Monthly Archives: September 2013

Some Thoughts on the Holy Spirit

Can you imagine being in the first century on the day of Pentecost?  You probably have either seen or heard of Jesus of Nazareth, a man who performed great miracles–healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, even raising the dead.  You have either seen or know of His followers, the apostles, who have performed similar fantastic feats.  Then, on the day of Pentecost, these same apostles begin speaking in languages they had not learned and everyone there is able to be spoken to in their own native tongue.  These apostles stand up and preach that what everyone there is seeing is in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that the Spirit would be poured out (a metaphorical expression signifying the obvious influence of the Holy Spirit on others), resulting in prophecy, etc.  In what sense, then would you take it, when Peter says that you, too, will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?  Would you or any other person think, given these circumstances, that Peter meant a non-miraculous, literal, personal indwelling?  I cannot see it.
The Spirit came in the first century to reveal the word and then confirm it (John 14:26; 16:13; Mark 16:15-18; John 20:30,31; Heb. 2:1-4).  That word, being inspired by the Spirit (II Tim. 3:6,17; II Pet. 1:19-21), is sufficient to guide us in all things pertaining to life and godliness (II Pet. 1:2-4).  We do not now need the Holy Spirit to guide us, except as He does it through His perfect Revelation (Eph. 6:17; Rom. 12:1,2; James 1:22-25).
Except for the apostles receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5-8), the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of hands of an apostle in the first century (Acts 8:16-18).  This is the context that must govern how we understand the Holy Spirit passages. 
Given the proclivity of spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church, where “every one” had a psalm and “every one” had a doctrine, a tongue, a revelation, and an interpretation (I Cor. 14:26), can you imagine that a brother in Corinth would think first of all about a non-miraculous, personal, literal indwelling when Paul said “your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which ye have of God” I Cor. 6:19)?  Would they not think of the power the Holy Spirit had given them?  I think so. My own, personal view is that the Holy Spirit has never literally or personally indwelt anyone.  The expression that the Holy Spirit is “in” the Christian is to be taken in the same sense that we are said to be in Christ (e.g., Rom. 8:9).
In Acts 5, the context is clearly miraculous.  Ananias and Saphira were miraculously struck down by God for their lie and great fear came upon as many as heard these things because of it (Acts 5:1-11).   “By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people” (Acts 5:12) insomuch that the “people magnified them” (5:13) and “they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them” (Acts 5:15).    Hearing of these miraculous events, multitudes “out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem” brought “sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one” (Acts 5:16).  The apostles, being thrown into prison for working these things and preaching in the name of Jesus, were miraculously set free.  It is in answer to these persecutors the apostles say that we ought to obey God rather than men and “and we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32).  I find it difficult to fathom that, as a proof that the Holy Spirit was a witness to Jesus being the resurrected Christ (Acts 5:30,31), the apostles would offer up a non-miraculous, personal, literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit when they could so easily point to all the miraculous activity the Holy Spirit had engaged in right before their eyes.  Would this non-miraculous, literal indwelling be more proof than all the profound miracles He had performed for them?  I cannot see it.  That is why I think Acts 5:32 points to the miraculous.
I could go on, but my view is simply that the Holy Spirit was given to reveal the Truth and confirm it.  That word is still true today and just as powerful now as then.  The Holy Spirit has never indwelt any human being literally, for then they would become God in the flesh, God incarnate, just as Christ was.  The character of all three persons of the Godhead indwell me as long as I follow their teaching, revealed by the Holy Spirit Himself to God’s ambassadors to men.
The references to the Holy Spirit being in a person are figures of speech, just as when Jesus said “drink the cup.”  We do not drink the literal cup, we drink it’s contents.  When the apostles were told that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5) Jesus clarified what that meant when He said the apostles would “receive power” after that the Holy Ghost came upon them (Acts 1:8).  The Holy Spirit never literally indwelt anyone but He did give people power.
Today, the Holy Spirit does not give these gifts or powers (I Cor. 13:8-13), but we still have His word which is powerful (Rom. 1:16,17).  When we apply these teachings to our lives we are transformed because we now can know ourselves just as God knows us by looking into that mirror of God’s word (I Cor. 13:12). 
Eric L. Padgett

Do We Need A New Path?

Recently, the leader of the Catholic church, spoke out on various subjects in a wide-ranging, widely published interview. The interview revealed that his view of Christianity is so foreign to that which we read about in scripture that there is little in common with New Testament Christianity. Because many people listen to him, it may prove profitable to comment briefly on a few things he has spoken.

First, he stated “In the history of salvation, God has saved a people. There is no full identity without belonging to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual…”

But the Bible clearly teaches we will be judged individually, “every man according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:5,6). While it is true when we obey the Lord in baptism we are added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:47), every one of us will stand before the Lord in judgement to individually receive the things done in our bodies (II Cor. 5:10,11). We do not become saved because we “belong to a people” (or some religious institution), but we are added to the Lord’s church when we obey God’s will. John warned Israel against just this type of thinking when he said to the Jews “think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9). It was not just being a descendent of Abraham that saved them, but having the same obedient faith as Abraham. John said “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (v. 8).

