The end of our internal war

The harmonizing of our spirit and our flesh is possible only through faith in Messiah.

The harmonizing of our spirit and our flesh is possible only through faith in Messiah.

  • Matthew 6:7-8 –  “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

If it’s true that God knows what we need before we ask him, then why would it still be necessary to ask him? Why pray at all if God knows our hearts better than we know ourselves? After all, the apostle Paul described how the Spirit of God recognizes the deepest needs of believers’ hearts as our spirits within us provide a type of intercession before we can even form the words in our reasoning.

  • Romans 8:26-27 – In the same way the spirit also helps us in our weakness; for we do not know what prayers to offer nor in what way to offer them. But the same spirit pleads for us in yearnings that can find no words, and the Searcher of hearts knows what the spirit’s meaning is, because it’s intercessions for God’s people are in harmony with God’s will.

Some believe this intercession is the work of God’s Spirit and not our own, however, the context of Paul’s teaching in this passage has already set how God’s Spirit is a secondary witness to our own spirits within us that we are God’s children.

  • Romans 8:15-16 – But you have acquired a deep inward conviction of having been adopted as sons–a conviction which prompts us to cry aloud, “Abba! our Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness, along with our own spirits, to the fact that we are children of God…

This would lead me to conclude that our inner “new” man, being regenerated by the power of God, has the ability to communicate spiritually with the Spirit of God himself in ways that we may not always fully or consciously comprehend. If this is true, then our verbal communication with God in prayer is only part of what is being conveyed, and a whole undercurrent of information is passing between ourselves and God without us fully recognizing what that is. All we know from this passage is that whatever that information is, it is in alignment with the will of God. Therefore, our verbal communication with God should also be in alignment with God’s will to balance our position before him in faith and trust. Perhaps some of our stress in this life comes when we act in contrary ways to God’s will and our spiritual stance becomes unbalanced.

I believe the Bible teaches we are psychosomatic beings: unified spirits and bodies, molded together as one complete unit in God’s image while we live this life. This differs from the generally accepted view that we are merely spirits living within a corrupted physical body which only houses our spirits in a generally disconnected way. Because of the unified status of spirit and body we are encouraged to ensure our fleshly impulses and conscious thinking is directed toward God’s kingdom at all times, because this unity of spirit and body is what allows us to accomplish God’s will in the reality in which we currently live.

Even though our spirits may be aligned with God’s will through regeneration by faith in Messiah, when we don’t reign in our conscious thinking from worldly impulses, our flesh veers into areas it should not go. This is how Paul illustrated the condition of someone who accepts and acts on those impulses of what he calls death, instead of acting on the life of the word of God:

  • Romans 7:22-25 – For in my inmost self all my sympathy is with the law of God; but I discover within me another law in my limbs at war with the law of my intellect, and making me captive to the law of sin existing in my limbs. (Afflicted man that I am! who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Yeshua Messiah our Lord!) Therefore, then, I myself with my intellect am in servitude to the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

From this passage has grown the concept of the dichotomy of spirit and flesh, but what Paul appears to be teaching in context is quite the opposite. Whatever the spirit of man desires according to the law of God may be “at war with the flesh,” but the flesh will follow the spirit that is directed appropriately toward God’s will. This demonstrates a unity, not a further dichotomy.

I have illustrated my thinking for your consideration in the following passage by enclosing the clarifying points in brackets.

  • Romans 8:1-9 – There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Messiah Yeshua. For the law of the spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua made me free from the law of sin and of death [in my flesh]. For the law [of sin] being incapable, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned [the law of] sin in the flesh: that the ordinance of the law [of God] might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For they that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the spirit the things of the spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the spirit is life and peace: because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: and they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in flesh but in spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man has not the spirit of Messiah, he is none of his.

When we consciously act on faith and trust in God’s word, we are, according to Paul, living “according to the things of the spirit” which is in harmony with God’s law, God’s will. Our flesh must comply, because we are a unified whole which Messiah has freed from the war with the law of sin and death in our flesh. Living by faith in this way, we have the ability to accomplish God’s will which is our purpose in this life, and he can be glorified and magnified through our faithful actions.


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

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

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

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.

Peace and reconciliation are the primary indicators of the children of God

Believers are taught and encouraged to operate within a spirit of peace at all times.

Believers are taught and encouraged to operate within a spirit of peace at all times.

When Yeshua taught his disciples about forgiveness, it was with the idea that they were to be reconcilers, those who promote peace instead of further divisiveness. This was to be true not only among themselves, but with all others, even including their enemies.

