. uses the associated word logeion in Exodus 28:15, to describe the breastplate” (Ibid.).

Oracles of God

These oracles were the divinely inspired utterances of God. In defining what was included in these oracles, Richard Watson’s Biblical and Theological Dictionary declares: “These oracles contained the law, both moral and ceremonial, with all the types and promises relating to the Messiah which are to be found in the writings of Moses. They also contained all the intimations of the divine mind which he was pleased to communicate by means of the succeeding prophets who prophesied beforehand of the coming and of the sufferings of the Messiah with the glory that should follow” (e-Sword 13.0).

The Biblical Illustrator, by Joseph S. Exell, carries this thought even further: “But the apostles, when they term the Scriptures ‘oracles’ (Acts 7:38; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11), signify that they are real revelations from the true God. These were communicated—viva voce, as when God spake to Moses face to face—in visions, as when a prophet in an ecstacy had supernatural revelations (Genesis 15:1; 46:2; Ezekiel 11:24; Daniel 8:2)—in dreams, as those of Jacob (Genesis 28:12) and Joseph (Genesis 37:5-6)—by Urim and Thummim, which was a way of knowing the will of God by the ephod or breastplate of the high priest. After the building of the temple, God’s will was generally made known by prophets Divinely inspired, and who were made acquainted with it in different ways (1 Chronicles 9:20-21)” (e-Sword 13.0).

Pagan Oracles

Not all oracles are of God. The Devil has his oracles as well. Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible declares: “The word ‘oracle’ among the pagan meant properly the answer or response of a god, or of some priest supposed to be inspired, to an inquiry of importance, usually expressed in a brief sententious way, and often with great ambiguity. The place from which such a response was usually obtained was also called an oracle, as the oracle at Delphi, etc. These oracles were frequent among the pagan, and affairs of great importance were usually submitted to them” (e-Sword 13.0).

The ultimate source of these revelations is spiritually dangerous as Richard Watson’s Biblical and Theological Dictionary declares: “Among the Heathen the term oracle is usually taken to signify an answer, generally couched in very dark and ambiguous terms, supposed to be given by demons of old, either by the mouths of their idols, or by those of their priests, to the people, who consulted them on things to come. Oracle is also used for the demon who gave the answer, and the place where it was given” (eSword 13.0).

One may wonder how reliable pagan oracles were. The Biblical Illustrator by Joseph S. Exell notes: “These were, indeed, merely pretended communications from gods that had no existence; or, perhaps, in some instances real communications from demons, and the answers which were given were generally expressed in such unintelligible, or equivocal phrases as might easily be wrested to prove the truth of the oracles whatever the truth might be (Acts 16:16)” (e-Sword 13.0). Ambiguity of meaning was the order of the day.

A New and Concise Bible Dictionary by George Morrish goes a step further: “In the learned heathen world, Satan had places in imitation of this, at which it was professed that an answer from their gods could be obtained; but the answers were often purposely vague in order that afterwards they could be interpreted differently according as the event turned out. Thus the persons were duped who asked the questions” (Bible Analyzer By contrast, God’s word may always be considered factual and verifiable.

Preserving the words of God

The Jewish people were given the special privilege, but demanding responsibility, for preserving, supervising, and promoting God’s holy word, which Stephen called “lively (living)” (Acts 7:38). Jewish scribes and scholars were especially diligent in preserving and copying these divine utterances. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible explains their significance: “The Jews were the Christians’ library-keepers, were entrusted with that sacred treasure for their own use and benefit in the first place, and then for the advantage of the world; and, in preserving the letter of the scripture, they were very faithful to their trust, did not lose one iota or tittle, in which we are to acknowledge God’s gracious care and providence” (e-Sword 13.0). This is how God preserved His word for succeeding generations. Christians need to be especially grateful to the Jewish people for safeguarding the largest section of their Holy Bible.

