The Bible does not merely tell us not to sin. It also helps us not to do so by giving sound instructions and alternatives to sin. In conjunction with this, the Bible calls us to be holy – i.e. to live pure lives, set apart from all that is ungodly.
- Take care not to sin
- Ask God for help to avoid sin . . .
- . . . For God and Jesus Christ are willing and able to help us withstand temptation
- Use God’s word to avoid sin and counter evil
- Avoid sinful passions and desires . . .
- . . . Sinful passions and desires lead to sin
- Renew your mind and take care of your “heart”
- Get rid of sinful influences
- Avoid all evil
- Hate evil and sin
- Along with hating evil, love what is good
- Faith produces obedience to God
- Fearing God compels one to avoid sin and evil
- Spiritual Warfare
- Be Holy (II): Being Set Apart
- Epilogue: Be Wary
- Be careful to obey God
- Be careful not to turn away from God . . .
- . . . Watch and guard yourself against sinning
For the people to forget their covenant with God would necessarily involve sin, so in a real sense Moses is effectively urging the people not to sin.
Deut 15:9 Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudginglya on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. ▤
a Or be evil; also verse 10
We should be careful not to harbor any “unworthy” thought, which can lead to sin – and moreover is sinful in itself.
This is an exhortation to be careful not to work on the Sabbath.
- Watch yourself so that you do not cause others to sin:
Luke 17:1-3 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin
b are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. c 3Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, … ▤
b Greek Stumbling blocks
c Greek stumble
Note that 1 Corinthians 8:9 similarly speaks of being careful not to inadvertently lead others into sin – “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”
The first part of v. 32 is speaking of any sin of one’s own that one cannot see (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NIrV, NLT). We should ask God to show us any wrong that we do, so as to not do it again (cf. Ps 139:23-24 ↓).
Ps 119:10, 29, 37, 80, 133 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! ▤ … 29Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! ▤ … 37Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. ▤ … 80May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame! ▤ … 133Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. ▤
In v. 37, “worthless things” quite possibly refers primarily to idols (cf. AMP).
d Or cares
e Or in the ancient way (compare Jeremiah 6:16)
The psalmist asks God to examine him, and if there is any sinful way in him, to turn him from it to God’s way. Note that similar to v. 23, Psalm 26:2 says, “Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.”
Ps 141:3-4 Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! 4Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies! ▤
f Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen
Particularly as James 1:13 says that God does not tempt anyone, “lead us not into temptation” may have the sense “don’t let us yield to temptation” (NLT; cf. NIrV). Alternatively “temptation” may have a more general sense, referring to “hard testing” (GNT; cf. NRSV).
Luke 22:40, 45-46 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” ▤ … 45And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” ▤
The “temptation” spoken of here is probably primarily being unfaithful in the face of imminent danger, rather than only referring to the temptation of sleep.
We ought to ask God to “correct, instruct, and chastise” (AMP) ourselves.
1Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ▤
In saying that Jesus “suffered when tempted” the writer may primarily have in view Jesus’ suffering leading up to and during his resurrection and the temptation to opt out of such an ordeal. His temptation by Satan in the desert after fasting for forty days and nights may also be in view. Amidst such hardship these temptations would have been all the harder to resist, making Jesus’ experience of temptation the equal of any we might face. Thus he understands our plight and knows how to help.
Heb 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ▤
g Or temptations
In this verse the Greek for “trials” can also been translated as “temptation” (ESV text note, NASB, cf. NKJV) making it pertinent to this subsection. It may well be inclusive of – it is at least applicable to – both “temptations and trials” (AMP).
The term “stumbling” would appear to mean falling into sin or error – both of which are grave dangers of false teachers who are so prominent in Jude’s letter. The term could alternatively, or additionally, allude to actually falling away from the faith, the result of unchecked sin or error.
The last clause quite probably refers to not committing sin.
Ps 119:9, 11, 165 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. ▤ … 11I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. ▤ … 165Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. ▤
We should use God’s word to avoid sin by: following its instructions (v. 9); meditating on it or bearing it in mind (v. 11); and loving it (v. 165).
Matt 4:3-11 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” 7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” 11Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. ▤
Jesus counters each of Satan’s three temptations by quoting from Scripture, exposing the faults of what Satan had said.
This is said in the context of standing against the devil’s schemes (cf. v. 11) and struggling against evil forces (cf. v. 12-13).
2Pet 1:4 … by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. ▤
The use of the phrase “through them” may be pointing to the fact that as we take God’s promises to heart and set our hope on them, they will have a purifying effect on us. For the hope given by God’s promises leads and spurs us on in the Christian life. Alternatively, “through them” may instead be speaking of their fulfillment, by which we will come to participate in God’s nature. The first alternative seems the most likely and as such the verse is pertinent to this subsection.
One of the prime aims of John writing his letter was to enlighten and encourage his readers so that they would not sin. Still today his letters and Scripture generally provide enlightenment and encouragement which help us avoid sin.
1Cor 10:5-6 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. ▤
h Greek therefore your members that are on the earth
In keeping with not indulging sinful passions and desires, we should not conform to them.
1Pet 4:1-2 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,i arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. ▤
i Some manuscripts add for us; some for you
Indulging sinful desires leads to temptation and then to sin – and ultimately spiritual death (cf. 1Tim 6:9 ↓).
Matt 15:18-19 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. ▤
The heart – with its passions and desires – greatly influences what comes out of one’s mouth, and indeed all that one produces. Thus it is the source of what defiles a person (v. 18).
