From hidden sin to open forgiveness

The cost of confession and repentance that still sets people free today.

The cost of confession and repentance that still sets people free today.

Proverbs 28:13 – He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will be shown compassion.

In order to be forgiven, one must recognize that a transgression has occurred, confess or admit to the fault, and then forsake (to let loose, depart from) that practice. This is not just a principle with God, but between people, as well.

Numbers 5:6-7 – “Say to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that men commit by breaking faith with Yahweh, and that person is guilty, he shall confess his sin which he has committed; and he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it, and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong.”

This demonstrates how wronging someone else is also an infraction against the Almighty. This is why the Law, the Ten Commandments, has commands related to God and to others. When we wrong someone else according to the Law (murder, adultery, theft, lying, coveting) we are transgressing against God.

When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, his heart became grieved that he had not only acted wickedly, but that he had sinned against a holy God.

Psalm 51:1-4 – Be gracious to me, God, according to your faithful love; according to your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion. Completely wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against you ​– ​you alone ​– ​I have sinned and done this evil in your sight. So you are right when you pass sentence; you are blameless when you judge.

God has designed people to struggle under the weight of their secret rebellion. The guilt of wrongdoing can directly affect the emotional well-being of an individual. As David wrote extensively about the effects of sin and forgiveness in his life, we can learn and identify with his struggles of unconfessed sin.

Psalm 32:3-5 – When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

But confessing the sin is only the first part. If we have wronged someone else, we must not only come clean about it, but we must make things right by them. Not only are we to forsake that wrongdoing, but we have to make restitution when possible. This was essentially the “mechanics” behind sacrificial offerings: it demonstrated that the individual recognized their sin and understood there was a cost to their actions. Once the offering was made to God, then the “offering” needed to be made to the one who was wronged. This kept accountability squarely where it belonged: on the guilty individual. Once this was accomplished, forgiveness from God and the wronged party would be a welcome release.

David also experienced this aspect of the confession/offering process.

Psalm 32:1-2 – How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How joyful is a person whom Yahweh does not charge with iniquity and in whose spirit is no deceit!

When we hold our sins closely hidden, we are, in effect, deceiving ourselves. According to the proverb stated at the outset of this study, we cannot prosper. As much as we won’t admit it, it affects us. It eats away slowly at our conscience, imperceptibly coloring other aspects of our being. In one sense, sin can be considered a disease, as in “dis-ease” within our emotional selves.

However, when we “come clean,” we are released from that burden. We most certainly will pay a price for doing so, but this is to be expected and welcomed as a natural outcome. As Zacchaeus proudly exclaimed upon his recognition of Messiah:

Luke 19:8 – But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much.”

This was as Yeshua had intended, as this confession and restitution demonstrated the sincerity of Zacchaeus’ heart.

Luke 19:9-10 – “Today salvation has come to this house,” Yeshua told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

The concept of salvation is much more than a spiritual condition; it is also an emotional release from the weight of hidden shame due to a life of unconfessed sin. When confession and repentance are sincere, the effects of true freedom are life-changing.

John 8:34, 36 – Yeshua responded, “Truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. … So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.”


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com

Contrasts leading to forgiveness

The Biblical injunctions to avoid foolish and impetuous talk remain consistent over the centuries.

The Biblical injunctions to avoid foolish and impetuous talk remain consistent over the centuries.

Matthew 5:22 – “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be answerable to the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be answerable to the Council; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be liable to Gehenna fire.”

This saying of Yeshua appears extreme for such a seemingly petty offense. Anger and name-calling can have you dragged into court and ultimately into the judgment of God. What is even stranger is that it is pronounced in the larger context of murder, a crime which seems much more severe. Why the contrast? And is this a new teaching?

Well, to the first point, Yeshua almost always states things in contrast, as this provides the greatest clarity of the topic at hand. When two contrasts are presented, the truth then becomes self-evident.

