Dependent forgiveness

We are always accountable to
God for how we treat others.

“So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.””

Matthew 18:35

In this parable of the unforgiving servant, we find a challenging passage that strains our modern understanding of our relationship with our heavenly Father. Yeshua describes how the forgiveness we receive from the Father is contingent on the forgiveness we provide to others.

In the parable, after being forgiven of his debts to his master, the servant is brought back before the master because he was not showing the same kindness to someone who was indebted to him. While many somehow extrapolate this passage into eternal torment for nonbelievers, the overall message of this teaching is instead explaining how, due to his unjust treatment of others, the one who was previously forgiven became accountable for those things for which he had previously been forgiven.

If we take this parable at its face value, stripping away the thousands of years of doctrinal excess that have been built upon ideas of justification by faith and eternal salvation, we arrive at a place in which Yeshua is teaching his followers that they are always accountable for how they treat others. To be forgiven by God is not a carte blanch status to claim some sort of favored status and then treat others any way of their own choosing.

In the same way, we must remember that we are always accountable to God for how we treat others in every aspect of our daily lives. Believers are not exempt from consequence. This should be a sobering reminder: God wants us to be good people who represent him accurately and fairly. And by conscious forgiveness with others, that is, sincere forgiveness from the heart (v. 35), only then do we show what his forgiveness looks like to the world. In so doing, we thereby maintain the privilege of forgiveness with the Father.


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

The integrity of avoiding oaths

Removing some obscurity around the cultural expressions reveal the true intent of this admonition.

“But, before all things, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven, or by the earth, or by any other oath; but let your ‘Yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘No’ ‘no,’ lest, under judgment, you fall.”

James 5:12

While this admonition has been taken by some religious groups today to avoid taking any oath, even in a court of law, I believe the original intent of this teaching is rooted in the instruction of Messiah.

“”Again you have heard that it was said to them of old time, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall perform to the Lord your vows,’ but I tell you, don’t swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shall you swear by your head, for you can’t make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’ Whatever is more than these is of the evil one.”

Matthew 5:33-37

The goal of this instruction is to ensure that believers are not swearing falsely in order to substantiate an untruthful situation. This is essentially a variation of the ninth commandment which is a command to not bear false witness against your neighbor.

To make matters worse, in Yeshua’s day, people would sometimes invoke the authority of heaven, or the holy city of Jerusalem in order to further validate an untruth. People today still carry on a similar expression when they “swear to God” in order to validate their truthfulness.

There is also this interesting maxim not to “swear by one’s head.” Perhaps having a little cultural understanding from a rabbinical perspective would serve to shed some light on this otherwise obscure term in our day and age.

John Gill in his Exposition of the Bible provides the following commentary:

Neither shalt thou swear by thy head,…. This also was a common form of swearing among the Jews: take a few instances. 
“If anyone is bound to his friend by an oath, and says to him, vow unto me , “by the life of thy head”; R. Meir says (u), he may retract it; but the wise men say, he cannot.” 
Again (w), a certain Rabbi said to Elijah, 
“I heard “Bath Kol” (or the voice from heaven) mourning like a dove, and saying, woe to my children; for, because of their sins, I have destroyed my house, and have burnt my temple, and have carried them captive among the nations: and he (Elijah) said unto him , “by thy life, and by the life of thy head”, not this time only it says so, but it says so three times every day.” 
Once more (x), says R. Simeon ben Antipatras, to R. Joshua, 
“I have heard from the mouth of the wise men, that he that vows in the law, and transgresses, is to be beaten with forty stripes: he replies, blessed art thou of God, that thou hast so done, , “by thy life, and by the life of thy head”, he that is used to do so is to be beaten.” 
This form of swearing is condemned, for this reason, because thou canst not make one hair white or black: which shows, that a man’s head, nor, indeed, one hair of his head, is in his own power, and therefore he ought not to swear by it; as he ought not to swear by heaven, or earth, or Jerusalem, because these were in the possession of God. Some copies read, “canst not make one white hair black”. 
(u) Misn. Sanhedrim, c. 3. sect 2.((w) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 3. 1. (x) Derech. Eretz, c. 6. fol. 18. 2.

