Vigilantly seeking the things that are above

We should be finding ways to enact heavenly principles in the here and now.

Today we will be looking at the topic of vigilance. When we vigilantly “seek the things that are above,” we are not only looking forward to a heavenly eternity, but we should be finding ways to enact heavenly principles in the here and now, incorporating our new, spiritual kingdom life into the life we are living now.

The apostle Paul stated it this way:

Colossians 3:1-3 – If then you were raised together with Messiah, seek the things that are above, where Messiah is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Messiah in God.

It seems that Paul was basing this concept of seeking Yeshua taught that we should always keep asking, knocking, and seeking in order to receive, to have doors opened, and to find what it is we’re searching for.

Matthew 7:7-8 – “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

According to Yeshua, this type of vigilance is rewarded with the objectives sought for. If we are consistently asking and seeking and knocking, then we will definitively obtain those things which we seek.

Paul carries this same theme of seeking and searching forward into a mindset that should continually guide us in our ongoing new life in Messiah. This seeking involves ongoing aspects of vigilance that are wrapped up in the definition of the original wording used in the text. The phrase he uses in the Colossians 3 passage means to seek in order to find a thing; to seek in order to find out by thinking, meditating, reasoning, to enquire into; to seek after, seek for, aim at, strive after; to require, demand; to crave. These types of urgent and continual qualities of vigilance carry the same intent of Yeshua’s exhortation to keep seeking until the objective is found.

Whenever I explore this passage, I am reminded of a quote by G.K. Chesterton which reads, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” To seek first the kingdom is not just a weekend activity, or one which can be pursued by sharing “amens” on Facebook, or by reading and listening to everything that the current Christian subculture puts out (everything that is, except the Bible). No, asking, seeking, and knocking is a mindset; a consistent, methodical and undeviating value to be exercised at every opportunity where God’s will has yet to be expressed.

In like fashion, Paul uses the same wording to emphasize the believer’s desperate motivation to know God and his Messiah, to learn more about the things of God and to keep one’s focus there through the trials of life. This is what he prayed about for those early believers.

Ephesians 3:17-19 – I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Philippians 3:10-11, 13-15 – …that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. …  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Messiah Yeshua. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

Can we truly say with Paul that we are “straining forward to what lies ahead…pressing on toward the goal”? This type of imagery conveys effort, discipline, and sacrifice to attain God’s purposes in this life. How we answer that question will typically uncover our progression of growth and our impact among those of our generation for him. In a moment, we will review this idea of sacrifice during this life, and how Paul expressed the concept of a sacrificial life that is lived for the Messiah.

Living a sacrificial life for God is going to be something that is different for every believer because we are all at different places in our walk with him. To Paul, placing one’s faith in the Messiah was, in no uncertain terms, a matter of life and death: death to self and traditions of men, and new life as a new self that seeks after the things of God.

Romans 8:13 – For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Colossians 3:5 – Therefore, put to death whatever is worldly in you: your sexual sin, perversion, passion, lust, and greed (which is the same thing as worshiping wealth).

This putting to death of our worldly passions and desires was considered to be an ongoing practice, one to where the believer becomes the dichotomous “living sacrifice;” that which is constantly being offered up to God, yet continually alive, as well.

Romans 12:1-2 – Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

This renewal of mind comes as we vigilantly “seek the things that are above,” not only looking forward to a heavenly eternity, but finding ways to enact heavenly principles in the here and now, incorporating our new spiritual life into the physical life we are living now. In this way, we end up “putting to death” our selfish desires and we rise to the new life of our new self, created to be like him.

When Yeshua came into this world, it was as a human baby miraculously conceived in the womb of his mother. The spiritual element of his life was present from his birth, and this was brought to fruition at his resurrection from death. In this imagery is contained the following principle: the temporary mortal aspect, the flesh, has to die before the new creation, the spiritual reality, can be fulfilled. This is why Paul instructed the early believers to recognize that they were no longer to be focused on the fleshly aspect of anything, including Messiah.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 – From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Messiah according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Paul used the example and symbolism of Messiah’s resurrection beyond the flesh and applied it to the present life of those who believed in Messiah. He was encouraging them to operate from this mindset, because it was a reality in their lives that just had not come to pass yet; it was to be realized in the fulness of time at their passing from this life into the eternal kingdom of God.