Matthew 5:13 – “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by people.”

The salt is understood to be of no value if it loses the very thing that makes it unique among all other minerals or spices. This is a perfect analogy revealing the purpose of the believer is to not compromise their uniqueness as a child of God in a world of corruption.

Matthew 5:14-15 – “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

The absurdity of lighting a lamp only to cover it with a basket illustrates the same principle: a believer is meant to shine, not to be outwardly like everyone else; we must shine with the light God gives us.

And the teaching of Yeshua about calling someone a fool and being in danger of Gehenna fire was not a new teaching, either. For example, the psalmist warned of the dangers of anger and wrath, how it can only lead to further evildoing, and how evildoers would ultimately receive judgment of God.

Psalm 37:7-9: “Rest in Yahweh, and wait patiently for him. Don’t fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who makes wicked plots happen. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath. Don’t fret, it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for Yahweh shall inherit the land.”

A similar thought is conveyed in the Proverbs, as well.

Proverbs 18:6-7 – “A fool’s lips bring strife, And his mouth invites beatings. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, And his lips are the snare of his soul.”

In contrast to these judgments of ruin or snared souls, Yeshua encourages love and forgiveness. If we have called someone “empty-headed” or a fool, we are already headed on a path that can lead us down a path of potential escalation, ultimately resulting in a greater judgment. But if we forgive, we cut that path off and open the door to the avoidance of further strife and reconciliation.

  • Matthew 5:44 – “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
  • Ephesians 4:26-27 – “‘Be angry, and yet do not sin’; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
  • Ephesians 4:31-32 – “All bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Messiah also has forgiven you.”
  • Titus 3:2 – “…to slander no one, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing every consideration for all people.”

Kindness and forgiveness are much more in line with the attitude that God expects of his children. Being understanding and showing consideration, even amidst disagreement, goes a long way toward representing God in a positive light to those who may not know him. A little salt and a little light provide opportunities for healing and understanding.


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com

Imitating God

This is how we cultivate peace.

This is how we cultivate peace.

As Paul was writing to the Ephesian congregation, he was nearing the end of his life. Although he was in prison when he wrote this, he recognized that whether or not he would be freed, he was near to completing what God had called him to do.

The entire epistle reads like a farewell letter, like a parent trying to convey as much as possible to ensure their children have everything they need to lead a successful and fruitful life. This is why it is so rich with spiritual direction and drawn from so regularly by teachers of God’s Word today.

One of its core themes can be summed up by the first verse in the fourth chapter:

Ephesians 4:1 – Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received…

To live a life worthy of the calling received; this should be the goal of every believer. Paul then goes on to list characteristics like humility, bearing one another’s burdens, unity, having a renewed mind, speaking the truth, encouraging one another, removing anger and bitterness. And then he lists a quality that is partly hidden by a chapter break in our modern Bibles.

Ephesians 4:32-5:2 – And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Messiah. Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love…

As his children, we are urged to imitate God; the word literally means to mimic him. The characteristic that should most define us as his children is the forgiveness we show to one another, rooted in love.

God set the example by providing a way of forgiveness through Messiah. If we are to imitate him, we should find ways to forgive those around us with whom we disagree, or with those who have been hurtful us in some way. This should be as central to our attitudes toward others as the role that God’s forgiveness in Messiah plays in our own relationship with him.

If we are to be his children, we should be seeking peace with others as he has sought peace with us. Then we will see its fruit borne out in the growing expanse of the Kingdom.

James 3:17-18 – But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com

The hard work of reconciliation and forgiveness

Are we commanded to forgive unconditionally?

Are we commanded to forgive unconditionally? Well, Yeshua’s admonition to forgive others is unmistakable:

Matthew 6:12, 14-15 – “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. … “For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. “But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.

