Isaiah’s outline of the steps to forgiveness

The Word of God comes to life through our obedient thoughts and ways.

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of forgiveness, and how we have the ability, through faith in Messiah, to gain the privilege of being reconciled with our Maker when we recognize that our lives are not in alignment with his purposes. To accomplish this, we must repent of those things that are outside of his will for us.

Isaiah 55:7 – Let wicked people abandon their ways. Let evil people abandon their thoughts. Let them return to Yahweh, and he will show compassion to them. Let them return to our God, because he will freely forgive them.

Throughout the Bible, forgiveness from God for wayward actions has always been graciously available for those who seek it.

2 Chronicles 7:14 – if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Notice this forgiveness is conditional on his people’s conviction to humble themselves, seek God, and turn from their wicked ways. The Bible also has examples of those whom God would not forgive, not because he is arbitrary, but because the individual or group of people demonstrates non-repentance.

Deuteronomy 29:18-20 – Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from Yahweh our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.‘ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. Yahweh will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of Yahweh and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and Yahweh will blot out his name from under heaven.

Joshua 24:19-20 – But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve Yahweh, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake Yahweh and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.”

These examples show that forgiveness is possible only after a recognition of having done something against God’s revealed instruction. However, many people today don’t seek God’s forgiveness because they are not aware of having violated any of God’s commands. So perhaps in our discussion of forgiveness, we need to start there. One can’t ask for forgiveness if one is not aware of how some revealed instruction of God has been violated.

The revelation of God’s instruction to an assembled group of people has happened in two primary and distinctive portions of the Bible: the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, and the Sermon on the Mount. One was transmitted directly to the people from God himself, the other was related to an assembled group of followers through God’s Anointed One, Yeshua. One provides the basis for all godly and human interaction in concrete commands, the other provides the basis for the spiritual emphasis of God’s concrete commands. Taken together, these two great passages form the core of the Bible message, and God’s expectations of human interaction with himself and others.

If a person seeking God recognizes that their life is outside the bounds of these very basic parameters that God has provided to all people, then they may feel the need to change the pattern of their life in those areas. When this occurs, they sense a real and urgent need to be forgiven. Whether it’s from wrongs they have committed with other individuals or whether it’s for seemingly irreconcilable errors committed in life, humans will typically reach a point within their lives where forgiveness becomes a real need. It may not be something obvious to others or sometimes even themselves, but the need exists and persists until a crisis point is reached. Once that happens, something must be done to meet this need.

In the passage today, Isaiah outlines three things necessary to accomplish this with God when confronted with the basic expectations God has for people in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount: abandoning wicked ways; abandoning wicked thoughts, and returning to Yahweh.

Isaiah 55:7 – Let wicked people abandon their ways. Let evil people abandon their thoughts. Let them return to Yahweh, and he will show compassion to them. Let them return to our God, because he will freely forgive them.

First, Isaiah says that the people must abandon their rebellious ways. This individual is named with the adjective “wicked.” The Hebrew word implies the idea of someone who is guilty of doing wrong, or worthy of condemnation because of moral depravity. This is typically used throughout the Bible for an individual with bitter and hostile intent toward God or others, or just a bad person.

The problem that arises in our modern context is that most people, even bad people, do not consider themselves as bad people. They justify themselves in their actions based on their own rationale stemming from comparing themselves with those around them who may do even worse things, thinking themselves better and therefore not guilty of wrongdoing.

However, God’s standards are uncompromising. As mentioned previously, even at the most basic level, the Ten Commandments exhibit a baseline standard for people to evaluate themselves in any culture and in any time in history. The universality of the commandments stand as a testimony against every individual as a performance standard that God expects of people who would consider themselves as his own people. That was the purpose of delivering them to the assembled congregation at Sinai, as God was laying out the constitution or charter of his Kingdom to be evidenced among his people for all time. The commandments lay out the appropriate actions toward God and toward others, and all other instruction from God’s Word stems from this blueprint.

Yeshua taught this as well.

Matthew 22:37-40 – And he said to him, “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

These two commandments are the summary of two tablets of the Ten Commandments: the first half of the instruction relates how to love God, and the second half relates how to love others. When people compare themselves to these standards and not to the corrupt culture around them, they can reach no other conclusion except that they are guilty of morally wrong actions, and therefore by the Bible definition, bad or wicked.

Yeshua expanded on the spiritual motivations behind the Ten Commandments with his Sermon on the Mount. This teaching appears in both the gospels of Matthew and Luke in slightly different settings, highlighting the likelihood this was a basic teaching of Yeshua’s which he shared wherever he went.

Back to Isaiah’s instruction for the wicked to abandon their ways, the word for abandon implies leaving, forsaking, loosing and letting go. The way of a person is their manner, habit, course of life and intentions. When a person’s plans and purposes are against the plans and purposes of Yahweh, then God is not able to accomplish his purpose through that individual. The cycles and patterns of personal behavior have to be changed with a commitment to move beyond them.

Yeshua relates a similar purpose when he states, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” (Matthew 6:33). When the individual can lay down their purpose at the feet of God and the purposes of his kingdom, then God has the ability to direct and provide what is needed for an obedient life. When this conclusion is reached, it is a huge step towards the fulfillment of completing the other steps Isaiah lays out in our subject verse.

The next step Isaiah mentions is that of not just abandoning wicked ways, but of abandoning evil thoughts. This is not an injunction to mindless obedience, but a directive to change the habits of thinking that can keep individuals trapped in the loop of non-productive or harmful behaviors. Nothing changes in the actions until thought patterns are revised.

The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are not just about actions, but about intentions. By putting God first, not worshiping images, respecting his Name and set apart time, we demonstrate to him how much we love him in our thinking. When we desire to abide by the rest of the commandments in our thinking, we tend to act out those thoughts through honoring others created in his image. These intentions and thoughts then keep us focused on him and his Kingdom, and not our own ways.

The methods of seeking God’s Kingdom first are laid out in the Sermon on the Mount, as I have covered in detail throughout the various teachings presented on this site. These methods and intentions involve integrity, vigilance, holiness, trust, forgiveness and compassion. When people truly evaluate their actions in view of the standards God has provided to us in these teachings of Moses and Yeshua, and not the standards of society, then there is a more complete picture of their standing before God.

The third aspect is what Isaiah describes as returning to God. While this admonition was originally spoken to those in Israel who were familiar with God but had rejected him, the same encouragement exists for us who have been confronted with God’s standards and are seeking for a measure of spiritual peace that comes from reconciling with the Creator of all things. Isaiah confirms this in the context of this passage when he writes:

Isaiah 55:3-5 – Open your ears, and come to me! Listen so that you may live! I will make an everlasting promise to you – the blessings I promised to David. I made him a witness to people, a leader and a commander for people. You will summon a nation that you don’t know, and a nation that doesn’t know you will run to you because of Yahweh your God, because of the Holy One of Israel. He has honored you.

Isaiah alludes to the fact that foreign nations would be drawn to the God of Israel because of the example of God’s faithfulness with David, and with his people. What was future to Isaiah is the present age we are living in. Because of the faithfulness of David’s “son,” Yeshua the Messiah, we have the ability, through faith in him, to gain the privilege of being reconciled with our Maker when we realize that our lives are not in alignment with his purposes.

