The steep price of holiness and purity of heart

We must present our bodies as living sacrifices, sacrifices that are holy and acceptable to God through denying selfish impulses.

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of holiness, and how God has outlined a refining process for every individual who is seeking holiness and purity of heart.

2 Timothy 2:22 – Flee from youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

As Timothy was a young leader within the Yeshua movement of Judaism, Paul was encouraging him to focus on being a positive example to the believers. His commitment to the Messiah would need to be evident in every aspect of his being so that people would sense his sincerity and pureness of heart, thereby spurring confidence in his teaching, and honor towards his Lord. This admonition comes amidst a discussion on faithful workers versus those who had been spreading falsehood among believers.

2 Timothy 2:16-18 – But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.

Paul was encouraging Timothy to stick to these basics of Kingdom living to ensure he would remain separated from falsehood. To pursue righteousness, Paul argues, one needed only to focus on faith, love and peace with all, especially those within the community of Messiah. This would breed righteous actions, indicating pureness of heart among the believers and all would be encouraged.

While this may come across as being too simplistic, it certainly was not an easy task for the early believers. Maintaining faith and pursuing righteousness in an environment of doctrinal oppression and brutal, physical persecution was a lifestyle of daily challenge. Demonstrating real love not only for the brethren but also those who were opposed to the gospel of the Kingdom was a monumental task. And pursuing peace with everyone who was essentially against the teachings of Yeshua required the deepest levels of reliance on the Spirit of God working within them to establish God’s Kingdom in that generation.

John 14:25-26 – “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

Yeshua had promised his disciples that the Spirit of God would bring to remembrance everything he had been teaching them, and in doing so, they would continually be taught how to interact with others. As God dwelt among his people, there was a unity that would stand as a testament to outsiders because the believers were operating within peace and love that God desires among his Kingdom people.

Acts 2:42-47 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

In another teaching context with the Roman congregation, the apostle Paul highlights the fact that righteousness, peace, joy, and encouragement in the Spirit were what would unify the believers and build up the Kingdom.

Romans 14:16-19 – Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever serves Messiah in this way is acceptable to God and receives human approval. So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.

Here we can see how Paul was essentially laying out the foundation of all interactions in the Kingdom which had already been evidenced by the early believers within their emerging community of faith. Paul says in Romans 14 that, “The kingdom of God is…righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit. Whoever serves Messiah in this way is acceptable to God and receives human approval.”

Now compare this definition to the example of the early believers described in Acts 2. Look at how those first believers were “conducting themselves in righteousness”:

  • They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching
  • to fellowship
  • to the breaking of bread (eating of common meals)
  • to prayer
  • all the believers were together and held all things in common
  • They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need

They also demonstrated “peace and joy”:

  • They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts

They were “acceptable to God and receiving human approval”:

  • praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

And the end result was:

  • Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved

So, how is it that this early group of Messiah believers could be so focused on the Kingdom and be such a bold and powerful witness to others? Is there a way that we can somehow mimic their faithfulness today so that we can also be a powerful witness to our own generation? In a moment, we will review a critical yet challenging teaching of Yeshua that can help us to do just that.

As we have seen so far, the early believers began operating within the dynamic parameters of peace and unity as they were taught by the holy Spirit through the apostles. As the Spirit brought to mind the teachings of Yeshua, the apostles were faithfully teaching and living out the principles for the believers to see and follow. And one of those principles of Yeshua is that he had said that those who were pure of heart and peacemakers would be blessed.

Matthew 5:8-9 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Yeshua also illustrated with his own life the steep price that that his followers would have to pay in order to live out these principles in the process of following him.

Matthew 16:24 – Then Yeshua told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

So, now we get to the heart of the matter. Being set apart as pure of heart and a peacemaker involves a critical practice: denial of self. To deny oneself is to set oneself apart for some other, greater purpose. When we can get outside of ourselves and our personal, selfish impulses, it is then that we have the capacity to be filled with God’s Spirit so he can teach us how to become the pure and peaceful people he wants us to be. The characteristics Paul mentions in this passage to Timothy all involve our outward actions towards others based on an inward transformation: righteous actions involve denial of self; faith involves denial of self; love involves denial of self; peace involves denial of self. Therefore, we can conclude: the steep price of holiness or being set apart involves a continual outward focus on behalf of others.

But, since almost everything we encounter in this life and our current culture tells us the exact opposite (that we need to exert our rights, our privileges, our selfish impulses) we really need to evaluate ourselves in light of not only our personal walk, but in the context of our usefulness to the purposes of God.

Paul leveraged this concept of usefulness within the Kingdom by drawing an analogy to household articles.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

Based on Paul’s analogy here, there is a purging or cleansing of oneself from what is dishonorable that allows one to become set apart and more useful to God. The root meaning of the Greek word means” to cleanse by taking away; to thoroughly scour and clean out that which is impure.” This, according to Paul, is something that one must do for oneself. God is the one who makes our hearts new, but we as individuals must provide a clean working environment for that new heart to operate within. Believers have a responsibility to scour and clean out those things that offend God because of his holiness and presence in our lives, and in turn we become set apart as holy, ready for every good work towards others.

