THE TRANSFIGURATION

Having seen some of the greatest and most astonishing events that human eyes had ever witnessed, it is likely that the apostles would have discussed among themselves the wondrous things which they experienced at Jesus’ side. We, of course, are not privy to the private conversations between the apostles that are not explicitly recorded in the gospel accounts. These private things belong to them and the Lord. Yet, we cannot help but speculate about the kind of lively talk that likely would pass between them after such magnificent events transpired (cf. Mark 9:10). One of these events was the transfiguration.

About a week after Peter had confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matt. 16:16-19), Jesus chose Peter, James and John to accompany Him to an high mountain apart by themselves to pray (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28). Which mountain it was, we do not know. Mounts Tabor and Herman have been suggested, but there is simply no way to know for certain. It was probably in the evening, as this was Jesus’ usual time to go into a place alone and pray (cf. Luke 6:12; 21:37; 22:39; Matt. 14:23-24) and the disciples’ eyes were already heavy with sleep. As in the garden of Gethsemene, the apostles were unable to keep themselves awake and fell fast asleep (Luke 9:32).

As Jesus prayed, something magnificent happened. The “fashion of His countenance was altered” (Luke 9:29). His face did shine as the sun and His raiment became as white as the light, shining white as snow, “so as no fuller can white them” (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:3). This was not a reflected light from the snow on the mountain top, as some have vainly suggested, but this was an inner light shining forth. It was almost as if His humanity was peeled back and His heavenly glory was allowed to manifest itself, for a time, in this world (Luke 9:32). Perhaps it was the very light of His glory which wakened the sleeping apostles, who had apparently fallen asleep while Jesus prayed.

When the apostles fully awakened, they saw not only the Lord’s glory, but they saw something else happen here, too. As Jesus was transfigured before the apostles’ very eyes, two men appeared with Him, conversing with Him (Luke 9:30). Through some means, the apostles knew almost immediately that the two men were Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:36). Moses, the great lawgiver, and Elijah, the great prophet of the Old Testament themselves appeared with Jesus in a glorified form (Luke 9:31). While we are not privy to the exact conversation between the Lord and His two Old Testament saints, we do know the subject matter. They spoke to Jesus of His impending death “which He should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31).

At the precise moment that Moses and Elijah were leaving the Lord, Peter, because he did not know what else to do, felt compelled to speak out (Mark 9:6). “Master,” Peter blurted out, “it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias” (Mark 9:5). Peter meant well, but as was sometimes the case, he did not think before he spoke (Luke 9:33). The suggestion of three tabernacles implies that all three would be equally revered, equally honored. But the words that they were soon to hear showed the error of such a course.

Before Peter had even finished speaking, a bright cloud quickly overshadowed them and apparently engulfed them (Luke 9:34; Matt. 17:5). From the midst of this cloud came a voice that was equally unmistakable and equally fearsome, saying “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him” (Luke 9:35). When the disciples heard the voice of God, they fell on their face and trembled with great fear (Matt. 17:5). What kind of thoughts must have flashed through their minds! But as they lay prostrate on the ground, a hand touched them. It was the Lord’s (Matt. 17:7). “Arise,” He said, “and be not afraid.” “And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only” (Matt. 17:8).

There really can be no doubt as to the significance of this event. God spoke unmistakably clear that the apostles, and now we ourselves, are to listen to the Lord alone. Moses, represented the law; Elijah, the prophets. But they are now gone while the Lord continues to speak through His word. God has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son (Heb. 1:1,2). The law has been fulfilled by the Lord (Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:44), and hence, He took it out of the way and nailed it to His cross (Col. 2:14).

As Jesus, Peter, James and John descended the holy mount, Jesus charged them that they  should not tell anyone any of the things they had seen until after He was raised from the dead (Mark 9:10). With this they faithfully complied, though they questioned between themselves what it all should mean (Mark 9:10). When Peter later, himself, wrote about these things he observed that he was an eyewitness of His “majesty” and of His “excellent glory” (II Pet. 1:16-18). Therefore, he says, perhaps thinking back to that night to his own experience with Jesus on that mountain, we would do well to take heed, “as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (II Pet. 19,20).

We are to hear Jesus and no other.

Eric L. Padgett

DEVILS, DOGS AND CRUMBS

Jesus did not want to be found. He “entered into an house and would have no man know it” (Mark 7:24). This seems a little out of character for the Lord, who was always among the multitudes teaching and working miracles, which by their very nature were designed to bring attention to Himself. But there were occasions when it was necessary for the Lord to keep a lower profile (e.g., Matt. 14:12,13,23). In this instance, the Pharisees had been offended at His teaching and He had withdrawn, perhaps so as not to provoke a confrontation with them just yet (Matt. 15:12).