  • John 1:12-13 – …he gave the right to become God’s children to everyone who believed in him. These people didn’t become God’s children in a physical way-from a human impulse or from a husband’s desire to have a child. They were born from God.
  • Isaiah 55:6 – Seek Yahweh while he may be found. Call on him while he is near.

He is near even today and able to accept and forgive all who come to him with sincere motives and a willingness to abandon their past wicked ways and past disobedient ways of thinking. That need for forgiveness can be met today.

Romans 8:5-7, 13-14 – For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. … For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

For all those who recognize they have transgressed the commands and intentions God has provided in his Word, forgiveness is always available, along with strength through his holy Spirit which can enlighten and guide in the correct ways. Repentance of wicked ways and thoughts paves the way for God to expand his influence in the life of not only those who have not yet experienced spiritual regeneration, but in the life of the believer, as well. The Word of God comes to life through our obedient thoughts and ways, and God is glorified when we lay down anything that offends or transgresses his instruction for us. This is how the Kingdom of God continues to expand and grow, and we become privileged to become his co-laborers in the fulfillment of these things.


If you enjoy these 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.

Experiencing peace through trusting God and his will for his Kingdom

We exhibit the ultimate trust in God when we pray for God’s will to be done in our lives according to the needs of his Kingdom.

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of trust, and how we exhibit the ultimate trust in God when we sincerely pray for his will to be done in our lives according to the needs of his Kingdom. This alone provides a peace that passes understanding. In our study today, we will be reviewing how the teachings of both Yeshua and Paul can provide detailed actions that can help us to pattern our lives after the faithful lives of the early believers.

Let’s begin with understanding how Yeshua taught about priorities in the believer’s life. In the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua taught two ways that anxiety in life, caused by focusing on worldly needs, can be overcome.

The first way is to recognize spiritual priorities.

Matthew 6:31-33 – “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the nations seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Here we see that Yeshua is explaining how anxiety is the result of over-focus on self and selfish needs. By contrast, when becoming engaged with the things of God, personal problems and concerns tend to fade into the background. A commitment to the Kingdom of God helps to keep the correct perspective that allows balance in daily living. Recognizing that the needs of the Kingdom outweigh self-directed problems helps believers to remain productive and fruitful in walking with God. Looked at from the opposite perspective, when believers focus on their own problems to the exclusion of all other things, they are likely being unproductive and unfruitful in their spiritual walk. In this condition, they have allowed themselves to become self-absorbed and overly consumed with personal worry. 

It’s been said that the smallest of pebbles when held at arm’s length is of no consequence, but when brought to within inches of the eye can block all of our vision. If we view our personal problems as that pebble, then it is in our best interest to keep them at arm’s length by focusing on the Kingdom first, rather than keeping our problems close to the eye to the exclusion of everything else around us. The perspective Yeshua provides us can free us from self-absorption with our own issues.

The second way Yeshua teaches about overcoming anxiety, in addition to his teaching for us to stay focused on the Kingdom, is to focus on one day at a time. Each day has its own challenges, so just take the challenges you face one day at a time. 

Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

By maintaining a focus on the Kingdom, and taking one day at a time, Yeshua provides a practical two-step plan for overcoming anxieties that the rest of the world may be experiencing.

Further, Yeshua provides a demonstration of the outworking of this teaching from his experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. In his prayer to God regarding the trial and crucifixion he was about to undergo, he simply prays, “Not my will, but yours be done.” This is the prayer that demonstrates ultimate trust in God. When believers can fully consign themselves to God’s will, then their personal needs or situations become of little or no consequence. This is the outworking of his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about seeking first the Kingdom of God. Here, Yeshua is putting the needs of God’s Kingdom above his own.

People always say they want to know what God’s will is for their lives. Well, God’s will and the activities surrounding his Kingdom are one and the same. His will is that his Kingdom becomes visible through the faithful actions of his people living out his standards in their lives. When believers start praying in this way for God’s will to be done, they must remain open to seeking and recognizing what the needs are of his Kingdom in any given situation. This comes through consistently being in his word, receptive to his Torah, or instruction, in all things.

This is a solemn teaching for the mature believer. This is no surface admonition, but a commitment that can only come from the deepest recesses of spiritual insight and understanding. This teaching separates God’s true children from those who are only loosely affiliated with him. Only a true child of God can put aside all personal connections to remain devoted primarily to God and to his Messiah as Lord. Yeshua stated it this way:

Matthew 10:37-39 – Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 16:24-25 – Then Yeshua told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Mark 10:29-30 – Yeshua said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

This is what is required to walk in the way of God, and to follow the Messiah. This is putting God’s Kingdom first. In this state, there is no opportunity for selfish worry or anxiety. Worry is selfish; seeking the Kingdom and following Messiah is selfless.

In a moment, we will examine a famous teaching of the apostle Paul, and how he expands on this theme of selflessness with specific actions that he encouraged believers to follow in order to remain steadfast and experience the peace that comes from trusting in God.

Philippians 4:6-7 – Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Messiah Yeshua.

Before we dive in to an application of these words for believers today, we must always remember to keep the words we read in the original context as much as possible for us to receive the full benefit and understanding of what is being discussed. So, let’s look at the overall point of what Paul is trying to convey and who he his audience is.

First of all, this was a letter intended for a specific group of believers for a specific purpose.

Philippians 1:1, 9-11  …To all the saints in Messiah Yeshua who are at Philippi…it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Messiah, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Yeshua Messiah, to the glory and praise of God.

Paul is writing to encourage these believers who were residing in Philippi in the first century to excel in love, knowledge and discernment, that they would be pure and blameless for the day of Messiah, to God’s glory. The rest of his epistle is primarily focused on this encouragement toward fruitful actions of righteousness so they would be counted worthy of attaining the Kingdom of God at the appearing of the Messiah.

Continuing throughout the epistle, we can see there is this constant theme of holding fast, standing firm, not allowing themselves to fall from the faith that they had received.

3:16 – Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

4:1 – Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

This standing firm was to be based upon the hope of the immanent return of Messiah who would transform them into the heavenly Kingdom. If they could hold true to what they had already attained, then they would be able to remain steadfast in the faith until the day of Messiah. He then reiterates the immanence of this day of the Messiah, and how their focus on heavenly things (the Kingdom of God) would allow them to patiently await the Messiah when he was to come and transform them.

Philippians 3:20-21; 4:1 – But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Yeshua Messiah, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

So, against this backdrop of hope and standing firm comes the famous passage about the peace of God which passes all understanding. How we all would love to experience such peace! Here is where we find the source of that peace that Paul was teaching those Philippian believers about.

Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua.

Paul says to remove anxiety by prayer and thanksgiving in everything. This is the pattern of behaviors that instills peace that only God can provide. Paul’s instruction to the Philippian congregation is to pray and be grateful for everything. When we express ourselves and our thanks to God, we are recognizing him as the one who is ultimately in control of all things. This recognition is the basic foundation of our trust and faith in God to begin with. We are deferring to him as the ultimate authority in all aspects of life. We are allowing God to be God.

