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O Ye Corinthians

The culture of Corinth was well known for its pursuit of pleasure. To be a Corinthian was proverbial for the hedonistic life. It is not surprising, then, that the church at Corinth faced many problems, many of them brought on by embracing that culture of worldliness (I Cor. 3:3). Some of what Paul wrote to the church there was a response to questions which they apparently asked him concerning these things (I Cor. 7:1). Other things he wrote were things which he and the Holy Spirit thought they needed to know. Studying the problems in that congregation can be instructive to us as members of modern congregations.

One of the biggest problems about which Paul had heard was the problem of division within the congregation (I Cor. 11:8). The division had escalated to such heights that the members of the congregation were identifying themselves after certain pillars of the church (I Cor. 1:12). Paul had heard from the house of Chloe that there were contentions and divisions among the church at Corinth (I Cor. 1:13). Paul’s remedy was that they all be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement (I Cor. 1:10). He wanted no divisions amongst the people of God. Man was to follow man only so far as they followed the Lord (I Cor. 11:1). This is a lesson that can be learned today so that no Christian ever follows any man but after the Christ.

That problem of division boiled over into their worship. When the church at Corinth partook of the Lord’s supper, they were not contemplating the great sacrifice of Christ nor were they examining their own lives but they were focused on their own pleasure. Blurring the distinction between their own common meal and the holy act of worship in partaking of the Lord’s supper, they not only polluted their worship but greedily ate their own food and left others without (I Cor. 11:21). There was no concern for one another but rather bitter strife.

One of the clearest and most notable examples of their worldliness and division was the order, or lack thereof, in the worship service. The worship service seems to have devolved into a state of utter disarray, with people speaking in foreign languages when there was no interpreter, speaking out of order and women speaking out of turn (I Cor. 14:26-32). Paul called it confusion (I Cor. 14:33). Much of this stemmed from their pride in their ability to perform miracles for they seemed to believe that their particular gift was the most important than another’s (I Cor. 12:12-26). Paul taught them that they needed each other as the body needs each part (I Cor. 12:27ff).

Their worldliness also left them callous to moral sin. It was reported commonly that one Christian in the congregation was in a sinful relationship with his father’s wife (I Cor. 5:1). That was bad enough but the sin was compounded by the congregation’s handling of the situation. Incredibly, they were puffed up (I Cor. 5:2). Either they were puffed up because they believed they had superior wisdom (I Cor. 4:19) or, worse, because of the sin. At the very least they were indifferent to the well publicized immorality in their midst. This was not unlike the congregation at Thyatira which allowed false teaching and perhaps immorality amongst them (Rev. 2:19). In both instances the sin required action not apathy (I Cor. 5:4,5; Rev. 2:22-24).

Another indication of their spiritual corruption and worldly contamination was their taking of personal congregational problems before secular courts for ajudication (I Cor. 6:1). Paul called this a shame and a fault (I Cor. 6:5,7). It did not and does not evince a Christ-like attitude. They should have taken the wrong or go to their own brethren for a resolution to these problems (I Cor. 6:5,7).

Yet another problem, alluded to earlier, was the congregation’s pride in the wisdom of men (I Cor. 2:5; 4:19). Paul made a point of saying he came not to them with the wisdom of men, that is, sophistical speech, but with the power of God, the gospel of Christ (I Cor. 2:1-4). There were those in the congregation who also boasted of their own authority and questioned that of Paul’s apostolic authority (I Cor. 9:3; II Cor. 10:7-10; 11:4,5; 12:11,12). Some were even preaching that there was no resurrection of the dead, among other things (I Cor. 15:12).

The congregation in Corinth had many problems. Paul warned them that they needed to correct those problems or he would come to them with a rod of correction (I Cor. 4:21; II Cor. 13:2,10). Just as the Lord warned the churches in Asia that they needed to repent, we need to correct those problems that arise in our congregations lest we also face judgement.

Eric L. Padgett

BARNABAS

There was a time in the early church when Barnabas held greater influence than the apostle Paul (cf. Acts 13:1,2). Some time before Saul of Tarsus was immersed into Christ, Barnabas was already expending a great amount of his own financial resources assisting needy saints (Acts 4:36,37) and he had a close relationship to the apostles (Acts 4:36; 9:27). Paul’s reputation as a persecuter and a blasphemer of Christ had preceded him and Christians were reluctant to accept him, thinking he was, perhaps, feigning his conversion to gain an advantage (Acts 9:26). Even after his conversion, up until the first evangelistic tour, when their names are mentioned together, Barnabas is always mentioned first.

After Paul and Barnabas returned from delivering aid to the poor saints in Judea, the Holy Spirit instructed the church at Antioch that Barnabas and Saul were presently to be used in the special work for which He had called them (Acts 13:2). Saul had been called to be an apostle by the Lord at his conversion and was told he would be sent to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15,16; Gal. 2:7,8). When Barnabas was called for this task, we do not know, just as we do not know when or where Barnabas was converted to Christ. Was Barnabas one of the original disciples of Christ (Acts 1:15), was he converted on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41) or was he among the five thousand men who believed (Acts 4:4)? We do not know. But we do know he was separated by the Lord very early on to take the gospel to the Gentiles along with the apostle Paul.