Similar to Matthew 15:18-19 above, here Jesus makes the point that the thoughts and desires of one’s heart are manifested in one’s speech (as well as actions). As such, evil desires lead to sin – in word and action.
This points to the fact that sin involves the gratifying of evil or sinful passions.
Jealousy and selfish ambition are examples of evil passions or desires that lead to sin – as is coveting below in 4:1-2.
James 4:1-2 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passionsj are at war within you?k 2You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. ▤
j Greek pleasures; also verse 3
k Greek in your members
Note that the use of “murder” (v. 2a) may well be figurative, indicating intense hostility towards others.
2Pet 1:4 … by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. ▤
- Sinful desires ultimately lead to ruin and destruction:
James 1:14-15 above makes a similar point (as noted there).
In accordance with the need to avoid and not indulge sinful desires, and in view of the fact that sinful desires lead to sin, we should renew our minds and take care of our “hearts”.
The first three references below speak of renewing our minds, with the latter references speaking of taking care of our “hearts”. In renewing our minds we should look to God, asking him to effect such a change. We assist this spiritual renewal by assimilating and applying God’s word, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
l Greek age
m Or what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God
n Greek man; also verse 24
The minds of God’s people are to be renewed, meaning a spiritual renewal of their attitudes and thoughts (cf. NLT).
o Or steadfast
We must ask God to renew our spirit (which is closely associated with our mind) as ultimately it is he who accomplishes this.
We must be careful what and how we think (cf. GNT, NCV), because our hearts determine what we do (cf. NLT) and shape our lives (cf. GNT).
In taking care of our hearts, we need to ask God to help make our thoughts pleasing to him.
- A person’s heart is indicative of the person:
Allied with the fact that one’s heart greatly influences oneself, one’s heart reflects what one is like – “what kind of person you are” (NCV™).
- Expel unrepentant sinners . . .
- So get rid of sin . . .
- . . . and get rid of things involved in sinful practices
Matt 18:8-9 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hellp of fire. ▤
p Greek Gehenna
These instructions are not meant to be taken literally. They are hyperbole, emphasizing that one should do whatever is needed to get rid of sinful influences and avoid sin.
Deut 12:2-3 You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. ▤
In v. 3b, “their name” refers to the names of the Canaanite nations’ gods (cf. NIrV, NLT).
Deut 13:5-11 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evilq from your midst. 6“If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embracer or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, 7some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, 8you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. 9But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. 10You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 11And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you. ▤
q Or evil person
r Hebrew the wife of your bosom
The Israelites were to destroy all corruptive influences, even wicked people (cf. Deut 20:16-18 ↓; 2Ki 23:5 ↓), which was a form of God’s judgment on such people. The importance of the command, “So you shall purge the evil from your midst,” (v. 5) is underlined by it being repeated a further eight times in Deuteronomy (cf. Deut 19:19 ↓; Deut 24:7 ↓), mostly verbatim. It is also referred to in Judges 20:13 and quoted in 1 Corinthians 5:13.
Deut 20:16-18 But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, 17but you shall devote them to complete destruction,s the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, 18that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God. ▤
s That is, set apart (devote) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction)
Deut 24:7 If a man is found stealing one of his brothers of the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. ▤
2Ki 23:5, 24 And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens. ▤ … 24Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord. ▤
Ps 101:3, 4 I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. ▤ … 4A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil. ▤
Presumably the sense of the last clause is that in regard to evil we are to be blameless, rather than naive (cf. Heb 5:14 ↓).
In regard to doing evil we are to be “innocent as babies” (NLT; cf. NCV).
Paul uses this quotation from Isaiah 52:11 to urge his readers to avoid compromising partnerships with ungodly people, with their sinful principles and practices.
Note that in the context “irreverent babble” – “foolish discussions” (GNT, NLT) – primarily refers to heretical ideas and teaching.
To avoid evil, we need to learn to distinguish good from evil. By constant use or application of solid spiritual teaching (cf. v. 13), mature believers train their “senses and mental faculties” (AMP) to distinguish good from evil.
- Evil deeds are done by evil people:
Bear in mind that those who commit evil deeds are in fact evil themselves – which should be a solem reason for us to avoid committing evil deeds.
Ex 18:21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. ▤
t That is, set apart (devoted) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction); twice in this verse
The psalmist says that he gained understanding from God’s laws and obeying them; thus he hated everything that was contrary to them.
Bare in mind regarding David’s hatred of such people, that: it is consistent with descriptions of God’s hatred of them (cf. Sin is hated by God); and it proceeds from David’s devotion to God rather than evil motives or feelings. Furthermore, note that David may more precisely be referring to disassociation (cf. BKC).
u Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin
Some commentators think the final clause has in view the infectious nature of sin, with the infectiousness of the clothing of a leper being alluded to in illustrating the point. In any case it illustrates the need to hate evil, being in essence an exhortation to hate anything that is associated with sin.
The practices of the Nicolaitans apparently included sexual sin and possibly also idolatry.
- Oppose the wicked:
We should oppose the wicked (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NASB, NCV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV). In doing so we should expose them, as Ephesians 5:11 says: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
Ps 119:127-128, 163 Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold. 128Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way. ▤ … 163I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law. ▤
Amos 5:14-15 Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. 15Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. ▤
In loving what is good and hating evil, we should hold on to what is good (cf. Rom 12:9 ↑) and avoid evil.
- Do no imitate evil but imitate good – as do those who are of God:
- Instead of living by the sinful nature, live by the Holy Spirit
- Instead of living in darkness, live according to the light and truth . . .
- . . . Insights on living in darkness and living in God’s light and truth
- Instead of living as a slave to sin, live as a slave to God and righteousness . . .
