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.

All types of gifts have value in the life of the congregation

The community of Messiah is far more than just a weekly event.

1 Corinthians 12:20-25 – As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you! ” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you! ” On the contrary, those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable. And those parts of the body that we consider less honorable, we clothe these with greater honor, and our unrespectable parts are treated with greater respect, which our respectable parts do not need. Instead, God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other.

The Commentary of the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges relates the following in regard to this passage of Scripture:

“God had specially provided against this [schisms in the body] by giving to those who occupy the less honourable and ornamental positions in society the compensation of being the most indispensable portions of it. The ‘comely parts’—the wealthy, the refined, the cultivated, the intellectual—obtain honour and respect by the very nature of their gifts. God has signified His Will that due honour and respect should be paid to those to whom it is not instinctively felt to be owing, by so ordering society that we cannot do without them. But our class distinctions and jealousies, our conflicts between capital and labour, shew how little Christians have realized this obvious truth.”

It would seem that we still need to learn these lessons today. While the passage under consideration is less about social class convention and more about differing gifts and abilities, it is true that gatherings of believers have become less community-oriented and more focused on becoming an event that one attends. Those “less honorable” parts of this community are becoming more and more marginalized to where they have less opportunity to participate meaningfully in the life of the congregation. In a sense, class distinctions among believers still persist.

Applying the metaphor that Paul provides, believing congregations represent the body of Messiah to the world. If one is not even caring for the extremities of one’s own body, how can the body function as it should? Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian body is that “the members would have the same concern for each other.” The word used here for concern is actually a Greek phrase meaning “over-anxious to the point of distraction.” It’s the same phrase used by Yeshua in the famous passage in Matthew 6 about not being anxious for tomorrow.

Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

It seems odd to apply this same type of anxiety to the care and concern believers should be exhibiting for one another. Can we truly say we are “anxious to the point of distraction” about the well-being of others and for the equality of different types of spiritual gifts that may be exhibited in our believing community?

1 Corinthians 12:18 – But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

Paul says that the differences in ability and gifting among us exist for the purpose of causing us to be a diverse community with spiritual abilities far beyond just any one of us as individuals. We need to learn to recognize the value that these diverse abilities and gifts provide the whole for the sake of honoring the God who has put the body together just the way he wants it to be.


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.

Differences between the “church” and the kingdom

How can these differences help us understand our purpose?

Many of you who follow this blog may recognize that I have made this distinction between the “church” and the kingdom in the past. You may also notice that is one of the reasons I typically avoid using the word “church” in my articles, not because I don’t believe in it, just because I think that word has evolved over time to take on non-biblical meaning.

What do I mean by that? Well, when we drive down the road and see a building with a steeple, we may call that a “church.” This building may technically be where a “church” (that is, a group of called-out people) meets, but it is only a building, not an actual church. In reality, the church is the group of people that meet in that location, the building is just a building.

The word that we translate as church in our bibles is actually from the Greek word ekklesia, which simply means an assembly of people. In Greek usage, it doesn’t even really have any religious overtones; it could be an assembly of people at a rally, or a political event. This is why instead of using the word church, I will typically employ the word congregation, as I think that conveys more of an accurate meaning.

Why is this kind of semantic difference important? It is because I think in today’s culture, just like the confusion between the building and the people who meet in the building, the lines between church and kingdom have become blurred, to the point of the terms being used interchangeably. This has no biblical precedent and was never intended by any of the biblical writers, or even by Yeshua himself.

I believe Yeshua defined how the term ekklesia should be used when he introduced the concept to his disciples in Matthew 16.

Matthew 16:15-18 – “…who do you say that I am? ” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Yeshua responded, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my ekklesia, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

Yeshua said this his ekklesia would be built on the “rock” of the declaration of Peter: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” This is all that is required to be a “member” of the local assembly: faith in Yeshua as Messiah. Based on that statement, assemblies would be formed to live out his teachings in their local communities. Neither the death of Yeshua nor the death of any of the believers (i.e., the “gates of Hades”) would be able to stop the number of local congregations from continuing to grow.

However, the ekklesia is not the kingdom, it is simply the local outpost of where the kingdom principles are being exhibited in the lives of the believers. The kingdom is the everlasting reign of God over all the earth; the congregation is the local gathering of believers in Messiah who are living out the kingdom values in that community.

In an excerpt from his article titled “The Church vs. the Kingdom,” a church-planting minister by the name of Jim Botts provided how he views some of the following differences between the church and the kingdom.

“KINGDOM PEOPLE OR CHURCH PEOPLE?
Though the church and its activities can fit into the Kingdom, you cannot squeeze the Kingdom into the Church. When we try to fit the Kingdom into our church-box, we create church people, instead of Kingdom people! And there is a huge difference between the two:
Church people – have reduced ministry vision and can’t see past church-bound categories for ministry (i.e., usher, greeter, children’s worker, inviter-of-lost-friends, etc.).
Kingdom people – have Kingdom vision to think/dream/act outside the box (read church here). They want to heal the wounds in their neighborhood, workplace, and community (fatherlessness, addictions, marriages).
Church people – see the gospel in terms of good news about the afterlife (it’s how you can be sure you’re going to heaven after you die).
Kingdom people – see the gospel in terms of good news about Kingdom life (it’s about life in God and with God, both now and forever).
Church people – understand discipleship as primarily about enjoying a closer relationship with God that grows me to spiritual maturity.
Kingdom people – understand discipleship as the call to lose their life for Christ’s sake so they can participate in His family for His mission.
The Kingdom is not a means to a bigger church; the church is a means to demonstrating the Kingdom!”

I think these are some healthy distinctions, and help us understand that Yeshua’s primary mission was to usher in the kingdom, not to start a new religion which would become called “the Christian Church.” This is a primary misunderstanding of all that he came to accomplish.