Therefore, as believers, we should just forgive everyone no matter what, correct? Well, if we dive a little deeper into Yeshua’s concept of forgiveness, we find that he lays out some parameters that can help guide us through some of these interpersonal relationships, and it may seem a little different than you may expect.

Luke 17:3-4 – “Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Firstly, we can see that we must be alert or “on our guard,” as he relates here. Forgiveness is not something that should just be offered to everyone regardless of circumstance. If we are preparing to be forgiving, then we must be alert and use some critical thinking, as well.

Yeshua says “if he repents” you must forgive him. That is the qualifier. Even if someone comes up to you after repeatedly offending you in some way but asks for forgiveness, you must not withhold it.

But what do we do in a situation where someone provides an offense against us but does not repent or ask forgiveness? Are we obligated to forgive them? Well, Yeshua lays out an instance where that also may come into play. It begins by confronting the individual who has wronged another.

Matthew 18:15 – “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.”

In this case, an offense of some sort has been caused by a close friend or relative yet they have not asked for forgiveness. Interestingly, Yeshua lays the responsibility to restore the relationship on the one has been wronged. It would appear that one of Yeshua’s primary principles is restoration of relationships, not avoidance. This is also intimated in another teaching where he relates those relationships should be restored prior to worshiping God.

Matthew 5:22-24 – “But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool! ‘ will be subject to fire of Gehenna. So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”

The reconciliation begins with us for those with whom we might be angry for some reason. If we go and speak with them about it and they recognize the error, then, as Yeshua says, “you have won your brother.” However, what do we do if they don’t repent or ask for forgiveness? This process is also lined out by Yeshua.

Matthew 18:16-17 “But if he won’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he doesn’t pay attention to them, tell the congregation. If he doesn’t pay attention even to the congregation, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you.”

Only in the most bitterest of contentions must we remain separated from those who have wronged us. Yet, how many of us have actually cared enough to take the initiative in doing the hard work in restoring those failed relationships? Forgiveness may be real and lasting but it is not cheap. It comes at a price, and it has boundaries.

Yeshua then concludes this teaching with a phrase that has challenged commentators and believers over the years, but I believe is not as difficult to understand as it sounds.

Matthew 18:18 – Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.

This binding and loosing principle can be understood in the light of what God has commanded. Whatever God (heaven) has bound, is bound or restricted. Whatever God (heaven) has loosed or allowed, is allowable. This is a basic understanding of all of God’s Torah or instruction, beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden. This is also why we find Yeshua referring to the Torah principle of additional witnesses found in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 19:15 – A lone witness is not sufficient to establish any wrongdoing or sin against a man, regardless of what offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

As believers, we are bound to what God’s Word or Torah says, but whatever it allows, we are also free or “loosed” to do. So when we follow the admonition of the Torah injunction in ensuring facts of a matter before we jump to conclusions about someone’s intent, we honor God and relationships can be restored.

In his teaching on forgiveness, Yeshua simply provides clarification on the fact that if someone repents, we are obligated to forgive them. However, if they are unrepentant and we have fully involved others to verify the injustice, then and only then are we justified in avoiding them.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com

Love, prayer, and forgiveness

To conquer evil, believers must do good and pray for others, and then forgive when repentance occurs.

To conquer evil, believers must do good and pray for others, and then forgive when repentance occurs.

Matthew 5:44-45 – “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

When it comes to those who are enemies or who are contrary to us, we have two commands from Yeshua: love them and pray for them. In this way, he says we will be children of our Father in heaven.

In the examples he provides, Yeshua’s definition of love is something along the lines of: to do good to someone else even if they don’t deserve it. He uses the example of God shining his sun and sending the watering rains on everyone, regardless if they acknowledge him or not. This serves two purposes: it illustrates God as the Creator over all, and it highlights his equal care for those he has created, whether they return his care and concern or not. When we treat others in this fashion, says Yeshua, we are acting like our Father in heaven, and can rightly be called his children.

