WHEN THE TEMPTER CAME

When Jesus had just been baptized by John in the Jordan river, continuing to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:15), then the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended in a bodily shape like a dove and lighted upon Him. Magnifying this already awesome event, the voice of God spoke from heaven saying “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:13-17). It was immediately after this that the Lord was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matt. 4:1). There Jesus fasted for forty days and was hungry and weak (Matt. 4:2). During these forty days in the wilderness, the tempter came to Him. The following are at least some of the lessons we can learn from this account.

First, the tempter comes to us at our weakest moments. It was not a coincidence that the tempter came to Jesus when He had been fasting for forty days and was surely in a weakened condition. Generally speaking, experience has taught us that forty days nears the limits of man’s ability to safely fast. After this, serious health issues arise and death is a real possibility. Jesus was physically and mentally exhausted. When this particular temptation was over, He apparently needed the assistance of the angels, for they are found ministering unto Him (Matt. 4:11; Mark 1:13). But even in this depleted and weakened condition, Jesus was still able to overcome these temptations.

Second, the tempter comes to us when we least expect it. These temptations came right after Jesus had received approval from God in heaven. It was a glorious moment for the Lord, quite unlike His time on the cross when He cried out “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:45,46). Here, God proclaimed His approval for His beloved Son, as He did at the the mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1ff). It was similar to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when all men proclaimed Him as Messiah. Yet very soon afterword, they were calling for His crucifixion (Matt. 21:8-11; 27:20-25). It was soon after this emotional, glorious and joyous event that satan attacked. Be sober for your adversary as a roaring lion seeketh whom he may devour ( I Pet. 5:8).

The tempter hits us at our weakest points. Due to His fasting, Jesus was particularly hungry during His wilderness stay (Matt. 4:2). It is no wonder then that the tempter tempted Him to make bread out of stones. Perhaps, in the Lord’s mind, as hungry as He was, when He saw a stone it resembled bread to Him and the tempter used this association to get Jesus to think about actually giving in to this urge. On another occasion, Jesus was anxious about going to Jerusalem and suffering many things at the hand of the priests and being crucified (Matt. 16:21). When Peter urged Him not to go, it was a great temptation to Him and He rebuked Peter for it (Matt. 16:23). He did not need the further hindrances to His work.

The tempter is the tempter, not God. James said, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed (James 1:13,14). Two things to note. First, the devil actively tempts us. Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, not God. God does not tempt any man. It is God Who makes a way of escape (I Cor. 10:13). Second, man, himself, is also responsible, for it is his own lusts that lure him into situations of temptation.

The tempter does not quit tempting. Luke tells us that the tempter departed from Jesus after these temptations but only “for a season” (Luke 4:13). Jesus said the apostles had continued with Him in His “temptations,” plural, not singular (Luke 22:18). The devil does not let up on us. He goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (I Pet. 5:8). Paul says we need the shield of faith to quench, not just one single dart, but “all” the fiery darts (plural) of the wicked (Eph. 6:16). We must resist him steadfast in the faith because he will not let up on his attack (I Pet. 5:9).

The tempter can be resisted. In every case, Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations. Some have said He could do this because He was divine. But if that is the reason, then He can no longer be our example, for we are not divine (at least not in the same sense He was). Jesus took on Himself the seed of Abraham, being made like unto His brethren in all things that He might destroy the devil and his work (Heb. 2:14-18). He was tempted in all points “like as we are,” touched with every feeling of our infirmities, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

When the tempter comes, what will we do? God commands us not to sin (I John 2:1). Our human weaknesses, however, often give us trouble. We have the example of our Saviour who overcame temptation. Temptations will surely come but as Jesus suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted (Heb. 2:18). We have but to resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7).

 

Eric L. Padgett

Wise Men

Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ is the only gospel account that records the visit of the wise men (Matt. 2:1-12). The expression “wise men” is translated from the term “magi” (Gk. magoi). The word magi might evoke in our modern mind images of David Copperfield or David Blaine, but this is not what the term suggests. Herodotus says that the magi were originally a tribe of the Medes (1:101:1). He also identifies them as priests, similar to the Levites in that they presided over the offering of sacrifices (1:132:2). These mysterious magi were renowned for their interpretation of dreams and their observations of, and their insight into, the meaning of astrological and astronomical events. They performed peculiar, public religious rites and were held in high regard by the children of the east as having special insights through these methods of divination.

What is more, being so highly esteemed, they were counted valuable as advisors to the kings, and thus they wielded great political power. When Nebuchadnezzar could not remember his dream, he turned to his magicians first to tell him the dream and then interpret it for him (Dan. 2:1,2). They objected that no king asks magicians such things, knowing that such is impossible with man. Whereas they were unsuccessful, Daniel, through revelation from God, made known the dream unto the king, giving all the glory to God (2:27-30). In return, Daniel was given gifts and made a “great man,” “ruler over the whole province of Babylon,” and “chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48).

The wise men who came from the east to seek Jesus were the spiritual heirs of those we meet in the book of Daniel. The Holy Spirit did not see fit to tell us how many of these men came to seek Jesus, though many have surmised that the number of kinds of gifts gives us insight into their number. Non-authoritative, secular traditions place the number anywhere between two and twelve. Equally unknown and unimportant are the names of the wise men, though secular history agains supplies alternatives: Gaspar, Melchoir and Balthasar, though other cultures offer other names.