Immediately after the establishment of the church, when Jews from distant lands were converted by the preaching of the apostles (Acts 2:5-11), instead of immediately returning to their own countries, many of them apparently continued in Jerusalem with the apostles and the rest of the church. In order to help support these brethren, some sold their property and gave the money to the apostles to distribute to every man as he had need (Acts 4:35). Barnabas was one of those who supported brethren in need in this way and the Holy Spirit saw fit to make particular note of his contributions (Acts 4:36).

Barnabas was not his birth name. His real name was Joses (or Joseph). It was the apostles who called him Barnabas, which literally meant “son of prophecy” or, by extension, “son of consolation” (Acts 4:36; cf. Acts 15:32). His preaching, along with others’, produced many converts in Antioch (Acts 11:24) and he is listed first among the prophets and teachers in the church there (Acts 13:1). When the the apostles had heard that there was a great response to the teaching of the gospel in the regions of Cyprus, Cyrene and Antioch, they chose Barnabas to organize the work, even though Paul had already been called by the Lord (Acts 11:22). It was Barnabas who, after he had seen the work in Antioch, sought out Saul in Tarsus to assist him in that vital work (Acts 11:25,26).

Barnabas’ reputation among the apostles is further seen in the fact that it was Barnabas that brought Saul of Tarsus to the apostles after his conversion. He was able to convince them that the Lord had, indeed, appeared unto Saul and that he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27). Some have surmised that Barnabas and Saul had known each other prior to their connection in Christ. They had a close relationship and both truly seemed to admire the other.

It was during their first evangelistic tour that Barnabas begins to recede into the background. In Paphos, Sergius Paul, the deputy or proconsul of the country, called for Barnabas and Saul to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith” (Acts 13:8). Saul then stepped up and struck Elymas the sorcerer blind as a punishment for his opposition to the gospel (Acts 13:8-11). It is during this time that Saul begins to be called Paul (Acts 13:9). It seems also as though Paul begins to take the lead because the group is now called “Paul and his company” (Acts 13:13). Further, it is no longer “Barnabas and Saul” but “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13:43).

Some time later, when Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch, Peter visited and was eating with the Gentiles until certain came from James in Jerusalem. Then Peter, fearing them of the circumcision, “withdrew and separated himself” (Gal. 2:12). Paul observed that Barnabas “also was carried away with their dissimulation” (Gal. 2:13). Paul then had to confront Peter to his face before them all, including Barnabas (Gal. 2:14). This all happened after the conference in Jerusalem in which it was determined by the Holy Spirit that the Gentiles need not be circumcised (Acts 15:28, 29).

After some days had passed, Paul purposed to go and visit the brethren to whom he and Barnabas had preached on their first evangelistic tour (Acts 15:36). Barnabas wanted to take with them John Mark, but Paul thought it not good because John Mark, who had begun with them on their first tour, left the work prematurely (Acts 13:13), making him untrustworthy. Because of this sharp disagreement, the two men parted ways. Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus and Paul and Silas, whom the brethren recommended, went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches (Acts 15:41). Later, Paul would acknowledge Barnabas’ wisdom when he told Timothy “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (II Tim. 4:11).

Eric L. Padgett

What Think Ye Of Christ?

After a long, weary day of answering the questions the Jewish leadership posed to Jesus (Matt. 21:23-22:40), in which they tried in vain to entrap Him verbally, Jesus turned the tables on them and asked them this simple question, “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He” (Matt. 22:42). The Pharisees’ answer that Jesus was the Son of David was not untrue but it was also incomplete. Jesus demonstrated this answer was insufficient with His response.

The Jews continually thought of the Messiah as a national leader on the order of David who would lead Israel once again as he did to national glory. That was a materialistic view of the kingdom. Even up to the time Jesus ascended back to the Father, the apostles, themselves, were looking for some kind of return of this materialistic kingdom. The apostles asked, “Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). They, of course, were likewise misguided. Jesus had said earlier, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

Jesus asked a similar question when He came into the coast of Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:13-19). He asked, “Who do men say that I the son of man am?” Obviously, there were already many views circulating among the people as to who Jesus was. Some thought He was John the Baptist come back to life, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets (Matt. 16:16,17). However, until Peter spoke up, no one had ever said that the Christ was the Son of the living God (cf. John 6:68). This is clearly indicated by Jesus’ recognition that this information was given by God (Matt. 16:17).

The Old Testament speaks in several places of the “sons of God.” Moses used the expression to refer to the righteous line of Seth (Gen. 6:2). The angels are referred to as the “sons of God” (Job 2:1). It is used collectively of the people of Israel (Ex. 4:22,23). But the singular expression “son of God” is not found in the Old Testament, though the implication is there.

Naturally, the Jews rightly expected the Messiah to be a descendent of David because of the prophecies referring to the seed of David (e.g., Ps. 89:29, 132:11-12; Is. 9:7; 11:1-3, 11:10, etc.). Jehovah promised to set up David’s seed after him, that proceeded from his bowels (II Sam. 7:12). But in connection with this promise, Jehovah says He shall be “My Son” (II Sam. 7:14). The parallel account in Chronicles says that He will be “of thy sons” (I Chron. 17:11).

The Jews were expecting this earthly Messiah but, as He did all that day long, Jesus refutes their materialistic, worldly, political notions of the Messiah with impeccable logic. In quoting Psalm 110, Jesus uses an important passage which the Jews fully recognized as Messianic and by it shows their view was limited. They had failed to understand the implications of the words. It is true that Jesus was of the seed of David according to the flesh (Rom. 1:3), but Jesus, as the Christ, was more than that (Rom. 1:4).

