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What the Bible says about Profane/Holy Distinction
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 2:3

"Sanctified" in Genesis 2:3 and "holy" in Exodus 20:8 are the same word in Hebrew though in different tenses. In Genesis 2, God makes the seventh day holy; in Exodus 20, He commands us to keep holy what He has already made holy. A holy God is required to make holy time, and He made no time holy other than His Sabbaths. God can make man holy, but man cannot confer holiness to the degree God does. Any other day of worship has a mere manmade holiness and is not holy as God's Sabbaths are holy. The Sabbath, then, is worthy of respect, deference, even devotion not given to other periods of time. It is set apart for sacred use because it derives from God.

The underlying implication of the usage of "holy" is difference. The verbal root literally means "to cut," "to cut out," "to separate from," or it can imply "to make a cut above," thus "to make special." A holy thing is an object that is different from that to which it is compared. In this case, the other six days are common and are given to the use and pursuit of the common, ordinary activities of life. Practically, it means that when the Sabbath arrives, we should stop doing and avoid the mundane things that make or promote turning the Sabbath into an ordinary day.

Exodus 3:1-5 provides a clear illustration of what the word "holy" implies:

Now Moses . . . came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn." So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground."

The principle shown here is what makes the Sabbath holy, different. Because God was present, Moses had to treat the ground differently, with a respect or a deference that he would not give to ordinary ground. For the called of God, this difference, this holiness, is a spiritual thing; it is not physically discerned.

Notice that, even though Moses was aware that there was something unusual about what He was observing, God had to tell him that he stood on holy ground. It is a spiritual state that cannot be physically discerned. As for the Sabbath, God puts His presence into the day for the sake of His people and His spiritual creation.

Consider the scenario Amos 3:3 presents: "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" If we want to be in God's presence in this special way and in agreement with Him, no other day will do. God has an appointment with us to meet with Him on a specific day, on Sabbath time. It is time, different from other time, just as an appointment time with a dentist is different from other time in one's life, as well as from another person's scheduled time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment

Genesis 25:29-34

Perhaps never in all man's history has something so valuable been purchased for so little! The major flaw in Esau's character reveals itself in his careless disregard of the high value of his birthright in favor of an immediate, sensual satisfaction. Unfortunately, far too many of us are like him. Esau was a man, so to speak, who could not see two blocks down a straight road on a crystal-clear day. Because immediate concerns dominated his life, living by faith was extremely difficult for him.

Either he had no vision, or his personality demanded instant gratification. The things that he valued were those he could have right away. Notice verses 32 and 34. To paraphrase he says, "What good is the birthright if I have to wait for it?" Apparently, he either did not consider making a sacrifice to retain it at all or quickly passed over the thought. Therefore, he hungrily gratified his appetite and went his way, much like the harlot who, after plying her trade, unconcernedly says, "I have done no harm."

However, Moses writes, "Esau despised his birthright"! Despise is a strong word, meaning "to be scornful" or "to treat with contempt." Notice Paul's remarks about this in Hebrews 12:16: ". . . lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright." Paul judges him as "profane," which marks a person as irreverent toward what is sacred. The Greek word literally describes one standing in front of a temple (where God dwells) rather than within it, suggesting one not admitted into the body of true knowledge. Esau displays his profanity by treating something hallowed—his birthright—as if it were common.

Esau further demonstrates this perversity in his thinking in his choice of wives (Genesis 26:34-35). He is unconcerned about God, the things of God, and the future. His mind is elsewhere; he is worldly. The Christian must live in the present dealing with life's problems as they come to him, but always with the future, the Kingdom of God, in mind.

God's Word depicts Esau's worldliness through the medium of eating. Eating something he desired at the moment meant more to him than a tremendously valuable gift of God. Though he became very wealthy, the Bible ignores his death, which oftentimes indicates something ominous. It is worth meditating upon how much satisfying immediate cravings and yearnings, perhaps even for food, presents a stumblingblock to our pleasing God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Two)

Leviticus 10:9-10

This suggests that alcohol may have been the reason they did what they did. They may not have been drunk, but they may have been drinking. Remember, it was a time of great celebration. The Tabernacle had been erected, Aaron had been sanctified as High Priest, his sons were installed as priests, and the Levites had been set apart for their duties. Undoubtedly, a lot of celebrating was going on. The placement of these verses seems to indicate that Nadab and Abihu had been drinking. They were not thinking properly when they used common fire. Alcohol has a way of deluding a person into thinking that he is in control when he is not.

