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

Yeshua and the Kingdom of the ten commandments

Did Yeshua teach the ongoing validity of all ten of the commandments?

Did Yeshua teach the ongoing validity of all ten of the commandments?

There are some passages where he enumerates five or six of the ten commandments all at once.

Matthew 19:16-19 – Just then someone came up and asked him, “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life? ” “Why do you ask me about what is good? ” he said to him. “There is only one who is good. If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones? ” he asked him. Yeshua answered:

  • Do not murder;
  • do not commit adultery;
  • do not steal;
  • do not bear false witness;
  • honor your father and your mother;
    and love your neighbor as yourself.

So this passage covers commandments 5-9. Yeshua clearly taught these. What is a little more subtle in this passage is that Yeshua essentially affirmed all ten commandments by listing even just these five. This is a literary practice which we have come to call synechdode, in which a part stands for the whole. By telling the inquirer it was necessary to keep “the commandments,” and then listing five of them, it can be ascertained that all ten were implied.

Also, Yeshua had mentioned how he did not come to abolish the commandments, but to fulfill them by demonstrating their true meaning.

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. … “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.

He here cautions that breaking any of the commands would result in a diminished status, while doing and teaching them would be a sign of greatness within the kingdom.

Ok, but what about being a bit more specific on the remaining five commandments? We still need to see if he enumerates commandments 1-4 and 10.

The first commandment is “Do not have other gods besides me.”

Matthew 4:10 – Then Yeshua told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship Yahweh your God, and serve only him.”

This identifies the upholding of the first commandment.

Now, as to the second commandment about graven images, there is no direct instance of Yeshua condemning idolatry in the generally accepted sense. The only time the term for an idol, eikon, is mentioned by him, it is in reference to one of the coins of Caesar which had Caesar’s “image and inscription” on it. This was a tacit reference to idolatry, because many Jews would not carry coin for the fact that coin images were considered idolatry. The fact that the Jewish leaders could produce a coin when Yeshua requested it was also a condemnation of their own covetousness.

Luke 12:15 – He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”

The tenth commandment against covetousness which is covered here, is also a recognition of idolatry, as Yeshua’s disciple Paul would teach. Paul taught that covetousness is equivalent to idolatry, and Yeshua definitely taught against covetousness.

Colossians 3:5 – Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.

His disciples also taught against idolatry, which would convey that Yeshua did so also. Everything the apostles teach would have to be in accordance with Yeshua’s teaching.

As for the Sabbath, Yeshua made an outright declaration about it:

Mark 2:27 – Then he told them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.

Yeshua not only practiced Sabbath worship and taught in the synagogues on a regular basis, but he blatantly referenced it in this passage. By this statement, he clarified that the Sabbath was not to be a ceremonial list of do’s and don’ts (which it had become in Jewish practice). Instead, his declaration focuses on the fact that the Sabbath was made for man, and not just for Jews, but for the specific purpose of benefitting any person who would partake of it.

Now the only remaining commandment is the third commandment about not taking the Lord’s name in vain. The answer to this representation in Yeshua’s teaching can be identified by defining what this commandment means in the first place. Many people think it means that one should not use God’s literal name as a swear word. But the commandment actually has a deeper meaning than that.

To not take the name of the Lord in vain really means to not become associated with him and everything that Yahweh’s character exemplifies (i.e., his name) to no purpose. If one is only joining with Yahweh because of upbringing or social pressure and not really living by his standards, then that person has taken Yahweh’s name “in vain,” that is, to no purpose. His torah, or instruction, has no value in that person’s life because they don’t really take it seriously.

If this is the definition we are using for the third commandment, then the whole Sermon on the Mount, a summary of Yeshua’s teaching, is all about not taking Yahweh’s name in vain or to no purpose. Yeshua was constantly teaching about sincerity in practice, not to be hypocritical in anything. He emphasized the heart motive behind every action, which points to a faith in Yahweh that is vibrant, not just something that is participated in only for religious reasons.