2 Corinthians 5:1-4 – For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Life, in this sense, is eternal life: a status not only of unending existence beyond this temporary one, but a certain quality of life that is being generated within us day by day. When we are truly and whole-heartedly pursuing the things of God each day, we are becoming more and more of what God wants us to be as his representatives on this earth, and in anticipation of the life that is truly life beyond this mortal existence.

Colossians 3:9-10 – Do not speak falsehoods to one another, for you have stripped off the old self with its doings, and have clothed yourselves with the new self which is being remoulded into full knowledge so as to become like Him who created it.

2 Corinthians 4:16 – …even though our outward man is wasting away, yet our inward man is being renewed day by day.

I like how the Weymouth NT here phrased Colossians 3:10 as “the new self which is being remoulded into full knowledge…” The word that the apostle Paul uses here appears to be unique to him and only appears in these two verses: Colossians 3:10 and 2 Corinthians 4:16. It conveys the idea of renewal or renovation; something that is an ongoing process in the life of the believer. Saying that believers need to be remolded into full knowledge captures a vivid image: we need to have our substance crafted into something new in order to become useful to God. And the verse also tells us that the goal is “to become like Him who created it.” This is image-of-God language that is foundational to the theology of the kingdom. When we seek first the kingdom; when we pursue it by striving after it and craving it, reasoning through it and enquiring into it on a daily basis, it changes and transforms us. We become reshaped, remolded, and renewed in essence of being, causing us to become like our Father.

The apostle Peter phrased it in these types of terms:

1 Peter 4:1-2 – Therefore, since Messiah suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same understanding ​– ​because the one who suffers in the flesh is finished with sin ​– ​ in order to live the remaining time in the flesh no longer for human desires, but for God’s will.

Each of us only has a certain remaining time here to accomplish what God desires, and we don’t know when that eventuality will occur. If we are being led of God’s Spirit to grow in him, being molded into his image more and more each day, we should work diligently to be sure that God is receiving the benefit of his investment in us by our faithful and obedient representation of him. This is how we incorporate our new, spiritual kingdom life into the life we are living now, and how his will is accomplished in each generation.


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.

Standing for the truth of God’s word above the philosophies of men

We need to be aware of, and reject, false religious traditions.

We need to be aware of, and reject, false religious traditions.

  • Colossians 2:8 – Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Messiah.

This admonition from the apostle Paul strikes at the heart of the major conflict that the first century believers faced: the resistance of the orthodox Jews of their day who did not accept their Messiah. The Messiah-believing Jews were coming out from among the ranks of orthodox Judaism into what was considered a new sect. However, what was happening biblically was the remnant of true Israelites was being separated from the rest of unbelieving Judaism, even among those who had been dispersed, as had been prophesied.

  • Isaiah 10:20-22 – On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no longer depend on the one who struck them, but they will faithfully depend on the Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel. The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God. Israel, even if your people were as numerous as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction has been decreed; justice overflows.
  • Isaiah 11:10-12 – On that day the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. The nations will look to him for guidance, and his resting place will be glorious. On that day the Lord will extend his hand a second time to recover the remnant of his people who survive ​– ​from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the coasts and islands of the west. He will lift up a banner for the nations and gather the dispersed of Israel; he will collect the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

This process required immense vigilance, determination, and faith in God. They were being persecuted (that is, hunted with intent to harm) by their very own brothers. They were being challenged in their faith on principles they had grown up believing, being taught in the synagogues throughout the areas where they lived. They were coming to see that many of the traditions and ideas that had been created by the religious elite were being cast away because they were not God’s design for his spiritual people.

Yeshua had railed against the religious leaders for their adherence to their traditions and philosophies above the both the clear and symbolic teachings of Scripture.

  • Matthew 15:3-6 – He [Yeshua] answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

Besides their hypocrisy and pride, Yeshua was calling them out on their observance to their own philosophical traditions that they held to above Scripture. They had created traditions around the teachings of Scripture, traditions that were contrary to the spirit and purpose of the law.

