Monthly Archives: November 2016

Don’t Pull Your Punches, or Don’t Cushion the Cross

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:9-10).

The church of Christ, the church of our Lord (Matt. 16:16-19; Acts 20:28), is very special. We have in our possession the things which the prophets of old desired to look into, the very things that have now been revealed to us in His word (I Cor. 2:7-13). Those holy men were deprived of that sacred knowledge and yet inquired and searched diligently into the things revealed to them but which they, themselves, could not alone understand (I Pet. 1:10,11). Moreover, not only the ancient prophets but even now the angels still desire to look into these things (I Pet.1:12). Now that is special! That is very special!

Is there any conceivable, intelligible reason why we, as His servants, would not want to make this known to every accountable human being? Paul said it was God’s plan “to make all men see” these truths. This is why He commanded His apostles, and consequently us through them, to take this good news into all the world and to preach it to every creature, and to teach all nations (Mark 16:15,16; Matt. 28:18-20). The great commission gives us the marching orders for the church. It is why we, as the church, exist (Acts 2:47)!

Faithful men and women of God willingly sacrificed their lives to fulfill the great commission. That commission was why Stephen was stoned to death in the great persecution against the early church which was at Jerusalem (Acts 7:59 – 8:4). That is why Christians were assaulted and thrown into prison at the hands of it’s arch nemesis, Saul of Tarsus (Acts 8:3,4). That is why James the brother of John was slain with the sword, when Herod stretched forth his hand “to vex certain of the church” (Acts 12:1,2). That is why Antipas was horribly martyred because he held fast to the name of Christ and did not deny His Faith (Rev. 2:13) and the early church faced the Great Tribulation which resulted in the deaths of many a faithful child of God (Rev. 2:10; Matt. 24:21).

How many preachers, how many elders, how many Christians today would preach the truth and let the chips fall where they may, as these brethren did long ago? How many today would be willing to hazard their lives for the name of the Lord (Acts 15:26)? If the answer is that there are many today who would do this, then why are there so many apparently so timid now when it comes to professing the name of the Lord and His church to the world? Does courage somehow blossom in the bosom of timidity when the danger increases? Is he who is unfaithful in the lesser more likely or less likely to flourish in the greater (Luke 16:10)?

It is hard to conceive of a time when the apostle Paul would have cloaked the message of the gospel in some dress that hid it’s power and truth from men either to avoid confrontation or to lure the unsuspecting prospects by “good words and fair speeches” (Rom. 16:18). It is hard to imagine Paul ever downplaying the importance of the Lord’s church. Certainly, he said our speech should always be with grace, seasoned with salt (Col.4:6). But that does not mean we pull the punches!

Paul pulled no punches when he spoke to the Jews in Thessalonica (Acts 17). He reasoned with them out of the scriptures and opened and alleged that Christ must needs have suffered (Acts 17:1-4). He did not shy away from the truth even though the unbelieving Jews suborned certain lewd fellows of the baser sort against him (Acts 17:5,6).

Paul did not pull his punches when speaking to the Athenians but told them plainly that they were worshiping in ignorance (Acts 17:23). He did not feel it audacious or presumptuous or harmful to instruct them in their religious inscience.

Paul pulled no punches when he, no doubt in exasperation, shook his raiment, as if to shake off the dust of the responsibility for the Corinthian Jews, and declared that he would henceforth go the Gentiles, saying “Your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean” (Acts 18:6). Even if he had been tempted to dull the edge of the Spirit’s sword for whatever reason, the Lord would have disallowed it, for He enjoined him to “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace” (Acts 18:9).

Brethren, is it not plain? Could it be any clearer that the truth is to be spoken, in love to be sure, but spoken without compromise? Let us not be afraid to boldly proclaim either the name of the Lord or His church or His gospel. Let us never soften the edges of the old, rugged cross in order to ease the discomfort of those that seek a soft road to heaven. Let it not be said of any child of God that he willfully withheld some vital truth to lure people with some false sense of comfort.

Don’t pull your punches or cushion the cross.

Eric L. Padgett

Where Are The Nine?

And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? (Luke 17:17).

When the Lord asks a question, you can rest assured that it is not because He needs information that He presently lacks. It is not as though He had forgotten how many lepers He had healed. Nor is it the case that He did not know where they were. Even before these men requested the Lord’s help, He already knew their hearts (John 2:24,25; Acts 1:24). All things are open and naked before they eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Heb. 4:13). When the Lord asks a question it is often to reveal to us something about ourselves.

