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ANGELS

Angels apparently fascinate human curiosity. Our culture abounds with many references to them. For example, Wikipedia lists over 40 films about angels since 1935 and there are nearly fifty video games mentioning some kind of angel. The web site Goodreads lists 241 books with the word “angel” in the title. The web site Ranker lists over a hundred songs with the word “angel” in the title. New Age practitioners make up all kinds of things about angels. With so many references to angels, there is bound to be much error taught regarding them and there is. But let us briefly see what the Bible says about them.

First, angels are created beings. God is the only One Who is eternal and self-existing (Psalm 90:2; John 5:26). There is none like Him (Ex. 8:10). Angels were created at His command (Psalm 148:2-5). Indeed, all things, including angels, were created by Him and for Him (Col. 1:16,17). Though the Bible does not expressly say when they were created, at the very latest they were created very early during the creation week for the Bible tells us that the sons of God shouted for joy when the foundations of the earth was laid (Job 38:4-7).

Second, Peter tells us that angels are greater in power and might than man (II Pet. 2:11; Psalm 103: 20). They were made just a little higher than man (Heb. 2:7). With their great power they have stricken men with blindness (Gen. 19:11), destroyed 70,000 men on one occasion (II Sam. 24:15-17) and 185,000 men on another (II Kings 19:35,36; II Chron. 32:1). They have great speed for they can fly swiftly from one location to another much more quickly than any human (Rev. 14:6; Dan. 9:21). Yet, though angels are greater than man in these respects, they, too, are limited. Indeed, from God’s perspective, they are just as far from God as is man.

Third, there seems to be some kind of hierarchy or ranking among the angels. There are at the very least different roles for the different angelic hosts. For example, mention is made of Michael, who is called the archangel (Jude 9; I Thess. 4:16), suggesting that there are angels under him. We find mention of cherubim (Gen. 3:24), seraphim (Is. 6:2), watchers (Dan. 4:13), and a host of angels including principalities and powers (Eph. 3:10; Rom. 8:38; Eph. 6:12), and possibly thrones and dominions (Col. 1:16). Besides Michael, there is the angel Gabriel mentioned by name, who is connected with announcing important events, and who also stands in the presence of God (Luke 1:19,26; Dan. 9:21).

The word “angel,” whether in the Old Testament or New Testament usage simply means a messenger. Sometimes the word angel is used to refer to a human messenger, being applied to such men as Haggai (Hag. 1:13), John the Baptist (Mal. 3:1), the messengers of John (Luke 7:24) and John (Jam. 2:25). But angels have been involved in delivering the law to mankind (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2).

Angels are also intensely interested in the affairs of mankind for they desire to look into the matters regarding man’s salvation (I Pet. 1:11,12). Paul said that they were ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salivation (Heb. 1:14). And yet, while exercising this role they, themselves cannot influence man with regard to salvation. When the Ethiopian eunuch was ready to be taught the gospel, an angel was not sent to do it but the angel sent Philip to teach him (Acts 8:26). Yet the angels rejoice when one sinner repents (Luke 15:10).

While angels are at work in the affairs of man they work behind the scenes. Just as we have a soul and spirit that are not seen by the naked eye (II Cor. 4:16-18), nevertheless they have real existence, so also do angels exist and work out God’s providence. Both Daniel (Dan. 10:10-21) and John (Rev. 12:1-17) describe events which seem to indicate that unseen forces are at work behind the scenes of events transpiring in this world. None of these passages teach that what is happening overpowers the will of man so that he is helpless to act in any fashion but freely. The Bible clearly teaches that if we resist the devil he will flee from us (James 4:7).

There is much more that could be said about angels from God’s word. There is much that could be correctly deduced from the teaching of the Bible about angels. There is even more that could be imagined that is not found in the Bible, either explicitly or by implication and there has been no shortage of such imagination. We must be careful when dealing with such an issue to not read into the teaching of the Bible something that is not there.

Eric L. Padgett

TRUTH

I have often wondered in amazement how so many people are strangers to the truth. Perhaps it is because truth sometimes hurts and some people cannot endure the pain it causes. Perhaps it is because some people have a hidden agenda. Perhaps it is because they are afraid it might condemn someone they love, or themselves. Perhaps it is because they have been conditioned to believe a certain way by their upbringing. Perhaps it is because they just do not reason correctly. Some people are honestly mistaken while others purposefully deceive others and themselves.

