How we can sanctify ourselves for God’s use in any situation

When we refine ourselves in God’s Word, we can continually prepare ourselves to be the most useful to him.

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness or sanctification, and how our ongoing commitment to God’s word distinguishes us beyond just participating in God’s Kingdom in ways that are more beneficial for God’s overall purposes.

Paul wrote to Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – “In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds: some are made of silver and gold, others of wood and clay; some are for special occasions, others for ordinary use. Those who make themselves clean from these things will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed.”

Holiness is about being sanctified or set apart for God’s specific purposes. In the example that Paul uses here with Timothy, there is also an ongoing refinement that is similar to recognizing the differences between ordinary plates for everyday use and fine china that would be used for special occasions. There is a cleansing or refining process that he mentions: “those who make themselves clean.”

So, let’s take a closer look at this process of sanctification or being set apart. Sanctification is clearly a process that God performs by calling people to himself but is also partly a process that we are responsible for, as well, as we walk in the way that he has called us to.

To help break this down a little further, I’d like to focus on these two aspects in separate sections; the first part of the equation is God’s calling and setting apart his own for himself. The second part is how we continue that process of sanctification as we live out our lives within the Kingdom.

I believe this first part can best be illustrated by reviewing a parable of Yeshua in which he outlines this process of God calling a people to himself. Now, the context of Yeshua’s parable appears to have been given in the house of one of the Pharisees, who had invited many individuals to a banquet at his home.

Luke 14:1 – “One Sabbath, when he went in to eat at the house of one of the leading Pharisees, they were watching him closely.”

When Yeshua then sees how those who were invited chose the best seats, he taught them with a parable on humility.

Luke 14:7 – “He told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves.”

This parable is summarized in the following verses:

Luke 14:10-11 – “But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

So this lesson in humility spurred on a further conversation, as he then received a question from one of those at the table:

Luke 14:15 – “When one of those who reclined at the table with him heard these things, he said to him, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!'”

At this point, Yeshua spoke to the group in another parable, the parable of the wedding banquet. It appears to have been one of the central teachings of Yeshua as it is also recorded in a parallel passage in Matthew 22. Here is Matthew’s version regarding who is called.

Matthew 22:1-3 – “Once more Yeshua spoke to them in parables: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to summon [call] those invited to the banquet, but they didn’t want to come.'”

This parable, which as we shall see is also a prophecy, neatly outlines the institution of the Kingdom of God at Messiah’s coming. Those who were invited to the banquet were the Jews, and yet most of them refused to recognize him as their Messiah.

Matthew 22:4-6 – “Again, he sent out other servants and said, ‘Tell those who are invited: See, I’ve prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ “But they paid no attention and went away, one to his own farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.”

This illustrates the period of persecution that was unleashed upon the believers in the first century. Yeshua had warned the religious leaders that they would do these horrendous things, and he also had prepared his followers that this will be done to them.

Matthew 23:34 – “This is why I am sending you [religious leaders] prophets, sages, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.”

Matthew 24:9 – “Then they will hand you [you followers of mine] over to be persecuted, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.”

So this parable can be shown to be more than just an illustration of a spiritual truth, but of a coming outworking of God’s purposes, as well. In a declaration of finality, Yeshua then explains the response of the king to those who had refused his call.

Matthew 22:7 – “The king was enraged, and he sent out his troops, killed those murderers, and burned down their city.”

This was the same prophetic foresight that Yeshua predicted in another context.

Luke 21:20 – “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that its desolation has come near.”

This actually did occur within that generation, as the city of Jerusalem was burned down and the temple was destroyed, just as Yeshua had predicted.

Now the completion of the parable is summarized succinctly by Luke in his gospel:

Luke 14:21-24 – “…Then in anger, the master of the house told his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’ ” ‘Master,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’ Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, not one of those people who were invited will enjoy my banquet.’ “

This was an indication that the call of God had to be extended to the Jews first, but when they refused to come, the call or invitation then went out to whomsoever would come.