The passage which Jesus quoted has David saying that Jehovah says to my (David’s) Lord (adonay) “Sit Thou on My right hand” (Psalm 110:1). The Messiah was not just some royal seed of David, like Solomon or Hezekiah or Josiah. These also were of the seed of David but David did not call them Lord or Christ or Messiah, nor would He. This shows that the Christ was more than a mere descendent of David. Furthermore, the Christ sat down on the right hand of Jehovah, showing an equality with Jehovah that no mere earthly descendent of David could ever claim.

The notion that Jesus was the Messiah angered the Jewish leadership. Jesus was showing the Jews what it really meant to be the Messiah. While they might not have fully understood what He was teaching them, the realized the implications of it. As Jesus later that week stood before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas asked “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63). When Jesus answered in the affirmative, they asked “What think ye?” (Matt. 26:66). They then accused Him of blasphemy and condemned Him to death.

Eric L. Padgett

I suggest reading Barclay’s comments on this section of scripture.

THIS MAN RECEIVETH SINNERS

Everyone wanted to hear Jesus teach. We know the common people heard Him gladly (Mark 12:37). The Pharisees were forever listening in on Him, if for no other reason than to find a way to entrap Him in His teaching (Mark 7:1). He drew such great multitudes of people that He often had to retire to a separate place apart to get rest (Matt. 14:23). The multitudes that followed were so many that He often did not even have time to eat (Mark 3:20). The publicans and sinners also drew near for to hear Him (Luke 15:1). Even the little children wanted to hear the Lord (Mark 10:14).

On one occasion, the Pharisees were critical of the Lord on account that He received and ate with publicans and sinners, who had gathered to listen to Him teach (Luke 15:2). The Pharisees were often an haughty lot (Luke 18:11), though there were some who exhibited humbler attitudes, such as Nicodemus (John 3:1-3) and Joseph of Arimethea (Luke 23:50). But most of the Pharisees were such scoundrels that the Lord could universally blast them with a series of woes highlighting their hypocrisy (Matt. 23:13-29). The Pharisees would never think of associating with sinners (Luke 7:39).

On this occasion, the Pharisees sought to impugn the character of Jesus. They apparently addressed the people, saying, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (Luke 15:2). They said this as if it would somehow depreciate His teaching and His character. But Jesus did not deny associating with sinners. Instead, He demonstrated that the Pharisee’s views on sin and sinners were not only incorrect but hypocritical, as well.

It stands as a truth that a human being is far more valuable than any dumb animal. Yet, the Pharisees would leave ninety-nine safe sheep of their own to find one sheep that had been lost. If you would do that for the dumb animal, why wouldn’t you do that for a lost soul? If you were to lose an inanimate object like a piece of silver, you would turn the whole house upside down to find it. And when you had found these lost things, you would rejoice.

Likewise, when God loses a soul in the wilderness of sin, or one gets lost in the cracks of the world, when they are found, there is great joy in heaven. The parable of the prodigal son demonstrates like no other the great joy that should accompany the restoration of a lost individual (Luke 15:11-32).

Jesus was sent into this world (John 10:36) but He said “I am not of this world” (John 8:23). Neither was he ever tainted by the wickedness of the world nor wallowed He in it’s filth, but He could interact with sinners and influence them for good (Heb. 4:13). Take for example the incident at Simon the Pharisee’s house (Luke 7:37). A woman of known ill repute could embrace and kiss His feet yet there is never in the slightest a hint of impropriety on the part of Jesus. Yet Simon saw only the sinner while Jesus saw a lost soul. Simon interpreted her actions as improper, but Jesus saw love oozing from a wounded heart. Simon would not have associated with her by choice and would have castigated her for her sins. Jesus let her know He knew of her many sins but was willing to forgive her.

While Jesus was in the world and interacted with humanity, He never descended to its level. Whatever Paul meant when he said “I became all things to all men” it could not mean anything that contradicted the Lord’s teaching or life. When Jesus attended the supper at Matthew’s house (Mark 2:14,15), the Pharisees again asked, “Why eateth your Master with Publicans and sinners” (Matt. 9:11)? This event was after the Lord called Matthew to follow Him (Matt. 9:19). It is very unlikely that Matthew, after being called by the Lord to be His disciple, would throw a wild, worldly party. It is much more likely that Matthew called all of his old friends to hear Jesus teach them the truth. Jesus was not there to join in any revelry, He was there to teach.

Jesus did not brow beat sinners. It is true He could not seem to bear with the stiff-necked, hard-hearted, arrogant Pharisees. But He never acted as though He was better than those He met (even though He was). He had compassion on the souls that were lost, that hungered and thirsted for righteousness. He did not use people as things but treated them with dignity. He received and ate even with sinners and publicans, but it was in order to bring them to Himself, closer to God. Jesus’ association with the world should be the pattern for our own association with it.

