Category Archives: character

DEBORAH

The time in which Deborah lived was notable for its lack of heroes. Apparently, there were no men qualified to lead. If there had been, it would have been likely that they would have been used by God to lead and judge the children of Israel. But since there was no one else, God used a woman named Deborah. That is not to diminish Deborah in any way. It is not to say that she was not a great leader, it is not that she did not shine as a virtuous woman, it is not to say that she was not wise enough to judge God’s people, for she was all these things. But God had set man into that leadership role and only in remarkable circumstances would a woman be required to fill it.

The times were desperate. After the death of Ehud, Israel was spiritually weakened, engaging once again in the numerous sins which haunted Israel nearly all its existence (Judges 4:1), and for this cause God sold them into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan (Judges 4:2). It is during troubled times like these that men turn to the Lord, and this time it was no different. The children of Israel, after twenty years of Canaanite oppression, cried unto the Lord in their distress and the Lord answered their prayer with the leadership of Deborah.

The name Deborah means “bee.” It was a rare name for only one other woman in the Bible wore it, Rebekah’s nurse (Gen. 35:8). We are told that Deborah was the wife of one Lapidoth, about whom we know nothing more (Judges 4:4). Some have rendered this “woman of splendors.” Others have suggested that this means “woman of Lapidoth,” signifying her place of birth. But if it is correctly translated as “wife,” then she was a married woman, possibly even the mother of children, though the role of mother mentioned here probably had more to do with her role as a leader in Israel (cf. 5:7). Thus, she had many roles in her busy life and was capable of balancing them all, as women have done all down through time.

As a judge, she was renowned, for the children of Israel came up to her for judgment (Judges 4:5). Earlier, in the days of Moses, when issues arose among the people, they would bring their concerns to him and he would settle the matter (Ex. 18:13). The same was true in the days of Samuel, who would act as a circuit judge and go between Ramah, Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeh (I Sam. 7:16,17). Later, when the number of cases increased, Moses added other judges to help, but all hard cases were brought to him (Ex. 18:14-26). The same was true with Samuel, as he grew older and the cases became too much of a burden, he made his sons judges (I Sam. 8:1). But Deborah apparently handled all these cases by herself.

She was also called a prophetess (Judges 4:4). The term “prophet” was applied to no other judge, though naturally these judges were in some fashion guided by the Lord (Heb. 11:32). There were other women throughout Biblical history who were chosen by God to be prophetesses. First, there was Miriam, the sister Moses (Ex. 15:20). After Deborah we find a Huldah during the time of king Josiah (II Sam. 22:14-20). When the book of the law was found, they went to Huldah instead of Jeremiah, though he was available (cf. Jer. 1:2,3). A prophetess named Anna lived during the period of the birth of Christ and spoke of the redemption that Christ would bring (Luke 2:36-38). Finally, the four virgin daughters of Philip, the evangelist, are referred to as those which could prophesy (Acts 21:8-10).

While Deborah was the judge of Israel, she also recognized the need for a military man to execute God’s plan of defeating Israel’s enemies. Whether it was God’s plan to chose Barak or whether this detail was left up to Deborah we cannot say, but he must have had some background in the art of war. He was able to gather ten thousand men out of Naphtali and Zebulon and march against Sisera. This was a command of God (Judges 4:6). While Barak had the skill, Deborah held the moral and spiritual influence to give Israel the confidence to act. Barak would not go up without Deborah by his side (Judges 4:8).

Curiously, in the Hebrews Hall of Faith, Paul mentions Barak but does not mention Deborah (Heb. 11:32). But it was Deborah who surely exhibited the greater faith in following the commands of God. It was she who motivated him to act. It was she who had faith to go. It was she who spoke the commands of God. It was she who judged Israel. It was she who was doing what Barak and others ought to have been doing all along. And while Barak had a major role in the defeat of Jabin, it was two women who were to truly instrumental (Judges 4:9). First, until Deborah, the villages ceased, the highways were empty, and there was no spear among forty thousand in Israel. She brought the country back to God and encouraged the defeat of Jabin. Second, it was Jael who delivered the final, fatal blow to Jabin (Judges 4:21).

Deborah is a great example to women and men of all ages. She was a faithful wife to Lapidoth. She cared for the people of Israel as her own children, and perhaps for her own children, as well. She judged Israel and guided them in difficult times. She motivated Barak to obey God’s commands to take back the country from foreign invaders. May God give us more leaders with the character and charisma of Deborah!

