Category Archives: church

Who Is The Greatest Man In The Bible?

Who would you identify as the greatest man in the Bible? For the sake of this discussion, we are excluding Jesus Christ because He was not only a man, but He was also divine (Matt. 3:17; John 10:30). He was God and man at the same time (John 1:1-3,14). Naturally, He was sinlessly perfect and perfect in every way (Heb. 4:15; 5:8,9). Furthermore, the question here is not the question which the apostles raised as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Luke 9:46). Theirs was a selfish and materialistic question. Simply, who is the greatest man mentioned in the Bible?

Some might say that Adam was the greatest man in the Bible because he was the very first man and, as such, he was initially sinless and created by God in the image of God. He was likely a genetically perfect human being, undoubtedly extremely intelligent (he classified all the animals) and was in perfect communion with God. He was the progenitor of all that followed. And yet Adam violated God’s perfect law and became responsible for bringing sin into this world and all death by sin (Rom. 5:12-17).

Others might point to Noah as the greatest man in the Bible. Noah lived in a very wicked generation, when “every imagination of the thought of man’s heart was only evil continually,” and yet he was of such a sterling character that God chose him to deliver the world from extermination. Noah was described as “a just man and perfect in his generations.” He “walked with God” and “found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8,9). Noah labored continually until he had finished the ark which God gave him to build, and he did “according to all that God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22). But Noah also had sin in his life. On at least one occasion he was drunk with wine and was uncovered in his tent (Gen. 9:21,22).

Perhaps Abraham could be said to be the greatest man because he is throughout God’s word held up as a great example of faith (i.e., Gen. 15:6; Gal. 3:8, etc.). God called him to leave his homeland and to travel to a land unknown to him and he went, trusting in God all the way (Gen. 12:1-5; Heb. 11:8,9). Abraham exhibited the greatest faith when, according to God’s test of his faith, he took his only son and was willing to offer him as a sacrifice to God (Heb. 11:17-19). And yet there were instances in Abraham’s life where he, too, sinned. He lied about his wife to Pharaoh (Gen. 12:14ff) and Abimelech (Gen. 20) because he was afraid. He tried, along with Sarai, his wife, to give God’s promise unneeded aid by taking Hagar, the Egyptian, as his wife. Abraham’s life, though a wonderful example of faith, is also spotted with blemishes of sin.

Then, there is Moses. Moses was certainly a great leader. He was the right man at the right time to lead God’s people. He was seen as special in his birth, for his parents hid him from the destroying Egyptians (Ex. 2:1-4). He faced Pharaoh, the most powerful man on the earth at the time and, through God’s power, led his people from Egyptian bondage. He led the children of Israel across the Red Sea upon dry ground and the pursuing Egyptian army was destroyed in the engulfing flood. He, by God’s hand, gave the world the greatest moral code it had ever seen (Ex. 20). And yet, because of Moses’ sin, he was forbidden to enter into the promised land.

What about king David? He was at first just a simple shepherd boy but God chose him to be a leader of His people and bring them to the pinnacle of their historical power. He faced down the giant Goliath with nothing but a sling, five smooth stones and his trust in God. He wrote wonderful poetry which has blessed the world since its writing and is recognized as perhaps the greatest the world has ever known. He was described as a man after God’s own heart (I Sam. 13:14). But David committed great sin in the matter of Bathsheba (II Sam. 11)–unfaithfulness, deception, and ultimately murder–and in numbering God’s people (II Sam. 24).

Then there is David’s son, Solomon. David servants prayed that God would make him even greater than was their lord (I Kings 1:47). Solomon is best known for his great wisdom, wisdom which even in his own time was known the world over (II Chron. 9:22). The Queen of Sheba heard of the wealth, wisdom and fame of Solomon and came to prove him with hard questions but admitted in the end that the half had not been told her (I Kings 10:1-7). Solomon was also responsible for the construction of the glorious Temple in Jerusalem (I kings 8). But even in all this, Jesus said the lilies of the field were far more glorious than all the glories of Solomon (Matt. 6:28,29).  The Lord, also, was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned from the Lord and the kingdom was rent from him (I Kings 11:1-12)

Is there anyone greater than any one of these great men of the past, or others which could be mentioned, found in the pages of God’s Holy Word? Listen to Jesus. “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt. 11:11). Jesus said of those that are born of women–that is, all human beings–no one, not Adam, not Noah, not Abraham, not Moses, not David, not Solomon, nor any other is greater than John but one person. That one person is the person who is in the kingdom of heaven. That means you, if you are a Christian, a member of the Lord’s church, a citizen of the Kingdom of Christ. Being even least in the kingdom of heaven means being greater than all of these great men. What a privilege it is to be a member of the Lord’s church!