Some have objected to the King James translation of “wise men.” However, Daniel was made “chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:47). Daniel referred to the magi as wise men (Dan. 2:10-12, 13, 14, 18, 24, 27, 48; 4:6, 18; 5:7, 8, 15). Jeremiah refers to a rab-mag, or chief of the magi (Jer. 39:13). In being made chief of the wise men, or magi, Daniel would have been considered a rab-mag. Since this position was usually a hereditary position, perhaps this explains, in part, why there were forces seeking Daniel’s death, being a foreigner.

Several things can be gathered from the statement of the wise men about this event (Matt. 2:2). First, these wise men knew about the birth of Jesus. But how could they have known? Daniel’s prophecy pinpointed the time when the Messiah was to appear (Dan. 2:44; 7:9-27; 9:20-27). The Jews still living abroad, as well as the wise men, would have had access to these scriptures, or at least the teachings of the scriptures. Further, since God speaks to the wise men in having them turn in another direction without telling Herod (Matt. 2:12), it is possible that He had already spoken to them earlier, as well, directing them further.

Second, the wise men also allude to the star. We already know the wise men were students of the stars and thought that they could divine the world through them. But perhaps, having had access to the writings of Daniel and other Old Testament authors, they had read Balaam’s prophecy of a star coming out of Jacob (Num. 24:17), Balaam himself being a child of the east (Num. 22:5). The star which the wise men saw was no ordinary star and does not find any fulfillment in any alignment of the planets. This star first moved and then stood still over then house where Jesus was (Matt. 2:9).

Third, they understood that this child was born “king of the Jews” and was worthy of worship. The wise men traveled a great distance, perhaps a thousand miles to see Jesus. This no doubt entailed a great expense and great risk. What would Herod, notorious for killing any who stood in his way to challenge him, do to them? Would Herod consider this trespassing of his land a prelude to war? The fact that their lives were hazarded is confirmed by the fact that the Lord sent them out another way instead of returning to Herod (Matt. 2:12). Yet, despite all this, the wise men risked all to fall down before the young child and worship Him (Matt. 2:11). Contrast the actions of the wise men with that of Herod who only feigned interest in Him so that He might get him out of the way (Matt. 2:16-18).

These wise men sought Jesus at great expense of money and time and at great risk of life and limb. Some “Christians” today would never confess the Lord if they thought it might cost them money, friends or take time away from their precious entertainment. The wise men truly intended to worship Him as Lord and did so worship Him. Many “Christians” today act as if they are Lord. The wise men traveled perhaps a thousand miles so that they could find Him. Some today won’t travel across town to worship the Lord. The wise men undoubtedly had searched the scriptures and listened to God. Some “Christians” today have never opened their Bible or know what the Bible teaches and, perhaps, don’t even care.

Those wise men sought Jesus. Wise men today still seek Him (Acts 17:27).

Eric L. Padgett

In The Beginning Was The Word

One of the most profound statements in all the Bible begins John’s Gospel account: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Holy Spirit through John designed this statement, no doubt, to both draw our minds back to creation in Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”) and to enhance our limited understanding of it. This scripture ties together many thoughts and passages throughout the Old Testament and the New to give us deeper insight into the nature of our God.

John reveals that Jesus is the Word, the Logos. In general, words express ideas, they convey meaning. I am trying to convey certain ideas through the use of words as I write this entry. As the Word, Jesus reveals to us the truths that God wants us to know. Jesus said, “As My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things” (John 8:28). Again, “I speak that which I have seen with My Father” (John 8:38). Once more, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49). As the Word, Jesus faithfully represents to us what the Father would have us to know and understand.

The use of the term “word” or “logos” also ties together creation and revelation. God created the world by speaking it into existence. Eight times in Genesis chapter one the expression “and God said” is found as it relates to the act of creation. This fact is revealed over and over again in scripture. “He commanded, and they were created” (Psalm 148:5). “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth…He spoke, and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6,9). God brought this world into existence through the use of the Word.

In the New Testament, Jesus is identified as the Creator. John writes, “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). Paul declares of Jesus “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Colossians 1:16-17). The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that God “made the worlds” by His Son and that He now continues to uphold all things by the Word of His power (Heb. 1:2,3).

We further know from John’s opening declaration that the relationship which the Word sustained to God was intimate and sublime. Just as Genesis 1:1 tells us that God was already present in the beginning before creation, we learn this also of the Word. The Word simply “was.” Not only was the Word in the beginning, but He was both with God and He was God. He was God. Not just a god. Not a part of God. He was fully God and yet He was also distinct from God the Father so that He could be said to be “with” Him. This is why in the creation we hear God say “let Us make man in Our image” (Gen. 1:26).

But the most profound idea found in these opening verses of John’s account is found in verse 14: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” The eternal Word became flesh. God became man. Why do this? “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. . .Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:10,14).

Paul stated that Jesus “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).

This is how John began his account of the life of Christ. Matthew wrote to show the Jews that Jesus fulfilled the prophesies of the Old Testament as the Messiah. Mark wrote to show that Jesus was the Son of God. Luke wrote to demonstrate the humanity of Jesus. But John wrote to show us that Jesus was God and man. In his epistle, John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (I John 1:1). John touched and handled the Word of Life.