Eric L. Padgett

The Face Of Jesus

Down through the ages, skilled artists have attempted to capture the face of Jesus either on canvass or in sculpture. Some have depicted Him in great agony; others with great compassion. Lately, “scientists” have attempted to depict the face of Jesus through forensic reconstruction of first century Semite skulls. Ever since 1898, when Secondo Pia made a negative image of the Shroud of Turin, many people have held it to show the face of the Saviour. But if we really want to see the true face of Jesus, we must go to the Bible. For example…

In Luke 9:51-53, we see the face of Jesus as the face of duty. The Bible tells us that Jesus stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). At that time, our Lord’s death was only a mere six months away in that very city. Furthermore, Jesus knew exactly what was going to befall Him there for He warned His disciples in order to prepare them (Matt. 16:21-23, 20:18, 26:2). The Lord, even with this knowledge, went willingly to the city and to the cross (John 10:18). He could have called twelve legions of angels to deliver Himself, but He did not (Matt. 26:53). Though Jesus despised the shame of the cross, He still endured it for the joy that was set before Him (Heb. 12:1,2). How do we face our duty, however unpleasant it may be, as Christians?

In Matthew 17:2, we see in the face of Jesus the face of majesty. The Bible tells us that Jesus was transfigured and that the “fashion of His countenance [was] altered” and His “Face shown as the sun” (Luke 9:29; Matt. 17:2). At the same time, Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke to Jesus of His impending death (Luke 9:30,31). While Peter tried to honor all three, God spoke with resounding clarity that it was His Son alone Who was to be heard (Mark 9:7; Heb. 1:1,2). When Peter later recalled the incident, he said the apostles were “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Pet. 1:16-21).

Again, we see in the face of Jesus the face of humanity. In Matt. 26:36-(39)-40, the Bible tells us that as Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemene He fell on His face in solemn, ardent prayer. He prayed to the Father, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” We know of the divinity of Jesus (Matt. 1:23; Phil 2:5ff; Acts 20:28; etc.) but the Bible makes it exceedingly clear that He was also fully human. Paul describes Jesus as praying to God with “strong crying and tears” (Heb. 5:7,8). In these actions, Jesus shows us that He identifies with all our trials and temptations because He, Himself, was human (Heb. 2:14-17, 4:15). “Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee” (Psalm 55:22).

We see in Jesus also the face of rejection. The Bible tells us His enemies “spit in His face” (Matt. 26:67). Jesus suffered every kind of indignity imaginable. They spit upon Him, smacked Him in the face, left Him unclothed, beat and mocked Him. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him (Is. 53). He endured the cross, yes, but He despised the shame (Heb. 12:2). Jesus lived what He taught: “Blessed are ye when ye are persecuted” (Matt. 5:10-12). He suffered for us, leaving us an example (I Pet. 2:21-25).

In Jesus countenance we also see the face of pity. The Bible tells us that Jesus turned and looked upon Peter (Luke 22:61). Peter had earlier affirmed that he would die for the Lord only to be told by the Lord that, on the contrary, that very night he would deny Him thrice. Picture in your mind the “trial” of Jesus. Can you imagine that Jesus and Peter are far apart? There is much going on in the hall. It is full of people. Full of noise. It is unlikely that Jesus could audibly hear what Peter might be saying to any man or maid. But when the cock crew, Jesus turns from His accusers and, knowing just where to look, looks back at Peter across the great hall just after he denied the Lord for the third time (Matt. 26:69-75)! “What a holy power is in this silent glance.”

In the face of the Lord we also see the face of transformational Truth. In the New Testament we behold the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 3:18). While the Jews still had a veil over their eyes, as did Moses when he came down from the mount, and thus have their minds blinded, we have no such veil but with open face behold the glory of the Lord. We are changed into that same image. God shines in our hearts, through His word, to give light in the face of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 4:6).

Three quick final points. We see in Jesus the face of justice. His face is against them that do evil (I Pet. 3:12). It is not that God cannot hear the sinner, but He does not listen with a view to answering their prayers (John 9:31). In the face of Jesus we see the face of judgement. We are told by John that heaven and earth will flee away from the holy face of Jesus Christ as He sits upon the great white throne to judge the world (Rev. 20:11). Finally, we see in Jesus’ face the face of glory. We shall see His face (Rev. 22:4) and when we do we shall be like Him (I John 3:1-3).

Do you want to know what Jesus looks like? Then look into the mirror of God’s word and be changed into the same image as the glory of the Lord and you will have the “light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 3:18-4:6; James 1:25).

Eric L. Padgett

A FOOL AND HIS MONEY

Jesus warned “beware of covetousness” (Luke 12:13-21). Covetousness (pleonexia) is “a strong or inordinate desire of obtaining and possessing some supposed good; usually in a bad sense, and applied to an inordinate desire of wealth or avarice” (Websters, 1828). Strong defines it as “avarice, i.e., (by implication) fraudulency, extortion.” It is translated “greediness” in Eph. 4:19 and Paul equated it with idolatry (Col. 3:5). It also carries with it the idea of being a lover of money (philarguros). As if to stress how sinful it is, the Holy Spirit often associates it with what we would consider some of the worst sins, like fornication, adultery, uncleanness, thievery and wickedness (e.g., Rom. 1:29; Eph. 5:3; Mark 7:22).

Covetousness is one of those many sins which can creep up on a person unawares, at first. Thus, Jesus warns special precautions need to be taken to fight against it. “Take heed,” He says, “and beware.” Not being content with what we have may lead to covetousness (Heb. 13:5). Achan committed this sin even though he was warned against it because of his greed (Josh. 7:21). If we incline our hearts unto the Testimonies of the Lord, we may avert covetousness (Psalm 119:36). If our hearts are in the wrong place, however, we can easily be defiled by the sin of covetousness (Mark 7:22).