The apostle Paul in like fashion condemned the man-made restrictions and rules that had been added to the clear teaching and meaning of Scripture:

  • Colossians 2:23 – These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

The true message of the kingdom was not more restrictions and rules by the letter of the law, but the fulfillment of those things in Messiah and the advent of the spiritual kingdom adhering to the spirit of the law. The oral laws and traditions that had been added to the law of Moses were being shed as people began to understand Messiah’s teaching in light of the spiritual kingdom.

For example, physical circumcision had become a “badge of honor” among the Jews regardless of any spiritual or ethical practices. Paul preached that this was no longer necessary, but spiritual circumcision through a removal of the flesh through baptism was.

  • Colossians 2:11 – In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Messiah…

Temple worship and practices were no longer needed, because the body of believers themselves had become the dwelling place of God, as taught by both Paul and Peter.

  • 2 Corinthians 6:16 – What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • 1 Peter 2:4-5 – As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua Messiah.

These were the types of teachings that continued to separate the remnant of Israel from the orthodox Judaism of the day.

We also have a responsibility to confront the false teachings, traditions, and philosophies that have grown up around the true faith of Messiah in the centuries since these brave and faithful forefathers stood their ground in the first century. Through our institutions, organizations, and denominations, we have created a new “oral law,” a set of trappings that continue to divide and separate God’s people. We have created holy days not listed in Scripture, constructed networks of churches around the dynamics of charismatic leaders and humanistic teachings, and built a theology of orthodoxy on the philosophies of men rather than the truth of Scripture.

We have strayed from the spiritual nature of the kingdom into the realm of trying to build a physical kingdom representation in our own image. We must return to the roots of biblical faith and the spiritual kingdom that Messiah established two millennia ago. We, like our spiritual forefathers, must remain vigilant in the face of those who, as the apostle Paul admonished, would seek to take us “captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Messiah.”

  • Colossians 3:23-24 – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Messiah.

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.

Following the examples of righteousness lived by Noah and Abraham

When we walk before God with integrity and righteousness, we are living by faith in a way that pleases him.

Today we will be looking at the topic of integrity, and how when we walk before God with integrity and righteousness, we are living by faith in a way that pleases him.

Genesis 6:9 – This is the account of Noah and his descendants. Noah was a righteous man; he was blameless in his generation. He walked habitually with God.

From this description of Noah, we can begin to paint a portrait of what type of person pleases God. Noah was righteous, blameless, and walked with God as a way of life. By looking at each of these characteristics, we can draw some application for our own lives as we seek to honor and magnify God as his representatives in this world.

Noah is remembered most famously for building an ark and surviving a great flood. But most people don’t realize he is the first person in the Bible to be named as righteous. The Hebrew word for righteous is tsaddik. A tsaddik is a person who is considered just and righteous in conduct and character. Other contexts of the word include describing someone who is upright, honest, virtuous, pious. It is a word commonly used of good kings or judges who faithfully dispense justice and fairness.

We need to discuss this idea of righteousness a little more in detail than the other characteristics of Noah because in most Christian circles today, righteousness is typically viewed as something that is only conferred on an individual from God, as a bestowal of a righteous state that they did not possess previously. This perspective comes largely from the apostle Paul writing about the legal aspect of of a theological term called imputed righteousness, as is typically pointed out using the example of Abraham who was accounted or considered righteous for his faith in God.

Romans 4:1-5 – What then will we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about ​– ​but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. Now to the one who works, pay is not credited as a gift, but as something owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes on him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited for righteousness.

Now from this passage has been built an entire theological framework known as justification by faith. This was the famous cry of the reformers of the Christian faith in the 16th and 17th centuries. John Calvin has been quoted as saying, “Justification by faith is the hinge on which all true religion turns.”

In current discussion today, Dr. Kevin McFadden of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary covers the salient points of this doctrine in his article, “10 Things You Should Know about Justification by Faith” posted last year at Crossway.com. Dr. McFadden writes:

“Imputation is an attempt to capture the truth of biblical statements like 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Here Paul does not mean that God actually made Christ a sinner but that he imputed our sin to Christ’s account, just as, in the parallel statement, he has imputed his own righteousness to our account.”