This whole chapter in 2 Timothy is sprinkled with admonitions to faithfully conduct this work of cleansing oneself (mentioned in verse 21) in every area of life. Paul instructs Timothy to have his hearers work at the sanctification in their lives in the following ways:

  • 14 – avoid wrangling over words
  • 16 – avoid profane chatter
  • 19 – let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness
  • 22 – shun youthful passions
  • 23 – have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies
  • 24 – the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome

On the positive side of the equation, purity of heart is demonstrated by the following:

  • 15 – doing your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him
  • 15 – rightly explain the word of truth
  • 21 – being ready for every good work
  • 22 – pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace
  • 24 – being kindly to everyone
  • 24 – being skillful in teaching
  • 24 – being patient
  • 25 – gently correcting opponents

All of these actions, whether avoiding that which is not beneficial or conducting those things which are, come at the steep price of denial of self. Remember what Yeshua said: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

The imagery conveyed here by Yeshua would have been a familiar one to his hearers, as they would have watched many crucifixions of capital offenders in their days. The offender would be forced to carry the very thing upon which he must die. I can think of no greater illustration of the life of the believer that conveys the necessity of continually bearing the instrument of death (denial of self) in the practice of doing what is right. Once we deny ourselves by avoiding that which is unhelpful, we then need to “pick up the cross” of doing what is right in place of those things. It is such a powerful metaphor for a very real and tangible discipline that should be touching every area of the believer’s life.

Paul calls this being a “living sacrifice;” a sacrificial offering that lives on and through the continual act of dying to self.

Romans 12:1-2 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is the same message he is urging Timothy to convey to his hearers: to present their bodies as living sacrifices, sacrifices that are holy and acceptable to God through denying their selfish impulses, not being conformed to the world. But they are also to be transformed through renewal, learning through the act of being tested what actions are good, acceptable and perfect according to his will.

Paul himself suffered intense persecution, and he knew it was a reality for believers who were separating from falsehood, but that they should remain steadfast in their faith.

2 Timothy 3:12-14 – Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Messiah Yeshua will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you remain in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.

Paul reminds Timothy to rely on the faithful teaching which he had received as the basis of all he would strive to impart to his hearers.

How like Timothy and those early believers we should strive to be! We must remain steadfast in the things we have learned, cleansing ourselves from every false way so that we may live righteous lives that honor God. By demonstrating righteousness through faith, love, and peace, we will also be honoring the memory and faithfulness of those early believers which they had suffered through their sacrificial examples and through intense persecution. But we will also be honoring the God who calls us to the same life of useful work in our generation. As his people continue to set themselves apart for his use, he is glorified in every age and his Kingdom has opportunity to grow as it continues to fill the earth.


If you enjoy these 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 at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

God dwells among his separated people

Paul’s admonition is for believers to cleanse themselves from everything that can defile body and spirit.

Core of the Bible podcast #89 – God dwells among his separated people

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness or separation from uncleanness, and how Paul reminded the early believers how they were not to join in any effort or activity where the Name or character of God would be maligned or disdained. In doing so, God promised to dwell among his own sons and daughters.

  • 2 Corinthians 7:1 – 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.

Paul’s admonition here is for believers to cleanse themselves from everything that can defile body and spirit. This, he says, is working toward complete holiness; that is, with holiness as the fulfillment or 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 of chapter seven in our Bibles, this must mean he mentioned some promises at the end of chapter six. What promises is he referring to?

  • 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 – And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: I will dwell and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.  Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says Yahweh; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says Yahweh Almighty.

These are, indeed, amazing promises:

  • that God would dwell among them
  • that he would be their God, and they his people
  • that he would welcome them
  • that he would be a Father to them, and they would be as sons and daughters

But all of these wonderful promises are contingent on this cleansing of defilement of body and spirit, involving a setting apart of some sort. Let’s review the passage in full to see the context:

  • 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – 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 Yahweh. ‘Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you. I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,’ says Yahweh Almighty.”

So we can see the promises that God would dwell among them and they would be sons and daughters hinges on the condition that they separate themselves from all uncleanness of the idolatry of those who do not believe.

I know this passage has classically been used for the purpose of warning believers to not marry non-believers, and while that is certainly a valid recommendation, that is not the context of this passage; marriage is nowhere 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.

Two of the primary challenges believers faced in Paul’s day included the practice of eating food in a temple of a local deity, and by eating food purchased in the marketplace that had been previously offered to an idol. In that time, a fellowship meal in an idol’s temple was the ancient approximation of what we might today consider going out to eat in a restaurant. It was also a challenge for Jews to purchase meat in the market, not knowing if the food had already been in an idol’s temple prior to being offered for sale in the local market. These were such serious issues that Paul devotes a whole chapter (chapter 8) in his first letter to the Corinthians to these practices.

Paul devotes so much focus on these topics because it was a primary social practice that was a restriction for the new believers in Messiah, as well. Avoiding idolatrous food was one of the main points that had come out of the first Jerusalem Council decision. You may recall how in Acts 15, a convening of various sects of Messiah believers was called to establish consistency on how the Torah was to be applied among the believing congregations. And out of that discussion and debate came the following summarized conclusions:

  • Acts 15:20 – Instead, we should write and tell them [that is, new believers in Messiah] to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals, and from blood.

This instruction from the Jerusalem Council highlights how Torah was still the guiding principle of the early believing communities. All of these restrictions that were reported out to the fledgling congregations of Messiah are based in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

  • Leviticus 19:4 – Do not turn to idols or make cast images of gods for yourselves; I am Yahweh your God.
  • Deuteronomy 6:14 – Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you…
  • Leviticus 18:26 – But you are to keep my statutes and ordinances. You must not commit any of these detestable [sexually immoral] acts ​– ​not the native or the alien who resides among you.
  • Leviticus 17:12 – Therefore I say to the Israelites: None of you and no alien who resides among you may eat blood.