Covetousness has been the source of many family problems. The incident that precipitated Jesus’ teaching regarding covetousness was incubated in the bosom of a family. “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13). Similarly, a rift developed between Jacob and Esau because Jacob wanted the birthright and the blessing (Gen. 25:31; 27:36). Jesus’ own disciples were troubled by this kind of selfish attitude. The mother of James and John wanted Jesus to grant them the positions at Jesus’ right and left hand in His kingdom (Matt. 20:20,21). This caused the other disciples to be displeased with these two brothers (Matt. 20:24).

It is important to understand that Jesus never condemns being rich. There were many rich people who followed God and God made them all rich (e.g., Job – 42:10,12; Abraham – Gen. 13:2). The Bible does not say that being wealthy is a sin. What is condemned is the love of money (I Tim. 6:9,10). It seems, however, that, like a horseleach (Prov. 30:15,16), the more some people have, the more they want and the more they worry about keeping it. This rich man wanted bigger and better barns to store his increased substance (Luke 12:18).

The biggest problem with the rich man was that he looked upon these things as his (“my goods”), not gifts from God (James 1:17). He was confident in himself, and in his material wealth. Paul, did not condemn riches per se, but condemned trusting in those riches. “Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not highminded nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who giveth us all things freely to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17). The rich man erred when he trusted in himself and not God.

But man has but very little control over his life or world. We do not know when our end will be (James 4:13-17). That very night, when the man waxed confident in his possessions, the Lord required his soul (Luke 12:20). He did not know the day of his demise and may not have even expected it. “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). What good will all those riches do for us when we face the tomb? “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Timothy 6:7).

God does want us to be rich–spiritually. He wants us to store up treasures for ourselves, only He wants those treasures to be spiritual and not material. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:19,20). Those who do lay up for themselves spiritual treasures will lay up a different and unwanted kind of “treasure” (Rom. 2:5).

Such is the fool and his money

Eric L. Padgett

SERMON ON THE MOUNT

The sermon on the mount is recognized by all serious Bible scholars to be a statement of the very essence of Christian conduct and living. In this blog, I depart from my usual practice of writing and commenting to give you some quotes about the sermon on the mount. No quote should be taken as an endorsement of any of the other teachings of those quoted.

“There is no portion of the Bible that plays a more central role in the history of the Church than the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7, with some parallels in Luke 6 and 11). From the days of the Church Fathers on, these three chapters have been the most frequently quoted and commented-on portion of the Bible. The Sermon has constantly received high praise as a model for the Christian life, the essence of true religion, and the epitome of Jesus’ teachings. These sentiments come not only from Christian interpreters but from many outside the Church as well, where the broader impact of the Sermon is still seen through cultural mantras such as ‘The Golden Rule’ and ‘turn the other cheek.'” — Jonathn T. Pennington Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky

“The Sermon on the Mount compared with the summaries of moral duty belonging to other religions is comprehensive while they are fragmentary. No moral code can be produced which approaches this in completeness or depth. There is no other moral code belonging to an accepted and ancient religion for which any educated European could even claim finality and completeness. We know what John Stuart Mill, though not a believer, said about our Lord’s moral teaching. He said ‘Not even now would it be easy, even for an unbeliever, to find a better translation of the rule of virtue from the abstract into the concrete, than to endeavour so to live that Jesus Christ would approve our life.’ And Dr. Pusey commented on that by saying ‘If men would set this before themselves, there would be fewer unbelievers.’ There is then, I say, no other moral summary belonging to an ancient religion on behalf of which a man of modern enlightenment could, with a reasonable chance of being listened to, make the claim that its principles can never be outgrown or found insufficient for any race of men. This is to others as the comprehensive to the fragmentary.”

“Lastly, it differs from other codes by the authoritative sanction which is given to the words by the person of the speaker. ‘He spoke as one having authority, and not as the scribes.’ All the weight of His mysterious person, all the majesty of His tone, His demeanour, His authority, go to give sanction to this law which He uttered: and not only to give it sanction, in the sense of making men feel that they were dealing with one whose mysterious power it would be better not to offend: His person gives sanction to His words also by inspiring the profoundest confidence that He who makes the claim will also provide strength to correspond with it.” — Charles Gore, M.A., D.D. EDIN.

“The magna charta of Christ’s Kingdom: the unfolding of His righteousness; the sublimest code of morals ever proclaimed on earth; the counterpart of the legislation on Mount Sinai; Christ here appears as Lawgiver and King; Moses spoke in God’s name; Christ speaks in His own.” — Philip Schaff

“We have only to read these ‘instructions’ carefully to see that they bear the mark of Jesus’ genius. Running through them like a golden cord is the handprint of the Master. No man ever spoke like this man. Classic literature is in one sense very little different from ordinary literature in that the words used are the same. But it is the way in which those words are put together, and the ideas that they convey, that make the difference. And that is why they are remembered and become world changing. It is the same with this message. It is more than a classic, it is a work of genius. It is not a question here of selecting out from His material something here and something there, and trying to find from it something spectacularly new. It is a matter of seeing the whole. For the whole is, in its presentation, spectacularly new, even though it is firmly based in the Scriptures. Nothing like it can be found before or since. It presents a total picture that has astounded the world throughout the centuries, including many of differing religions and no religion. Any view of it that does not recognise this element of genius within it can be dispensed with immediately. To suggest therefore that it could be the invention, or even part invention, of a committee or ‘school’ (apart from that consisting of Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is so absurd as to be ludicrous. For it hangs together as one whole and has far too much quality for that. It contains ‘the ring of truth’ and ‘the mark of its genius’ throughout. It bears the stamp of a unique personality. It is not only unique in its generation, it is unique in every generation. — Peter Pett

“So the Sermon on the Mount is not a disconcerted jumble of fine sayings, but exhibits remarkable unity as a discourse, as will be observed when I briefly state the outline and analysis of it. Indeed, I much question if any speech has ever been delivered more remarkable for unity than the Sermon on the Mount.” — B. H. Carroll

“It is simple, familiar, direct, sententious, paradoxical, startling, illustrative, conversational, practical, and authoritative.