Are we living up to that greatness?

Eric L. Padgett

How Do You See It Now?

“Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

There were many older men living at the time the foundation of the second temple was laid, who had seen the original temple of Solomon. We are told by Ezra that these men, when they saw the foundation, “wept with a loud voice” (Ezra 3:12,13). These men wept, both because they were probably reminded that the temple of Solomon had long been destroyed, and because the second temple was nothing in comparison to the former, in their estimation. “Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” observed Haggai.

Haggai asked the question with regard to the temple, “How do ye see it now?” To the older generation it was nothing in comparison. To the younger generation it was something to cheer about because their place of worship, the house of God, was being built. Isn’t it interesting that how we see things, often depends upon our perspective. Not having seen the original, the younger generation welcomed this new temple. They had not the perspective to see it correctly, at least not in the same light that their elders had.

Our experience often colors what we see and how we see it. This is not to say, as some do, that we can never see the truth because it is colored by our experience. It is, nevertheless, true that our experience is a factor in the way we see things. It is especially true that those who do not travel the hard path do not appreciate the end destination! Too often those who have never been in the arena fighting the battles, taking the blows, struggling for victory, do not appreciate fully what they have. As Shakespeare once observed, “They jest at wounds that never felt a scar.” It is only after we have struggled and pushed and fought and climbed and pursued and been wounded and tasted our own blood that we truly appreciate the victory. It is so often true that those who have fought the battles appreciate peace the most.

How many times have we seen it? How many times, for example, have those who have come to America from countries where there was extreme poverty or no freedom exhibit true appreciation for the blessings and freedoms here in America while our own sons and daughters take these hard fought blessings for granted? In a similar fashion, how many times have the children of long-time members of the Lord’s church disregarded the uniqueness of the church and longed for something different? How many times have they left the Lord’s church in search of something “better”? How many times has the younger generation sought to change the Lord’s church? Too often!

I have spoken with older members of the Lord’s church who have seen good times in the kingdom. They have experienced auditoriums overflowing with people, they remember when chairs had to be set in the aisles to accommodate the crowds. They remembered the truth being defended and people being taught. They remember the debates. They experienced the sacrifice. However, they wept when they saw the current condition of the church and the changes taking place. Yet many in the younger generation not only welcome but advocate the changes taking place in the Lord’s church. The younger generation too often does not want the church of their fathers but one whose foundations are much smaller and far less glorious.

This is why it has always been important for the previous generation to faithfully transmit the truth to the next generation and instill in them a zeal for the truth. If we do not faithfully do this, there will arise another generation which does not know the Lord (Jud. 2:10). Paul said, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also (II Timothy 2:2). If we are not made to know the truth, we will not be set free (John 8:32).

The hopeful note in this account was that the Lord promised the children of Israel that, while the present house was not as glorious as the first, God was going to make it even more glorious in the future. “For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:6-7). Paul quoted this passage and applied it to the church, the eternal kingdom (Heb. 12:26-28; II Pet. 1:11).

Today, of course, God does not tell us that any individual congregation will be more glorious in the future in this life. But we do have the promise that God will bless us by delivering the kingdom back to God (I Cor. 15:24). It will be delivered back to God without spot, wrinkle, blemish or any such thing but that it will be holy and glorious (Eph. 5:27). This is dependent upon our making our calling and election sure (II Pet. 1:10,11).

How do we see the Lord’s church now?

Eric L. Padgett

Worship

Worship is an important element in the life of the Christian. While it is a command of the Lord to worship Him (i.e., Rev. 22:9), it should also be an automatic response of a grateful soul for the blessings of life and salvation. Indeed, in all human beings, whether they openly profess to be religious or not, there seems to be a tendency to worship. However, most direct their worship to the wrong object. Some worship their ancestors, others worship the heavens, some worship an object crafted by their own hands and others worship themselves (Rom. 1:21-28). While the desire and need to worship is there, the knowledge of Whom to worship and how to do it is not. God’s word teaches us about the proper object of worship and the proper way to do it.

First, only God is to be worshiped. “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14). Because all other objects and persons are created by God, only He is worthy of worship (Ps. 100; I Chron. 16:25,26). Since Jesus is also God, and, along with the Holy Spirit, was involved in the creation of the world (Gen. 1:1,2; John 1:1-3), He is also worthy of worship (Mark 5:6; Rev. 4,5). Many, however, often without even realizing it, worship things other than God. Some worship wealth or possessions and others worship fame and status. But Jesus made it clear that we cannot serve God and mammon and be acceptable to Him (Matt. 6:24). God is the only authorized object of worship.