So, we can see that throughout his ministry, Yeshua constantly emphasized the importance of the kingdom, and repentance necessary to enter that kingdom. This was because the religious leaders of Judaism had co-opted the true worship of Yahweh into their own brand of man-made rules and traditions. Yeshua urged people to repent of these false and essentially idolatrous practices and to return to the true spirit of the torah, not just the letter of it. The kingdom of God is therefore established on God’s very words, his ten commandments, not in spite of them. Since Yeshua preached the kingdom of God, he clearly taught all of the ten commandments as the base of that kingdom, as well.


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

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

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

The regathering of the tribes resulting in a unified faith

Vigilance and resoluteness of purpose defined the early congregations.

Vigilance and resoluteness of purpose defined the early congregations.

During the first century, the dynamic of the gospel of the kingdom being spread across the known world was one of irregular, but steady growth. One of those stages which took this growth to the next level is when the message began being shared even with those outside the accepted Jewish faith. This group of outsiders consisted of Hellenists.

Acts 11:19-21: “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Messiah. The hand of Yahweh was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to Yahweh.”

Scholars have several opinions about who these Hellenists were. As they are mentioned in the Bible, many times the context determines who is being discussed. Were they former Jews who had assimilated into the surrounding Greek culture, or were they just the pagan Greeks who had never known the Bible, commonly referred to as Gentiles?

The weight of history, at least the history of Christianity, has fallen on the side of these people being Gentiles, explaining why so many non-Jewish believers have populated the “Church” over the millennia. However, a strong case exists for these Hellenists being descendants of the Jews who had been scattered during the Diaspora (the captivities of Assyria and Babylon) and who had over time assimilated into the regional cultures. This makes sense of passages which speak of God bringing all of the former tribes back together into his everlasting kingdom.

One of the most famous and descriptive of these passages is the prophecy of “two sticks” in Ezekiel 37.

Ezekiel 37:19-27 – “tell them, ‘This is what Yahweh GOD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel associated with him, and put them together with the stick of Judah. I will make them into a single stick so that they become one in my hand.’ “When the sticks you have written on are in your hand and in full view of the people, “tell them, ‘This is what Yahweh GOD says: I am going to take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them into their own land. “I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will rule over all of them. They will no longer be two nations and will no longer be divided into two kingdoms. “They will not defile themselves anymore with their idols, their abhorrent things, and all their transgressions. I will save them from all their apostasies by which they sinned, and I will cleanse them. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God. “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. ” ‘They will live in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They will live in it forever with their children and grandchildren, and my servant David will be their prince forever. “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be a permanent covenant with them. I will establish and multiply them and will set my sanctuary among them forever. “My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

The apostle Paul even quotes this passage directly when speaking of believers as the temple of God:

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.

This also explains why the “missionary” emphasis was so strong during the first century, since it was imperative the message of the kingdom was spread as far as possible to include all of the former tribes.

Regardless of the specific spiritual intent of these missionary journeys, the ultimate goal was that everyone, Jew, Hellenistic former Jews, and Gentiles would come to Messiah. Once involved in a local congregation, they were all encouraged to respect their differences but to maintain a vigilant unity in Messiah.

Acts 11:22-24: “News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to Yahweh.”

As Barnabas exhorted the believers in Antioch, he encouraged them all to remain faithful to Yahweh with “steadfast devotion.” This phrase speaks to the demonstrable nature of the early faith of the believing communities. The phrase in the original Greek can be translated as “resolute purpose” or “openness of heart.” It is a phrase that is also used in describing the “showbread,” the twelve loaves of bread that were continually placed before Yahweh in the temple. This bread was a reminder of how each of the twelve tribes of Israel was to recognize how they were to remain purposefully open and evident within the presence of God Almighty at all times.

To me, this is a poignant illustration of the work that God was doing among those first-century believers: calling all of the tribes, whether in scattered Jewish outposts or Hellenists, back to himself with the message of Messiah and the kingdom of God. Through their combined reunification, other “God-fearers” of the Gentiles would also be welcomed into the new movement that would grow to become a worldwide phenomenon, which continues to this day.


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

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

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

True holiness is God’s presence through his Word in our hearts

Those who live and abide by God’s precepts are doing so because it makes up the very essence of who they are.

Core of the Bible podcast #75 – True holiness is God’s presence through his Word in our hearts

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness, and how those who live and abide by God’s precepts are doing so because it makes up the very essence of who they are. These ongoing actions of obedience cause believers to be holy and set apart from all others.