Essentially, swearing by one’s head was swearing by one’s life, something that only God has control over.

These various examples provided by Messiah, whether heaven, or Jerusalem, or our own head, relate to the fact that a swearing or an oath always relies on someone greater than oneself as the authority. Yeshua cautioned his followers to simply be people of integrity, who only express what’s right in any given situation. Otherwise, they could be found guilty of defaming the One who is true.

“I tell you that every idle word that men speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.””

Matthew 12:36-37

Believers are accountable for our words, and we should take that admonition to heart in all of our daily interactions with others, whether providing testimony or not. Believers need to be people of integrity, and simply let the truthfulness of our words speak for us.


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

Sharing the truth responsibly

While those sacred pearls of wisdom that you have received from God may be priceless in your sight, they may not have the same effect on others who are not in a similar spiritual frame of reference.

Core of the Bible podcast #25- Sharing the truth responsibly

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of vigilance, and how we need to be highly aware of our audience when we are attempting to share the good news of the Kingdom of God. Yeshua stated it this way:

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6

In essence, what he is saying is not to share something sacred or spiritually pure with those who are not receptive. While the message of the Bible can be good news to those who need to hear its message, not everyone is receptive to its principles.

In the Expositor’s Greek Testament commentary, the following explanation delves into that a little bit deeper.

“The “holy” and the “pearls” must define themselves for each individual in his own experience. They are the things which are sacred and precious for a man or woman, and which natural feeling teaches us to be careful not to waste or expose to desecration. For this purpose knowledge of the world, discrimination, is necessary. We must not treat all people alike, and show our valuables, religious experiences, best thoughts, tenderest sentiments, to the first comer. Shyness, reserve, goes along with sincerity, depth, refinement. In all shyness there is implicit judgment of the legitimate kind. A modest woman shrinks from a man whom her instinct discerns to be impure; a child from all hard-natured people. Who blames woman or child? It is but the instinct of self-preservation.”

This is not a new condition, and Yeshua was also no stranger to this principle:

Proverbs 9:7-8  He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man [gets] insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you…

Proverbs 29:27 An unjust person is detestable to the righteous, and one whose way is upright is detestable to the wicked.

John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it does hate me because I testify about it ​– ​that its works are evil.

Yeshua also gives us insight as to why some people are more receptive than others.

John 3:19-20 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

We need to exercise vigilance among those with whom we are sharing our insights and understanding. While those sacred pearls of wisdom that you have received from God may be priceless in your sight, they may not have the same effect on others who are not in a similar spiritual frame of reference.

The apostle John, in his gospel, relates how the depths of Yeshua’s teachings were not always well-received, even by some of his own followers; and yet he made no attempt to console them or win them back, he simply let them go.

John 6:57-69 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he who feeds on me, he will also live because of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven—not as our fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?” But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? Then what if you would see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life. But there are some of you who don’t believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who didn’t believe, and who it was who would betray him. He said, “For this cause have I said to you that no one can come to me, unless it is given to him by my Father.” At this, many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jesus said therefore to the twelve, “You don’t also want to go away, do you?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

So while the disciples recognized the truth of Yeshua and his message, many others didn’t, and simply stopped following him.

In another place, when Yeshua was sending out the twelve disciples to the cities throughout Israel, he provided them the following direction.

Luke 9:2-5 He sent them forth to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey—neither staffs, nor wallet, nor bread, nor money; neither have two coats apiece. Into whatever house you enter, stay there, and depart from there. As many as don’t receive you, when you depart from that city, shake off even the dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”

Yeshua cautioned his disciples to walk circumspectly with those who are unreceptive, primarily as a testimony against them, but also for their own safety and well-being. This is a cautionary reminder to us as well that our brief time here will be better spent on investing in those who have willing and open hearts.