Eric L. Padgett

MIRIAM

Amram and Jochebed were very concerned about the things of God and His people. This can be gleaned, not only from Paul’s statement about their faith (Heb. 11:23), but also from the character of the children which they reared. Moses grew up to become a great leader and deliverer of his people. Through him, God delivered both the greatest principles of law which still guide western culture and the law which led us to the Christ (Gal. 3:24). His brother Aaron worked with him hand in glove and was a great priest of the Most High God. Though little is said about her, Miriam was also a part of this leading, godly family. She is noted by Moses to be a prophetess and listed by Micah to be a great leader.

Her name is found only fifteen times in the Bible. Most of these instances are clustered in the section which reveals her worst characteristics. But from the few brief mentions of her, we can see that Miriam was also generally zealous of the things of God. Her name is the Hebrew equivalent of the name Mary in the New testament. Miriam is called a “maid” or an “almah” when we first encounter her (Ex. 2:8), which suggests that she is a young women of marriable age, though yet unmarried (cf. Prov. 30:19; Is. 7:14), so she must at least be in her early teens when we first meet her. Also, she must be old enough to be conversant with Pharaoh’s daughter and think quickly in that situation.

The first time we encounter Miriam is in the second chapter of Exodus. At least, this is very probably her, for her name is not given in the account. But the text mentions “his sister” (Ex. 2:4). From the text in I Chronicles 6:3, Miriam is the only sister mentioned to Aaron and Moses. The first time we see her she is keeping a close eye on the ark which was strategically placed in the flags of the river Nile so that Pharaoh’s daughter could find it. The next time we see her she is suggesting to Pharaoh’s daughter that a Hebrew woman be responsible for nursing the child, her brother. These two statements alone suggests several things about Miriam.

First, it suggests she was obedient to her parents. It can be reasonably assumed that her mother (or father or both, along with Inspiration) was behind the plan to save baby Moses. Her suggestion to Pharaoh’s daughter that a Hebrew woman nurse the child is very likely at the behest of Jochebed, who sought to be that woman. But while Miriam risks being caught in this plot, she is nevertheless obedient to her parents.

It also teaches us that Miriam was not self-centered. She was concerned about the welfare of her baby brother in very dangerous times. It is likely, as we have seen previously, that this baby boy was believed to be special. Perhaps there was prophecy concerning his future (His parents did act in faith, which means they had revelation from God to hide him – Heb. 11:23). Moses, when he came of age, thought that the people should understand that he was to be their deliverer (Acts 7:25). But in spite of all the attention that Moses received, Miriam was not jealous of his popularity or success. That is, at least not at first.

The one incident which mars her character is her opposition to Moses when he married an Ethiopian woman (Num. 12:1). It is, perhaps, impossible to know with certainty whether or not this is Zipporah, as many commentators claim, but it seems unlikely that Moses’ marriage to her would become an issue with Miriam after so long of a time. Regardless, the Text tells us that “Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman he had married” (Num. 12:1). From the fact that Miriam’s name is mentioned before Aaron’s and the fact that Miriam is the only one punished (Num. 12:10), it is likely that Miriam was the instigator of this cabal. Besides, Aaron was not one to lead anything, much less a rebellion. Miriam was the more vocal and outspoken of the two.

Not only did Miriam and Aaron complain about Moses’ marriage, they also had become envious of Moses’ position. They came up with this charge, “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath He not also spoken by us?” (Num. 12:2). After all these years of trusting in God and supporting her brother, Moses, she finally gave in to jealousy and envy. What a sad way to close her otherwise exemplary life. But God let her know that Moses was special. Her punishment was leprosy (Num. 12:10). But when Aaron pleaded for her life and Moses interceded for her healing the Lord responded and after seven days of shame of being put out of the camp, she was healed. Her death is recorded in only a passing fashion (Num. 20:1).

Miriam was, along with Moses and Aaron, and Amram and Jochebed, part of a great, leading, godly family. In the prophets, Miriam is listed right along side Moses and Aaron as a leader (Mic. 6:4). Though we do not know what she taught, she was a prophetess, according to Moses (Ex. 15:20). Her claim that God had spoken also by her agrees with this observation (Num. 12:2). While we may not know what she taught verbally, the example of her life speaks volumes to us.

Eric L. Padgett

MOSES

It is commonly assumed that Moses was unaware of his Abrahamic heritage when he was growing up in Pharaoh’s court. But scripture indicates that Moses knew all along from whence he came. His adventure as an infant in an ark of bulrush, purposefully placed among the flags of the river, was probably not just an act of desperation on his mother’s part, but possibly all part of a well-laid out plan to save this special child alive. It just happened to be where Pharaoh’s daughter was wont to bathe and she just happened to want a son.

Furthermore, his sister was strategically placed to allow her to suggest to Pharaoh’s daughter a very special woman to nurse the child–the child’s own mother! Would she, could she, withhold from her own son the knowledge that he was a Hebrew, a thing which Pharaoh’s daughter already knew? He apparently did know it for when he was grown the Text says “he went unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens” (Ex. 2:13). Paul said Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” and chose to “suffer affliction with the people of God” (Heb. 11:24,25). Upon seeing the fate of his Hebrew brethren, he sought to rectify an injustice and slew an Egyptian and hid him in the sand (Ex. 2:12).