When the Lord God called for man in the garden in the cool of the day, it was not because He did not know where Adam and Eve were (Gen. 3:9). Nor was it the case that He did not know why they were hiding (Gen. 3:10-12). When the Lord asked Cain about his brother, it was not that God did not know that Cain had already slain him (Gen. 4:10). The Lord was not ignorant of the motives of those building the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). In these and many other questions the Lord did not need the information for Himself, but it was for our benefit. Similarly, when the Lord asked “Where are the nine?” He was asking us to see something about ourselves.

These ten men had obviously heard about the Lord. They called His name specifically–“Jesus” (Luke 17:13). They referred to Him as “Master.” They apparently had heard of His power to heal the sick. They knew of His compassion on those in need. And though they were required by law to live away from the people and stand at least a hundred paces away, and though they were required by law to announce their presence so that others may avoid them (Lev. 13:45,46), they cried out, as best they could with their tortured throat and lungs, for mercy, a request Jesus willingly answered.

Jesus did not touch them as he had touched other lepers on other occasions (Matt. 8:1-4), He merely commanded them to go and show themselves unto the priests (as required by the Law – Lev. 13:2; Lev. 14:2), and this, even before there were any signs of healing in their disfigured bodies. They manifested great faith for the Text tells us that they went, just as Jesus commanded them, and, as they were going, only then were they cleansed (17:14). Faith is always demonstrated by our works (James 2:14-26).

We are not told what nine of the men proceeded to do as they were made clean during their journey to the priests, but the tenth, when he saw that he was healed, “turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks” (Luke 17:15,16). This man knew from whence his healing came. He knew that God was to be glorified and so he fell on his face at the feet of Jesus–a posture of worship–and gave Him thanks. He was grateful. He was thankful.

While those nine men initially exhibited commendable faith in their obedience to the command of Jesus, they lacked a very essential element in their response–gratitude, or thanksgiving. Such a disposition, if unchecked, ultimately leads to all the vile things which God condemns to destruction (Rom. 1:21ff). When men in general become unthankful, it usually indicates that times are becoming perilous (II Tim. 3:1-7). Ingrates rank down there with those that are disobedient to parents and those who are unholy. They are not far behind those who love only themselves. Jesus’ question, “Where are the nine?” reveals to us just this about ourselves.

We ought always to be willing to enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise (Psalm 100:4). In everything we should give thanks (I Thess. 5:18), replacing all filthiness, foolish talking and jesting with the giving of thanks (Eph. 5:4). Not only in everything but continually we should offer the sacrifice of praise, giving thanks to His name (Heb. 13:15). In the daily giving of thanks to God, we perform our vows (Psalm 61:8) and it is good in the sight of God our Saviour (I Tim. 2:1-3). Whatever we do, we ought to give thanks to God and the Father by Him (Col. 3:17).

What would we have done had we been healed as the Lord healed them? Of which group would we be a part? Does gratitude fill our heart for all the blessings we daily receive (Psalm 68:19)? Do we continually offer unto God our deepest and sincerest gratitude for His kindnesses and thankfulness for His mercies? Those who give thanks are to be commended for their faith. In effect, they have returned to the Master to fall on their face at His feet and give God thanks.

But where are the nine?

Eric L. Padgett

Seven Sacred Swords of Scripture

A sword is a weapon. In and of itself it is neither good nor bad. It’s moral value is determined by whose hand wields it. It is a personal weapon, as well, because you have to be up close and personal to handle it effectively. In the Bible, we find seven swords that are worth our attention.

The first sword is a flaming sword found in Genesis 3:24. When man had fallen out of fellowship with God because of sin, God expelled him out of the Garden of Eden. To keep the way of the tree of life, He placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. Angels are described as a flame of fire (Heb. 1:7; cf. II Kings 2:11) and are often seen with a sword drawn in hand (as we shall see), so perhaps this was an angel protecting the tree of life. Historically speaking, the next we see of it is in heaven (Rev. 22:1,2). Eternal life is God’s and God’s only to give (John 14:6).

The king of Moab, Balak by name, wanted to hire Balaam, a man sometime  endowed with the gift of prophecy, to curse the children of Israel (Num. 22:6). Even though God forbade it, Balaam sought a way to do the thing asked of him because of the lure of reward (Num. 22:17). When Balaam willingly went with Balak, God sent His Angel to withstand him (Num. 22:32). The Angel stood in the way with a sword drawn in his hand. On occasion, God has drawn back the curtain that separates the physical from the spiritual and allowed us to glimpse the ethereal world. The sword of the Angel tells us this much, when God commands us not to do something, and we still seek to do it, we make God our adversary (Num. 22:22).