When it comes to forgiveness, we are instructed by Yeshua to forgive others only when they come to us asking for it. Forgiveness by us is required when someone has wronged us and is repentant, asking for our forgiveness. It is then that we must not withhold our forgiveness, even though we may be hurt and wounded by the offense. If they come to us seeking forgiveness, no matter how many times, we must do so.

Matthew 18:21-22 – Then Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times? ” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.”

Forgiveness is not something that is offered when there is no repentance; even God does not provide that. In those instances, we are to continue to love (do undeserved good things) and pray for them. However, when someone sincerely comes to us in recognition of the error of their ways against us, we must forgive regardless of the offense. This is the way God forgives, and his forgiveness is complete.

It is easy to get all of these terms mixed up in our heads and to think we are required to provide forgiveness to enemies who are unrepentant, since we are to love our enemies. No, we are to love our enemies by doing good to them and praying for them even though we may not feel they deserve it, but we must do so sincerely with the desire to see them repent. In this way, we are acting as God does toward all people.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 – First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

After loving others by doing good things for them and sincerely praying for them, it should prompt them to repent.

Proverbs 25:21-22 – If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and Yahweh will reward you.

The “burning coals on his head” is the ashamedness that someone would feel when you have returned good for their evil. In fact, the apostle Paul quotes this same proverb and then adds:

Romans 12:21 – Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

When we do good and pray that repentance occurs, then we are to offer forgiveness based on their repentance. Love and prayer come first, then forgiveness comes when repentance is demonstrated. In this way, we act like our Father in heaven and honor the way of living that brings glory to his Name.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Responsible mercy

Believers are rich in wisdom; generosity is required in our dealings with others.

Believers are rich in wisdom; generosity is required in our dealings with others.

Through the Proverbs and into the New Testament writings, the rich are chastised for oppression of the poor.

  • Prov 18:23: The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly.
  • Proverbs 22:16 – Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss.
  • Proverbs 28:6 – Better to be poor and walk in integrity than to be crooked in one’s ways even though rich.
  • Proverbs 22:7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
  • James 2:6-7 – Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
  • James 5:1-6 – Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.

While these passages are based on real class issues that had arisen among God’s people, the central issue is not just that they were rich, but that they were crooked in their dealings, oppressing those who were below them in social status, being rough with those with whom they could have shown greater compassion.

As we have seen in many other lessons, mercy and forgiveness are closely associated throughout the Bible. One of the reasons this is so is because they both have to do with an offset of privilege; a power imbalance is in play. This is most evident between the rich and the poor because of simple economics, but it speaks to a spiritual power imbalance in any relationship.

The “rich” individual is the one who holds the primary rights in a situation between two people. This is the person who has the ability to control an outcome simply because of standing or evidence that backs their position. The “poor” person in the relationship lacks this gravitas and is essentially “at the mercy” of the more strongly-positioned individual. In this case, the “rich” person may have the ability to hurt the less-strongly positioned individual, and this is where mercy comes into play.

Rather than flaunt their right position, this individual can simply forgive the less-strongly positioned individual to end the matter. This is showing mercy: having the ability to exercise a power but refraining for the good of another, or for the continuation of a valuable relationship.

James speaks to this issue and drives home the accountability that the more strongly-positioned individual carries in the eyes of God.

James 2:13 – For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

James says that showing mercy is more important than always being right. This is the way we can view passages like this that speak to power imbalances and draw viable spiritual conclusions. We can also corroborate this type of teaching with the teaching of Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:7: ” Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

Mercy and forgiveness are much more valued than a judgment that proves one’s position to be right. This honors the less-strongly positioned individuals and provides them an opportunity to realize the reality of their position. Perhaps in that light, they will repent of the wrongly held opinion or actions they are promoting.

As responsible believers seeking to honor God, we should always default to mercy and forgiveness due to the richness of the wisdom of God that has been provided to us.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

We have an obligation to forgive others

We must extend the love and forgiveness of God that we have received to others.

