Forgiveness is always in accordance with Torah

The consistency of God’s instruction is revealed when all of the information is reviewed carefully.

The consistency of God’s instruction is revealed when all of the information is reviewed carefully.

One of the challenges that are brought up in regard to the veracity of the teachings of Paul is the tiny epistle written to Philemon. In this letter, Paul is urging his friend Philemon to receive back his former slave, Onesimus, who has since become a believer in Messiah Yeshua. The contention typically brought up is that if Paul is urging Onesimus to return to his former master, then Paul is breaking Torah, because of the command in Deuteronomy 23:15-16:

“You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. He shall live with you in your midst, in the place which he shall choose in one of your towns where it pleases him; you shall not mistreat him.”

First of all, it must be said that we don’t know all the details of why Onesimus was apart from Philemon in the first place, and many assumptions have to be made to arrive at any conclusions. All we know for sure is that they were separated, at some point Onesimus encountered Paul and became a believer in Messiah Yeshua, and he is now standing once again before his former master holding this letter penned by Paul.

The letter of the Torah command says not to “hand over to his master a slave who has escaped.” We don’t know for sure that Onesimus escaped. The text only indicates they were apart or separated for some reason. In verse 15 Paul states, “For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while.” Either Paul is being extremely diplomatic in his choice of words to soften the remembrance of Onesimus’ escape, or there may have been other circumstances that caused Onesimus to be away; the text doesn’t actually say.

What is apparent from the text, however, is that Onesimus had become unprofitable to Philemon either during or after his departure. For a slave owner, a slave would be a financial investment for a manner of work that was required to be done. Either Onesimus was not a very good worker, or his departure caused a financial loss and hardship to Philemon, as Paul writes, “[he] formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me.” The situation may be as simple as Philemon sold Onesimus because he was unprofitable to him.

That Onesimus had been a potentially useless slave is also indicated by the fact that Paul indicates he is willing to make up for any shortcoming Onesimus may be responsible for:

18 – “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account…”

If Onesimus had not resourcefully fulfilled his obligations as a slave, then this would be another strong indication of Philemon’s justifiable unwillingness to receive Onesimus back. If this is truly the case of Onesimus prior to his departure, then there is a reasonable justification as to Philemon’s resistance at receiving Onesimus back, in any capacity, and why Paul is so emphatically and passionately pleading for him.

So if Paul is returning Onesimus, a former slave, to his previous owner, how is it that this is still not a violation of the Torah command in Deuteronomy 23?

Well, for one thing, as mentioned above, we cannot be sure Onesimus actually escaped, which is the crux of the command. Additionally, there is no indication that Onesimus is not choosing to return, only that Philemon may be hesitant to receive him back after past grievances. But lastly, and most importantly, is how Paul states it in verses 15-16:

“For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”

The key reason Torah is not violated is by Paul’s phrasing here that Onesimus is “no longer as a slave.” Paul is not returning a slave to his master to return just to his slave status but is reintroducing a known individual in a new relationship as a brother in Messiah Yeshua. In Onesimus’ absence from Philemon, he became a Messiah believer, and had been helping Paul in his ministry needs while he was imprisoned. Philemon was also a Messiah believer, as Paul names him a beloved fellow worker who had an assembly of believers meeting in his home. Two brothers in Messiah, regardless of social status, should be able to overcome past difficulties through the forgiveness both have received from God.

If this applies even to the most extreme status conflict of that between a former slave and his former master, then how much more can we overcome our difficult relationships through the forgiveness that God desires us to share with others?


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

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

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

Intentional compassion stemming from our common bond with others

As God showed compassion to us, we are commanded to show compassion to others.

Core of the Bible podcast #71 – Intentional compassion stemming from our common bond with others

Today we will be looking at the topic of compassion, and how in allowing for gleaning of their fields, ancient Israel was making a statement that they would not be repeating the class abuse they had suffered in a foreign country. They were instead showing intentional and purposeful compassion to those in need.

Deuteronomy 24:19, 22 – “When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then Yahweh your God will bless you in all you do. … Remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt. That is why I am giving you this command.”

Because ancient Israel was an agricultural society, there are many laws that apply specifically to that type of culture. Gleaning of the vineyards is one of those unique instructions, but one that I believe we can still learn from and apply today.

