Holiness as a destiny?

What the Bible teaches about predestination

Jeremiah 1:4-5 – Now the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

When Jeremiah was called by God, it was revealed to him that his role as a prophet was something that had been in the mind of God prior even to his being conceived or born. From this, many great Bible thinkers over the millennia have ascertained this an indication of a universal principle for all men; that God predetermines the lives of all: some for holiness and righteousness, and others for corruption.

John Gill (ca. early 1700’s) writes:
“‘I knew thee’…. Not merely by his omniscience, so he knows all men before their conception and birth; but with such a knowledge as had special love and affection joined with it; in which sense the Lord knows them that are his, as he does not others, and predestinates them unto eternal life; and which is not only before their formation in the womb, but before the foundation of the world, even from all eternity.”

The Keil and Delitsch commentary (ca. 1800’s) states:
“God in His counsel has not only foreordained our life and being, but has predetermined before our birth what is to be our calling upon this earth; and He has accordingly so influenced our origin and our growth in the womb, as to prepare us for what we are to become, and for what we are to accomplish on behalf of His kingdom. This is true of all men…”

With all due respect to these great theological minds, I believe that drawing a universal principal from this verse oversteps the intent of the text and brings us within the halls of Calvinism: the idea of predestination of all people.

I believe Scripture reveals that God can and does select some individuals for specific purposes within the outworking of his kingdom. Some other expressed examples of this besides Jeremiah include Samson, John the baptizer, and even Paul the apostle.

Judges 13:3-5 – And the angel of Yahweh appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. … No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”

Luke 1:13-15 – But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

Galatians 1:15-16 – But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone…

The Geneva Study Bible states it very simply and concisely:
(g) The scripture uses this manner of speech to declare that God has appointed his minsters to their offices before they were born, as in Isa 49:1, Ga 1:15.

This clarifies this principle to demonstrate that God works his purpose as he sees fit and raises up individuals to accomplish his will as needed in specific instances and specific roles. As an example of this, Scripture tells us that God even had a specific purpose for the Pharaoh of Egypt who contended with Moses:

Exodus 9:16 – But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

However, to draw from this that everyone is pre-destined to holiness or condemnation is over-stepping the bounds of what is being conveyed through the use of this type of language and imagery. Yeshua states it this way:

Luke 14:8, 10-11 – “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, … But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Through this, Yeshua teaches us that our role as believers is simply to remain humble and faithful to God through his word in all things. And if God so chooses to call us up to a higher station, that is certainly his prerogative. Of that honored individual, it could be said that God has set them apart for that specific purpose in that place and time. But to draw from this that everyone else at the table was pre-determined for dishonor goes beyond the overall context of Scripture.


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.

Becoming a vessel of honor

All believers are charged with purging worldliness from our lives.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some unto honor, and some unto dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, set apart, suitable for the master’s use, prepared unto every good work.”

Here in Paul’s instructions to Timothy, he shares an illustration to highlight for Timothy how he should fashion his routine behavior. He uses the example of different types of utensils or cups in a wealthy household as being made of different materials for different purposes. Those made of gold and silver would be used for special occasions of honor. Those made of wood and clay were for more common use. Through this illustration, Paul encourages Timothy to “purge himself from these.” What are “these” that Timothy is to purge himself from?

In the context of the passage, there are several different negative qualities that are mentioned. In v. 4, Paul says, “No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer.” This intimates how believers should be set apart from participating in the mundane events that others get caught up in on a regular basis.

To make this point more apparent, Paul narrows the definition of what Timothy is to avoid as “quarreling over words.” Strong’s definition clarifies this as “to wrangle about trifling and empty matters.” In v. 16 Paul pulls even finer clarity on the concept by encouraging Timothy to “[a]void worldly and empty speech, since those who engage in it will produce even more godlessness…” The worldly aspect of this type of speech is defined in the Greek as being related to a threshold that one steps over, as a common entrance that is trodden under foot without care or concern. Anyone can cross that threshold into worldly speculation over the latest controversies. And when one does so, it produces only more irreverence for the things of God, more impiety and godlessness. For our generation, think of the latest social media trending topics, or political controversy du jour.