—–

As we move to stories of the early believers, we see the apostles also recognized this aspect of the gospel, that it would be best received by those who are most willing to hear it.

Acts 13:44-46 The next Sabbath almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said, “It was necessary that God’s word should be spoken to you first. Since indeed you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.

Regarding the selective nature of whom the apostles were sharing the message with, Matthew Poole in his commentary adds the following:

“The gospel is to be preached to every creature, Mark 16:15. But when the Jews were hardened, and spake evil of that way before the multitude, Acts 19:9, the apostles left preaching to them. The precept doubtless is general, directing the ministers of Christ to administer the holy things, with which they are intrusted, only to such as have a right to them, and under prudent circumstances, so as the holy name of God may not be profaned, nor they run into needless danger.”

I find it interesting that he says believers are to minister holy things “only to those who have a right to them.” While I believe everyone has a right to understand the things of God, not everyone receives it equally well, and we need to be on guard to recognize that. The admonition for believers is to exercise care and discernment in sharing the wisdom of God with those who are not just resistant, but with those who are, or become, aggressive.

Going back to the passage that Matthew Poole referenced in Acts 19, we see this exemplified for us.

Acts 19:8-10 He [Paul] entered into the synagogue [in Ephesus], and spoke boldly for a period of three months, reasoning and persuading about the things concerning the Kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all those who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

Here in the Ephesian synagogue, some of the Jews had not only hardened themselves to the message of the gospel of the Kingdom, but they began trash-talking the believers of the true Way. Because of this, in his vigilance and care for the true believers and the integrity of the message, Paul simply separated himself and those who were sincere into a different meeting place. Ultimately, this was for their protection, but also for their edification. As such, this strategy appears to have been successful, as essentially all of Asia ended up hearing the message within a period of about two years.

As an aside, this may be a casual reference to the first recorded regular meeting place of the followers of Yeshua outside of an actual synagogue.

At any rate if we learn to spend our time and attention with those who are most willing to seek God‘s kingdom and to follow his precepts, we will be more successful in fulfilling God’s purpose.

Proverbs 9:8-9 …Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.

Today we call this “discipling,” when in ancient times it was known simply as “giving knowledge.”

Yeshua alludes to this giving and receiving aspect of God’s wisdom when he explains to his disciples why he spoke in parables.

Matthew 13:10-17 The disciples came, and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered them, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them. For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesn’t have, from him will be taken away even that which he has. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they don’t see, and hearing, they don’t hear, neither do they understand. In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says, ‘By hearing you will hear, and will in no way understand; Seeing you will see, and will in no way perceive:

for this people’s heart has grown callous, their ears are dull of hearing, they have closed their eyes; or else perhaps they might perceive with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and should turn again; and I would heal them.’ “But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For most certainly I tell you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which you see, and didn’t see them; and to hear the things which you hear, and didn’t hear them.

The message of God’s kingdom is one of selective hearing, to be sure, but it is also one of selective teaching. For those who are willfully resistant, the message of the kingdom was preached by Yeshua, but couched in parabolic symbolism. For those who were willing to receive the message, the information was shared freely, and further corroborated and illumined by the Spirit of God within them, as John explains.

1 John 2:27 And as for you, the anointing which you received of him abides in you, and you need not that any one teach you; but as his anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, abide in him.

If we are to follow the example of Messiah and the early believers, we should likewise be vigilant in recognizing our audience whenever we are sharing the good news of the kingdom. It not only makes sense, but it actually appears to be preferential in the Word of God to spend much more time sharing the truths of God’s Word with believers and those who are willing to listen than to cast our pearls before those who would only throw them back at us in disdain. As we do so, we can become much more efficient in sowing the seeds in the good soil, and less seeds on the rocky soil. In this way, we must take the time and wisdom to learn to not be reckless with the truth.


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

The eternal kingdom of believers shines in the darkness

The influence of the Kingdom of God is exerted and demonstrated in the lives of those here who are now submitted to God and his eternal throne.