However, where we sometimes err is in thinking that if we pray about a situation, God will control the outcome to make us happy and content, fulfilling all of our desires. When we think this way, we are lapsing back into a selfish focus on worldly challenges we may be facing. But in this recognition of God’s ultimate authority in all things, we should ensure that our desires always fall under the category of trusting in his judgment for the outcome that is best for him and his Kingdom, not necessarily what we think we desire. Remember, Yeshua taught about seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, not selfish needs or ambitions. Our practical focus should remain on others. Paul reiterates this to the Philippian believers as well:

Philippians 2:2-5 – …complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which was also in Messiah Yeshua…

And this is the crux of the issue that can plague us: separating our selfish desires from those things that fall in line with accomplishing God’s purpose for the continued growth of his Kingdom. As our spiritual maturity level grows, we can learn to focus on this “mind of Messiah” by thinking, praying, and acting more on the needs of others, or at least as much as our own needs.

And when we can learn to sincerely pray, as Yeshua did, “Not my will but yours be done” in everything we pray about, we then move into a place of faith and trust that God knows what’s best for us, regardless of what we may want for ourselves. Paul says that our hearts and minds can have peace “in Messiah Yeshua.” To be “in” the Messiah is to follow his ways, his teachings, and his example. When we do so by seeking first the Kingdom  of God and his will, our lives will bear the fruit of righteous actions that he desires for his people.

Yeshua taught the two most important things are to love God with heart, soul, and strength, and to love others as yourself. When our concerns for others become as natural as the care that we have for our own needs, then we are moving into a place of truly following the example of the Messiah, and the incomprehensible peace of God will stand guard over our hearts and minds.


If you enjoy these 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 steep price of holiness and purity of heart

We must present our bodies as living sacrifices, sacrifices that are holy and acceptable to God through denying selfish impulses.

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of holiness, and how God has outlined a refining process for every individual who is seeking holiness and purity of heart.

2 Timothy 2:22 – Flee from youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

As Timothy was a young leader within the Yeshua movement of Judaism, Paul was encouraging him to focus on being a positive example to the believers. His commitment to the Messiah would need to be evident in every aspect of his being so that people would sense his sincerity and pureness of heart, thereby spurring confidence in his teaching, and honor towards his Lord. This admonition comes amidst a discussion on faithful workers versus those who had been spreading falsehood among believers.

2 Timothy 2:16-18 – But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.

Paul was encouraging Timothy to stick to these basics of Kingdom living to ensure he would remain separated from falsehood. To pursue righteousness, Paul argues, one needed only to focus on faith, love and peace with all, especially those within the community of Messiah. This would breed righteous actions, indicating pureness of heart among the believers and all would be encouraged.

While this may come across as being too simplistic, it certainly was not an easy task for the early believers. Maintaining faith and pursuing righteousness in an environment of doctrinal oppression and brutal, physical persecution was a lifestyle of daily challenge. Demonstrating real love not only for the brethren but also those who were opposed to the gospel of the Kingdom was a monumental task. And pursuing peace with everyone who was essentially against the teachings of Yeshua required the deepest levels of reliance on the Spirit of God working within them to establish God’s Kingdom in that generation.

John 14:25-26 – “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

Yeshua had promised his disciples that the Spirit of God would bring to remembrance everything he had been teaching them, and in doing so, they would continually be taught how to interact with others. As God dwelt among his people, there was a unity that would stand as a testament to outsiders because the believers were operating within peace and love that God desires among his Kingdom people.

Acts 2:42-47 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

In another teaching context with the Roman congregation, the apostle Paul highlights the fact that righteousness, peace, joy, and encouragement in the Spirit were what would unify the believers and build up the Kingdom.

Romans 14:16-19 – Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever serves Messiah in this way is acceptable to God and receives human approval. So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.

Here we can see how Paul was essentially laying out the foundation of all interactions in the Kingdom which had already been evidenced by the early believers within their emerging community of faith. Paul says in Romans 14 that, “The kingdom of God is…righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit. Whoever serves Messiah in this way is acceptable to God and receives human approval.”

Now compare this definition to the example of the early believers described in Acts 2. Look at how those first believers were “conducting themselves in righteousness”:

  • They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching
  • to fellowship
  • to the breaking of bread (eating of common meals)
  • to prayer
  • all the believers were together and held all things in common
  • They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need

They also demonstrated “peace and joy”:

  • They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts

They were “acceptable to God and receiving human approval”:

  • praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

And the end result was:

  • Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved

So, how is it that this early group of Messiah believers could be so focused on the Kingdom and be such a bold and powerful witness to others? Is there a way that we can somehow mimic their faithfulness today so that we can also be a powerful witness to our own generation? In a moment, we will review a critical yet challenging teaching of Yeshua that can help us to do just that.

As we have seen so far, the early believers began operating within the dynamic parameters of peace and unity as they were taught by the holy Spirit through the apostles. As the Spirit brought to mind the teachings of Yeshua, the apostles were faithfully teaching and living out the principles for the believers to see and follow. And one of those principles of Yeshua is that he had said that those who were pure of heart and peacemakers would be blessed.

Matthew 5:8-9 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Yeshua also illustrated with his own life the steep price that that his followers would have to pay in order to live out these principles in the process of following him.

Matthew 16:24 – Then Yeshua told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

So, now we get to the heart of the matter. Being set apart as pure of heart and a peacemaker involves a critical practice: denial of self. To deny oneself is to set oneself apart for some other, greater purpose. When we can get outside of ourselves and our personal, selfish impulses, it is then that we have the capacity to be filled with God’s Spirit so he can teach us how to become the pure and peaceful people he wants us to be. The characteristics Paul mentions in this passage to Timothy all involve our outward actions towards others based on an inward transformation: righteous actions involve denial of self; faith involves denial of self; love involves denial of self; peace involves denial of self. Therefore, we can conclude: the steep price of holiness or being set apart involves a continual outward focus on behalf of others.

But, since almost everything we encounter in this life and our current culture tells us the exact opposite (that we need to exert our rights, our privileges, our selfish impulses) we really need to evaluate ourselves in light of not only our personal walk, but in the context of our usefulness to the purposes of God.

Paul leveraged this concept of usefulness within the Kingdom by drawing an analogy to household articles.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 – Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

Based on Paul’s analogy here, there is a purging or cleansing of oneself from what is dishonorable that allows one to become set apart and more useful to God. The root meaning of the Greek word means” to cleanse by taking away; to thoroughly scour and clean out that which is impure.” This, according to Paul, is something that one must do for oneself. God is the one who makes our hearts new, but we as individuals must provide a clean working environment for that new heart to operate within. Believers have a responsibility to scour and clean out those things that offend God because of his holiness and presence in our lives, and in turn we become set apart as holy, ready for every good work towards others.

This whole chapter in 2 Timothy is sprinkled with admonitions to faithfully conduct this work of cleansing oneself (mentioned in verse 21) in every area of life. Paul instructs Timothy to have his hearers work at the sanctification in their lives in the following ways:

  • 14 – avoid wrangling over words
  • 16 – avoid profane chatter
  • 19 – let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness
  • 22 – shun youthful passions
  • 23 – have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies
  • 24 – the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome

On the positive side of the equation, purity of heart is demonstrated by the following:

  • 15 – doing your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him
  • 15 – rightly explain the word of truth
  • 21 – being ready for every good work
  • 22 – pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace
  • 24 – being kindly to everyone
  • 24 – being skillful in teaching
  • 24 – being patient
  • 25 – gently correcting opponents

All of these actions, whether avoiding that which is not beneficial or conducting those things which are, come at the steep price of denial of self. Remember what Yeshua said: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

The imagery conveyed here by Yeshua would have been a familiar one to his hearers, as they would have watched many crucifixions of capital offenders in their days. The offender would be forced to carry the very thing upon which he must die. I can think of no greater illustration of the life of the believer that conveys the necessity of continually bearing the instrument of death (denial of self) in the practice of doing what is right. Once we deny ourselves by avoiding that which is unhelpful, we then need to “pick up the cross” of doing what is right in place of those things. It is such a powerful metaphor for a very real and tangible discipline that should be touching every area of the believer’s life.