The Hebrew Scriptures became part of the Christian Bible since the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. The Church of God is now the custodian of God’s oracles in both testaments. Christians need to read and study them to grow and mature. In his epistle to Hebrew Christians, Paul scolds them because they needed to be taught again the basic principles of God’s word instead of becoming teachers of others (Hebrews 5:12). Some believers today need to take these words to heart because of their neglect of serious scriptural study.

Peter cautions preachers by reminding them they must preach God’s oracles with the ability God gives, not their fanciful ideas (1 Peter 4:11). Too many preachers today do not preach the meat of the word of God to their congregants as they are commanded. Rather, concepts from the world of psychology, psychiatry, and sociology are often substituted for preaching and teaching God’s word. Preaching and teaching are two different, though related, techniques for conveying God’s mind to His people.

Study the living oracles

Paul commands God’s people to: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). How precious God’s word is for every believer. When we study the Bible we need to remember we are reading the very words our Creator and Redeemer has commanded each of us personally. Bible reading and study should be done with a sense of reverence (Psalm 119:161). When we read it we are in God’s presence and are having a “conversation” with Him when we join Bible study with prayer.

To bring our brief study to a close, The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, edited by Joseph S. Exell, quotes R. Watson who offers these keys for proper Bible reading and study: “These oracles are committed or entrusted to you.—1. They are entrusted to be read or understood; 2. To interpret honestly; 3. To make them known to others; 4. To apply to practical purposes”(e-Sword 13.0). Today God’s people are the library-keepers for the word of God. God’s oracles are not only to be read and studied but lived since they are the “lively (living) oracles” given to us to share with the world (Acts 7:38).

Ken Frank

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Forum Summary: Protocol — Loving Your Neighbor

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 36 seconds.

“Those are all the announcements I have, so I will leave the balance of the Forum to Mr. Ames—this is your last opportunity to hear from him in a regular Forum or Assembly. We want to take every advantage to hear what he has to say, so please give him your full attention today.”

If You Please

Years ago, Mr. Richard Ames and his wife visited Paris. While there, the director of the Worldwide Church of God office took them to eat at a restaurant. Mr. Ames noticed their host would always call the waiter over by saying, S’il vous plait. “I picked up on that.” Mr. Ames said, “We were told the French don’t like Americans, but every time I started talking to a Frenchman, I said, S’il vous plait.” Later, Mr. Ames explained he was looking for a parking space at the French Feast site and was told to park in the VIP area to unload his luggage. “So, I go up to the parking area and there’s a speakerphone. And I said, ‘S’il vous plait,’ and the gate opened up—if you’re ever in France, that’s the secret to getting along with people.”

Standard Operating Procedure

Protocols are a part of daily life, whether in cultural customs, social manners, dining etiquette, military procedures, or employee handbooks. Mr. Ames defined a protocol as “an accepted way of conducting oneself in a given situation.” For example, in France, it is socially acceptable to use the phrase, If you please. But there are also expected ways of conduct in the professional world. In the aviation industry, the major cause for aircraft crashes is a neglected protocol from the pre-flight checklist. Mr. Ames said, “I first learned about Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) when I was a junior in high school.” He worked as a disc jockey for the daytime radio station WMMW in Connecticut. On Sunday mornings, he would have to follow the SOP to start up the station equipment and get the program on the air.

Mr. Ames referenced Dr. Atul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto. Dr. Gawande worked as a surgeon in eight hospitals around the world. Surveying these hospitals, he found that out of 4,000 surgeries performed, 435 people had major complications and fifty-six people died. Yet, after implementing a nineteen-point checklist for surgeries, 277 people had complications, with only twenty-nine deaths. Checklist protocols can save lives.

“We need Godly protocols. I’m going to give you four points on how to love your neighbor as yourself in the context of protocols.”

Have an attitude of respect. Dr. Meredith noted in the October 10, 2005 co-worker letter, sent out after a destructive typhoon in Bangladesh, “Every human being is precious in God’s sight.” Mr. Ames turned to Philippians 2:1-4, where Paul encouraged Christians to “esteem others better than himself.” One protocol Christians should have on their checklist is respect for all human beings.