So, what is gleaning of the fields? When a field was harvested, sometimes the fruit or grain that was not quite ripe was left on the vine or the tree, with the idea that the harvesters would come back through the field at a later time to ensure all of the harvest was brought in. However, God instructs the Israelites to leave what remained for those less fortunate in the land. After the main harvest, the poor class without income, typically widows, orphans, and resident outsiders, would be allowed to enter the fields of the wealthy and essentially scrounge whatever was left for themselves. In this way, the wealthy in the land would be assisting in providing for the literal welfare of those who could not provide for themselves.

Throughout the Torah, or instruction of God, he has commanded his people to take note of the poor and help them, and in doing so one will be blessed.

Psalm 41:1 – Blessed is he who considers the poor; Yahweh will deliver him in time of trouble.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 10-11 – “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which Yahweh your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, “but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. … “You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing Yahweh your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. “For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’

God desires to bless the poor through those of his people who have something to share, and when they are faithful in doing so, it is as if they are giving to God himself.

Proverbs 19:17 – He who has pity on the poor lends to Yahweh, And he will pay back what he has given.

Conversely, God has always cautioned against exploiting, taking advantage of, or ridiculing the poor.

Proverbs 14:31 – He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, But he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.

Proverbs 17:5 – He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 22:16 – He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches, And he who gives to the rich, will surely come to poverty.

Additionally, according to God’s pleading through his prophet Isaiah, providing for the needs of the poor is considered a type of metaphorical fasting; a sacrifice that God honors above the hypocritical self-denial of food that the Israelites in Isaiah’s day had only participated in for their own benefit.

Isaiah 58:1, 3-5 – “Cry out loudly [Isaiah], don’t hold back! Raise your voice like a trumpet. Tell my people their transgression and the house of Jacob their sins… [Yet Israel says,] “Why have we fasted, but you have not seen? We have denied ourselves, but you haven’t noticed! ” [God replies,] “Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast and oppress all your workers. You fast with contention and strife to strike viciously with your fist. You cannot fast as you do today, hoping to make your voice heard on high. “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?”

The type of fasting that the leaders in Israel were conducting were only based on their own desire for God’s favor, not for truly being repentant. In response, God tells them the true type of sacrifice he was seeking in them: justice and compassion for those in need.

Isaiah 58:6-7 – “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?”

And the promise was if they were to do so sincerely, he would then pour out his blessings upon them, the very thing they were hoping for through their own private and personal fasting.

Isaiah 58:10 – “and if you offer what you have to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday.”

God was promising a blessing of recompense that would be poured out if they would simply obey his command to help the poor. Becoming a shining light is imagery that speaks to the exemplary status that would result for his people when they were faithful in carrying out what he asked.


Beyond the general Torah commands to provide for the poor of the land, what I find interesting about the command of God to allow for gleaning of the fields is that God also provides the reasoning behind it. They were to be obedient in this way, not just so they would be blessed and become a positive example to the rest of the world, but it was to be a reminder to themselves of their previous slavery in Egypt. This act of compassion was to prevent them from abusing the lowest class, because they had previously collectively been in that situation in Egypt. Therefore, as they practiced this compassion within their society, they would be honoring the memory of their ancestral bondage and making a statement that they would not be repeating the class abuse they had suffered in a foreign country with those among their own land.

In like fashion, I believe we should take this ideal to heart and put into practice actions that can be equivalent in our day and age.

Firstly, this command should encourage us to maintain a mentality that is supportive all classes of people in our society. Unless we are among the ultra-wealthy, as a working class we need to consider how slender the line is between being solvent and becoming bankrupt ourselves. For some there may only be a few months or weeks of hardship that can transition them to a similar status. This understanding should prompt us to act compassionately, as we ourselves could easily be in a similar situation. Yeshua’s command to “do unto others as you would have them do to you” should provide an appropriate response on our part.

Secondly, we should be intentional about contributing to those among the lowest classes of our culture. Whether it is through volunteering in local events or organizations designed to provide assistance, or whether it is contributing to those types of causes through our abundance, this command should prompt us to have an intentional plan of assisting others in need. We may not have agricultural fields that others can glean from, but we all have some source or sources of income which can be be apportioned thoughtfully and compassionately.

And finally, while many might seek to pursue political activism and social justice on behalf of the less fortunate, we need to be cautious if we are relying on systems and governmental institutions to fill in the gaps of our personal, spiritual obligation to assist those who are poor. I am deeply convicted when I read the personal nature of Isaiah’s exhortation to the people of God: “”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?”