“It is a simple talk. I mean that every one in that audience could understand it. There was no attempt at big words; the language of the common people, as they spoke it and as they understood it, was used by our Saviour. It was familiar in that it was as homely in its phrases as if he were sitting by the fireside or out on the housetop in the cool of the evening or on the curbing of the street and talking with the passing people. It was not an oration, for there is an utter absence of declamatory, theoretical elocution, and rhetoric, as there must be in all great teachers. I mean to say that there is not an indication of a single strained mental effort after rounded phraseology, euphonious diction, rhetorical effect, dramatic gesticulation. It is direct. I mean to say that it does not intend to reach things by cannoning, hitting here and intending by glancing shot to strike out yonder. He moves right straight forward to the accomplishment of his object.

It is illustrative. The illustrations do not have to be explained, as some men’s illustrations. They illustrate. They preach a sermon by themselves – that is, they carry in their familiar imagery their own application. He selects objects that are perfectly well known to the people and so thoroughly familiar that when used as an illustration there can be no misconception as to the meaning. Sometimes he illustrates by a hen and chickens, sometimes by a lily, other times by rocks and thorns and sheep and birds. It is conversational in its style, . . . But the distinguishing characteristic in style is that which most impressed his audience, because of its intrinsic power and of its marked dissimilarity to the methods of their ordinary religious teachers. He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes and Pharisees. The style then was authoritative . . . But Jesus spoke with authority – authority vested in himself. He leaned on no human buttresses – did not attempt to defend his doctrine, nor to vindicate it. He spoke as God speaks, and without stopping to give an explanation of his manner – and so ought men always to speak who speak for God. Let him speak as the oracles of God. Now as to the rank of this Sermon. Daniel Webster says that no mere man could have produced the Sermon on the Mount. . . Old age and wisdom bow before the simplicity and sublimity of this incomparable teaching. Little children sweetly imbibe its spirit as if it were milk, and aged saints draw from it the strong meat which supplies their sinews of strength. Babes in Christ by it take their first step in the practical walk of Christian life while the men or women in Christ Jesus by it soar on eagles’ wings into the anticipations of the heavenly world. It is peerless, matchless, divine. — B. H. Carroll

Eric L. Padgett

THE HOUR IS COMING

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29).

Unless gravely ill, the young rarely think seriously about the fragility of life and the reality and certainty of death. As a person ages, he see more of his friends and acquaintances growing more feeble and many of them passing from life to death. Death is a curse that causes many hearts to break and tears to flow continuously. If this life was all that there was, Thomas Hobbes’ assessment might be correct: “the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” But the teaching of Jesus provides both a warning and hope for those who face the turmoil and travail of life. This life is not all that there is. There will be a resurrection from the dead and for some this will be a blessing. For others it will be an eternal curse.

The certainty of the resurrection

Jesus’ language leaves no doubt about the certainty of the resurrection–“the hour is coming” and they “shall come forth.” The apostle Paul affirmed that God had given us “assurance” of the judgement, consequently of the resurrection, when He raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:30,31). Even back in the patriarchal dispensation Job affirmed the resurrection when he said “If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer Thee: Thou shalt have a desire to the works of Thy hands” (Job 14:14,15). He affirmed a bodily resurrection when he wrote that in his flesh he would see God, his Redeemer, for himself (Job 19:25-27). The fact that many cultures believe in some kind of future life shows that they have a rudimentary, though limited and faulty, knowledge of the fact of resurrection.

Universal resurrection

Jesus said that “all that are in the graves” shall come forth. It will be a wondrous site to behold when all the dead, small and great, from all the ages, are raised up to stand before the throne of Christ to be judged according to their works (Rev. 20:11-15). Some have used I Thessalonians 4:14-17 to argue that the righteous will be raised separately from the unrighteous, because the unrighteous are not mentioned there. Neither are they mentioned in I Cor.15. But the purpose in these passages is to inform and encourage Christians. Elsewhere, Paul describes a single resurrection of both the good and the bad. For instance, Paul, in defending his actions before Felix, affirmed that there would be “a {i.e., singular – ELP} resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15). There is nothing in Paul’s teaching that contradicts the Lord’s plain statements regarding the universality of the resurrection.

Hear His voice – He is the authority

Jesus said those in the graves shall hear “His” voice. While Jesus was on earth, everything was subject to the voice of Christ. Evil spirits obeyed His voice and came out of those whom they possessed (e.g, Mark 9:25). Even the wind and the sea obeyed His voice (Mark 4:41). The ears of the dead also heard His voice obeyed (Mark 5:41,42; John 11:43,44). God the Father commanded all to heed the voice of His beloved Son (Matt. 17:5). When the Lord returns, He will descend with a “shout” that all shall hear and obey (I Thess. 4:16). In fact, all those who refuse to obey the Saviour this day, will one day bow the knee and call Him Lord, submitting to His authority (Phil. 2:9-11).