If he had some knowledge that God was going to use him to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, as some rabbinic traditions suggest (cf. also Heb. 11:23; Ex. 2:2), he may have thought he might do it on his own. But such a course of action never, ever works. God’s designs will be carried out in God’s own good time and in His own way (e.g., Gal. 4:4). Regardless, his actions incurred the wrath of Pharaoh and Moses’ own hopes of saving his brethren were dashed. Moses failed and fled for his life but God had His own plans for him.

Out in the dried up, harsh and unforgiving climes of the backside of the desert, on Mount Horeb, God appeared to Moses and informed him that he would deliver Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 3:7-10). Though he was once anxious to deliver his brethren out of bondage, Moses now only offered excuses to God as to why he was unfit to lead. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Ex. 3:11). “What shall I say unto them” when they ask “What is His name” (Ex. 3:13)? “But they won’t believe me” (Ex. 4:1)! But “I am not eloquent . . . but am slow of speech” (Ex. 4:10). “Send someone else, but not me” (Ex. 4:13). These are excuses, perhaps, with which none of us are unfamiliar. But when the LORD God almighty commands a thing, it will be done! And Moses went.

Whatever else might have been racing through Moses’ excited mind, from this point on he acted in great faith. Paul said “he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27). He faced great obstacles. His own people murmured against him ten times (Num. 14:22). Paul explicitly named Jannes and Jambres as having withstood Moses (II Tim. 3:8). Israel constantly joined themselves to false gods and acted sinfully. Enemies, like the Amalekites and the Midianites, constantly stood in the way as he led God’s people out of Egyptian bondage and to the promised land. But Moses endured and sang a song of triumph and faith after he and Israel were baptized in the sea and in the cloud (Ex. 14:21-15:19; I Cor. 10:1,2).

God spoke with Moses as He spoke with no other. God spoke “face to face, as a man speaketh unto a friend” (Ex. 33:11). This was not literal. What Moses saw was the similitude of the Lord, for no man could see God’s face and live (Ex. 33:20; Num 12:8). But because Moses was faithful in all his house, he could speak to God intimately and freely, and God would not speak to him in dark speeches (Num. 12:6-8). In this respect, there arose not a prophet since in Israel, like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew (Deut. 34:10). However, Moses, by inspiration, did prophesy of One Prophet, like unto Moses, which was to come from among them and to Whom they should hearken (Deut. 18:15-18).

When the Lord stood on the Mount of Transfiguration, along with Moses and Elijah, Moses was able to speak with the Lord in person (Matt. 17:3; Mark 9:4). Then Moses spoke to God face to face. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know the contents of their conversation! There, on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter foolishly suggested that three tabernacles be built, one to honor Christ, Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17:4). But God spoke from heaven saying of Christ, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him” (Matt. 17:5). After Pentecost, Peter finally understood, that Jesus was the One to Whom Moses’ prophesy of another prophet like unto him pointed (Acts 3:19-24).

Moses gave the children of Israel the law. The underlying principles of that law are the foundation for all the laws in western, civilized society. The law, itself, however, was given to the Jews. It served it’s God ordained purpose to expose sin and bring us unto the Christ (Rom. 3:20; 7:7; Gal. 3:24). As John states, the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). That Old Covenant was nailed to the cross and now we have a better Covenant, based on better promises and better blood (Col. 2:14; Heb. 7:19,22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:35, 40; 12:24). And now we, after we have passed through the waters of baptism, may sing the New Song of Moses and the Lamb (Rev. 14:1-3; 15:3) as we strive to enter that better, heavenly country (Heb. 11:16).

Eric L. Padgett

JOSEPH

It is understandable, though not excusable, that Jacob would favor Joseph. Joseph was the son he had long sought from the wife he truly loved born in a time of great adversity in his life. But that special favor bestowed on Joseph served only to alienate him from his brothers. Of all people, Jacob should have understood that favoritism in the family by the parents can only lead to hurt feelings and betrayal.

The jealousy his brothers felt toward him was aggravated by Joseph’s own actions, albeit unintentionally. Besides the coat of many colors–which may have signified to them that their father had greater hopes for his favored son than just being well dressed–his report to their father of their evil actions further strained their weakened feelings of brotherly love. Then, his repeating his God-inspired dreams agitated his brothers’ feelings to the breaking point.