Did God save Noah because he “belonged to a people”? Did God save Abraham because he “belonged to a people”? Did God save David because he “belonged to a people”? Did God save Paul because he “belonged to a people”? No, God saved them because they individually obeyed His will. Which leads us to another error espoused by Francis, namely that doctrine is secondary to salvation.

According to Mr. Francis, any insistence on hard and fast laws from God should give way to what ever people may want or feel. He stated: “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.” He further says the “church” must “also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.” So we must exchange the old teachings of God for the new impulses of man. He goes on to say that “those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists” are “restorationists,” and have a “static view” of things and must “have the courage to open up new areas to God.”

What are these “new areas” and what are the “small-minded rules”? The new areas obviously include the acceptance of homosexuality for he says that the “church” does not want to “socially wound” the individual by condemning them for practicing homosexuality. He says God “endorses the existence” of the homosexual and does not “condemn” this person.

But the Bible clearly teaches that those who “dishonor their bodies between themselves” and “leave the natural use of the woman and burn in their lust toward one another” are “worthy of death” as are those who have “pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:24, 27, 32). As for “new paths,” John said if any man comes to you and brings not this doctrine he does not have God (II John 9-11). If anything is taught that is not “after the tradition” which was received of the apostles, the one who taught is to be withdrawn from (II Thess. 3:6).

A third area where Francis departs from the New Testament pattern is the role of women in the church. Francis thinks that “the challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.” He further says: “We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.”

The truth of the matter is we do not “develop theology.” All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (II Tim. 3:16,17). The Bible already speaks about the role of women. Paul, by inspiration, said, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (I Tim. 2:11-12). What is there to develop? God has already spoken on the matter.

The leader of the Catholic church has the ear of many people in the Catholic church and in the religious world. Unfortunately, the areas enumerated above are not the only doctrinal areas wherein the Catholic church is in error. But Mr. Francis’ very liberal views added to the error already espoused by the Catholic church is an even more spiritually lethal combination.

Eric L. Padgett

Are you such a man as the Lord can use?

Athletes who compete in important contests like the Olympics train many years to qualify themselves just for a chance to be victorious. Doctors spend many hours in school and training so that they can be as prepared for their work as possible. Some men love their country so much that they are willing to lay down their lives in its service. The founding fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to forge a nation founded on liberty. These people and many others like them, at least the ones that are successful, share certain common traits: passion, dedication, commitment, and zeal, to name a few things. They are worthy of notice and praise.

Yet, while we consider their accomplishments and victories impressive and worthy of praise, when held up against the importance of the gospel they all ring so very hollow. The doctor may save a precious human life, but the gospel saves a incomparably valuable soul. A soldier may defeat a temporal foe and bring about temporary peace, but the gospel brings about eternal peace with God and the defeat of both the enemy of man and God. The Olympian may win a gold medal but the gospel’s victory heralds in an incorruptible crown that fades not away. The difference between the two is so vast as not to be subject to description.

As Christians, we have so much for which to strive, so much is at stake, and yet so often we offer so little, we sacrifice so very little for it. When I consider the Herculean efforts of men like Noah, who spent decade upon decade of his life laboring to build the ark, to fulfill God’s will in the face of blistering ridicule; when I think of men like Abram, who left his homeland to go to a land he had never before seen and was willing to offer up to God the most precious things of his life; when I think of the prophets who, through the sorest of persecutions, often leading to their tragic death, nevertheless spoke with boldness the word of God; when I think of the apostles, especially the great apostle Paul, who gave up all that he had accomplished in life to bring the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world only to be persecuted, imprisoned and martyred; when I think of these great men I am impressed deeply with their strong conviction and unwavering faith and am caused to blush in shame that my own meager efforts are so trifling small, so ineffectual, so weak.

God wants men to serve Him who have strong convictions, men who will not bend with every false wind of doctrine that blows across the land, men who will not fold under the slightest pressure of opposition, men who stand in the gap, men who stand on the Lords’ side no matter what may be the consequence. While other men fold and fall behind because of trials, whether small or great, God wants men who stand firm, resolved and unmoved. God wants men of courage and conviction.

Do you believe the Lord’s promises? Do you trust Him? Are you willing to sacrifice all, to leave nothing behind? If you know a thing is right, if you know it is God’s will, then stand up and be counted. Grow in the knowledge of His will then stand up and speak out! Do not waiver. You have no assurance that you will not be ridiculed. You have no assurance that you will not suffer at the hands of men less convicted. You have no assurance that you will not suffer loss. You have no assurance that it will be at all easy. Indeed, you can rest assured that when you stand unmoved for the Lord you will face opposition of the most serious kind. You will be tested. Count on it.

