Monthly Archives: July 2016

A Lesson From the Hills

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1-2).

Mountains have a fascinating allure to most everyone. The great mountain ranges of the world are as beautiful as they are dangerous. They are mysterious because, at certain elevations, the climate and terrain become formidable and, thus, their summits are often hard to reach and are often shrouded with thick mists and clouds, adding to their mystic. Many primitive cultures include stories about the “gods” living in the mountains. Think of Mount Olympus, for example. The Bible also mentions not a few mountains and hills that play an important role in the unfolding of the story of salvation.

In Genesis two we are told of the Garden of Eden. It is described as a beautiful paradise filled with precious stones, a grand river that flowed from it and every kind of tree that produced fruit that was good for food (Gen. 2:8-17). It was there that man walked with God (Gen. 3:8). However, it is in this place also that man gave in to temptation and brought sin and death into the world and were consequently thrust from its environs (Gen. 3:1-7, 16-19, 23,24; Rom. 5:12).

Though we normally think of Eden in a plain or perhaps a valley, when Ezekiel described the Garden, he associated it with the “mountain of God” (Ezek. 28:13-15). If, indeed, Eden was located on a mountain, this would explain the fact that many ancient cultures placed their gods and their paradise in the upper regions of a mountain. Because of this, when I think of Eden, I think not only of paradise, I also think of paradise lost!

The Book of Genesis also describes the generations of mankind that multiplied after man was driven from the Garden. While some men did begin to call upon the name of the Lord (Gen. 4:26), generally mankind spiraled out of control into a cesspool of filth and sin (Gen. 6:5). So bad was this decline, that God repented of having created man at all and determined to cleanse the earth and start anew (Gen. 6:6,7).

One man who stood above all the rest was Noah and God chose him to build an ark and to save a remnant from destruction. After the flood waters receded, the ark of Noah came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:4). From here Noah and his family descended the mountain to repopulate the new world. When I think of the mountains of Ararat I think not only of God’s judgment on a sinful world, but also the hope of salvation (I Pet. 3:21).

When God called Abram from Ur of the Chaldees, he told him that his seed would bless the whole earth (Acts 7:1,2; Gen. 12:1-3). He was given this promise at age seventy-five (Gen. 12:4). It wasn’t until a quarter century later that God fulfilled His promise and gave Abraham his promised son, Isaac (Gen. 21:5). However, God commanded Abraham to take his son unto Mount Moriah and to offer him as a sacrifice to God (Gen. 22:2).

The offering of Abraham’s only begotten son, Isaac, was a type of the offering of God’s only begotten Son–the Christ (Heb. 11:17-19). It was on this mount also that David built an altar to the Lord and later his son, Solomon, built the temple (II Sam. 24:24,25; II Chon. 3:1). When I think of Mount Moriah, then, I am reminded of the grace of God in sending His Only Begotten Son to be the propitiation for our sins and of God’s Holy Temple, the church of God, in which we find salvation (Acts 2:47; I. Tim. 3:15).

When God chose Moses to lead His people out of Egyptian bondage, God led them to Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:1,2). It was on this mountain that Moses ascended and then descended with the Laws of God embodied in the Ten Commandments. When I think of Mount Sinai I am reminded of God’s law for mankind which today is the New Testament delivered to us by The Deliverer, Jesus.

Another mountain of great prominence in the Bible is Mount Zion. David originally captured Mount Zion or the stronghold of Zion from the Jebusites (II Sam. 5:6,7). Isaiah prophesied that out of it the word of the Lord would go forth (Is. 2:2,3), which is exactly what happened in the Book of Acts (Acts 2). It was out of Zion that the Deliverer would come, as well (Rom. 11:26). When Paul was describing the better nature of the New Testament and the Lord’s church, he described it as the Heavenly Jerusalem and as Mount Zion (Heb. 12:18-24).

In the Book of Revelation, John described the victorious church as standing on Mount Zion with the Lamb of God (Rev. 14:1). In the final scene of the Book of Revelation, the Heavenly Jerusalem is descending down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:1,2). It is described as a Paradise where a river runs through from the throne of God with the waters of life and the tree of life growing on either side of it with leaves that were for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:1-3). There will no more curse there (Rev. 22:5). We will once again ascend the Mountain of God and walk in His presence amongst the stones of fire (Rev. 21:3, 10-21).

Eric L. Padgett

The Lord God Planted A Garden

What would it have been like to live in the Garden of Eden? The Bible gives us only a brief description of Eden in Genesis and in several other passages throughout God’s word and there is certainly much more we would like to know than what we have. Knowing and experiencing the wondrous beauty of this present world, even with it’s cursed condition (Gen. 3:7), suggests to us that it’s beauty must have surpassed our wildest imaginations. How wonderful it would have been to walk in the Garden in the cool of the day and to hear the voice of God (Gen. 3:8).