But in these things Joseph does not appear to have been malicious. When he brought back the evil report to their father he was simply relating the truth. When he repeated the inspired dreams, he was speaking only what God had revealed, not trying to goad his brethren. But sometimes, the truth is not easily accepted. Sometimes the truth even hurts. Paul had to ask the Galatians Christians, “Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). Even our Lord said that the world hated Him because He testified that it’s works were evil (John 7:7).

As Joseph was coming to his brethren, they colluded how they might take his life. How lonely and tragic it must be to have your own brethren despise you so much they want to kill you, especially when you have done nothing amiss. The Bible doesn’t go into detail, but Joseph must have heard their very hateful remarks as they forcefully stripped him of his robe and cast him into a pit. What kind of jealousy can lead to this kind of treatment? They were so calloused that they then sat down to eat (Gen. 37:25).

Our Lord must have felt so very alone when He came unto His own and they received Him not. Indeed, not only did they not receive Him but actively sought His destruction (e.g., John 7:1). He was scourged, mocked, had a crown of thorns crushed on His head, smitten with their hands, humiliated, despised and rejected of men, bruised, and spit upon. Even while in the last, agonizing moments on the cross, the crowds jeered Him. His loneliness was manifested when He cried out upon the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). All for simply speaking the truth.

Joseph faced many temptations and trials in his life and he persevered through each of them. Surely nothing could have been harder on his faith in God than having his brethren reject him and seek his death or sell him. But he also faced the temptation with Potiphar’s wife. He faced the temptation of being thrown into prison for something he did not do. He faced the trial of seemingly haven been forgotten about in prison. But through it all Joseph kept his faith in Jehovah and he kept his life pure. I know of no negative thing that is written about Joseph.

Through these series of humbling incidents, Joseph went from the pit to power. He was sold and imprisoned but was ultimately raised to be second only to Pharaoh over Egypt (Gen. 41:40,41). How like our Lord Who was rejected but then exalted by the Father to His own right hand. The life of Jesus was truly pure for He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

Joseph’s trust in God is clear all the way through the account of his life. In the end, after all is said and done, while his brothers cower in fear for any retaliation Joseph might take, Joseph humbly forgives them all. Just as our Lord said while on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”(Luke 24:34). Joseph saw his life in terms of God’s providence. While his brothers “thought evil against” him, Joseph said “God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:20).

The life of Joseph, and hopefully ours, is one of purity, perseverance and and trust on God’s providence.

Eric L. Padgett

JACOB

Jacob formed the third part of the well-known patriarchal triad of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (cf. Matt. 22:32). The Lord Himself was the first to use this description to Moses when He described Himself as their God (Ex. 3:6). Despite the fact that very early on Jacob’s life was not always exemplary, God chose him to bear twelve sons, which would become twelve tribes, which would become strangers in a land not theirs but would come out a great nation, just as God had promised Abraham (Gen. 15:13,14).

Jacob was born in answer to the prayers which Isaac offered on behalf of his wife, Rebekah (Gen. 25:21). Like Sarah, she had been barren. But while Sarah bore a child through God’s miraculous intervention, such was not necessarily so in Rebekah’s case. But God’s providence was at work. Even before his birth, God had chosen Jacob for a purpose (Gen. 25:23; Rom. 9:11-16). Paul showed how this demonstrated God’s sovereign will (Rom. 9:11-24).

As noted above, Jacob’s early life was less than exemplary. First, he deceived his brother into giving him his birthright (Gen. 25:29-34). A birthright was the right of the firstborn son to receive special blessings, including a double portion of the personal inheritance (Deut. 21:15-17). Later, he deceived his father into giving him the blessing that was to be Esau’s (Gen. 27:1-40). Jacob’s name meant “the supplanter” and he lived up to his name (Gen. 27:36). Instead of trusting the Lord and asking Him for guidance, he always acted on his own.

The deception in these instances was bad enough, but Jacob and Rebekah knew of the promises of God. God had fulfilled His promise that through Isaac the seed and blessings would come. Nevertheless, just as Sarah had tried before her, Rebekah was trying to force God’s hand into bringing about the advancement of her son on her own terms. We cannot force God’s hand. Even our Lord prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). One has only to look at the religious world to see the attempts by man, over and over again, to circumvent God’s will with their own.

Every sin has its consequence (Rom. 6:23). Sometimes the consequences are immediate. Jacob’s deception naturally resulted in Esau’s intense anger. This kind of anger–the kind of anger that wants to kill–reaches back to the immediate, post-garden days of the Adam and Eve family (Gen. 4:1-8). However, such anger should not be nursed or fed (Eph. 4:26). Anger, even the small kind, resteth in the bosom of fools (Ecc. 7:9). Although Esau had sworn to kill Jacob, in the end his anger was abated because of his own prosperity and he reconciled with his brother. What a contrast with Cain and Abel!