This type of inputting something into our account that wasn’t previously there was outlined centuries earlier by Martin Luther.

“Do you now see how faith justifies without works? Sin lingers in us, and God hates sin. A transfusion of righteousness therefore becomes vitally necessary. This transfusion of righteousness we obtain from Christ because we believe in Him.” (Commentary on Galatians 3:6)

In my humble opinion, the passage in 2 Corinthians 5 has less to do with “transfusions of righteousness” and “crediting accounts” and more with the responsibility of the believer’s actions, as this passage of Paul regarding becoming the righteousness of God parallels his conclusion earlier on in the chapter.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – For the love of Messiah compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If one died for all, then all died. And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.

That is the point that Paul appears to be making. He is relating to his audience in Corinth that the fact that Messiah died in a representative way should then spur them on to live in a way that honors him: he died for others, therefore they should live for others by dying to themselves. In this way, they would become the righteousness of God, that is, the righteous-living people that God desired them to be.

When we take the imputed righteousness theory which is based on the characterization of righteousness being added to an account without it being actualized in behavior, the meaning of the word becomes, in a sense, masked. It implies someone can be considered righteous while not really being righteous; it is simply a way God chooses to view those who place their faith in him. According to this doctrine, because of a believer’s faith, God decides to declare them righteous (even though they are not) by substituting the sinless life of his own son, Yeshua, for the sinful life of the sinner. In essence, this idea of imputed righteousness is all about the legal and theoretical standing of an individual before God and not about what they do or how they actually live their lives.

But this is not what the Bible teaches about righteousness, or what the passage about Abraham really says. This kind of theoretical abstract thinking would have been foreign to early believers steeped in the concrete terminology and prose of the Hebraic Scriptures and culture. Even today, when we look at the source material in Genesis that the apostle Paul is quoting, the text says nothing about accounts or infusions, but simply says that Abraham believed God, specifically about his promise to make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky.

Genesis 15:2-6 – But Abram said, “Lord Yahweh, what can you give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? ” Abram continued, “Look, you have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir.” Now the word of Yahweh came to him: “This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.” Abram believed Yahweh, and he considered it to him as righteousness.

The fact that Abraham simply believed what God told him was considered by God as an act of righteousness, not the change of some legal standing before him. We know Abraham was also considered a righteous individual because he was obedient to all of God’s revealed instruction, most likely oral at that point, just like it was with Noah. When God reiterated this promise of innumerable descendants to Abraham’s son Isaac, God states:

Genesis 26:4-5 – “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky, I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring, because Abraham listened to me and kept my mandate, my commands, my statutes, and my instructions.”

This statement helps define God’s view of righteousness. A righteous individual believes in the instruction of God (taking God at his word) and then obeys it. In God’s view, believing what he says, even though it may not yet be fulfilled, is an act of righteousness as valuable as any other act of obedience. It is the sign of ultimate trust which is considered by God as the action of a righteous person.

So, returning to the passage in Romans where Paul is explaining this event in Abraham’s life, in reality, I think what Paul was attempting to convey is the idea that faith in God is equally considered a righteous act, along with all other lawful, virtuous, honest, and upright actions according to the instruction of God. Therefore, faith in God and his Messiah is considered a righteous action. That would have been a revolutionary concept to his audience. The believers of Paul’s day knew that to be a tsaddik was to faithfully and obediently follow the torah (or instruction) of God that has been revealed. But to do this effectively, Paul argues, requires faith, a righteous action like any other obedient action.

Noah had believed that what God had revealed to him about a coming flood, even though it had not yet been fulfilled, was going to happen. He took it seriously and built a giant boat, rearranging his entire life and enterprise to commit to this faith in what God had said. There are few greater examples of what a living faith looks like.

For Noah, this would mean that out of all others in his generation or age, he was the individual who most closely matched the ideal that God had provided up to that point because of his faith and his actions based on that faith. While those in his day may not have had any written Scripture, there were undoubtedly oral teachings that had been passed from generation to generation since the days of Adam previously. And in God’s eyes, Noah was a tsaddik, a righteous individual, one who faithfully and continually walked with him. To walk with God in this sense is to live in a way that pleases him, to abide by his counsels and admonitions, to be familiar with God and his ways and to direct one’s own personal affairs in agreement with God’s. This is biblical righteousness.