And they [the twenty-four elders] sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

Revelation 5:9-10

Since the Garden of Eden, it has been God’s intent that there would always be a group of people on earth who represent him to the rest of the world.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.”

Genesis 1:26-28

The pinnacle of God’s plan was the enactment of his kingdom through Yeshua.

Matthew 4:17- From that time began Jesus to preach, and to say, Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 11:12 From the days of John the Baptizer until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.

The Ellicott commentary clarifies the unusual language of Matthew 11:12:

The words describe the eager rush of the crowds of Galilee and Judaea, first to the preaching of the Baptist, and then to that of Jesus. It was, as it were, a city attacked on all sides by those who were eager to take possession of it.

Since that time, God’s kingdom has been growing, untiringly spreading throughout the world, as it had been prophesied by Daniel and Yeshua himself.

I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14

Another parable set he before them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is less than all seeds; but when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the heaven come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Matthew 13:31-32

The culmination of this eternal kingdom is described in the apocalyptic language of the book of Revelation.

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name [will be] on their foreheads. And there will no longer be [any] night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22:3-5

This corroborates with the vision presented to Daniel, hundreds of years before Messiah fulfilled the establishment of the kingdom.

The kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole sky, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

Daniel 7:27

The kingdom has been prophesied to be given to the people, and to be everlasting. In antiquity the role of priests was to be the intermediary between the people and God. In that sense, believers today fill this role analogously as they exhibit and demonstrate the patterns of God and share the torah/instruction of God with others.

For believers today, there are no actual priests or priestly sacrifices, because there is no longer a need for physical offerings and sacrifices; there is only one representative High Priest forever, Yeshua.

Though its foundations are well beyond this physical realm, the influence of the Kingdom of God is exerted and demonstrated in the lives of those here who are now submitted to God and his eternal throne. As his representatives, we reign on the earth when we seek first the kingdom and demonstrate righteous actions based on his word. When that happens, “there is no longer any night,” because “the Lord God illumines us.”

Believer, know yourself and your role in this place. When you are faithfully serving your Lord and Master, you are being a light in a dark place, and the kingdom of God can advance through your faithful example.


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




God’s mercy and presence provides encouragement and strength

Believers have a Resource to overcome trials and affliction.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Paul is writing to the Corinthian believers in a measure of sympathetic unity. He and Timothy were suffering tribulation, and likewise the assembly was also suffering persecution. Paul writes that the tribulation he and Timothy were undergoing was strengthening their own faith, and he is wanting to encourage and strengthen the rest of the believers with the comfort they were receiving from God the Father.

Paul first honors God with the title of “Father of mercies” (or compassions). It could also be rendered “compassionate Father” or “merciful Father.” That compassion and mercy are inherent in the nature of God is evident from the very first time God proclaimed his character to Moses at Sinai.

Yahweh descended in the cloud, and stood with him [Moses] there, and proclaimed the name of Yahweh. Yahweh passed by before him, and proclaimed, “Yahweh! Yahweh, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth, keeping loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and disobedience and sin…

Exodus 34:5-7

Paul is conveying to the believers that the mercy and compassion he and Timothy were receiving in their time of tribulation was benefitting them so that they wanted to share that benefit with the believers who were likewise suffering.

Paul also describes God as “the God of all comfort.” The Greek word translated as comfort conveys exhortation and encouragement. In its literal sense, it means to come alongside and to speak to, or on behalf of, someone. It is the role of a counselor or advocate. Paul is relating that God’s Spirit is present in their trials and encouraging and defending them that they may continue to work successfully for the kingdom. And just as God has come alongside himself and Timothy, God is willing and able to come alongside the believers.

Yeshua foretold this very aspect of God’s resource of strengthening and encouragement that would be available for believers through the trials they would encounter. He is quoted as using the same Greek word of exhortation and comfort that Paul was to use later on in his letter to his Corinthian audience.

John 14:25-26 I have said these things to you, while still living with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you.

