The holiness of God’s people, then and now

God’s standards of holiness don’t change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The people of the Kingdom of God

The gospel of the Kingdom is about its people and its reality here and now.

I have spent decades of study, countless thousands of hours and hundreds of articles in exploring the message of the Bible, refining all of its contents down to the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. It is my belief that these two passages carry the central message of the Bible, the gospel of the Kingdom, and define the people of God.

The Ten Commandments describe a people who love God above all else and hate idolatry and religious imagery. They are fruitful and serious in aligning themselves with God, and ensure time with him is the priority above all else. They honor authority and reject personal vengeance. They are faithful, trustworthy, truthful, and are not distracted with worldly entrapments.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua expands on these themes as the fulfillment and essence of his doctrinal teaching:

Kingdom – The Kingdom is populated by disciples of Yeshua who humbly accomplish God’s will on the earth. Abiding by God’s will means obedience in all things to his instruction, his Torah, his eternal Word.

Integrity – Those who make up the Kingdom are people of integrity, doing the will of God from the heart because they know it’s the right thing, not just from a set of memorized rules.

Vigilance – The way of the Kingdom is a path with many obstacles that must be overcome. It takes perseverance, endurance, and wisdom to discern falsehood from truth and to remain in the Way.

Holiness – Those who journey on this path are set apart by God’s Spirit, holy and committed to purity in heart and God’s purpose. They rely on God’s resources for strength and are illumined within with his light and understanding.

Trust – No one can be in the Kingdom who does not have faith in God, to trust him for actual provision in all things, and to trust in Yeshua who guides into all truth and life.

Forgiveness – Those in the Kingdom are peacemakers, and do not become unjustifiably angry with anyone. They go above and beyond to maintain positive and fruitful relationships with those around them, even those who could be considered oppressors.

Compassion – Kingdom people extend mercy and help to those in need. They contribute a helpful and useful purpose in the culture and society and look to the needs of others as they would like to be served.

This Kingdom recognizes no iconography, no creed, no denomination, no ethnicity, no language, no social status, and no nationality. It is above all and eternal in duration.

If these characteristics describe you or your aspirations of who you believe you are called to be, then you, dear friend, are an inheritor and representative of God’s Kingdom.

Now let’s go and live like it.

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

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

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Intentional consecration produces holiness

By recognizing the holiness of God and doing holy things, we also shall continue to become holy.

Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘You shall be holy; for I Yahweh your God am holy.

Leviticus 19:1-2

The Hebrew word for holy is qodesh, and in use throughout the Bible, it is a term that is used of things that are designated as uniquely relating to God, or just for God’s use, or in connection with the worship of the one true God.

Here are some examples, in no specific order, of those things that are considered qodesh: God, his Name, the Sabbath, the Tabernacle, the ground around God’s presence, the firstborn, garments of the priests, food offered to the priests, the anointing oil, the altar, offerings, festival days, vessels and furnishings of the Tabernacle, Zion.

As these things were recognized as holy by the people of Israel, they themselves became set apart, a holy people dedicated to Yahweh. The word used in these instances varies slightly from qodesh to qadosh. It is more typically, though not exclusively, used of God and the people of Israel. In usage it appears to apply more to those who do holy actions, while qodesh seems to apply more to things that are intrinsically holy.

Because holiness has this component of action that produces more of itself, the apostle Peter used this understanding as a way of encouraging the early believers to remain set apart.

As obedient children, do not conform to the passions of your former ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:14-16

We become holy by recognizing and honoring the holy God and his Word. As we are drawn further and further into actions that are based on his instruction, due to his holiness, we ourselves become more holy, more set apart, more consecrated for his use.

Peter quotes Moses’ relating of God’s Word from Leviticus 11: “Be holy, for I am holy.” This is an admonition for God’s people to continually strive for by overcoming their former ignorance and blind passions. And based on Moses perspective in Leviticus 19, we know that God’s people “shall be holy, because God is holy.”

For us today, we can know that by recognizing the holiness of God and doing holy things, we also shall continue to become holy.

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

The promises of holiness require active separation from unrighteous practices

Believers are not to join in any effort or activity where the Name or character of God would be maligned or disdained.

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

2 Corinthians 7:1

Paul’s admonition here is for cleansing our ourselves from everything that can defile our body and spirit. This, he says, is working toward complete holiness; that is, with holiness as the fulfillment, the end goal, of this cleansing.

However, the motivation for this goal comes from some promises he has just mentioned. Since this is the first verse in chapter 7 in our Bibles, this must mean he mentioned some promises at the end of chapter 6. What promises is he referring to?

Well, the direct answer comes when we review verses 17 and 18: “I will receive you,” and “I will be your father and you will be unto me for sons and daughters.”

These are, indeed, amazing promises. But these promises are contingent on this cleansing, a setting apart of some sort. Let’s review the passage in full to see the context:

Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever? What agreement has a temple of God with idols? For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “‘Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you. I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

I know this passage has classically been used for the purpose of warning believers not to marry non-believers, and while that is certainly a commendable ideal, that is not the context of this passage; marriage is no where in Paul’s sights here.