Additionally, the text says that Noah was tamim or blameless. This is a Hebrew term that can mean what is complete, entirely in accord with truth and fact. Noah’s life was not a life of hidden agendas or misrepresentation for the sake of personal gain, but everything he did and said was based completely on truth and fact. Someone who is blameless has nothing to hide from those who would inquire into their background or motivations.

This is a life of integrity, and Yeshua described this concept in various ways throughout his ministry, and most notably in his Sermon on the Mount. For Yeshua, to live with integrity and righteousness meant to demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeded those who were merely following external commands, like the Pharisees and Sadducees. It meant to be a person of your word, simply saying yes or no, and doing what you say. It was defined as craving equity; thirsting for doing the right thing because it was personally and inwardly important. It included avoiding hypocrisy in judgment and practice, and to magnify God by letting your good deeds “shine.” And finally, Yeshua taught to conduct yourself with mildness and gentleness, and, if necessary, to endure harmful attacks of those who may not agree with your right actions. All of these things could essentially be said of Noah, which is why he was considered a tsaddik.

We would do well to follow in his footsteps among our generation, doing what’s right in the face of adversity and corruption around us. God may not task each of us with building a literal ark, but we should be just as mindful of our responsibility to “become the righteousness of God” by positively influencing those around us through our integrity and faithful obedience to God’s revealed word.


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.

Following our God of compassion

God honors those who seek him with their whole heart. Perhaps so should we.

God honors those who seek him with their whole heart. Perhaps so should we.

Being a believer in the God of the Bible presents a primary challenge that has eluded the Body of Messiah over the centuries since he walked this earth: unity. Those who claim to believe in Messiah and abide within the dictates of the Bible have been marginalized in society, and yet splintered and at war with each other at times.

Our struggles among ourselves are typically centered on issues of doctrine: what is considered orthodoxy and what is considered heretical. This is nothing new, as the Bible is filled with examples of individuals and groups who have separated and fought with each other within the overall Hebraic worldview and the Judaic roots of our faith.

In the days of Yeshua and the early believers, there were many factions of the faith, notably between the Samaritans and the Jews of Judea. When Yeshua met the woman at the well, she stated one of those doctrinal differences evident at that time:

John 4:20 – “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Additionally, famous within the “orthodox” Judaism of the day, another difference was demonstrated by the beliefs of the Sadducees and Pharisees. The apostle Paul even used these differences in a ploy to defend himself before their tribunal.

Acts 23:6-8 – When Paul realized that one part of them were Sadducees and the other part were Pharisees, he cried out in the Sanhedrin, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead! ” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and neither angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all.

Paul repeatedly urged for unity and oneness among the faithful congregations to who he wrote his epistles:

  • Ephesians 4:1-4 – Therefore I, the prisoner in Yahweh, 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. There is one body and one Spirit ​– ​just as you were called to one hope at your calling ​– ​
  • Colossians 3:12-15 – Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as Yahweh has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.

So why is this so hard to achieve? How is it that those who claim to believe in Messiah are still so fractured and splintered among thousands of denominations today? I suggest it may have to do largely with a lack of compassion. In recently reading a section of Israel’s history, I was struck by one sentiment that was expressed by the writer of 2 Chronicles in relation to the following of the Torah.

2 Chronicles 30:16-20 – [The priests] stood at their prescribed posts, according to the law of Moses, the man of God. The priests splattered the blood received from the Levites, for there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves, and so the Levites were in charge of slaughtering the Passover lambs for every unclean person to consecrate the lambs to Yahweh. A large number of the people ​– ​many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun ​– ​were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good Yahweh provide atonement on behalf of whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, Yahweh, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” So Yahweh heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

The people had failed to obey every little detail of the Torah in relation to the purification rite, but Hezekiah recognized that their hearts were in the right place, and they were acting with the best of intentions, so he interceded for them. And the text says that God heard that prayer and healed or reconciled the people to himself.

