The kingdom of God’s children

Humility is the quality of child-like faith that God requires.

Humility is the quality of child-like faith that God requires.

Matthew 18:3 – “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Here in the account of Matthew, the disciples had posed the question to Yeshua, asking who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. However, in Luke and Mark’s accounts, the question arose due to the fact that the disciples had been arguing about who among them was the greatest. Regardless if these were the same or different occasions, the root lesson that Yeshua provides is the same: one must become like a child.

In what way should a believer mimic children? Depending on the age of child being discussed, children can be mean or they can be self-centered and stubborn. Clearly these are not characteristics of being the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The only clue we have from the text suggests this was a small child who was at least able to stand, as Yeshua had the child stand among them. When children are very young, they are in a constant state of learning; learning how to behave, how to interact with others, and how to do basic skills that they will need for the rest of their lives. No one looks to a young child to be an expert in anything because they just haven’t had the time and practice necessary to become skilled at anything. It is this aspect that Yeshua hones in on, the idea is that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the one who is in a constant state of learning.

This actually hearkens back to Yeshua’s discussion with Nicodemus in which he says in order to see the kingdom of God, one must be born again. The passage there in the third chapter of John clarifies that Yeshua was not talking about being physically re-born, as if that were possible. And the emphasis here is the same: if being born means to come into a new environment with a new set of eyes, then becoming a child means seeking how to operate within a new environment of living. Yeshua was highlighting how the disciples would need to be giving up pre-conceived ideas to experience the fresh things that God was about to do. The kingdom was not about greatness among men, it was about humility in God’s eyes.

The emphasis Yeshua makes in both cases is a sense of humility that is required to be a faithful disciple. Yeshua is not suggesting believers should be immature and self-centered as many children can be, but they should be innocent to evil and willing to learn new things in new ways that God wants to convey. There is an element of repenting, as Yeshua says one must “turn” to become like a little child. Therefore, our growth within the kingdom should never be a source of pride or lifting oneself up above others, but an opportunity to reach out to others in love so they can be helped along the way, as well.

If we can learn to remain humble and of service to others while we travel the path of the kingdom in this world, then God has the opportunity to lift us up and use us as he sees fit for his purpose.

Matthew 18:4 – “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child ​– ​this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”


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 challenge of freely offering forgiveness

It involves giving others something they do not have, but desparately need.

Contrary to how much the word is used among congregations today, the word forgiveness appears in the Bible only a limited number of times. In the King James version, the frequency is as follows:

  • forgiveness occurs 56 times in 48 verses, 21 in the NT
  • forgiven occurs 42 times in 38 verses, 20 in the NT
  • forgiveness occurs 7 times in 7 verses, 6 in the NT
  • forgiving occurs 4 times in 4 verses, 2 in the NT

Overall, the concept of forgiveness in all of the forms above is mentioned just under fifty times in the NT. By comparison, the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is mentioned over a hundred times in the NT, and love is represented 158 times in the NT.

There are several Hebrew and Greek words that are used to express this concept of forgiveness; however, I would like to focus one of the primary Greek words used in the NT for forgive, charizomai. In the Outline of Biblical Usage, the word is used in the following ways:

  • to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favour to, gratify
  • to show one’s self gracious, kind, benevolent
  • to grant forgiveness, to pardon
  • to give graciously, give freely, bestow
  • to forgive
  • graciously to restore one to another
  • to preserve for one a person in peril

The Strong’s definition puts an even finer point on it by defining it this way:
to grant as a favor, i.e. gratuitously, in kindness, pardon or rescue:—deliver, (frankly) forgive, (freely) give, grant.

Looking at all of the various ways that this word is used, I get a sense that this concept involves a type of giving; giving of something to someone else that they don’t currently have. I like the Strong’s perspective of granting a favor or pardon. What this emphasizes to me is that the process of forgiveness involves a bestowal of favor, merited or not, upon another individual. In fact, the word is rooted in the Greek term charis, where we get the English word grace, generally meaning unmerited favor.

