1 You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. 2 You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. 3 You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute (Exodus 23:1–3, NKJV).
We are not under the Law of Moses since God took it “out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14). Still, our hope is strengthened by learning patience and comfort from what was written to Israel (Rom. 15:4). So it is with today’s passage. God said to Israel, “You shall be holy men to Me” (Exod. 22:31). Therefore, God commanded Israel to (1) Be honest (Exod. 23:1). Do not circulate a false report against your neighbor. Do not join the wicked in bearing unrighteous testimony against others. Spreading falsehoods by gossip, backbiting, or other forms of slander is not holy conduct (Eph. 4:24-25). (2) Be just (Exod. 23:2). Stand firmly against the peer pressure of the mob that twists justice and calls evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20). Treat everyone with fairness. Holiness leads us to treat others as we wish to be treated (Matt. 7:12). (3) Be impartial (Exod. 23:3). Settling disputes requires impartiality. Like Israel, we should not let circumstances (poor, rich, etc.) sway our decisions about right and wrong or how we treat others (James 2:1-4). Impartiality is a mark of holiness made possible by being honest and just. This triplet, honesty, justice, and impartiality would serve Israel well in loving their neighbors as themselves. Even so, may we be honest, just, and impartial, patiently securing our hope by being holy in all our conduct (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:4–5, NKJV).
There was no discernible difference between rocks and dirt on “the mountain of God” and the rest of the wilderness in which Moses tended his father-in-law’s flock (Exod. 3:1). So why was this place “holy ground?” Because God was there. His presence consecrated the ground, demanding reverent respect and obeisance of God from Moses. Later, God called Israel a “holy nation,” foreshadowing the church of Christ (Exod. 19:5-6; 1 Pet. 2:9). The “Most Holy” place of the tabernacle and temple was reserved for the ark of the covenant and mercy seat, and a veil separated it from the “holy place” (Exod. 26:33-34). The hope that anchors our souls is “both sure and steadfast” and “enters the Presence behind the veil” because Jesus our High Priest is in the holiest place (heaven), ministering over the house of God, His church (Heb. 4:14-16; 6:19-20; 8:1-2). God called Israel to holy living because He is holy (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2). Under the law of Moses, this included distinguishing between what was clean and unclean, profane and holy (Lev. 20:7, 25-26). The gospel calls us to regard the presence and holiness of God our Father fearfully. As obedient children, we must be holy in all our conduct because our Father is holy (1 Pet. 1:13-17). Take off your sandals; The place you stand is holy ground (Eph. 2:21; 1 Pet. 2:5).
Jesus has warned us not to judge lest our unrighteous measure of judgment condemns us (Matt. 7:1-2). Jesus forthrightly judged (condemned) hypocritically judging others while ignoring ourselves (Matt. 7:3-5). James reinforced this truth, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). Jesus went on to imply we must judge several things: (1) What is holy and what are pearls, and (2) Who are dogs and swine. Holy things are pure, blameless, and set apart to God and His service. Your pearls would be your precious things. The gospel, salvation, faith, and heavenly treasures are among the holy and valuable things we judge to be great treasures. Dogs and swine were unclean under the Law of Moses and used by Christ as figures of impure, contemptible character and conduct (cf. Deut. 23:18; 2 Kings 8:13). But the dogs and swine in this passage have two legs, not four. So, take care to live holy and not defile yourself with evil companions (1 Cor. 15:33). Judge error from the truth and avoid the “dogs” who hold God’s truth in contempt and with their false doctrines (Phil. 3:2-3). Oh yes, we must judge what is right to abhor what is evil and cling to what is good (Luke 12:57; Rom. 12:9). God’s word of truth is holy. It identifies our pearls, and those whose sin and error identifies them as dogs and swine. Beware. They will turn on you when given a chance. Come out, be separate, and do not touch what is unclean (2 Cor. 6:17-7:1).
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. (Psalm 116:15, NKJV)
When death takes loved ones, we ask, “Why?” and “How could this happen?” It is not that we do not know the answers (death comes to us all, Heb. 9:27). Such questions come to our minds because we are left to grapple with our loss. That is natural. The gospel teaches Christians how to deal with death by developing God’s point of view of death. The death of God’s saints (holy ones) is a valuable event in God’s sight. Even at the moment of our loss, it also can be precious to us. Saints have overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). They have lived their lives by faith, not sight (2 Cor. 5:7). A living hope has lived in them (1 Pet. 1:3). When God’s people die, He blesses them with rest from their fleshly toils and adversities (Rev. 14:13; Lk. 16:25). To “depart and be with Christ” is “far better” than this physical realm. So, we accept patiently and joyfully the passing of beloved saints, knowing the assurance of God are real and received. And so, we press on by faith while living in the flesh, anticipating eternal realms of glory with God and His saints. Thanks be to God that death is our doorway to everlasting joy. Are you ready to die? When you live holy as God is holy, you are (1 Pet. 1:13-16).
18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:18–20, NKJV)
We must run away from sexual immorality. Paul used the general term porneia (fornication) that includes all sinful sexual joining of males and females (1 Cor. 6:15-16). Sexual immorality applies to the sins of premarital, extramarital, and multi-marital sex, homosexuality, incest, and unlawful remarriages (1 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 13:4; Matt. 19:9; Rom. 7:2-3). Every sin we commit begins in the heart (“outside the body,” v. 18), including sexual immorality (Matt. 15:19). Additionally, the sin of fornication violates the purpose of the body (v. 18). Our fellowship with the Holy Spirit necessitates that we use our bodies to glorify God (v. 19). Our bodies are to be living sacrifices to the Lord, offered in holy service to Him instead of being used to indulge the lusts of the flesh (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Thess. 4:3-5). We were redeemed from sin by the lifeblood of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19). We belong to Him, body, and soul. These are the reasons why Christians must flee sexual immorality: 1) This sin is against the holy purpose given the body, 2) This sin defiles the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, and 3) This sin dishonors God and those who practice it.