The house into which Jesus secreted Himself was in the coasts or borders of Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 15:21; Mark 7:24). However, Jesus’ fame and reputation had already preceded Him into this land of the Gentiles (Mark 3:8; Luke 6:17). One of those from those same coasts who knew of Jesus was “a certain woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit” (Mark 7:25). This young girl had been grievously vexed with a devil (Matt. 15:22) and this sad situation must have vexed her loving mother sorely, as well.

She had heard of Jesus’ healing of the sick and His casting out of the devils and she believed He could do the same for her daughter (Mark 7:25). Perhaps she had been among the thousands who had went out to see Jesus do these things and to hear Him teach. When she learned that Jesus had retired to her own region, she sought Him out and, in faith and humility, fell at His feet and asked for His mercy (Mark 7:25; Matt. 15:22). Her love for her daughter and her faith in the Lord must have been great, indeed. As a testimony to her faith, the Holy Spirit records Jesus’ commendation of her “great faith” (Matt. 15:28).

This woman was not a Jewess. She was, in fact, descended from the mortal enemies of the Jews, the Canaanites (Matt. 15:22). She is called a Greek and a Syro-phenician woman by nation (Mark 7:26). While her heritage was of pagan origin, she seems to have had some knowledge of the Messianic hope and placed those hopes in Jesus for she calls Him “Thou Son of David” (Matt. 15:22), a Messianic title. Furthermore, she seems to have some knowledge of Hebrew theology for she attributes her daughters malady to a demon. But Jesus’ response to her indicates she was not a proselyte (Matt. 15:26).

When Jesus did not answer her immediately, the apostles wanted to send her away (Matt. 15:23). Jesus’ response to the disciples request to send the woman away was to say that He was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24). This may sound, at first, as though it was intended to grant their request. Though she was not a descendant of Abraham by birth, yet by faith she was (cf. Gal. 3:7). She had the faith of Abraham in the Lord’s ability to grant her request. Thus, though she was rebuffed, she persisted in her quest.

While at first she had apparently called to the Lord from some distance (Matt. 15:22), she now came closer and worshiped Him (Mat. 15:25). Her request was simple: “Lord, help me.” Her request was repeated for she “besought” Him (Mark 7:26 – “besought” is in the imperfect tense, indicating she kept at it). The scriptures teach that we should pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17). Perhaps she had heard Jesus teach the need to continue instant in prayer (e.g., Luke 18:1-18). Maybe it was just her faith and desire to see her daughter healed that kept her asking. But she persisted!

When Jesus responded that it is not “meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it unto the dogs” (Mark 7:27), she answered yet again and said, “Yes, truth, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs which fall from the master’s table” (Matt. 15:27; Mark 7:28). Jesus’ use of the word “dog” here was not as uncomplimentary as at first might be imagined. The word for “dog” here means “little puppy.” Even the little puppies are allowed a few crumbs and scraps that fall from the table, she said.

The Lord was so impressed with her observation, which revealed her faith, that He acknowledged the greatness of her faith and granted her request (Matt. 15:28). From that very hour her daughter was made whole (Matt. 15:28). The woman obviously believed the Lord’s statement for she ceased to request help and returned back home (Mark 7:30). God does not always answer our requests immediately. He allows us room to grow and for our faith to be revealed. This Gentile woman was and is great example of a loving parent, faith in the Lord and persistence in prayer.

Eric L. Padgett

CONQUEST OF THE STORM

The wind was blowing wildly and the violent waves were lapping over the side of the vessel. The little ship was creaking as it was being tossed to and fro on the sea. Maybe the apostles, trying their best to keep from sinking or capsizing, were thinking back, remembering when Jesus was with them in the ship on the sea of Galilee and had calmed the storm with a command. But He was not here now and they would have to try their best to stay afloat themselves.

Earlier, Jesus had sent the apostles down to the sea to get in a boat and go before Him to Bethsaida (Mark 6:46). They probably went reluctantly for Matthew says Jesus “constrained” or “compelled” them to go (Matt. 14:22). It would have been hard for the apostles to leave Jesus at that time. There was already a movement among at least some of the people to forcibly make Jesus king (John 6:15). Maybe the apostles were caught up in this to some degree, they, themselves, expecting an earthly kingdom (Acts 1:6), or, perhaps, they feared to leave Jesus alone with the aggressive crowd. Either way, Jesus had to compel them to leave while He dismissed the crowd, which, in itself might have proved no small task given their intentions.

