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.

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

Fear of man or trust in Yahweh

Having the correct perspective strengthens believers to boldly stand for the truth of God.

Having the correct perspective strengthens believers to boldly stand for the truth of God.

Proverbs 29:25 – The fear of man is a snare, but the one who trusts in Yahweh is protected.

Reading this verse as a standalone instruction, it is generally considered to be speaking to the believer trusting in Yahweh rather than fearing what evils another man could do them. It could also be considered as an admonition against cowardice as “the fear of man,” that fear which a man has within himself, is also a snare and a trap.

However, the bulk of Scripture would lean toward the first and most common idea that believers should not fear what any evils a man could do to them, but they should always have a strong and vibrant trust in God.

Psalm 118:5-9 – Out of my distress I called on Yahweh; Yahweh answered me and set me free. Yahweh is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Yahweh is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in Yahweh than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in Yahweh than to trust in princes.

Here the psalmist relates how there is no reason to fear when one takes refuge in Yahweh and calls out to him for help in their time of need. Trusting in God is to be preferred above trusting in man, even in princes, leaders, or an emperor.

1 Peter 2:17 – Honor everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

While believers are commanded to show honor and respect for their leaders, it does not follow that they should blindly follow and obey them without any reference to the overarching authority and fear of God. Instead, we should take to heart the words of the apostle Peter when met with resistance by the religious authorities of his day:

Acts 5:27-29 – And when they had brought them, they set them before the council [the chief priests and leaders of Israel]. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name [the name of Yeshua], yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”

Peter here was simply following the example of his Master who taught about the supremacy of God’s authority over the authority of men:

Matthew 10:21-22, 26-28 – Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. … “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

Yeshua encouraged his followers by ensuring they had a correct view and understanding of the true order of authority. It was this same type of mindset, fearless of the evils of men, that motivated believers to stand up for the truth throughout the history of God’s people.

Hebrews 11:35-38 – …Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated– of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

These saints of old demonstrated they did not fear what man could do to them, but their trust was placed firmly in the One who would usher them into his presence as they faithfully stood for his truth.

The principle contained in Proverbs 29:25 is succinctly summarized by the commentary of Joseph Benson:

  • The fear of man — Inordinate fear of harm or suffering from men, which is properly opposed to trust in God, because it arises from a distrust of God’s promises and providence;
  • bringeth a snare — Is an occasion of many sins, and consequently of punishments from God:
  • but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord — Walks in God’s ways, and securely relies upon him, to protect him from the designs and malice of wicked men;
  • shall be safe — Shall be preserved from all real evil, through God’s watchful providence over him.”

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.

Authentic forgiveness influences others to do the same

The most impactful messages are backed up by the actions of those who are presenting them.

Core of the Bible podcast #70 – Authentic forgiveness influences others to do the same

Today we will be looking at the topic of forgiveness, and how the most impactful and influential examples are made by the consistency and authenticity of those who are living them out.

Luke 23:34 – Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.

One of the main reasons that Yeshua’s teachings have been so influential in the centuries and millennia is not just because of the wisdom, logic, and truth of what he taught, but because he actually demonstrated how to apply what he implored others to do. As was the case in the instance of his crucifixion at the hands of his oppressors, he didn’t just preach forgiveness of enemies, he actually lived it out, praying for God to forgive those who had no intent toward him except extreme harm.

A message of instruction can have impact because it makes sense, or because it is an accepted tradition, or it may be a requirement of an institution or governing authority. However, the most impactful messages are those that are conveyed with consistency and authenticity, and backed up by the actions of those who are presenting them.

By contrast, in our culture today, the opposite happens so frequently that there is the ironic statement expressed by the saying, “Do what I say, not what I do.” This is the epitome of sad weakness in which one may have an understanding of what the right thing may be in a given situation, but they do not have the strength or fortitude to carry out even their own advice. Hypocrisy is powerless.

But wisdom with consistent action makes a difference, especially with hard teachings like those about forgiveness. Anyone can say people should be forgiving of those who are intent on harm, but to do so in the most extreme of circumstances demonstrates authenticity that has power to change lives.