The council had rightfully deferred to God’s Word to establish fellowship guidelines of the mixed congregations who had participants from varied traditions and backgrounds. These were necessary as part of the practices to allow for shared meals; they had to all be on the same page as far as acceptable meats and personal sanctification in relationships.

So, while the conclusions of the council were designed to allow for fellowship and create unity among believers, it also delineated the separation that was necessary for the promises of God to be fulfilled among them. They would need to be diligent in separating themselves from the accepted social norms in order to be united together in solidarity as God’s people.

In a moment, we will return to the instruction of Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians explaining the importance of why believers should not be unequally yoked with non-believers. In doing so, I am hopeful we can learn some principles for application within our own lives and social situations in our current generation.


As Paul writes to the congregation in Corinth, he apparently feels compelled to provide a stark contrast between believers and non-believers as a way of shaking them out of a sense of complacency that they may have lapsed into regarding idolatry. Of course, ancient Greece was awash with all forms of varied idolatry, testified to this day by the literature of the time and the surviving architecture. To remind the believers of the severity of this command against idolatry, Paul, as he is known to do, quotes from several selections of Torah, or God’s instruction, to make his point:

2 Corinthians 6:16 – And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: I will dwell and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.

  • 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.

2 Corinthians 6:17 – Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says Yahweh; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you.

  • 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 Yahweh, you will be cut off from the community.
  • Isaiah 52:10-11 – Yahweh has displayed his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.  Leave, leave, go out from there! Do not touch anything unclean; go out from her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of Yahweh.

2 Corinthians 6:18 – And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says Yahweh Almighty.

  • Isaiah 43:5-6 – “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west.  “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up! ‘ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back! ‘ Bring my sons from far away, and my daughters from the ends of the earth
  • Hosea 1:10 – Yet the number of the Israelites will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted. And in the place where they were told: You are not my people, they will be called: Sons of the living God.

Paul 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 after Messiah within their assemblies, and to demonstrate how they had become God’s sons and daughters. If they did so, God would be among them and he would regather them to himself.

Uncleanness practices outlined in Torah went beyond just what types of animals one was permitted to eat to other sanitary practices among the people of God, from bodily fluids to accidentally touching dead bodies. But the overarching principle of all of these commands 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.

  • Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Separation from all unclean practices was necessary to achieve this.

You may have noticed that none of the passages that Paul references in his instruction are direct quotes, but they have a common theme of the restoration of God’s people to himself. Isaiah 43 and Hosea 1 are great and pivotal prophecies describing the long-awaited migration of God’s people returning back to Jerusalem from among the nations.

As such, we can gain an even greater understanding of the separateness that Paul is speaking to. As these believers had been scattered throughout the nations in the past, they had become susceptible to the idolatrous practices of their various cultures. Paul is using these passages as a way of weaning them off of their cultural traditions and practices that were hindering their walk with Yahweh through their new-found faith in Messiah Yeshua. He is using these texts to remind them of their true purpose as God’s people, and God’s care and concern for them as his own children. If they were to forsake their idolatry, God would indeed live among them and be a Father to them.

But if this is how Paul is applying these texts, then we can also begin to see how these wonderful prophetic indicators were not necessarily meant to be about a literal migration back to Israel, but a spiritual one. God was indeed calling his people back to himself from among the nations, but they were not necessarily returning to physical Jerusalem, but instead to the prophetic Zion, the New Jerusalem.

If this was the principle in Paul’s day, then how much more does that same principle apply in our day? How can we apply this same principle of separation? What types of accepted conventions in social discourse today compromise the principles of God and his character according to his Word, his Torah? What activities demean and denigrate God’s glory, yet are considered “ok” by the rest of our society?

These are questions that we need to be able to answer within the context of our own social environments wherever we are. When we can take a serious look at how we are potentially compromising our faith within our social arenas, we can then open the door to further obedience to God’s Word.

With our eyes open and our hearts guided by the eternal Torah of God, we can begin to understand the types of 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 non-believers in those things because they compromise God’s integrity and honor, and violate the sanctity not only of his Word, but of our united fellowship together as God’s people.

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 be present among us. This is the fulfillment of those ancient promises that generations have looked forward to. When we take decisive actions to maintain our holiness out of godly respect and honoring of him, we demonstrate the validity of God’s Word and the kingdom of God becomes visible to others in our actions.


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 at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

613 ways to be holy

God’s law is more achievable than we may think.

God’s law is more achievable than we may think.

The details of the biblical commandments have been a source of study for millennia. Reading through the five books of Moses (Genesis-Deuteronomy) covers a wide range of information, from God’s creation of all things, to early history of the Israelite people, to their wilderness journeys and preparation to enter the promised land.

Most significantly, an event is related to us where God revealed himself to the entire nation at once at Mount Sinai. It was here that the people heard the voice of God for themselves, and it is here that Moses received the details of God’s law. This law was to set them apart from all other nations on the earth because of its wisdom and practices.

  • 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?

This law was to be the distinguishing aspect of God’s people. There are laws that regulate all aspects of the life of an ancient Israelite. From food and sanitation, to marital and sexual relations, to priestly activities, to worship and sacrificial activities, to civil disputes and criminal punishments, and to war. A quick internet search on 613 commandments will provide the entire list, typically broken out into various categories as listed above.