This is a consistent theme with Paul, as in his first letter to Timothy he had used the same type of language in his instruction there: “But have nothing to do with pointless and silly myths,” (1 Timothy 4:7).

To counter all of this empty and worldly speculative nonsense, Paul says in that place, “Rather, train yourself in godliness.” Here in his second letter, he expands on what this training in godliness is by saying, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth,” (v. 15).

Here we see that diligent training in the word of truth is the counter to the empty and speculative nonsense that the world engages in on a daily basis. Paul is charging Timothy, as a mature believer who is responsible for leading others, to do his best to engage deeply with the word of truth. He encourages him to make himself a vessel of silver or gold that becomes set apart for God’s use because it is special or unique, and not simply something that is subject to common use like everyone else.

All of this is just another way that the apostle is encouraging Timothy to demonstrate holiness in his lifestyle, to be set apart from the commonality and ordinariness that so many others simply wallow in with little thought of anything that could be godly or redemptive. According to Paul, this is something that the believers must do for themselves, to be trained in the word of truth so thoroughly that there would be no need to be ashamed before the master.

In the same way, it is up to us to avoid becoming entangled in worldly affairs, wrangling over trifling, empty matters and silly myths. We are the ones entrusted with the word of truth, and it is up to us to separate ourselves in order to faithfully represent God’s word of truth to others, and so become the vessels of silver and gold that God can use in special ways for his unique and holy purposes.


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.

Holiness as defined by the world vs. the Bible

Which standards will we use?

In the Bible, believers are commanded to be holy, but in our current culture there are popular notions and definitions of what it means to be holy that may lead to some misguided understandings of how that quality applies specifically to believers.

Looking at some online dictionaries have provided some of these popular definitions of the word holy.

  1. Specially recognized as or declared sacred by religious use or authority; dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose, such as holy ground.

This definition implies that things or places can be designated as holy by some sanctioned religious authority. There have been holy objects throughout the history of Israel; namely, the tabernacle or temple and furnishings and many articles that were for exclusive use by the priests, including some of their garments. However, with the final destruction of the temple in AD 70, there no longer exists an earthly priesthood or any one place or object which is holier than any other.

John 4:21, 23 – Yeshua told her, “Believe me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. … “But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him.

  1. Entitled to worship or veneration as or as if sacred: a holy relic.

This definition describes some things as being inherently holy and worthy of worship. Nowhere does the Bible condone the veneration of created objects. In fact, idolatry through worshiping objects was the primary downfall of the nation of Israel throughout their history.

Exodus 20:4-5 – Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them…

  1. Dedicated or devoted to the service of God, the church, or religion: a holy man.

This is a pretty close approximation to a Biblical definition, as being holy means to be set apart for use exclusively by God. However, the Kingdom of God as defined in God’s Word is the only universal and eternal community of believers, not any one church or denomination. To be devoted to one church or denomination can lead to being bound to traditions of men over the Word of God.

Acts 5:27-29 – After they brought them in, they had them stand before the Sanhedrin, and the high priest asked, “Didn’t we strictly order you not to teach in this name? … Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men.”

  1. Having a spiritually pure quality: morally and spiritually excellent; a holy love for others.

This is a good definition, but when used in a universal sense can be frustrated by differing standards of moral excellence. The standards of moral and spiritual excellence are defined by God in his Word, not by men. It is exemplified as having a pure and blameless heart according to the instruction of God by loving God and loving others as one would love oneself.

Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Mark 12:30-31 – “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”

When we understand that being holy is not confined to a place or a thing but is the active response of a willing heart to the call and purpose of God according to his Word, we are more likely to be led by his Spirit than beholden to the dictates of men or their traditions. To be set apart by God for his purpose in this world then provides the pure motivation and selfless actions for the ongoing expansion of the timeless Kingdom of God throughout the world.