Second, reverence must be exhibited when approaching God in worship. When Moses approached God in the burning bush, God told him that the place whereon he stood was “holy ground” and that he should remove his shoes as a sign of reverence (Ex. 3:5). Today, of course, we do not show reverence by removing shoes, but we should show reverence in the way we approach God in worship by the way we dress, by the way we conduct ourselves and by the way speak. David said he would not offer to God that which cost him nothing (II Sam. 24:24). We should be willing to sacrifice in order to come before God. Like the four and twenty elders before the throne, we should cast down our crowns before the Lord (Rev. 4:10). Our attitude toward God will be manifested by how we present ourselves before Him (I Chron. 16:29; Psalm 92:2).

Third, God must be worshiped according to His will. Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” God must be worshiped both in spirit and in Truth (John 4:24). To worship God in spirit is to worship Him with the right attitude or disposition of heart, which we just mentioned. But God wills that we worship Him according to truth as well, which means it must be done the right way.

For example, when Abel offered the wrong sacrifice, God was not pleased (Gen. 4:4,5). Cain chose to offer that which God had not commanded and was condemned for his unfaithfulness (Heb. 11:4; Rom. 10:17). Likewise, Nadab and Abihu offered the wrong fire in worship, a fire which God had “commanded them not,” and were destroyed because of it (Lev. 10:1,2). God said He was going to be sanctified in those that come nigh Him (Lev. 10:3). The world attempts to worship God in it’s own way, and God will have none of it. Ignorant worship is false worship and is not acceptable to God (Acts 17:23). Jesus condemned this kind of attempt to worship God when He said, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).

Fourth, scriptural worship of God consists of specific actions which God has authorized. Some have said in the past that all that we do in life is worship. Such a view is completely without scriptural support. For example, when Abraham obeyed God’s command to offer Isaac, Abraham said “abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship” (Gen. 22:5). Abraham was not worshiping as God commanded until He went to the place and performed the actions God had commanded. Abraham lived during the Patriarchal dispensation when God spoke directly to the fathers (cf. Heb. 1:1,2). Today, however, we live in the Christian dispensation and we are to listen to the Lord and the Lord only (Heb. 1:1,2; Matt. 17:1-8).

Under Christ, worship consists of five specific acts: Teaching/preaching, prayers, singing, giving, and the Lord’s supper. Very early on in the inspired account of the establishment and growth of the Lord’s church we are given a list of things in which Christians strictly continued and these five items are subsumed under them. Acts 2:42 states: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” While we cannot here go into detail about each of these avenues of worship, a brief summary will suffice to show the example of the first century church.

The book of Acts records that upon the first day of the week, the early church gathered to hear the gospel preached, which was the equivalent of the apostle’s doctrine being taught (Acts 20:7). The apostles doctrine involves teaching/preaching. This passage (Acts 20:7) also states that they partook of the Lord’s supper, or broke bread, on the first day of every week (I Cor. 10:16). Prayer was also an important and mandatory part of the services of the Lord’s church in the first century (Acts 12:12). On the first day of every week, first century Christians were commanded to lay by in store as God had prospered them (I Cor. 16:1,2). Finally, singing was a part of the worship of the assembled church (Heb. 2:12; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; I Cor. 14:15). Singing was also a way of “teaching and admonishing” which is referred to in Acts 2:42. Anything more than these adds to the worship and anything less, on the Lord’s day, takes away from God’s commands and corrupts the New Testament pattern.

God demands our worship be pure. Therefore, “let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker” (Ps. 95:6) and let us “give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (I Chron. 16:29).

Eric L. Padgett

On “Mission Statements” and “Visions”

I often search the internet looking at examples of web sites various churches keep to get ideas on how to make the web sites I maintain better. I see some things I like but there are many things I see which disturb me greatly. One thing which I often see on many church web sites is a “mission statement.” But it is curious to me that a congregation would need to develop their own modern mission statement or a “vision,” and these are often quite broad in scope and complex, when the Lord has given us a very complete and concise “mission statement” already:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).

And again:

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark 16:15-16).

Jesus was clear. The mission of the church, as He delivered it to the apostles, was to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” This is simple, direct, clear and concise. But what do many mission statements of modern “churches of Christ” say? Let’s look at one example of a “mission statement” that was the first I came across just randomly searching for “mission statements” (but it is not alone in either it’s content or thrust).