It matters not what the subject may be, many people simply believe what they want to in spite of the truth. In sports, I have seen people disagree over a call by an official and see something that was not there, always, it seems, siding with their preferred team. In politics, some people believe a certain thing to be true in spite of the evidence. In history, some people believe certain events to have happened, when they really did not. In science, some people believe that something is so when it is not possible for them to know. Sadly, the same thing happens in religion.

The reason for people being so divorced from the truth is not because the truth cannot be known. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth” (John 8:32; cf. Gen. 42:6). God has endowed man with the capacity to reason (Is. 1:18) and we have the full capability to comprehend the physical world by our senses. Further, if truth could not be known, then we couldn’t even know that truth could not be known, if truth could not be known. Agnosticism is a miserable, self-defeating, ignorant philosophy. Truth can be known and it sets us free (John 8:32).

A dishonest man runs from the truth unless it advances his cause. A dishonest man will not engage in an honest dialogue with someone because he is afraid that his point of view will be challenged. A dishonest man will use all sorts of tactics to avoid answering questions, like ridicule or jesting or theatrics. An honest man has nothing to fear from the truth because he is willing to go where ever the truth leads him. An honest and good man places a premium on knowing what is right and true so that he can do what is right and true.

The Bible tells us to buy the truth and sell it not (Prov. 23:23). We should treat truth as a precious, hidden treasure (Prov. 2:2-4). It is as a pearl of great price and the Lord teaches us that we should sell all that we have to buy that truth (Matt. 13:44-46). God wants all men to come to a knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:4) and those who do not hold the truth as valuable will one day be damned because they received not the truth in love (II Thess. 2:12).

It is the devil that deals in lies (John 8:44). From the beginning he was a murderer and abode not in the truth. When he speaks, he speaks a lie for he is a liar and the father of lies. Those who do not like the truth are aligning themselves perfectly with the doomed company of the devil. The devil handles the word of God deceitfully (II Cor. 4:2). If a preacher or Christian purposefully mishandles the truth then they side with the devil and will receive the devil’s reward (Matt. 25:41).

God, on the other hand, is a God of truth (Ex. 34:6; Deut. 32:4; Psalm 31:5). Since God created all things, reality, both physical and spiritual, is what it is. Just as God is the God of the material world, He is also God of the spiritual realm. Spiritual truths are just as certain and ungetoverable as are the material ones. We can no more escape spiritual truth and reality than we can escape material truth and reality.

Jesus is the way the truth and the life (John 14:6). Jesus was full of grace and truth and grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:14,17). The Spirit of truth guided the apostles into all truth (John 16:13) and they manifested that truth through their speaking and writing and lives (II Cor. 4:2). We must obey that truth, the gospel, in order to be saved from our sins (Eph. 1:13). We must rejoice in the truth (I Cor. 13:6). If we are going to worship God at all we must worship Him in truth, that is according to His commandments (John 4:24). We are sanctified through the truth (John 17:17) and we are begotten, purified and saved by it (James 1:18; I Pet. 1:22; I Tim. 2:4).

We ought to love the truth so much that we can say with Paul, “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth” (Corinthians 13:8).

Eric L. Padgett

What Is Man?

The Psalmist asked the question “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4). David posed this question when considering all of God’s creation against the apparent insignificance of man. When one considers all of creation, what is minuscule man that God is mindful of him? And yet God has blessed man with a greatness no other part of creation knows. This, in turn, glorifies God by showing His great power. Yet the question can stand apart from this approach and deserves an answer in and of itself.

So, what is man? This is an important question not only because David asked it but also because many today do not seem to understand who or what man is or have forgotten it or don’t care. But without a proper understanding of who man is or what the role of man is, satan can easily pervert those roles and corrupt both society and the church. In order to stop this corruption, we have to understand man as God designed him and defend God’s design boldly and openly.

First of all, man is a created being (Gen. 1:26). Man is not the product of millions of years of evolution, nor of chance mutations (Gen. 2:1,2; Ex. 20:11). Man was specially and purposefully created and designed by God (Psalm 139:14). There can be no harmony between the Bible’s historical account of creation and man’s speculation about origins that involve gradual change over time from simple to complex creatures. Not only does evolution and naturalism conflict with the biblical account of creation, it is intuitively contrary to reason. How can something come from nothing, as naturalistic evolution demands?