You see, to forgive someone is to unequivocally grant them something they are lacking: pardon for an offense. To be able to give this to someone else involves a letting go of any negative emotion that may be tied to that offense in order to give a genuine pardon freely and sincerely. There can be no strings attached, no conditions of forgiveness. They may continue to create offense in the same or different ways, but if we are sincere in our granting of forgiveness we must continue to do so.

Peter clarified this for us when he asked Yeshua about how many times we should bestow forgiveness upon another:

Matthew 18:21-22 – Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Yeshua said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

We may think that forgiving someone who has wronged us is a monumental thing in the eyes of God. It certainly is an indication that we are allowing God’s Spirit to work through us. However, if it is only the first of 490 times that we are commanded to forgive someone, then we still have a long way to go to meet God’s standards!

Obviously, the number of times we are commanded to forgive is hyperbole for the sake of emphasis, but doesn’t it adequately make the point that we should essentially be in a constant state of forgiving others? Especially in today’s digital age, there is no shortage of offense that is displayed between individuals. How much more we need to emphasize the lofty standard of forgiveness to those around us.

By doing so, our exhibition of this trait can spur others to notice with what difference we, as believers in Messiah, react to the situations we encounter. When those with whom you interact begin to realize that you are sincere in this level of granting favor, their lives can be positively impacted in tangible ways when they receive the forgiveness and pardon that can only be granted by you.

Don’t hold it over their heads; offer it freely.


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 single, powerful stroke of contrast

Forgiveness is firmly integrated in the inner workings of love.

1 Corinthians 13:5 – “[Love] is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs.”

As an artist, I enjoy how each layer of a painting can modify the overall image, and enhance the original idea to the point of sometimes changing the picture completely. Typically, this is something that is controlled through the use of various shading and highlighting to bring out the intended emphasis. As a painting is nearing completion, I enjoy the highlighting aspect most of all because it begins to bring focus to the whole image.

On occasion, I have attempted to paint multiple paintings at once based on the same theme to see if I could duplicate an idea. No matter how hard I tried, even using the same colors and brushes, each finished painting would have a slightly different “feel” than the others.

I recently had a dream where I was commissioned to paint four similar paintings of a cabin in a snowstorm. In this dream, I was using the same colors and brushes, but I was purposely changing the brush technique to see how each painting’s emphasis would shift. All of the paintings were very dark and dreary, showing the intensity of the snowstorm.

Then, in an unintentional movement of my hand in the fourth painting, I had inadvertently created a shadow behind the roof of the cabin. It was a simple and quick move of the brush, and suddenly the entire character of the painting was transformed. Instead of the harsh, dreary, and hopeless nature of the the other three paintings, there was suddenly the sense of light breaking through the storm and creating this inadvertent shadow. The contrast of the single shadow changed the emotion of the painting from one of hopelessness into one of hope. The sun had broken through the snowy maelstrom in one small area of light, hinting that the storm would pass.

The reason this type of contrast is significant is because in art, contrast creates depth and meaning. A painting that is uniformly and methodically structured, even if done with great skill, lacks emotional impact and appears washed-out.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he has, in my estimation, penned the most comprehensive practical definition of love that exists. Most English versions will convey verse 5 as “[love] does not keep a record of wrongs.” In the original Greek, the sentiment conveys a harsher tone, more literally rendered as “[love] takes no accounting of the evil.”

In taking no accounting of the evil in others, we will need to operate within the principle of forgiveness. To forgive others is the only way that we can not take into account some evil that they may have done toward us. Just like in the painting process, forgiveness provides the contrast where all other natural responses of anger and resentment paint a washed-out picture of hopelessness. Forgiveness is the spark, the singular, powerful stroke of contrast that imbues a relationship with the depth and emotion that provides hope. It’s the sunlight through the snowstorm.

Matthew 18:21-22 – “Then Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times? ” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Yeshua replied, “but seventy times seven.”

We may not be able to control the way others choose to interact with us, but we can control our reaction to their influence in our lives. As believers, we are urged to provide forgiveness which contrasts with the world’s way of dealing with resentment. This single, powerful stroke of contrast makes us stand out from others and honors the One who desires us to be the catalyst of restorative and hope-filled relationships, just as He has been with us.


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.