Core of the Bible podcast #77 – We have an obligation to forgive others

Today we will be looking at the topic of forgiveness, and how a recognition of the depth of our forgiven state should motivate us to forgive others.

Colossians 3:13 – “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Paul is here reminding the Colossian believers of an obligation they have to forgive anyone who offends them.

The faults that Paul mentions here in this verse speak of those who have complaints or blame to assign to another. In my experience, there will always be blame to assign to someone, and there will always be complaints about others. The exhortation that Paul gives for overcoming this blame and complaining attitude of others is that those who are to forgive need only to recognize how much God forgave them.

If we are honest about this kind of thinking, we have been in this same condition before God; grumblers and complainers, assigning blame to others. Like our natural parents Adam and Eve, we have looked for excuses as to why we have not obeyed God, and we have been quick to assign blame to another:

Genesis 3:11-13 – “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Then Yahweh God asked the woman, “What have you done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”

In our natural state prior to coming to faith in Messiah, if you’ll pardon the expression, the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree. And yet, even in our new relationship with God, as we seek to grow the “new man” within us, sometimes those old tendencies rear their head and cause us to stumble.

Now, at this point, many believers may agree with this challenge of being led astray by our old, sinful tendencies and be reminded of Paul’s monologue in Romans seven. This is where he describes the challenges of overcoming the flesh to be obedient to the word of God. It’s a long quote, but worth reviewing in the context of our current discussion:

Romans 7:14-23 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold as a slave to sin. For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. Now if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

This passage has been used by many to justify the condition of sin in their lives, saying, “See, even the apostle Paul struggled with sin so much that he couldn’t always faithfully follow God’s law, even though he wanted to.”

Well, that is certainly how it appears by reading this passage in isolation. However, if we place it back into its context within the overall message of Romans, we may see that it is teaching something completely different. In a moment, we’ll take a look at what this passage looks like within the wider context of Paul’s letter to the Romans.


When we step back and take a wider view of Paul’s line of reasoning starting back in the beginning of chapter six of Romans, we can get a better perspective of where this line of reasoning goes, and how he illustrates various points along the way.

In the opening verses of chapter six, Paul writes, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

With this plain statement, we can already see how Paul is of the opinion that believers should not be continuing to struggle with sinful lifestyles. This is the opening salvo in the argument which follows, in which Paul attempts to show how believers are no longer subject to the sin they have become so used to.

In one of his first illustrations, he describes how the believer has in essence died with Messiah, and therefore should be living a new life.

Romans 6:11-12 – “So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Messiah Yeshua. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires.”

He then uses the example of slavery, and declares how believers have been set free from the slavery of sin.

Romans 6:22 – “But now, since you have been set free from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification ​– ​and the outcome is eternal life!”

In the beginning of chapter seven, he then uses an illustration from marriage, saying how death of one partner releases them from the bonds of marriage, and the survivor is free to marry another without committing adultery.

Romans 7:2 – “For example, a married woman is legally bound to her husband while he lives. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law regarding the husband.”

This is an illustration of moving from the letter of the law in Moses to the spirit of the law in Messiah.

He then even goes so far as to demonstrate how the very law of God itself, that which was intended for life, can produce death because of the sinful tendencies of the unregenerate human heart. That long passage in chapter seven which we have already reviewed is the continuation of that thought. It’s as if he is expressing the thoughts, not of a believer, but of an unregenerate Jew who is still attempting to hold to the law of God by their own merit, through their flesh.

But the culmination of all of these examples and illustrations comes in the triumphant exclamation of verses 24-25 of chapter seven: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Messiah Yeshua our Lord!”

He comes to the conclusion that God, through belief in Messiah, has the ability to overcome all of these challenges. He raises believers to life, sets them free from sin and marries them to a new husband!