Eric L. Padgett

JOHN

Perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that, at some point in his time on the island of Patmos, John stood on a rocky precipice and peered out across the Aegean sea. The beautiful scenes and the peaceful rhythm of the waves would mask the political reality of his banishment. We might further suppose he might have indulged a reminiscence of a different time under different circumstances, when he was fishing the sea of Galilee with his brother and father and friends. Being now on the island for the word of God (Rev. 1:9), he might recall how it was there in Galilee it all began, when the Lord called him and his brother to follow Him (Matt. 4:21,22).

John and his brother James were business partners with brothers Peter and Andrew in fishing (Luke 5:10). Being business partners, you might also imagine that they had some social connections, as well. John and Andrew were both disciples of John the Baptist (John 1:35,40). When they heard John speak of Jesus as the Lamb of God, they followed the Lord and stayed with Him (John 1:36-39). Andrew, however, first found his brother Peter, to tell him that they had found the Christ (John 1:41).

After they had spent the day with the Lord, they must have returned back to their business because Jesus again finds them plying their trade with their father, Zebedee (Matt. 4:21). That day they were mending broken nets and getting them in order for the next excursion (Mark 1:19). How long this was after the initial time spent with the Lord is not known. But when Jesus calls John, he and James immediately leave their business and their father and follow Jesus (Matt. 4:22). Hired servants remained with their father to continue the business (Mark 1:20). Simon Peter and Andrew also followed the Lord that day (Mark 1:16-18). It was Peter who would later say, “We have forsaken all, and followed Thee” (Matt. 19:27).

But the family still communicated with their boys. Indeed, it seems that their mother was Salome, who, apparently was one of those women from Galilee, who followed and supported the Lord monetarily (Mark 15:40,41; Luke 8:1,2). She seems to be identified as the wife of Zebedee (cf. Matt. 27:56 and Mark 15:40). She was present at the crucifixion of Jesus (Mark 15:40), as was John (John 19:26). Salome was also apparently the sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother, which means that John was also a cousin of Jesus (John 19:25). How appropriate it would be then, for Jesus to entrust His own mother’s care to His cousin after He was gone (John 19:25-27). John was also well off enough financially to own his own house, to which he took Mary after the crucifixion (John 19:27).

John apparently had connections with the house of the high priest. Just what they were, we have no way of knowing but the un-named disciple–which is most likely John–was “known unto the high priest” (John 18:15,16). He was well enough known that he could speak to the door-keeper and have enough influence to get her to let Peter inside (John 18:16). John is equally familiar with the name of the servant of the high priest (John 18:10). His acquaintance with the high priest must have been from an earlier time, when there were no tensions between the authorities and Jesus. Further, it is not unusual that one of the apostles might know someone of import for one of the financial supporters of our Lord was Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s servant (Luke 8:1-3).

John, along with Peter and James, formed a trio of disciples who are often grouped together. Peter, James and John were the only of His apostles He allowed to see the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:38). These three were the only ones the Lord took with Him to witness His transfiguration (Matt. 17:1). They were likewise the ones whom Jesus wanted with Him during the most agonizing moments He would face before the cross. He commanded the rest of the apostles to sit in a place in Gethsemene while He went to pray, but He took with Him Peter, James and John (Matt. 26:37). He asked them, as a friend in need might ask, to “Watch with Me” (Matt. 26:38).

That Zebedee was willing to let his sons follow their cousin, and his wife was willing to support Jesus with their money, and that John and James were followers first of John the Baptist, then of Christ, that they had connections to the high priest suggests that they were a family of religious fervor. John showed that zeal when he and James called for fire on a Samaritan village because they would not receive Him (Luke 9:51-54). But Jesus rebuked them, saying, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:55,56).

John also rebuked those not following Jesus for casting out devils in the name of the Saviour (Luke 9:49), and his mother, evincing the same fiery spirit, sought a special place for her sons in the kingdom (Matt. 20:20-23). After word of the resurrection, John was the first to run to the empty tomb, pausing at the entrance while Peter followed and went in first (John 20:4-6). Even when writing his epistles, John showed this zeal in rebuking the error of men such as Diotrephes (III John 1:9,10) and those who would bid Godspeed to error (II John 9-11). In the early church, John and Peter are often associated together in the work of the Lord (cf. Acts 3:1; 4:13; 8:14). And yet John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was of gentle enough spirit to lean on the Lord’s breast at supper (John 13:23).

As John stood on the island of Patmos, and looked out across the Aegean sea, perhaps his mind did race back through all the events of his long life. But his mind, through revelation, also looked forward to the tribulation through which the church for which he labored would pass (Rev. 1:9; 7:14, etc.) and ultimately to it’s glorious, heavenly triumph (Rev. 21, 22). The Lord no longer spoke to him in gentle tones, but now with the voice of a trumpet (Rev. 1:10,15). John would end the Apocalypse with the promise of Jesus “Surely I come quickly.” And John would plead “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

Eric L. Padgett

TIMOTHY

Paul had passed through the area of Lycaonia less than three years earlier on his first evangelistic tour, preaching the gospel at Inconium, Lystra, Derbe and the region round about (Acts 14:1-7). It is highly probable that Paul’s preaching at this time resulted in the conversion of Timothy, and possibly also of his mother and grandmother. Paul describes Timothy as his own son in the faith, an expression which he uses of those whom he had a hand in converting (e.g., I Cor. 4:14-16). Now, Timothy was being chosen to accompany Paul on a second evangelistic tour (Acts 16:1-5).