Peter had proclaimed this same message to the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

Acts 3:13, 15, 25-26 – “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Yeshua, whom you handed over and denied before Pilate, though he had decided to release him. … You killed the source of life, whom God raised from the dead; we are witnesses of this. … You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring. God raised up his servant and sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Paul reiterated this principle that was also used on his missionary journeys prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. He would visit a city and first present the kingdom message to the Jews, and then to a wider audience, whoever would listen.

Acts 13:45-48 – “But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what Paul was saying, insulting him. Paul and Barnabas boldly replied, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first. Since you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. For this is what Yahweh has commanded us: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles to bring salvation to the end of the earth.”‘ When the Gentiles heard this, they rejoiced and honored the word of Yahweh, and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

Paul also taught the universality of the gospel of the Kingdom message to the Roman congregation.

Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.

The call or invitation of God was to become universal once the Jews had had an opportunity to respond first; if they rejected it, God would reach out to whoever would listen and believe. In the grandest sense, this opportunity of the Jews to respond to God’s mercy was demonstrated to have been completed once the destruction of Jerusalem had occurred. From that point on, all who would then hear with “ears to hear” would then be invited and called into the Kingdom.

In a moment, we will look more closely at how this calling is worked out in the life of a believer once they have responded favorably to God’s invitation.


So with the completion of the call of God going out specifically to his people of that day and age, the Jews, God’s call then moves into a universal sphere of all who will listen to the good news of the gospel of the Kingdom. This is why Paul and the early believers were so anxious to ensure as many as people as possible could hear and understand the gospel message.

Romans 10:14-15 – “How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”

Once a person has responded to the call of God, God then sets them apart, or sanctifies them by placing them within the body of believers who make up the Kingdom of God.

Ephesians 2:10 – “God has made us what we are. He has created us in Messiah Yeshua to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do.”

According to Paul, believers are “created in Messiah Yeshua.” This demonstrates how one becomes initially set apart by believing in Messiah; when that occurs, there is a “new creation” that takes place.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 – “From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we have known Messiah from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”

One becomes born again or born from above, and a new life in a new environment begins. The old worldly perspective no longer applies; all things are made new for the believer.

Additionally, one cannot be a believer without being “in him.” One can say they believe in God and be attached to any religious expression in the world, but one cannot be a believer in the God of the Bible without believing in Yeshua as the Messiah, the one sent by God to free people from bondage to sin.

Okay, now, so far, I realize we have traveled a lot of Scriptural miles today and covered some far-ranging concepts in the process, but let’s return back to the starting point of Paul’s original illustration of dishes and bowls in the large house.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – “In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds: some are made of silver and gold, others of wood and clay; some are for special occasions, others for ordinary use. Those who make themselves clean from these things will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed.”

Paul tells Timothy that “In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds…” The “large house” can be viewed as the Kingdom of God. Paul is not here discussing the condition of the world at large, but the conditions that exist among God’s own people. At this point, God has sanctified and set apart those who have responded to his call, as we have seen, and the large house can be viewed as where all the activity of the Kingdom takes place.

But now, Paul begins to make a distinction between that which is everyday from that which is special, and he intimates it is a process initiated by the believer by saying, “those who make themselves clean from these things will be used for special purposes…”

Not to belabor the illustration, but there appear to be distinctions of sanctification among believers as well. This is not outside the bounds of Scriptural precedent, either.

For example, the Levites were all priests, but the sons of Aaron held specific duties within the overall priesthood. In another example, Yeshua had twelve disciples, but we find Peter, James, and John as a kind of “inner circle” of the disciples, whom Paul semi-sarcastically refers to as “pillars of the faith.”

Galatians 2:9 – “When James, Peter, and John ​– ​those recognized as pillars ​– ​acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”

So once we are made pure by the act of God sanctifying us, we have a need to remain pure because of our ongoing association with the world and its influences. The psalmist also ponders this idea of keeping one’s way pure.

Psalm 119:9 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.”

In an overall sense, God has set us apart by drawing us to faith in Messiah so that we may do the good things he has prepared for us to do, according to his word. But by continuing to sharpen our obedience to God’s word, we also distinguish ourselves from those in God’s household who are content to remain simply with their sanctification from the world.