What is interesting to note is that not all of the commandments apply to everyone, and some are only specific to certain activities at certain times of the year. Some apply only to women, and some apply only to priests.Some are focused only on the biblical holidays, others focus on conflicts that may only arise from time to time. Some are positive commands requiring action, others are prohibitions restricting behaviors. The more one looks at the overall collection of commands and prohibitions, it becomes apparent that not all of them applied to everyone equally at all times. However, there are general similarities and overarching principles that can be derived from reviewing all of them with regularity.

Most modern believers might say that, while that is all well and good, there is little need to focus our time and energy on this outdated law because it has been done away with and no longer applies. They might say that Messiah fulfilled all of the law so we don’t have to. But is that really true? Did Messiah fulfill all of the law so we don’t have to pay any attention to it?

  • Psalm 119:142 – Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your law [torah] is true.
  • Psalm 119:89 – Yahweh, your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven.
  • Psalm 119:160 – The entirety of your word is truth, each of your righteous judgments endures forever.
  • Isaiah 40:8- The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.

Even Yeshua mentioned the nature of God’s eternal instruction.

  • Matthew 5:17-19 – “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

What we need to realize in our day is that Messiah did not abolish the law, but he did fulfill the law. Specifically, as the symbolic Lamb of God, he fulfilled everything related to the temple, sacrifices, and priestly worship, and they are no longer needed in earthly practice. This was evidenced by the destruction of the temple. However, as the beginning of the new creation, he elevated the law to its rightful place as a regulator of eternal spiritual principles. As his people, he expects us to also fulfill the law in his name.

  • Galatians 6:2 – Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Messiah.
  • James 2:8 – Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.
  • 1 John 2:3-6 – This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands. The one who says, “I have come to know him,” and yet doesn’t keep his commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, truly in him the love of God is made complete. This is how we know we are in him: The one who says he remains in him should walk just as he walked.

Even though we may not be temple priests and not all of us are women, not all of us are civil rulers and not all of us have families of our own, we are still governed by the principles of God’s eternal torah or law. We all, as part of God’s new creation and spiritual kingdom, are expected to abide by its principles as they apply in the various aspects of our lives.

When asked about the law, Yeshua stated it this way:

  • Matthew 22:35-40 – And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest? ” He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

In Yeshua’s teaching, all of the torah or law of God can be summed up in these two commands: love God and love your neighbor. These two commands are explained in more detail in the Ten Commandments; the first five apply to God and his authority and the second five apply to our relations with others. The Ten Commandments are the basis and foundation upon which all of the other commands in the law of Moses are based.

So, if everything in the 613 commands of the law makes God’s people holy and distinct, and everything in the law is explained in the Ten Commandments, and everything the Ten Commandments is, according to Yeshua, summarized in the Two Great Commandments, then how hard is it for us to be holy as God expects and for us to follow his eternal law today?


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 at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The anointing that makes for a holy sacrifice

The Biblical pattern of anointing and sacrifice lays down a template for the spiritual life of believers today.

The Biblical pattern of anointing and sacrifice lays down a template for the spiritual life of believers today.

In the Bible, holiness, in the sense of something being set apart for God’s use, is a quality that was to have been instituted through a process of anointing. Anointing was the practice of rubbing, smearing, or pouring a substance on a thing or person to designate it as being set apart exclusively for God’s purposes. The most common method of anointing was with a type of oil or sacrificial blood, or both.

  • Exodus 30:25-29 – And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy.
  • Exodus 29:21 – Then you shall take part of the blood that is on the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons’ garments with him. He and his garments shall be holy, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.

The idea that things could be set apart as holy became an object lesson for the people of Israel. They would come to recognize that when God sets something apart, it was special and uniquely his and should not be tampered with. Anything touching the altar or consecrated article would become holy, that is, set apart for God’s purpose.

A famous example of this is when King David was attempting to transport the anointed and set apart articles of the tabernacle, including the ark of the covenant, up to Jerusalem for the new temple.

2 Samuel 6:5-7 – And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating beforeYahweh, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger ofYahweh was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.

As harsh as this may sound in a surface reading of this passage, Uzzah, with the best of intentions, attempted to keep the ark from falling off of the cart, but because he came in direct contact with something that was wholly set apart for God’s use, he died. In a sense, he became instantly holy, that is, he became set apart for God’s purpose by being wholly consumed by the anointed article.

This is meant to teach us, not of the harshness of God, but of his set-apartness, his otherness that has real impact and lasting effect on our physical lives here. We can see from the physical examples of the articles of the tabernacle and temple that anything that is anointed and set apart as holy to Yahweh is to be taken very seriously.

Exodus 29:36-37 – and every day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement. Also you shall purify the altar, when you make atonement for it, and shall anoint it to consecrate it. Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it, and the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar shall become holy.

Yeshua confirmed that anything placed on the altar was to become completely holy and set apart for God’s purpose.

Matthew 23:16-19 – “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold holy? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift holy?

The idea that anything which touched the altar specifically would become holy has to do with the idea that an offering that is on the altar is being used for its highest purpose, given in complete and full sacrifice to God.

In the New Testament writings of the apostle Paul, he touches on this aspect in the life of a believer.

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

If our living bodies are to be considered living sacrifices, and sacrifices that are on the altar are considered holy, then our lives become a holy offering to God. Following the logic of the narrative of Uzzah, if we touch the altar of sacrifice with our living body, we must die. Paul expresses the paradox of the believer in that we are constantly in a state of dying to ourselves when we willingly offer ourselves to God.