In his second epistle to him, Paul reminded Timothy of the sufferings he had endured at Antioch, Lystra and Iconium (II Tim. 3:10,11). At Lystra (Acts 14:8), which was likely Timothy’s home town, Paul was stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead (Acts 14:19). But as the disciples stood around his battered body, Paul astonishingly stood up and went back into the city (Acts 14:20). It is possible that Timothy was one of the disciples that “stood round about him” and was eyewitness of these events. In any event, this story would have certainly been the talk among the disciples there and Timothy would no doubt had been very impressed with Paul’s courage.

From an early age Timothy grew up learning of Jehovah and of the wonderful and exciting histories of His dealings with man. Paul observed that from a child he had known the Holy Scriptures, that is the Old Testament scriptures (II Tim. 3:15). Undoubtedly, he received this instruction from his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois whom Paul commends for their unfeigned faith (II Tim. 1:5). What role Timothy’s Greek, or a gentile, father played in his upbringing is unclear. Luke stresses the fact that he was a gentile (Acts 6:1,3) and that Timothy was uncircumcised (Acts 16:3).

That his mother married a gentile seems curious for such a devout Jewess if he was not a proselyte to the Jewish faith, which otherwise would have been an unlawful marriage (Ex. 34:10-17; Deut. 7:1-5). Perhaps he was one of those “proselytes of the gate” (cf. Ex. 20:10) who submitted to the law but was not a Jew (cf. Lev. 4:10-22). This might explain Timothy not being circumcised, as well. His father may have died early, for Paul mentions only his mother and grandmother’s faith. But for whatever reason, it was those two women who very likely guided Timothy in the way of the Lord.

This early quality instruction and Timothy’s sterling character made him a desirable worker for the apostle Paul (Acts 16:3). Also, the fact that Timothy was of both Jewish and gentile blood would, perhaps, benefit Paul in his mission to the gentiles. By the time Paul had returned to Lystra, Timothy had already developed a good reputation, for he was “well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2). Being known by the brethren in these places suggests that he was already engaged in the Lord’s work, possibly being, as McGarvey suggests, “a notable speaker.”

There seems to be evidence to suggest, however, that as a leader Timothy was timid. Paul encouraged Timothy to “stir up the gift of God which is in thee” because God had “not given us the spirit of fear but of power” (II Tim. 1:6,7). He warned him not to be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord “but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel” (II Tim. 1:8). He urged the Corinthian brethren to allow Timothy to “be with you without fear” (I Cor. 16:10). On a couple of occasions he urged Timothy to “let no man despise thee” (I Tim. 4:12; I Cor. 16:11).

On the other hand, Timothy often showed great courage. He was in prison with, but was released earlier than, Paul (Heb. 13:23). Paul said he had no man like-minded, who naturally cared for the estate of the brethren at Philippi (Phil. 2:19,20). Timothy was always minded to put Christ first (Phil. 2:21). Paul also left Timothy in Ephesus while he went into Macedonia that he “might charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (I Tim. 1:3,4). This was no small task but he must have been successful for when the Lord speaks to the church at Ephesus through John he commends them for finding them liars which claimed to be apostles and were not.

Paul always showers Timothy with praise. He was Paul’s “beloved son and faithful in the Lord” (I Cor. 4:17) and “my own son in the faith” (I Tim. 1:2; cf. I Tim. 1:18). Again, Paul calls him my dearly beloved son (II Tim. 1:2). Paul called him “our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ” (I Thess. 3:2).

We need more like Timothy in the church.

Eric L. Padgett

CORNELIUS

Luke highlights the conversion of Cornelius because of its value in describing the universality of the gospel, but in so doing he also describes in one man a series of admirable qualities, those to which any sober-minded man would gladly aspire. By virtue of being a Roman centurion, he had to possess in himself unmistakable and remarkable qualities of leadership and submission. William Barclay quotes an unnamed ancient historian who describes the qualifications of a Roman centurion: “Centurions are desired not to be overbold and reckless so much as good leaders, of steady and prudent mind, not prone to take the offensive to start fighting wantonly, but able when overwhelmed and hard-pressed to stand fast and die at their posts.”

A Roman legion consisted of six thousand men. Each legion was then divided into ten cohorts of six hundred men. A cohort was divided into three bands and each band into two centuries. As a centurion, Cornelius was over one of these centuries, or one hundred men (eighty soldiers and 20 servants), and demonstrated both submission to authority and leadership skills. The band to which Cornelius was attached was called the Italian band, probably because it consisted of those who were from Italy. There was a well known and esteemed patrician family in Rome by the name of Cornelia and many commentators suggest the possibility that Cornelius was connected with that family.

Cornelius was not only a capable military leader, but he had personal qualities that endeared him to the people. Luke records that he had “a good report among all the nations of the Jews” (Acts 10:22). Luke further records that he was a just man, and one that feared God, gave much alms to the people and prayed to God alway (Acts 10:2, 22). This was not altogether uncommon, for another centurion during Jesus’ day had supported the Jews and had even built them a sysnagogue (Luke 7:1-5). It was said that he “loved our nation” and was worthy to receive an answer to his request (vv. 4,5). Cornelius was also such a man.

There has been much discussion over the religious state of Cornelius. Some have tried to make Cornelius a Jewish proselyte. But the truth of the matter is the Text no where states that Cornelius was a proselyte to the Jewish faith. In fact, it rather states the opposite. Albert Barnes outlines the reasons well: “But there is no sufficient evidence of this. The reception of the narrative of Peter, Acts 11:1-3, shows that the other apostles regarded him as a Gentile. In Act 10:28, Peter evidently regards him as a foreigner – one who did not in any sense esteem himself to be a Jew. In Acts 11:1, it is expressly said that ‘the Gentiles’ had received the Word of God, evidently alluding to Cornelius and to those who were with him.” The Pulpit Commentary observes, “he is spoken of simply as a Gentile and uncircumcised. . .he was in no sense a proselyte.”