On another instance, just after the children of Israel crossed the Jordan and encamp in Gilgal, Joshua also encounters the Angel, once again with His sword drawn (Josh. 5:13-15; cf. Jud. 7:18). Only in this instance, the sword is not drawn in opposition, but in support. Joshua inquires of the Angel, “Art thou for us or for our adversaries?” (5:13). “Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come” was the reply and it caused Joshua to fall down and to worship (5:14). The drawn sword in this instance indicated that the Lord would fight for Joshua. Indeed, Joshua was able to take the land as commanded because the Lord fought for Israel (Josh. 10:42). If God be for us, who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)?

When David sinned against the Lord by not trusting in God and numbering the people (I Chron. 21:1; II Sam. 24:1), the Lord sent a destroying angel to Jerusalem to exact punishment upon David and the people (I Chron. 21:7). When David lifted up his eyes, he saw near the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, between heaven and earth, the angel of the Lord with a sword drawn in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem (I Chron. 21:16). This must have been an awesome and terrifying experience to know that the Lord is fighting against you. We must recognize that God wants us to obey His will and will fight against us if we are against Him.

The fifth sword we find is the sword of those who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah faced stiff opposition from the angry Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites when they heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being repaired (Neh. 4:7). They all conspired together to fight against Jerusalem and hinder it (Neh. 4:8). But Nehemiah wisely prepared for their attacks. The builders held their tools in one hand and in the other held a sword (Neh. 4:13, 17,18). The lesson we can learn from this is that while we must all build, we must also all be ready to defend the work we are doing. The apostle Paul said he was set for the defense of the gospel (Phil. 1:17).

The sixth sword is found in Jesus’ words: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Jesus is the Prince of Peace, bringing peace between Jew and Gentile, but specially between God and man (Eph. 2:13-18). However, the truth is powerful and can even cause families to be split over God’s will (Matt. 10:35,36). If we are all faithful and true to God, this will not happen.

The final sword which deserves our consideration here is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). Paul plainly states that the word of God is like a sword. It has the ability to pierce even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12). The word of God pricks those who allow it to work on them (Acts 2:37). We must learn how to effectively wield this spiritual sword so that we may convert the lost and convince the gainsayer. Through us the Lord fights against His enemies with the sharp sword that proceeds out of His mouth–the gospel (Rev. 2:12,16; 19:15).

These seven sacred swords of scripture are very powerful. Study them carefully.

Eric L. Padgett

The Foundation of God Standeth Sure

Life is full of uncertainty (Prov. 27:1). At any given moment we may receive news that shakes the very foundation of our lives (e.g., Job 1:13-19). Our doctors may give us devastating news about our health. Our employer may give us unwelcome news about our jobs. Our families may be challenged by loss or suffering. Spouses may prove untrue. Nature’s forces may deal us a blow and deprive us of our substance. So many things to trouble us, so many things about which to worry, so many things to shake us.

And yet as uncertain as life often is, there is a confidence we have as Christians which transcends all the worries, trials and heartaches we face (Rom. 8:18). Just as Paul and Silas could pray and sing praises to God at midnight in a damp and dark Philippian jail, even when all seemed bleak (Acts 16:25), so, too, can we face the anguish and disappointments of life courageously and with great inner joy. From whence is this unearthly confidence and joy derived? Paul wrote:

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Though everything about us seems as uncertain as the shifting sands, as Christians we have a confidence and joy derived not from our own sense of ability or power (Jer. 10:23), but from trusting in the One who holds the world in His hands (Ps. 92:4). Those who build their lives on the uncertain sands of mere mortal merit are sure to ultimately find disappointment and collapse. But those who build upon the solid Rock foundation can rest assured that their labors will not fall (Matt. 7:24-27).

The apostle Paul declared that though the world devolves into ever increasing ungodliness (II Tim. 3:13), and many people’s faith is overthrown, there is one thing we can trust, one verity of life that never changes–the foundation of God (II Tim. 2:16-19). Paul further declared that, as Christians, we are of the household of God and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:19,20). For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ (I Cor. 3:11).

Throughout the Old Testament, our God is described as a Rock. The Mighty God of Jacob brings forth the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel (Gen. 49:24). “He is the Rock, His work is perfect” (Deut. 32:4). “The Lord is my Rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer” (II Sam. 22:3). “The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation” (II Samuel 22:47). The Rock that was cut out of the mountains without hands was to break in pieces all the kingdoms of the world (Dan. 2:44,45).

The prophet Isaiah declared, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:16). Jesus Christ is that “foundation…stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation” (Is. 28:16). In the words of Peter, he that believeth on Him, “shall not be confounded” (I Pet. 2:6,7; cf. Rom. 10:11). If our lives are built on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ and His teaching, there is nothing that can move us, as long as we choose to remain there.