With the incredible variety of challenges that the poor and homeless in any community may be experiencing, such as mental challenges and drug addictions, inviting them into your home may not always be the safest or quite honestly best thing for them that truly helps their real needs. In those cases, we must exercise discernment. But it certainly does not absolve us of our ability to personally assist them by at least helping them to possibly find a local mission or para-ministry organization who may already specialize in providing more holistic support that can help them get back on their feet. Like the Samaritan of old in Yeshua’s parable, perhaps we can assist the disadvantaged individual by helping them to a caring organization and simply offer to help with the cost of their program involvement.

Let’s do a thought experiment. By current estimates in 2022, the average number of people per household in the U.S. is 2.6. With approximately 340 million Americans, this equates to around 130 million total households in this country. 67% of Americans claim to be Christian; this results in an estimated 87 million Christian households. The poverty rate among Americans is just above 10% of the total population. That equals approximately 34 million Americans or 13 million households in poverty. So taking all of these numbers into account, in simple math, if each one of the 87 million believing households was intentional about assisting just one of the 13 million households in poverty, poverty could easily be eliminated six times over in this country!

Now obviously these are round numbers and general assumptions that do not take into account the many-faceted challenges associated with a task of this magnitude. Is it really this simple? No, but hopefully it provides at least a glimmer of a perspective of how significant real and personal involvement can be. Isaiah encouraged his generation to take personal responsibility for their poor, and I believe God is continuing to task his people with this same objective. Think of the possibilities of what a more solvent society could mean not only for those rising out of poverty, but for our economy and for the benefit of all Americans. And beyond that, what if believers were to solve poverty in America, and then take that same momentum to other areas of the world in need? Truly acting on what we say we believe can make a real difference in this world. And that difference can honor God and bring glory to his name to a world desperately in need of him.

So, in conclusion, demonstrating compassion is not always easy; if it was, it would be commonplace, and we would not need to be encouraged to take actions that we would normally do anyway. However, what we can learn from the principle of gleaning of the fields is that it takes forethought and intentionality to be obedient to the commands of God when it comes to helping others. And while our current social status might not be based on a lineage that has been rescued out of actual slavery like the Israelites were, we as believers have all come from a background of spiritual slavery of disobedience to God in one form or another. God showed compassion to us when we were spiritually bankrupt and had nothing to offer him. If nothing else, this compassionate love of our God toward us should provide a recognition of our common bond with all others, not only in our country but around the world. This bond should then spur us on to obedience, to be faithful to God’s command of demonstrating compassion with those who cannot provide for themselves.


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

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

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

The King who liberates from all worldliness

Understanding our King helps us live effectively in the kingdom.

Core of the Bible podcast #51 – The King who liberates from all worldliness

Today we will be exploring the topic of the kingdom. Sometimes, in our day, we become so enamored with trying to understand what the kingdom is all about that we lose sight of the King. If the primary motivation for all we do does not stem from a recognition of the power and authority of the King, then perhaps we need to reevaluate our participation in his kingdom. So, for us to have a better understanding of the importance of the kingdom, it can be helpful to review the rightful authority of the King.

Let’s start with revisiting the kingdom that God was establishing at Sinai. When God was forming an earthly kingdom for himself by bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, he set this redemptive action at the head of his commands for the newly formed nation.

Exodus 20:2 – I am the God who redeemed you out of slavery, therefore you shall have no other gods before me.

For Israel to become the kingdom of God on earth, they were admonished to always remember why God was worthy of their allegiance: he had redeemed them out of their bondage in Egypt. This is so central to the entire Bible narrative that it cannot be overstated. It is of such primary importance that it is memorialized for all time as the first of the Ten Commandments.

The Hebraic and Christian traditions differ on whether this statement of Yahweh is the first commandment, or if this statement is just an introduction, and the first commandment is the verse that follows: “You shall have no gods before me,” (Exodus 20:3).

Part of this misunderstanding arises from our use of the word “commandment” in this passage. In reality, the Hebrew text speaks of the Ten “Words” of God, not necessarily commandments. There are other Hebrew designations that designate specific aspects of commandments, statutes, and requirements. But here, what we call the commandments should really be considered the Ten Words, sayings, or statements of God.

Because verses 3 and 4 of Exodus 20 are linked together with speaking of other gods and their representations (idols), the Hebraic understanding of isolating the “introduction” in verse 2 as the first of these Words makes sense. This is consistent with the overarching view that there has been revealed to them only one God who deserves complete allegiance. This would be the primary focus of further Mosaic instruction.