In Paul’s example, these are the plates used for ordinary purposes, for the basics of eating and drinking, for the rough and tumble of everyday existence. These are the plates and bowls that have chips and cracks, that have rough edges, blemishes and marks from use. They are serviceable in the uses they are designed for, but they all carry evidence of that use, and are not as likely to be used for special occasions.

By contrast, the gold and silver plates and cups are those which would be used for specific events that are noteworthy: the holiday gatherings with friends and family, or the formal dinners with respected individuals and guests. Paul is implying that, apart from God’s sanctification from the rest of the world, believers can “cleanse themselves” further from rough, ordinary use into something that is more useful to God in special ways. But this has to be an intentional purpose on their part, something that is chosen to do by disciplining themselves in his word to create and maintain the luster and polish required of the fine china.

This is not to be a point of disagreement or schism within the body as if some are “more spiritual” than others, but only a distinction of growth, learning, and application. After all, an acorn is not yet an oak tree, but it contains within it every aspect of the mighty oak. Small seedlings may have sprouted, but they have not yet achieved the heights of the mature oak tree. In this sense, all of us “former acorns” are in various stages of our spiritual development within the Kingdom of God, and we need to support and encourage one another along the way, so that every believer grows to their fullest potential in the time given to us.

Ephesians 4:1-3 – “Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

The context of the passage with the dishes, plates, and cups helps us frame a reference for this concept of living worthy of the calling, as Paul had just mentioned it to Timothy a few verses earlier.

2 Timothy 2:15 – “Make every effort to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman who accurately handles the word of truth.”

This is the same principle that he goes into further detail with the believers in Ephesus, encouraging them to make intentional choices and effort in living the new life, as he puts it, in the “putting on of the new man” or the new self.

Ephesians 4:17-24 – “Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their thoughts. They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more. But that is not how you came to know Messiah, assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Yeshua, to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.”

The making of the effort to present ourselves unashamedly to God demonstrates our willingness to manifest the great gifts that God has given us. Of course, God can use any vessel for his purpose, fine china or regular plates, but the fine china is designed for the most special of occasions to bear the finest foods. If this is the case, why shouldn’t we seek to improve the opportunities for God to use us by setting ourselves apart in ways that allow him to use us in any situation that he sees fit?

Let me hasten to add this is not in any way a justification for some who would try to intentionally set themselves above others just for the purpose of being considered better or more valuable to God than other believers. If this is the case, then Yeshua’s parable on humility has lost its footing. Instead, we should seek to continually sanctify ourselves not for our glory but for God’s. In this way, we can continually prepare ourselves to be the most useful to him and provide him the greatest amount of “special dishes” to use as he sets the banquet wide for any and all to come to him.


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

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

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

Imitating God

This is how we cultivate peace.

This is how we cultivate peace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Sowing, weeding, and doing good

A fruitful harvest is the result of vigilance.

Core of the Bible podcast #53 – Sowing, weeding, and doing good

Today we will be exploring the topic of vigilance and how the act of maintaining the purity of our heart and our actions requires constant vigilance and continual grooming.

Mark 4:18-19, Amplified Bible – And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries and cares of the world [the distractions of this age with its worldly pleasures], and the deceitfulness [and the false security or glamour] of wealth [or fame], and the passionate desires for all the other things creep in and choke out the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

In this parable of the sower sowing his seed, Yeshua explains that the seed represents the word of God, and he describes the conditions of the hearts of those upon whom the seed is sown.

The seed being sown among the thorns represents those individuals who receive the word of God, but their hearts are so overcrowded with worldly cares and other ambitions that the seed cannot grow to maturity; it gets choked out and cannot bear fruit.

If we are to reflect on our own lives, how much of our time and attention is spent on the thorny distractions of this age, the deceitfulness of wealth, and passionate desires for other things besides the kingdom? We need to remain vigilant that the weeds and thorns of these other concerns do not overcrowd the truly important and impactful things that surround the kingdom: hearing and understanding the word and bearing fruit.