Then, it’s as if Paul, taking one final look over his shoulder at all of the illustrations he has just made, re-states the problem of the one who is not born from above:

Romans 7:25 – “So then, with my mind I myself am serving the law of God, but the flesh, the law of sin.”

As the narrative then moves into the next chapter, his line of reasoning then ascends to the beautiful reality of the regenerate believer, one who has become born again through a vibrant faith in the Messiah:

Romans 8:1-5 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Messiah Yeshua, because the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua has set you free from the law of sin and death. What the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit.”

The answer to the problem of sin and the flesh, Paul says, is to live by the empowering of God’s Spirit. This should be the reality for the believer, not the see-saw of frustrated obedience in Romans chapter seven; no, that is the result of trying to serve God in the flesh and not through his indwelling Spirit.

This teaching on living by the Spirit actually dovetails perfectly with our current discussion regarding forgiveness of others, because when we are attempting to serve God in the flesh, we open ourselves to all of the negative connotations of worldly religion. Among other things, we can fall prey to a measure of hypocrisy, something hated by all and cautioned against by Messiah.

Matthew 6:14-15 – “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

When we refuse to forgive, it’s the flesh that is rising up because it has been offended by something that it does not approve of. That is the natural reaction of the natural person, the one who has not been regenerated by the Spirit of God. But it is hypocritical of us to be subject to the flesh and to remain unforgiving of others. Why? Because the admonition of Paul in Colossians 3:13 says because “the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” A literal rendering of this instruction would be “in the same manner or to the same degree that God has forgiven you, you should do in like fashion to others.”

When we tie this admonition to the realization of the believer’s new and empowering life in the Spirit, we can see how this instruction can be observed and followed in our lives today. Our flesh may recoil at the idea of forgiving someone who may not seem to deserve it, but the Spirit living inside us can empower us to provide that forgiveness anyway. This is not only a suggestion but an urgent command: “you must forgive others.”

This is how believers can be witnesses to those around them that they have been regenerated by the Spirit of God. This is how the kingdom of God continues to grow: through our faithful obedience to the commands of God, and through extending the love and forgiveness of God that we have received to others.

We have to remember that we have been disobedient before God in any number of ways that only we know within ourselves, yet somehow God was willing to overlook these rebellious faults and still call us to himself. If his same Spirit resides in us, then is it not reasonable that he wants to extend that same forgiveness through us?

With what measure and how much has God forgiven you? When we realize the depth of that forgiveness, it should reveal our ability, and our obligation, to forgive others in a new light.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Copying the mercy and blessing of God to others

Only when we rise above do we demonstrate we are born from above.

Only when we rise above do we demonstrate we are born from above.

Matthew 5:44-45: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”

Two qualities are here spoken of by Yeshua: one is being like your Father in heaven, and the other is doing good equally to those who are good and those who are evil. The conclusion is that in mimicking the good actions of God to all people, we demonstrate we are his children.

In view of these qualities, a couple of other observations become apparent, as well. Firstly, God is the one supreme Being over all, since everyone in this world experiences sun and rain to varying degrees. This demonstrates God’s sovereignty over his creation.

Secondly, there is also an element of good in those provisions of sunlight and rain as opposed to common misconceptions of God’s indifference or dispassionate separation from that what he has created. Closely aligned with this “indifference” mindset, but worse still, is the idea that everything we see and experience is the result of chance and random mutation. This type of worldview leads individuals to act in accordance with the hopeless lack of meaning throughout life. Following this logically, if the natural conditions of the weather are purposeless effects of a random physical process, then this analogy that Yeshua arrives at loses its meaning as well.

By contrast, the believer in the God of the Bible can take heart that even the ubiquitous nature of weather is imbued with a sense of purpose from the Almighty Creator. The mere act of existing within this cosmos is a gift beyond measure. Living with this type of Creation worldview imbues all experiences with meaning and purpose. Because of this purpose and meaning, Yeshua then urges his hearers to copy the gracious purpose of their Father by bestowing favor on all others.