Perhaps if, like Hezekiah, we did less judgment and more intercession on behalf of those whose doctrine may not line up 100% with our own, we may provide more occasions for oneness and unity as believers in the one God of the Bible. This is due to the fact that intercession on behalf of others stems from a heart of compassion, and compassion and mercy are the defining characteristics of Yahweh himself.

Exodus 34:6 – Yahweh passed in front of [Moses] and proclaimed: Yahweh ​– ​Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,

When we exhibit compassion towards all others, not just in the context of helping the downtrodden and poor of society but extending compassion towards others who believe in the Bible but still may not agree with us, we open up opportunities for communication and dialogue, dialogue that can enlighten and enrich. Perhaps we can ask God for hearts like Priscila and Aquila.

Acts 18:24-26 – Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of Yahweh; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Yeshua, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.

Recognizing that Apollos’ heart was in the right place, Priscilla and Aquila were moved to openly discuss doctrine with Apollos to help him understand “the way of God more accurately.” Of course, we all may think we have the most accurate understanding of God’s word. But if we are truly humble and realize that none of us have all the answers, we should keep at least a small door open to improving our own understanding of God’s word “more accurately.” Perhaps, when we focus less on the letter of the law and more on the hearts that are truly seeking the God of the Bible, we may be more successful in attuning ourselves to that same passion and building bridges to unity in the process.


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.

Imitating God

This is how we cultivate peace.

This is how we cultivate peace.

As Paul was writing to the Ephesian congregation, he was nearing the end of his life. Although he was in prison when he wrote this, he recognized that whether or not he would be freed, he was near to completing what God had called him to do.

The entire epistle reads like a farewell letter, like a parent trying to convey as much as possible to ensure their children have everything they need to lead a successful and fruitful life. This is why it is so rich with spiritual direction and drawn from so regularly by teachers of God’s Word today.

One of its core themes can be summed up by the first verse in the fourth chapter:

Ephesians 4:1 – Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received…

To live a life worthy of the calling received; this should be the goal of every believer. Paul then goes on to list characteristics like humility, bearing one another’s burdens, unity, having a renewed mind, speaking the truth, encouraging one another, removing anger and bitterness. And then he lists a quality that is partly hidden by a chapter break in our modern Bibles.

Ephesians 4:32-5:2 – And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Messiah. Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love…

As his children, we are urged to imitate God; the word literally means to mimic him. The characteristic that should most define us as his children is the forgiveness we show to one another, rooted in love.

God set the example by providing a way of forgiveness through Messiah. If we are to imitate him, we should find ways to forgive those around us with whom we disagree, or with those who have been hurtful us in some way. This should be as central to our attitudes toward others as the role that God’s forgiveness in Messiah plays in our own relationship with him.

If we are to be his children, we should be seeking peace with others as he has sought peace with us. Then we will see its fruit borne out in the growing expanse of the Kingdom.

James 3:17-18 – But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.


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

Actively loving our neighbors

A compassionate heart cannot remain inactive when becoming aware of real needs.

A compassionate heart cannot remain inactive when becoming aware of real needs.

Romans 13:8-10 – “Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.”

Paul writes this passage in the context of being faithful with the State authorities, paying taxes, and culminating in verse 14 by “putting on the Lord Yeshua.” It’s as if all of Paul’s logic in the daily life of the believer is wrapped up in “throwing off the deeds of darkness, and putting on the armor of light,” ( v. 12).

The key aspect of this armor of light is love; not the syrupy, undefined, wishy-washy love of our current pop culture, but a love that has a definite purpose and character. Paul defines this type of love as a love that does no wrong to a neighbor. It involves throwing off the deeds of darkness, which he defines as: “carousing and drunkenness…sexual impurity and promiscuity…quarreling and jealousy,” (v. 13). When we are acting in any of these ways with others, we are not acting in love. The armor of light can only be exposed when we “throw off” these “deeds.”

If we are to do no wrong to a neighbor, it implies that we should do right to our neighbor. In Hebraic thinking, there is no static condition in which we do neither good nor bad. If we are not doing good, then we are by default doing bad, and if we are not doing bad, then we are to be doing good. The text of Torah from which this principle of loving our neighbor is derived mentions we should not even hold any grudges against our neighbor.