- . . . In avoiding sin be focused on doing what is right
- Pursue righteousness . . .
- . . . Be righteous and upright
- Be good
- Note: Further actions that counter sin and evil
Note that the following two sections in this chapter, which deal with being holy, speak further of alternative actions to sin.
Living by the Holy Spirit involves: being both alert to and responsive to the Spirit’s promptings; and being reliant on his power, to enable and transform us. In conjunction with this, our minds should be set on “the things of the Spirit” (cf. Rom 8:5 ↓).
Rom 8:3b-5, 8-9, 12 By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,v he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. ▤ … 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. ▤ … 12So then, brothers,w we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. ▤
v Or and as a sin offering
w Or brothers and sisters; also verse 29
In v. 9, “not in the flesh but in the Spirit” refers to living life in and in accordance with the Spirit rather than the flesh (cf. AMP), effectively under the control of the Spirit (cf. CEV, NCV, NIV, NLT).
Gal 5:13, 16-25 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. ▤ … 16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy,x drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. ▤
x Some manuscripts add murder
In v. 17, “to keep you from doing the things you want to do” is probably speaking of the influence of the sinful nature in hindering one from doing the right things one wants to do. Alternatively it possibly could be speaking of the Spirit helping us to not indulge the desires that we naturally want to fulfill. Verses 22-23 indicate that a life led by the Spirit is evidenced by the presence of such spiritual “fruit”.
Believers are to keep on being replenished with the Holy Spirit. This is not a contrived experience, but one in which we are passively involved – we are to “let” (CEV, NLT) the Holy Spirit fill us (cf. ZBC). One who is filled by the Holy Spirit, cannot but live by the Holy Spirit.
- Further contrasts between living by the sinful nature and living by the Spirit:
Rom 8:6, 13-14 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. ▤ … 13For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons
y of God. ▤
y See discussion on “sons” in the Preface
In v. 14, to be “led by the Spirit” speaks of living under the Spirit’s influence.
When used figuratively in the NT, “darkness” represents evil and falseness, and is associated with spiritual ignorance – while “light” is usually a metaphor for holiness and truth. This is also the case in some OT verses, although in the OT “light” is more often used to symbolize well-being or God’s favor.
Believers are called to live in God’s light and truth. This consists primarily of living according to the spiritual light and truth that we have: from God’s word, including his commands; and through our relationship with God (cf. 1Jn 1:5-7 ⇓).
Rom 13:12-14 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. ▤
Verse 12a speaks of the “night” of this dark age making way for the age to come, with the “day” quite possibly referring specifically to the day of Christ’s return. The “armor of light” (v. 12; 1Thes 5:8 ↓) is explained to some degree in the subsequent verses (vv. 13-14) – as indicated by the reference to “the daytime” (v. 13a) and the instruction to “put on” Christ (v. 14a). The latter is probably an allusion to the Christian’s union with Christ, and is often interpreted to imply that we should take on his characteristics.
Eph 5:8-11 … for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. ▤
Believers once lived in the darkness, in a sense being “full of darkness” (NCV™, NLT). But now they have God’s light and so should live accordingly, manifesting the light.
1Thes 5:5-8 For you are all childrenz of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. ▤
z Or sons; twice in this verse
The references to being asleep (vv. 6-7) allude to being spiritually asleep – unaware or indifferent of the need to live in accordance with the light (and “day”) and/or of what this requires.
Eph 6:12, 14 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ▤ … 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, … ▤
Living in accordance with truth is a key element against succumbing to the powers of darkness, which seek to draw us into living in darkness.
3Jn 1:3-4, 12 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothersa came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. ▤ … 12Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true. ▤
a Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verses 5, 10
In v. 3a, “your truth” refers to their integrity and “faithfulness to the truth” (NIV®, NRSV; cf. GNT), as per their life of “walking in the truth” (v. 3b). In v. 12, John indicates that God’s truth or word reflects well on Demetrius’ life, him living in a way that is consistent with the truth.
The use of “light” here probably refers to God’s truth (cf. NCV, NIrV).
John 3:19-21 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. ▤
The phrase “comes to the light” (v. 21; cf. v. 20) in this context means to come to Jesus Christ and/or the light that he brought. In the light given by Jesus Christ, all that one does in living by the truth is shown to have been carried out in or through God (v. 21) – “divinely prompted, done with God’s help, in dependence upon Him” (AMP). In contrast to those who live by God’s truth, unrepentant evil doers will not come to Jesus Christ for their deeds will be shown for what they are (vv. 19-20).
John 11:8-10 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” ▤
Jesus appears to draw a parallel between this world’s natural daylight and God’s light – with the implication that we should live in accordance with God’s light. In view of v. 8, Jesus may be alluding to God’s light giving spiritual protection to those who live in it.
John 12:35-36 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. ▤
Jesus’ second statement in v. 35 probably means that the disciples should walk in Jesus’ light so that when he was taken away the darkness would not overtake them (cf. CEV, GNT, NASB, NCV, NKJV, NRSV). People need to walk in Jesus’ light while they have the opportunity, for otherwise darkness will overtake them.
1Jn 1:5-7 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. ▤
1Jn 2:9-11 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in himb there is no cause for stumbling. 11But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. ▤
b Or it
This associates living in darkness with ignorance of God’s ways.
- Have good “eyes” so as to be full of light:
Luke 11:34-36 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light. ▤
We need to ensure that we are “full of light” (vv. 34, 36), not spiritually blind. For this we need good eyes (v. 34) – openness to spiritual truth – which will enlighten us.