“The [name withheld] Church of Christ is a body of Christ-centered believers who submit to God’s word through faithful living and works of service, empowered by His Spirit to become a marriage- and family-friendly community of faith which embraces the blessings of our God-given diversity.”

What is this? Whatever it is, this is not the great commission! What this is is a piece of politically correct mumbo-jumbo designed to confuse people about the purpose of the Lord’s church. What is a “Christ-centered believer?” This is nothing but warmed-over, liberal denominational terminology. Scripturally, the church is the saved (Acts 2:47). Whatever happened to the time tested, biblical principle of calling Bible things by Bible names and doing Bible things in Bible ways (I Pet. 4:11)?

Is the purpose of the church to “submit to God’s word through faithful living and service?” It is not the purpose of the church to submit to God’s word, that is the nature of the church. Those who have obeyed the gospel have already submitted to God’s word by believing, repenting, confessing and being baptized (Rom. 6:16-19).

The notion of service also gets abused. Yes, we are servants of the Lord. The word “servant” used in the New Testament is the word for a bond-servant. A slave. As Christians we are His servants and must please Him, not men. Paul said, “If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). But too many see themselves as the servants of men first and of God last. These make an industry out of “service.” I will have more to say about this in a later post.

The errors encompassed in the statement “empowered by His Spirit” are too many to answer in this short post. Let it suffice to say that the Spirit works through His revealed word (Eph. 6:17). And while that revealed word teaches us about God’s design for marriage and the family, the Holy Spirit does not “empower” us to be “marriage- and family-friendly.” That is a choice we make, just like everything else we do.

The expression “community of faith” in the above “mission statement” is foreign to the scriptures. You cannot find it in God’s word. God’s people are the “called out,” the church. The church is the “house of God” (I Tim. 3:15). The English word “church” comes from the Greek word “kyriake (oikia), kyriakon doma ‘Lord’s (house).'” Jesus didn’t say “Upon this rock I will build My community” but “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). Such expressions as “community of faith” are more at home in socialism and liberalism than they are in the Lord’s house.

Finally, the idea that the Lord’s church was created to “embrace diversity” is simply another effort at using modern social issues to alter the nature and purpose of the Lord’s church. We all are to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). We are to have the same mind and the same judgement (I Cor. 1:10). The mind that was in Christ Jesus is to be in us (Phil. 2:5-8). Instead of focusing on and “embracing diversity,” the Lord tells us to focus on and be conformed to the truth (John 17:17-21).

All attempts at developing modern “mission statements” by churches of Christ, or statements expressing their “vision,” are against the genius of New Testament Christianity. I know our society presses us to be conformed to the religious world around us and focus on issues that tantalize and fascinate. But let us, as New Testament Christians, reject all such exotic missions. Let us insist on going back to the New Testament for our faith and practice. Let us insist on speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent and calling Bible things by Bible names and doing Bible things in Bible ways.

Why should we, as Christians–disciples of Christ–want anything more than His Great Commission: Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned.

Eric L. Padgett

As Ye Have Received Christ, So Walk

The church at Colossae was facing the insinuation into it’s sphere of influence the insidious doctrine of gnosticism. Many call it the Colossian Heresy. Regardless of whether it was in it’s incipient form or was full blown gnosticism, certain fatal errors were being thrust upon the congregation there that were corrosive to the well being of the brethren and antithetical to truth and Paul was attempting to thwart it’s advancement among them. In verse six of chapter two, Paul warns them, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him” (2:6).

In this statement, Paul reminds the brethren there to remember from whence they came, to remember the truths they were taught and to continue to abide in those truths. There was a danger of drifting from those established truths into something much more speculative and different than what had been originally delivered to them. This warning is not unique or novel to the brethren in Colossae.

For instance, Paul warned the brethren at Thessalonica, “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more” (I Thess. 4:1). He follows this by saying that they knew the commandments given them by the Lord (2:2). In his second epistle to them, he warned them once again to “stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (II Thess. 2:15). Paul warned them not to change or leave the truth as it was delivered them.

These passages can be multiplied many times over. I Cor. 15:1-4: “Keep in memory what I have preached to you”; Gal. 1:6-9: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel, which is not another; but some would trouble you and pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-9); Heb. 10:23: “Hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering”; John 15:5-10: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” On and on the list could go and the lesson to be learned is clear enough.