But the Cause is unquestionably worth it. The stakes could be no higher. The need for men whose character is tempered enough to do the job is clear.

Are you such a man as the Lord can use?

Hold Fast

In life, there are some things which we need to let go. When we experience failure, sometimes it is best to let it go from our minds so we can re-focus on the future. If some bad thing happened to us in the past, sometimes it is best to let it go. Forget it. Keeping it alive in your memory only continues the pain. Past sin needs to be let go as do bad habits. Many things in our lives we should just let go and get rid of just like an old worn out pair of socks.

But there are some other things which we need to focus on and never let go. These things, even though they may seem worn, need to be held on to and nourished. Precious memories of loved ones, of good times, of victories over sin. There are also some things the Bible mentions that we should “hold fast” and never let go.

First, we need to hold fast to that which is good (I Thess. 5:21). Goodness is not something that is expendable. Just like gold which is valuable because it is so rare, goodness is valuable because it is often so hard to come by. The Psalmist said there is “none that doeth good” (Psalm 53:3). But we must not forget that Paul made this statement in connection with “proving all things”. We should not just accept everything that comes our way. Rather, we are to prove things, or test them, before we accept them. When we find that which is good–and we must remember that that which is good comes from God (III John 11)–we must hold fast to it and never let it go.

Second, we are instructed to hold fast to the form of “sound words” (II Tim. 1:13). The word “sound” here means “healthy” or “uncorrupt”. The word of God is food for our soul, ranging from milk for the spiritually young and strong meat for those who are spiritually mature (I Cor. 3:1,2; Heb. 5:13,14). Doctrine that is contrary to God’s revealed will is like a poison that sickens the soul (I Tim. 6:3-9). Error is like a poison. Rats won’t take the poison alone, it has to be mixed with other, tasteful ingredients (at least for the rats). Many people won’t accept error outright, but, mingle it with a little truth and they can’t tell the difference. But it still is just as deadly. We must make certain we don’t accept poisonous doctrine but hold to healthy teaching.

Third, we are to “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Hebrews 3:6). Why should we not be confident? God is our Creator and Heavenly Father. He wants us to be saved (I Tim. 2:4). Jesus Christ is our Saviour Who died so that we could have the hope of eternal life. If He be for us who can be against us (Rom. 8:31). The Holy Spirit has revealed words whereby we can be saved (Acts 11:14). It is true we can loose our salvation (Gal. 5:4), but that is up to us (John 10:25-29). If we stray from God, we will loose our salvation, but if we draw nigh to God He will draw night to us (James 4:8). Our own eternal destiny is really in our own hands.

Fourth, we must hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (Heb. 10:23). So many Christians have begun in the faith but only after a short time loose their salvation. They are like those in the parable of the sower who either are like the seed falling on stony ground or like those which fell among the thorns (Matt. 13:18-23). Soon thereafter, after a little hot sun or weeds, they loose their strength and fail. It is important to be confident but not recklessly blind to the possibility of a fall from grace (I Cor. 10:12). We must ever be watchful and pray often that we enter not into temptation (Matt. 26:41). “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession” (Hebrews 4:14).

There are many other things to which we must hold firmly and never let go but these are among the more clearly stated in scripture. May we understand better that to which God wants us to hold to and never let it go. Our soul’s salvation depends on it.

Eric L. Padgett

Labor Day

“Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Eccles. 9:9-10)

With these words the wise man describes the purpose of man’s labor in this life. How do we enjoy the things this life has to offer? It is by working for them. It is our portion “under the sun”, our “portion in this life.” It is for this reason that whatsoever we find to do in this life, we ought to do it with all our might. We should do it “heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23).

We all know the good feeling we have when we work for something and then obtain it. This good feeling only comes when we want something and we can’t have it immediately. It is something for which we must sacrifice our time and our energy. When we have planned for it, and worked for it, then, when we finally obtain it, we enjoy it that much more because we know the value of it. When we work for something, we virtually put a lot of ourselves into it. This gives us an earned portion in it.

The Bible is clear: God created man to work. God placed man in the garden of Eden to “dress it and to keep it” (Gen. 2:15). It is only when we work honestly that we truly experience increase (Proverbs 13:11). That we can enjoy the fruits of our labor is a gift from God (Eccl. 3:13). Those who refuse to labor, die (Prov. 21:25). We must not gain material possessions by stealing, but by laboring for the things we want (Eph. 4:28).

However, we must realize that laboring for material things has its limits. It only serves to satisfy our physical wants and desires. Jesus warned us not to labor for “the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you” (John 6:27). We must labor in spiritual things in order to enter into the rest the Lord has promised (Heb. 4:11). God knows our works (Rev. 2:2) and will not forget them in judgement (Heb. 6:10). “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).

Eric L. Padgett