Perhaps all the other biblical references to drunkenness are nothing more than veiled references to this occasion. Someone under the influence of alcohol cannot serve God properly.

God describes the world as being drunk with the wine of Babylon's fornication. They are people who are in no condition to serve God because they cannot think straight spiritually. They think they are in control when they are not, so they cannot be holy. They attempt to serve Him in immorality and unethically.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Examples of Divine Justice

Isaiah 56:1-7

Notice the context here: "My salvation is near." This is an end-time prophecy, for our day and age. What He is talking about here actually began with the ministry of Jesus Christ. We have not reached its peak by any means, but it began when Jesus Christ began to turn to the Gentiles. It was a signal that He was moving away from Israel, and something new was beginning.

The "foreigners" here are Gentiles who are becoming part of the church of God. God was dealing with Israel primarily, and certainly Gentiles and foreigners were permitted to be a part of Israel. But this is signaling something that is far bigger than that! This is signaling something that involves worldwide activities.

Eunuchs were usually set apart to serve the king, and were castrated. Another way of saying it is that they were mutilated. But every one of us are mutilated spiritually. And we have been set apart to serve the great King—God. This really fits everybody in the church, not just Gentiles!

God is very concerned about the way things are done. Twice here He uses the word "defile." "Do not defile My Sabbath." In verse 2 and then again in verse 6, He says that those who "do not defile" are the ones who will be blessed. They will be His servants.

Can perfection come to any person who does not care how things are done? The answer is obvious. In regard to the Sabbath, it not only matters to God that we do it, but also how we do it. Why? Because it affects the outcome of the product! A person can produce something of poor quality, and they have, indeed, produced something. But if they produce something in which they really care about what the outcome will be, they are going to produce something that will be closer to perfection. It is like the difference between a mass-assembled automobile and a Rolls Royce built by hand—"customized" from the bottom up. Because a person cares about the product, he will produce something that is much better.

That is the principle involved here. God is concerned that "His people—the Gentiles" and "His people—the eunuchs" do not defile the Sabbath. Defile means to pollute, to make impure, unclean, dirty, corrupt, to profane. Biblically, it means "to put to common use."

A polluted steam is unfit for drinking. It might even be unfit for swimming. It might be so unfit that even fish cannot live in it. It might even be deadly. Think about that in relation to the Sabbath. Does it matter how something is done? God is concerned—otherwise something like this would not appear in His Word.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)

Isaiah 58:13-14

On this passage, commentator Matthew Henry writes:

On sabbath days we must not walk in our own ways (that is, not follow our callings), not find our own pleasure (that is, not follow our sports and recreations); nay, we must not speak our own words, words that concern either our callings or our pleasures; we must not allow ourselves a liberty of speech on that day as on other days, for we must then mind God's ways, make religion the business of the day; we must choose the things that please him; and speak his words, speak of divine things as we sit in the house and walk by the way. In all we say and do we must put a difference between this day and other days.

At the heart of Sabbath-breaking is idolatry, having other gods before the true God (Exodus 20:3). The basic, physical manifestation of idolatry is the worship of idols—graven images, statues, etc.—but its spiritual manifestation is much more subtle and dangerous. It is putting anything above God: money, a job, a house, or even a spouse! If anything becomes more important than God, idolatry is committed. Thus, if in the weekly observance of the Sabbath we do anything that becomes more important to us than our relationship with God, we have broken the Sabbath and committed idolatry. It could be said that idolatry is at the heart of all sin, as our willingness to esteem something higher than God and His way of life causes us to sin.

We must make a very real distinction between the Sabbath and the other days. The Sabbath was "made for man," as Christ points out (Mark 2:27), but that does not mean mankind has the authority to use it for his own purposes—rather, God made it on man's behalf, for his benefit. The seventh day still belongs to God, and He shares it with those whom He has called and sanctified. We have a key responsibility in esteeming the Sabbath in our conduct, in our conversations, in our attitudes, and even in our thoughts. By entering into this covenant with God, we have been entrusted with the knowledge and significance of this day, but we have also been warned, as stewards of God's truth, to be very careful with it.

David C. Grabbe
It's Not Our Time

Ezekiel 44:23

In the Millennium, when God's Kingdom is reigning on earth, the priesthood will teach the difference between clean and unclean! And after the thousand years, no abominable thing, nothing that defiles will mar the New Jerusalem! All of its citizens will be holy. This is the wonderful destiny that we are preparing for, and part of making ourselves ready is following the law of clean and unclean meats.