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2, NKJV)
This salutation from Paul the apostle and brother Sosthenes gives us a number of insights into the character and purpose of local churches. First, the local church belongs to God, not to us. Culture and consensus do not legitimize rearranging the local church after our image. Next, each local church is identifiable and independent. This church was “at Corinth.” There is no hint of an overarching ecclesiastical and organizational oversight of this (or any other) local church. The centralization of authority over churches is unheard of in the New Testament. Scripture sufficiently organizes local churches to function and fulfill their God-given work. Next, the members of the local church are “sanctified in Christ Jesus” and thus, called “saints” (holy ones). Each Christian is a saint, purified from sins by the blood of Christ (Col. 1:20-22). As such, we are called to live holy lives before God and the world (Rom. 12:1). Finally, the Corinthians needed to know they were not alone. There were other saints “who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” Christians still need the encouragement that comes from knowing others share common faith and fellowship with them in Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1:9).
47 But Solomon built Him a house. 48 However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: 49 ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? 50 Has My hand not made all these things?’ (Acts 7:47–50, NKJV)
Humans have invested untold blood and treasure to build, maintain, and secure temples, cathedrals, and sundry edifices as testimonies to their faith, zeal, and devotion to their deities. Under the guidance and approval of the Lord God, King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem for Israel (1 Chron. 28:6, 11-13; 1 Kings 5-8). Yet, God was not contained by that temple built with hands, nor would that temple timelessly endure (Matt. 24:1-35). As Sovereign over heaven and earth, the Almighty is not defined or confined by structures of human art and design (Acts 17:24-25). Today, His temple is the church His Son built (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 2:19-22). The church is the “true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man,” over which Jesus Christ serves as High Priest at the right hand of God (Heb. 8:1-2). The church of Christ is not an afterthought of God. It is the fulfillment of His eternal purpose to redeem sinners in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 3:10-11). Christians serve God as priests in God’s temple (1 Pet. 2:5). As such, we must be holy, as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16; 2:9). Praise God for such a habitation of holiness!
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 1:1, NKJV)
Today is Saint Patrick’s Day, a celebration of Ireland named for Patrick, a fifth-century cleric from Roman Britain credited with bringing Christianity to the island. March 17 is regarded as the day of his death. Patrick recounted a vision led him to Ireland as a missionary. Legends and tales of shamrocks, snakes, and walking sticks becoming living trees wrap themselves about the imagery of Patrick. Never officially canonized by a Catholic pope, he is venerated by millions. And, herein is just some of the problems with “Saint” Patrick. In the New Testament, every Christian is a “saint” (holy person) as today’s verse indicates (see also, Acts 9:13, 32, 41; 26:10; 1 Cor. 1:2). God does not speak through visions now, but through Jesus Christ and His apostles (Heb. 1:1-2; Matt. 10:40). Patrick’s imaginations ought not be thought of as divine directives. (Many have made that mistake through the centuries!) And, please explain how drinking alcohol to celebrate a “saint” squares with the holiness of a “saint,” when the Bible says do not start the drinking process, much less continue it to inebriation (Eph. 5:18). The Bible does not teach us to have feast days to honor “saints” of the Catholic Church. Celebrate Ireland, but don’t confuse worldly indulgence with honoring a saint of man’s own creation.
34 They did not destroy the peoples, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them, 35 But they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; 36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, 38 And shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus they were defiled by their own works, and played the harlot by their own deeds. (Psalm 106:34–39, NKJV)
When Israel entered the land of promise they were under commandment to destroy the nations of that land as the execution of God’s punishment against them (Leviticus 18:24-28). Because Israel was “a holy people to the Lord your God” they were not to marry them lest they learned and followed their terrible, idolatrous ways (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). Israel disobeyed the Lord and was influenced to join the nations in sinning against God and against their children. Christians are called out of the world, not to mingle with the world (1 Peter 2:9-10). Therefore, we must “abstain from fleshly lusts” and live differently than those who do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5). We cannot follow Jesus on Sunday and follow the world the rest of the week without being polluted and defiled by the world. Do not be deceived (1 Corinthians 15:33-34). Instead of mingling with the world let us separate ourselves from its sins, fear God and live holy lives (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1; 1 Peter 1:15-16).
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21, NKJV)
It is essential that the church honors God for the abundant “power that works in us.” Notably, it is “in the church by Christ Jesus” that God’s measureless power is glorified. So, the church is essential. It is essential for the church to know how to give God honor and glory. The church honors God being faithful to obey His will. You see, Jesus died for His church to sanctify it, so it will not have “spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27). God’s will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Therefore, we must love God and not the world (1 John 2:15-17). When Christians defy the will of God and love the world, Christ is shamed and God is dishonored. The church must do more than say it honors God in Christ. Christians must reflect honor for God by how we live. This is done by obeying Him faithfully. This is how to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Such obedience is when and how God’s power works in us (Philippians 2:13). Trust God’s power. Live by faith, obeying Him “with fear and trembling.” He will work in you mightily, and take you home to eternal glory.