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.

Contemplating the majesty of God sets believers apart

Be holy, because he is holy.

Core of the Bible podcast #61 – Contemplating the majesty of God sets believers apart

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness, and how our holiness or being set apart is derived from our contemplation of the One who is uniquely holy and set apart.

In Psalm 29, David provides a poetic allegory of a thunderstorm in order to consider the holiness and majesty of God.

Psalm 29:2 – “Give to Yahweh the glory his name deserves. Worship Yahweh in his holy splendor.”

Within this psalm is a description of God’s awe-inspiring power displayed in the majestic outworking of a tempest. He is extolled in the demonstration of the power of a mighty storm. In this psalm, David uses a repeated phrase which is typically translated as “the voice of Yahweh.”

Psalm 29:4  – “the voice of Yahweh in power, the voice of Yahweh in splendor.”

However, the word that is brought out in English as voice (the Hebrew word qol) can mean sound or noise, as well. Here’s an example from Exodus:

Exodus 19:16 – On the third day, when morning came, there was thunder [qol] and lightning, a thick cloud on the mountain, and a very loud trumpet sound [qol], so that all the people in the camp shuddered.

Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Bible relates the following regarding the voice of Yahweh as used in this psalm:

“The voice of the Lord – The voice of Yahweh. There can be no doubt that the expression here, which is seven times repeated in the psalm, “the voice of Jehovah,” refers to thunder; and no one can fail to see the appropriateness of the expression. In heavy thunder it seems as if God spake. It comes from above. It fills us with awe. We know, indeed, that thunder as well as the other phenomena in the world, is produced by what are called “natural causes;” that there is no miracle in thunder; and that really God does not “speak” anymore in the thunder than he does in the sighing of the breeze or in the gurgling of the rivulet; but:

(a) He seems more impressively to speak to people in the thunder; and

(b) He may not improperly be regarded as speaking alike in the thunder, in the sighing of the breeze, and in the gurgling stream.

In each and all of these ways God is addressing men; in each and all there are lessons of great value conveyed, as if by His own voice, respecting His own existence and character.”

The idea that the voice of Yahweh described in this psalm is a thunderous sound has to do with its depiction throughout each of the various verses:

The voice of Yahweh breaks the cedars; Yahweh shatters the cedars of Lebanon.

The voice of Yahweh flashes flames of fire.

The voice of Yahweh shakes the wilderness; Yahweh shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of Yahweh makes the deer give birth and strips the woodlands bare.

All of these things can be said to be the result of a powerful thunder and lightning storm: shattering of trees; flashing light and fire; shaking of the wilderness; stripping the woodlands bare. Making the deer give birth can imply that the frightened deer goes into labor, but it also implies that the thunderous voice of God rumbles through the deserted wilderness places where deer prefer to separate themselves when giving birth.

If you’ve ever been through a close violent thunderstorm, I’m sure you can recall how terrifyingly loud and unnerving the noise and commotion of the wind and rain can be. If you were in an open and unprotected area when experiencing a large storm, I’m certain you can recall how vulnerable and frail you may have felt. The Psalmist here is using this type of imagery as a way of illustrating the power and majesty of God, and how incredibly small and unshielded we are from the elements of this world; how much more does that apply to us spiritually.

Barnes concludes:

“In each and all of these ways God is addressing men; in each and all there are lessons of great value conveyed, as if by His own voice, respecting His own existence and character. Those which are addressed to us particularly in thunder, pertain to His power, His majesty, His greatness; to our own weakness, feebleness, dependence; to the ease with which He could take us away, and to the importance of being prepared to stand before such a God.”

To wander into the realm of God is to be vulnerable and exposed to the power and majesty of the One who is beyond all comprehension. If the power of a single storm on earth can instill fear into the stoutest of hearts, how much more the all-powerful presence of the Almighty God?


