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.

Bringing faith to completion through perseverance

The trial and proof of your faith are one and the same.

James 1:2-4, 12 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. … Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

According to the first verse in this epistle, James is writing to the twelve tribes of Israel in the Dispersion. These are the scattered Israelites who were the descendants of those who had been taken captive during the Assyrian and Babylonian campaigns to overthrow Israel roughly six hundred years previous. Some of them had attempted to maintain their Hebraic identity, but most had been assimilated into the cultures of the nations to which they were taken. James is writing to them as a believer in the Messiah; this is a call to return to the faith of their fathers with the fulfillment of the restoration of Israel through faith in Messiah.

In living among the pagan nations, they experienced many trials in attempting to live as Hebrew believers in the one true God. James addresses this as the primary issue they faced, but he does so in a way to encourage them that these trials actually demonstrate the truth of their faith. Though their faith was being tested, it was also being proven. The word for testing also serves to illustrate the proof of that faith. As they remained vigilant and steadfast in their faith, the quality of their faith was being proven to those around them.

This steadfastness of faith is a term derived from the original Greek which means “to remain under.” It is sometimes translated as endurance or perseverance. It illustrates that their faith was being proven as they remained under the pressure of the trial.

This is a similar characteristic that the apostle Paul mentions in his letter to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

James takes this endurance a step further by saying that the endurance or perseverance during trials provides a completeness to one’s faith; it’s as if the faith is lacking something until it actually undergoes a trial to see if it is genuine. In doing so, one receives the crown of life, the reward of the victor through conquest. In the culture of the day, the wreath or crown was only awarded to the athlete who endured through the contest of strength and overcame the adversity by persevering above all others. However, in the spiritual contest of the new believers in Messiah, their reward was life itself, not just a wreath to adorn their heads.

We today are in a similar situation as those scattered Israelite descendants of long ago. We have echoes of a spiritual heritage that has become enmeshed with the culture around us. Yet, through the same faith in Messiah, we are tasked with demonstrating a perseverance in that faith which results in a continuation of that same life that has been provided throughout the intervening millennia, “the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”


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 wisdom of God that guides believers

Staying close to God should cause us to exhibit his characteristics.

The Bible has many different genres of writings: historical (like the books of Kings, Chronicles, gospels, Acts), general instruction (epistles of Paul), wisdom (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus) and prophecy and apocalypse. Whether one includes the apocryphal books of Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus in the canon, the concept of a personification of Wisdom in a female character is represented in the wisdom literature, sometimes referred to as Lady Wisdom.

The inception of this character is revealed in the book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 8:22-23 – “Yahweh possessed me at the beginning of his way, before his works of long ago. I was formed before ancient times, from the beginning, before the earth began.”

In the poetic style of the Hebrew, Wisdom is represented as imbued within the very foundation of the Creation itself, guiding and working alongside Yahweh as the reality of this physical universe was created. From this, many Christians have come to see this passage as literally speaking to a pre-incarnate Yeshua as co-Creator with Yahweh God. It is clear that in this passage wisdom is represented as an attribute of God himself, however, I would align this as a figurative representation more closely with his Spirit than a pre-incarnate Yeshua.

As such, the godly aspects of wisdom are said to be desirous for learning, long life, and righteousness. Because of this, believers should demonstrate the same characteristics that are learned by remaining close to the Wisdom of God.

Proverbs 8:6-9 – “Listen, for I speak of noble things, and what my lips say is right. For my mouth tells the truth, and wickedness is detestable to my lips. All the words from my mouth are righteous; none of them are deceptive or perverse. All of them are clear to the perceptive, and right to those who discover knowledge.”

If wisdom is an emanation of godly characteristics, then these qualities should be evident within the lives of believers, as well. Our speech should be based on noble things, speaking what is right at all times, always speaking the truth with righteousness without any deception. The things we say should constantly guide those who desire to know more about God and to help them discover more about him.

As believers in the one true God, we should always represent him honestly and knowledgeably. As an example of this, the apostle Paul’s admonition to Timothy was to ensure he was grounded in the truth, working hard to teach others what was right about God.

