Monthly Archives: March 2016

Alleged Contradictions

Many people have attempted to show that the Bible is a fallible, human product and not the divinely inspired volume it claims to be (II Sam. 23:2; II Tim. 3:16,17). Just one of many examples of this kind is Philip Kitcher’s book Living With Darwin. In the last chapter of that volume Kitcher attempts to argue that a traditional belief in supernatural revelation is outmoded, outdated, faulty and wrong. Thus, Kitcher advances the idea that the Bible is full of contradictions and problematic historical references.

Kitcher’s approach to the Biblical Text is usual for those who advance that agenda. He apparently is quite comfortable with arguing that any omission of a fact in a narrative is evidence that the author did not believe the event ever happened. For instance, Kitcher states that “Matthew has wise men, but no shepherds. Luke has shepherds but no wise men.” In another quote he states that “only John picks out an individual disciple, Thomas, who refuses to believe in the resurrection without seeing and touching.” Yet another is the observations that Mark does not provide details of the beginnings of Jesus’ life. Matthew and Luke tell elaborate stories, however.

Does the fact that Luke does not mention some specifics that Matthew does, and vice versa, mean that either one or both of the records are in error? Does the fact that John is the only one to mention Thomas’ incredulity mean he fabricated this story whole cloth? Surely Mr. Kitcher would not want to make these arguments. But this is what in fact he is arguing. This is a very dishonest hermeneutic. There are many things about Darwin that Kitcher does not cover in his book, but is that reason enough to reject Kitcher out of hand?  By his own standard, that would be the case.

There are many examples that could be given where authors chose the material they want to emphasize. This does not mean that they do not know about other events, but those other events do not come under the rubric of their specific purpose. In his autobiography, Ronald Reagan spends several paragraphs discussing the Achille Lauro hijacking. Dinesh D’souza, Reagan’s official biographer, does not so much as mention this event at all. Does this mean that D’souza did not know about this event? Does it mean Reagan made it up? Is there some discrepancy? Obviously, D’souza had a different purpose in writing about Reagan than did Reagan in writing about himself. Likewise, Reagan and D’souza both deal with the Air Traffic Controllers strike, but Reagan includes different details than does D’Souza. Is this another mistake? Does the fact that they were writing for different purposes mean that their respective writings are somehow flawed? These questions, of course, are rhetorical.

Selected works of Abraham Lincoln were compiled and recorded by Michael P. Johnson in his volume, Abraham Lincoln, Slavery and the Civil War. In a letter to Jesse W. Fell, a Bloomington, Illinois newspaper man and an old friend, Lincoln wrote a brief sketch of his life. In it he noted that he was born on February 12, 1809 and that his mother died in his tenth year. Yet six months later when he wrote an extended autobiography written for the 1860 presidential campaign, he wrote that he was born on February 12, 1809 and that his mother died in the autumn of 1818. This is a real discrepancy involving dates, but do we conclude from this that there was no Lincoln or that he was not president or that his writings are wrong?

It seems that Lincoln was using a device often employed in the Bible and by the average writer of rounding off numbers. The autumn of 1818, specifically October 5, 1818–the date of her death, would have been only weeks away from Abraham Lincoln’s being ten years old. Would Mr. Kitcher make the same argument here that he made for the Text of the Bible? I think not.

Mr. Kitcher knows the answers to the alleged discrepancies of the Bible. He even observes on page 136 that the Christianity with which he grew up “solved the problem in the obvious way by combining everything.” Kitcher knows full well–or at least he should know–that the Gospel accounts harmonize together in this way and that Bible scholars have, since the early centuries of Christianity, produced “fourfold gospels.” But Kitcher, and other liberal critics like him, must have mistakes in the Bible in order to hold to their anti-supernatural view of the world.

He states specifically that “not all of these conflicting reports can be literally true.” This is simply dishonesty or ignorance. It is not wise to be so driven by a desire to disprove something to the point one would engage in a dishonest treatment of a text. It is not wise to forsake sound hermeneutics in favor of an eclectic hermeneutical approach to achieve a personally preferred outcome. Mr. Kitcher, I hope, does not approach other subjects with such unchecked bias.