We begin in Jeremiah 46:28 – Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, for I am with you,” says Yahweh.

The one thing that set ancient Israel apart from their neighboring tribes and countries was that their God was present with them. While other kingdoms and countries had their gods, their idols, and their temples, Israel actually had the very presence of the God of the universe with them. God allowed himself to be physically present somehow within their Mishkan, the tabernacle, or the portable sanctuary that traveled with them. His presence resided in that Most Holy Place, by all accounts hovering above and within the ark of the covenant which contained the tablets of the Ten Words, or what we call the Ten Commandments.

This covenant, these Ten Words, are what separated Israel from their neighbors. This is what made them holy. They had been instructed to abide by the actual commands of God, written with his own finger, etched eternally into stone.

A Jewish site called Chabad which explains various aspects of the Hasidic Jewish traditions, conveys what happened at Matan Torah, the Giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

“Of the 613 biblical commandments, G‑d selected these ten commandments for special attention. He directly communicated them to the Jews without using Moses as an intermediary, and inscribed them on the tablets which were placed in the Holy Ark within the Holy of Holies. It is evident that although all the mitzvot [commands] are vital, the five carved into the first tablet were chosen because they form the basis of our relationship with the Creator, while the latter five serve as the foundation of our relationship with fellow people.” What happened at Matan Torah?

Even according to their own teachings, to Jews the Ten Commandments form the basis of all of the rest of the instruction of God. This ironically echoes the teaching of Messiah where he also relates the importance of the most important commandments:

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.”

Since the first five of the Ten Commandments apply to the Creator, and the second five apply to our fellow people, we see how the teaching of Yeshua validates obedience to the Ten Commandments.

Now, the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai was not a private event that would simply be related thousands of years after the fact. There was no fanciful prophetic vision or private revelation; these words had been conveyed to the entire assembly of Israel at once as God himself spoke these words from Sinai. Everyone heard his voice, everyone felt the weight of his presence and struggled with the fear, real fear, at hearing the resounding and penetrating voice of God. Scripture tells us:

Exodus 19:16 – On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled.

Hebrews 12:19-21 – For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”

Even to this day, Jews recount the awful dread at the unique event that had overtaken that vast community of wilderness dwellers. From the Jewish News of Northern California, an article discusses what happened when God spoke at Sinai:

“For example, the rabbis have said that each of the commandments was said simultaneously in 70 languages and that the Torah was written with black fire on white fire. Another midrash [traditional legend] suggests that each individual heard revelation differently, according to their capacity, just as the manna tasted different to different people.” When God spoke at Sinai

Sefaria, a Jewish site that presents and evaluates the Hebrew text of the Tanakh conveys the following in an article titled “What really happened at Sinai?”:

“What did they see? The Torah was given through seven voices. And the people saw the Master of the Universe revealed in every one of these voices. That’s the meaning of the verse ‘All the people saw the the voices.’ (Exodus 20:15) These voices were accompanied by sparks of fire and flashes of lightening that were in the shape of the letters of the ten commandments. They saw the fiery word pouring out from the mouth of the Almighty and watched as they were inscribed on the stone tablets, as it says, ‘The voice of God inscribes flames of fire’ (Ps 29:4). And when the people actually saw The-One-Who-Speaks-the-World-into-Being, they fainted away. Some say that their spirits left their bodies, while others say that they entered a prophetic trance. These visions brought them to trembling and shaking and a blackout of the senses.” (Midrash Exodus Rabbah) What really happened at Sinai?

Once again going back to the previous Chabad article on the Matan Torah:

“This was no simple handing over of a book of lore; G‑d gave us His Divine laws for us to study and follow. This was a transitional moment in our history—a moment known as Matan Torah (the Giving of the Torah.) No longer were we merely the descendants of a great man named Abraham, or simply a Middle-Eastern people known as the Israelites. We had now become G‑d’s people, chosen to learn His Torah and keep its laws. It’s a moment we celebrate every year on the festival of Shavuot.”