These things are not necessarily meant to say that God is purposefully causing these individual occurrences to happen; he certainly could if he chose to. But the emphasis in this psalm is that those wonders and powers of nature demonstrate how all-powerful God really is simply because he created them in the first place. Because of this, it is easy for people to get God mixed up with his Creation.

For example, pantheism says that God is in everything, and therefore everything is God. Wikipedia has a reasonable working definition of pantheism that states:

“Pantheism is the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing, immanent God. All forms of reality may then be considered either modes of that Being, or identical with it. Some hold that pantheism is a non-religious philosophical position. To them, pantheism is the view that the Universe (in the sense of the totality of all existence) and God are identical.”

A common popular trope today is to assign “the universe” as an all-present, all-knowing force that influences the lives of people. This is typically used in kind of an ironic rather than serious fashion. However, there are some who believe that speaking something into the universe will bring an echo of meaning or direction back into their lives. Others believe when some notable event occurs, that the universe has pointed them in a direction or made a choice for them. Most people today engage with this type of thinking not realizing that this is really a form of pantheism.

By contrast, in Hebrew thought, God is not equated with the Creation, but is evidenced in and through his Creation. He can do with it as he wills, using it to accomplish his purposes as he sees fit. For example, he can cause a flood or he can create a drought; he can make a storm appear out of nowhere or he can calm the storm.

But beyond just manipulating the natural order, the God of the Bible is not limited by his Creation; he can cause non-linear things (according to the parameters of our understanding of physics) to occur. He can cause the sun and moon to stand still for a whole day (Joshua 10), or the sun to appear to go backwards (2 Kings 20). He can create a dry path through the depths of a sea in one night (Exodus 14), or cause someone who has died to live again (1 Kings 17, Luke 7, John 11). These are things that go against the natural order of things, and therefore demonstrate that God’s nature is transcendent to this Creation; he is greater than just the sum totality of all of its parts.  Therefore the God of the Bible is greater and more powerful than whatever god is assigned to the pantheistic philosophy of the created universe.

To consider the vastness of God’s power and ability, one needs only to look beyond the created order of even this world. In some psalms attributed to David, he meditates on the expanse of the heavens and the heavenly bodies that are evident there. He explains how this universality of God’s handiwork is evident in all nations under the heavens.

Psalm 19:1-4 – “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge.  There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard.  Their message has gone out to the whole earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

Because this aspect of God’s nature is evident everywhere, David ponders man’s role in light of his transcendent nature.

Psalm 8:3-4 – “When I observe your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you set in place,  what is a human being that you remember him, a son of man that you look after him?”

David’s conclusion is that viewing the vastness of God’s creation should cause us to be humbled in view of our limited existence and scope of influence.

Our modern astronomical telescopes have transformed how we look at the universe outside of the environs of the earth. We now have space telescopes that can image the farthest reaches of the visible universe. I am fascinated with these types of pictures, and I even have a computer wallpaper that is an image of a spiral galaxy. When I look at such an image depicting a self-contained galaxy with its millions of stars and planets, and knowing that the earth is only one tiny speck in our own galaxy, my mind is immediately humbled to whatever my personal circumstances might be, as this perspective reminds me of how small and finite my view of reality typically is.

In a similar way, when I come to the Bible and explore its depths, I am likewise placed in a position of humility when I consider the magnitude of spiritual revelation that God has provided us in his Word. That God has revealed himself as a being greater than the universe itself is boggling to the mind, and yet necessary for him to demonstrate who he is. His being is so high above all that exists, he is set apart from his Creation; yet he has chosen to maintain a dynamic and ongoing relationship with those whom he has created within that order of Creation that we call the universe.

Our own holiness, or separation from the world, is derived from our perspective and meditation of God as the Creator of all. In our current generation, amidst a people who have no recognition of any god, or who are self-absorbed in the creations of their own making, believers stand apart in our honoring of the one true God of the universe. In so doing, we ourselves become set apart.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

We must recognize that our holiness is derived from his holiness and majesty. If we lose sight of who he is, we become less set apart. Conversely, as we honor him and ascribe to him the glory that his name deserves, then we are elevated into a position of strength and purpose that rises far above our mundane existence.