2 Timothy 2:15 – “Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.”

We also should work diligently and prayerfully to ensure we possess the wisdom that comes from God, speaking righteously and honestly about him at all times, so that we may faithfully guide others to also find the truth in him.


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 quality of God that exhibits his greatest strength

God’s power and might are overshadowed by the depth of his forgiveness.

Core of the Bible podcast #63 – The quality of God that exhibits his greatest strength

Today we will be looking at the topic of forgiveness, and how forgiveness is revealed in the Bible as being the strength of Yahweh that historically distinguished him from the pantheon of ancient gods and continues to do so today.

Psalm 130:3-4 – “If You, O Yahweh, kept track of iniquities, then who, O Lord, could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared.”

The Psalmist here writes, “But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared.” The quality of God that most causes people to revere him is the fact that he is willing to forgive those who sincerely admit their failings. By contrast, the deities of the ancient nations exhibited their power through their strength, ruthlessness, and promises of fulfillment of selfish ambition.

For example, out of the hundreds of ancient Egyptian gods listed by the World History Encyclopedia, there are numerous gods with unique attributes of power, healing, war, death, and success. However, not one of them is mentioned as a god or goddess representing or offering forgiveness. Forgiveness was not a concept known to the ancient Egyptians.

https://www.worldhistory.org/article/885/egyptian-gods—the-complete-list/

Likewise, the Greek deities were depicted with weaknesses and foibles rivalling those of the most degenerate of human behavior.  While the Greeks had very mature philosophies surrounding justice and equity, the concept of personal forgiveness was not widely known or accepted.

David Leigh, writing on forgiveness in the ancient Greek culture for Seattle University comments:

“A study of the earliest Greek literature and philosophy indicates that the Greeks developed a strong sense of justice and law as related to both gods and humans, but did not develop a concept of forgiveness or mercy. The closest they came to the latter concept was the practice of legal leniency and the notion of ‘pity’. But pity was a later development, especially in Greek epics and drama, as a human response to the strict notions of justice and law that dominated their mythology and early philosophy…it is clear that forgiveness was not a primary virtue for these early Greeks. Neither the gods nor human beings in early Greece were seen as ‘forgiving’ people their injustices or offenses.”

Forgiveness, Pity, and Ultimacy in Ancient Greek Culture, David J. Leigh, S.J., Seattle University, Seattle, WA 98122 USA.

Additionally, out of the hundred or so Roman deities who were responsible for everything from childbirth, fertility, money, harvest, future, etc., there was only one goddess noted within the bounds of what could be considered forgiveness: Clementia. Yet, even this is not necessarily evidence of forgiveness as we know it today, but an ideal of legal clemency (which is where the word comes from) in matters of justice.

Quoting from William Mann, commenting on the book “Ancient Forgiveness” from the Cambridge press, he writes the following:

“In “The Anger of Tyrants and the Forgiveness of Kings,” Susanna Morton Braund concentrates on the role that Seneca may have played in commending clementia to rulers as a virtue of self-restraint, manifested in mildness of behavior. Conceived in this way clemency is an exclusive prerogative of the powerful. As Seneca defines it clementia is “the leniency of the more powerful party toward the weaker in the matter of setting penalties”, not to be confused with forgiveness. While forgiveness seeks reconciliation, clemency achieves subordination, frequently producing public humiliation in its recipients.”

Charles L. Griswold and David Konstan (eds.), Ancient Forgiveness: Classical, Judaic, and Christian, Cambridge University Press, Reviewed by William E. Mann, University of Vermont.

In our modern society and culture steeped in several millennia of forgiveness as a cultural ideal, we take for granted that forgiveness has always been a philosophical concept that was honored among all people, but history states otherwise. From our modern perspective, we have only a fleeting glimpse of the tyranny and injustice that was displayed throughout the ancient world. For millennia, with the rise and fall of many empires, that environment was a harsh place with cruel justice, both physically and spiritually.