Deuteronomy 6:5 – Love Yahweh your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind.

This was also the view of Yeshua, as he simply reiterated Moses’ instruction to those who were questioning him as to the greatest of the commandments.

Matthew 22:36-38 – “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest? ” He said to him, “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. “This is the greatest and most important command.”

Because the Israelites viewed God’s revelation of himself in this manner provided a solid basis for every commandment that follows. The motivation for abiding by any or all of the commandments rested in the realization of why there was any reason to listen to God at all: because he had redeemed them from slavery. This was a miraculous and undeniable testimony as to why he was worthy of their worship over any of the gods that existed in the “superpower” nation of Egypt, or anywhere else, for that matter. Therefore, they were motivated to love him with all of the hearts, souls, and minds.

Why should anyone follow a king who has not liberated them? Or why should anyone obey a king’s commandment if they do not believe he is all-powerful?

The King of the kingdom that was being formed in that desert wilderness of Sinai deserved to be king because he had demonstrated himself faithful to the promises that had been made to the forefathers. He had exhibited real, demonstrable power in breaking them free from their yoke of slavery that had overcome them. There was no greater exhibition of power than that which had not only removed them from their oppressors, but destroyed those former masters completely so they could now worship and obey Yahweh in that freedom which he had obtained for them. This is one of the greatest themes of the entire Bible: believers are set free from slavery to sin and have the freedom to worship and obey Yahweh in truth.

A true king establishes and maintains the freedom of his people, and is therefore worthy of all allegiance. This is the motivation that should drive us to “seek first the kingdom,” because we, as believers in Messiah, also have been set free from slavery, slavery to sin.

John 8:31-36 – Then Yeshua said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “We are descendants of Abraham,” they answered him, “and we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’? ” Yeshua responded, “Truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. “A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. “So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.

In a similar metaphor of slavery, the apostle Paul, in writing to the congregation in Galatia, describes the man-made traditions of the Jews of that day as a yoke of slavery. Paul uses two women of Scripture, Hagar and Sarah, both wives of Abraham, as a metaphor for those who follow the letter of the law over the spirit of the law.

Galatians 4:24-26, 5:1 – These things are being taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai and bears children into slavery ​– ​this is Hagar. Now Hagar represents Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For freedom, Messiah set us free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.

So this is a different type of slavery that Messiah had set believers free from: the slavery of man-made tradition. Paul is cautioning believers that if they submit to circumcision as a means of being a member of traditional Judaism, they will be bound to all of the man-made laws and traditions that go along with it. This is the very thing Yeshua had scolded the religious leaders for.

Matthew 23:13, 15, 23-24 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in. … “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are! … “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law ​– ​justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. “Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, but gulp down a camel!

So from these few passages, we can see that believers have been set free from slavery to man-made traditions, and from slavery to sin. The great theme of the Bible, redemption from slavery, continues to be fulfilled in the kingdom of God that Yeshua firmly established.

Now, I imagine some of you may be thinking, “Wait a second, isn’t Yeshua the king of the kingdom? Hasn’t all authority and power been granted to him?” Yes, this is true, but here is where believers in Messiah can get into a bit of sticky theology, so bear with me as I present some concepts that may be new to you, but that I believe provide a holistic understanding of kingdom rulership.

Isaiah 45:22-24 – “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth. For I am God, and there is no other. “By myself I have sworn; truth has gone from my mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to me, every tongue will swear allegiance. “It will be said about me, ‘Righteousness and strength are found only in Yahweh.’ ” All who are enraged against him will come to him and be put to shame.

Romans 14:10-12 – But you, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, As I live, says Yahweh, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Clearly, in both the Old and New Testaments, God the Father, Yahweh, is viewed as the ultimate authority before whom all are accountable. However, some of this same language is applied to the risen Yeshua, and is representative of his exalted state to which God has appointed him.

Philippians 2:8-11 – he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua every knee will bow — in heaven and on earth and under the earth — and every tongue will confess that Yeshua Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So, will every knee bow before God the Father, or the risen and exalted Yeshua? The answer is yes to both. How can that be?

In the ancient Hebrew biblical worldview, a representative is equated with the one whom he represents. This is known as the law of “agency.” An agent, or representative, is considered the exact representation with the full authority of the one who sent him. Whatever is said to the representative is said to the sender. Whatever the agent represents in a situation is to be considered as if the sender himself said those exact words.