Choose words of respect and courtesy. Mr. Ames reminded the students of the five responses that should be a part of their communication: “Thank you; You’re welcome; Please; I’m sorry; How may I help you?” He explained these phrases should be automatic responses. Polite communication—expressing respect and courtesy in speech—is a godly protocol.

Follow Biblical instructions. “You’ve heard the quote, When all else fails, follow instructions…” Mr. Ames said, “No. It should be, Before things fail, follow instructions.” Proverbs 2:1-6 reads, “If you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you… then you will understand the fear of the LORD….” But to follow instructions, Mr. Ames explained, one must be willing to submit—whether to God’s Word, Church authority, or family leadership.

Obedience is a choice. Every individual must make the conscious, personal decision to establish and follow the protocols God established in His Word. Mr. Ames mentioned Proverbs 1:28-29, which warns those who choose to ignore His wisdom: “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD….”

“Surgical protocols have saved lives, airplane protocols have preserved life, and godly protocols ensure an abundant life.” Mr. Ames concluded the Forum, “So, make sure that you are personally learning and growing in the true values of godly protocol, godly procedures, godly communication, and God’s way of life—and love your neighbor as yourself.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Course Spotlight: The First Fruits

What are “firstfruits”? Do they have spiritual significance in God’s plan? In order to understand the concept of “firstfruits,” we need to understand the physical harvest pattern in ancient Israel.

Course Spotlight From God’s Feast Days: Pentecost

Forum Summary: A Hidden Key to Success

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 48 seconds.

In the staff meeting room at Headquarters, Mr. Frank introduced Mr. Mario Hernandez as the Forum speaker. Mr. Hernandez asked, “Do you remember the laws of success?” The students nodded and recited them. The seventh law of success, Mr. Hernandez explained, is to acknowledge God in all your ways. “I’m going to give you an indispensable key to being successful. Without it,” he said, “even if you have all the others, you won’t succeed before God or man… What is the fifth commandment?”

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

– Ephesians 6:1-3

For those who obey and honor their parents, God gives a two-fold promise: a long life and a successful life. Mr. Hernandez turned to Exodus 21:15-17 to show God takes the fifth commandment seriously. Children who struck or cursed their parents were to be put to death. Yet, Mr. Hernandez noted that disrespect towards parents parallels this sin. In Leviticus 19:3, God commanded Israel to revere their parents. Mr. Hernandez said, “Treat them with great respect no matter what. They represent God.”

Respect as a Facet of the Culture of God

“We’re living in a generation where children are oppressors of their parents. They’re not taught to respect.” He read Leviticus 19:32, “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man….” The custom to rise and acknowledge an older person when they enter a room may seem outdated or not culturally practiced. But, Mr. Hernandez said, “That’s a lack of culture, my friends. We are here to learn the culture of God and not to say, Oh, in my country we don’t do that.” Young people should acknowledge the presence of an older person rather than ignoring them and turning to their peers. “In this country, which I love and respect, there is a tendency for there to be different cultures for the youth and for the elderly. Each [group] lives in their own world, and there is not much communication.” This phenomenon, which Mr. Hernandez termed “the teenage syndrome,” is nurtured in the modern education system. In tomorrow’s world, a family-oriented learning system will encourage young people to respect and interact appropriately with the older generation.

“The commandment goes all the way to the adult age until the end of your parents’ lives.”

In Mark 7:1-13, Christ rebuked the Pharisees for disobeying God’s command to honor one’s parents. In 1 Timothy 5:4-8, Paul commands, “if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents….” Mr. Hernandez explained that adult children—who are at the productive stage of life—are still obligated to honor their parents.


“Now we’re going to see the story of a man who honored his father and was greatly blessed. That is the story of Joseph.” Out of all the sons of Jacob, only Joseph truly honored his parents. The “bad report” Joseph brought to Jacob in Genesis 37:2 indicates the brothers had a poor reputation in the community. When Jacob called to Joseph to send him to his brothers in the field, Joseph replied, “Here I am.” Abraham had this same response when God tested him by commanding him to kill Isaac (Genesis 22:1). Mr. Hernandez compared it to saying, “Whatever You say, here I am to obey you.”