If evolution is true and man is nothing but a chance arrangement of atoms and molecules, and a series of genetic mistakes, then there is nothing special about man at all. If man is no different than a can of soup chemically, then a snail might well be just as important as a human baby or the elderly or any other person not deemed productive to society. If evolution is true why not kill unwanted babies, let the elderly die and euthanize the weak and feeble of society. But is this not what is happening in our own society or at least being advocated? These attempts either derive from a lack of understanding that man is a created being or are knowingly pushed in order to confuse man’s understanding.

Second, man is created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). This makes man special. No other creature was made in the image of God and all other creatures were created for man’s benefit (Gen. 1:18-20). God has given man dominion over all other living things (Gen. 1:28) and as long as man is a good steward of that which God has given him, he is free to do what he wants with that creation (James 3:7; Psalm 8:6-8). No animal, insect or plant will ever be more important than any single man or group of men and yet satan, through liberals, attempts to get man to accept just that kind of erroneous thinking.

Because man is created in the image of God life is therefore both sacred and of inestimable value. The universal condemnation of wrongfully taking an innocent human life in the act of murder is ultimately predicated upon the central truth that man is created in God’s image (Gen. 9:6). Abortion is the taking of an innocent human life for no other better reason than that it gets in the way of the mother or father. Euthanasia is the taking of innocent human life for the honorable goal of reducing human suffering but it disregards the sacredness of life created in the image of God.

Third, when God created man He created him male and female (Gen. 1:27). Therefore, there are two genders and only two genders. There are two sexes and only two sexes. The attempt to try to make “gender” something different than “sex” is merely an attempt to blur the roles God has assigned to men and women. Face book apparently now offers at least 51 “genders” from which to chose when you sign up for their service. This perversion of what is obvious by nature and manifest by revelation is a travesty. It is nothing other than an attempt of the devil to break down the role of male and female and thus to break down the institution of the home (Gen. 2:18-25).

Knowing who man is and what he is is vitally important for the continuation of a moral and beneficial society. It is also essential for carrying out the work of God in the Lord’s church. There are many working for satan who would willingly pervert God’s design with regard to man’s nature and his role in God’s plan. They are not shy about perverting God’s designs and are tireless in their efforts and we must meet their energy with an even greater zeal for the truth.

“For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour” (Psalm 8:5).

Eric L. Padgett

When God Became A Man

What is the greatest event in the history of mankind? Could there be any greater event in our history than when God became a man? The creation surely would be a contender, when God brought into existence, from nothing, the whole of creation merely by commanding it (Gen. 1:3; Psalm 148:5). The resurrection would also vie for a place as the greatest event in our history because it secures for us the possibility of salvation and eternal life. But if creating life is not the geatest then resurrecting it would not be either.

But when the everlasting, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator humbled Himself, made Himself of no reputation, made Himself in the likeness of men and then became “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-11), an infinite gulf between God and man was bridged. In ancient days, the people of Shinar tried to build a tower to reach heaven, but they could never have bridged the gap (Gen. 11:1-9). God does not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 17:24) and flesh and blood cannot enter into heaven (I Cor. 15:50). Man could never reach God but God could reach down to man.

In Christ dwelt all the fulness of the godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). Jesus was Immanuel, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). He was made of a woman in the likeness of sinful flesh (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 8:3). When Philip asked the Lord to show them the Father, Jesus responded “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14:8,9). God was manifest in the flesh (I Tim. 3:16). He was the Word who was with God and was God (John 1:1-3) Who was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

Can you imagine? When the disciples sat with Jesus, they were sitting with the Creator of all things! John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (I John 1:1). They held the Creator in their arms! When they broke bread with Him, they were eating with the Bread of Life. When that disciple whom Jesus loved lay on Jesus’ breast (John 13:23), he was leaning on the breast of the Son of God. What closeness the Creator has with His creation! What love was shown.