A weaker, but close equivalent in our day and age might be considered the legal power of attorney. A person allows an attorney, as their representative, to make all decisions regarding legal matters just as if they were the ones making those decisions.

This biblical idea of agency is what allows the risen Messiah to be granted all of the same honor that can be directed to the Father, Yahweh. Yahweh had granted him agency, the power of attorney, to act and speak with authority in all matters concerning himself and his kingdom. Yeshua mentioned this time and time again.

John 5:20-23 – “For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing, and he will show him greater works than these so that you will be amazed. “And just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to whom he wants. “The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, “so that all people may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

John 8:28 – So Yeshua said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own. But just as the Father taught me, I say these things.

John 12:49 – “For I have not spoken on my own, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a command to say everything I have said.

In the same sense, Yahweh gave all power and authority to Yeshua as the representative king over the kingdom, even though he himself is the ultimate authority.

Matthew 28:18 – Yeshua came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.

Given to him by whom? Well, by God the Father, of course, the source of all power and authority, as even Paul testifies to Timothy.

1 Timothy 6:15-16 – God … is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see, to him be honor and eternal power. Amen.

Now some may say, Yeshua is also given the title king of kings and lord of lords in Revelation, doesn’t that mean that the kingdom is his?

Revelation 17:14 – “These will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings. Those with him are called, chosen, and faithful.”

Revelation 19:11-16 – Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True, and he judges and makes war with justice. His eyes were like a fiery flame, and many crowns were on his head. He had a name written that no one knows except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God. The armies that were in heaven followed him on white horses, wearing pure white linen. A sharp sword came from his mouth, so that he might strike the nations with it. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. And he has a name written on his robe and on his thigh: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

While some may conclude that Yeshua is the ultimate King from this terminology, what we have seen about the law of agency would say that Yeshua is granted the role of operating as the King of kings in the plan of Yahweh.

Many may not know that this king of kings title has also been granted to other earthly rulers as well, even attested to by Yahweh himself and his prophets.

Ezra 7:12 – Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, an expert in the law of the God of the heavens: Greetings.

Ezekiel 26:7 – For this is what Yahweh GOD says: “See, I am about to bring King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, king of kings, against Tyre from the north with horses, chariots, cavalry, and a huge assembly of troops.

Daniel 2:37-38 – “Your Majesty [Nebuchadnezzar], you are king of kings. The God of the heavens has given you sovereignty, power, strength, and glory. “Wherever people live ​– ​or wild animals, or birds of the sky ​– ​he has handed them over to you and made you ruler over them all. You are the head of gold.

Ultimately, we need to recognize that Yahweh God, the Father, is the ultimate source of all authority in heaven and earth, and he can provide any measure of that authority to whomever he chooses. He chose to have Artaxerxes and Nebuchadnezzar carry the title of king of kings for a temporary time in history to accomplish his purposes among the nations. In a similar way, he also designated his Son, Yeshua, to be that representative of his universal and spiritual kingdom until all his enemies are made his footstool; that is, until all of his enemies have been conquered.

1 Corinthians 15:22-26 – For just as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Messiah, the firstfruits; afterward, at his coming, those who belong to Messiah. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he abolishes all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he puts all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be abolished is death.

See, there is a point where Messiah hands over the kingdom authority back to God the Father, the true King of all, since Yahweh is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.”

If we take to heart the great theme of the Bible of how God the Father, Yahweh, has revealed himself as the God who redeems out of slavery and worldliness, we can be reminded of why we have been drawn to follow him in the first place.

Just as Yahweh liberated ancient Israel from physical bondage and slavery in Egypt, so too he provided his Son Yeshua to liberate them from bondage and slavery to sin and the traditions of men. In so doing, he opened the door of faith to all people of all nations to come and worship him in spirit and in truth through Messiah Yeshua.

The principle of the first commandment, or the first of the Ten Words of God, can be paraphrased for believers today as: There is only one God, Yahweh, eternally existent, who liberates from worldliness, and separates a people for himself. No one and nothing else must rival or supersede God’s importance in life.

Through his Son, Messiah Yeshua, the God of the universe has provided us a way out of our blind and unthinking bondage to worldliness, whether traditions of men or of our own sinful and rebellious actions. In this new freedom, we have been liberated to worship him in spirit and truth and we are motivated and enabled to abide by his instruction.