As much as we may desire to act and react to others in the like fashion in which we are treated by them, Yeshua urges us to rise above these petty differences and treat others with the same blessing and provision that God bestows on all men. This involves forgiveness when we have been wronged and turning situations around by inserting gracious energy back toward those who, by all natural appearances, may not seem to others to deserve it.

This is what it means to be a child of God, not just in what we believe, but in what we do and how we act. Believers are to be better, more noble than others in the world who do not know God. However, this is not to be a distinction of prideful privilege, but a recognition of duty to always represent the best of Yahweh as we are created in his image and likeness. As we conform more fully to him, we demonstrate we are truly his children.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The knowledge of salvation in forgiveness

When we recognize we are in a forgiven state, we can then operate within that condition in a manner that honors the Creator of the universe.

When we recognize we are in a forgiven state, we can then operate within that condition in a manner that honors the Creator of the universe.

When John the baptizer was born six months ahead of Yeshua, his father, Zechariah, was provided a prophetic utterance by the holy Spirit regarding the work of his newborn son.

Luke 1:76-77 – “And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”

Zechariah prophesied that his son John would give God’s people “knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.” What does this mean?

Well, if we look a little more closely at the underlying terms in the Greek text, we can see that a more literal rendering might be something like, “to give salvation knowledge to [the] people of him, in forgiveness of [the] sins of them.” To me, one of the most striking differences is the substitution of the preposition “in” for “through.” God’s people would have “salvation knowledge” in forgiveness of their sins, not through forgiveness of their sins.

This subtle difference is captured in the literal English versions such as the Young’s Literal Translation, Weymouth, Literal Standard Version, Aramaic Bible, American Standard Version, Berean Literal, and the English Standard Version. Almost all other English translations will use the word “through” or “by.”

So what’s the big deal? Why is this significant?

The HELPS Word Studies concordance elaborates:

“en (a preposition) – properly, in (inside, within); (figuratively) “in the realm (sphere) of,” as in the condition (state) in which something operates from the inside (within).”

To be forgiven is to be in the condition or state of forgiveness. The prophecy states that it is in this condition that one has a recognition, a knowledge and understanding of one’s “saved” state. By contrast, if the knowledge and understanding of salvation must be present first which then provides the vehicle through which forgiveness is provided to the individual, then we are by default limiting forgiveness to those who are exposed to and understand this knowledge. This in essence restricts God’s ability to forgive anyone unless they have the proper and right knowledge.

On a casual reading of this passage, this may not seem like it has any bearing on anything. But let’s run this logic out a little to see where it leads.

What about those who may not have the ability to grasp the gospel message, such as those who are mentally challenged? Does this mean that they can’t be forgiven because they can’t understand the knowledge of salvation? What about infants and small children who have not gained the ability to reason about life and eternity, can they not receive forgiveness?

Interestingly, Yeshua states that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are innocent as children.

Matthew 18:1-5 – At that time the disciples came to Yeshua and asked, “So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? ” He called a child and had him stand among them. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child ​– ​this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever welcomes one child like this in my name welcomes me.

Can a child understand all of the complexities that surround the concepts of salvation and forgiveness? Yet, Yeshua says it is this innocence and humility which is the basis of those populating the kingdom.

The crux of the issue determines in a large way how we approach the whole concept of evangelism and outreach. Modern models of evangelism focus so intently on providing information about salvation, trying to convince people of the reasonableness of the gospel message, that we lose sight of Who is it is Who is really responsible for the forgiveness of an individual. Yes, we have to provide non-believers a general understanding of the biblical worldview, but it is not that knowledge specifically that provides forgiveness. It is God, and God alone, who draws people to himself and forgives them.

Yeshua taught that those whom God would call would listen to him.