- Jesus Christ’s death sets us free from sin’s control . . .
- “In” Jesus Christ they are identified with him in his death, resurrection and life – meaning release from sin and the law . . .
Rom 6:6-14, 22 We know that our old selfc was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set freed from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. ▤ … 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. ▤
c Greek man
d Greek has been justified
Because of their relationship with Jesus Christ, in his death and resurrection believers have died to sin, freed from it, and are now alive to God. As such, instead of living as a slave to sin, believers should live as slaves to God and righteousness. To have “died to sin” (v. 10) or be “dead to sin” (v. 11) does not mean that one is immune to its allure. Rather it means that one has been set free from sin (vv. 7, 22; v. 18 ↓) with its controlling power or “reign” (v. 12), no longer a slave to it (v. 6; cf. vv. 16-19 ↓, v. 14). This is a reality for the believer, who through being united with Christ has participated in his death to sin (vv. 3-11). Verse 14 speaks of the fact that sin should not be our master now that we are under God’s grace rather than the law, which gives sin its power (cf. 1Cor 15:56).
Rom 6:16-19 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,e you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. ▤
e Greek bondservants. Twice in this verse and verse 19; also once in verses 17, 20
One of the most effective preventative measures against sinning is to be preoccupied with doing good. This is implied or suggested by the exhortations in this subsection and can also be inferred from the adjacent subsections.
In seeking good and not evil, the people were to concern themselves with doing what was good and right (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT).
King Rehoboam did evil because he did not focus on seeking God. For in not focusing on seeking God he did not look to do God’s will and obey (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV) and so he sinned.
Prov 4:25-27 Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. 26Ponderf the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. 27Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. ▤
f Or Make level
God’s people should be fully focused on God’s way (v. 25), ensuring that their path is compatible with this (v. 26) and not being distracted or diverted by anything else (v. 27).
g Or it
Loving each other is a key aspect of doing what is right. As such this verse shows how doing what is right leads us to avoid sin, with the term “stumbling” encompassing committing sin (cf. AMP, GNT).
h Hebrew will there not be a lifting up [of your face]?
i Or against
To “do well” here is akin to doing “what is right” (NIV®; cf. CEV, GNT, NLT). Doing the right thing leads to God’s acceptance. In contrast, failing to do what is right or to not do well – here quite possibly referring to doing less than what one should (cf. vv. 3-5) – leaves one exposed to sin. We must instead “subdue” (NLT) sin. One can infer from this verse that striving to do the best one can is vital for avoiding or subduing sin.
- One must fill the “vacuum” left by evil:
Matt 12:43-45 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” ▤
On being freed from evil, one must fill the “vacuum” left by sin and evil – i.e. one should respond to Jesus Christ and live a life fully focused on doing what is right in God’s sight.
In most if not all of the following verses, “righteousness” refers to righteous living – doing what God wants, living in a way that is right according to his ways.
j Or who carry out his judgment
This appears to be saying that making peace produces righteousness – in the lives of ourselves and others, notably in church life as per the context. As such making peace is shown to be one way that we can pursue righteousness.
Dan 4:27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity. ▤
Note that the latter part of the verse is most likely speaking of God in righteousness granting his blessings (cf. GNT, NIrV) on those who act righteously (as per the first clause/instruction) and seek him. Alternatively it may have in view God bestowing righteousness (cf. AMP), God being the ultimate source of it.
Matt 22:11-13 But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ▤
The wedding clothes probably symbolize righteousness (and possibly good fruit). As such, the point being made is that those who respond to God’s invitation must come appropriately prepared, clothed in righteousness.
1Ki 9:4 And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, … ▤
1Chr 29:17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. ▤
k Hebrew but among the upright is acceptance
Note that there is some doubt about the meaning of the Hebrew in the second clause. Most likely it is speaking of the upright either having God’s acceptance or doing what is good (cf. GNT, NCV, NLT).
- Try to live honorably in everything you do:
Always try “to do the right thing” (GNT, NCV; cf. CEV).
l Or brothers and sisters; also verse 30
m Or acceptance
Here “seeks good” may well be speaking of trying to do what is good and right (cf. CEV) – hence its inclusion here. The term “favor” may refer to favor from God (cf. Prov 12:2 ↓) but favor from people – or both – may be in view.
Prov 14:14, 19, 22 The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways. ▤ … 19The evil bow down before the good, the wicked at the gates of the righteous. ▤ … 22Do they not go astray who devise evil? Those who devise good meetn steadfast love and faithfulness. ▤
n Or show
- Supplement your faith with virtue:
o Or excellence; twice in this verse
The Greek translated here as “virtue” is often translated as “goodness” (CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NRSV). It is a general term that speaks of all good character traits (cf. ESB).
Knowing God enables one to resist corruptive influences, in part by enabling one to recognize them for what they are.
Eph 6:11-18a Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. ▤
1Pet 4:1-2 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,p arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. ▤
p Some manuscripts add for us; some for you
One effect of willingly enduring suffering as Jesus Christ did is that one is finished with sin – “no longer involved with sin” (GNT). Such suffering causes sin to be seen to be more unpalatable and pointless than before.
A strong resolve to abstain from sin – as is evident here – is important in avoiding sin. Daniel 1:8a similarly speaks of Daniel resolving not to defile himself – “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.”
- Be holy
- Be holy because God is holy
- Be godly
- Be pure . . .