If we are to place a biblical faith within the context of its origins, it was a shining beacon of light in the midst of a sea of darkness. The ideals of forgiveness offered through the God of the Bible were unheard of in the ancient world until they were exemplified by the ancient Israelites in their torah practices, which culminated in the gospel of the kingdom brought forth by their Messiah and his early believers.

In this light, Yahweh stands out among the ancient gods for his characteristic forgiveness.

Psalm 86:2-5 – “You are my God; save Your servant who trusts in You.  Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I call to You all day long. Bring joy to Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, O Lord, are kind and forgiving, rich in loving devotion to all who call on You.”

This is why Moses could stand before the Israelites as they were preparing to enter the land of Canaan and say:

Deuteronomy 4:5-8 – “Look, I have taught you statutes and ordinances as Yahweh my God has commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to possess. “Carefully follow them, for this will show your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples. When they hear about all these statutes, they will say, ‘This great nation is indeed a wise and understanding people.’ “For what great nation is there that has a god near to it as Yahweh our God is to us whenever we call to him? “And what great nation has righteous statutes and ordinances like this entire law I set before you today?

These righteous statutes and ordinances resulted in the ability of the Hebrew prophets to extol the mercies and forgiveness available to the people when they would return to Yahweh from serving the harsh gods of the surrounding nations.

Isaiah 55:7 – “Let the wicked man forsake his own way and the unrighteous man his own thoughts; let him return to Yahweh, that he may have compassion, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

This is one of the main reasons idolatry has been forbidden by the true God; he wanted to protect his own from experiencing the unnecessary and cruel harshness of those cultural and societal demands. His way provided a nearness of relationship that those other religions could not provide.


At the dawning of the spiritual Kingdom of God being realized on the earth, a baby was born to Zechariah and Elizabeth, two righteous parents who were faithful to Yahweh, the God of Israel. After the child’s birth, Zechariah, filled with the Spirit of God, uttered a prophecy about John:

Luke 1:76-79 – “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.  Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the dawn from on high will visit us  to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

This was the continuation of a path of forgiveness for God’s people that would rise above the forgiveness offered through the substitutionary sacrifices of the torah of Moses. Those physical sacrifices pointed a way toward ultimate fulfillment, and a way of peace that would be laid out through the ministry of Yeshua.

Beyond exhibiting the forgiveness that God had been offering to the Israelites through their sacrificial offerings, Yeshua emphasized the responsibility and duty of people within this kingdom to forgive one another.

Matthew 6:14  – “For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.

Mark 11:25  – “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing.”

Luke 11:4  – “And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us…”

This forgiveness was to extend not only to those with whom individuals were familiar, but to provide kindnesses to enemies and workers of harm, and to be generous to those in need, as well.

Luke 6:27-31  – “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.”

This is where the gospel light shines the brightest. This is the root of how the world is changed through believers in each generation. Considered in view of this principle of mutual forgiveness and kindness to even adversaries, this explains how God’s kingdom can expand to the entirety of earth. This is not a kingdom that is to be established by force or by might, but by love and forgiveness. Force and might may hold sway for temporary times and in limited areas, but it always gives way to the next sweep of power and might.

Forgiveness, though, operates from a different base than forced subjection; it is a subtler but stronger might that captures the heart, and in so doing causes willing obedience and respect. It is not as visible and decisive as forced compliance, yet it spreads farther, reaches deeper, and lasts longer than any armed campaign could accomplish.

The God of the Bible is indeed all powerful. He represents himself as having created all that exists, and he has the ability to destroy kingdoms and lift up others for his own honor and glory. And yet, surveyed against the backdrop of historical beliefs and cruel demands of pagan gods, his greatest strength lies not in his unchallenged power to create or destroy, but in his demonstration of and willingness to provide forgiveness to those who turn to him.

If our God is a God of forgiveness, and if we consider ourselves to be his children through faith, then should we not mimic the characteristic that would most demonstrate his greatest strength?  In this way, our likeness with our Father is displayed, and honor is brought to his name. This is the path of forgiveness and peace that we are tasked with walking.

Luke 6:36 – “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.