John 15:26-27 “When the Counselor has come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will testify about me. You will also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Yeshua knew that the disciples would need this resource of God’s Spirit to accomplish the work that God had in mind for the early believing community, and as they testified about him.

The work goes on to this day, and because it does, that same Resource is available for believers today: the encouragement in tribulation, the Advocate against those opposing us; the One who comes alongside us and is very present in the current situations we experience when we are actively seeking the kingdom. God is, and always has been, present through his Spirit in the lives of believers to strengthen, encourage and defend.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we won’t be afraid, though the earth changes, though the mountains are shaken into the heart of the seas; though its waters roar and are troubled, though the mountains tremble with their swelling. Selah. There is a river, the streams of which make the city of God glad, the holy place of the tents of the Most High. God is in her midst…

Psalm 46:1-4

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

Setting others free through forgiveness

Forgiveness is the basis of all inter-personal relationships in the sight of God.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

Paul’s admonition to the Ephesian believers to forgive one another comes at the end of a long list of practices that would promote unity and brotherhood. Forgiveness encompasses a summary of other practices that all promote relational unity.

Most people are familiar with Yeshua’s charge to believers that forgiveness of oneself with God is dependent on our capacity to forgive others.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14-15

Essentially, Yeshua is saying, “Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.” Paul appears to be saying the opposite: “You have been forgiven, therefore you should forgive.” Both maxims are true. For us to experience forgiveness from God, we must exhibit it ourselves. And when we have received forgiveness from God, we should therefore continue to extend it to others. Forgiveness, then, is the basis of all inter-personal relationships in the sight of God.

What I find interesting is in the passage where we typically read the words of Yeshua as “Forgive, and you shall be forgiven,” (Luke 6:37), a different Greek word for “forgive” is used than in most other places the word appears in the New Testament writings. In fact, this is the only place this form of the word is used.

The typical word translated as “forgive” is based on the root aphiemi which conveys the idea of a sending away. However, the word in Luke 6:37 is based on the root apoluo which focuses more on the action of release than the sending away. Both share nuanced meanings of dismissal or departing or leaving. However, terms based on apoluo are usually used of divorce, dissolving the bonds of marriage, a setting free of both partners.

Taken all together, these shades of meaning all provide pictures of the effects and responsibilities of forgiveness: it is to dismiss an offense that someone may have caused against us, to set them free from any perceived obligation we may be selfishly placing on them. We should be sending away those offenses, just as we have had our offenses released and sent away by God.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his loving kindness toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:11-12

God’s interactions with ancient Israel reveal his heart for all believers even today. If we are to faithfully mimic our heavenly Father, then our forgiveness of others should be a release and dismissal that is equally as all-encompassing and final.

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

The day belongs to faith, hope, and love

We should always remain aware of who we are among this generation; we are the children of the day.

So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:6-8

The early believers faced challenges that most typical believers in our American culture today will never see. They were sorely persecuted, chased down from town to town for simply believing in the fulfillment of their prophetic scriptures that the Messiah and the Kingdom of God had come. They were beaten, imprisoned, and killed for their faith. Their hope was that they would be rescued from this persecution, that they would be saved.

Yet through it all, the apostle Paul encourages them to be vigilant and remain watchful. They were to protect themselves metaphorically with a breastplate of faith and love, and to guard their minds with the hope of this salvation that was to come. This was their armor. They had no defensive weapons at their disposal except faith, hope, and love.

While we may not be suffering the persecution they did, we still can take to heart Paul’s admonition to remain awake, watchful and sober. It is easy for us to be lulled into a sense of security because we are at peace, because religion (at least in this country) is currently a protected practice.

Because of this, we are easily sidetracked with the cultural distractions that confront us every day. In our increasingly digital society, we can easily get lost in the sea of information overload, the never-ending stream of digital consciousness that assaults us through our technology. The tools that have helped us to communicate have now become the overlords that demand our constant attention, and lull us to sleep within the confines of our devices.