Instead, as we work through our local congregations (i.e., “churches”) to live out the overarching principles of the kingdom, we will find that the kingdom itself will continue to grow on the earth with each succeeding generation, just as the Bible prophesied it would.

Daniel 7:14 – “He [one like a Son of Man] was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.”


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! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

Being vigilant about what to believe

Our individual worldview can influence which things we accept as true and which things we reject as false.

Mark 1:15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
Luke 4:43 But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.”

While there are many different religions in the world, all with differing views of God and spirituality, we find that even amidst Christianity there are wide variations among denominations and churches all claiming competing views of biblical faith. They all have “statements of faith” of what they consider the most important things for people to believe. In order to belong to a specific church or denomination, one must believe what their statements proclaim.

Here at the Core of the Bible blog and podcast, I don’t have a statement of faith, and I think that throws some people off because they want to know if I am presenting an orthodox view of the faith (according to them). Instead, I am always striving to present the message of the Bible reduced to its simplest form, not trying to complicate things further with man-made creeds. However, if I was pegged to distill the message of the Bible to one phrase regarding a statement of faith, it would be this: “Just believe Yeshua (Jesus).”

Of course, in saying that, a host of pre-existing and unstated elements would also have to be believed in to arrive at that simplistic statement. To believe in Yeshua, one would also need to believe the Bible is true, and truly depicts his life and teaching. If one believes the Bible is true, then one is understood to recognize that Israel was a faithful caretaker of the words of God. If one believes that Israel was faithful with the words of God, then the God of the Bible is recognized as being the true God. If one believes the God of the Bible is true, then, according to the Bible record, one understands he is the originator of everything that exists.

Everything we believe and know is interconnected to a host of other biases and assumptions about life and the universe. Our individual worldview can influence which things we accept as true and which things we reject as false.

For me, I do believe the biblical worldview. I accept that there is a God of the universe, and that he has chosen to reveal himself through what we call the Bible. The reason I do is because I believe the patterns, stories, and wisdom contained there hold a consistent message about the kingdom of God that has been borne out in real time through the historical circumstances of ancient Israel. I have concluded that Yeshua provided the pinnacle or the culmination of that message of the kingdom, and that the Sermon on the Mount provides a foundational structure that supports the rest of the biblical narrative. By focusing on the principles Yeshua outlines there, I believe a firm footing is achieved for a practical outworking of faith and the kingdom of God through all ages. For me, the message of the kingdom of God in the Bible gives reason for all that exists, and for why we are here.

In the spirit of simplicity, it is my hope that these notes, articles and podcasts will convey that understanding and reason in a way that makes sense to you. If you are ever in doubt about what I am attempting to convey, or you have questions about my stance on a particular thought, feel free to reach out to me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

And if you are ever in doubt about something particular in a church’s statement of faith, remember: Just believe Yeshua (Jesus), and you will be fine.

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 here.

To be vigilant against deception one must know both the Bible and the teacher

There are two parts to vigilance in our understanding of the faith: thoroughly knowing the torah or instruction of God and knowing from whom the Word is being taught.

…evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.

2 Timothy 3:13-14

Paul is emphatic with his protoge Timothy, and is cautioning him in being fully aware of the deceivers who were infiltrating the ranks of the fledgling Messianic Kingdom movement. Paul emphasizes that the deceivers would make themselves known not just by their teaching, but by their lifestyles and their actions.

For [these] men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people.

2 Timothy 3:2-5

These were the corrupt Jews who were coming against the teachings of the Messiah and the apostolic communities that were growing amidst the synagogues of the first century. One has only to read the denunciations or “woes” of Yeshua against these individuals to know who they were.

Matthew 23:15, 23, 27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. …
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. …
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
Luke 11:42-43, 46, 52 “But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! for you love the best seat in the synagogues and salutations in the market places. …
And he said, “Woe to you scribes also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. …
Woe to you scribes! for you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

They were hypocrites; they had “the form of religion but were denying its power” as Paul writes. As a contrast to this corruption, Paul instructs Timothy to look at the example of his own life and conduct.

Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Ico’nium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. … But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 3:10-11, 14-15

There are two parts to vigilance in our understanding of the faith: thoroughly knowing the torah or instruction of God and knowing from whom the Word is being taught. If you are not aware of the actual lifestyles and practices of your teachers, you must exercise caution in what they are promoting. However, the complement to that is, if you are thoroughly familiar with the Scriptures (and I mean the Scriptures, not just what a certain denomination teaches about the Scriptures), then you will have balance in being able to accurately evaluate anyone’s representation of the Word of God.

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

Lighting the way for others

As you act with integrity based on the wisdom you have received, your good works make a difference in the lives around you.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Be shining: let your good practices be seen by all. Magnify God.

The life of a believer is a life that is all about others. It’s not just about receiving light for your own path, but about lighting the way for those around you. As that light is received, they can recognize and honor God for who he is.

We don’t have the luxury of receiving wisdom from God simply for our own benefit and use. That does not align with our integrity. Integrity is not only about doing the right thing, but doing the right thing in the sight of, and for, others. In fact, integrity doesn’t exist until it can be demonstrated to someone else, whether it be God or your neighbor.

The reality is that the truth of God can’t be contained. As you act with integrity based on the wisdom you have received, your good works make a difference in the lives around you. Those acts of integrity then act as a light for others who see the consistency of your beliefs and your actions. When that happens, God is magnified, that is, brought closer in reality to them.

Put your lamp on the lampstand where it belongs. Together, our collective lights become a city of righteousness that magnifies and broadcasts a beacon of God’s truths to our world, and a generation of those living in the darkness can be drawn to him.