The God of the Bible is not some mythological creation which takes on an animistic form and has no fellowship with the problems of humanity. The God of the Bible is intensly interested in and and involved with man’s every concern and trial. He took on Himself flesh and blood and was subjected to the same temptations and feelings of infirmities which we, ourselves, face (Heb. 4:15). “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). The infinite, unmovable, omniscient and omnipotent God suffered that He might make reconciliation of us unto Himself (Heb. 2:14-18; II Cor. 5:17-21).

The Lord did not distance Himself from man. Jesus could reach out and touch the unclean leper. He could touch the eyes of the blind and give them sight. He could heal the lame and restore thier bent, broken bodies. He could put His fingers in the ears of the deaf and cause them to hear. He allowed Himself to be rejected, spit upon, humiliated, scourged, mocked and crucified. “For God so loved the world that He gave…” (John 3:16).

There are no words, no language on earth that can fully capture the glory of this great, unspeakable gift (II Cor. 9:14). “As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (I Corinthians 2:9). “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). My mind desperately struggles to comprehend, to grasp this act which is both at once omnipotent and incredibly humble.

The almighty, eternal, all-knowing creator of all things became as a worm that He might save me, a worm (Psalm 22:6; Job 25:6)! “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (I John 4:9). There can be no greater historical event than this.

Eric L. Padgett

A New Year? Not Really

We are never given the promise of another day or of another year. James tells us we do not know what the morrow may bring (James 4:14). As the song we sometimes sing says, it may be “shadow or sunshine or rain.” Every day, then, is a precious gift; every moment a precious treasure. Instead of wasting our time on frivolous, vacuous activities, we ought to redeem the time (Eph. 5:16). We should remember just how short our time really is (Psalm 89:47).

David wrote:

LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. (Psalm 39:4,5).

The book of Job tells us that man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble (Job 14:1). Our days are swifter than a post (courier) because they flee away (Job 9:25) and our life is as the wind (Job 7:7). How many of us have said, “Where has the time gone?” because time seems so fleeting. Life races past us and before we know it our hair is gray and our back is bowed and our life full of years. Our life is as a tale that is told (Psalm 90:9).

In most cases, time is not our ally. If we are not given the promise of another day, then we certainly do not have the promise of another year. Unlike king Hezekiah, we don’t have the assurance of another year much less fifteen (II Kings 20:6). But most of the time we do not act like it. We act as if time doesn’t matter, as if we have an over abundance of time, till, suddenly, one day, it does matter. Some people don’t fix the hole in their roof when it is not raining because they do not need to and when it is raining they can’t fix it. That is the way many treat time. Rather we need to learn to number our days so that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

It is always a wise practice to make plans for the future. But those plans must be tempered with a knowledge that we do not know whether we will be able to bring them to fruition or not. We should have the attitude which James described: “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:15).

A new year has started but we do not know what it will bring. We only have this moment. Every day we wake is a new start for us. Every moment is a chance for a new beginning. As long as we have the breath of life our hearts can beat with the hope of a new beginning. We must redeem the time and use it wisely.

One day, after we have bravely crossed the ocean of time, we will come to the shores of eternity where time shall be no more. There we will face the destiny we have stored away for ourselves by the actions we have taken in this life. Until that day, we should live each moment for the Lord.

Eric L. Padgett

Additional on the Law in the Mind

By my own estimation, my last blog entry was weak and perhaps confusing. It was confusing not because it was in error necessarily (or so I believe) but because it tried to cover too much and became, I am ashamed to say, incoherent. This entry will try to put into a more coherent order the points I wanted to make last week.

First, the Old Covenant and the New Covenant are identical as to their nature but not their particulars. In other words, because both are covenants from God they both have commands that need to be obeyed (Deut. 13:4; John 14:15). Disobedience to those commands brings God’s displeasure and punishment (Deut. 11:27,28; II Thess. 1:6-8). The particular commands of the Old Covenant are different than the particular commands under the New Covenant, but disobedience to the Old Covenant Law resulted in God’s displeasure just as disobedience to the New Covenant Law brings God’s displeasure.