This aspect of complete liberation is designed to make him central to all of our thoughts and actions each day. When we gratefully recognize our complete deliverance, we demonstrate we are his people, and that we are seeking his kingdom first by honoring him as he truly deserves to be, as our gracious, liberating, and all-powerful King.


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

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

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

Intentionally bound to holiness from the heart

Everyone serves a master, whether sin or righteousness.

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

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

The apostle Paul spoke about it in this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

What is this pattern or “stamp”of teaching?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acts 10:34-35 – Peter began to speak: “Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, “but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Intentional compassion stemming from our common bond with others

To allow gleaning of their fields, ancient Israel was making a statement that they would not be repeating the class abuse they had suffered in a foreign country.

“When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all you do. … Remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt. That is why I am giving you this command.

Deuteronomy 24:19, 22

Because ancient Israel was an agricultural society, there are many laws that apply specifically to that type of culture. Gleaning of the vineyards is one of those unique instructions that we can still learn from today.

When a field was harvested, sometimes the fruit or grain that was not quite ripe was left on the vine or the tree, with the idea that the harvesters would come back through the field at a later time to ensure all of the harvest was brought in.

However, God instructs the Israelites to leave what remained for those less fortunate in the land. After the main harvest, the poor class without income, typically widows, orphans, and resident outsiders, would be allowed to enter the fields of the wealthy and essentially scrounge whatever was left for themselves. In this way, the wealthy in the land would be assisting in providing for the literal welfare of those who could not provide for themselves.

What is interesting about this command is that God also provides the reasoning behind it. They were to be obedient in this way as a reminder to themselves of their previous slavery in Egypt. This act of compassion was to prevent them from abusing the lowest class, because they had previously collectively been in that situation in Egypt. Therefore, as they practiced this compassion within their society, they would be honoring the memory of their ancestral bondage, and making a statement that they would not be repeating the class abuse they had suffered in a foreign country.

In like fashion, we should take this ideal to heart and practice its equivalent in our day and age.

Firstly, this command should encourage us to maintain a mentality that is supportive all classes of people in our society. Unless we are among the ultra-wealthy, as a working class we need to consider how slender the line is between being solvent and becoming bankrupt ourselves. For some there may only be a few months or weeks of hardship that can transition them to a similar status. This understanding should prompt us to act compassionately, as we ourselves could easily be in a similar situation. Yeshua’s command to “do unto others as you would have them do to you” should provide an appropriate response on our part.

Secondly, we should be intentional about contributing to those among the lowest classes of our culture. Whether it is through volunteering in local events or organizations designed to provide assistance, or whether it is contributing to those types of causes through our abundance, this command should prompt us to have an intentional plan of assisting others in need. We may not have agricultural fields that others can glean from, but we all have some source or sources of income which can be be apportioned thoughtfully and compassionately.

While our current status might not be based on a lineage that has been rescued out of actual slavery, as believers we have all come from a background of spiritual slavery of disobedience to God in one form or another. He showed compassion to us when we were spiritually bankrupt and had nothing to offer him. If nothing else, this compassionate love of our God with us should provide a recognition of our common bond with all others in the world. This bond should then spur us on to obedience. to be faithful to God’s command of demonstrating compassion with those who cannot provide for themselves.

Intentionally bound to holiness

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

Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to escalating wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.

Romans 6:19

In the biblical sense, a slave is someone who does not have any ownership rights of their own; they belong to another. In a primary respect, the life of a believer is simply an honest recognition that the life they are living is not their own. Everyone serves a master, whether sin or God; we are simply choosing to follow God.

The life we are living should be voluntarily offered back to the One who provides it to us in the first place. This is so simplistic, it is almost inconceivable. Unfortunately, we are so used to viewing our lives as belonging to ourselves that we easily fall back into old practices of doing whatever we want with them. We many times unwittingly go back to serving impurity and wickedness out of habit.

However, a believer, in the process of being freed from sinfulness, accepts another intentional yoke upon themselves, a yoke that is bearable and easy. This is because it is a life being lived as the Designer has created it to be: a life separated to Him. We recognize that all life flows from God and we are simply yielding ourselves to live within the parameters of the life that he has given us.

A life that is set apart in holiness is separated because it is constantly being renewed in the image of the One who made it. Our mindfulness in remaining intentionally and purposefully bound to this life is what causes us to become holy and set apart for use by God.