Leviticus 19:18 – “Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.”

This specific command is dropped in the midst of all kinds of things we should not be doing to our neighbors (Leviticus 19:11-17):

  • do not steal from them
  • do not oppress them
  • do not rob from them
  • do not be unfair with them
  • do not spread slander about them
  • do not jeopardize their life
  • don’t harbor hatred toward them

According to Paul’s logic in Romans 13, these would all be included in “deeds of darkness.”

If these are the negative qualities, then the positive qualities contained within the armor of light must be the opposite:

  • give generously to them
  • cheer them up and support them
  • act with fairness
  • speak well of them
  • help to protect them
  • show practical love toward them

This practical outworking of a love that is defined in this manner shows what type of love the Bible is talking about when it comes to our neighbors. It is a love that acts in positive ways towards others. It doesn’t just think happy thoughts towards them, but it actively works to build them up and contribute to their well-being.

In what ways can you act in this manner toward your neighbors, friends, and family? All of these individuals come under the umbrella of “neighbors” in the biblical sense. How can you manifest the armor of light most practically and effectively? By looking at these brief examples, we can see it involves taking our focus off of ourselves (the deeds of darkness that serve our own pleasures and interests), and placing our focus instead on the needs of others for their benefit. This is how we can then begin to “put on Yeshua” by living out his command:

Matthew 7:12 – “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”


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 ongoing battle against avoiding sin

Although believers are victorious in Messiah, the reality of living for him is a real conflict every day.

Although believers are victorious in Messiah, the reality of living for him is a real conflict every day.

Matthew 5:29 – “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna.

Yeshua is speaking here of the extreme vigilance with which we must guard our spiritual lives. While this example is exaggerated for emphasis, it demonstrates a spiritual principle that is a typical theme in God’s Word.

For example, in Proverbs, the father is advising his son on the dangers of being lured into complacency or led astray by the woman of bad character:

Proverbs 5:3-8 – Though the lips of the forbidden woman drip honey and her words are smoother than oil, in the end she’s as bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps head straight for Sheol. She doesn’t consider the path of life; she doesn’t know that her ways are unstable. So now, sons, listen to me, and don’t turn away from the words from my mouth. Keep your way far from her. Don’t go near the door of her house.

In the ongoing narrative of the opening chapters of Proverbs, the father then continues to urge his sons to avoid this type of woman.

Proverbs 7:24-27 – Now, sons, listen to me, and pay attention to the words from my mouth. Don’t let your heart turn aside to her ways; don’t stray onto her paths. For she has brought many down to death; her victims are countless. Her house is the road to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death.

This same warning is for their own good. It is a warning to remain faithful to Yahweh and to not be led astray by the deceptive nature of sin. In the Proverbs, this worldly sin is characterized by the woman of bad character.

The apostle Paul also warns believers of avoiding sinful practices, but he characterizes sin as the flesh.

Romans 8:12-14 – So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons.

While Yeshua emphasized the avoidance of sin by removing body parts, Paul goes a step further and says the deeds of the body must be completely put to death in order for the spiritual life to thrive.

These are all different ways of saying the same thing: we must not be seduced by the attractiveness of sin (characterized by the woman). The first step is to avoid those ways all together. However, if we have begun down that road, we must immediately deprive ourselves of any aspect of our lives that has become compromised (exemplified by cutting off a hand or gouging out an eye). If that option has been surpassed, then we must completely “put to death the deeds of the body.” What all of these ideas are conveying is just how destructive sinful lifestyles are, and the seriousness with which sin must be dealt with in the believer’s life.

Many believers look at Paul’s statement of dying to the flesh as being descriptive of the repentant sinner coming to Messiah; the one-time commitment to die to oneself and live the new life in Messiah. However, this statement, as exhibited throughout the Scripture, is a metaphor for an ongoing and continual vigilance by which the believer must separate themself from the sin that is present each and every day. This is not a one-time event but a constant battle that every believer in Yahweh must maintain.

Paul says the believer has the ability through the Spirit of God to overcome these challenges, and to be led by the Spirit, and not by the flesh, is the true hallmark of those who are children of God. Vigilance in this battle means relying on God’s strength to overcome the woman of bad character or the flesh, what the apostle John calls “the world,” all of which can be overcome by our faith in Messiah.