Matthew 5:44 – “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

The apostle Paul continued this line of thinking in his epistle to the Roman congregation.

Romans 12:16-18 – Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

The apostle James mentions how it is the wisdom of God which promotes peace, and also how righteousness can only become evident in an environment of peace.

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 the fruit of righteousness (that is, doing what is right in God’s eyes) can only be sown in peace, then we see how peace itself, as a fruit of the holy Spirit, is a demonstration of God working within our lives.

  • Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.
  • Romans 8:14 – For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

According to the apostle Paul, anyone who considers themself to be a child of God is led by the Spirit of God. Therefore, if one of the fruits of the Spirit is peace, then peace prompted and flowing from God’s Spirit should be evident within their life. This aligns with the teaching of Yeshua

Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Paul encouraged the Corinthian believers, just like the Roman congregation, to have the same mind about living in peace which would be an outward demonstration of their spiritual maturity or completeness.

2 Corinthians 13:11 – Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, have the same mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Living in peace with others is an identifiable characteristic of Kingdom life. If we are attempting to promote the wisdom of God to others, then, according to the apostle James, at its most basic level that wisdom can only be sown amidst an environment of peace and good will toward others.

Romans 14:19 – So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

If we have a shared faith in Messiah Yeshua, then we can build on that to encourage one another. If we encounter others who do not share a biblical faith, then, as children of God shining as lights in this world of darkness, we are still obligated as much as possible to live at peace with them.

Romans 12:17-18 – Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

This is how we demonstrate the love of God to others, not through condemnation, but through being peace makers. This is how we exemplify to others that we truly are children of God. This is how we overcome adversity and bond together as brothers and sisters in Messiah. This is the way of interacting socially with all that honors God and fulfills his desire for his Kingdom becoming evident on the earth.


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

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

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

The necessary dedication behind discipline

Our walk of faith is one of tireless self-evaluation and training in righteousness.

Our walk of faith is one of tireless self-evaluation and training in righteousness.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore run like that, not aimlessly. I fight like that, not beating the air, but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.”

This admonition of Paul to the Corinthian believers should be a motto placed on the wall of every congregation to this day. Paul would accept absolutely no compromise when it came to matters of obedience or disobedience to Yahweh. He was so intent on keeping his focus on the righteousness of God and he says he would beat his body into submission if his desires outweighed what was right.

The phrase he uses here means to strike under the eye, as if giving someone a black eye. This conjures up imagery of prizefighting, where fighters train their body is so hard so that they may endure the battle in the arena.

If that’s the level of discipline needed to be successful in worldly games with and earthly reward such as a crown or head-wreath of victory, how much more is at stake in our spiritual lives that we should exercise the same vigilance and determination in keeping ourselves pure?

Yeshua put it this way to his disciples:

Matthew 5:29-30: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna. If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off, and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.”

The issue was not the physical chopping off of hands or gouging out of eyes, but having the same level of diligence in making sure our bodies are disciplined according to God’s word. This is the seriousness with which Yeshua commands his followers to be consistent in their walk of righteousness.

Paul carries this idea forward with the concept of putting our flesh to death. There is nothing more final than the concept of death. If the flesh is dead, it can’t continue to rise up in rebellion to the commands of God.

  • Colossians 3:5-6: “Put to death therefore your members which are on the earth: sexual immorality, uncleanness, depraved passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry; for which things’ sake the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience.”
  • 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.”

It’s true, we must die to ourselves in order to live for Messiah. If we are not willing to make that level of commitment in our walk, then perhaps we need to rethink our understanding of just what it is Yeshua taught.

Matthew 10:38-39: “He who doesn’t take his cross and follow after me, isn’t worthy of me. He who seeks his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. “


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

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

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

The 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.

We have an obligation to forgive others

We must extend the love and forgiveness of God that we have received to others.

Core of the Bible podcast #77 – We have an obligation to forgive others

Today we will be looking at the topic of forgiveness, and how a recognition of the depth of our forgiven state should motivate us to forgive others.

Colossians 3:13 – “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Paul is here reminding the Colossian believers of an obligation they have to forgive anyone who offends them.

The faults that Paul mentions here in this verse speak of those who have complaints or blame to assign to another. In my experience, there will always be blame to assign to someone, and there will always be complaints about others. The exhortation that Paul gives for overcoming this blame and complaining attitude of others is that those who are to forgive need only to recognize how much God forgave them.