“Here I am.”

Reuben committed adultery with one of his father’s wives (Genesis 35:22), in contrast to Joseph, who refused to lie with Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:10). At the end of Jacob’s life, in a final act of respect, Joseph bowed down to the ground as Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:12). Joseph was 110 years old when he died, and he had become the second most powerful man in Egypt. “God was fulfilling His promise because Joseph obeyed and respected his father.”

Honor the Hoary Head

Mr. Hernandez concluded, “Don’t just stay among the youth, having your different culture apart. Open your heart and talk to the older person… They feel dishonored—although they don’t complain—when a youth passes by and ignores them or rarely comes to greet them. The hoary-head are becoming weak because of age, and they need respect.” Mr. Hernandez explained that respect to one’s parents and older people is respect towards God. He challenged the students to honor older people, revere their parents, and fear God by keeping the fifth commandment—so they may live a long and successful life as God promises.

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Course Spotlight: The Role of God’s Holy Spirit

Peter told his listeners on the day of Pentecost that following repentance and baptism they would “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). What is receiving the Holy Spirit intended to accomplish in our lives?

Course Spotlight From The Life Ministry and Teachings of Jesus Christ: (Unit 1) The Early Life of Christ

Digging Deeper: Plenteous Redemption

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 7 min. 22 sec.

Did you know that God’s redemption is described in Scripture as plenteous?

Bible readers discover through diligent study that God has set in motion a plan to redeem those willing to confess their sins, repent of them, and seek God’s forgiveness. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Redeemer. One may wonder if there are limits to His redemption. We will encounter in this study a fitting psalm that is often recited at funerals because of the comfort it affords. This Digging Deeper introduces our topic with an inspirational verse that will encourage and strengthen God’s people through His commitment to save them.

Our focus verse is: (Psalm 130:7 KJV) “Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.” Psalm 130 is the sixth of seven traditionally-named Penitential Psalms that include Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143. They are expressive of sorrow for sin, repentance, and change of behavior. The Book of Psalms was Israel’s hymnbook of praises to the Almighty. Believers have found solace time and again from its abundant instruction and assurances.

The Dake Annotated Reference Bible under its note for Psalm 130:1 calls this “A Backslider’s Psalm” and outlines the psalm in this manner:

            1. “His state or condition (Psa 130:1)

            2. His prayer (Psa 130:1-4)

            3. His questioning (Psa 130:3)

            4. His promise (Psa 130:4; 130:7-8)

            5. His sincerity and longing (Psa 130:5-6)

            6. His hope (Psa 130:5; 130:7)

            7. His faith and assurance (Psa 130:4; 130:7-8)” (Bible Analyzer

A price paid for deliverance

The word redeem means “to deliver by paying a price.” Redemption is a major New Testament doctrine. The CARM Theological Dictionary defines this noun more fully: “Redemption means to free someone from bondage. It often involves the paying of a ransom, a price that makes redemption possible. The Israelites were redeemed from Egypt. We were redeemed from the power of sin and the curse [penalty] of the Law (Galatians 3:13) through Jesus (Romans 3:24; Colossians 1:14). We were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23)” (e-Sword 13.0). Sinners were held captive by the archenemy of humankind, the Devil. Christ the Liberator sets them free when they trust in Him through the ransom He paid by His sacrificial death.

There is more than one nuance to the word redemption. The Bridgeway Bible Dictionary elaborates redemption further: “In Bible days a slave could be set free from bondage by the payment of a price, often called the ransom. The whole affair was known as the redemption of the slave (Leviticus 25:47-48). (The words ‘redeem’ and ‘ransom’ are related to the same root in the original languages.) The Bible speaks of redemption both literally (concerning everyday affairs) and pictorially (concerning what God has done for his people) (Psalm 77:15; Titus 2:14)” (e-Sword 13.0). Our God has come to our rescue, remitting the full price for our liberation from Satan’s kingdom.