Israel was born of revelation of God himself, a revelation of his expectations of conduct that were conveyed to an entire people at once. To Christians, the term “the Revelation” references the last book of the Bible, where the risen and glorified Yeshua reveals an outline of the outworking of the Day of the Lord, the culmination of the age. To Jews, the Revelation always references Sinai, where Yahweh revealed himself to the entire nation at once. It is THE watershed event in all of Jewish tradition and their sacred history, and rightly so. This revelation of God is what set them apart as holy and distinct from all other nations. The ten commandments born of this Revelation of Yahweh were placed into the heart of their most sacred place (the ark of the covenant) and they carried them within this central sanctuary throughout their wilderness journeys and into the land promised to them.

So, if this revelation of God is so central to the history of God’s people, it makes sense that it would also still be central to the ongoing history of God’s people today.


To this day, what sets God’s people apart is this same covenant, the Ten Words. There is no equal among the religious communities of the world.

The illustration for believers today comes through what is pictured in the wilderness journeys of Israel: just as God resided in that Most Holy Place within and above the ark of this covenant, God’s very presence resides within these Ten Words, the Ten Commandments. Just as the Ten Commandments were placed into the “heart” of the tabernacle within the ark of the covenant, God’s commands are placed in the heart of every believer through the renewal of the holy Spirit. As we seek to fulfill these commands placed in our heart, then we are truly following in the footsteps of our Lord, the Messiah Yeshua.

Matthew 5:17-19 – “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

According to Yeshua, the Kingdom of Heaven is populated by those who abide by the commandments of God. This is the everlasting covenant that remains forever. Most people don’t realize that the Ten Commandments ARE this everlasting covenant, therefore it can never go away.

Exodus 34:28 – Moses was there with Yahweh forty days and forty nights; he did not eat food or drink water. He wrote the Ten Commandments, the words of the covenant, on the tablets.

Deuteronomy 4:13 – “He declared his covenant to you. He commanded you to follow the Ten Commandments, which he wrote on two stone tablets.

This is why they were written in stone, by the very finger of God himself. In what other way could God ever illustrate the importance and everlasting nature of these commands?

By contrast, the “new” covenant ushered in through the ministry, life, and death of Yeshua is a martyr’s covenant. It is a covenant of dying to self so that the words of the everlasting covenant, the Ten Commandments, can actually be lived through us in this life.

The apostle Paul writes about it this way

Romans 6:6-7,11-12 – “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin … So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Messiah Yeshua. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires.”

Through faith in Messiah, this everlasting covenant is placed in the hearts of those who would receive them, those who are called by his Name and who live and abide by its precepts because it makes up the very essence of who they are.

Jeremiah 31:33 – “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says Yahweh. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Through faith in Yeshua, the holy Spirit of God resides within believers to cause them to abide by the universal principles of God’s commands. This is related by the apostle John:

1 John 3:7-9 – “Children, let no one deceive you. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who commits sin is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s works. Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God.”

This is a difficult passage for most Christians, because they are taught all people are sinners due to a fallen nature and they can never escape the clutches of sinfulness until after physical death. But the Bible doesn’t teach this. In fact, John says that “everyone who has been born of God does not sin.” This type of language causes Christians to stumble; however, it is not meant in the absolute sense, but in the practical sense. Why do believers not sin, according to John? Because, having died to themselves, the commands of God that have been placed in their hearts can be truly lived out. He describes it as “his seed [that is, God’s seed] remains in him.” As Proverbs tells us:

Proverbs 4:23 – Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.

The heart is the seat of all emotion and the wellspring of actions, so if the heart is good, the actions are good. If the seed is good, the tree is good. And as Yeshua said, if the tree is good, the fruit is good.

Matthew 12:33 – “Either make the tree good and its fruit will be good, or make the tree bad and its fruit will be bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.”

Therefore, as believers abide by the commands of God placed in their heart through the holy Spirit within them, they do not sin, because sin, by definition, is the breaking of God’s commands, or his law.

1 John 3:4 – “Everyone who commits sin practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”

However, if, as God spoke through Jeremiah when he said, “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts,” then the passage in 1 John makes sense because it says, “whoever has been born of God does not sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God.”