After the crowd was sent away, Jesus went up to the mountain alone to pray (Matt. 14:23). Jesus not only taught the importance of prayer He gave us His example on its importance, for He was always praying. This was especially true when He was going to face some great challenge. Having been among the people, He also wanted to spend time with the Father. It is also possible that having been preaching to the multitude, Jesus prayed for the lessons to be effective. Regardless of the reason, we should learn the value of prayer as Jesus gave the example.

Mark seems to indicate that while Jesus was alone on land in prayer in the mountain, He saw the apostles toiling and rowing in the midst of the sea (Mark 6:47,48). It is possible that Jesus could have seen the ship on the sea from the mountain, but during a storm at night it would be difficult to see through the clouds and possibly rain and impossible to see them toiling in the ship (Mark 6:47). This, I think, rather demonstrates Jesus’ miraculous knowledge. It also teaches us that even though we seem lost and treading water sometimes, the Lord knows our needs (Matt. 6:25-33).

Furthermore, Jesus had sent the disciples out earlier that evening (John 6:16,17). They were now in the “midst of the sea” and had been rowing for some time when Jesus was alone in the mountain (Matt. 14:24,25; Mark 6:47). Now if they had been rowing for several hours and were now about 25 or 30 furlongs along their way, or about 3 1/2 miles (John 6:19), they could have been roughly in the center of the widest part of the sea of Galilee where the storm would have been the roughest. It was in the fourth watch of the night (3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.) that Jesus went to them from the mountain (Matt. 14:25). If they had been rowing for several hours and gotten along only 3 miles or so because of the headwind, for Jesus to leave and get there when He did must have involved a miracle of time and space to get Him there that quickly. We thus learn that God is not far from anyone of us when we need Him.

Now Jesus comes to them walking on the water! I will write that again: walking on the water! Seeing the disciples toiling in the ship from the mountain was remarkable. Getting to them as quickly as He did was amazing. But walking on the stormy sea is beyond breath-taking. It is no wonder that the disciples were “afraid” (John 6:19). It is no wonder that these grown men were crying, and screaming or shrieking (anakradzo) in fear (Mark 6:50). It is no wonder that what they thought they saw was a spirit or phantasm (Matt, 14:26; Mark 6:49). It seemed so surreal and yet is was quite real for they all saw Him (Mark 6:50). Jesus had once again demonstrated His power over nature.

As Jesus was walking on this storm-tossed sea, He would have passed by the apostles in the boat (Mark 6:48). Whether He intended to pass them by or whether it just appeared to the apostles that He was passing them by is not clear. But when they cried out in fear Jesus immediately talked with them to allay those fears (Mark 6:50). “Be of good cheer; It is I; be not afraid” (Matt. 14:27; John 6:20). We all face storms in our lives, occasions when we are in need of help. Jesus let the apostles know that though they would face many storms, He would be there for them (Matt. 28:20).

Now when Peter heard the Lord’s voice, he asked “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water” (Matt. 14:28). Peter is to be commended for his effort, for he stepped out of the boat into the waves and began walking on water, too! None of the other apostles tried this. Who among us would have tried it? But Peter, looking at Jesus, first set one foot and then another out of the boat and onto the stormy waves and he walked on water!

It must have been a triumphant moment for him, but it was fleeting. For soon he let his eyes drift from the Lord and onto the boisterous waves and wind began to sink because he was afraid (Matt. 14:30). Just then, as Peter began to drop into the water, Jesus reached forth His hand and caught Peter and saved him (Matt. 14:31). Nevertheless, Jesus had this rebuke: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt.” Why do we doubt when our Lord is the Master of the storms?

Though Mark’s account of this incident was probably given to him by Peter, Mark does not mention the incident of Peter walking on the water. Perhaps Peter was being modest or perhaps he was ashamed of the incident, but only Matthew records it. But when Jesus and Peter went back into the ship, the wind ceased (Matt. 14:32). One final, amazing incident during this miraculous occasion, is that when Jesus boarded the boat, “immediately the ship was at the land whither it went” (John 6:21). What the disciples could not do by working all night Jesus made possible by His presence. Without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

Eric L. Padgett

What Manner Of Man Is This?