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 holiness of God’s people, then and now

God’s standards of holiness don’t change.

Leviticus 20:26 – You must be holy because I, Yahweh, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own.

This admonition to holiness is set amidst the context of the practices of the nations of Canaan that Israel was displacing.

Leviticus 20:23 – “You must not follow the statutes of the nations I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and I abhorred them.

In the context of Leviticus 20, the “things” the nations were guilty of were the contaminations of idolatry (which included spiritism and child sacrifice), sexual immorality, and eating of unclean foods. Avoiding all of “these things” is what would set ancient Israel apart from the other nations; this is what would make them “holy.” This setting apart is the holiness that distinguished Israel as God’s people.

In consistent fashion, the holy Spirit of God led the first recorded council in Jerusalem to similar conclusions. As those among the nations were coming to faith in Messiah along with the scattered Jews and God-fearers in the synagogues, there were idolatrous practices being introduced into the community of believers, such as food offered to idols and cultural promiscuity. Paul and the other apostles deal with some of these issues in their epistles to various groups of believers. But the council, through the guidance of the holy Spirit, had issued a decisive template for the believing congregations to follow that was worded very similarly to the injunction of Moses to the ancient Israelites in remaining holy.

Acts 15:28-29 – “For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision ​– ​and ours ​– ​not to place further burdens on you beyond these requirements: “that you abstain from idolatrous offerings, from blood, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. You will do well if you keep yourselves from these things. Farewell.”

As can be seen by these comparative texts, avoidance of practices associated with idolatry, sexual immorality and unclean foods have always been the earmarks of God’s people that set them apart from the other nations. Therefore, I believe these distinctions should in like fashion remain as the defining characteristics that demonstrate the holiness or set-apartness of God’s people even today.


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 set apart fellowship of believers

It’s not where we meet but how we walk.

1 John 1:3 – “what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Yeshua the Anointed One.”

The apostle John makes it clear that the purpose of his epistle was to encourage faith in Yeshua and like-mindedness among those who would read and hear its message. He uses the word translated as fellowship four times in just this first chapter, so it must be important. Three times it is used in the context of having unity or like-mindedness with other believers, and once for unity of purpose with God.

We typically view fellowship as the common assembly of individuals in a congregation; the local fellowship of believers gathered together. But seeing how John uses the term here in these instances brings out this other aspect of meaning: unity of purpose and understanding.

The Greek word koinonia which is translated as fellowship can mean a shared contribution or participation (such as giving to the poor), or it can mean the specific share or portion that one has among a shared ideal (such as the sufferings or Messiah or the holy Spirit), or it can mean a shared unity around a common idea or purpose. This is the intent that John uses here in the opening verses of this epistle: the shared unity of purpose that believers have relating to a common understanding of God as the Father and Yeshua as the Anointed One of God.

This shared unity is what John is seeking to enjoin with those who were to hear the message of his epistle. Those who have a common understanding of God as a Father, of Yeshua as the Anointed Son of God, and who walk in the teachings of Yeshua have a common purpose; i.e., fellowship with one another. This does not mean that these believers have to all be in one location, just one mindset.

1 John 1:7 – If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua his Son cleanses us from all sin.

This singular mindset is what creates the unity that allows believers to “walk in the light,” that is, to walk obediently according to the commands of God as communicated through the Anointed Yeshua. This is where our true fellowship lies, not just in a building once or twice a week. As we walk with God our purpose transcends any local assembly and we become participants in the set apart group known as the Kingdom of God in this world.


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.

Pleasing God through holy prayer

We should simply be obedient to his plain will for us.

As the apostle Paul provides Timothy instruction on correct doctrine and appropriate conduct within the congregation, he begins to focus on the various groups within the assembly: men, women, widows, and slaves, along with the roles of overseers and deacons.