This is corroborated in the lives of Yeshua’s disciples, most visibly in the noble act of Stephen when he faced the same type of hostility of those who would see him dead for his speaking of the truth. When he was called before the religious high court to defend his beliefs, Stephen provides a protracted description of God’s favor with Israel, and then abruptly accuses the religious leaders of his day of forsaking everything they should have been practicing. In boldly speaking this truth, the situation then proceeded toward its inevitable conclusion.

Acts 7:53-54, 57-58, 60 – [Stephen said,] “You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.” … When they heard these things, they were enraged and gnashed their teeth at him. … They yelled at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. … He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them! ” And after saying this, he died.

Stephen was so captivated with the powerful example of his Lord in forgiving his enemies that, thrust into a similar circumstance, he responded in the same way. His actions were consistent with his recognition of the truth related by his Master, and he was able to respond with the same level of demonstrable conviction. His righteous actions were so powerful they still influence and challenge us to this day.

In contrast, Yeshua provides an opposite example in stark relief against the nobility of Stephen’s type of forgiving actions. At one point when his disciples were asking him questions, he had responded to Peter’s question about how many times believers are expected to forgive. Yeshua’s answer was couched in a story, a parable, about what this looks like from God’s perspective.

Matthew 18:21-35 – 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,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven. “For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. “When he began to settle accounts, one who owed ten thousand talents was brought before him. “Since he did not have the money to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. “At this, the servant fell facedown before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything.’ “Then the master of that servant had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan. “That servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him, started choking him, and said, ‘Pay what you owe! ‘ “At this, his fellow servant fell down and began begging him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ “But he wasn’t willing. Instead, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed. “When the other servants saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had happened. “Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. “Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? ‘ “And because he was angry, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay everything that was owed. “So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart.”

This parable is so comprehensive and compelling that it leaves little room for any comment. Yeshua sets a clear indication of God’s desire for his people to be people of forgiveness based on on their own recognition of how much they have been forgiven. The apostle Paul carries this forward to the believers in Colosse, as well.

Colossians 3:12-13 – “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.”

Our ability to forgive should not be based solely on an emotional feeling of sadness or pity toward someone else. There may be times where our emotions are running completely opposite to empathy or pity, and yet, we are commanded to forgive anyway, if for no other reason than we have been forgiven by God. That is the standard that should guide us.

Based on these demonstrations of genuine forgiveness of enemies by both Yeshua and Stephen, can we somehow find it within ourselves to forgive others with this same level of authenticity? If this is the ultimate level of obedience demanded of every disciple of Yeshua, then forgiving those who have wronged us in some minor detail seems much less daunting. Every time we do so, we have an opportunity to provide an authentic response that can influence others to do the same.


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 powerful witness of integrity

We can stand out as God’s own children by speaking and acting in truth at all times.

We can stand out as God’s own children by speaking and acting in truth at all times.

Titus 2:7-8 – “Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and wholesome speech that is above reproach, so that anyone who opposes us will be ashamed, having nothing bad to say about us.”

Throughout the letter to Titus, Paul is instructing him how to effectively oversee the people of God who have been left in his care. Titus was to appoint leaders over the congregations in each town in Crete, and to encourage godly behavior among them all.

In the process of doing so, however, Paul is aware he may encounter opposition from detractors, especially “those of the circumcision,” (1:10). He reminds him that “[t]hey profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work,” (1:16).

To counter those who would oppose him, Paul instructs Titus in a couple of areas. First, he encourages him to “be a model good deeds” in all things. In order for believers to be taken seriously, we must practice what we preach. We all know that if we say one thing but do another, we can be accused of hypocrisy which can hurt the message of the gospel of the kingdom.

Secondly, Paul relates to Titus that “in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and wholesome speech that is above reproach…” It’s not only in our actions that we must be consistent, but even in the smallest of things we may say that may be out of bounds. Those who would oppose the things of God will look for any inconsistency in what we say to try to detract from the kingdom message.

Yeshua exhibited this ability when he was confronted by those who would oppose him. Time after time, his firm and truthful responses would silence the crowd.

Matthew 22:46 – “No one was able to answer a word, and from that day on no one dared to question Him any further.”

Luke 14:6 – “And they were unable to answer these questions.”

Luke 20:39 – “Some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, You have spoken well!’ And they did not dare to question Him any further.”

The apostle Peter in a similar fashion encourages the believers’ deeds to match up with what it is they professed:

1 Peter 2:12 – “Conduct yourselves with such honor among the nations that, though they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.”