The Lord had spent a full and busy day in Capernaum of teaching and healing all the sick that were brought to Him (Matt. 8:5,14,16). It was now evening and the Lord desired to get away from the pressing multitudes and be alone to get some well deserved and much needed rest (Matt. 8:18). He entered into a ship, probably not one the apostles owned (Matt. 8:23), and requested that His apostles take Him to the other side of Lake Gennesaret (Luke 8:22), the Sea of Galilee. His apostles summarily dismissed the multitude and departed quickly without much preparation (Mark 4:36). As they began to sail, Jesus’ exhaustion quickly overcame His body and, as He lay His head upon a pillow, He fell fast asleep in the stern of the ship (Mark 4:38; cf. Psalm 121:4).

Here was the Son of God asleep in the hinder part of the ship on the Sea of Galilee. One might imagine the apostles examining Jesus with their eyes as He slept serenely in the back of the boat, wondering about the nature of this man. But as He slept, a sudden and violent storm arose on the sea of Galilee, as they often do, covering the ship with waves and filling the vessel with water, seemingly jeopardizing their very lives (Matt. 8:24; Luke 8:23).

The situation was dire. The apostles, some of them seasoned, life-long fishermen, were all afraid for their lives. They had done all that they humanly could to save the vessel and their own necks. And in all this turmoil Jesus still lay in the back of the ship, still sleeping. Some of the apostles in their fear turned to in anger to accuse Christ, “Carest Thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)! Others cried out to the Lord for help. One said “Master, Master we perish” (Luke 8:24). Another cried out “Lord, save us we perish” (Luke 8:24). Jesus never heard the storms but He did hear His apostles cry for help, though they had to come and awake Him from His sleep (Luke 8:24).

When He arose from His rest, He simply rebuked the wind “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39; Matt. 8:26; Luke 8:24). He rebuked the wind and it stopped, demonstrating His power over the forces of nature. Earlier that day, Jesus had demonstrated His power over physical sickness. He healed a Leper (Matt. 8:1-4), the Centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13), Peter’s Mother-in-Law (Matt. 8:14-15) and all that were brought to Him (Matt. 8:16-17).

Later He would demonstrate His power over the supernatural realm when He healed the demoniac (Matt. 8:28-34). The Word that brought the world into existence now simply commands it to be still (Col. 1:17; John 1:1-3; etc.). And there was a great calm (Matt. 8:26; Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24).

But now Jesus had a series of questions for His apostles. “Why are ye so fearful? O ye of little faith? How is it that ye have no faith? Where is your faith? (Matt. 8:26: Mark 4:40; Luke 8:25). To paraphrase: Do you not know Who you are with? Do you not yet understand why I am here? How can ye not know that with Me you are safe? We should always know that when we are with the Lord, we are safe. No matter what may come along, if we are faithful and trust in Him, He will take us across to the safety of Heaven’s shore.

Even though the apostles had been with Jesus, even though they had seen His power, they had not yet been fully persuaded. The apostles still wondered amongst themselves, “What manner of Man is this, that even the wind and sea obey Him!” (Matt. 8:27; Mark 4:41; Luke 8:25)? What manner of Man has such power? No mere man! The great prophet Elijah had to pray to God and ask that the rains stop and then start again (James 5:17). The Lord merely commands the rain and the wind Himself. And they obey. He was no mere man!

In our lives we will face storms. These storms will often appear out of nowhere and threaten our hopes and faith. Storms that will sometimes cause us to worry and maybe even question the Lord. But if we are faithful to Him through it all, Jesus will arise and say “Peace, be still!” And there will be great calm.

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

What is the Blasphemy Against the Holy Ghost?

The gospel is to be preached to every person in the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16). Everyone in the world has an opportunity and an obligation to repent. It is a basic rule of sacred hermeneutics that simple, plain passages should govern the interpretation of the more obscure and difficult passages. The Bible is clear that the gospel is to be preached to everyone and that God wants all men to be saved and to come to repentance (I Tim. 2:4; II Pet. 3:9). But the logical conclusion to be drawn under the view of some, is there is a class of people who cannot obey, who cannot be forgiven and are eternally lost even if they were to repent.

Jesus said that “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matt. 12:31,32).