You can see the transformation in Jacob’s life. Early on Jacob is not recorded as speaking to God or even acknowledging Him. Somewhere along the way to Haran, as he fled Esau, God appears to Jacob above a ladder to heaven and gives Jacob the same promise He had given to Abraham. Jacob there vows that if God bless him, then God shall be his God (Gen. 28). When Jacob is ready to leave Laban, he finally acknowledges that God had been with him (Gen. 31:5,42).

Now, before this reunion and reconciliation with Esau, Jacob dwelt in fear of meeting his once angry brother(Gen. 32:11). Not only does he pray to God, which is something he was not said to have done heretofore, but he acknowledges that he was unworthy “of the least of Thy mercies,” and admitted his fear (Gen. 32:9-11). To prepare him for this meeting, and for the rest of his life, the Lord causes Jacob to wrestle “a man,” which was, presumably, the Lord. (Jacob says that he has seen God “face to face” (Gen. 32:30) and the Angel says that Jacob had power with men and with God (v. 28)). With that new courage, Jacob faced his brother and the two were reconciled.

The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac had truly become the God of Jacob! The Lord changed the name of Jacob, the supplanter, to Israel, the prince of God (Gen. 32:28). At God’s command, Jacob goes back to Bethel and builds an altar to the Lord and has his people put away their gods (Gen. 35:1-15). Through God’s providence, he ultimately ends up in Egypt so that his seed would be saved from famine and become a mighty nation that comes out of Egypt (Ex. 12:35,36; Ps. 105:37). Finally, in faith, he blesses his sons and both the sons of Joseph (Heb. 11:21).

Eric L. Padgett

Losing Weight

Over the past several weeks I picked up some extra weight that I don’t want and certainly don’t need. It seems to happen every year around this time when there is less chance to get outdoors and work around the yard. I am not saying for certain, but it might also have something to do with eating more of the wrong things around this time of year, too! Anyway, these extra pounds make it harder to do things I normally do and I don’t like it. I guess I’ll have to go on another diet. Again.

Sometimes we also gain extra weight spiritually and that weight hinders us from living the Christian life as we ought. Paul wrote, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us” (Heb. 12:1). The figure that is being used here is the image of a contender in a foot race. In ancient times, as well as in modern, the runner wants to cast off all extra weight so that it will not slow him down. He wants every advantage to win. In ancient times that often meant running naked. Today we wear clothing that causes less friction.

Spiritually, many Christians carry around all kinds of extra weight that they don’t need and it hinders them. One weight that some Christians carry around is the weight of greed. Some are so enamored of money and wealth that they work so many extra hours that they neglect not only their family but they neglect God and His worship and service. Paul said that the love of money is the root of kinds of evil (I Tim. 6:10). Even elders and preachers can be tempted by the prospect of monetary gain (I Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:10,11). If an apostle could be guilty of this, then so could we (John 12:6).

Some Christians carry around the weight of anger. Certainly, there are enough reasons to be angry in the world. There is cheating, stealing, murders, slanders, hate, etc., abundantly flourishing in the world. I’ve noticed that even Facebook has an icon that you can click to expresses anger at some post. But while we may become angry, we should not let it develop into sin. “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Eph. 4:26). Anger may satisfy our emotions at the time, but ultimately, anger resteth in the bosom of fools (Eccl. 8:9). Throw off the weight of unrighteous anger.

Other Christians carry the weight of jealousy. Paul encountered those that preached Christ for envy, hoping to add affliction to his bonds (Phil. 1:15,16). Imagine, preachers envious or jealous of other preachers. But it happens. In general terms, some Christians are often jealous of other Christians or even of people in the world. But Paul stated that “charity envieth not” (I Cor. 13:4). Having love in our hearts will give us the strength to throw off the weight of jealousy and envy.

Unfortunately, many Christians carry with them the weight of worldliness. Far too often Christians want the benefits and blessings of Christ but do not want to have to change anything in themselves. Jesus warned against this attitude. “No man,” said Jesus, “can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). But many try and so become the enemies of God (James 4:4). What a burden to carry around!

One great weight that many Christians bear and may not even be aware of it is the weight that held back the people to whom Paul wrote, namely the sin of unbelief! Prior to the text above, in chapter eleven, Paul had just described great men and women of faith and their actions. Beginning chapter twelve he said we are compassed about with a great cloud of witnesses, meaning these men and women of faith. Those to whom Paul wrote were experiencing a bout of unbelief (e.g., Heb. 3:12, 19; 4:1-6). Far too often we have too little faith. Was this not a favorite expression of our Lord describing the mentality of His disciples (Matt. 6:30; 8:20; 14:30; 16:8)? If we just had faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, we could move mountains (Matt. 17:20). But alas, we carry the burden of doubt. Lord, increase our faith (Luke 17:5)! Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief (Mark 9:24)!