Sinners must be redeemed from the penalty for violating God’s law. Concerning God’s transaction through redemption from sin, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary offers this summary definition: “In theology, the purchase of God’s favor by the death and sufferings of Christ; the ransom or deliverance of sinners from the bondage of sin and the penalties of God’s violated law by the atonement of Christ” (e-Sword 13.0). This older dictionary so well defines this doctrine since it drew many of its definitions from the Bible unlike many modern dictionaries.

The Scofield Reference Bible in its note for Exodus 14:30 elaborates on this major biblical doctrine: “Exodus is the book of redemption and teaches:

            (1) redemption is wholly of God Exodus 3:7; 3:8; John 3:16.

(2) redemption is through a person. (See Scofield “Exodus 2:2“). John 3:16-17

            (3) redemption is by blood Exodus 12:13, 23, 27; 1 Peter 1:18.

            (4) redemption is by power Exodus 6:6; 13:14; Romans 8:2.” (e-Sword 13.0).

Perfect and plenteous atonement

There are other doctrines related to redemption. B.J. Carroll’s An Interpretation of the English Bible elaborates: “When applied to the sacred work of the Lord Jesus Christ, it generally means ‘deliverance through atonement.’ Thus understood, it means both atonement and deliverance” (e-Sword 13.0). Christ is the great Deliverer whose blood atonement sets us free from our sins. This source further adds: “Man has always been endeavoring to find some atonement for his sin, and has always failed, but we have received a perfect atonement in Him; it is plenteous. (1) Plenteous to cover the sins of the whole world. (2) Plenteous to cover all the sins of each one” (Ibid.). God’s grace is truly all-sufficient! This is what our focus verse means by using the word plenteous.

Let us explore this theme even further. Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible provides this additional note: “It is ample; it is full; it abounds. It is not limited; it is not exhausted; it cannot be exhausted. So we may always feel when we come before God, that his mercy is ample for all the needs of all the sinful and the suffering; that the provisions of his grace are unexhausted and inexhaustible” (e-Sword 13.0).

The following quotation from The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, edited by Joseph S. Exell, should leave us awestruck: “’And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities’ (Psalm 130:8). It is no temporary, or indistinct, blessing that is so anxiously sought; it is nothing less than a complete deliverance from all iniquity. Redemption from sin includes redemption from all other evils: it is the greatest and most perfect work of God, and bestows the most exalted blessings on man” (e-Sword 13.0). Does this not remove any lingering doubts? This source continues: “LESSONS: —1. Redemption is a Divine work. 2. The most degraded soul is not beyond the hope of recovery. 3. Redemption must be eagerly and prayerfully sought” (Ibid.). Only God can accomplish this consequential redemption.

In this light, look at this supporting scripture: (Hebrews 7:25 KJV) “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost [most extensive degree] that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Christ delivers believers not only from the consequences of sin but even from sin itself. Sinners who imagine themselves beyond redemption will find it if they turn to the Savior in sincere repentance, confession, and contrition. It must be accepted on God’s terms, not as we would imagine it. This is true for returning sinners as well (1 John 1:8-2:2).

Not willing that any should perish…

We have multiple examples of God’s enduring mercy. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges illustrates one notable example for us: “Observe how the thought that God’s manifold mercy and patience have not been exhausted by Israel’s persistent rebellion runs through the confession in Nehemiah 9; Nehemiah 9:17; 9:19; 9:27-28; 9:30-31; 9:35. Cp. Isaiah 43:25; 55:7” (e-Sword 13.0). Bible readers are awed by God’s abiding patience and desire for Israel to turn back to Him since He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

The Dake Annotated Reference Bible for its note on Psalm 130:7 offers “Five Reasons Israel Should Hope in God:

            1. God does not mark iniquities for punishment without extending mercy (Psa 130:3).

            2. There is forgiveness with Him (Psa 130:4).

            3. There is mercy with Him (Psa 130:7).

            4. There is abundant redemption (Psa 130:7).

            5. He shall redeem from all sin (Psa 130:8).” (Ibid.)

This is not a purely individualistic endeavor. It is essential to realize that this process is a family experience. Bob Utley’s You Can Understand the Bible explains: “Remember biblical faith is corporate. It is a family! Be careful of the modern western over-emphasis on the individual. Salvation has a corporate focus! We are saved to serve. The goal of individual salvation is the health and growth of the body of believers” (e-Sword 13.0)! God’s church is to be filled with consecrated and spiritually clean sons and daughters of God who have received and continue to receive His plenteous redemption.