Second, as we saw last week, God has always required the involvement of the heart in His service. The fact that Abraham was justified by faith, should be enough to prove this point. But, in addition to the points made last week, we could point out that Moses said that if the children of Israel sought the Lord with all their heart and soul, they could find Him (Deut. 4:29). God’s commandments and words were to be in their heart (Deut. 6:6). God gave warning that strange wives were not to be taken that turned their hearts from the Lord (Deut. 17:17). The word was to be in their mouth and in their heart to do it (Deut. 30:14). Joshua commanded the people to serve the Lord with all their heart (Josh. 22:5), to put away the strange gods and incline their heart unto the Lord (Josh. 24:23). Worship was to be with the whole heart (Psalm 9:1).

On and on this list could go but it is clear that, although perhaps not always practiced by many Jews, the Old Covenant required obedience from the heart. Commentators often casually pass over this or see it only as something which might occasionally manifest itself in the bosom of some extraordinarily righteous person. But this was a command central to the Law (Deut. 6:4-6; 11:16-22; 32:46; cf. Num. 20:12). The fact that many Jews may not have kept the law apart in their heart or loved the Lord with all their heart and soul does not negate the fact that the Lord required it. The fact is, many under the New Covenant do not hide the law of God in their hearts (cf. e.g. I Thess. 2:4; 3:13; Heb. 3:8,12; 4:7, 12; James 1:26; 4:8; I Pet. 3:12). But this does not negate the fact that He now requires it.

The point here is this: The New Covenant is not different from the Old Covenant in this respect: that God’s law must be in His servant’s heart. That has always been so. Therefore, the prophecy that God would put the law into the mind and in the heart must involve something more. This prophecy (Jer. 31:31-34) that God would put the law into their hearts and minds cannot be understood apart from two other important points mentioned in the prophecy, namely: 1) that entrance into this covenant would be with knowledge and volition and, 2) the real and final forgiveness of sins was to be given.

The first point here, that entrance into this covenant would be with knowledge and volition, was established last week. I redact a quote from that entry:

A Jewish male was circumcised the eighth day of his life and that act was a sign that the child was already bound by the covenant God had made with Israel (Ex. 34:28; Gen. 17:11-14). But an eight day old baby has no knowledge or understanding of being in the covenant, either of it’s requirements or of it’s promises. As the Jewish child grew, he was then taught the covenant by his parents. This training was to be meticulous, from the time of rising in the morning till the lying down at night (Deut. 6:7-12; Ex. 12:26,27). But the instruction came after the child was already in the covenant.

Under the New Covenant, before one is ever added to the kingdom of God, he must be taught. . .Today, every person truly obeying the gospel does so willingly. It is a personal choice made out of free will. No man or woman can be coerced to be a Christian by sword or gunpoint. No one can twist your arm because obedience comes from the heart (Rom. 6:17). You do not inherit salvation from your parents (cf. Ezek. 18:20). You are not born into the kingdom of God by natural birth but by a new birth (John 3:3). This new birth is one that is out of water and the Spirit (John 3:5), or, freely and willingly obeying the Spirit’s command to be baptized (Mark 16:15,16). It is the answer of a good conscience toward God (I Pet. 3:21).

Thus one entered into the Old Covenant by natural birth, unaware of their condition and could only after becoming an adult turn their heart to God in faith. One enters the New Covenant, however, already informed and with purpose, the heart having been pricked by the word of God. (cf. Acts 2:38). But the next element of the prophecy is even more important.

Jeremiah also says that not only would God forgive sins but also forget them (Jer. 31:34). Under the Old Covenant there was a remembrance made of sins every year (Heb. 10:1-3). Not only the Day of Atonement but all through his life a person had to offer various sacrifices for sin. However, under the New Covenant there is real, complete forgiveness of sins. The blessing of the New Covenant is that those sins for which I am forgiven will never be held against me again. God forgives those sins and forgets them.

This forgiveness of sins is based upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. There could be no complete forgiveness if there was no perfect and sufficient sacrifice. “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:24-26).

Under the Old Covenant, then, you were born without choice into a covenant where sins were remembered every year. You were then taught the laws of the covenant and could follow them sincerely from the heart, but there was always the remembrance of sin. The Old Covenant left sin dangling above your head like Damocles sword, so to speak. In the Christian Dispensation, however, Christ has offered Himself for our sins. A person who hears this good news and learns of Christ and His sacrifice may willfully respond in sincere faith to that message of hope and avail himself of the blood of Christ, being forgiven of sins. Notice how Paul ties all of this together:

Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin (Hebrews 10:9-18).