Yes, I’ve got a lot of weight to lose this coming year! I better get started.

Eric L. Padgett

A Great Man Fallen This Day

It was with great sorrow that we received the news that brother Garland Elkins passed from this life on Friday, October 28, 2016. Because he dad such a profound impact not only on me, but also on the brotherhood, I feel compelled to mention a few things in his memory. Brother Elkins was a prolific writer, dedicated editor, capable debater, sound Gospel preacher and faithful child of God. The value of his work in the kingdom of God is inestimable.

I have spent many hours listening to brother Elkins in meetings and in lectureships and when ever I had the opportunity. Some years ago, I spoke with him on several occasions when he held meetings where I attended, discussed doctrinal and brotherhood issues while eating with him or driving him to his hotel, and generally picked his brain whenever possible. I will forever be indebted to him for his wonderful Christian example and for the truth I learned from him.

Four things impressed me about brother Elkins. The first was his love of the scriptures. As a new Christian, I had heard others quote the scriptures before, but not the way brother Elkins quoted them, nor so prolifically. No matter what the issue was, brother Elkins would quote the scriptures. I remember when Brother Elkins was on the Donahue program, Phil Donahue sarcastically quipped, “I’m gonna guarantee you the minister’s got a section of scripture that covers that in the Bible.” But brother Elkins, with what little time he was given, unflappably quoted the scriptures and spoke the truth. Truly, the word of Christ dwelt in him richly (Col. 3:16).

Second, he was a very kind person. His presentation was always with meekness, yet firmness. When he spoke about an issue with me that I had inquired about, though he knew the truth about it, he would say something to the effect, “Don’t you think that’s right?” He didn’t need my affirmation, but he was trying to gently nudge me in the right direction. He often humorously observed about certain individuals, “Some people are so disagreeable, even their stomachs disagree with them.” He followed Paul’s teaching, “Let your speech be always with grace” (Col. 4:6).

Third, he was dedicated to the Lord’s work in saving souls. I remember in one lesson he recalled how he was with another Christian and he saw a member of their congregation who had become unfaithful. He told the brother that was with him that if they had the opportunity, they would have to encourage that person to return to the Lord. It just so happens that they all got on the same elevator with other people, yet he spoke softly but clearly, and urged this unfaithful child of God to return back to the Lord. He was always trying to convert the sinner from the error of his ways and save a soul from death (James 5:19,20).

The fourth thing that stood out about brother Elkins to me was his energy. He was always going somewhere to preach or else coming from somewhere having preached. He was forty years older than I was but he had much more energy and purpose. I remember one year at the Spiritual Sword lectureship that the atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair was in Memphis on a radio talk show in town, and he encouraged others to call her and challenge her. I don’t remember if he did or not, but if he had the time, I am sure he would have tried. On another occasion he stayed late after the lectureship was over playing tapes of some false teacher for others to be informed. He epitomized Paul’s direction to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).

A couple of years ago I wrote about brother Elkins (and other preachers who influenced me) in an article entitled Honor to whom Honor. “Brother Garland Elkins has also had a profound impact upon me. I can listen to brother Elkins preach for hour on end and never grow tired. His nimble recollection of scripture and his meek but forceful presentation of the truth and defense of it are a pattern for me in my preaching, though I fall far short of his example. His lessons are filled with book, chapter and verse preaching and quotation of scripture, but they also contain the occasional anecdote that brings the point home. He has a great sense of humor, as well. I remember on one occasion in Kentucky when he was encouraging others to attend the Spiritual Sword lectureship, he said “You want to go to heaven, don’t you!” Every young preacher ought to listen to his sermons and learn from them.”

I always checked to see if brother Elkins opened my newsletter. I was proud to know that he, with some other beloved brethren, received and looked at this newsletter. He always did until some time ago and I wondered then if he perhaps didn’t like it.  But I later learned that his health was poor and that this was the reason why.  When Abner fell at the hands of Joab and Abishai, David stated: “Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?” (II Samuel 3:38). And so it is today that a great man is fallen this day in Israel. Brother Elkins will be missed in the years to come. We need more men like him to stand for the truth and defeat error. May God bless and comfort his family in their time of mourning.

Eric L. Padgett

Johnny Gospel

Let me introduce you to an old friend of mine. His name is Johnny Gospel. In the eyes of the world, Johnny is just an ordinary fellow, maybe even a little odd, but in the eyes of all faithful Christians, he is a fine, outstanding example of what it means to be a Christian. You might even know Johnny. He could well be a member of the congregation where you attend. Well, let me just describe him for you.