And yet the Text speaks of him as a “devout” and “just” man and as one “that feared God” and “prayed to God alway” (Acts 10:1,2,22). His prayers went up to God as a memorial (Acts 10:4). Since he wasn’t a Christian yet, and since he wasn’t a proselyte, then how could he be described as devout? Brother Woods answers that “the only conclusion harmonizing the difficulties of the case” is that Cornelius “was worshipping God under the system of patriarchy” (Questions and Answers Open Forum Freed-Hardeman College Lectures, 1976).

It does seem either that 1) Cornelius was under the law of patriarchy and his prayers were offered while he was still amenable to that system, and God heard them with a view to answering them or 2), his prayers simply went up to God as a memorial and God arranged mercifully in His providence for Cornelius to hear the gospel of Christ, as He does for all those that seek Him (e.g., II Pet. 3:9). For more discussion on Cornelius and his prayer see Does God Hear The Alien Sinner’s Prayer?

Regardless of the answer, it is significant that God chose Cornelius of all the Gentiles in the world to be the first to be brought into the body, thus fulfilling the mystery that “in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Ephesians 3:5-6). This alone speaks volumes of his character. God only chooses the right people for the job, and Cornelius was that man.

The Lord’s approval of him, and all those that likewise trusted in Him there that day, is seen in His bestowing the gift of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius even before he had obeyed the gospel (Acts 10:44-48). This pouring out of the gift of the Holy Ghost (not the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was reserved for the apostles alone – John 14:26; 16:13), without the laying on of their hands (Acts 8:18), demonstrated that God had granted unto the Gentiles repentance unto life (Acts 11:18). The conversion of Cornelius demonstrated to Peter that God was “no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him (Acts 10:34,35).

Eric L. Padgett

PAUL

“Who art Thou, Lord?” Those were Paul’s words, spoken somewhere on a lonely, desert road outside the city of Damascus. But he must have had some idea already to whom he was speaking. The light shining about him was so bright, the noon day sun was hidden from his view. Yet even in this blinding light, before he lost his vision, he evidently saw the form of a man (Acts 9:7, 8, 17; I Cor. 15:8). He heard a voice calling his name, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” (Acts 9:4). The Lord would remove any remaining question in his mind as to Who was addressing him with the words, “I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest.” Perhaps, in those few moments on the road to Damascus, amidst all the wonder and glory of this encounter, his life was laid out before him in his mind.

Paul was born in the capital city of Tarsus, in the Roman province of Cilicia, situated in Syria (Acts 22:3). Paul described Tarsus as “no mean city” (Acts 21:39). According to Xenophon, it was “a large and prosperous city” (Anabasis 1:2:23) and Josephus adds of Cilicia, that “the noblest city they have, and a metropolis also, is Tarsus” (Ant. 1:6:1). Under Augustus Caesar, the city was made free and was allowed to govern itself by it’s own magistrates and did not have a Roman garrison in it as long as it served Rome. Though the city was free, that did not necessarily mean all of it’s citizens were free. So, while Paul calls himself a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37; 22:25) and free-born (Acts 22:28), that was not merely from being a citizen of Tarsus. In some way, apparently, Paul’s family–either his father or some earlier ancestor–had obtained Roman citizenship and Paul reaped the benefits of that heritage.

Tarsus was a crossroads of culture. A little north of Tarsus was the Cilician Gates which “historically. . . forms part of a route that linked Anatolia with the Mediterranean coast” (wikipedia). “It was a city so cosmopolitan that none could walk the streets without coming into contact with the ends of the earth. It was a city with such a history that none could live in it without some sense of greatness. It was a city with such a desire for knowledge, such a respect for scholarship, and such an intellectual ferment of thought that no thinking young man could entirely escape the contagion of the thronging ideas which crowded the air” (Barclay, The Mind of Saint Paul).

Tarsus was a university city. There, one had access to one of the great education systems in the ancient world, rivaling Athens and Alexandria. As it was a center of culture, it was also a great city of commerce. One of the goods which was exported was goats hair, called cilicium, which was used in making, among other things, tent coverings, sailcloth and leggings. When the goat’s hair was woven into a fabric, it was porous when dry, allowing air to move through it, but when wet it closed and formed a nearly waterproof covering, perfect for tents. Undoubtedly, Paul learned his trade from his father because of his life in Tarsus (Acts 18:3).

But while Paul was born in this Gentile city, he was thoroughly Jewish. Paul stated that his manner of life from his youth was at the first among his own nation at Jerusalem (Acts 26:4). He may possibly have spent the first decade of his life being educated in Tarsus, but, at least, by the age of twelve or thirteen, he would have journeyed to Jerusalem and there received a more exacting, rigorous Jewish education. We know that Paul’s father was a Pharisee of the tribe of Benjamin, as was Paul, himself (Acts 23:6; Phil. 3:5). He studied at the feet of the famous and highly respected Gamaliel in Jerusalem and was taught according to the perfect manner of the law and was zealous toward God (Acts 22:3). He profited in the Jew’s religion above many of his own equals being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of his fathers (Gal. 1:14).