- . . . Be blameless
- Make every effort to be holy and godly, particularly in view of what is to come
- Things that lead to holiness
- Things that lead to purity
- We should be holy and pleasing to God because of the things he has done for us
- The godly, blameless and pure are accepted by God and Jesus Christ
- The godly, blameless and pure are cared for and blessed by God
To be holy involves being separated from corruptive influences and totally dedicated to God. As such it includes moral purity and obedience to God. The process of becoming holy is largely facilitated by God, but in accordance believers are called upon to be holy. For a more in depth discussion regarding this last point, see the introductory comment on God Makes His People Holy.
q Or brothers and sisters
r Or your rational service
Here “bodies” signifies our whole selves, encompassing our entire lives (cf. NCV).
1Cor 7:34b And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. ▤
2Tim 1:8-9 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9who saved us and called us tos a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,t … ▤
s Or with
t Greek before times eternal
That God has “called us to a holy calling” indicates that we ought to “live a holy life” (NLT; cf. NIV).
u Or your holiness
v Or how to take a wife for himself; Greek how to possess his own vessel
1Cor 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: … ▤
The terms “sanctified” and “saints” both speak of being holy, with the latter basically meaning “holy people” (GNT, NCV, NLT).
If we are to be God’s people, acceptable to him, we need to be holy because God is holy and as such does not accept anything that is not holy (cf. Deut 23:14 ↓). So we should aspire to be holy, imitating God.
1Pet 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” ▤
It can be inferred from this verse that we ourselves should strive to share in God’s holiness.
- The camp of Israel’s army had to be holy so that God would not turn away from them:
Deut 23:14 Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you. ▤
This reflects that to know God’s presence we need to be holy, because he is holy and as such does not tolerate anything that is not holy and so repulsive to him.
1Tim 5:4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. ▤
Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, … ▤
2Cor 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicityw and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. ▤
w Some manuscripts holiness
- God has given us everything we need for a godly life:
x Or by
y Or virtue
The “double-minded” appear to be those whose hearts and interests are divided between God and the world (cf. v. 4).
z Greek flesh
a Greek therefore your members that are on the earth
1Tim 5:1-2, 22 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. ▤ … 22Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. ▤
Purity is the primary aspect of godly wisdom.
1Pet 3:1-2 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct. ▤
Believers ought to be pure just as Jesus Christ is pure.
Here Nehemiah speaks of cleansing the priests of foreign defilement and influence through intermarriage. Believers should likewise cleanse or purify themselves of everything “foreign” to or incompatible with godliness.
This points out one blessing of being pure: those who are pure do not mistakenly see things as impure. Paul is speaking against false teachers who were apparently advocating various ascetic regulations such as prohibitions of certain foods. Paul states that for those who were spiritually pure, all non-moral things such as food are pure. In contrast, those whose “minds and … consciences are defiled” do not have a clear perspective on what is and is not pure, leading them to mistakenly deem some things as impure.
b Hebrew El Shaddai
David speaks of washing his hands to signify his innocence.
The Corinthians had demonstrated that they were innocent or blameless in every aspect of the matter in question.
- To be ready for Jesus Christ’s return, live a godly life . . .
- Do not live an ungodly life, leaving you unprepared for Jesus Christ’s return
2Pet 3:11-14 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. ▤
1Tim 4:7-8 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. ▤
The demands of athletic training are referred to in order to underscore the self-discipline and effort needed to be godly.
Titus 2:11-13 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, … ▤
2Pet 1:5-7, 10-11 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,c and virtue with knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. ▤ … 10Therefore, brothers,d be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ▤
c Or excellence; twice in this verse
d Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church
In v. 10 “these things” refers to the things listed in vv. 5-7, which include obtaining godliness.
Num 15:39-40 And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to followe after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. 40So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. ▤
e Hebrew to spy out
Obeying God’s commands is fundamental to being holy.
Rom 6:19b, 22 For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. ▤ … 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. ▤
f Greek flesh
2Tim 2:20-21 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable,g he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. ▤
g Greek from these things
The “dishonorable” articles probably are a reference to the unfaithful members of God’s household, foremost of which would be the false teachers mentioned earlier in the chapter. Timothy was to cleanse himself from these – including their teachings and practices – in order to be holy. Likewise, to be holy we need to cleanse ourselves from corruptive influences.
h Or slave; Greek bondservant
A good knowledge of the truth is fundamental to becoming godly, and holy.
1Tim 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: Hei was manifested in the flesh, vindicatedj by the Spirit,k seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. ▤
i Greek Who; some manuscripts God; others Which
j Or justified
k Or vindicated in spirit
The phrase “the mystery of godliness” may mean the mystery of “our religion” (CEV, GNT, NRSV; cf. NCV), or similarly the mystery of “our faith” (NLT). It appears to speak of the mystery that produces godliness – that being Jesus Christ and what was accomplished in his mission. This “mystery” produces godliness (cf. Titus 1:1 ↑) as its significance is applied to one’s life.
This links keeping one’s tongue under control with being perfect. It can thus be inferred that the more one does so, the more perfect and holy one becomes.
l Some manuscripts add for us; some for you
As referred to earlier, this speaks of the willing endurance of suffering leading one to be finished with sin, and thus leading to holiness.
m Or steadfast
Living according to God’s word enables us to keep our way pure; as such it likewise leads to purity.
Phil 1:9-10 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, … ▤
This appears to indicate that love (cf. 1Pet 1:22 ↓), along with knowledge and discernment, produces purity and blamelessness.
Phil 2:14-15 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, … ▤
The use of “questioning” (v. 14) has in view being argumentative. Learning to abstain from such things as grumbling and arguing is critical to becoming blameless and pure.
The latter part of the verse implies that the aforementioned things lead to – or are associated with – “a pure heart”. Thus we should pursue such things in order to become pure and holy.