This process of God sowing his Word in the hearts of believers is commonly misunderstood to be a one-time event. It is believed that once God’s seed is sown that work is done and the seed will either grow or not depending on the condition of the soil. However, this parable of Yeshua along with other scriptural insights teach us that if we receive the Word gladly, it is up to us to continue to sow that good seed for the harvests to grow beyond that which was just sown initially.

For a farmer to have a continual harvest throughout the year, they must be continually preparing soil and sowing the appropriate seed at the appropriate season. Even in ancient Israel there were multiple harvests throughout the year depending on the crop. First was the barley harvest which occurred at the Feast of First-fruits during the week of Unleavened Bread in the spring.  Then came the first of the wheat harvest which took place at Shavuot or Pentecost at the beginning of summer. Finally, the richest and fullest harvest of the other crops took place at the Feast of Ingathering or Tabernacles in the autumn. Immediately after the autumn Feast of Ingathering, the work of re-plowing the fields and planting for the Spring harvest would begin. Each of these seasons indicates a different harvest for a different crop, but for that to be taking place there must constantly be new seed being sown.

Just like farmers preparing the soil in their gardens, we need to constantly churn the earth of our hearts, ensuring there is sufficient compost and nutrients to receive what is planted so the seed can successfully multiply and grow to its fullest capacity.

Galatians 6:7-8 – Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

Sowing to the spirit means that there are choices that need to be made each day. I think it’s pretty evident how we sow to the flesh, but sowing to the spirit is all about receiving continual seed throughout each day so that we can remain focused on the kingdom and conduct our lives with integrity according to the Word of God. For us to be able to do so, then we must have a continual input of the Word throughout each day.

Consider how much time you may be spending on social media, or watching television, or being involved in worldly aspirations. In reality, none of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but they can easily become time-sucks that draw our full attention away from living in according to God’s Word. In fact, a good indicator that one of these things may be a negative activity for you would be that if you are engaged in it and lose all sense of time until you snap out of that engagement, you may be getting pulled further into the weeds that can choke out the Word.

If these are your primary interactions with others within the context of your world then you may be suffering from a lack of good and and nutritious input for your spiritual life. The digital age we live in provides us many alternatives to be in the Word throughout each day. Besides just Bible podcasts like this one, there are more significant Bible apps and audio Bibles that can help keep you in the actual Word without having to be sitting and reading or studying.

Think of how much time you might spend driving throughout the day, or exercising, or doing redundant chores around the house that don’t require a lot of concentration: things like ironing, or cleaning, or mowing the lawn. I regard these types of activities as “idling” activities, where you may be physically active but your brain is kind of sitting in an idle mode. Instead of popping on the TV or listening to the news, or scrolling through random videos, why not instead listen to an audio Bible on your device while you are doing these types of things? There are lots of free options out there with various narrators and versions of the Bible to choose from.

Perhaps you have some good, doctrinally-sound worship music that can help keep your mind focused on God and his gracious mercy towards us. Using those times to their fullest helps to keep your spirit engaged with God. I have found it becomes much easier to receive personal and private direction for challenges I may be facing when I am interacting with the Word in these various ways.

Another indication that may demonstrate getting choked among the weeds is to consider if you are primarily a consumer or a creator of digital media. As believers and image-bearers of God in this world, we have the ability to use and create informative engagements with the things and people of this world for God’s glory and the furtherance of the kingdom. Social media can help spread God’s Word through written articles and photos, and videos can be created to explain how the Bible has relevance for people today.

As a personal example, one of my goals with coreofthebible.org is to continue to build a multi-tiered approach to sharing the information in these articles in different platforms: through written articles, weekly audio podcasts, and also through videos. However, through all of this, I am having to be very selective with how I approach each of these areas, as it is dangerously easy to become consumed with editing and posting and monitoring multiple platforms in an effort to maintain effective engagement. I don’t want to get lost in the weeds of the process to where I am losing effectiveness in the content. I am just trying to keep things as simple and to-the-point as possible to maximize the value to each reader, listener, or watcher of the content.