Paul’s zeal in his youth for the traditions of his fathers translated into a fiery hatred of the Lord and His disciples as an adult. The first time the New Testament specifically mentions Saul is when he is seen holding the coats of those who were stoning Stephen and taking pleasure in the same (Acts 7:58; 8:1). Luke records next that Saul, himself, made havoc of the church, entering into every suspected Christian house and dragging out those who professed Christ and shut them up in prison (Acts 8:1). Saul “wasted” the Lord’s church (Gal. 1:13). He pursued Christians even to strange cities, being exceedingly mad against them, and beat them even in their synagogues (Acts 26:10,11; 22:19). Every moment he was planning the slaughter of Christians, every breathe was a threat against the disciples (Acts 9:1).

Now back to Damascus.

Perhaps, as the Lord spoke to him on this desert road, saying “I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest,” his mind raced back to see the bloody face and broken body of Stephen. Maybe he saw the face of each crying mother and each heartbroken wife as he dragged their loved ones away and beat them mercilessly. Maybe he thought of the members of his own family who were obedient to Christ even before he was and who were well thought of among the apostles (Rom. 16:7). Maybe he thought of his own blinding hatred which compelled him to injure, beat and kill those whom he believed heretic, those who dared to profess the name of Jesus Christ.

On this road, Jesus gently called his name, “Saul, Saul,” just as he had Martha (Luke 10:41) and Simon Peter (Luke 22:31). It must have startled this young man and he dropped to the ground (Acts 22:7). “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5). Saul’s actions were only resulting in more pain for himself, as if he were kicking against a pointed spike. Humbly, Saul asked, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Despite his actions, Saul was always a good man at heart, conscientiously seeking to do what he thought the Lord would have him to do (Acts 23:1). But now he was conquered, his ignorance enlightened and his unbelief dismantled (cf. I Tim. 1:13). He opened his eyes but he could see nothing, for he was blinded by the light (Acts 22:11). But for the first time in his life, he could really see.

Eric L. Padgett

ANNAS AND CAIAPHAS

Caiaphas and Jesus stood face to face. The created and the Creator in the same room. A pretend high priest and the heavenly High Priest. The chief priests and elders and all the sanhedrin had gathered in Caiaphas’ palace also, and for one purpose: they wanted to put Jesus to death. In their view, Jesus had been a thorn in their side for some time, but the resurrection of Lazarus was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. From the very day and forward that Jesus raised Lazarus, the sacerdotal tribe purposefully and actively sought an opportunity to “put Him to death” (John 11:54).

Joseph Caiaphas, as Josephus called him, was the son-in-law of Annas. Annas had been High Priest for about eight years, appointed by Quirinius in 7 A. D. but was removed from that office by Valerius Gratus in 15 A. D. Under the law of Moses, the high priesthood was held for life, but under the Romans they placed in power whosoever suited them best. So, though not now high priest, he apparently continued to wield much influence because Jesus was first brought to him (John 18:13). Luke even refers to both men as being high priests when John the baptist came preaching (Luke 3:2). Beside his son-in-law, Caiaphas, Annas also had five sons who held that office after him, further consolidating his power.

The sons of Annas were as corrupt as any of the worst priests before the captivity or the sons of Eli. They were greedy wealthy and apparently gained their wealth, in part at least, through the sale of necessary items for worship in the temple at exorbitant prices. Jesus’ vehement condemnation of making the house of prayer “a den of thieves” struck directly at the heart of Annas and Caiaphas (Matt. 21:13; Luke 19:46). Violence was no stranger to them. Stealing was not below them. Even murder had its place in their arsenal.

That night, Annas was the first to interrogate the Lord. We know not the contents of that interview (though some commentators take John 18:19-23 as the interrogation by Annas. Others view it as Caiaphas’ interrogation, which is the view taken here). When Annas was done with Jesus, he sent Him to Caiaphas (John 18:24). In his interrogation, the high priest sought something whereby he could legally justify putting Jesus to death. He wanted the death sentence carried out by the hands of the Romans to exculpate himself and bring legitimacy to the “trial” (cf. John 18:31; Acts 6:10-12; 7:57,58).

In hopes of finding some incriminating piece of evidence, the high priest first queried Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine (John 18:19). What the exact questions were, we do not know but Jesus’ response emphasized the fact that He had nothing to hide, for He had taught openly to the world, in the temple and synagogues, where the Jews often assembled and those who had heard Him knew what He had taught. The high priest already knew at least one of the disciples for he knew one, possibly John, who was allowed into the Palace “with Jesus” during the “trial” and was known well enough at the palace that the door keeper acceded to his request to allow Peter access (John 18:15,16).

Throughout the long, cold spring night, Caiaphas allowed Jesus to be humiliated by the men who guarded Jesus. They mocked Him and hit Him, blindfolded Him and struck Him more, spit upon Him and blasphemed Him (Luke 22:63,64; Mark 14:65; Matt. 26:67,68). After this, when the morning came (Matt. 27:1; Luke 22:66), when the full sanhedrin assembled, and the chief priests and elders were assembled, as well, witness after witness was produced to incriminate Jesus. It was a crowded palace. There were many, if not all, of the seventy members of the sanhedrin. The chief priests and elders were there along with a host of so-called “witnesses,” who had been assembled in the hopes of trapping Jesus. There were also many onlookers trying to get a glimpse of Jesus.