If we are honest about this kind of thinking, we have been in this same condition before God; grumblers and complainers, assigning blame to others. Like our natural parents Adam and Eve, we have looked for excuses as to why we have not obeyed God, and we have been quick to assign blame to another:

Genesis 3:11-13 – “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Then Yahweh God asked the woman, “What have you done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”

In our natural state prior to coming to faith in Messiah, if you’ll pardon the expression, the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree. And yet, even in our new relationship with God, as we seek to grow the “new man” within us, sometimes those old tendencies rear their head and cause us to stumble.

Now, at this point, many believers may agree with this challenge of being led astray by our old, sinful tendencies and be reminded of Paul’s monologue in Romans seven. This is where he describes the challenges of overcoming the flesh to be obedient to the word of God. It’s a long quote, but worth reviewing in the context of our current discussion:

Romans 7:14-23 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold as a slave to sin. For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. Now if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

This passage has been used by many to justify the condition of sin in their lives, saying, “See, even the apostle Paul struggled with sin so much that he couldn’t always faithfully follow God’s law, even though he wanted to.”

Well, that is certainly how it appears by reading this passage in isolation. However, if we place it back into its context within the overall message of Romans, we may see that it is teaching something completely different. In a moment, we’ll take a look at what this passage looks like within the wider context of Paul’s letter to the Romans.


When we step back and take a wider view of Paul’s line of reasoning starting back in the beginning of chapter six of Romans, we can get a better perspective of where this line of reasoning goes, and how he illustrates various points along the way.

In the opening verses of chapter six, Paul writes, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

With this plain statement, we can already see how Paul is of the opinion that believers should not be continuing to struggle with sinful lifestyles. This is the opening salvo in the argument which follows, in which Paul attempts to show how believers are no longer subject to the sin they have become so used to.

In one of his first illustrations, he describes how the believer has in essence died with Messiah, and therefore should be living a new life.

Romans 6:11-12 – “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.”

He then uses the example of slavery, and declares how believers have been set free from the slavery of sin.

Romans 6:22 – “But now, since you have been set free from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification ​– ​and the outcome is eternal life!”

In the beginning of chapter seven, he then uses an illustration from marriage, saying how death of one partner releases them from the bonds of marriage, and the survivor is free to marry another without committing adultery.

Romans 7:2 – “For example, a married woman is legally bound to her husband while he lives. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law regarding the husband.”

This is an illustration of moving from the letter of the law in Moses to the spirit of the law in Messiah.

He then even goes so far as to demonstrate how the very law of God itself, that which was intended for life, can produce death because of the sinful tendencies of the unregenerate human heart. That long passage in chapter seven which we have already reviewed is the continuation of that thought. It’s as if he is expressing the thoughts, not of a believer, but of an unregenerate Jew who is still attempting to hold to the law of God by their own merit, through their flesh.

But the culmination of all of these examples and illustrations comes in the triumphant exclamation of verses 24-25 of chapter seven: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Messiah Yeshua our Lord!”

He comes to the conclusion that God, through belief in Messiah, has the ability to overcome all of these challenges. He raises believers to life, sets them free from sin and marries them to a new husband!

Then, it’s as if Paul, taking one final look over his shoulder at all of the illustrations he has just made, re-states the problem of the one who is not born from above:

Romans 7:25 – “So then, with my mind I myself am serving the law of God, but the flesh, the law of sin.”

As the narrative then moves into the next chapter, his line of reasoning then ascends to the beautiful reality of the regenerate believer, one who has become born again through a vibrant faith in the Messiah:

Romans 8:1-5 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Messiah Yeshua, because the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua has set you free from the law of sin and death. What the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit.”

The answer to the problem of sin and the flesh, Paul says, is to live by the empowering of God’s Spirit. This should be the reality for the believer, not the see-saw of frustrated obedience in Romans chapter seven; no, that is the result of trying to serve God in the flesh and not through his indwelling Spirit.

This teaching on living by the Spirit actually dovetails perfectly with our current discussion regarding forgiveness of others, because when we are attempting to serve God in the flesh, we open ourselves to all of the negative connotations of worldly religion. Among other things, we can fall prey to a measure of hypocrisy, something hated by all and cautioned against by Messiah.

Matthew 6:14-15 – “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

When we refuse to forgive, it’s the flesh that is rising up because it has been offended by something that it does not approve of. That is the natural reaction of the natural person, the one who has not been regenerated by the Spirit of God. But it is hypocritical of us to be subject to the flesh and to remain unforgiving of others. Why? Because the admonition of Paul in Colossians 3:13 says because “the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” A literal rendering of this instruction would be “in the same manner or to the same degree that God has forgiven you, you should do in like fashion to others.”