Therefore, it is not just that the law is to be in our hearts, but that Christ has made a way to be forgiven, completely forgiven of sins. This makes the desire to follow His will that much more potent and gives us boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus so that we may draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith (Heb. 10:19-22).

Eric L. Padgett

I Will Put My Law Into Their Heart

A Jewish male was circumcised the eighth day of his life and that act was a sign that the child was already bound by the covenant God had made with Israel (Ex. 34:28; Gen. 17:11-14). But an eight day old baby has no knowledge or understanding of being in the covenant, either of it’s requirements or of it’s promises. As the Jewish child grew, he was then taught the covenant by his parents. This training was to be meticulous, from the time of rising in the morning till the lying down at night (Deut. 6:7-12; Ex. 12:26,27). But the instruction came after the child was already in the covenant.

Under the New Covenant, before one is ever added to the kingdom of God, he must be taught. While all men are amenable to the New Covenant (Matt. 28:18,19; Mark 16:15,16), not all are in the position to obey it. For example, a man who does not believe that Jesus is the Christ cannot obey the Lord. Nevertheless, the Lord calls all men to submit themselves to His covenant or will (II Thess. 2:14). This call comes in the form of hearing the gospel. Paul wrote, “how shall they hear without preacher…faith comes by hearing” (Rom. 10:13-15)? Of their own volition, then, men either choose to obey or reject God’s will.

In contrast, Israel was largely a reluctant, disobedient, gainsaying and stiffnecked people (Ex. 32:9; Rom. 10:21). Today, every person truly obeying the gospel does so willingly. It is a personal choice made out of free will. No man or woman can be coerced to be a Christian by sword or gunpoint. No one can twist your arm because obedience comes from the heart (Rom. 6:17). You do not inherit salvation from your parents (cf. Ezek. 18:20). You are not born into the kingdom of God by natural birth but by a new birth (John 3:3). This new birth is one that is out of water and the Spirit (John 3:5), or, freely and willingly obeying the Spirit’s command to be baptized (Mark 16:15,16). It is the answer of a good conscience toward God (I Pet. 3:21).

When Jeremiah prophesied that they “shall no more teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother saying Know the Lord: for they shall all know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them” he was describing this characteristic of the new birth. The Jew had to be taught later that he was a Jew and what all that meant. But the Christian is made aware before he becomes a Christian and submits himself to God’s covenant willingly. It is true that Christians must still grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (II Pet. 3:18; Matt. 28:20) but they have already been born into the kingdom willingly.

Another component that needs to be seen is that those who know the Lord, in Jeremiah’s prophecy, know Him because He forgives their iniquities and remembers their sin no more (Note the word “for” in Jer. 31:34). Under the Old Covenant sins were remembered again every year (Heb. 10:1-4). But with the blood of Christ remission of sins were found even under the first covenant (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 9:15).

Now Jeremiah also wrote that God was going to write the law in the heart and in the inward parts (Jer. 31:33). We should be careful not to misunderstand this. It should not be understood here that this was going to be something entirely new. For God had already required of the Old Testament saints that they keep the word of God in their heart. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment in the law, He did not give something new but quoted the Shema Israel (Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12:29,30; Deut. 6:4,5). The Shema required of the Jews that they love the Lord their God with all their heart and soul.

God has always required that the saints’ heart be involved in the sincere and effectual service of Jehovah. Quite often God had said that the words of the law should be laid up in their heart. For example: “Lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul” (Deut. 11:18); “Bind them continually upon thine heart” (Prov. 6:21); “write them upon the table of thine heart” (Prov. 7:3); “the law of God is in his heart” (Psalm 37:31); “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8); “ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law” (Is. 51:7).

Their gifts for the building of the tabernacle was to be made from items the children of Israel gave willingly from the heart (Ex. 25:1,2; Ex. 35:5). The law required that one should not hate his brother in his heart (Lev. 19:17). God through Moses warned them to guard their heart against deceit (Deut. 11:16). He warned them that if they did not serve the Lord with joyfulness and gladness that curses would come upon them (Deut. 28:45-47). David was a man after God’s own heart (I Sam. 13:14). On and on the list could go.