But first and foremost is the admonition to prayer; praying specifically for leaders and officials so that the message of the kingdom can be spread through the peaceful lives of obedient believers.

1 Timothy 2:1-2, 8 – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. … I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands apart from anger or quarreling…

While violence was common in that generation and persecution was ever present, the kingdom message had been historically spreading through the persecutions and scatterings of the believers, even the persecution brought on by Paul himself prior to his conversion.

Acts 8:3-4 – “But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”

However, as Paul’s missionary efforts throughout the empire were coming to fruition in the waning years of his life, he encourages prayer for peaceful and dignified existence to exhibit the wonderful salvation of God to all.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 – “This [praying for leaders and peace and harmony] is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

I can’t think of a more timely and appropriate lesson that we could learn from the Bible at this time in history. Our country and our world is becoming more fractured and oppositional with each passing week and month. If believers, instead of chastising administrations and leaders would instead join together and pray for them, “lifting up holy hands apart from anger and quarreling,” we may see real change towards peace and harmony. God’s desire of people experiencing salvation and coming to the knowledge of the truth could become much more of a reality than we are currently seeing.

Out of all of the actions we as believers can take in influencing this world, praying for leaders and for peace and unity is something that only we can do. If we believe we have been set apart as God’s people, then, as his children, we have the right and responsibility to petition him for this to come to pass. This is not an opportunity for us to lift up our preferred candidate over others, but a chance to ask for God’s involvement and enlightening of all those in authority, that they would make decisions that honor him and not just try to influence the polling statistics.

If this is something that pleases God, then we should simply be obedient to his plain and hopeful will for us, and the obligation that he has laid out for believers. If we consider ourselves holy and set apart, then it is time for us to act like it.


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.

Set apart for obedience to God’s will

The culmination of the biblical imagery is fulfilled in Messiah.

Hebrews 10:4-10 – For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Therefore when he comes into the world, he says, ‘You didn’t desire sacrifice and offering, but you prepared a body for me. You had no pleasure in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (in the scroll of the book it is written of me) to do your will, O God.’ Previously saying, ‘Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you didn’t desire, neither had pleasure in them’ (those which are offered according to the law), then he has said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He takes away the first, that he may establish the second, by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

While most believers look to the book of Romans as the most theologically dense writing of the New Testament, in actuality, I believe the book of Hebrews provides the most depth of theology, and also provides us the perspective of how the early believers, who were all Jewish, viewed the work and ministry of Yeshua.

The book never names its author; many think it is Paul, some think it may have been Timothy. The individual carries many of the same long phrases and characteristic nuances of Paul. Regardless, throughout the book, a well-planned and graduated argument is laid out for the meaning and purpose of what Messiah came to do.

By chapter ten, the book is reaching a crescendo of thought and focuses on the work of Messiah contrasted with the sacrifices of the priests according to the law of Moses. Almost all commentators focus on Yeshua’s blood sacrifice against the animal sacrifices of the priests. But is that the true comparison or contrast being laid out here? I don’t believe so, and here is why.

First, it is established that animal sacrifices don’t take away sin. This was not a new concept to biblical thought, since Psalm 40 is then quoted to demonstrate this. The problem begins with the representation of Psalm 40 in this passage of Hebrews and it being mis-quoted (in our modern Bibles) in this passage where it says “you prepared a body for me.” If we actually go back to the text in the Psalms, we see that it reads:

Psalm 40:6-8 “Sacrifice and offering you didn’t desire. You have opened my ears. You have not required burnt offering and sin offering. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come. It is written about me in the book in the scroll. I delight to do your will, my God. Yes, your law is within my heart.’”

So the original text does not include a body being prepared for Messiah, but that his ears were opened. Opened to what? “Your law is within my heart.” Yes, the Messiah exemplified receptiveness to the law which is equated with the obedience of “delighting to do God’s will.”