The apostle John, however, focuses on the living aspect about the anointing of God. His contention is that believers have been anointed by God with his holy Spirit for the purpose of understanding truth, and learning to live and abide in him.

1 John 2:20, 27 – But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. … But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie–just as it has taught you, abide in him.

This paradox of the life of the anointing and the sacrifice of holiness is a reality that we must understand if we are to truly serve Yahweh faithfully in obedience to Yeshua.

  • John 15:4-5 – Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
  • Matthew 10:38-39 – And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

We have been called to die to ourselves and live for him. This is the path of the anointing and the way of holiness.


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 at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The people of God are meant to be uncompromisingly holy and distinct

We are susceptible to faulty thinking when we begin to align with our culture over the message of God’s kingdom.

We are susceptible to faulty thinking when we begin to align with our culture over the message of God’s kingdom.

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 – Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done. How can right and wrong be partners? How can light and darkness live together? How can Messiah and the worthless one agree? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? How can God’s temple come to terms with pagan idols?

In this writing to the Corinthian congregation, the apostle Paul fires off a rapid-fire set of questions to illustrate the incompatibility of believers with non-believers. This is not meant to be a statement of withdrawing from all worldly interactions, but to avoid being, quite literally, “unequally yoked” together with those who are not in agreement with the biblical worldview.

In ancient agriculture, yoking two animals together to do the necessary work, whether pulling a cart or a plowing implement, would have the potential to double the output or ease the burden of just a single animal. However, if the animals were of different sizes or temperaments the unequal pairing became difficult to manage and the animals would not work in unison as anticipated. Even today in sled dog teams in the far north, it is important for each dog to be compatible with all of the others so that they work together to successfully pull the sled and obey the commands of the owner.

To further make his point, the apostle then quotes from some of the prophets to illustrate his point further.

  • Jeremiah 31:1 – “At that time, says Yahweh, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.”
  • Isaiah 52:10-11 – Yahweh has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Depart, depart, go out thence, touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her, purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of Yahweh.
  • Isaiah 43:5-7 – Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
  • Hosea 1:10-11 – Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Sons of the living God.” And the people of Judah and the people of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head; and they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

Interestingly, all of these passages refer to the great regathering of Israel from among the nations prophetically in the future (from the standpoint of the prophets). These prophecies were written at a time of dispersion of God’s people from the physical land of Israel. They are urging separation and cleansing from the cultures to which they have been dispersed in order to demonstrate the glory of God.

Paul is using this emphasis on the uniqueness of the calling of God’s people as a substantiation of the encouragement to the holiness and separation of the believers in his day. He is equating the corruption of the worldly cultures where Israel had been scattered as a spiritual equivalent of the corruption to which the believers in Messiah were being exposed in his own day. The contrasts are stark: right and wrong, light and darkness, temple of God and temples of idols. Messiah is contrasted with the worthless one, sometimes associated with a popular deity at the time, the “Lord of the Forest,” or sometimes the Accuser (Satan). These would have been recognizable contrasts to his first century audience and would underscore the necessity to maintain spiritual purity in a world of wickedness.

In like fashion, we today would do well to heed the apostle’s advice. As God’s people scattered around the world, we are exposed to all kinds of cultural distractions and potentially spiritually harmful activities that are every bit as corrupting. We need to ensure that we are not trying to fit in to our culture or to somehow appear “culturally relevant” when our worldviews are complete opposites. For us to compromise who we are as the people of God for the sake of notoriety or trying not to “rock the boat” is a strategy that is doomed to failure, and ultimately dishonors the name of the holy God whom we serve and represent as his people in this world.


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 at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Yeshua teaches us how to become holy

The Sermon on the Mount is all about the holiness or set-apartness of the believer in Messiah.

The Sermon on the Mount is all about the holiness or set-apartness of the believer in Messiah.

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua reveals how the faithful believer will be distinct from those who are merely practicing outward religion. The true believer will be operating with the Torah of God, his instruction, flowing from a sincere and obedient heart. This would be the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy:

Ezekiel 37:24 – “My servant David will be king over them, and there will be one shepherd for all of them. They will follow my ordinances, and keep my statutes and obey them.

Consider the following broad categories of Yeshua’s message:

  • (5:3-12) The beatitudes reflect the blessings and challenges of those who are sincerely motivated to serve and follow the Messiah
  • (5:13-16) These believers are to be curative and enlightening to the world around them
  • (5:17-20; 6:16-18) The Torah or instruction of God will be central to their lifestyle, but it will be practiced as God originally intended it to be: sincerely and from the heart, not for show
  • These individuals will be reconcilers (5:21-26), faithful (5:27-32), and truthful (5:33-37)
  • They will go above and beyond to serve those around them, even to the point of demonstrating love toward adversaries (5:38-48)
  • (6:1-4) They will be generous for the sake of generosity, not for the recognition of others
  • (6:5-15) Their private prayer life will reflect the recognition of God’s kingdom and be based on genuine forgiveness
  • (6:19-21) They will not be bound to earthly possessions
  • (6:22-24) They will remain focused on God’s purposes above earthly ambition
  • (6:25-34) They will demonstrate trust in God for all their needs
  • (7:1-5) They will not be hypocritical with anyone
  • (7:6; 15-23) They will maintain reverence for the things of God, avoiding all falsehood
  • (6:33; 7:7-8, 13-14) They will persistently seek that which is relevant to the kingdom
  • (7:13-14) They will interact with others as they themselves would expect to be treated
  • (7:24-27) They will steadfastly maintain their foundation in Messiah’s teaching

Anyone truly abiding in and following these teachings of Yeshua each and every day will be holy and set apart from all others, especially those who only seek the approval of others or desire to have a righteous appearance.