We express our confidence in our Rock when we sing our hymns, which are replete with references to the Rock. “He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock, that shadows a dry, thirsty land.” “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” “O Thou blessed Rock of Ages, trusting now dear Lord in Thee, Keep me till my journey’s ended, Till Thy blessed face I see. Hide me O Blessed Rock of Ages, Till Thy blessed face I see, When the storm around me rages, Rock of Ages hide Thou me.” “The church’s One Foundation, is Jesus Christ her Lord…” “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Do we believe what we sing?

If you would find stability in your life, if you would have confidence that you cannot be moved (Heb. 12:28), then build your life on the solid rock foundation of Jesus Christ. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (II Timothy 2:19).

Eric L. Padgett

A Great Man Fallen This Day

It was with great sorrow that we received the news that brother Garland Elkins passed from this life on Friday, October 28, 2016. Because he dad such a profound impact not only on me, but also on the brotherhood, I feel compelled to mention a few things in his memory. Brother Elkins was a prolific writer, dedicated editor, capable debater, sound Gospel preacher and faithful child of God. The value of his work in the kingdom of God is inestimable.

I have spent many hours listening to brother Elkins in meetings and in lectureships and when ever I had the opportunity. Some years ago, I spoke with him on several occasions when he held meetings where I attended, discussed doctrinal and brotherhood issues while eating with him or driving him to his hotel, and generally picked his brain whenever possible. I will forever be indebted to him for his wonderful Christian example and for the truth I learned from him.

Four things impressed me about brother Elkins. The first was his love of the scriptures. As a new Christian, I had heard others quote the scriptures before, but not the way brother Elkins quoted them, nor so prolifically. No matter what the issue was, brother Elkins would quote the scriptures. I remember when Brother Elkins was on the Donahue program, Phil Donahue sarcastically quipped, “I’m gonna guarantee you the minister’s got a section of scripture that covers that in the Bible.” But brother Elkins, with what little time he was given, unflappably quoted the scriptures and spoke the truth. Truly, the word of Christ dwelt in him richly (Col. 3:16).

Second, he was a very kind person. His presentation was always with meekness, yet firmness. When he spoke about an issue with me that I had inquired about, though he knew the truth about it, he would say something to the effect, “Don’t you think that’s right?” He didn’t need my affirmation, but he was trying to gently nudge me in the right direction. He often humorously observed about certain individuals, “Some people are so disagreeable, even their stomachs disagree with them.” He followed Paul’s teaching, “Let your speech be always with grace” (Col. 4:6).

Third, he was dedicated to the Lord’s work in saving souls. I remember in one lesson he recalled how he was with another Christian and he saw a member of their congregation who had become unfaithful. He told the brother that was with him that if they had the opportunity, they would have to encourage that person to return to the Lord. It just so happens that they all got on the same elevator with other people, yet he spoke softly but clearly, and urged this unfaithful child of God to return back to the Lord. He was always trying to convert the sinner from the error of his ways and save a soul from death (James 5:19,20).

The fourth thing that stood out about brother Elkins to me was his energy. He was always going somewhere to preach or else coming from somewhere having preached. He was forty years older than I was but he had much more energy and purpose. I remember one year at the Spiritual Sword lectureship that the atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair was in Memphis on a radio talk show in town, and he encouraged others to call her and challenge her. I don’t remember if he did or not, but if he had the time, I am sure he would have tried. On another occasion he stayed late after the lectureship was over playing tapes of some false teacher for others to be informed. He epitomized Paul’s direction to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).

A couple of years ago I wrote about brother Elkins (and other preachers who influenced me) in an article entitled Honor to whom Honor. “Brother Garland Elkins has also had a profound impact upon me. I can listen to brother Elkins preach for hour on end and never grow tired. His nimble recollection of scripture and his meek but forceful presentation of the truth and defense of it are a pattern for me in my preaching, though I fall far short of his example. His lessons are filled with book, chapter and verse preaching and quotation of scripture, but they also contain the occasional anecdote that brings the point home. He has a great sense of humor, as well. I remember on one occasion in Kentucky when he was encouraging others to attend the Spiritual Sword lectureship, he said “You want to go to heaven, don’t you!” Every young preacher ought to listen to his sermons and learn from them.”

I always checked to see if brother Elkins opened my newsletter. I was proud to know that he, with some other beloved brethren, received and looked at this newsletter. He always did until some time ago and I wondered then if he perhaps didn’t like it.  But I later learned that his health was poor and that this was the reason why.  When Abner fell at the hands of Joab and Abishai, David stated: “Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?” (II Samuel 3:38). And so it is today that a great man is fallen this day in Israel. Brother Elkins will be missed in the years to come. We need more men like him to stand for the truth and defeat error. May God bless and comfort his family in their time of mourning.

Eric L. Padgett