1Jn 1:7-9 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ▤
1Jn 3:2-3 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appearsn we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. ▤
n Or when it appears
The “hope” of Jesus Christ’s return and of being like him (v. 2) leads one to make or keep themselves pure (v. 3). For focusing on such a hope makes anything that it is not pleasing to Christ incompatible with one’s own goals and desires. Additionally one would not want to do anything that would bring Christ’s disapproval on his return.
- Religion that God accepts as pure:
Religious practice that is “pure and undefiled” includes keeping oneself “unstained” from/by the world”.
Rom 8:11-12 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. 12So then, brothers,o we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. ▤
o Or brothers and sisters; also verse 29
Because of what God has done for us (v. 11) we have an obligation to him – to be holy, as opposed to living according to our sinful nature (v. 12).
p Or brothers and sisters
q Or your rational service
The phrase “by the mercies of God” likely means in view of or because of God’s acts of mercy towards us (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT).
1Cor 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. ▤
Eph 4:22-24 … to put off your old self,r which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ▤
r Greek man; also verse 24
We ought to get rid of our old corrupted ways and to grow into the new nature, for God has created our new nature to be like himself (cf. Col 3:8-10 ↓) – righteous and holy.
Col 3:8-10, 12 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old selfs with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. ▤ … 12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, … ▤
s Greek man; also as supplied in verse 10
In addition to reflecting the reasoning of Ephesians 4:22-24 above, it can be inferred from v. 12 that we ought to be holy because God has chosen us and loves us.
Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ▤
Along with Jesus Christ’s coming appearance (v. 13), his sacrifice on our behalf to redeem us from wickedness and purify us to be “a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (v. 14) is a very important reason as to why we should live a godly life.
It can be inferred from this that as God graciously called us, we should be holy in keeping both with God’s holy character and his command to be holy.
Ps 24:3-5 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 5He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. ▤
t Hebrew but among the upright is acceptance
The second half of the verse probably refers to being with Jesus Christ in the afterlife (cf. Rev 14:4 ↓), although it has an application to the present. The reference to being dressed “in white” appears to refer to their sanctified state in the afterlife, reflective of them not having “soiled their garments”, i.e. reflective of them being pure.
Rev 14:3-5 … and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless. ▤
The 144,000 most likely symbolize the faithful believers who had come out of “the great tribulation” (7:14) and at this point are probably in heaven, though not all commentators would agree. The expression “have not defiled themselves with women” (v. 4) probably refers to either abstaining from sexual sin or from defiling relationships with the world. The subsequent clause – “for they are virgins” – refers to their purity (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT). The fact that they follow the Lamb wherever he goes and have been redeemed and offered to God and the Lamb (v. 4), shows them to have been accepted by God and Jesus Christ.
The final phrase may have an application to the believer’s life of faith, but it would appear that seeing God in the age to come – being accepted into his presence – is the primary reference.
In conjunction with being accepted by him, the godly are set apart by God for himself.
- The blameless are God’s delight:
Ps 18:19, 23-26 He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. ▤ … 23I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. 24So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. 25With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; 26with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. ▤
Here David sings of God delivering him, because God delighted in him (v. 19; cf. Prov 1:20 ⇑), due in no small part to David’s ways being blameless and pure (vv. 23-26). Verses 25-26 speak of God being merciful, blameless and pure largely in reference to his care of his godly people.
Verse 18a speaks of God having the futures of the blameless under his control, as reflected in the subsequent teaching.
u Or temptations
Note that this and the following references speak of the godly, blameless or pure being blessed by God.
v This psalm is an acrostic poem of twenty-two stanzas, following the letters of the Hebrew alphabet; within a stanza, each verse begins with the same Hebrew letter
Godliness is great gain “when accompanied by contentment” (NASB). Note that while this is not speaking expressly of such “great gain” as being of God, presumably God’s blessings for the godly are partially in view.
w Some manuscripts do his commandments
The phrase “wash their robes” alludes to purification, through belief in Jesus and consequent forgiveness of sins (cf. NCV text note).
- The “Way of Holiness”, for those who walk on the way:
Isa 35:8 And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
x Or if they are fools, they shall not wander in it
This probably initially refers to the exiles returning from Babylon to Jerusalem, but it may well have a final fulfillment in the future. The latter would involve God’s holy people having access to his holy Jerusalem – a millennial one or the new Jerusalem of the afterlife.
- Prelude: The world is basically evil
- Be set apart for God
- Do not love this world
- Do not conform to this world
- Do not live as other people do . . .
- . . . Worldly and human behavior to be avoided
- Avoid bad company . . .
- . . . Bad company is corruptive and harmful
- Avoid compromising alliances with unbelievers and the wicked
- Note: God’s people are not of this world . . .
- . . . God’s people are in effect exiles and temporary residents in this world – even homeless in it
- Expel unrepentant sinners . . .
- Do not marry outside of God’s people – particularly as it can result in being led astray
- Avoiding Sin
Being holy involves being set apart for God from worldly things. Such things include: compromising associations with the people of this world; and the ways of the world.
- Satan has great power and authority in the world
- The ungodly do not know God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit
In the NT the “world” often refers to the system of values, attitudes and behaviour commonplace in society – along with the people and social structures that conform to this system. This system is largely antagonistic towards or dismissive of God. As such, the “world” is essentially evil.
The “judgment of this world” points to the world being evil. Regarding the meaning of the phrase, see the comment on John 12:31-33 under Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection were a triumph over Satan and evil.