Maybe it is the spirit of the times. There are those even in the United States who want to either tamper with the Constitution or disregard it altogether. They don’t care for the way the country was founded in the first place. But the constitution, even though it is a great document, is a human document. The scriptures are not, however! They are of divine origin! They should neither be altered nor disregarded but respected and treasured and strictly followed.

We would be wise to heed the inspired admonition to walk in the truths as they were delivered to us, neither adding to them nor taking from them (Prov. 30:5,6; Rev. 22:18,19). When I read the New Testament I find a pretty simple plan for the Lord’s church. There is but one church, one head, one means of entrance, one mission, one plan of organization, and one means of fellowship. After I obeyed the gospel, I also learned these things when faithful men of God taught me and reinforced these truths. I think I can say that today I stand exactly where I stood after I matured as a Christian years ago. Unfortunately, some are no longer walking as they received Christ.

In the Lord’s church today I see the use of translations from the pulpit that were exposed for their errors and weaknesses years ago by sound brethren. I see activities being countenanced that were once seen as superfluous and beyond the mission and purpose of the Lord’s church. I see a few blurring the lines of fellowship that once would have been denounced. I worry that many are no longer walking as they had received Christ.

Eric L. Padgett

You Can’t Cross Heaven’s Borders By Breaking Its Laws

America today is witnessing a horde of invaders crossing our southern border. There is no doubt that among the reasons so many want to come to America is the promise of the blessings afforded her citizens. These blessings attract those whose lives are burdened with oppression, poverty and hopelessness. For over two hundred years, people around the globe have sought to avail themselves legally of these blessings of liberty. The problem with the present invasion is that it is unlawful and tears at the very fabric of American life and culture. It is ironic that there is a parallel between what is happening in America right now and what has been happening to the Lord’s church.

To become a legal citizen of the United States, you have to pass a simple test, speak and write basic English, not have a criminal record, etc. In short, you must meet certain requirements, follow certain basic laws. The same is true of becoming a legal citizen of the Kingdom of God, the church. To become a citizen of the kingdom of God, one must hear the word (Rom. 10:17), believe (Acts 8:37), repent (Luke 13:3,5), confess (Rom. 10:9,10), and be baptized (Acts 2:38). When one does these things, he is added by the Lord to His church, the kingdom (Acts 2:41,47; Matt. 16:16-19).

However, just as there are those who are allowing–and even inviting–illegals to come into this country, there are those who want to allow–and even invite–those who have not obeyed the law of the Lord regarding spiritual citizenship to come into the church. Many believe that those in the denominations, for instance, who have never followed God’s law are fellow-citizens of the kingdom of God. They fellowship them as if there was no difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. By recognizing those in the denominational world as Christians, they advocate a form of spiritual amnesty without obedience to law.

Unfortunately, those who want the blessings this country offers without following it’s laws are bringing about the demise of the very institutions which made this country great. Likewise, those who advocate fellowshipping those in the denominations are disregarding the very things which make the Lord’s church distinctive and thereby destroy it’s power to save the lost. The church exists because it is made up of individuals who have been separated by God from the world (II Cor. 6:14-18; Acts 2:47). But when that line of demarcation between the world and the church is erased, then there remains no difference between them and the church is just as lost as the world.

When members of the Lord’s church adopt the innovations and terminology which characterizes the denominational world, they become the denominational world. We want all men to be saved, just as we wish all nations were blessed as America is blessed. But if America is destroyed through invasion and destruction of its western culture, then it can no longer be the unique and exceptional blessing to the world it once was (and hopefully is still). Likewise, if the Lord’s church disregards the will of God and assimilates an unscriptural, spiritually foreign culture, it can no longer offer a refuge from the burden of sin and spiritual poverty under which this present world labors. When individual Christians and congregations adopt the practices of the denominations, when they adopt their terminology, when they substitute the commission of Jesus with a worldly, social agenda, then they, too, cease to be the unique and exceptional blessing God created them to be as the church and become just one more lost denomination.

America may or may not survive this current onslaught against it. There are many in high places who are working feverishly hard to fundamentally transform America. Whether or not it survives this present crises will depend on whether or not America keeps the Lord as its God (Psalm 33:12; 127:1-5). But the truth regarding the Kingdom of Christ is, no matter what men may do to the Lord’s church, no matter how much they disregard the Lord’s will, the church will survive. It is not dependent upon the grace of man for it’s existence, but the will of God. The gates of Hell, Jesus said, will not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18,19)! You can’t cross heaven’s borders by breaking its laws.

Eric L. Padgett