Jesus said this soon after the Pharisees had accused Him of healing one possessed with a devil through the Spirit of God by the Beelzebub the prince of devils. Some brethren take the view that the blasphemy of the Holy Ghost is the very specific act of attributing to the power of satan the miracles which Jesus performed through the power of the Holy Spirit. Kyle Butt has written: “Even when faced by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit through Jesus, the Pharisees were, in essence, attributing Jesus’ power to Satan, and claiming that Jesus was ‘Satan incarnate instead of God incarnate. It is this, and nothing else, that our Lord calls the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (or Spirit—KB)'”

Another has written, for example, “When the Pharisees saw Jesus cast out a demon, but ascribed the power by which He did it to the devil, Jesus said they would never be forgiven for that” (Blasphemy of the Spirit, Jan. 24).

First, Jesus did say these things because they had affirmed He had an unclean spirit (Mark 3:30). But Jesus also said that a kingdom divided against itself could not stand because they affirmed He had an unclean spirit (v. 25). Jesus also said you first have to bind the strong man before you can spoil his house because they said He did these works by the power of Beelzebub (v. 27). These statements also explain verse thirty.

Verse thirty merely says that Jesus gave this discourse because they accused Him of working for the devil it does not say that the blasphemy of the Holy Ghost is “attributing Jesus’ power to Satan” nor does it say that Jesus said that the blasphemy of the Holy Ghost “is this and nothing else.” As brother H. Leo Boles has written: “Many construe this to mean that Jesus defined the attributing the works of Jesus to the evil power as the sin against the Holy Spirit; but the Bible does not say so, nor anything that implies this. Read Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:10.” In other words, verse thirty does not give us anything we didn’t already know from the beginning when the scribes and Pharisees actually accused Jesus of working for satan (Matt. 12:24; Mark 3:22).

The parallel passage in Matthew explains that the “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost” is “speaking against the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 12:31,32). Speaking against the Holy Ghost covers a broad spectrum of actions. Certainly denying that the miracles came from God is one, but not the only, blasphemous action. “To disobey and reject God was to blaspheme him; to reject and disobey Jesus was to blaspheme him; to reject and disobey the teachings of the Holy Spirit was to blaspheme him” (Boles, Commentary on Matthew).

Second, there must be a reason why Jesus said blaspheming the Son of man is less offensive than blaspheming the Holy Ghost (Matt. 12:32). It certainly could not be because One was more important than the other. Both are members of the Godhead and equal in divinity (cf. e.g. Acts 5:3,4). However, the Lord made a distinction between His work and the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:7,8).

As brother Boles further explained: “Many could and did reject Jesus while he was on earth, but when the Holy Spirit came and testified of him, they accepted Christ. But when the Holy Spirit came and gave the complete will of God, if men rejected this, there was no other evidence to be furnished, no other divine agency to be given, and if they finally rejected the Holy Spirit, there was no forgiveness for them. . .It is in perfect harmony with all these scriptures and with all the facts recorded in the Bible for Jesus, when they charged him with acting by the power of the devil, to warn them that they might do this now to him and find forgiveness; but if they so rejected and treated the Holy Spirit when he came, there would be no forgiveness, for there would be no more testimony and no more opportunity to repent. It refers, of course, to the final rejection of the will of God.”

Those who take the “attribution view” state that Jesus said that those who committed this sin could never be forgiven. They understand Jesus’ words “shall not be forgiven” (Matt. 12:31,32) and “hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation” to mean that it was impossible to be forgiven, ever! Kyle Butt states, “Mark’s account, with its emphasis on eternity, shows that the phrase simply is meant to underscore the fact that this sin will “absolutely never” be forgiven.”

Are those who say that this is the specific sin of attributing to satan what Christ has done through the Holy Spirit saying that if the one who said this were to later be convinced of his error, he could not repent and turn to Christ and be forgiven? Are they saying that a sincere, penitent believer would be rejected by the Lord because once, in his past, he blasphemed the Holy Ghost?

If they say that such a one who blasphemed the Holy Ghost would never repent, I would ask “How do they know this?” The text does not say that someone who blasphemed the Holy Ghost would never, could never repent. Jesus does not say that they cannot repent, He says only that “it shall not be forgiven him” (Matt. 12:31; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10).

But the question is why will it not be forgiven? Brother G. K. Wallace wrote, “The unpardonable sin is a condition of the heart and not a single act. When one’s heart becomes so corrupt and hardened that he cannot be moved to repentance, he has passed the point of redemption. . .Jesus said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Mat. 12:34). Those who “blasphemed the Holy Spirit” were corrupt at heart. Their hearts were so hardened that they could not be moved. Such a condition makes it impossible to be saved because they cannot be prompted to repent. It is impossible to “renew some again to repentance.” If they could be made to repent they could be saved.” (G. K. Wallace, quoted in The Beacon, Vol. XXXVIII / No. 49 December 7, 2009).