When we tie this admonition to the realization of the believer’s new and empowering life in the Spirit, we can see how this instruction can be observed and followed in our lives today. Our flesh may recoil at the idea of forgiving someone who may not seem to deserve it, but the Spirit living inside us can empower us to provide that forgiveness anyway. This is not only a suggestion but an urgent command: “you must forgive others.”

This is how believers can be witnesses to those around them that they have been regenerated by the Spirit of God. This is how the kingdom of God continues to grow: through our faithful obedience to the commands of God, and through extending the love and forgiveness of God that we have received to others.

We have to remember that we have been disobedient before God in any number of ways that only we know within ourselves, yet somehow God was willing to overlook these rebellious faults and still call us to himself. If his same Spirit resides in us, then is it not reasonable that he wants to extend that same forgiveness through us?

With what measure and how much has God forgiven you? When we realize the depth of that forgiveness, it should reveal our ability, and our obligation, to forgive others in a new light.


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.

No compromise with the sinful practices of worldly culture

The type of vigilance required for maintaining righteousness is extreme and rarely practiced.

Core of the Bible podcast #74 – No compromise with the sinful practices of worldly culture

Today we will be looking at the topic of vigilance, and how the vigilance for righteousness that God expects of us is real, challenging, and unwavering.

Our story for today is taken from the narrative of Israel’s wanderings in the desert, related in Numbers 25.

Numbers 25:6-8 – One of the Israelite men brought a Midianite woman to his brothers. He did this right in front of Moses and the whole community of Israel while they were crying at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Phinehas, son of Eleazar and grandson of the priest Aaron, saw this. So he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand, and went into the tent after the Israelite man.

The type of vigilance required for maintaining righteousness is extreme and rarely practiced. Yeshua spoke of it in hyperbolic terminology, that even if your eye or hand causes you to sin, you should be prepared to gouge it out or chop it off.

In the example of Phinehas, a priest in Aaron’s line at the time of Israel’s wandering in the desert, he demonstrated this commitment to righteousness in an extreme way that he is famously remembered for to this day. The men of Israel had become complacent in their commitment to Yahweh. They began to succumb to the idolatry of the local Midianite population as they were being seduced by the women of Moab.

Numbers 25:1-3 – “While Israel was staying at Shittim, the men began to have sex with Moabite women who invited the people to the sacrifices offered to their gods. The people ate the meat from the sacrifices and worshiped these gods. Since the Israelites joined in worshiping the god Baal of Peor, Yahweh became angry with Israel.”

Due to this rampant idolatry, God sent a plague among the general population that was killing thousands of people. He revealed to Moses and the leaders what must be done to put things right.

Numbers 25:4-5 – “Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Take all the leaders of the people, and execute them in broad daylight in Yahweh’s presence. This will turn Yahweh’s anger away from Israel.’ So Moses said to the judges of Israel, ‘Each of you must kill the men who have joined in worshiping the god Baal of Peor.'”

This directive seems so contrary to our modern sensibilities; surely there must have been some alternative, some form of rehabilitation that could be enacted to reform those who had fallen into idolatry and sexual promiscuity. But there were no compromises, no discussions, no negotiations; those who had sinned in idolatry had to be removed from the population of Israel. Yahweh had been extremely clear with this directive when the Israelites came out of Egypt:

Exodus 23:24-25 – You must not worship the gods of these nations or serve them in any way or imitate their evil practices. Instead, you must utterly destroy them and smash their sacred pillars. You must serve only Yahweh your God…”

Now, before they had even reached the land promised to them by God, the offenders within Israel had become so brazen in their sinfulness that they had continued to proceed in their practices, even as Moses and the assembly leaders were seeking God’s direction and favor. Upon seeing this, Phinehas instantly jumped into action in obedience to God’s command. He didn’t hesitate or wait for a committee to decide on the right timing; he simply got up, grabbed a spear, and followed the offenders into their tent.

Numbers 25:7-8 – So he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand, and went into the tent after the Israelite man. He drove the spear through the man and into the woman’s body. Because of this, the plague that the Israelites were experiencing stopped.

Phinehas is remembered because he unhesitatingly did a difficult thing that God required, and in so doing, saved the rest of the assembly. In his vigilance for righteousness, he saw the iniquity and took immediate action.

This story is a metaphor for us today. The example is extreme because God wants to make sure we understand how serious it is for us to remain in blatant disobedience to his purposes. In our modern permissiveness, we excuse all types of aberrant behavior as being acceptable based on the fact that the biblical culture was distant and removed from our current relativistic and inclusive morality today. However, while the culture may indeed be distant, the moral underpinnings that anchored the ancient Israelites should be the exact same foundation we build upon today.