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 kingdom ruling over all nations

The Creator of all is in charge of all, whether he is recognized as such or not.

Psalm 22 is remembered as being on the lips of Yeshua as he hung on the cross. The famous phrase, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is the opening phrase in an all-consuming psalm that cascades into the larger view of God’s ultimate rulership over all people.

Psalm 22:27-31 – All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to Yahweh. All the families of the nations will bow down before you, for kingship belongs to Yahweh; he rules the nations. All who prosper on earth will eat and bow down; all those who go down to the dust will kneel before him — even the one who cannot preserve his life. Their descendants will serve him; the next generation will be told about the Lord. They will come and declare his righteousness; to a people yet to be born they will declare what he has done.

It’s as if Yeshua is making it clear that his symbolic death was prophesied by David as representing and opening a way for those among the nations to be brought to God. The phrase, “All the families of the nations will bow down before you” is also an echo of the prophecy provided even earlier to Abraham: “in you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”

I find it interesting the psalm says, “all the ends of the earth will remember and turn to Yahweh.” This implies that there may be some type of spiritual amnesia that has descended upon the nations that inhibits their ability to acknowledge God as the Creator of all.

Paul writes about it this way:

Romans 1:21-22 – “For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…”

When did all people besides Israel know God? Clearly, God revealed himself to his own people at Sinai and throughout their history, and their rejection of him to serve idols has become a timeless object lesson for all the nations. But Paul mentions a sort of universal revelation that has been evident to all people, even if they choose to ignore it.

Romans 1:20 – For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse.

Paul says their thinking became darkened when they did not glorify God as God or show gratitude to him. This, then, is the natural result of rejecting the authority of God: a descent into further darkness and apostasy.

If, however, people are without excuse before God, then it is up to us as believers to continue to highlight God’s authority over all nations. Declaring that there is one God ruling in a universal kingdom, a God who has created all things, is the primary way of sparking some innate understanding, some lost understanding, in those among whom we live and work on a daily basis. David, Yeshua, and Paul testify to an awakening, a remembrance, that will cause them to repent of their wickedness and turn to him.

We can rejoice in the ongoing fulfillment of this prophetic reality as we continue to spread the gospel of the kingdom throughout each generation.

Psalm 22:27-28 – “All the families of the nations will bow down before you, for kingship belongs to Yahweh; he rules the nations.”


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.

Mimicking God by helping others

God’s children act like him.

In the New Testament writings, the Greek word that is typically translated as mercy is based on the root concept of compassion. One of the clearest definitions of this concept is captured in the Outline of Biblical Usage as, “mercy: kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them.” This term is used in describing God’s actions towards mankind and also for people interacting with other people.

That compassion and mercy are so closely linked provides some insight into its nature. In biblical usage, compassion is both an emotion or feeling one has towards others and an action in the outward help or assistance one provides.

Yeshua constantly illustrated this concept for his followers; here are just a few examples:

Matthew 15:32 – Yeshua called his disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, otherwise they might collapse on the way.”

Notice, Yeshua had a feeling of compassion towards the crowd because of their commitment to his teaching and their desire to learn, so his feeling of compassion resulted in an action: the miraculous feeding of them all.

Here is another instance in Luke’s gospel:

Luke 7:12-15 – Just as he neared the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was also with her. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said, “Don’t weep.” Then he came up and touched the open coffin, and the pallbearers stopped. And he said, “Young man, I tell you, get up! ” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Yeshua gave him to his mother.

His feeling of compassion for the mother’s plight caused him to provide a miraculous resuscitation of the son who had died.

Now, you may be thinking, “Well, that is great for those individuals, but I don’t have the ability to create miracles to help other people.” But, isn’t that the point? Yeshua was doing the works of the Father; the Father was working through him to reach out to others. In the same way, whenever we extend compassion to others, from their perspective, it’s as if a miracle has occurred. Someone took pity on them and did something for them that they could not do for themselves when it was not required.