John 15:18-19 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ▤
y Or when we are judged we are being disciplined by the Lord
Eph 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ▤
The term “this present darkness” refers to the spiritual darkness that pervades this world – indicative of the world’s evil or ungodly condition.
- The world does not know God:
That the world does not know God shows that it is ungodly and reflects that it is evil. Moreover, John 1:10, 14:17 and 1 John 3:1 (cf. The ungodly do not know God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit) show that in addition to not knowing God, the world does not know Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit.
“Consecrate” means to set apart for God or dedicate as sacred to him.
As God had separated Israel from the other peoples, they were to remain as such, holy to him.
Ezra 6:21 It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by every one who had joined them and separated himself from the uncleanness of the peoples of the land to worship the Lord, the God of Israel. ▤
Neh 10:28 The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, … ▤
The return from Babylonian exile appears to be primarily in view. God’s people – in particular those who would carry the holy vessels which belonged to God’s temple – were to depart from ungodly Babylonia and be pure, avoiding any “unclean thing”. This term here quite possibly refers figuratively to sinful things rather than simply unclean things.
z Greek from these things
The reference is to the figurative “Babylon”, symbolic of a great but corrupt world power, probably of the end times.
The Israelites were to live apart from the other nations.
1Jn 2:15, 17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. ▤ … 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. ▤
The fact that the world and the desires associated with it are passing away (v. 17; cf. 1Cor 7:31b ⇓) – in contrast to godly people – is good reason to not love the world or anything in it (v. 15).
a Greek You adulteresses!
Being a friend of the world (v. 4) involves conforming to the norms of the world – taking on its values and viewing things from its perspective – and implies a love for the things of this world. James indicates that this must be avoided.
- Set your minds on things above, not on worldly things:
The phrase “things that are on earth” is inclusive of sinful worldly things.
b Greek age
c Or what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God
Paul appears to be meaning that when dealing with the world or things of the world, we should not be influenced by it/them – e.g. through becoming attached to or engrossed in it/them (cf. AMP, GNT, NIV, NLT). For doing so would lead to conforming to the pattern of the world.
2Cor 10:2-4 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. ▤
In speaking of acting “according to the flesh” (vv. 2b, 3) Paul is speaking of acting “according to human standards” (NRSV) – “by the standards of this world” (NIV®; cf. CEV, GNT, NCV). We should avoid acting as such, and so we should avoid the use of worldly “weapons” (v. 4) – such as deceit and coercion. We should not resort to using such things, conforming to this world’s ways, even if what we are trying to achieve is honorable.
Eph 2:1-2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— ▤
For believers, following the ways of this world should be a thing of the past.
1Jn 5:3-5 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? ▤
To “overcome the world” means to rise above its sinful way of life, obeying God (v. 3). It is possible “by means of our faith” (GNT).
Here Peter exhorts his listeners to save themselves “from the evil of today’s people” (NCV™), i.e. to avoid conforming to it – and suffering the consequences of such corruption (cf. CEV, GNT).
Isa 8:11-12 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. ▤
One aspect of not living like the people of this world (v. 11) is that we should not think like them (cf. Eph 4:17 ↓), being fearful of what they fear (v. 12). Somewhat similarly Mark 4:18-19 says that we should not be concerned with “the cares of the world”.
Ezek 11:11b-12 I will judge you at the border of Israel, 12and you shall know that I am the Lord. For you have not walked in my statutes, nor obeyed my rules, but have acted according to the rules of the nations that are around you. ▤
In this context “Gentiles” refers to ungodly heathens.
Note that the references to “flesh” in the following verses speak of the unspiritual human nature, manifested in ungodly behavior characteristic of humans and this world.
2Cor 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicityd and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. ▤
d Some manuscripts holiness
Earthly or worldly “wisdom” is based on human thinking and as such is limited and flawed – both morally and intellectually. One should strive to reason in line with God’s wisdom and teaching – by his grace – rather than that of the world.
A number of commentators interpret Paul to be speaking of acting in a way that served his own interests, so that he would be inclined to easily change his mind to suit himself – almost as if he was saying “Yes” and “No” in the one breath.
Do not view people from a mere human perspective, based on such things as appearances (cf. v. 12), people’s background and worldly credentials.
Worldly grief can be devoid of hope and so negative, directionless and even perpetual. Thus it tends to be destructive.
As a rule, such human boasting should be avoided. Here Paul felt obliged to do it in order to defend his ministry.
The clause “their god is their belly” suggests that their stomach was their top priority. However the reference may be more general, with “belly” possibly being used as a metaphor for “their bodily desires” (GNT, cf. NCV) – particularly in light of the following clause “they glory in their shame”. Both possibilities involve a mindset focused on earthly or worldly things – and should be avoided.
Col 2:20-22 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22(referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? ▤
Here Paul has primarily in view the heresy of asceticism – which involved the observance of strict rules to supposedly gain God’s approval. They refer to things that perish with use (v. 22a) and were based on a strain of human wisdom rather than being of God. Likewise we should be wary of and avoid teaching based on worldly wisdom.
- Spiritual immaturity is a product of unspiritual human nature:
1Cor 3:1-3a But I, brothers,
e could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. ▤
e Or brothers and sisters
See Psalms 1:1 and comment in the following subsection.
“A perverse heart” (v. 4) refers to perverse people.
Prov 1:10-11, 14-16 My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. 11If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; ▤ … 14throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse”— 15my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, 16for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. ▤
Here “revelers” probably refers to sinful carousers.
Verse 7 probably means that we should “not be associated” (NRSV, cf. CEV, GNT, NCV) with such people, rather than simply to not doing the things that they do.