One thing is sure, Johnny knows his Bible (II Tim. 2:15). If you ask a Bible question, Johnny can tell you where to find the answer (II Pet. 3:21). He studies his Bible daily so he is very familiar with it (Acts 17:11). No, formally he is not a scholar–he doesn’t hold a theological degree–but he has learned so much from his daily studies, that you might sometimes mistake him for one. Of course, he doesn’t know everything there is to know but he knows enough that he could tell you whether the gist of some statement is scriptural or not.

Naturally, Johnny loves the word of God (Psalm 119:97). It really upsets him when he hears the word of God distorted or misapplied (Acts 17:16). Recently, in Bible class, he heard another member of the Lord’s church advance a view in favor of some unscriptural action. He politely waited for someone else to correct the man, but no one did. So, he took it upon himself to stand up for the truth (I Cor. 16:13). When he did, others joined with him. It is not that Johnny is argumentative, he is simply jealous of the truth and concerned about the souls of men.

Johnny is constantly engaging people in discussions about the word of God (Matt. 28:18-20). Because he carries a New Testament with him wherever he goes and because he often pulls it out and reads it, many ask him about it (Acts 17:11). Most often, at work, on breaks, Johnny will have co-workers come and ask him about the Bible. People always come to Johnny Gospel when they have questions about the Bible or Christianity because they know he is a dedicated and knowledgeable, New Testament Christian. When ever he gets the opportunity, he holds Bible studies with people who are interested (Acts 8:4). Quite a number of people have obeyed the gospel because Johnny Gospel was there on the spot.

Johnny also has unimpeachable character (I Pet. 1:15,16). He is an example to all who get to know him. His speech, whether in private or in public, is always exemplary (Col. 4:6). He pays his bills on time and, if the cashier at the local store gives more change than he deserves, he returns the money just as soon as he knows about it (I Pet. 2:12). He is always polite and kind and tenderhearted and forgiving (Eph. 4:32). Johnny is also known as a man of prayer (I Thess. 5:17). The one thing you know about Johnny Gospel is that whether he is in public or in private, he always is a follower of the Lord (Rev. 2:10).

Johnny’s wife and children are exemplary, as well (Eph. 6:1-3). His children go to Bible class eagerly, have their work ready and participate in the class heartily. Even outside the church building, in school or with their friends, Johnny’s children always do him proud. They dress modestly, they speak respectfully, they refuse to do things that might bring shame either on him or the Lord’s church. They are known in the community as good and decent children and because of that they are trusted.

His wife is also faithful to the Lord (Prov. 31:10-31). She is just as concerned about the truth and the condition of the Lord’s church as is he. She participates in the work of the church, helps those who are in need, encourages her husband as a Christian, teaches her children by word and by example and is well respected in the community and in the church (Tit. 2:3-5). She rises early to begin the chores and help her husband. She does not seek her own pleasure first but that of her husband and children, just as they do hers.

There is so much more that can and should be said about Johnny Gospel, but one thing we know: we need more like him in the church. If more people were like Johnny Gospel, the world, and especially the church, would be in much better and a safer condition.

Eric L. Padgett

Be A Christian Where You Are

Some members of the Lord’s church are often discouraged because they feel that they are not good enough. Actually, a sense of inadequacy is a good attitude to have, as long as it is held in the proper perspective (Luke 17:10). We should never feel complacent as Christians and should always strive to be better today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we are today (I Cor. 10:12). But sometimes Christians try to hold themselves to a standard that cannot be realistically met and thus are needlessly discouraged (Acts 15:10).

While the apostle Paul is certainly to be emulated (I Cor. 11:1), as are those who follow his example (Phil. 3:17), very few of us, if any at all, will ever attain to the level of intensity that he had as an apostle of the Lord. Not all of us can travel the globe preaching the gospel, as did Paul. While many faithful brethren do engage in tireless efforts for the Cause of Christ, I am certain that most would humbly admit that they compare unfavorably to the apostle in every respect. Very likely none of us have received 39 stripes once, much less five times, or have been beaten with rods or spent a day and a night in the deep in the service of our King, as did Paul (II Cor. 11:25). But the truth is, we do not have to do all these things to be faithful to the Lord. We can be a Christian right where we are!

While I may not be able to travel the globe preaching the gospel to those in darkness and stand before kings and dignitaries (Acts 9:15), I can teach the people I meet every day who need the Light of Life. I can find ways of talking to others about Christ in my every-day conversations with my family, friends, co-workers and individuals I meet along the way.

While I may not be chained and imprisoned in dank and dark dungeons for preaching Jesus (however, watch out, this may come sooner than you might think), I may be rejected by others simply because I live my life according to the Will of God (Matt. 5:1-12). For instance, a boss may not promote me even though I am worthy because he does not like Christians or associates may mercilessly tease me about my faith.