A final question has to be addressed. Some fear that they may have committed the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Some try to comfort those who ask this question by saying that they cannot now commit this sin because “the situation of those Pharisees cannot be reproduced today. No one today has seen Jesus cast out a demon” (Midway church of Christ). But the particular situation had nothing particularly to do with this sin.

As brother Wallace states, “The very fact that you are troubled shows that you have not gone beyond redemption. It is not a sin of impulse or passion. David made a great mistake for which he was forgiven. The unpardonable sin is a condition of the heart and not a single act. When one’s heart becomes so corrupt and hardened that he cannot be moved to repentance, he has passed the point of redemption. . . Jesus said ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh’ (Matt. 12:34). Those who ‘blasphemed the Holy Spirit’ were corrupt at heart. Their hearts were so hardened that they could not be moved. Such a situation makes it impossible to be saved because they cannot be prompted to repent” (G. K. Wallace, quoted in The Beacon, Vol. XXXVIII / No. 49 December 7, 2009).

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

MEN LOVED DARKNESS RATHER THAN LIGHT

Jesus said men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19). This was especially true with regard to man’s attitude toward Jesus’ first coming (John 1:12). The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers took counsel together against the Lord and His anointed (Psalm 2:2; Acts 4:25-28). The rabble crowd was easily persuaded to actively seek Barabbas’ release and reject Jesus (Mark 15:8,11). 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; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3). Sadly, to this day the vast majority still reject the Person of Jesus Christ and His teaching (Matt. 7:13).

One of the most curious and troubling traits of man is that he always seems to want what he cannot or should not have or do what he should not do. Eve wanted forbidden fruit. Cain wanted acceptance without obedience. David wanted someone else’s wife. Judas wanted easy money. The lure of taking what is forbidden is often exciting and tantalizing, but it gives a false sense of pleasure (Heb. 11:25). Doing what you want is also the easy way in life, a life void of effort and self-discipline (Luke 9:23). It is not an enlightened existence (Rom. 1:16-32).

All throughout scripture, light is associated with truth and goodness (e.g., Psalm 27:1). God’s character is often associated with light (e.g., Psalm 37:6). To live according to the teaching of God’s word is to walk in the light (Psalm 119:105; I John 1:7). Darkness, however, is associated with evil and error. Those who are alienated from God have their understanding darkened, are ignorant and have a blindness of heart (Eph. 4:18). The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty (Psalm 74:20).

The reason for the world’s love affair with darkness is that it hides sin, or so it is believed. As long as it is dark, as long as there is no light of truth, those in sin can perpetuate their evil. But let one beam of truth pierce the darkness of sin and error, let one ray of goodness break through, and those in darkness scatter like so many roaches exposed to daylight. But the feeling of having hidden sin is only an illusion, for all things are open and naked before God (Heb. 4:13). One of the reasons, if not the main reason, those in the world often feel uncomfortable around faithful Christians is that the faithful child of God reminds sinners of their sins. The faithful child of God might well feel uncomfortable around the sinner, as well (Eph. 5:11).

Sadly, there is a group of degenerates who blatantly flaunt their filth and disobedience to God. They display openly their perversions. They have become so hardened in their reprobate minds that they are past feeling and have given themselves over to lasciviousness (Eph. 4:18,19) and refuse to retain God in their knowledge and have pleasure in every unnatural and every vile act (Rom. 1:20-32). They are so engulfed in abominations that they can no longer even blush (Jer. 6:15). They have allowed the god of this world to so blind their minds that they can no longer see the light even of the glorious gospel (II Cor. 4:4; Matt. 13:14,15). Their deeds will reward them (Rom. 2:1).

As the express image and brightness of God’s glory (Heb. 1:3), the Lord is the light of the world (John 8:12). We know also that the whole world lieth in wickedness (I John 5:19). The world hates the light of life because He reproves its evil deeds (John 3:20), though He is hated without cause (John 15:25). Since the Lord has come and lived and taught, the world now has no cloak for its sin (John 15:22). And because the world hates Him, it will also hate us as we emulate His life and follow His teaching (John 15:18,19).

Jesus said “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19). Where do we stand? Do we stand in the shadows? Are we deep in the darkness of sin and error? Or do we run toward and bathe our souls in the light of God and His word? If we have been found to walk in the light in this life, in heaven there will be no night (Rev. 21:25) for the glory of God will lighten it, and the Lamb will be the light thereof (Rev. 21:23-25).

Eric L. Padgett