The integrity of the believer should be exhibited in the consistency of the message as well as the actions that go along with that message. If we profess to know God, then we should speak and act as those who have been renewed in the image of the One who calls us to himself. This is the greatest witness to the truth of the Word 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.

The integrity of all who hunger and thirst for righteousness

Those who are righteous can’t help but show it in their actions.

Matthew 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Yeshua taught that those who diligently seek after righteousness, doing what is right in the sight of God, will have their desire fulfilled. Longing for righteousness appears to be a characteristic that defines the integrity of believers and helps them grow.

Righteousness, that is, the constant capacity to act in right ways, is the ultimate goal for all people. Doing the right thing is the very definition of integrity.

Peter also taught that these right actions are the expectation that God has for all nations. He came to this realization through an angelic revelation regarding the state of the non-Jewish nations. Cornelius, a commander in the Roman army, was stationed in Judea. Cornelius had sent to Peter to have Peter come to his house based on an angelic visitation in prayer.

Acts 10:22 – [The messengers of Cornelius] said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who has a good reputation with the whole Jewish nation, was divinely directed by a holy angel to call you [Peter] to his house and to hear a message from you.”

In response to a vision presented in Acts 10:9-16, Peter complied and went to the home of Cornelius.

Acts 10:29-31 – [Peter asked him] “So may I ask why you sent for me? ” Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this hour, at three in the afternoon, I was praying in my house. Just then a man in dazzling clothing stood before me “and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms have been remembered in God’s sight.

The fact that Cornelius was praying at three in the afternoon illustrates his devotion to the Hebrew God, since that was typically the time of the afternoon prayer and the sacrifice of the second lamb of the day at the temple. That he was praying to the Hebrew God meant he was a God-fearer: a non-Jewish believer who was not a formal convert to the Jewish religion but believed in their God. The alms he had provided to the Jews in Judea were financial loans and gifts designed to help those in need. According to Peter, these gifts were demonstrations of the righteousness of Cornelius.

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.”

What is the example Peter is basing this on? What standard is Peter using as the basis for those who fear God and do what is right are acceptable to him? Well, it is the example of the holy Spirit being poured out on the non-Jewish believers in that household.

Acts 10:44-45 – “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on those of other nations.”

Cornelius was a man who a) feared God, and b) did what was right; that is, continually provided righteous sacrificial gifts of giving from the heart. Cornelius hungered and thirsted for righteousness, but he was not circumcised; he was not a Jewish convert. But Peter had learned that if someone fears God and does what is right, they are righteous in God’s sight, and God demonstrated this by an outward display of them being filled with his holy Spirit. By Yeshua’s definition, those individuals who hunger and thirst for righteousness would be filled, their thirst satisfied by God.

This corroborates with the apostle John who likewise stated with plain language the heart condition of true believers over those who only professed to be so.

1 John 3:6-10 – “Everyone who remains in him does not keep on sinning; everyone who sins has not seen him or known him. Children, let no one deceive you. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who practices 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 practice sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how God’s children and the devil’s children become obvious. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother or sister.”

The message of the Bible is to live with integrity by fearing God and doing the right thing according to his Word. This is how we know we are truly God’s children, when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, because that is who we are. And Yeshua promises that if our hunger and thirst are real, we shall be satisfied.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Revere God and protect and keep his commandments: for this is everything expected of mankind.


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.

Love unfeigned

It’s how we show true compassion for one another.

Romans 12:9-10 – “Let love be unfeigned. Abhor that which is evil; cling to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another…”

When love is encouraged in the NT writings, it is expressed with a Greek adjective sometimes translated in older versions of the Bible as unfeigned. While this can come across as an antiquated English word, the concept is a valid one. I think the word unfeigned captures it well and deserves much more use among believers today.

In ancient Greek culture, actors were called hypocrites because they would wear masks and pretend to be someone else. To feign can mean to impersonate someone else, or to act hypocritically, or to disguise one’s true intent. To feign is essentially to fake something. By contrast, if someone’s intent is unfeigned, it is therefore without hypocrisy; it is sincere, with no hidden agenda or misrepresentation.

Peter encouraged the believers to practice unfeigned love among themselves, saying it was an indication of pure souls who were following the truth of the Spirit of God.