1 John 5:3-5 – For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Yeshua is the Son 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.

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.

Biblical teaching that carries depth and eternal purpose

The purpose of God is fulfilled when we give proper honor to his Word.

The purpose of God is fulfilled when we give proper honor to his Word.

Titus 2:7-8 – “Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that any opponent will be ashamed, because he doesn’t have anything bad to say about us.”

As Paul is writing to Titus regarding how he should be a godly leader, he mentions that his works and his teaching should be supportive of each other. He shouldn’t just teach about the right things but he should practice doing good, as well.

In regard to the nature of Titus’ teaching, Paul uses two terms that I believe are lacking among many modern Bible teachers, and these terms are typically translated as integrity and dignity. Looking a little deeper into these terms we might learn a little more about how unique these characteristics are.

By looking at the second word first, the word usually translated as dignity, we can see an important aspect represented here. The Helps Word Studies reference provides an interesting expanded definition for us.

“[this word] reflects what has been transformed by God and exhibits “moral and spiritual gravity (gravitas)” – like what attends a deep, godly character. This sense of dignity also invites reverence from others, who should likewise exalt what is noble (morally-elevated).”

I think that this is a significant characteristic that is lacking in much of modern Bible teaching today. Many, if not most of those espousing biblical concepts will do so in a way that panders to their audience, usually using many informal colloquialisms to try to make the message more palatable for their tastes.

A Christian writer by the name of Alec Satin writes about the continual increasing informality of worship today in his article, What is irreverent worship?

“Reverence to the Lord is sober. It’s attentive, quiet and alert. It’s inconceivable that you would simultaneously check your email on your phone while you’re having an audience with the Queen of England. So how in the world could it possibly be okay for you to check Facebook while you’re supposedly worshipping the King of all creation?”

This indication of the informality of the congregation leads back to the informality of the leadership and the type of teaching going on in congregations today.

Returning to Paul’s admonition to Titus, the first word describing the type of teaching Paul recommends is usually translated as integrity or purity. It is unique in that this form of the word is used nowhere else in the Greek New Testament. Because of its uniqueness, it can be helpful to get to its root word to see what it is derived from that can perhaps broaden our understanding of its use.

The underlying Greek root is a word that is typically translated as immortality or incorruptibility. Here are some examples:

  • Romans 2:7 – eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality;
  • 1 Corinthians 15:53 – For this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body must be clothed with immortality.
  • 2 Timothy 1:10 – This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Messiah Yeshua, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Once again, an expanded definition from the Helps Word Studies provides an explanation of the term:

“properly, [it means] no-corruption (unable to experience deterioration); incorruptibility (not perishable), i.e. lacking the very capacity to decay or constitutionally break down.”

This idea of teaching that lacks the capacity for decay means that, by default, it must be based on the most foundational aspects of the gospel message, not what is considered the most culturally acceptable aspects of that message. When all we take away from the Bible is a paradigm of social acceptability and fodder for a cause du jour, we rob the Word of its power and we defame God’s honor. We should not be using the Word to serve our purposes, but instead we should be submitting our purposes, goals, and aspirations to the Word.

We read in the Bible how the Word of God is eternal and unchanging.

1 Peter 1:22-25 – Since you have purified yourselves by your obedience to the truth, so that you show sincere brotherly love for each other, from a pure heart love one another constantly, because you have been born again ​– ​not of perishable seed but of imperishable ​– ​through the living and enduring word of God. For All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like a flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this word is the gospel that was proclaimed to you.

Peter, quoting from Isaiah, mentions not only how the Word of God endures forever, but is the imperishable seed that causes people to become born again, or born from above. When that message is compromised by becoming culturally issue-oriented, it robs God’s Word of its power, and reduces the majesty of God to the image of man.

It is up to us to ensure our message remains focused on the eternal and imperishable gospel of the Kingdom, and thereby any opponents will not be able to say anything bad about us or our teaching. In this way, the honor and glory of our God will remain intact and visible for all to see, and those seeking the immortal Word of life can be satisfied.


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.