The writer of Hebrews then states the crux of his argument: “He takes away the first (i.e., the animal sacrifices) that he may establish the second (the doing of God’s will in obedience from the heart). That is the contrast of thought in this passage, NOT the animal sacrifices vs. the sacrifice of Yeshua. The thought is concluded by saying “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Yeshua once for all.”

You see, Yeshua offered his body in obedience to God’s will, and THAT is the characteristic that sets believers apart: when we, in like fashion as our Lord and Messiah, are obedient to God’s will from the heart. THAT is the “second” (the doing of God’s will from the heart) that is being contrasted with the “first” (animal sacrifices).

This is what sanctifies or sets believers apart from the rest of the world. We have received God’s eternal torah or instruction written in our heart, and we are willing to obey it to the death, if needed. That is how Yeshua’s death “sanctifies” believers; he provided the ultimate example for us to follow.

The blood of the new covenant is not the physical sacrifice of a man in Judea two thousand years ago for some spiritual “blood debt,” because the writer tells us plainly that physical blood cannot take away any sins, and this was known throughout biblical history. But what the blood represents is what is important: this blood is the life of an individual who was willing to pay the ultimate price in obedience to his God. The “first” has been fulfilled with the “second.”

The Bible plainly teaches that the blood carries the life of the individual, which is why it is forbidden to eat or drink blood.

Leviticus 17:11 – ” For the life of the flesh is in the blood. I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life.”

The blood makes atonement by reason of the life not the death. This was the symbolic significance that God was attempting to teach his people to understand with every animal sacrifice. It was not the death of the animal that was the point, but the representative life that was being forfeited on behalf of another.

This passage in Hebrews is the culmination of all of those spiritual lessons that had led up this point; the law is the “schoolmaster that leads to Messiah,” (Galatians 3:24). This is the contrast that illustrates what the whole New Testament points to. This man Yeshua is who believers are called to follow; this is who we are called to imitate. This is the new covenant of having our “ears opened” to the instruction of God, and being willing to follow him wherever he leads, even to the ultimate act of giving our life on behalf of others, if needed.


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 water of life flowing everywhere

It is now available for all who are thirsty.

John 4:13-14 – Yeshua said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. “But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life.”

When Yeshua met with the woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria, he was revealing to this woman more than she understood. When offered living water, she instead thought of natural water that would not require her to come to the well every day to draw it out. However, Yeshua was not speaking to her of water to physically drink, but of a type of water that would bring spiritual life to those who partook of it.

Since the Samaritans did not accept the prophetic writings as Scripture but just the five books of Moses, it is likely she did not recognize that the reference Yeshua makes is to a passage in Ezekiel. This is where the spiritual temple that Ezekiel describes in great detail concludes with a description of a river which flows from the temple.

Ezekiel 47:1, 9 – Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple and there was water flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the temple faced east. The water was coming down from under the south side of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. … “Every kind of living creature that swarms will live wherever the river flows, and there will be a huge number of fish because this water goes there. Since the water will become fresh, there will be life everywhere the river goes.

The life-giving water in the prophecy of Ezekiel is described as growing in depth, from ankle-deep, to waist-deep, to a river that cannot be crossed as it flows. While this river may have at one point been confined to the temple and to the nation of Israel, the picture Ezekiel paints is one where the holiness or set-apartness of the life-giving water would be spread far beyond its banks.

Throughout the Bible, life is said to flow from the fear and respect of Yahweh, and from wisdom and understanding that come from him.

Psalm 111:10 – The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his instructions have good insight. His praise endures forever.
Proverbs 14:27 – The fear of Yahweh is a fountain of life, turning people away from the snares of death.
Proverbs 9:10 – “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Proverbs 3:13, 18 – Happy is a man who finds wisdom and who acquires understanding, … She is a tree of life to those who embrace her, and those who hold on to her are happy.
2 Peter 1:3 – His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Ezekiel’s picture of the river of life concludes with trees along the banks of the river that bear continual fruit and the leaves of the trees being used for medicine.