The real message is that separation from non-believers is required in any type of joint-effort where a compromise of God’s principles would become involved. Believers are not to join in any effort or activity where the Name or character of God would be maligned or disdained.

As an example, in Paul’s day, it was customary to invite friends to go out to dinner, so to speak, in a temple of a local deity. A fellowship meal in an idol’s temple was the equivalent of going out to eat in a restaurant today. It was also an accepted practice to purchase meat in the local market that had first been offered to an idol. These were such serious issues that Paul devotes a whole chapter (chapter 8) in his first letter to the Corinthians to these practices.

It is also mentioned as a primary restriction required of new believers from the Jerusalem Council decision:

Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals, and from blood.

Acts 15:20

To remind the believers of the severity of this command, Paul, as he is known to do, quotes from several selections of torah, or God’s instruction, to make his point:

  • Leviticus 7:21 – If you touch anything that is unclean (whether it is human defilement or an unclean animal or any other unclean, detestable thing) and then eat meat from a peace offering presented to the LORD, you will be cut off from the community.”
  • Leviticus 11:8 – You may not eat the meat of these animals or even touch their carcasses. They are ceremonially unclean for you.
  • Leviticus 26:11-12 – I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people.
  • Ezekiel 37:27 – I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

He pulls together principles rooted in the holiness of God; avoiding ceremonial uncleanness is the model, the example, of how believers were to ensure they were continuing to pattern their lives in the assemblies of Messiah. If they did so, God would be among them.

Uncleanness went beyond just animals to other sanitary practices among the people of God, from bodily fluids to accidentally touching dead bodies. But the principle was the same: separating oneself from these things was an act of holiness, which by its very definition means to be set apart.

Paul is using that same established torah logic among the believers in Corinth to remind them of their unique position among their generation, and that they should not forfeit their standing with God on the accepted conventions and customs of the day. According to Yeshua’s admonition of Matthew 5:8, believers were to have a pure and blameless heart at all times. Separation from unclean practices was necessary to achieve this.

How can we apply this same principle in our day? What types of accepted conventions in social discourse today compromise the principles of God and his character? What activities demean and denigrate God’s glory, yet are considered “ok” by the rest of our society?

These are the things we are to avoid being “yoked” together (i.e., going along with) non-believers for the sake of fellowship. We cannot be united with them in those things because they compromise God’s integrity and honor.

However, Paul’s admonition is that when we do actively separate ourselves, when we cleanse ourselves from these things, then we are truly behaving like God’s sons and daughters, and only then will he will be present among us. This is the fulfillment of the promises when we take decisive actions to maintain our holiness out of godly respect and honoring of him.

Who can attain to the ideal of the woman of noble character in Proverbs 31?

If Proverbs 31 is viewed as the ideal for all of God’s people, we can be encouraged to collectively attain its lofty ambitions.

She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.

Proverbs 31:27

The thirty-first chapter of Proverbs contains a famous passage providing the characteristics of a “noble” or “virtuous” woman. Many a wife has reviewed this passage with trepidation, as the ideal set forth in these verses can indeed be intimidating.

However, instead of describing the ideal woman and holding wives to an unreachable standard, this passage can be viewed from a different, and perhaps more attainable, perspective that aligns with the middle-eastern propensity to couch word pictures and ideas in parabolic language.

Especially in the prophets, God has revealed himself as desiring his people as a husband desires the pure love of a faithful bride. He is equally disappointed when that love is not returned to him, but is instead wasted on the idolatry of the nations around them.

“O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the LORD. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight.

Hosea 6:4

But he holds out the promise of renewed faithfulness and marital fidelity for the people of Zion.

Never again will [Jerusalem] be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride. Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.

Isaiah 62:4-5

This theme is echoed in the book of Revelation:

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.

Revelation 21:2-3

If this noble woman in Proverbs is viewed as the ideal for all of God’s people as his prophetic bride, then it begins to make sense of the overall passage lining out the expectations God has for his people, not just wives.

One of the characteristics God expects of his people is the vigilance with which this woman watches over her family, that nothing is outside of her purview. She carefully looks ahead to the needs of her family, identifying dangers ahead of time, like a watchman on the walls of a city.

This vigilance is contrasted with laziness, or more literally the eating of “the bread of idleness,” as one who sits idle, concerned only with their own appetite and nothing else. In today’s terminology, they might be considered a “deadbeat mom.”

However, we have the opportunity to view the passage in its entirety of what God expects of his people, and his goal for us is not to remain trapped in the idleness of our own selfish passions, but to be ever watchful, caring for the welfare of those of our “family.”

As an ideal for wives, Proverbs 31 can be intimidating and unattainable. However, viewed as an ideal for all believers, collective attainment of its lofty ambitions suddenly becomes more applicable and practical. We would do well to imbue our lives with her character of vigilance for her family in respect and honor of our Husband and Provider.