When we consider all of the various ways we receive information input throughout each day, we need to be intentional and purposeful with the time we have so that we can maximize our spiritual growth.

Proverbs 4:23 – Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it is the source of life.

In a metaphorical manner of speaking, King Solomon as the writer of Proverbs indicates that our heart or our inmost self-awareness is the source of the quality of our life. That source is sometimes compared to a well of water.

This type of metaphor would be readily received and understood in ancient times, since life in a desert or wilderness environment is not possible without water. The quality of that water depends on how we maintain that well; is it overgrown with poisonous weeds, is it unprotected from animals that can trudge through and muddy its waters or destroy its flow? Is our heart becoming defiled through the things on which we constantly focus?

Yeshua even takes this metaphor further by saying whatever is in our heart is what spills out of our mouths:

Mark 7:20-23 – And [Yeshua] said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

Guarding our heart, then seems to be a concern that we should not take lightly, and should prompt us to take the appropriate time to strategize how to maintain the soil our our hearts at all costs.


In our American culture at least we seem have lost a sense of just how impactful the constant bombardment of worldly information flow can be to our lives, and it seems we are even becoming addicted to always having a music playlist going or having the television on in the background. As believers, we need to ensure that the well of our heart is filled with pure and nutritious water, not the potentially poisonous and unprotected muddy water of the world. It is our individual responsibility to guard our hearts; that means to protect what we allow to influence our hearts, because whatever is in there is what will ultimately come out through our speech and our actions. It’s like the old saying, “garbage in, garbage out.” Why not instead turn that saying on its head by changing it to “purity and goodness in, purity and goodness out.”

Even saying such a thing has Pollyana-ish overtones and seems awkward and simplistic. But is it really, or is that just our natural inclination has already become so jaded that we find it difficult to identify with what is good and right about human nature and living according to the positive and kind admonitions of God’s standards?

You know an interesting bit of Bible trivia relating to textual interpretation centers on a specific New Testament verse that has had a defining impact on believers over the last two millennia. And it has to do with the name “Christian.” For some context, allow me to read a passage out of Peter’s first epistle.

1 Peter 3:8-16 – Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing. For the one who wants to love life and to see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, and let him turn away from evil and do what is good. Let him seek peace and pursue it, because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil. Who then will harm you if you are devoted to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. Yet do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame.

So we can see contextually that Peter is encouraging the believers to have good conduct at all times because this honors God. Now the passage with the textual consideration I mentioned previously is actually in chapter four; I’m going to read it in the YLT because even though it’s awkwardly phrased, it still brings out more of the clarity of the point I’m about to make.

1 Peter 4:15-16 – for let none of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evil-doer, or as an inspector into other men’s matters; and if as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; and let him glorify God in this respect;

Let’s look at some interesting commentary on this idea of suffering as a Christian.

Ellicott’s Commentary

(16) Yet if any man suffer as a Christian.—St. Peter purposely uses the name which was a name of derision among the heathens. It is not, as yet, one by which the believers would usually describe themselves. It only occurs twice besides in the New Testament—in Acts 11:26, where we are told of the invention of the nickname (see Note there), and in Acts 26:28, where Agrippa catches it up with the insolent scorn with which a brutal justice would have used the word “Methodist” a century ago. So contemptible was the name that, as M. Renan says (p. 37), “Well-bred people avoided pronouncing the name, or, when forced to do so, made a kind of apology.” Tacitus, for instance, says: “Those who were vulgarly known by the name of Christians.” In fact, it is quite an open question whether we ought not here (as well as in the two places of Acts above cited) to read the nickname in its barbarous form: Chrestian. The Sinaitic manuscript has that form, and the Vatican has the form Chreistian; and it is much harder to suppose that a scribe who commonly called himself a Christian would intentionally alter it into this strange form than to suppose that one who did not understand the irony of saying a Chrestian should have written the word with which he was so familiar.”