Paul calls this being a “living sacrifice;” a sacrificial offering that lives on and through the continual act of dying to self.

Romans 12:1-2 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is the same message he is urging Timothy to convey to his hearers: to present their bodies as living sacrifices, sacrifices that are holy and acceptable to God through denying their selfish impulses, not being conformed to the world. But they are also to be transformed through renewal, learning through the act of being tested what actions are good, acceptable and perfect according to his will.

Paul himself suffered intense persecution, and he knew it was a reality for believers who were separating from falsehood, but that they should remain steadfast in their faith.

2 Timothy 3:12-14 – Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Messiah Yeshua will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you remain in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.

Paul reminds Timothy to rely on the faithful teaching which he had received as the basis of all he would strive to impart to his hearers.

How like Timothy and those early believers we should strive to be! We must remain steadfast in the things we have learned, cleansing ourselves from every false way so that we may live righteous lives that honor God. By demonstrating righteousness through faith, love, and peace, we will also be honoring the memory and faithfulness of those early believers which they had suffered through their sacrificial examples and through intense persecution. But we will also be honoring the God who calls us to the same life of useful work in our generation. As his people continue to set themselves apart for his use, he is glorified in every age and his Kingdom has opportunity to grow as it continues to fill the earth.


If you enjoy these 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.

Keeping the commands of God over our traditions and impulses

Observing, guarding, and watching the covenant and commands of God is as much a responsibility of God’s people today as it ever has been.

Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of vigilance. Keeping the covenant and commands of God requires multi-faceted vigilance, as cultural influx that negates or destroys the foundations of God’s word is as rampant today as it has been since ancient times.

The Bible is filled with admonitions to keep the covenant or to keep the commands of God. We read about it so often that we may sometimes gloss over the significance of what it means to keep the words of God.

Psalm 119:57, 60, 63 – Yahweh is my portion; I promise to keep your words. … I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. … I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.

God had conveyed many specific directives to the ancient Israelites through Moses, including this necessity to keep his commands.

Exodus 19:5 – “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples…”

In this passage, God made it clear that those who obey him by keeping his covenant would be his people. The word we translate as keep or to keep in English comes from the Hebrew root word shamar which at its most rudimentary level means to observe and watch. In its primary sense, it means to heed, pay attention to, or observe (in practice) the covenant and the commands of God. This is the generally accepted meaning when it is used.

However, it also means to guard, preserve, or protect. This is a huge concept in Hebrew thought as it relates to the commands of God. Based on passages like Exodus 19:5 that we just reviewed, both the ancient and modern Israelites have understood themselves to be the receivers of God’s wisdom above all other nations in the world. As such, it was their responsibility to preserve his words through oral traditions and written records. Thankfully for all believers today, it was due to this dutiful caretaking of God’s words that we even have a Bible today.

But over the centuries some of the caretakers of the written records had taken this instruction to the extreme by making additional traditions and rules which were intended to guard the Torah even further, to prevent people from violating the original commands. The original intent of creating these extra rules may have been sincere enough, but soon the traditions and rules became equivalent, or even superior to, the original command of Yahweh and they ended up elevating the man-made traditions above the word of God itself. By the days of Yeshua, there were so many rules and regulations about the rules and regulations of God that it had become a hot mess of traditions mixed over the top of the original commands of God.

According to rabbinical lore, the motivation behind these Jewish traditions and rules was to “build a fence” around the Torah by designating specific actions as a way of protecting people from violating the actual commands of God. This is known as halakha, or the way to walk. These are the religious rules, sometimes called the Oral Law, that rabbinical thinkers and teachers have provided over the centuries. Since approximately 200 A.D, these oral teachings have been summarily encapsulated in the body of Jewish literature known as the Talmud.

To be fair, Jewish thought distinguishes between explicit commands and those derived from rabbinical teaching in the Talmud. For example, the command to observe the Sabbath is explicit right in the text of Exodus:

Exodus 20:8-10 – “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy:  You are to labor six days and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You must not do any work ​– ​you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates.”

As we can see, the command to observe the Sabbath clearly involves not doing any work on that day. But in Jewish practice, there is also a “fence” command that the rabbis have created to where even holding a tool is against the Torah. It does not say that in the scriptural text, but the logic is that if you are forbidden from holding a tool, you are less likely to accidentally break the command of not working on the Sabbath.

In orthodox circles, both the text of Torah and the principles of halakha in the Talmud are considered legally binding in matters of practice. This Sabbath command is only one example of thousands of added commands to the Torah that orthodox Jews were and are expected to observe. So it can be seen that the original “guarding” of God’s word, the keeping of the commands, had eventually become corrupted into a convoluted system of man-made traditions and rules, even by the days of Yeshua. In fact, Yeshua famously chastised the religious leaders of his day for this very thing:

Mark 7:8-13 – “…you set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things.” He said to them, “Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother;’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban, that is to say, given to God;”‘ then you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother, making void the word of God by your tradition, which you have handed down. You do many things like this.”

In this example, rather than taking care of parents as Torah commands, the rabbinical halakha allowed that same potential care of mother and father to be considered an offering to God; a loophole to release people from taking care of their parents yet still appearing as pious and observant. These various interpretations of the commands led to many differing opinions and loopholes in the Torah that were (and still are) argued over and debated in the synagogues and among the people. Yeshua is recorded as exposing these fence commands as being too strict and derailing the original intent of the Torah in the first place.

However, in his own teaching and doctrine, Yeshua is recorded as having established his own type of halakha in regards to the Torah. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua speaks about at least two of the Ten Commandments (the explicit commands of God) and expresses a specific halakha for each.

Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the Gehenna of fire.

Matthew 5:27-28 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Here we can see how Yeshua takes the base, textual commands of Yahweh and defines a specific halakha or “fence” command for each. To avoid breaking the commandment against murder, one must control their anger. To avoid adultery, one must control their attention and desires. But notice the difference between the halakha of the Jewish authorities and Yeshua: the Jews focused on specific actions to prevent breaking the commands; Yeshua focused on specific attitudes of the heart from which would flow the correct actions and the true keeping of the Torah commands. Rather than constantly having to remember a bunch of man-made rules to avoid breaking the Torah, Yeshua taught that a right heart will by default keep Yahweh’s commands perfectly.

This is the good news of the New Covenant theology of Yeshua and the Kingdom of God! It is the fulfillment of the aspirations of all of the old prophets who foretold that Israel would receive a new heart that would be obedient to the Torah.