Eric L. Padgett

That’s Really Frustrating

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21).

One of the favorite doctrines of the denominational world is salvation by grace alone. Hiscox’s Standard Baptist Manual states, “We believe the Scriptures teach that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace” (1903, p. 61). Many in the religious world argue that we are saved by grace to the exclusion of any works on our part, especially baptism, since, they say, it is something we do. One of the passages often advanced to prove this point is Ephesians 2:8,9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Does this passage, or any other, teach we are saved by grace alone?

First, it should be mentioned that the same volume mentioned above also states, just one page later, that the “gift of eternal life . . . is bestowed, not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but solely through faith in Christ” (p. 62). These two concepts, “wholly of grace” and “solely through faith” are logically mutually exclusive. Both cannot be true, in the same way and same sense. Now, it may be partly through grace and partly through faith, but not both.

Second, the passage in Ephesians comes with a context. In the first verse of the second chapter, Paul contrasts two periods of time and two lifestyles. At one time the brethren in Ephesus were dead in sins, but now they are alive. To be dead in sin is to be living in sin and thus spiritually dead to God. Sin separates us from God (Is. 59:2). But sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4). So when they were living in sin they were acting in a way contrary to God’s law or His will. Now, he says, they are not dead in sin, but alive to God, meaning they are acting in a way that is in harmony with or obedience to God’s will. This language plainly speaks of works, of things done in one’s life.

In verses two and three he continues to describe the distinction between these two times and lifestyles. The former time and lifestyle were lived in the world. John tells us that this is the moral sphere of human conduct satisfying the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye and the pride of life (I John 2:15-17). In verse three Paul says that these Ephesian brethren had previously fulfilled the lusts of the flesh and of mind, but now they are not. Fulfilling these desires requires activity or works. Paul, in fact, describes them as “works” of the flesh (Gal. 5:19,20).

Furthermore, Paul said that they were the children of disobedience (2:2) and deserving of wrath (2:3). Paul elsewhere said that wrath is deserved by those who “are contentious and do not obey the truth” (Rom. 2:28). If, in their former life, they were disobedient, but now they are no longer so, that means they now must be obedient. That is, they are doing acts that God had commanded. This is works! Paul is describing how at one point in time they were disobedient, but now are obeying God.

Paul describes exactly when this time was. Paul said they were quickened and raised up together (2:5,6). When does this quickening and raising up occur? Paul wrote to the Colossian brethren, an epistle written at about the same time as the Ephesian epistle, that they were “buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). They were buried and raised with him in the act of baptism.

Again, Paul wrote “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). Just as Christ was raised from the dead, they were (and we are) raised from the watery grave of baptism to walk in newness of life. That new life came at the point in time when they were raised from the waters of baptism. That is when and where the change occurred, for them and also for us.

Furthermore, Paul says we are raised to sit in heavenly places in Christ (6). It is in Christ “in heavenly places” where all spiritual blessings are, including salvation (Eph. 1:3; II Tim. 2:10). How do we get in Christ? We get into Christ by baptism Rom. 6:1-4; Gal. 3:26,27). Thus, the point at which the change occurred was in the act of baptism, when baptism is preceded by the appropriate moral conditions.

This is borne out in the historical account of the establishment of the church at Ephesus. Paul stated of the Ephesians that they trusted in Christ after they heard the word and were sealed with the Holy Spirit after they believed (Eph. 1:13). When did this occur? In Luke’s account in Acts the people of Ephesus heard the word which Paul preached to them and were baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 19:4,5). After this Paul laid his hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit, and thus were sealed (Acts 19:6; Eph. 1:13). Thus, the point at which they were quickened and raised was when they were baptized for the remission of sins.