Ken Frank

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Assembly Summary: Embrace Your Trials

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 20 seconds.

Mr. Wallace Smith, the executive editor for Editorial, walked into the classroom with a homemade lightsaber hilt, a replica Star Wars lightsaber, and a samurai sword. A young man built the hilt for Mr. Smith last year as a gift. It consisted of various pipes and fixtures, along with some electrical tape and rubber bands. Mr. Smith borrowed the glowing green lightsaber—sans accompanying sound-effects—from one of his sons. While it looked deadly, the lightsaber was essentially a harmless prop—compared to the sword he pulled out next.

“Some swords are battle-ready, and some are not.”

“This is a katana, actually formed in Japan, according to the traditional methods.” These samurai swords have a single-edged blade, curving in the traditional Japanese style. The blade does not end at the handle but extends into it—a characteristic of well-built swords. Underneath the cloth binding of the handle, on the metal of the blade that lies within, the creator etches his signature. Mr. Smith explained a samurai warrior’s daily business was deeply connected to the concepts of life and death. The making of a katana was a work of passion, and the creator would purify himself before forging the sword—a process that took months to complete.

The Steel

The forge used to make a katana is kept extremely hot by containing and turning the fire in on itself. “A katana,” Mr. Smith noted, “is made up of multiple metals that are forged into one thing, but not necessarily mixed.” Iron ore, coal, sand, and sometimes other materials are added. The steel is hardened by adding carbon. But if too much carbon is used, the blade will turn brittle. Iron, which is a softer element, provides the necessary flexibility in the weapon. The metals are mixed at different stages and the swordsmith produces a material called tamahagane—translated, “steel jewel.” This material is broken into different-colored cubes, which contain varying amounts of carbon. The cubes are sorted depending on the level of carbon and hammered into sheets. “The real work,” Mr. Smith said, “goes into forging the blade.”

Forging the Sword

“If you take a piece of paper and fold it, it doesn’t take many folds, and it gets almost impossible to fold.” Some of the hammered sheets are selected to make the kawagane, “leather steel,” and the hagane, “blade steel.” The steel is layered, hammered, and folded several times over until a plank with thousands of layers is formed. At this point, the smith prepares the “heart-steel,” the shingane. The low-carbon shingane is more flexible and is placed inside the folded kawagane. “You need the edge to be extremely hard.” Mr. Smith said, “What is the hardest substance that we know of? Diamonds. The carbon bonds are capable of making it extremely hard.” The swordsmith fuses the steel, creating a blade with a “diamond-hard” exterior and a flexible core that can absorb the force of impacts.

The Blade

To temper the weapon, it is plunged into water or oil to drop the temperature of the metal. But before it is dipped in liquid, the spine of the sword is encased with a protective clay layer that allows it to be tempered differently across its width and leaves tell-tale markings on the edge of the blade—another sure sign of an authentic katana. Even at this final stage, the edge hardens as the metal changes molecularly. When a katana was completed, the quality of the sword was normally tested on prisoners. “How sharp is it? They say, made properly, you can throw a piece of silk in the air and a master would be able to slice right through the silk, not having to hold it taut—just allowing the silk to float in the air.”

Embrace Your Trials

“Of these three weapons I’ve shown you today,” Mr. Smith held up the katana, “this one has been through the toughest time.” The steel was heated up to 1600 degrees Fahrenheit, hammered, fragmented, pounded, and tempered with a drastic drop in temperature. Mr. Smith explained Christians are forged into weapons of righteousness (Romans 6:13). “Too often, we think of trials as what God is supposed to deliver us from.” He pointed out that God is not like the “genie” from the Disney movie Aladdin. James 1:2-3 reads, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The “testing of your faith,” Mr. Smith said, does not mean one’s faith causes the trial to end. Faith is developed and forged through hardship.