Jeremiah 31:33 – For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares Yahweh: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The New Covenant is based on the Spirit of God dwelling among his people and causing their hearts to be changed to follow his Torah because it will be internalized, “written on their hearts.” With their hearts made righteous, his people would then by default accomplish his will and be the light to the nations that they have always been destined to be. This is why Yeshua told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” to see the Kingdom of God; an act of creation as decisive and real as physical birth. Those who receive the teaching of Yeshua and the commands of God are re-created into new beings with new hearts that produce new actions, actions that honor God and keep his Word.

The other definition of keeping as it relates to the covenant and commandments is to watch. Watching implies an alertness, being aware of surroundings, looking for any holes in the perimeter defenses to maintain the security of what is being guarded. This is the level of vigilance necessary to make sure that what God has provided is not being diminished by outside influence.

This is probably the most under utilized aspect within the concept of keeping the covenant and commands. Cultural influx of worldly ideals is and has been the biggest adversary to the people of God over the centuries. Living in an environment with a constant stream of values that negate or destroys the foundations of God’s word is as rampant today as it always has been. Unfortunately, with our Western worldview, the current efforts of God’s people to prop up defenses for God’s Word is many times based on arguments regarding literal interpretations of biblical events rather than standing firm on the text with literary defenses. In discussions today, we waste time trying to set historical dates and evidences for things like Noah’s flood or the age of the earth which only cause further debate and strife, both within and without the kingdom.

If we would instead recognize and defend the literary nature of the Bible and recognize the intent of the stories and what they are trying to teach rather than when they physically occurred, we would go much further in honoring God’s purpose in having an eternal record of those things. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that I don’t believe those events occurred within history, it’s just that the biblical record is not a newspaper account that can be completely catalogued and charted in the realm of scientific study; it has never been intended to be such a record as that. And when believers attempt to become scientific about the Biblical accounts of various things that were never intended to be viewed in that fashion, they end up dishonoring the very One they are intending to honor, much like the Pharisaical leaders of Yeshua’s day.

We have to remember that the ancient Hebrew mindset was more symbolic and figurative than literal when it came to relating their events and history. Because of this, we must exercise care in our determination of historical events, common phrases that were used for familiar items and processes for them, and spiritual experiences that conveyed God’s truth in symbolic fashion. Just like the Pharisees of old, we can become so consumed with the minutiae of the letter of the Word that we miss the spiritual meaning of what it actually means.

There are also different emphases when it comes to being vigilant and watching as related in the teachings of Yeshua and his disciples. Some of the watching involves care in what type of teaching you expose yourself to:

Mark 8:15 – And [Yeshua] cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

This would indicate a measure of discernment that would be needed in the information being received both from religious and political authorities. Another type of watching comes from vigilance with our own actions, to ensure we are not carried away by worldly desires.

Galatians 6:1 – Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

2 John 1:8 – Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Another type of watching involves the care of God’s leaders among his people, to be diligent in ensuring that those who have been given into their care are properly provided for so that the people can effectively serve God.

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

In our practice of watching carefully over God’s Word, ourselves, and each other, we must ensure that our vigilance in keeping his Word centers on honoring God, not on our personal theories about God or our personal traditions beyond what the text really says. The stories and message of the Bible are all meant to express the reality of God’s Kingdom, and his faithfulness with his people, reassuring us that God is the Creator of all and that he always does what he says. If this is the case, and we are to be his children, then we should also always do what we say so we can honor  and represent him faithfully in all things.

Observing, guarding, and watching the covenant and commands of God is as much a responsibility of God’s people today as it ever has been. As we remain faithful to the intent and the spirit of his word, not just the letter of the law or loyalty to our religious traditions, we can guarantee a fulfilling future for our descendants whom God will draw to himself and his Kingdom in ages to come.


If you enjoy these 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 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 Kingdom law of restitution and generosity

A heart of covetousness can lead to a theft of the generosity he desires us to extend to others on his behalf.

Today we will be looking at the topic of the Kingdom of God. Within God’s Kingdom, the law of God provides the guide for all behaviors that God expects of his people. One of the primary boundaries of God’s law concerns security of individual belongings where stealing is prohibited. Interestingly, God’s solution for discouraging theft is its exact opposite: a type of forced generosity. Those who violate the law must give abundantly or they must give themselves.

The commandment as it was stated by God from Sinai in Exodus 20:15 is simple and direct: “You shall not steal.” As we look at this topic today, I feel I need to restate the perspective I have of the Ten Commandments. Far from being done away, the Ten Commandments form what I consider to be the founding charter of the Kingdom of God. These are the basic yet comprehensive rules that God has established for those participating in his Kingdom for all time.

This Kingdom pattern was exemplified by the ancient Israelites being removed abruptly from the nation of their residence into the wilderness of a harsh desert environment. In this new environment, they required rules to function as a society. Certainly, since this was an act of God drawing a people to himself, these rules would need to set them apart from all other nations with higher standards than their counterparts. This new nation was designed to be a godly society founded on godly principles.

Within this new society, theft was expressly declared as forbidden. When theft is tolerated, then societal security begins to degrade and personal property can be violated at any time. Looked at from this perspective, the right to private and personal ownership is sort of “baked in” to the Kingdom of God. By definition, theft is the taking of something that belongs to someone else. Therefore, if stealing is wrong then there is an underlying premise that God respects his people owning things, whether animals for farming, houses for living in, or fields for growing food. Private ownership is necessary for the stability and growth of the community because people who own things produce a need for those things to be produced and maintained. This feedback loop then generates an economic engine of production and service capable of growing active, vital communities. Theft interrupts that cycle and creates a deficit of trust and security within a community requiring some sort of accountability for those who don’t respect the rights of others.

Within the entire Biblical narrative, theft is never looked upon as a positive characteristic. To be a thief is to knowingly take something from someone else, usually associated with violent acts or even murder.

Proverbs 1:10-11, 13-16 – My son, if sinners entice you, don’t be persuaded.  If they say ​– ​”Come with us! Let’s set an ambush and kill someone. Let’s attack some innocent person just for fun!  … “We’ll find all kinds of valuable property and fill our houses with plunder.  “Throw in your lot with us, and we’ll all share the loot” —  my son, don’t travel that road with them or set foot on their path,  because their feet run toward evil and they hurry to shed blood.

Proverbs 28:24 – Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.

The thief upsets the system of civilized conduct because they feel that the same rules that govern others do not apply to them. Whatever their justification is for taking something that belongs to someone else is to consider their reason more important than obeying the command to not steal and the rights of others to enjoy their own possessions. Theft is dangerous because it mocks the integrity of civil order in any society, and must be punished in order to maintain the economic integrity and security of the community.

However, interestingly, the torah or instruction of God reveals that theft is not punishable by death. Instead, a thief must face a fate that very well could be worse than death for them: they must pay restitution.

  • Exodus 22:1 – “When a man steals an ox or a sheep and butchers it or sells it, he must repay five cattle for the ox or four sheep for the sheep.
  • Exodus 22:7 – “When a man gives his neighbor valuables or goods to keep, but they are stolen from that person’s house, the thief, if caught, must repay double.
  • Exodus 22:3 – “… A thief must make full restitution. If he is unable, he is to be sold because of his theft.

At a minimum, they were to pay double what they stole (if the goods are recovered). But if what had been stolen had been sold or, in the case of a stolen animal, killed, then they were to pay up to four or five times the amount. If they were unable to pay, then they were to be sold into forced servitude to pay off the debt.