Cambridge Bible Commentary

  1. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian] The occurrence of a name which has played so prominent a part in the history of mankind requires a few words of notice. It did not originate with the followers of Christ themselves. They spoke of themselves as the “brethren” (Acts 14:2; Acts 15:1; Acts 15:3; Acts 15:22, &c.), as “the saints,” i.e. the holy or consecrated people (Matthew 27:52; Acts 9:13; Acts 9:32; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 6:1; Ephesians 1:1, &c.), as “those of the way,” i.e. those who took their own way, the way which they believed would lead them to eternal life (Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9; Acts 24:22). By their Jewish opponents they were commonly stigmatized as “the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5), the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, the city out of which no good thing could come (John 1:46). The new name was given first at Antioch (Acts 11:26), shortly after the admission there, on a wider scale than elsewhere, of Gentile converts. Its Latin form, analogous to that of Pompeiani, Mariani, for the followers of Pompeius or Marius, indicated that the new society was attracting the attention of official persons and others at Antioch. The word naturally found acceptance. It expressed a fact, it was not offensive, and it might be used by those who, like Agrippa, though they were not believers themselves, wished to speak respectfully of those who were (Acts 26:28). Soon it came to be claimed by those believers. The question, Are you a Christian? became the crucial test of their faith. By disowning it, as in the case of the mildly repressive measures taken in these very regions by Pliny in the reign of Trajan, they might purchase safety (Pliny, Epp. x. 96). The words now before us probably did much to stamp it on the history of the Church. Men dared not disown it. They came to exult in it. Somewhat later on they came to find in it, with a pardonable play upon words, a new significance. The term Christiani (= followers of Christ) was commonly pronounced Chrestiani, and that, they urged, shewed that they were followers of Chrestus, i.e. of the good and gentle one. Their very name, they urged, through their Apologist, Tertullian (Apol. i. 3), was a witness to the falsehood of the charges brought against them.

F.F. Bruce, in his commentary on Acts adds the following:

“Xrestus (“useful, kindly”) was a common slave-name in the Graeco-Roman world. It “appears as a spelling variant for the unfamiliar Christus (Xristos). (In Greek the two words were pronounced alike.)” (F. F. Bruce, The Books of Acts, 368).

So, just for a little mental hypothesis, what if, in the great span of history, believers were being chastised and ridiculed early on, not for being “Christians” or followers of Christ (since people unfamiliar with the scriptures would not know what a “Christ” was) but instead were being ridiculed for being “Chrestians” or “do-gooders”? Non-believers could certainly identify those individuals, and believers faithful to their calling could definitely be accused of that, since they were instructed to follow the “good-doing” of their Lord and Master:

Acts 10:38 – “how God anointed Yeshua of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the devil, because God was with him.

Galatians 6:9 – Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.

2 Thessalonians 3:13 – But as for you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing good.

1 Peter 2:15 – For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.

1 Peter 3:17 – For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Of course I would not be dogmatic about this name identification, but it does raise an interesting concept and emphasis that may be lost in our modern understanding of that word. Christian implies that one believes a certain thing, while Chrestian implies that one does certain things. Which one would have been more derogatory? The word Chrestian would have, and indeed did, identify the early believers as do-gooders based on the fact that their Messiah was always doing good.

So what does all this side-bar about the Christian name have to do with the influence of our hearts? Well getting back to our main focus, this would mean that the content of the heart would have to have good intentions implanted there, and that believers would have to be acting out that goodness based on the overflow of their hearts, as Yeshua taught.

You see, without constant attention, the garden soil of our hearts can be quickly overrun by weeds. And when it’s overrun by weeds, it will become unfruitful; we cannot do the good things that we are called to do. It’s not about what we believe, but what we do.

We must weed the garden at all times to ensure that as the seed grows, it is clear of any other obstructions to the light and moisture that it needs. The weeds can block the light and consume the water of the rain and irrigation meant to nourish the seed for maximum growth. Removing weeds can be hard work, especially if we have neglected to review it on a regular basis.

It’s always good to remember that we need to mind the gardens of our hearts with vigilance. When we do so, we will be honoring the Master Gardener by maximizing the return he has planned for the seed that is continually being sown in us.


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