2Tim 3:2-5 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. ▤
The corruptive nature of bad company is also implied in some of the references in the previous subsection.
f Probably from Menander’s comedy Thais
g The singular Hebrew word for man (ish) is used here to portray a representative example of a godly person; see Preface
To walk “in the counsel of the wicked” is to follow their advice. To stand “in the way of sinners” probably refers to following their ways (cf. CEV, GNT), but could be speaking of keeping company with them (cf. NLT). Some commentators point out that this verse speaks of being progressively or increasingly influenced by the wicked, culminating with joining in with them – in effect becoming one of them.
The phrase “suffer harm” probably means such a person will be harmed by trouble. However in the light of the first part of the verse, it may instead be referring to their character suffering harm by becoming foolish in accordance with the foolish company they keep.
Being enticed into the company and ways of a violent person leads one into trouble.
2Cor 6:14-17 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15What accord has Christ with Belial?h Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, … ▤
h Greek Beliar
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” (v. 14a) appears to be speaking against forming close, binding associations with unbelievers that would risk leading a believer to compromise aspects of their faith and/or inhibit their service and witness to Christ. Additionally, basic differences between believers and unbelievers mean that such relationships lack: fellowship (v. 14); things in common (v. 15); harmony (v. 15); and agreement (v. 16). Probably Paul had primarily in mind affiliations either with the false teachers who had appeared in the Corinthian church or pagan idolaters (vv. 15a, 16a). Note that “Belial” (v. 15a) is Satan.
Ex 23:32-33 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you. ▤
Ex 34:12-15 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14(for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, … ▤
Such a covenant “or mutual agreement” (AMP, v. 12; cf. Ex 23:32 ↑) would make way for participation in each other’s practices, including corruptive ones.
Josh 23:12-13 For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, 13know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you. ▤
In speaking of the destructive results of alliances with the former occupants of the land (v. 13b), Joshua quite probably had primarily in mind the lure of worshipping their gods and the consequences this would bring.
Ezra 9:11b-12 ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. 12Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’ ▤
2Chr 20:35-37 After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined with Ahaziah king of Israel, who acted wickedly. 36He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish, and they built the ships in Ezion-geber. 37Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, “Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.” And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish. ▤
God emphatically showed his disapproval of Jehoshaphat’s alliance with the wicked Ahaziah, by destroying a prime focus of the alliance.
Isa 30:1-2 “Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance,i but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; 2who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! ▤
i Hebrew who weave a web
Gen 14:21-24 And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” 22But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my handj to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, 23that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 24I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.” ▤
j Or I have taken a solemn oath
The king of Sodom was not proposing a formal alliance, but Abram avoided even being obligated in any way to such an ungodly figure.
- We are not to try to completely disassociate with unbelievers:
1Cor 5:9-10 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. ▤
Note that immoral people within the church are the object of the instruction mentioned in v. 9.
In contrast to the Pharisees, Jesus himself was not of this world. The same is true of his followers, as the following verses show.
John 17:14-16 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.k 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. ▤
k Or from evil
l Or through whom
Heb 11:37-38 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,m they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. ▤
m Some manuscripts add they were tempted
1Jn 3:1, 13 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. ▤ … 13Do not be surprised, brothers,n that the world hates you. ▤
n Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verses 14, 16
Not knowing God, the people of the world do not recognize or acknowledge believers for who they are (v. 1b; cf. AMP) – i.e. God’s people or children (v. 1a). The fact that believers are God’s people, not recognized by and indeed hated by the world (v. 13; cf. John 15:19 ↑; John 17:14 ↑), points to the fact that believers are not of this world.
Christians are citizens of heaven rather than citizens of this world.
The treatment of Paul as if he was the scum of the world, demonstrated that Paul was not of this world.
God’s people should view their stay in this world as transitory –residing here temporarily, in exile from their true home, to which they will go after this life.
1Pet 1:1, 17 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, ▤ … 17And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, … ▤
In referring to believers as “exiles” (cf. 1Pet 2:11 ↓), Peter speaks of their absence from their true and ultimate home in the new world that is to come.
A “sojourner” is a person who is staying somewhere temporarily.
In vv. 9-10 the writer appears to correlate the promise to Abraham and his family of inheriting the promised land with the promise to all God’s people of the heavenly city to come.
Gen 23:3-4 And Abraham rose up from before his dead and said to the Hittites, 4“I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” ▤
Abraham’s situation in Canaan reflects that of God’s people on earth (cf. Heb 11:9-10, 13-16 ↓).
o Septuagint, Vulgate; Hebrew hope, or prospect
David’s first statement may be reflecting on the fact that even in the promised land the Israelites were merely aliens, tenants in the land – as stated in Leviticus 25:23, “… the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.” (Ps 39:12 below may also have this in mind.) This mirrors the fact that from God’s perspective his people are “strangers … and sojourners … on the earth”. His people should likewise see themselves as such.
In conjunction with being exiles and temporary residents in the world, in following Jesus believers may like him have no home of their own in this world (cf. 1Cor 4:11 ↓; Heb 1:38 ⇑). Peter may have had this partly in view in his statement to Jesus in Matthew 19:27a – “See, we have left everything and followed you.”
- As exiles on earth, God’s people long for a heavenly city:
Heb 11:9-10, 13-16 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. ▤ … 13These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. ▤
In v. 10, the writer implies that Abraham was ultimately looking beyond the promise of inheriting the promised land, to dwelling in the heavenly city to come. Note that on the same theme as this passage, later the author of Hebrews says in 13:14, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”