So it turns out that God’s solution for discouraging theft is its exact opposite: a type of forced generosity. They were to give abundantly out of their own possessions, or they were to be forced to give of themselves through servitude.

With the principles regarding theft clearly outlined in God’s law, it makes sense that those principles would also carry over into God’s spiritual Kingdom. However, not stealing and respecting the rights of others is only half of the equation that God wants us to practice. While the letter of the law required forced giving for those making restitution, the spirit of the law encourages us to be voluntarily giving from the heart at all times.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 – The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart ​– ​not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.

So, with this foundational understanding of property rights and appropriate behavior of his people, God, through Yeshua, has the ability to take this principle to the next level, and he does so through teachings regarding giving.

Yeshua taught that he did not come to abolish the law; in fact he upheld it at all times and fulfilled it in all he said and did. He was known for repeating the commands, including the law against stealing.

  • Matthew 19: 18 – Yeshua said, “Never murder. Never commit adultery. Never steal. Never give false testimony. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 
  • Mark 10:19 “You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother.”
  • Luke 18:20 “You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and mother.”

Yeshua also taught that not only should believers not steal, they should be generous.

  • Matthew 5:42 – “Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
  • Matthew 10:8 – Freely you received, freely give.
  • Luke 6:38 – Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

On the one hand, Yeshua upholds the law, yet on the other, he elevates it. For example, he takes the command against adultery and elevates it to the avoidance of even thinking promiscuously. He takes the command against murder and elevates it to the avoidance of even being angry. In a similar sense, to address the issue of covetousness in the life of a wealthy young inquirer, Yeshua also mentions a similar “restitution of generosity” for covetousness, which makes sense, since extreme coveting can also lead to theft.

Matthew 19: 18-22 – Yeshua said, “Never murder. Never commit adultery. Never steal. Never give false testimony. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” The young man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments. What else do I need to do?” Yeshua said to him, “If you want to be perfect, sell what you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then follow me!” When the young man heard this, he went away sad because he owned a lot of property.

In this sad instance of the man who was not willing to pay the price of following Yeshua, we see a bit of ourselves. How have we coveted the things of this world and the luxuries we have attained to where they keep us from exhibiting the generosity we should be providing to others? A heart of covetousness actually leads to a kind of stealing from God, a theft of the generosity he desires us to extend to others on his behalf.  According to Yeshua, this is the perfection that God seeks: not just not stealing, but giving and following his Messiah.

The spiritual Kingdom of God cannot be guided merely by restrictions against natural bad behaviors through the letter of the law only. If that were the case, the Kingdom would be made up of those who are really good at not doing anything wrong, but who also never do anything good for others. No, for the Kingdom to be eternal and growing to fill the earth as prophesied, it has to also produce the positive influence of God’s spirit and desire in the hearts of those who belong to him. This is how it can be a lasting influence in the world for all time.

In a similar way to the teaching of Yeshua, the apostle Paul taught that the solution for breaking any of the commandments, including stealing, was to demonstrate love to others.

Romans 13:9 – The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Paul also taught that those who practiced stealing should earn an honest living, not just for their own benefit, but so that they would have an opportunity to bless others with what they earn.

Ephesians 4:28 – Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.

Finally, let’s review one of the most dramatic examples of these principles in the life of Zacchaeus. He had become enthralled with the notoriety of the Messiah, and when Yeshua singled him out to be a host for him and his group, Zacchaeus was ecstatic with the recognition. While we don’t have the details of the entire process of his acceptance of Messiah, Yeshua made it clear that his renewed heart was genuine and he was no longer lost.

Luke 19:8-10 – But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much.” “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

In recognizing the immeasurable grace and mercy of God’s salvation, Zacchaeus, in both the letter and spirit of the law, offers not only to pay back those whom he had extorted four times over as required in the law, but also to go above and beyond by giving away half of everything he had on behalf of the poor. By his actions, he demonstrated his heart of covetousness had been fully changed, and he was a new creation through faith in the Messiah.

Therefore, in keeping with the torah or instruction of God within his Kingdom, and as a follower of Yeshua, we should never secretly take anything that does not belong to us. Instead, we should always be willing to give generously of all resources that have been entrusted to us. And because the life he has given us is a debt we can never repay, the remainder of our existence should become an offering of voluntary servitude to the one who has provided us this immeasurable gift of life.


If you enjoy these 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.

Becoming compassionate givers

By being willing to give and loan freely, we demonstrate we are God’s children.

Today we will be looking at the topic of compassion, and how God is honored when we respect him in all things, including how we demonstrate that compassion to others through obedient and intentional generosity.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 – If there is a poor man among your brothers within any of the gates in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you, then you are not to harden your heart or shut your hand from your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him whatever he needs.

The concept of giving to those in need is evident all through the biblical writings. Traditionally, this has come down to us through the ages as the giving of “alms.” Alms is a word that is not used much in modern English these days, but it is interesting to note a little about the history of the word.

It’s definition is typically along the lines of “charitable relief of the poor,” especially as a religious duty, or “that which is given to relieve the poor or needy.” It comes from the old English word aelmesse, which was based on a Latin version of the Greek term eleemosyne, meaning mercy, pity, or compassion as exhibited in charitable giving. This Greek phrase is used in Bible passages describing the charitable obligation to help others. For example:

Matthew 6:1-4 – “Be careful not to practice your charitable giving in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. “So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. “But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, “so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Acts 3:1-3 – One afternoon Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to ask for charitable giving from those entering the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked to receive a charitable gift.

But the term in its wider usage really means any act of compassionate giving across a spectrum of generous actions. For example, it can mean kind actions towards others.

Acts 9:36 – There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and charitable helping of the poor.

Acts 10:1-2 – There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.

It can also mean charitable offerings for the purposes of God’s people.

Acts 24:17 – After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my people…

However when it comes to giving to those in need as mentioned in our passage in Deuteronomy 15, the idea of helping the poor is depicted as lending to them, not outright giving. Why is it important to understand this distinction?

Well, it has more to do with the receiver than the giver. Many times, people will struggle to accept outright handouts because of their pride. They don’t want to be made to feel they are unable to meet their needs on their own. This is actually an emotionally good and healthy response for anyone who is otherwise able to provide for themselves but may have just fallen on hard times; it happens. When encountering someone who is need, whether a friend or relative, to provide them assistance with the idea that they can pay back what was lent to them whenever they are able to allows for a sense of dignity in providing that assistance.

In ancient Israel, those who would beg for charitable handouts were typically those who had no other means of income: the lame or blind who could not work, widows and orphans (who had lost their husband/father as the provider). In the Hebraic culture, these were considered legitimate reasons for true charity, and helping and giving donations to these individuals was commanded by God and highly commended within their social culture.

Deuteronomy 26:12 – “When you have finished paying all the tenth of your produce in the third year, the year of the tenth, you are to give it to the Levites, resident aliens, fatherless children and widows, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.

Zechariah 7:9-10 – “This is what Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.

Notice, foreigners or resident aliens were also included in this social order, as they would suffer from having the status of immigrants, and were typically afforded only the most menial of jobs in that ancient society.

However, for those who had the ability to work but had simply gotten into financial straits, the Bible conveys the idea of loans from family and friends as legitimate assistance until they could get back on their feet.

Exodus 22:25 – “If you lend silver to my people, to the poor person among you, you must not be like a creditor to him; you must not charge him interest.