In saying this, I in no way want to cheapen legitimate miracles that Yeshua performed; however, I also can’t overstate how significant it is when we provide real help to those in need. You can probably understand this from your own experience whenever you may have received genuine help from someone else when you needed it most. It was likely an extremely significant occurrence for you.

Helping others who cannot help themselves IS God’s method of operation, and Yeshua demonstrated God’s mercy in action time after time in the gospels. So when we choose to follow Yeshua, it is expected that we also would extend God’s mercy to others, helping those who cannot help themselves, just as he did. In this way, we demonstrate we are truly God’s children when we act like him and have real concern and provide real care to those who need it most.


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.

Loving actions spring from God’s forgiveness

God’s love should be the primary motivation for our love for others.

If you’ve been a reader of this journal for any length of time, you know that one of the key principles from the Sermon on the Mount revolves around the holiness, or set-apartness, of believers. Example after example is provided by Yeshua on what the religious hypocrites practice, and how he encourages his disciples to do the opposite, or to do something more meaningful. The disciples’ lives were to be pure and blameless with a righteousness that surpassed that of the Pharisees because of the sincerity of their hearts.

So it is little wonder that the religious elite also questioned Yeshua on his choice of company that he kept.

Luke 5:30-32 – But the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

If he was truly a teacher of the Word of God and was supposed to be demonstrating his holiness, or set-apartness, then why was he constantly fraternizing with the very people who the Pharisees condemned as flagrant sinners?

The answer Yeshua gives provides an insight into his life and ministry that should prompt us with a similar response.

Matthew 9:12-13 – When Yeshua heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

I think the rendering in this version brings out the meaning of the passage beautifully. The Pharisees were guilty of self-righteousness; those who believed every thing they did was so set apart from wickedness that of course God would favor them. However, Yeshua says that God is really closest to those who “know they are sinners.” Those who know they have violated his standards, and want to do what is right because they know they have offended him.

By contrast, the Pharisees did righteous things because they thought it would make them look better in God’s eyes than the sinful actions of those around them. Therefore they did not demonstrate the love for God and others or seek his forgiveness as God desired them to because they felt they were already on the right path, and of course God would favor them.

This is why Yeshua could drive the point home when confronted by a Pharisee as to why he allowed a woman to pour perfume on him and wash his feet with her tears. Yeshua illustrates that her actions and her tears of repentance demonstrated that she realized she had done sinful things, and she wanted to do whatever she could in response to the depth of forgiveness that God offered her.

Luke 7:47 – “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Our love for God and others will be proportionate to the recognition of the forgiveness that we believe we have received. When we realize the depth of God’s love in overlooking our blatant and sinful actions, we should be driven ever closer to him, and our lives should be living demonstrations of that bountiful forgiveness toward others in like measure as we have received.


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 tangible benefits of sincere faith

Both the spiritual and the natural realms harmonize in God.

The third chapter of the Proverbs of Solomon is known most popularly for its declaration of trust in Yahweh which will lead believers in truth.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

As I reviewed the entirety of this passage recently, I noticed that the first ten verses of this chapter are a collection of five different Hebrew parallelisms. In each one, an action is encouraged and then a benefit is described by following that action.

Proverbs 3:1-2
Action: My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands;
Benefit: for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being.

Proverbs 3:3-4
Action: Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you. Tie them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
Benefit: Then you will find favor and high regard with God and people.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Action: Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him,
Benefit: and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:7-8
Action: Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear Yahweh and turn away from evil.
Benefit: This will be healing for your body and strengthening for your bones.

Proverbs 3:9-10
Action: Honor Yahweh with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest;
Benefit: then your barns will be completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine.

The Hebrew mindset all throughout the Bible is that trusting in Yahweh and patterning one’s life to honor him has a direct impact on the quality of life that one lives during our time here on earth. The Hebrew faith is not just one of pie-in-the-sky hope for eternity beyond this life, but for a lifestyle faith that has tangible benefits and rewards during this lifetime.