Just as Paul encouraged the Thessalonian believers to remain alert and watchful, we, too, should always remain aware of who we are among this generation; we are the children of the day. The day is where the light is brightest, and where the greatest opportunities exist for growth. The day is where we work to plant our crops and maintain our fields until the harvest.

Faith, hope, and love are the qualities of the day that can keep us afloat amidst the societal tides that seek to drag us out to the sea of informational darkness. We must exercise vigilance in continually going against the flow of our culture. How?

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

The more we build one another up in our faith, the stronger we become at resisting the night. Shake yourself out of your digital stupor, and come together in faith, hope, and love so that we can demonstrate the good news of the Messiah and the Kingdom of God to a generation of darkness.

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

Avoiding the deception of hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is denounced by Yeshua in the context of using fair standards for critically, yet constructively, helping others.

Core of the Bible podcast #24- Avoiding the deception of hypocrisy

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of integrity, and how people of integrity understand and avoid the dangers and deception of hypocrisy.

Yeshua stated it this way: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5

In other words, the basic takeaway is: Don’t be hypocritical.

But did you know there is actually more to this passage than just that? This admonition falls within the larger context of Yeshua’s teaching of judgment of others. Everyone is really good at quoting Matt.7:1 when they are attempting to defend something they are doing that is viewed critically by others:

Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.

“See,” they will say, “you shouldn’t judge others.”

Well, yes and no.

If we are finding ourselves critical of others, it is definitely safer to not pass judgment, as Yeshua points out. However, the next verse has an interesting facet to it:

Matthew 7:2 “For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

Yeshua seems to be focusing not as much on the act of judgment itself, but the standard by which one is judging others. Is it a fair standard? He then elaborates that thought with our spotlight verses today:

Matthew 7:3-5 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

Ah, now we have the nugget of wisdom. Yeshua is saying that, in order to remove the speck in our friend’s eye, that is, in order to judge them fairly and help them, we need to ensure we have no logs in our own. Then we will see well enough in order to be a fair judge of our friends. Otherwise, if we are not willing to remove the log in our own eye, then we should not judge at all, or we will be judged.

That’s a little different meaning than you may be used to, isn’t it?

You see, it’s very easy for believers today to remove themselves from all controversy by simply saying, “I’m not one to judge,” thinking they are upholding Matt. 7:1. However, what they are really doing is going against the meaning of the passage, as Yeshua’s main point is NOT the “not judging,” but the “seeing clearly” to provide fair judgment. Because when we provide fair judgment, we are representing God’s interests in this world in a way that honors him.

God has charged his people with dominion over all things.

Genesis 1:28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

In the creation story, after Adam and Eve have partaken of the tree, he says, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil…” This ability for man to discern critically between right and wrong is in one sense how we have been created in God’s image.

Genesis 3:6 …the woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom…

See, Eve was thinking all of these very critical thoughts prior to taking the fruit; the fruit did not give her the capacity to think critically, it was already inherent within her.

The symbolism of the story is that the discerning ability of man was corrupted by the desires of the flesh: a craving for food, a preoccupation with beauty and form, and a curiosity for secret wisdom outside of God’s allotted provision.

Being created in God’s image, man has natural tendencies to judge between right and wrong. However, the story of Adam and Eve illustrates how living in this world skews those natural tendencies toward potentially harmful outcomes. She was seduced by the serpent, representing fleshly desires which are adversarial to God and his purpose. The wisdom of God becomes eclipsed by what confronts us by our senses in the natural world, and we lose sight of his righteous standards.

Therefore, Yeshua says we many times end up with these “logs” in our eyes, where we get caught up in the fleshly standards of the world, and we can no longer see clearly to correctly discern between right and wrong. In this state, we are unable to be of real assistance to those around us in need. And as believers, if we remain oblivious to our shortcomings, we then begin to act hypocritically saying we believe one thing while doing another, and thereby defaming the Name of God.

If we end up defaming his name, this is actually a violation of the third commandment: “Do not take the name of Yahweh in vain, or to no purpose.” Remember, our goal is to faithfully represent him in this world, since we have been created in his image. I believe that this is one of the main reasons why Yeshua is so emphatic that we avoid hypocrisy at all cost.