Leviticus 25:35-37 – “If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among you, you are to support him as an alien or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you. “Do not profit or take interest from him, but fear your God and let your brother live among you. “You are not to lend him your silver with interest or sell him your food for profit.

In our passage above, God, through Moses, is urging that the Israelites would open their hearts to those who were poor, and lend freely. This was a necessary urging from him because many times people would take these loans and never repay them, and it would cause bitterness between family members and friends.

In a moment, we will look at how all of this background was built upon by Yeshua in his teachings of giving and loaning to those in need. As is typical, Yeshua not only reinforces these principles of Torah, but then elevates them to new levels of generosity that is to be expected within the kingdom of God.

As we move into the New Testament writings and the teaching of Yeshua, we find that some of the familiar passages where Yeshua is teaching on generosity have even more meaning when he relates how believers should be viewing acts of giving and loaning to others. For example:

Matthew 5:42 – “Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Notice the emphasis on not turning away from those who would seek to borrow.

Luke 6:35 – “But love [even] your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.

Now, here is where we begin to see God’s true heart of compassion for those in need. Yeshua teaches that even if our intent is to genuinely help others by providing them a loan of some sort, he says if you are doing so, don’t expect anything in return. This echoes the instruction of Moses in not expecting to receive interest on the loan, and takes it to the next level of not even expecting to be repaid at all.

This is a radical upgrade to the principle of generosity that the Jewish culture of his day would have been familiar with from the previous passages of Torah. Just as Yeshua upgraded the command against adultery to not even looking at a woman with lustful intent, Yeshua here upgrades the command to not charge interest to not being concerned about being repaid at all!

This is an indication of how Yeshua continued to uphold Torah yet demonstrate its true intent when operating from the heart, not just the written command. It’s as if he was saying, “You think you are upholding Torah by not charging interest, but if you really want to uphold Torah, don’t even expect to be repaid.”

To take it even further, this wasn’t just a command for fellow Israelites, but it was to be applied towards enemies, as well! In the economy of the Kingdom of God, there was to be no more social distinctions between foreigners and natives, men and women, slaves and free. Paul illustrates this in the context of describing the equality of those who were demonstrating faith in Messiah.

Galatians 3:26-28 – for through faith you are all sons of God in Messiah Yeshua.  For those of you who were baptized into Messiah have been clothed with Messiah. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.

Even though we are off on a bit of a tangent, this sense of equality before God in Messiah is the glue that held the remnant assemblies together through the persecution they endured from their fellow Jews and from the oppression of the Romans. Having a united stance in the face of adversity can overcome all odds.

Back to to the topic at hand of generosity that Yeshua taught, if believers were to loan money with the idea of not expecting anything at all in return, they would be operating in the true spirit of generosity that God desires. This accomplishes two purposes: it maintains the dignity of the receiver and it removes any chance of hard feelings for not being repaid in the future. If anyone was to “loan” to someone in need, that loan should be treated as a donation and any repayment as a bonus. All types of giving are highly recommended in the Bible, as we know that “God loves a cheerful giver,” (2 Cor. 9:7). Giving freely is a required dynamic within the economy of the kingdom of God.

Additionally, God has proclaimed that those who demonstrate generosity and compassion toward others will receive generosity and blessing in return.

Psalm 41:1-2 – Happy is one who is considerate of the poor; Yahweh will save him in a day of adversity.  Yahweh will keep him and preserve him; he will be blessed in the land. You will not give him over to the desire of his enemies.

Proverbs 19:17 – Kindness to the poor is a loan to Yahweh, and he will give a reward to the lender.

Psalm 112:4-5 – Light shines in the darkness for the upright. He is gracious, compassionate, and righteous.  Good will come to the one who lends generously and conducts his business fairly.

Having a larger understanding of the context and social dynamic of biblical giving can make us more responsible givers. In outwardly loaning to those who have need, we can allow them dignity. Inwardly considering these helper-loans as outright donations or charitable giving, not expecting anything in return, we free ourselves from any negative ties to those relationships if the money is never repaid in the future.

God is honored when we honor and respect him in all things, including how we manage our finances and our relationships with others. By being willing to give and loan freely, we demonstrate we are his children by operating with the same compassionate principles he provides to us.


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.

God dwells among his separated people

Paul’s admonition is for believers to cleanse themselves from everything that can defile body and spirit.

Core of the Bible podcast #89 – God dwells among his separated people

Today we will be looking at the topic of holiness or separation from uncleanness, and how Paul reminded the early believers how they were not to join in any effort or activity where the Name or character of God would be maligned or disdained. In doing so, God promised to dwell among his own sons and daughters.

  • 2 Corinthians 7:1 – Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

Paul’s admonition here is for believers to cleanse themselves from everything that can defile body and spirit. This, he says, is working toward complete holiness; that is, with holiness as the fulfillment or the end goal of this cleansing.

However, the motivation for this goal comes from some promises he has just mentioned. Since this is the first verse of chapter seven in our Bibles, this must mean he mentioned some promises at the end of chapter six. What promises is he referring to?

  • 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 – 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 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 Yahweh Almighty.

These are, indeed, amazing promises:

  • that God would dwell among them
  • that he would be their God, and they his people
  • that he would welcome them
  • that he would be a Father to them, and they would be as sons and daughters

But all of these wonderful promises are contingent on this cleansing of defilement of body and spirit, involving a setting apart of some sort. Let’s review the passage in full to see the context:

  • 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever? What agreement has a temple of God with idols? For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “‘Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says Yahweh. ‘Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you. I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,’ says Yahweh Almighty.”

So we can see the promises that God would dwell among them and they would be sons and daughters hinges on the condition that they separate themselves from all uncleanness of the idolatry of those who do not believe.

I know this passage has classically been used for the purpose of warning believers to not marry non-believers, and while that is certainly a valid recommendation, that is not the context of this passage; marriage is nowhere in Paul’s sights here.

The real message is that separation from non-believers is required in any type of joint-effort where a compromise of God’s principles would become involved. Believers are not to join in any effort or activity where the Name or character of God would be maligned or disdained.

Two of the primary challenges believers faced in Paul’s day included the practice of eating food in a temple of a local deity, and by eating food purchased in the marketplace that had been previously offered to an idol. In that time, a fellowship meal in an idol’s temple was the ancient approximation of what we might today consider going out to eat in a restaurant. It was also a challenge for Jews to purchase meat in the market, not knowing if the food had already been in an idol’s temple prior to being offered for sale in the local market. These were such serious issues that Paul devotes a whole chapter (chapter 8) in his first letter to the Corinthians to these practices.

Paul devotes so much focus on these topics because it was a primary social practice that was a restriction for the new believers in Messiah, as well. Avoiding idolatrous food was one of the main points that had come out of the first Jerusalem Council decision. You may recall how in Acts 15, a convening of various sects of Messiah believers was called to establish consistency on how the Torah was to be applied among the believing congregations. And out of that discussion and debate came the following summarized conclusions:

  • Acts 15:20 – Instead, we should write and tell them [that is, new believers in Messiah] to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals, and from blood.