It is wrong, then, to understand Jeremiah’s prophecy to say that God puts His word directly in the Christian’s hearts in a way different from that under the Old Covenant. We, too, can harden our hearts just as Israel of old did (Heb. 3:8). Paul expressly warns Christian’s against an evil heart of unbelief (Heb. 3:12). If our heart-soil is not good and honest, the word will not take hold (Luke 8:15). In short, we can fall under the same condemnation Israel did if we reject His word (Heb. 4:11, 12).

Generally speaking, there was a veil on Israel’s heart to keep them from seeing the truth (II Cor. 3:13-16). They rejected Him (John 1:11). They gave Him over to wicked hands to have Him crucified and slain (Acts 2:22-24). They were stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears and always resisted the Holy Ghost (Acts 7:51).

But we have a new and living way made possible by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19,20). Therefore, we are to draw near with a true and in full assurance of faith (Heb. 10:22). “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 10:14-17).

Eric L. Padgett

“I Am Ready”

The apostle Paul, heading for Jerusalem, was warned often that bonds and afflictions awaited him there (Acts 20:23). While he was in Caesarea, the Holy Spirit guided the prophet Agabas to once again graphically warn Paul that he would be bound and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles (Acts 21:11). Because of this, all of Paul’s companions urged him not to go (Acts 21:12). But Paul firmly responded, “I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). Paul said he was ready. Are we?

Paul said he was ready to die for the name of the Lord. During his second and final Roman imprisonment, he knew his time was short and he had prepared himself mentally and emotionally for that eventuality (Acts 21:13). He said, “I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:6,7). Though we, in this age, in this country, may never face the opposition Paul did, we must have the same attitude (i. e., I John 3:16; Rev. 2:10).

In saying he was ready to die for the name of the Lord, he also indicated he was ready to preach the gospel. Paul wrote the letter to the Rome church of Christ saying he was ready to preach the gospel to them there (Rom. 1:15). Being prepared to preach requires effort. Paul told Timothy, a young gospel preacher, “study to show thyself approved unto God” (II Tim. 2:15). Even though the apostle Paul was inspired, he still wanted to study (II Tim. 4:13). If Paul and Timothy needed to study, then we most certinly will need to, as well.

Studying will also help us be prepared to give an answer for the reasons for the hope that is in us (I Pet. 3:15). When Paul stood before Felix, he reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgement to come. Upon hearing this, Felix trembled (Acts 24:25). Many on the day of Pentecost were pricked in their hearts when they heard the gospel for the first time (Acts 2:37). The apostle Paul spent weeks teaching and defending the gospel with the Thessalonians Jews and some of them believed (Acts 17:2-4). We, likewise, must be able to defend what we believe.

We must also be ready to hear. The scriptures implore us to keep our feet when we go into the house of God and “be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools” (Eccl. 5:1). James told us to be swift to hear, slow to speak (James 1:19). How many times did the Lord condemn those whose ears were dull of hearing (cf. Matt. 13:14)? Most people are willing to talk, but really few are ready to hear.

In order to be the kind of Christians we need to be, that God wants us to be, we must be ready to every good work (Tit. 3:1). We must be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (I Cor. 15:58). Jesus warned His disciples to be ready and “watch” (Mark 13:37). We need to be filled with the fruits of righteousness (Phil. 1:11) and the fruits of the spirit (Gal. 5:22,23).

We must also be ready to avoid temptation (Mark 14:38). In being prepared, we must put on the whole armor of God so that we can stand (Eph. 6:13). The devil is not going to sit idly by; he is active. He will go about as a roaring lion on one hand, seeking to devour and as an angel of light on the other seeking to deceive (I Pet. 5:7; II Cor. 11:14). We have to be prepared so that we can recognize his attacks as they are being set up and meet them.

Finally, we must be ready for the Lord’s return (Matt. 24:44). We know neither the hour or the day when the Son of man will return (Matt. 25:13) but we do know He will return because He was raised from the dead (Acts 17:30,31). Therefore, the Lord could return at any moment and it will be a most unfortunate day if we are not prepared when He does. If we are not prepared, we will be like the five foolish virgins who did not prepare and were locked out. They cried, “Lord, Lord open to us” (Matt. 25:11). But the Lord responded, “I know you not.”

Are you ready?

Eric L. Padgett

O Ye Corinthians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric L. Padgett

BARNABAS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric L. Padgett