The very name “Eden” means “pleasure.” It was, indeed, a garden of pleasure, a paradise, if you will. Ezekiel refers to it as the Garden of God (Ezek. 28:13)! It was a garden that Lord, Himself, planted (Gen. 2:8). Like everything else that the Lord made it must have been “very good” (Gen. 1:31). It was designed especially for man, for there the Lord God placed the man whom He had formed (Gen.2 :8).

Some have tried to locate the Garden of Eden geographically on the earth. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Central Asia, Armenia and even the North Pole have been proposed as locations for the Garden. Most, however, will place it in the region around the Euphrates river because in the description given in Genesis, a river “Euphrates” is mentioned (Gen. 2:14). But it must be remembered that one thousand six hundred and fifty-six years after creation, the world was destroyed by a universal cataclysmic deluge. Before this time and since creation, the land mass was all together in one place (Genesis 1:9). After the flood, however, the geography and terrain of the world was altered significantly, so that the location of Eden was likely forever destroyed. Furthermore, the Lord God placed cherubim on the east of Eden to keep the way of the tree of life and would probably guard the secret to the Eden, as well (Genesis 3:24).

Moses described the Garden as containing every tree that was good for food and pleasant to the sight. It contained the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as well. A river went out of Eden to water the Garden and there it parted into four other rivers, one of which was the Euphrates. (This Euphrates may well have given rise to the present river of the same name, as Noah and his descendants would rename the new world after the old places). There were also beautiful and valuable stones and gems like bdellium, the onyx stone and gold (Gen. 2:8-14).

In Ezekiel’s description of the garden as he prophesies against the king of Tyre, who apparently likened himself to the perfection of Adam, He describes the garden as bedecked with every precious stone, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold (Ezek. 28:13). This coincides with Moses’ description. As many commentators point out, Ezekiel is likely also describing the temple, as well. The High Priest’s breastplate contained these precious gems (plus others) and the mention of the “cherub that covereth” may also refer to the cherubim on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. It may also refer to the cherubim that kept the way of the tree of life (Gen. 3:24).

Interestingly, Ezekiel describes the Garden of God as upon the Mountain of God (Ezek. 28:14). We normally think of the Garden of Eden as being in a valley or plain, but Ezekiel associates it with the mountains. Some commentators remark that this probably refers to the Mt. Zion and the temple. And well it may, but for the analogy to be vivid, there must be some correspondence, just as there was between the jewels on the High Priests breastplate and the gems which littered the ground of Eden, the stones of fire (Ezek. 28:14). To reach God and be in His presence we must go “up.”

The Lord God placed man in the garden and supplied man with everything that he needed. Most importantly, man was in fellowship with God. He could eat of every tree in the garden (except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), even the tree of life and live for ever. The garden was well watered by rivers and there were precious gems decorating the garden. But all this was forfeited by man because he chose to disobey a command of God and eat of forbidden fruit, thereby losing his access to the tree of life and his fellowship with Jehovah. It was only through sacrifices of animals that God allowed the further existence of mankind.

However, it is only through Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice, that we can regain that fellowship with God. In the Book of Revelation, when John describes the ultimate salvation of God’s people, he describes a scene which could very well be the heavenly Eden. There is a river that runs through it. Only now, it is the river of life and flows from the throne of God (Rev. 22:1). There is also found the tree of life which bears twelve manner of fruit for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2). This heavenly home is found on Mount Zion, the mountain of God (Cf. Rev. 14:1), which is the church of God (Heb. 12:22-24). And there fellowship with God is restored as we shall see His face and there shall be no more curse (Rev. 22:3,4).

We will never walk in Eden again, but we may, if we are faithful, abide forever in the Paradise of God (Rev. 2:7).

Eric L. Padgett

There Just Ain’t No Free Stuff

Increasingly our society is one which is given and demands free stuff. The American public is given free phones and free houses and free money. Politicians want to give free education, free healthcare and free drugs and needles and other things. But the truth of the matter is, there is nothing really free. Nothing at all.

This is true in nature. You don’t eat an apple unless a lot of work went into bringing it into existence. First, there was a seed. That seed also had to be planted. The trees then had to be nurtured and harvested. If you got the apple from a store you had to pay for it from money you had to work to earn. Even in the wild, an apple grew from a seed that had to come from trees that grew and made it to maturity without being destroyed by disease or predators. The very first fruit trees came from God’s creative work. Every fruitful garden is the product of hard work.

The world itself is the product of work. God created the world. While God is omnipotent, nevertheless it took effort on His part to bring the world into being. “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made” (Gen. 2:2). The world is still not free for He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). Every living thing is the product of work and it takes work to keep it alive.

It is true in life. You don’t get friends unless you work for them. Even if you and another person hit it off well from the start, you still have to nurture the friendship through time and through crises. The same is true in a marriage. Marriage, if it is lasting and meaningful, is the result of two people working on a relationship. Real effort must be brought to the relationship to make it work. It is also true in employment. You don’t get a paycheck unless you work for it. You may get by for a little while welching on your obligations, but sooner or later the employer will find out and send you packing.