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

Set apart remembrances

How the practices of God’s people continue to set them apart from the culture they live in.

How the practices of God’s people continue to set them apart from the culture they live in.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of God’s people is in recognizing a calendar set in place by him. Most Christians today don’t think much about special religious holidays other than Christmas and Easter. Saving an evaluation of those holidays for another post, I would like instead to focus on the days that do set God’s people apart from all other nations.

Since my focus on this site is the message of the Bible reduced to its simplest form in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, it becomes clear that remembering the Sabbath, the fourth of those Ten Commandments, is one of those set apart times.

But beyond the weekly Sabbath, we find there are other Sabbaths mentioned which should also be remembered: specifically seven of them listed in Leviticus 23. They include the first and last days of Unleavened Bread, Shavuot (Pentecost), Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the first day of Sukkot (Tabernacles), and Yom HaShemini (Eighth Day). These are listed as Sabbaths, days of rest from regular work, and days of special offerings.

Now, let me be upfront and say that in a liturgical sense, it is impossible to “keep” these days in a Scriptural fashion due to the fact that they involve sacrifices to be presented at the temple, which no longer exists since all of the temple activities have been fulfilled in Messiah. However, I believe there is benefit in observing them and recognizing their meanings for the lessons they can provide to believers even today. I believe that is the primary point as to why God established them in the first place: to teach his people about their history and place within his overall plan for all people.

Many people believe that God’s calendar is one of a prophetic timeline that outlines his plan for the ages in a linear fashion, and that if we just know where we are in the timeline, we will know what to expect is coming next in God’s plan. However, my opinion is that the calendar is not unfulfilled, but has been completed. It now speaks to an everlasting memorial of how God has worked to deliver a people to himself and establish the kingdom of God almost two thousand years ago. By “observing” this calendar today, we honor God by recounting his faithfulness with his own people, and demonstrating the fulfillment of all things in his Messiah, Yeshua.

The calendar is broken up into two main times: the Spring moedim or appointed times (Passover, Unleavened Bread and Pentecost) and the Fall moedim (Day of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles). Each set of appointed times has a one-week festival exactly six months apart (Unleavened Bread in the Spring and Tabernacles in the Fall). The fact that they are spaced equidistantly throughout the year speaks not to a linear progression, but a cycle that is repeated but with a different emphasis. Just as Spring brings new beginnings, the Fall brings plentiful harvest.

For example, the week of Unleavened Bread recounts the miraculous departure from the slavery of Egypt. The week of Tabernacles recounts the wilderness journey where they lived in tents. The first is about deliverance, the second is about provision during their journeys. The first is about separation from worldliness (of Egypt), the second is about preparation for the Promised Land.

In like fashion, the holiday cycles memorialize not only the initiation of the nation of Israel, but its completion. How so? The Spring and Fall holidays also speak to the last days of the nation of ancient Israel.

In approximately AD 30, Yeshua was crucified at Passover, symbolically redeeming God’s “first born” nation. This began a “second Exodus” of the godly remnant coming out of unfaithful Israel in preparation for the Promised Land of God’s spiritual Kingdom. Forty years later, the temple was destroyed as Yeshua had predicted, ending the earthly priesthood once and for all, and ushering in the fullness of God’s Kingdom. The final celebration of Sukkot continues to this day, as more and more believers in each generation join the faithful remnant in the ongoing harvest for God’s Kingdom. The Yom Shemini (Eighth Day) marks the eternal dwelling of believers with God in his Kingdom.

Today I am focusing on one of those seven Sabbath days since the day I am writing this falls on its occurrence in 2022: today is Yom Teruah or the Day of Trumpets. This day memorializes the shouted announcement of the final judgment on that ancient nation.

  • Mark 1:14-15 – After John was arrested, Yeshua went to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! “
  • Luke 21:20, 22 – “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that its desolation has come near. … “because these are days of vengeance to fulfill all the things that are written.”

It simultaneously marks the joyous celebration of the faithful at the arrival of the Kingdom which Yeshua mentioned in parables:

  • Matthew 21:42-43 – Yeshua said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is what the Lord has done and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you [chief priests and Pharisees] and given to a people producing its fruit [the faithful remnant and all who would join them].”
  • Matthew 25:34 – “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

All of this was announced forty years ahead of its coming to pass. God prepared a people for himself to be his own who would inherit the blessing of Abraham through faith in his seed, Messiah Yeshua. The zera Yisra’el (the seed of Israel), the name of God’s Kingdom, continues to this day. Through observance and recognition of these memorial holidays we can teach and celebrate all that God has faithfully provided for his own people, and how he continues to prepare believers for arrival into his heavenly abode when we each reach the Eighth Day, the day of our eternity.


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

The undeniable distinction of God’s people

As believers, we should check how much we blend into the background of this world.

As believers, we should check how much we blend into the background of this world.

Leviticus 20:26: “You shall be holy to me; for I, Yahweh, am holy, and have set you apart from the peoples, that you should be mine.”

This act of God setting his people apart from all other nations was decisive and clear cut. There was not any ambiguity about the requirements that he was establishing for his people. He provided them clarity on many of the main cultural characteristics which were prevalent in that day, as well as today. There was to be an avoidance of idolatry, which was an avoidance of essentially all of the mainstream religions of the day. They were to maintain distinctions based on the food they were to eat, their sexuality, and the types of clothing they would wear, and the calendar they would keep. All of these things played into how God was setting a standard that was in no uncertain terms to distinguish his people from all others.