What I find fascinating is that hypocrisy is readily understood by all people. No matter a person’s social standing or culture, hypocritical actions are the basis of lost trust, strained work relations, and broken friendships. Within each individual there must be a built-in, deep desire for fairness and justice, otherwise hypocrisy in and of itself would be meaningless. Recognizing hypocritical actions demonstrates how all people, regardless of religious beliefs or backgrounds have the ability to discern a measure of rightness or equity. This is part of who we have been created to be, a type of moral and spiritual DNA that is evident in each person.

The driving factor of hypocrisy tends to be selfish preservation.

While I was recently reading an article regarding hypocrisy, the comments of the author, a neuroscientist Phd by the name of Erman Misirlisoy over at medium.com, caught my attention as it relates to this topic. He states it this way:

“Self-interest is the most obvious reason for any of us to act like hypocrites. When people are questioned about why they act in conflict with their own stated moral standards, many will say that the personal costs are enough to outweigh the intention to act morally. Essentially, we all want to act fairly until we are put on the spot and are facing our own personal consequences.”

Makes sense; after all, who wants to be accountable for getting caught at doing something we have openly condemned in others?

The kicker is, as Misirlisoy continues, that hypocrites are actually judged more harshly than flat out liars, and he provides a possible reason why.

“One strong explanation relates to false signaling. In essence, hypocrites employ a double layer of deception in their immoral acts — one more layer than the basic liars who simply say they’ve acted morally when they haven’t. When we hypocritically condemn someone’s immoral behavior, we disguise our personal misbehavior with a veil of persuasiveness or manipulation. It’s easier to see through an outright lie than a hypocrite’s condemnation. On top of that, a hypocrite has brought another person into the game. Instead of directly denying their immorality, the hypocrite sneakily implies they are good by attempting to shame someone else. This is a recipe for hatred when caught out…Overall, it backs up the idea that we have a greater tolerance for liars than we have for hypocrites. Hypocrites are like a special type of liar who puts extra effort into disguising their misbehavior and sending us false signals of moral superiority. Those false signals drive our contempt.”

When someone doesn’t hold themselves to the same standards they expect of others, they reveal a moral deficiency that invalidates their position. They can become blinded to the true state of any given situation, and then callously pursue their own agenda.

This is why this practice is so strongly condemned by Yeshua. He openly called out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. In the 23rd chapter of Matthew, he publicly called them hypocrites at least 8 times in front of the assembled crowd and his disciples.

Matthew 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

This passage in full shows the depth of Yeshua’s passionate contempt for the duplicity of the religious leaders and their disdain for the truth of God’s Word.

He also cautioned his disciples to recognize and avoid this characteristic of the religious leaders.

Luke 12:1  … He began saying to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

The disciples then picked up this recognition of hypocrisy and continued to caution the early believers from falling into the same trap.

Romans 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

1 Peter 2:1-3 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

Hypocrisy undermines the integrity of those who exemplify it.

This is why it is critical that we as believers maintain a consistent and honest walk in all matters of any moral depth. It is only when we ensure we have no logs in our own eyes, then we will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of someone else’s eye.

Additionally, our ability to maintain our integrity reflects on the One whom we represent, and the kingdom he is establishing. When our integrity is intact, we then have the clarity of vision to keep our own way pure, and also to provide that exemplary guidance as a light to 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 here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The Kingdom of God has a name

One of the most famous passages of the Bible provides the answer.

In one of the most famous passages of the Bible, we learn that the Kingdom of God, which is the main theme of the Bible, has a name. Here is the context of the passage:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Jeremiah 31:31-34

This passage of course is extremely familiar to believers. This promise is specifically addressed to Israel and Judah that a new covenant would be made with them by God, not by them. The demonstration of this new covenant would be that his law or Torah would be within them, and they would all personally have an intimate relationship with him. This was to be the economy of the kingdom: an internal reality governing the lives of its people, not just an outward set of laws as their forefathers had received at Sinai.