When witness after witness failed to produce one scintilla of evidence against Jesus, when witness after witness contradicted the other witnesses, Caiaphas was left to salvage his mock trial (Matt. 26:59,60). Frustrated, he lashed out in anger, “Answerest Thou nothing?” But Jesus held His peace (Matt. 26:62,63). “I adjure Thee by the Living God, that Thou tell, us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God, the Blessed” (Matt. 26:63; Mark 14:61). Perhaps all that were in the room became silent, waiting for some kind of response. The air must have been thick with the smell of oil burning in the lamps and a fire burning in the court and with anticipation.

Jesus finally spoke. He could have remained silent, but He said, “If I tell you, ye will not believe: And if I ask you, ye will not answer Me, nor let Me go. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:67-69). Then they all joined in, breaking the silence–“Art Thou then the Son of God?” they asked (Luke 22:70). “I am, thou hast said, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). Caiaphas must have felt a sense of relief. Thinking he had the charge that he needed to condemn Him before the Romans, he dismissed the rest of the witnesses. “What need we any further witnesses? for we ourselves have heard of His own mouth” (Luke 22:70,71). “Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment” (John 18:28).

The “trial” of Jesus before Annas, Caiaphas, the chief priests and all the sanhedrin was a farce. It was illegal on many levels and unjust at its core. How could those who paid Judas to betray the Lord be trusted to judge Him fairly? How can any man judge God. Caiaphas had said that it was “expedient that one man should die for the people, and that a whole nation perish not” (John 11:49,50). Though he did not realize it, he was speaking prophetically of Christ’s remedial work. In attempting to stop Christ, Caiaphas fulfilling his own prophecy.

Eric L. Padgett

PONTIUS PILATE

Did Jesus stand before Pontius Pilate or did Pilate stand before Jesus? Of course, the Bible states that Jesus stood before Pilate (Matt. 27:11; I Tim. 6:13), and from the perspective of the world, this is what happened. Jesus stood before Pilate and was judged by him. Pilate even tried to reiterate to Jesus the power he thought he had over Him by reminding Him that he had the “power to crucify” or to release Him (John 19:10). But Jesus meekly declared that “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:11). Pilate unwittingly played an important role in the unfolding scheme of redemption.

The name “Pontius” was an old name among the Samnites in central Italy, and it may be Pilate’s family came from this region. He was from the upper middle class (Equestrian). He became procurator of Judea in 26 A.D. and continued thus till 36 A.D. As Procurator or Governor, he had four main duties. He was responsible for the collection of taxes for the emperor (supervising the local Judaean tax collectors or publicans), he managed the provincial books, he was the supreme judge of the province and he commanded a small army. He was under the Governor of Syria and when he needed military help he could call on him for aid. For the first six years of his administration of Judea, however, the Syrian governor was absent and Pilate was on his own.

Five major historical sources give us information on Pontius Pilate. The first and most trustworthy is the Bible, the second is Josephus, the third is Philo, the fourth is Tacitus and the final source is an inscription in stone called the Pilate Stone. The latter is a moderately sized solid block of inscribed limestone that was discovered in 1961 in Caesarea Maritima. The inscription, though somewhat damaged by time, describes Pilate as the prefect of the province of Judaea, confirming the Biblical account. Tacitus refers to the fact that Christ “suffered the extreme penalty…at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate” (The Annals, 15, 44), not only confirming the historicity of Pilate, but also of Christ.

The references to Pilate in Philo and Josephus are not very kind. Philo, if we can trust his as an unbiased assessment, describes “his corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity” (ON THE EMBASSY TO GAIUS 40:XXXV:III:302)  Josephus is far less explicit but does seem to place Pilate in an unfavorable light, as when he describes how Pilate provoked the Jews to riots by using temple treasure for an aqueduct and then beat them down to quell their protests.

The Pilate revealed in the New Testament, however, is much less depraved than he is depicted in the external sources. The scriptures in no way absolve him of the role he played in the crucifixion of Jesus. An event not recorded by either Philo or Josephus is included in the New Testament which suggests an act of great violence on his part (Luke 13:1). But as corrupt and insolent and insulting as he may have been, Pilate seemingly wanted to set Jesus free because he saw no fault in Him (Luke 23:4). It suggests that he maintained some sense of justice. In fact, Jesus stated that those who delivered Him to Pilate had the greater sin (John 19:11).

For example, on the recommendation of the Jewish Sanhedrin, Pilate could have legally acquiesced to their demands and sentenced Jesus to immediate death. Instead, the Record shows that Pilate tried multiple times to spare Jesus from that capital penalty. The Jewish leadership clamored for Jesus’ death and stirred up the people to call for Jesus to be crucified (Luke 23:21). It was only when Pilate’s opposition to Jesus’ death was used against him to suggest Pilate was no longer Caesar’s friend that, Pilate, in fear, relented of his opposition and washed his hands of the whole matter (John 19:12).

Perhaps Pilate’s great sin in the matter of Jesus was weakness. He did not possess the moral courage to stand against the pressure exerted by the Jewish council. His own wife called Jesus a “just man” and implored her husband to have nothing to do with Him (Matt. 27:19). He knew Herod had found no fault in Jesus (Luke 23:13-16). He knew the charges against Jesus were false and that the council’s only motive was envy (Matt. 27:18). Even when he could find no fault in Jesus, he allowed Him to be crucified. Yet, even in this, how much different was he than the apostle Peter who denied the Lord even though he knew Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:13-19)?