To illustrate this, the word that is used to describe how they have been set apart is the same Hebrew word that was used in the act of Creation itself, and how God separated and distinguished some things from other things.

  • Genesis 1:4 – God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
  • Genesis 1:6-7 – Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse, and separated the waters that were below the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse; and it was so.
  • Genesis 1:14-15 – Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and they shall serve as signs and for seasons, and for days and years; and they shall serve as lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.
  • Genesis 1:16-18 – God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; [He made] the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.

I don’t think anyone would have a problem telling the differences between the night and the day, or darkness and light. This is the level of distinction (i.e., holiness) that should be evident in God’s people of any generation, even unto this day.

God still calls us to be holy and set apart, not to walk in the compromised ways of the nations where we find ourselves. We should be attentive to the commands and rules that God has set in place since, as our Creator, he knows what’s best for us and what is also in his best interest and purpose.

1 Peter 1:14-16 – “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written: ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”


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

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.

Core of the Bible podcast #82 – How we can sanctify ourselves for God’s use in any situation

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

No longer common or unclean

What did Peter really learn from his vision in Acts 10?

Core of the Bible podcast #81 – No longer common or unclean

What did Peter really learn from his vision in Acts 10?

Today we will be looking at the topic of vigilance, and how, when we receive instruction from God, we must be faithful in keeping it at all costs and without hesitation. Along the way, we will investigate the meaning of what was considered a common thing, and what was considered unclean. These designations were critical to the Hebraic understanding of how they were expected to interact with others in the world.

Acts 10:10-14 – [Peter] became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. In it were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

This story of Peter’s vision is typically used as a way of teaching that God was declaring all foods “clean” or acceptable to eat. However, looking more closely at the context and outcome, we can learn more about its true meaning, along with some aspects of vigilance in our walk with God.

During Peter’s vision, when he heard a voice commanding him to kill and eat any of the animals in the vision, Peter immediately responded with: “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”

The response from the voice was: “What God has cleansed, do not call common.” After three repeated occurrences, the sheet and the animals were taken back up into heaven.

Now, what’s interesting to note here is that in the original text, two different Greek words are used to describe the status of the animals. Peter says that he never had eaten anything common (koinou) nor had he eaten anything ritually unclean (akatharton). Now there is wisdom in understanding the difference between that which is common and that which is unclean, so let’s take a look at how these topics were covered throughout the Tanakh, or Old Testament.

Leviticus 10:10-11 – “You must distinguish between the holy and the common, and the clean and the unclean, and teach the Israelites all the statutes that Yahweh has given to them through Moses.”

Here we find the importance in distinguishing between four Hebrew words describing four different conditions: qodesh (holy), chol (common), tame (unclean), and tahor (clean or pure).

So is this designation of holy/common, clean/unclean just a repetition of the same two qualities or is it describing four different categories? Let’s look at some other example verses to see if we can gain clarity.

Before there were ever any official commandments at Sinai, we see that there was a recognition of clean (tahor) and unclean (tame) animals:

Genesis 7:1-2 – “Then Yahweh said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate…'”

So the first mention of tahor/clean is in regard to animals, distinguishing those that are clean from those that are not tahor.

We next move to the wilderness after Israel came out of Egypt and learn the distinctions that were set down within the written Torah conveyed to them in the desert.

Leviticus 11:46-47 – This is the law about beast and bird and every living creature that moves through the waters and every creature that swarms on the ground, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean and between the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten.

So, clean/tahor and unclean/tame animals are here defined in God’s Torah.

Now as we look to define that which is holy versus that which is common, we can look at some passages from the writings of the Prophets, starting with Ezekiel. In Ezekiel’s vision of the temple and its surroundings, he conveys how some areas of the temple complex were distinguished from others.

Ezekiel 42:20 – He measured the temple complex on all four sides. It had a wall all around it … to separate the holy [qodesh] from the common [chol].

Here there is no mention of clean and unclean, just how a wall separated the holy and common areas. The one area of the temple complex was holy, restricted only to priests and God’s people, and the other area was common, available to anyone else. A similar example of this is brought out in the land allotments that Ezekiel conveyed from his vision.

Ezekiel 48:13-15 – And alongside the territory of the priests, the Levites shall have an allotment …They shall not sell or exchange any of it. They shall not alienate this choice portion of the land, for it is holy to Yahweh. “The remainder … shall be for common use for the city, for dwellings and for open country. In the midst of it shall be the city…

Here, part of the land is holy or qodesh for specific use by the priests, and the other part for use by the rest of the city is common or chol.

So from these passages, we can learn that the distinction between holy and common appears to be one of purpose: that which is holy is set apart for a specific use by priests or God’s people only and that which is common is for everyday use by anyone. By contrast, that which is clean or unclean appears to be inherent in the thing itself, for example, those animals which were approved for eating versus those which were not approved for eating, likely due to the risk of contracting illness or disease.

Now here is a really interesting contrast brought out in the book of Haggai when he was asking the priests to give a ruling in a matter of holiness versus uncleanness, a contrast spanning both groups:

Haggai 2:12-14 – “If a man is carrying consecrated [holy/qodesh] meat in the fold of his garment, and it touches bread, stew, wine, oil, or any other food, does [that food] become holy? ” The priests answered, “No.”  Then Haggai asked, “If someone unclean [tame] by contact with a corpse touches any of these, does it become defiled? ” The priests answered, “It becomes defiled.”  Then Haggai replied, “So is this people, and so is this nation before me — this is Yahweh’s declaration. And so is every work of their hands; even what they offer there is defiled.”