I hasten to add that I am not advocating here that we should kill everyone who practices a different, idolatrous religion from us. But it is to say that we should be aware of the corruptive power of tolerating sin among the ranks of believing congregations. We may feel that reform is possible if destructive individuals remain connected to the life of the local believing community, however, when we do so we are simply enabling sinful behavior among our own ranks. This is contrary to the purpose of God and needs to be dealt with in a similar swift and decisive fashion as Phinehas did with the Midianite culture. Perhaps removal from the community is the impetus required to jar an individual back to their spiritual senses, where they can repent and return to the purpose of God within the larger spiritual community of believers. This was blatantly exemplified as one workable solution within the life of the Corinthian congregation who had faithfully followed the apostle Paul’s advice after he had called them out on their toleration of sin within their midst.

1 Corinthians 5:1 – “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and the kind of sexual immorality that is not even tolerated among the Gentiles ​– ​a man is sleeping with his father’s wife.”

After a period of time, Paul writes back to the congregation after they had removed this individual from their fellowship.

2 Corinthians 2:6-8 – “This punishment by the majority is sufficient for that person. As a result, you should instead forgive and comfort him. Otherwise, he may be overwhelmed by excessive grief. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.”

This example should be a bellwether, a leading indicator, for all believing congregations. When we shy away from our duty to not compromise with the surrounding culture, it can affect us in ways that will continue to erode spiritual stability throughout the believing community.

In a moment, we will return to evaluate Yeshua’s understanding of the principle of removing sin from among God’s people, along with further ideas for personal purity conveyed by the apostles and some of the classic commentators of recent generations.


In like fashion to the men of Israel, we can be easily seduced by the surrounding idolatry of our day and age. The culture and technology we are immersed in provide ample opportunities for us to be led away, seduced as by Midianite women, from our commitment to the one true God. It is only when those disobedient thoughts and actions are decisively put to death that we can be restored to wholeness with God. As mentioned previously, Yeshua used the example of gouging out eyes and chopping off hands.

Matthew 5:29-30 – “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 hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Charles Ellicott comments on this hyperbolic or exaggerated language of Yeshua in this way:

“The bold severity of the phrase excludes a literal interpretation. The seat of the evil lies in the will, not in the organ of sense or action, and the removal of the instrument might leave the inward taint unpurified. What is meant is, that any sense [or instrument], when it ministers to sin is an evil and not a good, the loss of which would be the truest gain. Translated into modern language, we are warned that taste, culture, aesthetic refinement may but make our guilt and our punishment more tremendous. It were better to be without them than “for life’s sake to lose life’s noblest ends.”

The apostle Paul wrote about it this way:

Romans 8:12-13 – Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.

Commenting on this putting to death the deeds of the sinful nature, the Jamieson-Faussett-Brown review of this passage focuses on the following:

“The apostle is not satisfied with assuring them that they are under no obligations to the flesh, to hearken to its suggestions, without reminding them where it will end if they do; and he uses the word “mortify” (put to death) as a kind of play upon the word “die” just before. “If ye do not kill sin, it will kill you.” But he tempers this by the bright alternative, that if they do, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body, such a course will infallibly terminate in “life” everlasting.”

Continuing this same theme to the Colossian congregation, Paul wrote:

Colossians 3:5 – “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.”

On this, Matthew Henry writes:

“It is our duty to mortify our members which incline to the things of the world. Mortify them, kill them, suppress them, as weeds or vermin which spread and destroy all about them. Continual opposition must be made to all corrupt workings, and no provision made for carnal indulgences. Occasions of sin must be avoided: the lusts of the flesh, and the love of the world; and covetousness, which is idolatry; love of present good, and of outward enjoyments. It is necessary to mortify sins, because if we do not kill them, they will kill us. The gospel changes the higher as well as the lower powers of the soul, and supports the rule of right reason and conscience, over appetite and passion. There is now no difference from country, or conditions and circumstances of life. It is the duty of every one to be holy, because Christ is a Christian’s All, his only Lord and Saviour, and all his hope and happiness.”

I find it interesting that Matthew Henry says, “there is now no difference from country, or conditions and circumstances of life.” In one sense this is true, at least in regard to the universality of the biblical spiritual scope. However, there are many different countries and cultures affecting the conditions and circumstances of life. Believers in many walks of life throughout the world face many differing challenges that can affect their spiritual life and practice. How are we to overcome these varieties of challenges to the purity of the kingdom message?

The good news is that the same Spirit which empowered Yeshua and the early disciples still lives within the regenerated lives of believers today. As Paul wrote in Romans 8, “if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” It is the power of the Spirit of God that provides the ability to overcome sinful practices of whatever culture among which we find ourselves.