Paul further points out in the Ephesian letter’s context that God loved us even when we sinners (2:4). Paul said even while we were dead in sins God quickened us (2:5). What is being spoken of here? Paul tells us that even when we were sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-10). There is the manifestation of God’s grace! We, though undeserving, were the recipients of God’s favor through Jesus Christ’s death. Paul states that in our being saved it shows “the exceeding riches of his grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).

If grace alone could save, then all would be saved for God’s grace has appeared to all (Tit. 2:11). But there is a hell and it is prepared for and will be populated by those whose works did not qualify them to be recorded in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 20:11-15). We are not saved by grace alone, or faith alone or works alone, but by all three (Rom. 1:5).

It is in this context that we are to read Eph. 2:8,9. We are saved by God’s grace, by His kindness shown toward us in the sacrifice of His Son. That part is God’s part for we could not save ourselves. We certainly are not saved by works of merit or works of the law of Moses, but we are saved by works of obedience (Rom. 16:26; I Thess. 1:3; Heb. 5:8,9). If we try to be saved by our own merit, or by the works of the law of Moses, then we frustrate (atheteo) the grace of God (Gal. 2:20). But we violate or frustrate (atheteo) God’s command if we suggest we can be saved by grace alone (Mark 7:9; Rom. 6:1). Either of these two views is really frustrating to salvation.

“What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:15-18).

Eric L. Padgett

The Company of Fools

If you ever find yourself in the company of fools, here is the scriptural response. “Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding” (Prov. 9:6). The Bible describes many fools. Here are a few.

First, there is the fool who despises his father’s instruction (Prov. 15:5). The lamp shall go out on every child that curses his father or mother (Prov. 20:20). One of the wonderful blessings God has given us is a family. In a family, a child finds protection, guidance end acceptance (Eph. 6:1-4). The foolish and wicked want to destroy the home and bring the child under the authority of the state, to remove the protective shell around the child. They want to destroy the family by redefining marriage and by blurring the line between the sexes. Shun these people because it is sheer foolishness.

Second, there is a fool who does not fear the Lord (Prov. 1:7). It is the very height of foolishness to not fear the Lord. This text does not say this person does not believe in God or acknowledge His existence, it’s just that they don’t care. But one day God will judge us all according to our works (II Cor. 5:10,11) and those who do not fear the Lord will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (II Thes. 1:7-9). Therefore, the conclusion of the whole matter is to fear God and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13).

Third, another fool goes even farther and denies the very existence of God. “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God” (Psalm 14:1). It is foolish because there is such overwhelming evidence proving the existence of God it could not be clearer than if God’s name were literally written on every rock and tree, every flower and every animal and in the face of every man. Philosophically, it is clear that every house is built by some man but He that built all things is God (Heb. 3:4). A man has to be a fool to be wrong about this matter.

Fourth, the wise man said “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered” (Prov. 28:26). It is often said that a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client. Even more clearly, a man who trusts in his own heart is, himself, a fool. The way of man is not in himself, the Bible declares, it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps (Jer. 10:23). Jeremiah said the “heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it” (Jer. 17:9). Therefore, we must “trust in the LORD with all” our “heart; and lean not unto [our] own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). This is the wise way.

Fifth, Ezekiel said there are foolish prophets because they speak of themselves and not of God (Ezek. 13:3). How foolish and how presumptuous to claim to speak for God when you do not! John warned that we should try the spirits because there are many false prophets gone out into the world (I John 4:1). Paul warned against false teachers who would arise from among the members of the church to draw away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:28-31). There are many foolish teachers today who teach things which cannot be found in God’s word (Matt. 15:7-9).

Finally, it is very foolish not to be ready to meet the Lord. Some men hoard up wealth, cherish fame and covet possessions to the exclusion of all spiritual concerns. But what happens when the Lord calls your name? What happens when God says, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-21).

“Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly” (Prov. 16:22).

Eric L. Padgett

Lessons For A Preacher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric L. Padgett

Who Is The Greatest Man In The Bible?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we living up to that greatness?

Eric L. Padgett