Haggai is here using this example to show the priests how they were not accomplishing their God-given purpose of being a light of holiness to the world; instead, they had become so corrupt they had become unclean and were defiling everything they touched.

So here we have a cross comparison of these two categories: holy-common and clean-unclean. When we sift through all of this information, we can begin to see how this description helps us understand the categories a little better. From Haggai’s example, it is determined that something that is holy can’t make something holy just by contacting it; like Ezekiel, he is confirming the holiness is in the purpose of the thing, not its physical qualities. By contrast, something that is unclean CAN defile something else; once the unclean thing touches something, it also becomes unclean.

So how does all this apply to Peter’s vision and our discussion at hand? Well, we need to remember through this discussion that common means “for common use, that which is not set apart as holy.” And in Peter’s vision, God claims to have cleansed that which is considered common (i.e., the non-Jews who seek after him).

In a moment, we will explore this cleansing process as it was understood by the traditional Jews of the day, and why it is so significant to this discussion.


In Yeshua’s and Peter’s day, something that may have been considered “common” was a term that had come into use within the lexicon of the Pharisees and their fastidious over-compensation in matters that were not clearly marked out in Torah.

For example, in Mark 7, some of these practices are described:

Mark 7:1-3 – The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around [Yeshua]. They observed that some of his disciples were eating bread with common — that is, unwashed — hands [right here we have the distinction clarified for us within the narrative: common=unwashed]. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, keeping the tradition of the elders [Note: this is not a Torah instruction, but a tradition of the elders].

So, with the koinos meaning of common defined as “unwashed” for us here in Mark, we can then see how this applies in the vision that Peter had in Acts 10.

Acts 10:15 – Again, a second time, the voice said to him, “What God has cleansed, do not call common.”

This shows that God had cleansed that which, through their tradition, was considered common or unwashed. In that time, non-Jews were looked upon as common, like dirty hands that needed to be washed. The traditional Jewish thinking was that they were to be avoided because through contact with their unwashed condition they thought they would become contaminated, as well. However, we know from the passage in Haggai that holiness has to do with purpose and has nothing whatsoever to do with physical contact. Besides, Peter’s vision said that God had cleansed those “dirty hands” when they came to him in faith, and they were therefore no longer to be considered separate from the believing congregation.

This is the exact meaning that Peter pulled from the vision when he met with Cornelius and his group.

Acts 10:28 – Peter said to them, “You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner [again, this is based on tradition, not Torah], but God has shown me that I must not call any PERSON common or unclean.”

Peter had taken away from the vision, not that all FOODS were now clean, but that all MEN who earnestly were striving after God were to be considered on an even par with the Jewish believers.

Acts 10:34-35 – Peter began to speak: “Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the PERSON who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

Peter had taken the real meaning of the vision to mean that God was breaking down the barriers between men of different nations, and that the door of faith in Messiah would be opened to all who were willing to come. This was even confirmed to be the correct interpretation as the foreign men were visibly affected by receiving the Spirit of God (10:44-45).

It is impressive to see how Peter had maintained his ritual purity throughout his life. He claims to have strictly followed the dietary laws of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 without fail. In his day and age, there were many opportunities to eat the wrong foods, due to the foods that were sold in the common marketplaces. Peter demonstrates that he was always vigilant to ensure he never violated the commands of God by eating foods outside of the restrictions of Torah. This, in itself, should be an indication that the vision was not about clean and unclean foods, but about something else, something God was beginning to do among all nations.

Additionally, Peter intimated that he had not only kept the dietary commands of the Torah, but of the religious tradition, as well. This would imply he also did not associate with non-Jews, since they were considered koinos or common by Jewish tradition. We know this is the case because the apostle Paul had to confront Peter when he had held to this traditional Jewish thinking among the believers in Antioch.

Galatians 2:11-13 – “But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party. Then the rest of the Jews joined his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”

While there are no time markers in the text, it would make sense that this argument between Paul and Peter occurred prior to Peter’s vision, and that after that vision, he was well-grounded in the in the understanding of the purpose of the Kingdom, and how God would not show favoritism to anyone but was accepting all who would come to him through faith in Messiah. But regardless of the timing of this event, as the growing Messianic movement spread, it was inevitable that non-Jews would be mixing with Jewish believers and there would need to be a recognition of equality among all people.

The apostle Paul confirms this also in several of his epistles, how God was growing the Kingdom with many different nationalities and statuses within the strata of society:

Romans 10:11-13 – “For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame, since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh will be saved.”

Galatians 3:28 – “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.”

Colossians 3:11 – “In Messiah there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Messiah is all and in all.”

Ultimately, vigilance in our walk before God comes in many forms, whether our own personal commitment to holiness, or our obedience to the things that God may reveal to us along the way. Peter exemplifies for us a measure of personal vigilance that we can learn from and follow in our own lives. He held tightly to the understanding of Judaism and maintained those traditions faithfully, believing that he was honoring God in doing so. Yet, when God revealed something radical within his current worldview, he was still willing to follow this new understanding wholeheartedly and unreservedly.

When we receive instruction from God, whether through his word or through personal insight, we also must be faithful in keeping it at all costs and without hesitation.


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