Staff
Clean and Unclean Meats

Amos 8:4-6

To enlarge their coffers, merchants opened their shops for business the minute the Sabbath and holy days passed. They used nonstandard weights and measures to cheat their customers of a few ounces of grain. Some cheated the people to the point that they had to sell themselves into slavery to pay their debts! At the end of the day, the businessman would sweep up the bad wheat berries left on the floor, and sell them to the poor as first-quality wheat when business resumed in the morning!

Their problem lay in their personal attitude toward sin and holiness. God looked at their hearts and saw nothing of His righteousness and holiness. Whenever He finds a lack of these elements in His people, He becomes very concerned. The Israelites manifested their godless attitude in their domineering ways, their penchant to exploit, and their insatiable feeding of their own indulgences. Although God appears to attack mainly the rich and powerful throughout the book, the poor and needy probably had the same attitude but lacked the power to carry it out. Thus, God will punish both "the great house"—the rich—and "the little house"—the poor (Amos 6:11).

Israel's attitude toward the things of God was one of total disrespect and indifference. When Jesus cleansed the Temple (John 2:13-16), one thing that angered Him was how the priests disqualified the peoples' sacrifices without legitimate grounds, forcing them to buy animals far above fair market value. Sincere worshippers would have no choice but to pay fifteen or twenty times the normal price for another sacrificial animal that the priests had already proclaimed acceptable. The Israelites of Amos' day exhibited the same attitudes in their normal business practices.

The sin that underpinned these attitudes is covetousness, causing them to turn everything in life to self-advantage. As in America, competition was the lifeblood of the people, the vitality of the nation, and they felt they had no alternative but to lie, cheat, and steal to keep their "competitive edge." "The end justifies the means" was their motto. God says that they did not have to approach business this way. The nation was very wealthy—there was enough for everyone.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)

Haggai 2:11-14

To both questions the priests give a correct answer. Using the laws of clean and unclean, God points out a principle that applies to Christians today. Very simply, God says that it is impossible for God's holiness, in us because of our relationship with Him and the indwelling of His Spirit, to pass from us to the world. In other words, if a holy thing touches a profane thing, the profane item does not become holy.

On the other hand, the attitude of the world, if it comes in contact with His people, can pass from the world into us. Using the above wording, if a profane thing touches a holy thing, the holy item is contaminated. The spiritual principle for today's Christian is obvious: The world will contaminate your holiness, if you are not on guard against it.

Reading these verses from The Living Bible makes God's meaning very clear. Though it is not an exact translation, but a thought-for-thought paraphrase, the point is correct.

Ask the priests this question about the law: "If one of you is carrying a holy sacrifice in his robes, and happens to brush against some bread or wine or meat, will it too become holy?" "No," the priests replied. "Holiness does not pass to other things that way." Then Haggai asked, "But if someone touches a dead person, and so becomes ceremonially impure, and then brushes against something, does it become contaminated?" And the priests answered, "Yes." Haggai then made his meaning clear. "You people," he said (speaking for the Lord), "were contaminating your sacrifices by living with selfish attitudes and evil hearts—and not only your sacrifices, but everything else that you did as a 'service' to me." (Haggai 2:11-14)

The people, having absorbed the prevalent attitude of the world, became infected by it. As we have seen repeatedly, their relationship with God quickly deteriorated into estrangement—just as the Laodicean's does.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism

Malachi 1:7-13

The halfhearted service, the halfhearted obedience, and the profanation are evident. The sacrifices that were being offered to God were being done in a way that was not acceptable to Him.

There is no indication that what these people were doing was deliberate. It seems that it was not a reasoned conclusion that it should be done this way. They were not purposefully worshipping God this way. It was not in their heart to do it! But it was nonetheless being done that way. They were treating God as though He and the things of the altar—the service and the sacrifice of the altar—were less important than other things. The way they performed the ritual showed that in their hearts they considered it a secondary matter. Other things were squeezing out what should have been their first priority.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)

Malachi 1:11-14

God wants us to realize how great He is, and when we give an offering, we are to do so with His greatness in mind. The offerings Israel made at this time were not done with a right heart. They were becoming indifferent toward God and the way they conducted their lives. They were treating the commands of God with familiarity and carelessness. They came to look upon them as simply ordinary. Thus, He says that He has no pleasure in Israel and would not accept their offerings.

We are to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)'from our heart and with a right attitude. We should be deeply appreciative of all His love toward us, the good that He does for us, and the care that He gives us. Whatever we do before God must be done with a right heart, and whatever we give must be given in a right attitude. Abraham reflected this, and he is known as the "father of the faithful" (Romans 4:16). God knew that Abraham would instruct his children to follow suit (Genesis 18:19).