The same is true of government handouts. Everything the government offers is paid for by the hard earned money it has taken from its citizens. The government doesn’t have any money of it’s own (unless it prints it–and that comes with ramifications), but must tax its citizens. The money its citizens have is gained by those citizens working for it. So the phone you received “free” from the government was actually paid for by someone else who had to work to get the money to pay for it. There is nothing free, especially from the government.

The same is also true spiritually. Even the “free gift” of salvation is not totally free (Rom. 5:15). That gift is “by” Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:15-17). The word “by” signifies the price Jesus paid to bring about salvation. We sing the words, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe” because He purchased our salvation at the expense of His own blood (Acts 20:28). There is no more expensive gift than the gift of salvation. And even the salvation which I receive is contingent upon obedience. Christ became the author of eternal salvation unto all that obey Him (Heb. 5:8). “Work out your own salvation” (Phil. 2:12).

It is also true in the church. In order for the congregation of which we are members to grow, we must work. People will not obey unless they hear, and they cannot hear unless we teach (Rom. 10:14). If we want the congregation of which we are members and the church as whole to have unity, we must “endeavor to keep” that unity. The very idea implies that we have to work to keep it. There is energy spent and efforts made. A growing vibrant congregation is not free.

The idea that we can have free things is enticing but it is also corrupting. Those who think that they can get something free have little incentive to work and as long as the government lures people with free stuff the more corrupt our society will become. (Please understand that I am not opposed to helping the truly indigent and needy – Gal. 6:10). Not even sin is free. Unforgiven sin will cost you an eternity.

There just ain’t no free stuff!

Eric L. Padgett

The Way of Holiness

When Isaiah prophetically described characteristics of the Messianic Dispensation, he described a highway that would be called The Way of Holiness (Is. 53:8). In the New Testament, the Lord said that He was the Way (John 14:6). The Lord’s church is also often described as The Way (Acts 9:2; 19:9,23; 24:22). In that Way, in the Lord’s Church, we are called by God unto holiness (I Thess. 4:7). Is there any doubt, then, that the Way of Holiness is found in following the Lord?

The Hebrew word for “holy” means something that is cut off, and possibly something that is pure. To follow the Lord is to be separated for the work that God has commanded. God, Himself, possesses a triune holiness. God as the Father is holy (Lev. 19:2). Christ as the Son is holy (Acts 2:27; 3:14). And the Spirit of God is holy (John 14:26). When Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord sitting in His temple, he heard the seraphim that surrounded the seat of glory thrice proclaim the holiness of God: “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God of hosts” (Is. 6:3; cf. Rev. 4:8). God is holy by virtue of Who He is. It is His nature to be holy.

The apostles and prophets were holy (Eph. 3:5). The apostles were hand picked by the Lord to be ambassadors to the world, to beseech the world to be reconciled back to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ (Luke 6:13; II Cor. 5:18-20). Though some had claimed to be apostles, there were not any others, but what they were false apostles (II Cor. 11:13). Today, those who claim to be apostles, are likewise uttering a lie.

Our calling to the Lord is holy. God saved us and called us with a holy calling (II Tim. 1:9). Many try to make this calling into something it is not. God does not personally call you by sending you some vision or some ethereal experience, as is so often claimed. God calls all men through His gospel (II Thess. 2:13,14). We can also lose that calling and hence we are encouraged to make our calling and election sure (II Pet. 1:10).

The scriptures are holy. Paul said Timothy had known the holy scriptures from a youth, having received instruction in them from his mother and grandmother (II Tim. 1:5). The holy scriptures provide for us all that is needed for life and godliness and doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness (II Tim. 3:16,17; II Pet. 1:3). With the holy scriptures we are throughly furnished unto all good works (II Tim. 3:17). Because the scriptures are holy we ought to be very careful how we handle them (II Tim. 2:15).

The Faith is holy. Jude said we are to build ourselves up in the most holy faith (Jude 20). That Faith is the Faith once for all delivered in verse three. Some have made shipwreck of the faith (I Tim. 1:19). Jude, however, was warning against certain men, ungodly men, crept in unawares who, like so many before, came to “turn the grace of God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4). Because of this attack on the faith, Jude said he had to exhort the brethren to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3). The same need still exists today.

The church of Christ is also holy. The Lord wants to, and will, present the church back to the Father a “holy” church (Eph. 5:27). The members of the Lord’s church are “fitly framed together, growing unto a holy Temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21). There is nothing that defiles that will enter into the glories of heaven (Rev. 21:27). Peter used the terms that Moses used of the children of Israel as they stood before the holy mount and described the church the same way: a holy priesthood and a holy nation (I Pet. 2:5,9; Ex. 19:6).

Finally, Christians are to be holy. Paul addressed the brethren as “holy brethren” (Heb. 3:1; I Thess. 5:27). As the elect of God, we are to be holy (Col. 3:12). As the church of Christ, we are going to be presented “holy and without blemish” and we are going to be “holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight” (Eph. 5:27; Col. 1:22). Holiness was a part of the plan from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) because holiness is the nature of God. Therefore, we should be holy for He is holy (II Pet. 1:15,16).  Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).

This is the Way of Holiness.

Eric L. Padgett