Yeshua instructed his disciples that they would have power from God to be witnesses throughout the known world at that time:

Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers to be strengthened in the Spirit of God:

Ephesians 3:14, 16-17 – “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, … that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith…”

He also encouraged Timothy to rely on the indwelling Spirit for power, self-control, and guarding of godly gifts.

2 Timothy 1:7, 13-14 – “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. … Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Messiah Yeshua. By the holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

This is the great plan of God in dispersing believers throughout the world and causing them to live lives of righteousness where they are, to be the light and salt to those who need it most.

Philippians 2:15 – …”that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…”

The same vigilance and determination of Phinehas for the righteousness of his people needs to be evidenced in us today for our own standing in God’s presence. The only way we can be truly set apart for God’s purposes is by brutally putting to death, gouging out, chopping off, and stabbing a spear through the heart of those things in our lives that offend God.

This is the determination needed to remain on God’s path. This is the vigilance it takes to be a child of God. Collectively, we need to mimic the no-compromise mentality of a Phinehas, not waiting, but taking immediate and decisive action on the habits and practices in our lives that are offensive to a holy 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 realization of trust in the brevity of this life

Having a realistic trust in God can help our long-term human anxiety.

Psalm 39:4-7, 12 – “Yahweh, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight. Surely every man stands as a mere breath! Surely man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing are they in turmoil; man heaps up, and knows not who will gather! And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. … Hear my prayer, O Yahweh, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am your passing guest, a sojourner, like all my fathers.”

Whether we care to admit it or not, all of life is about expectations. We expect that we will live through the day, that life will go on as usual tomorrow, and that we will reach a ripe old age. However, those expectations have a way of being unmet from time to time. Sometimes, people go about their day with the typical expectation, only to meet with a tragic accident of some sort. And while the sun continues to come up each day, the environment in which we live may change drastically in an instant, like an earthquake, tsunami, volcano, or violent storm. We don’t always reach that ripe old age that we expect to live to.

In fact, if one pauses at any length to consider these types of things, it’s a wonder that more people don’t place their trust in God. Even the godly man represented in the psalm above recognizes that life is fleeting, his days are as “handbreadths,” and that life is just as brief as a “breath” or as incorporeal as a “shadow.” The godly person, even in the consideration of these realities, still recognizes that God is worthy of trust, perhaps even more so. Because so much of this existence is beyond our control, it really becomes a rational proposition to consider the reality and provision of God throughout our lives.

After jotting down some of my own ideas, I briefly reviewed a group of online articles providing a whole list of things we have no control over in this life:

  • where or when we are born
  • who our parents are
  • financial status of family we are born into
  • our looks, height, skin color
  • the weather (or natural events)
  • the passing of time (inclusive of the future or the past)
  • other people’s opinions
  • some diseases
  • when/how other people die
  • when/how we die

One list even humorously included cats as something we cannot control. As a cat owner, I can attest to this.

Yet in spite of all of these things beyond our control, we still go through life believing we are the masters of our own destiny, that we can do whatever we want whenever we want to do it. That’s not always possible, as some of the items above will attest to. And when we encounter those types of things we may not be able to do when we have the attitude that we should be able to, it can create bitterness, personal strife, and envy.

Yet, if we choose instead to trust God for the things we have no control over, we can learn to adopt the attitude of the psalmist: to consider ourselves as “passing guests” in God’s creation, “sojourners” like all of the previous generations who have gone on before us. Understanding that God is ultimately in control allows us to trust him for the things that we realize are beyond our control, and for him to provide what we need at the right time he sees fit.

Romans 8:28 – We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

This doesn’t mean that everything that happens to us as believers is good, but that in the grand scheme of this brief life, as long as we continue to trust him, God has our best interest at heart no matter what comes our way. Sometimes he even creates unforeseen opportunities or provides us unprecedented skills to meet whatever immediate need may arise. Realizing these aspects of God’s involvement in his creation should free us up from unnecessary worry over things we have no control over to be more productive in what we can accomplish for the kingdom of God when we trust fully in 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! 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.

Intentionally bound to holiness from the heart

Everyone serves a master, whether sin or righteousness.

Core of the Bible podcast #47 – Intentionally bound to holiness from the heart

Today we will be exploring the topic of holiness, and how achieving and maintaining holiness, or being set apart, is an intentional and voluntary result of doing what is right from the heart.

The apostle Paul spoke about it in this way:

Romans 6:16-19 – Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching to which you have been entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing lawlessness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.

There is so much in this passage I would like to take some time to isolate a few different aspects for closer inspection.