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Tithing

Romans 14:14

In Romans 14, the subject is not clean and unclean foods but eating meat versus vegetarianism (verse 2). Paul admonishes Christians not to pass judgment on others for eating meat or for eating only vegetables (verse 3).

The question that confronted Paul was not that God's people were suggesting that somehow unclean animals had now been made clean, but the belief of some that no meat—even meat that had been created to be eaten with thanksgiving—should be eaten at all. The apostle points out that it would be wrong for the vegetarians to eat meat if they had doubts about it, as it would defile their consciences (verse 23). He concludes, "For whatever is not of faith is sin."

Verse 14 is a proof text used by the world to conclude that all meat is now fine to eat: "I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean." This is another verse that has been poorly translated to conform to preconceived notions.

The problem is with the word "unclean," which does not appear in the Greek text. To mean "unclean," Paul would have used akarthatos, but instead, the text reads koinos, which means "common," "ordinary," "defiled," or "profane (as opposed to holy or consecrated)." Peter uses both "common" and "unclean" to describe meats in Acts 10:14, so there is obviously a difference between the terms.

We know that the Bible defines "unclean" meat in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, but when is meat considered "common"? The only circumstances in which clean meats are common or defiled are when a clean animal dies naturally or is torn by beasts (Leviticus 22:8) or when the blood has not been properly drained from the meat (Leviticus 17:13-14; 3:17). Such animal flesh was called common because it could be given to strangers or aliens in Old Testament times if they wished to eat it (Deuteronomy 14:21). Similarly, in Acts 15:20, 29, the apostles forbade the Gentiles to eat the meat of a strangled animal or meat that had not been drained of blood.

In the case of Romans 14:14, it is likely that "defiled" would be the best term, as the meat under discussion was probably that offered to idols then sold in the marketplace for public consumption. To paraphrase, then, the verse should read: ". . . there is nothing defiled of itself; but to him who considers anything to be defiled, to him it is defiled."The meat was not defiled in fact, just in the minds of various church members, whom Paul had earlier called "weak" (verse 2). These "weak in the faith" Christians believed that, because the meat had been offered to a pagan idol, it had become spiritually defiled.

Paul explains in I Corinthians 8:4-7 that the demon behind the idol is nothing, for "there is no other God but one" (verse 4). Thus, there is no "spiritual" taint to the meat.

However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. (verses 7-8)

So we see that in these verses that Paul is not in any manner doing away with God's laws concerning clean and unclean meat. The topic does not even come up! He is discussing meat defiled or profaned due to its association with a pagan idol.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Did God Change the Law of Clean and Unclean Meats?

Galatians 6:6-7

We will not deceive God by having outward actions that seem godly to others yet inside we are profane. That will not turn God's head at all; He knows. We cannot pull the wool over God's eyes. He says that if we sow profanity, we will reap profanity, which is basically ungodliness.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is God in All Our Thoughts?

Hebrews 5:12-14

From the scriptural record, the Hebrews and the Corinthians were not equipped to feed themselves—to discern sacred or spiritual from profane or carnal. If we are in a dependent state, it would be to our advantage to learn how we can wean ourselves spiritually from the bottle. Some of us over the years have seemingly lost our appetite for solid, spiritual food and need to be fed intravenously.

All of us need to become less dependent on spiritual milk and instead become more capable of profiting from solid food. For those who are losing the capacity to enjoy solid food, there is a way to revitalize our spiritual appetite for the weightier matters.

Most of us would agree that the state of spiritual dependency described by the apostle Paul in Hebrews and Corinthians seemed lamentable and disgusting. Yet, how many of us during the last ten, twenty, or thirty years in the church, especially before the massive split, became conditioned to wait for the minister to prepare our weekly baby formula rather than ravenously devour God's Word every day?

Perhaps we have developed "baby-bird syndrome" in which we, in a helpless "take care of me" posture, open our beaks to get our weekly or bi-weekly worm. If Sabbath services were the only times we were spiritually fed, we would eventually starve to death.

Sometimes late in life, after leading a full life, people for no apparent reason lose their will to live and must be fed intravenously. Actually, when we all think about it, without an overriding purpose for our existence, we have no reason to eat or sustain our life. After the belief system was altered in our prior fellowship, people indeed started to lose the vision of their purpose for existence and eventually lost their capacity to endure solid food. Hopefully, most of us have passed the stage of the milk bottle, or God forbid, the need for intravenous feeding.

David F. Maas
Developing a Mature Spiritual Appetite


 




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