Ezekiel 47:12 – “All kinds of trees providing food will grow along both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. Each month they will bear fresh fruit because the water comes from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be used for food and their leaves for medicine.”

This is a direct correlation with the consummation of the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation:

Revelation 22:1-2 – Then he showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city’s main street. The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations…

The good news is that this water that was once set-apart and holy as only for one people is now flowing freely everywhere and is available to all who are thirsty. This is not a physical thirst, but a thirst for spiritual wisdom and understanding that only God can provide. This is the knowledge of him who fills all things and makes all things new. This is the medicine that is now for the healing of the nations.

Revelation 21:6 – Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.
Revelation 22:17 – Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come! ” Let anyone who hears, say, “Come! ” Let the one who is thirsty come. Let the one who desires take the water of life freely.


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.

A spiritual house with spiritual service to others

The legacy of believers today is one of hard and necessary work on behalf of others.

1 Peter 2:4-5 – As you come to him, a living stone ​– ​rejected by people but chosen and honored by God ​– ​ you yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua Messiah.

As we have seen in previous writings, Peter is writing to groups of early Jewish believers who had been scattered throughout the Roman empire. This was the result of their diaspora, their scattering, due to their ancestral idolatry and rejection of the Torah of God. God had removed the northern ten tribes from the land of Israel with the Assyrian invasion of 740 BC, and they were distributed and exiled throughout the known world at that time.

1 Peter 1:1 – Peter, an apostle of Yeshua Messiah: To those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…

Now, over 700 years later, Peter is writing to their descendants and sharing the good news that God is restoring his lost sheep of those tribes into one flock and one fold through faith in Messiah. Peter is using the imagery of the temple as a way of illustrating their restored relationship to the true faith as the remnant of God, a remnant once again called out from among the overall religious majority of what was at the time orthodox Judaism.

Amidst this temple imagery, Peter illustrates how it is not the physical temple that matters; he knew it was about to be destroyed because Messiah had prophesied it decades earlier. Instead, Peter relates how the remnant people chosen by God were in the process of becoming something else, a spiritual priesthood that would have the privilege of offering spiritual sacrifices to God.

Biblically, the priesthood did not exist for its own purpose; the priesthood was a selected tribe within the larger community of Israel as a nation that was to be the mediators, the go-betweens. They had been chosen and set apart by God for the purpose of serving the others by presenting the sacrifices and offerings on behalf of the rest of the nation to God. Peter is conveying that these remnant believers scattered among the nations were not believing just for themselves, but that their role was to be a spiritually set-apart group that would be the example to others who would come after them, those who would believe because of their faithfulness. In so doing, they would effectively become a spiritual priesthood, the go-betweens who would bridge the divide between the natural priesthood which was about to be destroyed and the spiritual reality of the new temple in the New Jerusalem, the spiritual temple of the ongoing kingdom of God. They had become the “living stones” within the temple that Yeshua had prophesied he would build.

Mark 14:58 – “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another not made by hands.’ “

Are believers today the spiritual priesthood that Peter is writing to? No, we need to recognize that he was writing to a specific group of people at a specific point in time two thousand years ago. However, are there symbolic parallels between believers today and those of the scattered Israelite remnant who were being brought back into the fold? Indeed, believers today are a minority group of people called out from the masses of the overall population; we are to be examples of faithfulness to those among the rest of the community; and we are to be serving others with spiritual sacrifices on behalf of God. We are participants within the spiritual temple built by Yeshua who have the privilege of enjoying God’s presence.

We must always remember that we are standing on a legacy of faithful believers who have gone before us, but we are not here to enjoy the mercies of God for our own benefit. No, if we are to be true to our calling, we are here solely for the purpose of others. We must, like the early called-out remnant, perform our spiritual service to others with obedient and caring hearts, that others may also participate in the spiritual temple within the eternal kingdom of God: The New Jerusalem.


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.