Peter, who had first hand knowledge of these things, said that while Pilate was “determined” to let Jesus go the “men of Israel . . . desired a murderer to be granted” freedom, meaning Barabbas (Matt. 27:21; Acts 3:13,14). Nevertheless, he doesn’t leave Pilate without culpability. He next quotes the second Psalm which describes the kings and rulers of the earth taking counsel against the Lord and against His anointed and applying this to Pilate, Herod, the Gentiles and the Jews (Acts 4:24-30). We are all guilty before the Lord (Rom. 3:23).

Two thousand years ago Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, in his judgment hall and received the biased judgement of men. Sometime in our future Pilate, Herod, the Jews and all men will stand before the Lord of heaven and earth in the Day of Judgement and receive the righteous judgement of God (Rev. 20:11-15). We will not be able to wash our hands and declare our innocence but we will need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5).

Eric L. Padgett

JUDAS

YOU’RE A JUDAS! What a most loathsome and unwelcome defamation. No matter how egregious the offense of which one might be accused, to bear above that the weight of being a Judas is to bear a weight too heavy to be borne. Down through history others have worn the ugly badge of traitor. Benedict Arnold betrayed Americans. Guy Fawkes committed treason against the British Crown. Brutus betrayed Julius Caesar. Ephialtes betrayed the Spartans. But to wear the name of “Judas” is to wear a name that is particularly associated with the most despicable and personal kind of treachery.

Judas, meaning “Praise,” is the Greek form of the popular Hebrew name Judah (cf. Matt. 1:2) The name of Judas was actually a very popular and common name in the first century. Six people mentioned in the New Testament wear the name Judas (Iscariot; the other apostle named Judas, or Thaddaeus – Luke 6:16; Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; the brother of Jesus – Matt. 13:55; the Galilean who led a Jewish rebellion – Acts 5:37; the Damascene, with whom the apostle Paul stayed – Acts 9:11 and Judas Barsabbas – Acts 15:22). In 2016, however, it was number 4,362 on the list of popular boy names in America. Not too many women are in a rush to name their boys Judas.

The meaning of the name Iscariot is still disputed by some. Most Biblical scholars probably associate it as identifying the location from which Judas came, namely, Kerioth in Judah (Josh. 15:25), the man of Kerioth (Ish Kerioth). Since Kerioth was in Judah, Judas was the only one of the twelve apostles to be other than Galilean (Acts 1:11; 2:7). This may have caused some isolation on his part and, consequently, resentment. Others argue that Iscariot refers to a “man of murder” or that he was part of an assassin’s group known as the Sicarii, but this group was probably too late for Judas to have been associated with it.

We are not told how or when Judas became a disciple or whether or not he was first a follower of John. In His second year, after He continued all night in prayer to God, Jesus carefully chose twelve of His disciples to be His apostles (Luke 6:12,13). He also at this time gave them power against unclean spirits and to heal all manner of sickness and disease (Matt. 10:1-15). Judas was one of those men the Lord chose and one of those to whom He gave this great power. Was Judas sincere when the Lord prayerfully chose him? It is entirely possible that Judas was sincere at first, though not necessarily the case. It is possible that a man may fall so far so fast.

Whatever else may be obscure about him, the scripture is clear as to his character after he was chosen to be an apostle. Judas was apparently enamored of money. He was the treasurer for the Lord, the one who held the bag of money which was used to support the Lord and His apostles (John 12:6) which was received at the hands of certain benefactors (Luke 8:3). John plainly says that he was a thief who had no concern for the poor. He was not moved in the least by Mary’s loving treatment of Jesus in lieu of his impending death, but was more concerned with the money he believed was being wasted (John 12:3-5). Mark said he had “indignation” at this “waste” (Mark 14:4). Jesus rebuked Him for his misplaced priorities and abuse of Mary.

Although it is entirely possible that Judas was sincere when the Lord chose him, Jesus nevertheless knew what would ultimately transpire from the beginning and who would betray Him (John 6:64). He spoke of Judas as a devil (John 6:70,71). Whether or not Judas knew what he would do from the beginning is unknown, but he did know what he would do at least two days before he did it (Mark 14:1-5). Certainly these ideas had to be building up inside of him for some time and Jesus’ rebuke of his greed must have been the tipping point. From that time on, he “sought how he might conveniently betray Him” (Mark 14:11). He intentionally “went to the chief priests to betray Him unto them all for the promise of money.

In Old Testament history, David was betrayed by his close advisor, Ahithophel (II Sam. 15:31). In writing about this incident, David wrote, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). The Lord, troubled in His spirit at the thought, quotes this passage and applies it to His own betrayal (John 13:18-21). After Jesus shared bread with Judas, fulfilling the prophecy, satan entered into Judas and he went out to betray the Lord (John 13:24-30). Jesus’ quote of this prophecy reiterates the deep sense of hurt Jesus felt at Judas’ betrayal.

We can’t know if there were any other motives beside greed that moved Judas to betray the Lord of if he had any expectations that Jesus would deliver Himself by a miracle, as many a commentator has supposed, but we do know that Judas’ betrayal did not come without some very strong feelings of guilt and remorse. When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and threw the blood money back at the chief priests and elders (Matt. 27:3-5). Apparently, Jesus’ death was not his goal. But seeing that would be the outcome, he took his own life and went unto his own place (Matt. 27:5; Acts 1:25).

While Judas acknowledged his guilt, his sorrow was not of the godly sort leading to salvation (II Cor. 7:10).

Eric L. Padgett