First we see how Paul uses the imagery of slavery: he says they were slaves to sin, but now have been set free from sin, only to now be slaves of righteousness.

This idea of slavery may seem harsh to our modern sensitivities, but Paul says he is using an example from “everyday life.” Slaves were common in Paul’s day and in the Roman realm. When we think of slaves today, we typically think of the unwilling souls who were kidnapped and sold against their will into a life of hard labor and physical abuse. While that was certainly a reality in Paul’s day, there was also another type of slavery that was much less severe, yet just as binding on the individual: indentured servitude. In this type of slavery, it was not uncommon for someone to intentionally and voluntarily bind or sell themselves to an estate as a way of working off debt. While they were in servitude, the master provided for their needs while they worked off their debt. Once the debt was paid or their obligation honored, they could go free. Many times, at least among the Jews, they were treated well and sometimes desired to stay on with the family because they had become attached to that familial group.

To give you an idea of this type of servitude, here is just a brief excerpt from the Law regarding slaves:

Exodus 21:2-6 – When you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for six years; then in the seventh he is to leave as a free man without paying anything. “If he arrives alone, he is to leave alone; if he arrives with a wife, his wife is to leave with him. “If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children belong to her master, and the man must leave alone. “But if the slave declares, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I do not want to leave as a free man,’ “his master is to bring him to the judges and then bring him to the door or doorpost. His master will pierce his ear with an awl, and he will serve his master for life.

So we can see that this type of slavery, sometimes listed as a bond-servant, was a formal contract that bound the individual to the master or the estate until the obligation was fulfilled, and sometimes the servant would want to stay with the family permanently.

In the biblical sense, a slave is someone who does not have any ownership rights of their own for the time they are in bondage; they belong to another. Paul takes this common understanding and then applies it to believers in the context of obedience. Everyone serves a master, he says, whether sin or righteousness. As believers in Messiah they were encouraged to follow righteousness that would ultimately set them apart, or make them holy.


Secondly, notice the type of terms that Paul repeatedly emphasizes in this passage besides the concept of slavery. His overall premise is that sin leads to death, but obedience leads to righteousness, and then righteousness leads to holiness. So the contrast he is drawing is between sin and obedience.

If sin is the opposite of obedience, then it can be said that sin is simply disobedience. But disobedience to what?

In relation to obedience, he says the obedience is based in “the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted.” This is an interesting word here that is used for a specific type of teaching. Paul calls it a pattern of teaching, but the underlying language expands on that meaning. The word typon can mean an example, pattern, or model. But it also includes the idea of an imprint, as in a die that is stamped into something, revealing as consistent a pattern as the original.

Obedience to this “stamp of teaching,” he says, is considered righteousness, which then leads to holiness. Therefore disobedience to the pattern of teaching is sin, which leads to impurity and ever-increasing lawlessness.

What is this pattern or “stamp”of teaching?

In one sense, we learn from the apostle John that sin is disobedience to the law:

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

Lawlessness is anything that is against the law. In relation to the type of law that is used throughout the writings of Paul and the apostles, the law, nomos, is typically associated with the law of Moses, summarized in the Ten Commandments.

Paul says to the Roman believers, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching to which you have been entrusted.” The pattern of teaching that the Jews had been entrusted to was the Law of Moses. When it is obeyed from the heart, that is an indication of the New Covenant:

Jeremiah 31:33 – “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days” ​– ​the Yahweh’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Notice the prophet says God’s teaching would be “within them, on their hearts.” The teaching he is speaking of here is the torah, the law of God. I believe this is the same teaching that Paul is speaking of in Romans 6. But he doesn’t simply call it the law, because the law is a static thing that is written in stone and has no power to make anyone comply with its demands. However, using the New Covenant imagery, when the law is upon the heart, it has the ability to transform actions from the inside out. Obedience is therefore voluntary and desired. This leads to righteous actions and ultimately to holiness.

2 Corinthians 3:6-9 – He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, chiseled in letters on stones [could this be an allusion to the “imprint” or the “stamp” language Paul used earlier], came with glory, so that the Israelites were not able to gaze steadily at Moses’s face because of its glory which was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry that brought condemnation had glory, the ministry that brings righteousness overflows with even more glory.

Paul writing to the congregation in Corinth expands on this idea a little further by saying the letter of the law kills, because it is an unflinching and permanent standard that cannot be abrogated. However, when the Spirit applies the law to the heart (through the teaching of the anointed Yeshua), the law chiseled in stone can no longer condemn because the actions that would bring death have been changed into actions of righteousness! Therefore the “ministry of the Spirit” is more glorious than the stone law because the ministry or law of the Spirit actually produces the desired result in those who are obedient to it!