Two destinies – life and damnation

Jesus also clearly lays out only two possible destinies for man: life and damnation. The fact is we are all created, immortal souls; we will spend eternity somewhere. Elsewhere, Jesus describes these two destinies as life and destruction (Matt. 7:13,14). Again, Jesus describes these two destinies as “life eternal” and “everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46). The words “eternal” and “everlasting” are translated from the same Greek word and show us that what is true of one regarding it’s length is also true of the other–“punishment” will last just as long as “life.”

Eternal punishment is a scary prospect. Jesus described this punishment as “outer darkness” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12). He further describes it as a place where refuse is being burned with a fire that never shall be quenched, “where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-48). This burning lake of fire is described as “the second death” (Rev. 20:14). On the other hand, eternal life is described as a place where “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4). The contrast between these two destinies could not be any more stark.

Moral objectivity – Good and evil

Our eternal destiny is determined by what we do in this life. Jesus said some will do “good” and others will do “evil.” The world sees good as a fluid concept. One of my secular professors once told me that good was a negotiable concept. Men and women decide what is good or what is evil. The Bible, however, tells us that good is defined by the character and nature of God (Psalm 25:8; 34:8; 119:68). Only God is intrinsically good (Matt. 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23). His word is also good (Psalm 119:39; ). Goodness, therefore, is not some ever changing, negotiable idea, it is an objective standard unalterably set by the nature of the Creator of all that is.

The day of the Lord will come as thief in the night (II Pet. 3:10). We do not know the day of our Lord’s return. But it is coming. Even if we are in the grave at that time, you and I will nevertheless answer His call and come forth. But to what end? Will it be life or death? We both will decide that for ourselves in this life.

Eric L. Padgett

BE THOU CLEAN

Man full of leprosy

Both Matthew and Mark simply call this man a “leper.” Luke, being a physician, records that he was “full of leprosy,” being more precise medically as to his condition. He wasn’t in the beginning stages of leprosy but had been afflicted with this condition for some time for it to have advanced to this state. One can only imagine the physical and emotional toll this disease caused in its victims and it’s victims family. Mosaic Law required that the man thus afflicted be separated from everyone else (Lev. 13:4, et. al.). He also had to go around announcing his condition by declaring himself “unclean” (Lev. 13:45).

The leprosy of the Bible was apparently a term that encompassed a wider variety of conditions than the modern term leprosy conveys. When we think of leprosy today, we usually think only of Hansen’s disease which causes a loss of sensation in the nerves which leads to disfigurement. While today this condition can be treated, it does not heal itself. In the Bible, however, occasionally this disease would go away after some time (Lev. 14:1-3), not so of Hansen’s. The plague of leprosy could also be found in a woolen or linen garment (Lev. 13:47ff), which also would not be true of Hansen’s disease.

Though never expressly stated in the Bible, leprosy can be a type of sin. Leprosy made one unclean (Lev. 13:3). Sin also makes one unclean (Is. 6:5-7). Leprosy was deeper than just skin level (Lev. 13:3). Sin is also deeper than just the skin, it comes from within man, from the heart (Matt. 15:18). Leprosy required separation for the preservation of purity (Lev. 13:4). Sin requires separation to maintain purity (II Cor. 5:4-7). Leprosy could ultimately only be removed by a sacrifice of blood (Lev. 14:23). Sin can also only be removed by the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:12). So in many ways, the account of the healing of this unnamed leper also teaches us about sin.

Seeing Jesus

When Jesus came down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him (Matt. 8:1). Jesus’ fame had spread abroad and the multitudes knew Jesus could heal their infirmities (Matt. 4:23-25). The leper came at the same time as this great multitude, even though the law required him to announce his uncleanness (Lev. 13:45). When the leper knew Who Jesus was, he sought Him out. Undoubtedly, there were many who saw the leper and recoiled in disgust at his appearance. Perhaps some, recognizing their own need for healing, overlooked the leper’s condition and paid no attention to him. But the leper disregarded all that the world thought of him that he might see Jesus.

Please note the leper’s confidence in Jesus. “Lord, if Thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Matt. 8:2). He did not say, “If I had enough faith” or “If it were only possible.” He was confident that Jesus could heal him and did everything within his power to see Him. It seems that he had heard Jesus’ teaching, or, at least, had heard about His teaching and knew of His power. We need to show the “same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end” because we are not of them that draw back to perdition but of them that believe to the saving of the soul (Heb. 6:11; 10:35-39). Let us have the leper’s confidence.

Notice also the man’s humility. He fell on his face before the Lord and besought the Lord for an answer to his need (Mark 1:4). As he prostrated himself before the Lord, in front of all the multitude, he worshiped Him (Matt. 8:2). Far too often today men seek to find Jesus without humility. They refuse His word, and substitute their own (Matt. 15:9). It is “My will” not “Thy will” be done (Matt. 26:39). But the Lord resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble (James 4:6). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He shall lift you up” (James 4:10).

I will. Be thou clean.