While I may not wield great influence around the brotherhood and my name may not be a household name among the faithful, I can wield influence by my example to those who see me every day (Matt. 5:13-16). When I am tempted to cheat to get ahead at work, I can choose the honest way. When I am tempted to be angry at some wrong perpetrated against me, I can be even tempered (Matt. 5:43-48).

While I am may not have the time to devote hours of study in God’s word, or while I may never become a renowned Bible scholar and pen notable volumes that receive world acclaim, I can study to show myself approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15). I can know what I must do to be saved and teach others the same, simple truth.

My salvation does not depend on being better than some other Christian, only in being a faithful Christian. There will always only be one Noah, one Abraham, one Moses, one Joshua, one David, one Isaiah, one Jeremiah, and only one Peter and only one Paul. While I admire and follow their example of faith, I cannot be them. I have found that I am better at being myself than anyone else and that is all I need to do, as long as I am genuinely trying to follow the Lord.

Now some may feel inadequate because they do not try to do what they know they ought. That is sin (James 4:17). But Paul said there was a crown laid up for him because he fought a good fight, finished the course and kept the faith (II Tim. 4:8). John said, “hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” and His commandments are not grievous (I John 2:3; 5:3). Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Just be a Christian where you are.

Eric L. Padgett

Lessons For A Preacher

Timothy was quite a young man. He exhibited unfeigned faith in Christ, even while coming from a religiously divided home. His mother was a Jew who believed in Christ but his father was a Greek (Acts 16:1,3). Perhaps because of objections made by his father, Timothy was never circumcised. However, his mother and grandmother were powerful influences on Timothy in his youth, so much so that Paul now observed great enough qualities in Timothy that he desired him to join him in his labors for the Lord in the kingdom (II Tim. 3:15; Acts 16:3).

The second epistle to Timothy was the last letter we have from the aged apostle, who knew that his own death was imminent (II Tim. 4:8). Knowing that his own time was short, Paul would not mince words but speak what Timothy needed to hear. In both of his epistles to Timothy, Paul gives important, final instruction to Timothy regarding his work and conduct as a preacher. These letters also give us insight into the responsibility of a preacher and into the substance of his doctrine.

The very first thing Paul mentions to Timothy was his responsibility to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (I Tim. 1:3). This was the very reason Paul left Timothy at Ephesus. Earlier, Paul warned the Ephesians to guard against false teaching by “grievous wolves..not sparing the flock” who would arise from among themselves (Acts 20:28-30). Fortunately, we see later, that Ephesus stood fast in the faith, and tried those which taught error and found them liars (Rev. 2:2). But Paul taught that soundness of doctrine was so vital to the work of the preacher that he mentioned this as the first item of importance.

Sound doctrine is a common theme in the epistles to Timothy (and in all of his other letters, as well). In the second epistle, Paul encourages Timothy to “hold fast the form of sound words” (1:13). The word “doctrine” is mentioned twelve times in these two short epistles. He concludes his letters to son in the Faith, before mentioning his own martyrdom, that Timothy should preach the word, both when it was accepted and when it was not accepted (II Tim. 4:1-5). This instruction should be heeded by all preachers of the gospel in this age, as well.

Another area of emphasis which the inspired apostle gives is in the area of moral purity. Paul said men should lift up “holy hands” and women should adorn themselves in “modest apparel” (I Tim. 2). Paul noted the timeless truth that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (I Tim. 6:6). Furthermore, Paul urged Timothy himself, and others, as well, to flee immorality and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and meekness (I Tim. 6:11). Those who do will have treasures far greater than any wealth that can be accumulated on earth. Gospel preachers need to call on God’s people to keep themselves pure and unspotted from the world.

The one imagery that Paul used most when speaking to Timothy was that of a soldier. This is interesting in light of the fact that Timothy seems to have been somewhat timid. Paul had to encourage him to stir up the gift that was in him by noting that God had not given them (nor us) a spirit of fear but of love and of a sound mind (II Tim. 1:6,7). But Paul often encouraged him to “war a good warfare” (I Tim. 1:18) and to “fight the good fight of faith” (I Tim. 6:12). He encouraged Timothy to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus (II Tim. 2:3). Faithful gospel preachers today in particular and Christians in general need to be less timid and see their work as an active battle with the forces of evil and not a courting of the world’s favor.

A final emphasis that is found in Paul’s epistles to Timothy is the need to trust in God. Paul stated, “I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (II Tim. 1:12). Paul trusted in God to reward him for the labors he had bestowed in kingdom of Christ. Again, Paul informed Timothy of his own death in the near future. This must have been a great blow to Timothy, given how close these two men were. But Paul said he was ready to be offered (II Tim. 4:8). What a lesson of trust in God that must have been for Timothy and should be for us.

Eric L. Padgett