This is why Paul can confirm the same thing with the Roman believers when he writes:

Romans 8:13-15 – But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father! “

Beyond the spirit of slavery he mentioned in chapter six, Paul says to the believers that they don’t only have to be a slave for life in the house of God, they have become adopted into his family!


In one primary respect, the life of a believer is simply an honest recognition that the life they are living is not their own. Paul uses this type of illustration with the Corinthian congregation.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 –  Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.

The life they were living should have been voluntarily offered back to the One who provided it to them in the first place. This is so simplistic, it is almost inconceivable that it has been lost among the masses of believers today. Unfortunately, we are so used to viewing our lives as belonging to ourselves that we easily fall back into old practices of doing whatever we want with them. We many times unwittingly go back to serving impurity and lawlessness simply out of habit.

However, a believer, once freed from sinfulness, must by default accept another intentional yoke upon themselves. But this is a yoke that is bearable and easy.

Matthew 11:29-30 – “Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This yoke is easy is because it is a life being lived as the Designer has created it to be: a life separated to Him according to his law obeyed from the heart. This is a life of holiness.

Holiness is not some sort of mystical state of existence, but a continual practice of doing what is right, or righteous actions. We can only know what is right or wrong in God’s eyes because of the revelation of his law.

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.

So this is why God is holy, not just because he is magnificent and removed far above all he has created, but because he always, always does what is right. He can never be convicted of wrongdoing or injustice.

Isaiah 5:16 – But the Yahweh of Armies is exalted by his justice, and the holy God shows that he is holy through his righteousness.

Romans 9:14 – What should we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not!

As believers we recognize that all life flows from God and we are simply yielding ourselves to live righteously within the parameters of the life that he has given us.

Genesis 2:7 – Then the Yahweh God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.

Job 33:4 – The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Paul cautions the Corinthian believers to purposely maintain their righteous lifestyle through the fear of God which leads to holiness.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18, 7:1 – Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What agreement does Messiah have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: I will dwell and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Yahweh; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says the Yahweh Almighty. So then, dear friends, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

A life that is set apart in holiness is separated because it is constantly being renewed in the image of the One who made it.

1 Thessalonians 4:7 – For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness.

Our mindfulness in remaining intentionally and purposefully bound to this life of righteousness, that is, doing what is right from the heart, is what causes us to become holy and set apart for use by 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! 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.

Vigilance on the road to New Eden

The way consists of focusing on God and dying to self.

The vigilance required to live the life that God requires involves two distinct yet complementary aspects: a constant focus on God and a committed attitude of dying to self.

Focus on God:
Romans 8:5 – For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit.

Dying to self:
Romans 8:12-14 – So then, brothers, 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.

Focus on God:
Colossians 3:1-2 – So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Dying to self:
Colossians 3:5-10 – Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.

The apostle Paul conveys some of his most profound teaching in the passages presented here. The crux of the believer’s life is rooted in these deep truths. The summation of the argument in both cases is the ongoing blending of these twin acts of keeping one’s eyes on God and dying to self.

  • “For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons,” (Romans 8:14).
  • “…you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator,” (Colossians 3:10).

Focusing on God and dying to self is defined here as being “led by God’s Spirit,” and by “putting off the old self; putting on the new self.” By faithfully doing these things, Paul says we engage a process of renewal, a type of ongoing resurrection from dead practices to knowledge of what is right. As this process continues we become what God has originally created us to be, “in his image.”

Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.
Genesis 9:6 – … for God made humans in his image.

All of humanity’s striving is to get back to Eden, to return to the original concept and design that God has for all people. Yet Messiah has begun a new type of creation, one that is better because in it we can be victorious over all trial and temptation. This the the grand goal of all Scripture, to point us in that direction and to empower us through his Spirit living within us. Only dying to self allows for this level of renewal. Only a clear focus on God and his Word provides for dying to self. And the two aspects of this life of dying to self and being led by God’s Spirit are brought to fruition through Messiah Yeshua.

Romans 8:1-2 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Messiah Yeshua, because the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Colossians 3:1 – So if you have been raised with Messiah, seek the things above, where Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God.

In Messiah, God had begun this new and renewed humanity. As Adam was the first physical being, Yeshua became the first spiritually renewed being.

1 Corinthians 15:45-49 – So it is written, The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is of heaven. Like the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; like the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.

As we focus on Messiah and his steadfast obedience to God, we are renewed in his likeness to ultimately bear the image of God.

Galatians 5:16, 24-25 – I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. … Now those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.


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 at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ 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: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

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