Our Western culture and mindset has separated the spiritual from the natural and stripped the Bible of its relevance for real world application in the process. If the Bible is only a book to guide us to some sort of spiritual bliss beyond this life, then it is only as beneficial as any other of the thousands of sacred traditions that promise similar utopian myths. By that logic, none of them can be demonstrated as valid, since the life is lived by the unseen faith of the individual with no real evidence of truth until after the individual dies and experiences whatever their utopian myths promise them.

To the contrary, the Bible is practical and impacts the lives of believers, and those around them, in this life. The Bible encourages positive behaviors that honor God and serve others in his name. This brings benefit to oneself and to those in need around them.

The extreme flipside of this ideal is when believers take all of the Bible benefits, plucking them from their contexts and seeking for them as being deserved or “owed” to them because they are claiming those for themselves. This “name it and claim it” mentality is the epitome of selfishness: giving to God only to get something in return, or providing some sort of lip-service to God to seek physical healing or benefit for oneself. It’s as if we suffer from a type of biblical schizophrenia and can’t maintain a consistent theology; either everything is spiritual or every earthly benefit can be selfishly claimed for ourselves.

But in reality, the Bible isn’t there to exploit for our own benefit, either spiritually or physically. It exists to point us to the Creator of all and to help us understand we exist in this world to represent him and his principles to others. We are encouraged to lay down our own lives and aspirations to serve him from the heart, and when we do so, our lives line up harmoniously with his universal spiritual principles which resonate within this physical realm. In the process, the natural benefits mentioned throughout the Bible are realized, not instantly or every time, but as a wave-form that becomes more settled and consistent over time as we pattern our lives after his will.

The walk of faith is one of consistent effort and growth as we continue to understand more of who God is and how he desires us to live our lives and interact with others. When we are faithfully following his spiritual principles of wisdom and service to others, our physical lives begin to radiate in tandem with the beneficial outcomes he provides. This is how the believing life is lived and demonstrated as real.


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.

The most intimidating woman in the Bible

How do we measure up?

In reading the last chapter of the Proverbs of Solomon, we encounter a description of the wife of noble character. This outline provides an intimidating look at a woman who is faithful to her husband (v. 11-12), helps provide for her family (v. 27) and reaches out to others in need (v.20).

While this woman has intimidated many wives throughout history and continues to do so today, I think we can glean a bit more wisdom in this description if we look at her as being representative of how a faithful wife interacts with her family and those around her, and not a description of a real person. More importantly, I think we gain clarity when we see that this passage describes the wife that God has called to himself: those in the Kingdom of God.

Isaiah 54:5 – “Indeed, your husband is your Maker — his name is Yahweh of Armies — and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of the whole earth.

Jeremiah 3:14 – ” ‘Return, you faithless children ​– ​this is Yahweh’s declaration ​– ​for I am your husband, and I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.

Hosea 2:16, 19-20 – In that day — this is Yahweh’s declaration — you will call me, “My husband,” and no longer call me, “My Lord.” … I will take you to be my wife forever. I will take you to be my wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. I will take you to be my wife in faithfulness, and you will know Yahweh.

Revelation 21:2 – I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

The vigilance of the wife of God is evident in this passage in Proverbs 31, as we see all of the noble and positive characteristics of this woman. She works with willing hands, rising while it is still dark to provide food for her family, working late into the evening making clothing for her household. She invests in vineyard production, and demonstrates strength in all things.

Proverbs 31:29 – “Many women have done noble deeds, but you surpass them all! “

This surpassing of all other women demonstrates how this “super-woman” is a representative ideal and not an historical individual. Her vigilance in all things is captured in a few lines:

Proverbs 31:25-27 – Strength and honor are her clothing, and she can laugh at the time to come. Her mouth speaks wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle.

If this is the case, can we say that this picture describes us, those whom God has chosen to represent him in this generation? Do we act with strength and honor, or do we give up when things get difficult? Do we speak wisdom and loving instruction or are we constantly talking others down? Are we watching over our household (i.e., kingdom) activities with diligence, or are we idly letting it go its own way?

The woman of Proverbs 31 is not just an intimidating character for wives, but when rightly understood as the representative ideal for God’s people, she stands to challenge us all to be our best at all times for him.


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.