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"koinos" (mentioned below) can be found here
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With a Focus on the Issue of...

Things that are "Common"
Contrasted with
Things that are "Set apart as special"


Introductory Comments

The Bible uses the idea of "common" in two ways. In a "positive" sense, the Bible describes the early Christians as having many things in common. They also shared things, as the need arose. They were all part of a common bond, since they had all followed the way of Jesus.

The Bible also uses this concept in a "negative" sense, often (not always) implying something undesirable. For instance, even though God's people have much in common among themselves, they are not to have anything in common with the ways of the Devil. Instead, they are to be the opposite, that is, set apart to God, and to doing what is good. In other words, they are to be holy.

The need to be holy ("set apart") is taught, symbolically, by many of the Jewish ceremonial regulations, found in the Old Testament Law. Unfortunately, the Jewish people often reduced holiness to the following of a list of man-made (not God-made) regulations, which they followed instead of God's Law. In both of these situations, whether following God's Law or man-made rules, the word "common" would carry the connotation of being unholy, unclean, or impure. But it would be an illegitimate concept, when it involved the man-made regulations. (Jesus himself strongly opposed the religious leaders' attempts to judge spirituality based on their own man-made rules. This is one of the reasons they wanted to kill him.)

This study focuses on the "negative" uses of the word "common," and is based on two related New Testament Greek words (koinos - adjective, and koinoo - verb). The places where these words occur in the outline will be in italics.

The "positive" uses of the word "common" can be found in a different study entitled, "Fellowship & Sharing in the Community of Believers."


Used in this sense, being "common" is something to be undesired.

This section of the outline focuses on the use of the word in a way that is essentially the opposite of "special." It includes ideas such as:

Within such a context, it would be desirable for a person to be "set apart (as special)." He would want to be "holy," rather than "common" (unclean, unholy, etc.).

A. The issue of God's rules vs. man-made rules

  1. The Jewish ceremonial regulations (from the Law given to Moses, by God)
  2. In contrast... man-made rules


B. In reference to "common" food ("ceremonially unclean" or "not Kosher")

  1. Romans 14:14 - No food is inherently (in itself) ceremonially unclean [common]. It is ceremonially unclean only to those who view it as being unclean. [In other words, it is not necessarily wrong to eat it. But if you yourself have chosen - or agreed - to view it as such (as the Jews had, under the Old Covenant), then it is wrong for you.]
  2. Acts 10:14, 15; repeated in Acts 11:8, 9 - Peter: "I have never eaten anything that is unholy / impure [common] or not (ceremonially) cleaned." // God: "What I have made clean, don't call it unholy / impure [common]!" [In Christ, we are under a new covenant. These regulations are not a part of that covenant.]
  3. Note that the very same food could be either forbidden or permissible, depending on the circumstances surrounding it's use.
  4. Note concerning the Ceremonial Law...


C. In reference to "common" hands (not ceremonially washed)

  1. Mark 7:2, 5 - The disciples were eating food with unclean [common] hands - that is, not ceremonially washed. // They were condemned by the religious leaders because they were eating food with unclean [common] hands.


D. In reference to "common" people (those who were not "set apart" to God)

  1. Used to describe non-Jews, a view based on the Old Testament ceremonial law. (The following verse stresses the fact that, under the New Covenant, this distinction would no longer be important.)
  2. Used to describe people who are not qualified to enter God's presence. They are "common" (unholy) rather than "set apart" for God.


E. In reference to "common" blood (= profane/unclean/of no value): Jesus' blood (= the blood which made the New Covenant a reality) was wrongly considered, by some, as being of no value.

  1. Hebrews 10:29 - The person who treats it as unholy [as common, of no special significance] will be severely punished by God.


F. THE SPIRITUAL REALITY: Jesus focuses on the real source of "uncleanness" (etc.) - it does not revolve around physical rituals, but is related to the nature of the heart.

  1. Matthew 15:11, 18, 20; Mark 7:15, 18, 20, 23 - All these verses have a similar focus: It's not what enters a person's mouth (food) that makes him unclean/defiled. Rather, it is what comes out of the mouth - the expressions of the heart - that make him unclean/defiled. [See the context of these verses, for a listing of some of the sins that come from the heart.]

Dennis Hinks © 1987, 2000