John 6:44-45 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to me ​– ​”

This misapplication of this “knowledge principle” is one of the main reasons why churches and individuals head down a road of compromise with the world. They start to operate on the principle that if the information is just packaged correctly, more people will get saved. This, in turn, leads to “seeker sensitive” churches and materials in an attempt to reach the widest possible audiences.

It sounds logical and good on the surface, but what it ends up doing is watering down the kingdom message of the gospel to make it more palatable to more people. In so doing, it is robbed of its power by the nature of what it is: a message that is designed by God to set people apart and call them to be holy, not to compromise with the standards and sensibilities of the world.

Paul writes about it this way:

1 Corinthians 1:18, 21-24 – For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved. … For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Messiah crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Messiah is the power of God and the wisdom of God…

See, it is not some knowledge of salvation that we need to convince non-believers of; it is foolishness to them. But the message of the Messiah bringing the kingdom of God through the cross, a message of self-sacrifice and renunciation of worldly values, this is the light that shines in the darkness, and whoever will may come.

No, Zechariah’s prophecy, which literally says “you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation in the forgiveness of their sins,” has a much simpler meaning and message. It is that those who have already been forgiven (God’s people) will have a recognition, a knowledge and understanding, of their salvation from everything and all that is opposed to the perfect will of God. That is its simple and beautiful message to those who are forgiven. They will be able to rejoice within the influence of the forgiveness they have already received, having a full understanding and appreciation of all from which they have been forgiven.

When we recognize we are in a forgiven state, we can then operate within that condition in a manner that honors the Creator of the universe; we can be truly holy for the rest of our days.

Luke 1:73-75 – He has given us the privilege, since we have been rescued from the hand of our enemies, to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness in his presence all our days.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The universal fault of hypocrisy

Believers need to always be on guard against unfair judgment.

Believers need to always be on guard against unfair judgment.

Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.”

Over the centuries, many believers have looked at Yeshua’s command to not judge others as an indication that believers should never be critical of others at all. However, to do so is a failure to continue in the context of the passage.

Matthew 7:2-3 – “For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye?”

What Yeshua is illustrating is not a restriction on critical judgment, but on hypocritical judgment of others. What he was condemning was the practice, especially of the religious elite, to condemn others for the very things of which they themselves were guilty. The warning, of course, is that for those who do so, they will be judged by the same standards they use on others.

This is a common principle that is outlined in other areas of the Bible, as well. Paul writes about it to the Roman congregation:

Romans 2:1 – “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on another. For on whatever grounds you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

In fact, the same principle operates on a larger level, and appears to be a law built into the very fabric of Creation itself. As an example, when the city of Jerusalem (representing Judea) was being chastised through the prophecies of Ezekiel, they were accused by God of becoming subject to the same condemnation that they had scorned Sodom for.

Ezekiel 16: 56-58 – “Did you not treat your sister Sodom as an object of scorn in the day of your pride, before your wickedness was uncovered? Even so, you are now scorned by the daughters of Edom and all those around her, and by the daughters of the Philistines—all those around you who despise you. You will bear the consequences of your lewdness and your abominations, declares Yahweh.”

Hypocrisy is a universal fault that applies to cities, tribes, and nations as well as individuals. Unfortunately, in our day and culture of instantaneous opinion-sharing we are ripe for this principle to be played out amongst ourselves. We form opinions based on half-truths and one-sided personal stories that get shared around through our social media platforms, and most times don’t even realize that we are doing so.

Instead, we should focus less on Matthew 7:1 and much more on Matthew 7:2, “For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use.”

We would do well to heed the advice of the apostle Paul and prioritize removing hindrances to the gospel of the kingdom through forgiveness and love. Having an attitude defaulting to forgiveness instead of judgment opens the door for allowing that we may not have all of the information to make a correctly informed decision. With this mindset in place, we can instead promote the positive actions that open doors to truth, understanding, and ultimately peace.

Romans 14:13, 19 – Therefore let us stop judging one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way … So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.