Mr. Smith concluded his Assembly with a lesson he had learned from another pastor. There are different levels to trials. He said, “We can go through the middle level where we begrudgingly go through them… But it’s not quite the same as embracing it, where, when you go to God, you can say, ‘Father, I don’t know why I’m going through this. But I do trust You are working the ‘long game’ in my life, not just for now but for eternity. If this is a burden I have to face for a month, a year, or a lifetime, I trust you.” Trials are the heat, hammering, and tempering God uses to forge His people into the perfectly balanced tools He desires.

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Forum Summary: The Best Laid Plans

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 29 seconds.

Mr. McNair introduced the manager of the Mail Processing Department at Headquarters, an elder in the Charlotte congregation, and a long-time member of God’s Church. “Mr. Gaylyn Bonjour, as you all know, is responsible for all of that major operation that happens downstairs—it’s the heart of the Work.”

“Either good or bad, what happened this year is going to be a memory that you’ll build on all the way through your life.” Mr. Bonjour spoke to the students about planning their futures. At a time when many of the students are making decisions regarding their educations, careers, or even whether to remain in Charlotte, Mr. Bonjour reminded them that their lives would not unfold exactly according to plan. He joked, “I was going to be retired at thirty-five. I’m 77 and I’m still working. Sometimes, as we go through life, all the things that you plan and the direction you that you’re trying to go—it seems to go the other way…”

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry…”

– Robert Burns

“You have your plan, and God has His plan.” In 1971, Mr. Bonjour bought twenty-seven acres in Kingsburg, California on which to plant plum trees and raise a farm. Yet, the timing was not good—many other people had the same idea, and the market was competitive. There was little profit in their endeavor, Mr. Bonjour had to work as a masonry contractor to support the farm. Finally, years later, after his son finished high school, Mr. Bonjour and his wife decided to sell the ranch, and they began managing a mini-storage center. He was eventually ordained and hired by the Church. He said, “We may be frustrated that our plan is not working, but we can be assured His plan is.”

“Remember the time you were here.” Isaiah 46:9-10 reads, “Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other… Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand….’” Mr. Bonjour advised the students to use the lessons they learned at Living Ed to seek God early in their lives. He said, “The most precious, tangible thing you have is your time. Every minute you spend is lost. You’re not getting it back.” As he read through Ecclesiastes 3, Mr. Bonjour reminded the students that now is the time for them to seek God, so they will have fewer opportunities to make mistakes in the future. “Every sin committed is a little scar on the brain.”

“Our character is built through adversity.” God allows His people—and their plans—to be tested. Mr. Bonjour explained, “God wants us to be able to stand upright before Him and to reflect Jesus Christ in our lives.” In his first year of being called into the truth, Mr. Bonjour was tested on the Sabbath. His boss needed him to work seven days a week, but Mr. Bonjour refused to do it and was let go. When he registered for the “out of work” list in the Piledrivers Union, his name was dropped to the bottom of the list, because he would not work on Saturday. For a year, he supported his family by working at a junkyard, earning two dollars an hour. “I’ve never been tested on the Sabbath after that.” God is interested in a Christian’s character, not their intelligence or wealth. “When you go through difficulties, you learn and then you can empathize.” Mr. Bonjour explained God uses a “hands-off” approach with His people to see what they will do. But if a Christian does not judge himself—if he fails to align his plan with God’s plan—God will step in and correct it.

“If you’ve got God, you’ve got everything. If you don’t have God, you have nothing.”

Mr. Bonjour concluded, “Looking back, I can see God very gently moved me in a direction where I can benefit not only me and my family but the Church. You don’t always get to go in the direction you want to go. You don’t always get to do the things you want to do. But you trust God, and you know that God is involved in your life.”

“And, as Mr. Armstrong said, ‘I read the book, and, in the end, we win.’”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.