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.
He measured it on the four sides; it had a wall all around, five hundred cubits long and five hundred wide, to separate the holy areas from the common. (Ezekiel 42:20, NKJV)
Ezekiel’s visionary temple (Ezekiel 40-43) was measured by a man whose appearance was like bronze and who had “a measuring rod in his hand” (Ezekiel 40:3). Ezekiel was to look, listen, and fix his mind on everything God showed him in the vision so he could tell the house of Israel everything he saw (Ezekiel 40:4). This is not a literal temple to be built sometime in our future. It is a figurative, prophetic description of the temple of God that exists today, the church (Ephesians 2:19-22). The description of this temple was to cause Israel to “be ashamed of their iniquities” as they “measured the pattern” (Ezekiel 43:10, 11). Notably, Ezekiel’s temple is distinguished by the presence of God’s glory and by its holiness (Ezekiel 43:1-5, 12). The wall surrounding the temple marks a separation between holy places and what is common or profane (Ezekiel 42:20). God, who is holy, demands that His people are also holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Defiled priests could not serve in Israel’s tabernacle and temple (Leviticus 21). Neither can Christians (who are priests in God’s house) serve God with defiled hearts, hands and lives (1 Peter 2:1-12). To dwell with God we must come out of sin and live separately unto Him (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).
And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine. (Leviticus 20:26, NKJV)
Have you ever read Leviticus? It is a detailed record of many of the laws God gave Israel concerning the priesthood, sacrifices and offerings, purification and moral living. The overriding theme of the book is “be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45). The holiness of God is the compelling reason His people must be holy. Whether we speak of Israel under the Sinai law, or the whole world under the gospel of Christ, we cannot live unholy lives and then somehow demand that God accept us “as we are” and even reward us in our unholiness. Yet, that is the attitude of many toward God. The context of today’s verse commanded Israel to keep all the statutes and judgments of God “that the land where I am bringing you to dwell may not vomit you out” (Leviticus 20:22). Today, if God’s people neglect the salvation we have in Jesus Christ we will not escape an even worse punishment (Hebrews 2:1-3). Holiness demands we make a distinction between what is clean and unclean, what is sin and righteous, what is evil and good (Leviticus 20:25). God separated Israel so it would be holy before Him. We must separate ourselves from unholiness or we, like Israel, will be defiled and condemned (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).
1 The Lord reigns; Let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; Let the earth be moved! 2 The Lord is great in Zion, and He is high above all the peoples. 3 Let them praise Your great and awesome name— He is holy. (Psalm 99:1–3, NKJV)
We are given multiple reasons in this passage to reverently praise and worship God. Let us recognize them and allow them to inform and invigorate our worship. 1) The Lord reigns in glory. His sovereign rule over men, nations, the world, and the universe is reason enough for all the nations of the earth to tremble before Him. 2) The Lord dwells in mercy. Between the cherubim refers to the mercy seat atop the ark in the Most Holy Place, a figure of heaven itself. We worship God both to honor and to seek His mercy. 3) The Lord is great in His kingdom. God is exalted in greatness in Zion, and His kingdom excels all the kingdoms of men (Psalm 2; Hebrews 12:22-23). 4) The Lord is holy. Though we have sinned against God, in Christ we are redeemed and granted the honor of being God’s people. As Moses sang, so we also join the refrain, “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)
12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. (1 Corinthians 7:12–14, NKJV)
Should a Christian end his or her marriage to an unbeliever? The apostle gives an inspired answer to that question as he addresses this subset of “the married” (verse 10). The “rest” to whom Paul now directs his attention are identified as Christians who are married to unbelievers (vss. 12, 13). Paul addresses a marriage situation that Jesus did not personally address, namely, whether a Christian should end a marriage to an unbeliever. The answer he gives is “no” – when the unbeliever is “willing” to live with the Christian. The believer’s faithfulness to Christ blesses the family with the influence of truth and righteousness. His or her godly presence in the home helps convert the unbelieving spouse and teaches the children to be holy (1 Peter 3:1-2; 2 Timothy 1:5; Acts 16:1-2). God joins man and woman in marriage, whether or not they are believers (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 19:4-5). Christians have no right to end their marriage merely because they are married to an unbeliever. To do so directly violates the Lord’s command (1 Corinthians 7:10-11; Matthew 19:6).