Jesus’ willingness to cleanse the leper is not to go unnoticed, either. Jesus was not only willing but reached out to this disfigured, mangled body, and he put forth His hand and touched him (Luke 5:13). In a similar fashion, the Lord left the glories of heaven, made Himself of no reputation, humbled Himself and was made in the likeness of men, partaking of flesh and blood that He might deliver us from sin (Phil. 2:5ff; Heb. 2:14ff). As under the law of Moses the priest could pronounce someone clean (Lev. 14:14-20), our High priest is moved by our infirmities (Heb. 4:15) and touches our lives with forgiveness (Heb. 2:17,18).

“Immediately the leprosy departed from him” (Luke 5:13). Jesus’ miracles were immediate. Simon’s mother-in-law was immediately healed (Luke 4:39), as was the young maiden (Luke 5:54,55) and the nobleman’s son (John 4:50-53). Can you imagine the sight of a man long deformed by leprosy being instantaneously healed! Body parts may have been restored that were not there before, right before everyone’s eyes! In the same fashion, sin is immediately forgiven, as well. Right before everyone’s eyes, the sinner is made a new creature (II Cor. 5:17). The penitent alien sinner is immersed beneath the water and a new man emerges (Rom. 6:1-4). Let us learn the lessons of the leper.

 

Eric L. Padgett

Cana

Jesus was invited (“called”) to a wedding, both He and His disciples. Not only was Jesus’ mother there, but the suggestion is that His whole family was there (2:12), leading some to believe that this was the marriage of either a close friend of the family or a relative. This view seems strengthened by the fact that Mary had intimate knowledge of the logistic problems of supplying the feast (2:3) and she appears to have had some power or authority over the servants, who obey her commands implicitly (2:5). It is a view further strengthened by the fact that the early disciples, Peter, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael and probably James and John, all knew one another and Jesus and the one being married was likely familiar with them all.

Some have even gone so far as to suggest that John, Mary’s sister’s son (cf. John 19:25; Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40), was the one who was being wed, but there is no real proof of this. John does relate the story with first-hand, eyewitness knowledge (cf. 2:11). But other than these facts, all questions as to who was married are just speculations. Jewish practice required virgins to marry on a Wednesday, but the festivities lasted a full week (cf. Judges 14:12,15). Whether Jesus was called from the beginning or came later with His disciples is not clear, either (at least to this author).

The wedding was in a little village called Cana of Galilee, just under four miles north of Nazareth, Jesus’ home town, if the traditional site is accepted (and we do). Joseph was not mentioned as being present at the wedding, having died some time after Jesus’ twelfth year. This left Jesus responsible for supporting His family, being the oldest male, and He undoubtedly continued in the trade of Joseph, being Himself called “the carpenter” (Mark 6:3), until Mary’s other children were old enough to start helping support the family.

Mary’s statement to Jesus seemed designed to solicit His help in some way (John 2:3). Her subsequent command to the servants that they should do whatever Jesus told them seems to suggest that she expected Him to do something extraordinary (2:5). Perhaps Mary, who had hidden in her heart all of the remarkable incidents concerning His birth and all the things that were said about and by Him (Luke 2:19,51), was eager for Him to make known who He really was. She was attempting to insinuate herself, albeit out of love, into matters she could not possibly understand.

Jesus response to her was not mean, but stern. While Jesus had been subject to Mary and Joseph as a son in their household (Luke 2:51), now He was going to be executing the Father’s will. This expression, “Woman,” is the same term of respect He used in addressing the woman He healed which had been afflicted of an infirmity for eighteen years (Luke 13:12), He used it of the woman at the well (John 4:21), of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:10) and when addressing Mary Magdalene after His resurrection (John 20:15). This was not a term of disrespect but of honor and esteem. But He did not address her as “mother” either indicating something was different (cf. Mark 3:31-35).

Indeed, there was going to be a difference in their relationship from that moment on. Jesus said, “What have I to do with thee?” (2:4). This was not meant in a ugly, vicious way but, as Shcaff observes, “whoever makes use of the phrase rejects the interference of another, declines association with him on the matter spoken of. Hence the words reprove,—though mildly” (cf. Josh. 22:24; Judg. 11:12; II Sam. 16:10; 19:22; I Kings 17:18; II Kings 3:13; 9:18; II Chron. 35:21; Ezra 4:3 Matt. 8:29; 27:19; Mark 1:24; 5:7; Luke 4:34; 8:28).

Neither was “Mine hour is not yet come” meant to say “I will do nothing.” At least Mary did not understand it this way for she immediately commands the servants to do whatever Jesus commands them (2:5). Apparently Jesus did not mean it that way for He actually does do something about the situation. We are not told when He did something and it may have taken time for Him to do something, waiting until the exact moment that was appointed. But he was going to obey the Father.

Much has been written on the miracle of turning water into wine. It is not even clear that this miracle was widely known at the time it occurred. The servants knew about it, as did Mary, and the disciples but the governor of the feast did not know of it even after it was done (2:10). Perhaps the people did know exactly what happened at first. Undoubtedly, it was spoken about after by those who knew and news of it probably spread abroad very quickly. This act, His first miracle, demonstrated His power over the natural world.

Some have used this miracle to justify drinking alcoholic beverage, but Jesus would not have created well over one hundred gallons of intoxicating alcohol to give to His neighbors (cf. Hab. 2:15). Furthermore, it took many hours to become inebriated with the wine of the first century (cf. Acts 2:15). Rather, Jesus blessed this house and marriage with His presence, and manifested His glory. More today need to invite Jesus not only to their wedding, but also to their homes.

Eric L. Padgett