Now, it is actually the next passage in Jeremiah that identifies the name of this kingdom.

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever.” Thus says the LORD, “If the heavens above can be measured And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,” declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 31:35-37

The eternal nature of this kingdom is defined in these verses. As long as the order of the moon, stars, and sun and essentially the whole natural order of things exists, the offspring of Israel will remain. And that is who this group is, the members of this kingdom: the offspring, or seed, of Israel.

The Hebrew calls them the zera Yisrael, the seed of Israel. The zera or seed is extremely symbolic throughout the Bible and has layers of meanings, as seeds do. A seed can be related to plants or human descendants. A seed carries the potential for new life of its genus into the future indefinitely. Seed can refer to a singular future descendant or a group.

As this applies to believers, the Bible is clear that Yeshua was the zera or seed promised from the days of Abraham, who was the father (technically, the grandfather) of Israel.

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as [referring] to many, but [rather] to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

Galatians 3:16

The apostle Paul makes the point that the scripture in this case points to an individual seed, Yeshua, as the recipient of Abraham’s blessing and that through him Abraham, the father of Israel, would be the father of many nations.

And herein lies one of the deepest layers of meaning, and the root of the good news of the gospel message of the kingdom: if we are believers in Messiah, the Bible says we are “in him,” meaning, we are in the zera, the seed, just as Yeshua taught.

John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
Colossians 2:6-7, 10 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk in Him, having been firmly rooted [and now] being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, [and] overflowing with gratitude. … and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
1 John 2:6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
1 John 3:9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

If we are in the seed, and he in us, then we are participants in the zera Yisrael, the seed of Israel; hence, the kingdom. This kingdom will never end, and the seed will continue to perpetuate forever until it fills the earth.

“And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and [men of every] language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:14

This is the promise of God and the hope that we have. The zera Yisrael is the name of the everlasting Kingdom of God. As we faithfully walk in the ways of Yeshua, we are co-laboring with God to plant seed for future generations of believers, until his kingdom fills the earth.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Forgiveness and love can recreate the world

The steep price of forgiveness is an investment in the future of the kingdom.

“I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

Luke 7:47

The mastery of Yeshua’s teaching was that he would use the opportunity of the moment to illustrate his points, what we might call today, “teachable moments.” In this brief passage in Luke 7:36-50, Yeshua teaches a man named Simon, a Pharisee who had invited him to dinner, about forgiveness and love. He does this by telling a parable about two debtors.

Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people–500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said.

Luke 7:41-43

In this simple parable, a beautiful picture emerges of the quantity of love that is typically shown for kind actions. When someone receives a kindness, they want to somehow repay it by doing something nice back. The greater the kindness shown to a person, the greater their sense of love and appreciation for their benefactor. Even from his Pharisaical background, Simon recognizes the universality of this truth.

Yeshua then applies this truth to the immediacy of the situation, as an anonymous woman who was known to be sinful was lavishing Yeshua with repentant tears and expensive perfume. While Simon had viewed this woman with critical judgment, Yeshua pointed out her loving actions were based on her recognition of her forgiveness. This accomplished two objectives: curbing Simon’s sense of criticism while also teaching about the universal human response to forgiveness.

Anyone reading this brief account can be struck by its simple and profound message as these are dual lessons that can immediately be personally applied. We should always reserve judgment of others without knowing their heart, and we should recognize just how closely forgiveness and love are tied together.

As believers, our lives should be bathed in love; this is because we have been forgiven of our offenses against a holy God. In like fashion, we should also be forgiving towards others, which generates more love as they then recognize and receive that forgiveness. If we truly lived lives of forgiveness, our lives would be the beacons of love that God desires, creating patterns of love and forgiveness that spiral off into other relationship circles.

Forgiveness is not cheap and always comes at a price, whether against our pride or sense of fairness or justice. But I believe it is a price worth paying if it results in more love in the world.

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