1 Peter 1:22 – “Seeing you all have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that you all love one another with a pure heart fervently…”

Paul also encouraged compassion and love for one another that is real and without hypocrisy. It was not to be just for show or out of sense of compulsion, but it was to be genuine, sincere and from the heart. Paul stated this was characteristic of how the apostles operated within their physical service to the congregations:

2 Corinthians 6:3, 6 – “[We have given] no offence in any thing, that the ministry would not be blamed: … By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned…”

They had demonstrated all of their compassionate help and the sincerity of their ministry by providing shared resources and diligent teaching among the scattered believers through the most unimaginable difficulties of physical circumstances.

2 Corinthians 6:4-5 – “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in labors, in watchfulness, in fastings…”

All of these things, Paul says, were demonstrations of their unfeigned love for the brethren; this is what unfeigned love looks like in practice.

The apostle John also condemns love that is expressed as lip service only and juxtaposes that aberration to the ideal of biblical love.

1 John 3:18 – “Little children, let us not love in word or speech only, but in action and in truth.”

Peter, Paul, and John were all pointing believers toward true compassionate love for one another that actually produces fruitful actions on behalf of others. John especially gets right to the heart of the matter by stating that Yeshua set the standard by laying down his life as an act of the purest and most sincere love.

1 John 3:16-17 – “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brethren. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him ​– ​how does God’s love reside in him?”

According to these biblical principles, love unfeigned is a love that acts sincerely and through all difficulties to place the needs of others above ourselves. This should prompt us to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider the true level of our love and compassion for one another today.


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

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

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

The power to live as kingdom people

All who claim to be believers in Messiah should be exhibiting these lofty qualities.

2 Peter 1:10-11 – Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Yeshua Messiah will be richly provided for you.

Peter here speaks of the eternal kingdom, and how one “enters” this kingdom. He mentions entrance into the kingdom is evidenced “in this way,” and “if you do these things.” What things is he speaking of?

2 Peter 1:8-9 – For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Yeshua Messiah. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins.

Peter expresses that some specific qualities provide fruitfulness and usefulness in fulfilling our understanding of Messiah. These qualities are based on “cleansing from past sins,” the forgiveness extended to those believers in Messiah. Once one believes in Messiah and is cleansed from past sins, a new set of qualities should be evident in their lives.

2 Peter 1:5-7 – For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

These qualities that are based on past forgiveness include supplements or contributions to the faith which has brought forgiveness. He says these qualities, “these things,” should be evident in the believers’ lives: goodness (or virtue), knowledge (or wisdom/understanding), self-control (self-mastery or restraint), endurance (steadfastness), godliness (devotion/piety toward God), brotherly affection (love for the brethren), and love (affection and benevolence towards all). These are the qualities of the eternal kingdom. All who claim to be believers in Messiah should be exhibiting these lofty qualities.

This should provide us pause for reflection. Are these qualities evident in our lives? If not, why not? Have we truly recognized our forgiveness from past sins, or are we “blind” and “short-sighted” as Peter lays out?

If we are truly desiring God’s kingdom to come and his will to done on earth, then we must repent of those things that hinder the realization and achievement of these Spirit-driven characteristics in our lives. Yeshua’s admonition is to “seek first the kingdom.” The kingdom should be first over all other demands and desires in our lives, which Peter says is possible when we rely on the “divine power,” the Spirit of God, who has “given us everything required for life and godliness.”

2 Peter 1:3 – His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

If we are not evidencing these qualities, then we must renew our knowledge in the glory of God revealed in his Messiah. According to the apostle Paul, Yeshua is the good news, the gospel of the fulfillment of the promises made to the ancestors.

Acts 13:32-33 – “And we ourselves proclaim to you the good news of the promise that was made to our ancestors. “God has fulfilled this for us, their children, by raising up Yeshua, as it is written in the second Psalm: You are my Son; today I have become your Father.

Relying on the Spirit of God provided through the resurrection of Yeshua allows believers to live as godly people in this world, true sons of God, representing him faithfully in his kingdom.

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.

Let us always remember to seek first the kingdom, living as his people through the power he has provided us. According to Peter, if we do so, we will confirm our calling and “never stumble.” Through our faithful actions, the eternal kingdom will be evidenced to those who need to hear its message, paving the way for others to also be drawn to God through faith in his Son.


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! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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