This instruction from the Jerusalem Council highlights how Torah was still the guiding principle of the early believing communities. All of these restrictions that were reported out to the fledgling congregations of Messiah are based in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

  • Leviticus 19:4 – Do not turn to idols or make cast images of gods for yourselves; I am Yahweh your God.
  • Deuteronomy 6:14 – Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you…
  • Leviticus 18:26 – But you are to keep my statutes and ordinances. You must not commit any of these detestable [sexually immoral] acts ​– ​not the native or the alien who resides among you.
  • Leviticus 17:12 – Therefore I say to the Israelites: None of you and no alien who resides among you may eat blood.

The council had rightfully deferred to God’s Word to establish fellowship guidelines of the mixed congregations who had participants from varied traditions and backgrounds. These were necessary as part of the practices to allow for shared meals; they had to all be on the same page as far as acceptable meats and personal sanctification in relationships.

So, while the conclusions of the council were designed to allow for fellowship and create unity among believers, it also delineated the separation that was necessary for the promises of God to be fulfilled among them. They would need to be diligent in separating themselves from the accepted social norms in order to be united together in solidarity as God’s people.

In a moment, we will return to the instruction of Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians explaining the importance of why believers should not be unequally yoked with non-believers. In doing so, I am hopeful we can learn some principles for application within our own lives and social situations in our current generation.


As Paul writes to the congregation in Corinth, he apparently feels compelled to provide a stark contrast between believers and non-believers as a way of shaking them out of a sense of complacency that they may have lapsed into regarding idolatry. Of course, ancient Greece was awash with all forms of varied idolatry, testified to this day by the literature of the time and the surviving architecture. To remind the believers of the severity of this command against idolatry, Paul, as he is known to do, quotes from several selections of Torah, or God’s instruction, to make his point:

2 Corinthians 6:16 – And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: I will dwell and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.

  • Leviticus 26:11-12 – I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people.
  • Ezekiel 37:27 – I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

2 Corinthians 6:17 – Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says Yahweh; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you.

  • Leviticus 7:21 – If you touch anything that is unclean (whether it is human defilement or an unclean animal or any other unclean, detestable thing) and then eat meat from a peace offering presented to Yahweh, you will be cut off from the community.
  • Isaiah 52:10-11 – Yahweh has displayed his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.  Leave, leave, go out from there! Do not touch anything unclean; go out from her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of Yahweh.

2 Corinthians 6:18 – And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says Yahweh Almighty.

  • Isaiah 43:5-6 – “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west.  “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up! ‘ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back! ‘ Bring my sons from far away, and my daughters from the ends of the earth
  • Hosea 1:10 – Yet the number of the Israelites will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted. And in the place where they were told: You are not my people, they will be called: Sons of the living God.

Paul pulls together principles rooted in the holiness of God. Avoiding ceremonial uncleanness is the model, the example, of how believers were to ensure they were continuing to pattern their lives after Messiah within their assemblies, and to demonstrate how they had become God’s sons and daughters. If they did so, God would be among them and he would regather them to himself.

Uncleanness practices outlined in Torah went beyond just what types of animals one was permitted to eat to other sanitary practices among the people of God, from bodily fluids to accidentally touching dead bodies. But the overarching principle of all of these commands was the same: separating oneself from these things was an act of holiness, which by its very definition means to be set apart.

Paul is using that same established Torah logic among the believers in Corinth to remind them of their unique position among their generation, and that they should not forfeit their standing with God on the accepted conventions and customs of the day. According to Yeshua’s admonition of Matthew 5:8, believers were to have a pure and blameless heart at all times.

  • Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Separation from all unclean practices was necessary to achieve this.

You may have noticed that none of the passages that Paul references in his instruction are direct quotes, but they have a common theme of the restoration of God’s people to himself. Isaiah 43 and Hosea 1 are great and pivotal prophecies describing the long-awaited migration of God’s people returning back to Jerusalem from among the nations.

As such, we can gain an even greater understanding of the separateness that Paul is speaking to. As these believers had been scattered throughout the nations in the past, they had become susceptible to the idolatrous practices of their various cultures. Paul is using these passages as a way of weaning them off of their cultural traditions and practices that were hindering their walk with Yahweh through their new-found faith in Messiah Yeshua. He is using these texts to remind them of their true purpose as God’s people, and God’s care and concern for them as his own children. If they were to forsake their idolatry, God would indeed live among them and be a Father to them.

But if this is how Paul is applying these texts, then we can also begin to see how these wonderful prophetic indicators were not necessarily meant to be about a literal migration back to Israel, but a spiritual one. God was indeed calling his people back to himself from among the nations, but they were not necessarily returning to physical Jerusalem, but instead to the prophetic Zion, the New Jerusalem.

If this was the principle in Paul’s day, then how much more does that same principle apply in our day? How can we apply this same principle of separation? What types of accepted conventions in social discourse today compromise the principles of God and his character according to his Word, his Torah? What activities demean and denigrate God’s glory, yet are considered “ok” by the rest of our society?

These are questions that we need to be able to answer within the context of our own social environments wherever we are. When we can take a serious look at how we are potentially compromising our faith within our social arenas, we can then open the door to further obedience to God’s Word.

With our eyes open and our hearts guided by the eternal Torah of God, we can begin to understand the types of things we are to avoid being “yoked” together (i.e., going along with) non-believers for the sake of fellowship. We cannot be united with non-believers in those things because they compromise God’s integrity and honor, and violate the sanctity not only of his Word, but of our united fellowship together as God’s people.

Paul’s admonition is that when we do actively separate ourselves, when we cleanse ourselves from these things, then we are truly behaving like God’s sons and daughters, and only then will he be present among us. This is the fulfillment of those ancient promises that generations have looked forward to. When we take decisive actions to maintain our holiness out of godly respect and honoring of him, we demonstrate the validity of God’s Word and the kingdom of God becomes visible to others in our 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.

The simplicity of compassion

God is not seeking our religiosity, but our practical, personal sacrifices on behalf of others.

God is not seeking our religiosity, but our practical, personal sacrifices on behalf of others.

  • Matthew 5:7 – “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Yeshua encourages believers to demonstrate compassion to others, to assist those who do not have the ability to help themselves. In so doing, he affirms, a universal principle of recompense is enacted and put into play. In the process of being helpful to others by sacrificing of your own time and resources, the blessing of Yahweh becomes evident in your life.

One of my favorite passages that is meant to illustrate the true meaning of something that had been reduced to a religious rite is contained in the prophecy of Isaiah. The Israelites had become so enamored with their own traditions that they had lost sight of the bigger picture of God’s purpose. They had adopted various forms and repetitions of fasting in order to appear penitent before God when in fact, they had merely been demonstrating a hypocritical display of false piety.

Isaiah, therefore, speaking for Yahweh, calls them out for it and in the process demonstrates the real types of sacrifice that Yahweh is looking for to be exhibited among his people.

  • Isaiah 58:5-8 – “Will the fast I choose be like this: A day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to Yahweh? Isn’t this the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood? Then your light will appear like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and Yahweh’s glory will be your rear guard.”

We see in this passage two primary objectives: to show the Israelites the true type of sacrificial mercy that God desires, and the resulting blessing that stems from actions that are sincerely based on the welfare of others.

Yeshua boiled all of this down to the simple admonition: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” When we enact his simple counsel, we live out God’s purpose and are then privileged to live within his blessing.


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 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.

Core of the Bible podcast #88 – Vigilantly seeking the things that are above

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 the things that are above on the principles that Yeshua had taught. 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.


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