God has not done away with this old covenant, the Ten Commandments. In fact, according to Jeremiah and Yeshua, the commandments of God are the very heart of the new covenant in Messiah.

Here’s something else to consider: Paul wrote that the faith of the early Messiah believers depended on the fact of the resurrection of Messiah.

1 Corinthians 15:17, 19 – And if Messiah has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. … If we have put our hope in Messiah for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.

The resurrection of Yeshua was the validation of everything he taught and lived; that is why it has such priceless value to believers today. And, just as the Ten Commandments were revealed to a large group of people, the resurrected Messiah was also revealed to multiples of individuals, eyewitness who could be consulted by those living at that time, as Paul relates:

1 Corinthians 15:5-8 – … he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.”

So, if the resurrection never happened, Paul reasons, then our faith is in vain. In like fashion I would add that if the Ten Commandments have been done away with, then all faith is worthless, because those words are the very heart of the eternal covenant. The Ten Commandments are the central foundation of the Kingdom of God that Yeshua ushered in, both in this life and beyond. To be set apart for the purpose of God is to be obedient to him and his ways, here on earth now and into eternity.

This is holiness, being set apart for the purposes of God. He is present within the words of his covenant, and as the covenanted words are in our heart, he is present within us. God is present: this sets us apart; this makes us whole. This holiness through obedience to his words in our heart is the very essence of his kingdom on the earth.


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

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

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

The righteousness that originates in the heart

Living by faith in Messiah produces the obedience that God desires.

Living by faith in Messiah produces the obedience that God desires.

In writing to the Roman congregation, the apostle Paul conveys his frustration over the refusal of the majority of his own people, the Jews, to believe in Yeshua as the promised Messiah. They were instead clinging desperately to rules and regulations, not to the law of God exclusively, but to a law they invented around the the law of God. The rules and regulations they came up with had to be followed exactingly or the individual was not considered to be righteous.

Romans 10:2-3 – I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Since they are ignorant of the righteousness of God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness.

Paul brings his argument to its pinnacle by stating the centrality of faith in Yeshua is the ultimate goal of the true law of God, and if they were truly attempting to be obedient to God, they would have accepted the life and example of the Messiah.

Romans 10:4 – For Messiah is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

The Helps word study of the Discovery Bible clarifies the meaning of this Greek word translated as “end” in this verse.

“télos (a neuter noun) – properly, consummation (the end-goal, purpose), such as closure with all its results. [This root (tel-) means “reaching the end (aim).” It is well-illustrated with the old pirate’s telescope, unfolding (extending out) one stage at a time to function at full-strength (capacity effectiveness).]”

The perspective that Paul appears to be arguing for is that Messiah is not the end (or abolishing) of the law, for then he would be contradicting Yeshua directly.

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

No, Paul seems to be conveying that Messiah is the end-goal or consummating purpose of the law; Yeshua’s life, his teaching, and his self-sacrificial example are showing us what the fulfillment of the law is all about.

Romans 10:10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

And when we believe the message of the Messiah with our hearts, we then are also living in fulfillment of the law and attain righteousness that God desires: a righteousness that is by faith because it is truly in our hearts and not just a list of rote commands that we follow because that is what we think we are supposed to do.

The law of God, summarized in the Ten Commandments, doesn’t need endless lists of human commands around them to help us keep them. No, when the heart desires to truly keep God’s commands, it causes us to be obedient regardless if we are told to by humans or not.

The Jewish practice of creating hundreds of laws around the law of God, while intended to create more obedience, actually only served to obfuscate the righteous commands of God, and ended up creating a greater burden for the people and they could never get out from underneath it, even to this day.

The clarity that Yeshua brought is that the true place of faith resides in the heart obedience to the truth of God’s revelation, not the outward show of following the endless rules of men. Paul built on this by saying that believing in the life, teaching, and sacrificial example of Messiah as Lord (the guiding principle in our lives) should lead us also to a life of heart-obedience to the plain law of God. This is where righteousness, the concept of acceptable conduct before God, originates: in the heart, not in showy actions that one is only following because they think they are supposed to. When Yeshua is Lord of our lives, we can truly live according to God’s Word from the heart. This is the end-goal and the consummation of the law of God.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive 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.