The Way of Wisdom and the Way of Folly – Proverbs 9

“Wisdom has built her house; she has sewn her seven pillars.” (Proverbs 9:1)
“The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing.” (Proverbs 9:13)

Chapter 9 is the last section of Proverbs before the book begins the famous pithy sayings known as “The Proverbs of Solomon” (10:1). This chapter serves as a key turning point; it summarizes the heart of Solomon’s instruction to his children and it sets the course for the rest of the book. Ultimately, only two ways to live exist; either one lives for himself (folly), or lives for God (wisdom). The great Bible commentator Matthew Henry aptly describes these two ways as the way of sin and the way of Christ, and refers to them as rivals, competing for men’s souls:

“Christ and sin are rivals for the soul of man, and here we are told how they both make their court to it, to have the innermost and uppermost place in it. The design of this representation is to set before us life and death, good and evil; and there needs no more than a fair stating of the case to determine us which of those to choose, and surrender our hearts to. They are both brought in making entertainment for the soul, and inviting it to accept of the entertainment; concerning both we are told what the issue will be; and, the matter being thus laid before us, let us consider, take advice, and speak our minds. And we are therefore concerned to put a value upon our own souls, because we see there is such striving for them. Christ, under the name of Wisdom, invites us to accept of his entertainment, and so to enter into acquaintance and communion with him (v. 1-6). And having foretold the different success of his invitation (v. 7-9) he shows, in short, what he requires from us (v. 10). and what he designs for us (v. 11), and then leaves it to our choice what we will do (v. 12). Sin, under the character of a foolish woman, courts us to accept of her entertainment, and (v. 13-16) pretends it is very charming (v. 17). But Solomon tells us what the reckoning will be (v. 18). And now choose you, this day, whom you will close with.”

It is clear that the two women presented in Proverbs 9 are illustrative of the two forces that compete for our affection. We have previously considered these two forces, and thankfully we know that they are not equal in power – Christ is far greater! Those in Christ, therefore, have new affections, new lives, and a new destiny. Let us take heed to verse 6: “Leave your simply (foolish) ways, and live.”

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Changed – 1 Corinthians 15:35-58

God created Adam and Eve as living souls in physical bodies. It was and is God’s very good plan for mankind that he should be a created being of both soul and body. This is confirmed by the fact that Jesus Christ and all who follow Him will live forever in heavenly bodies. If there is no resurrection of the dead then it means that God has abandoned His original plan of creation. The final resurrection of the body, which is the unique hope of the Christian, confirms that God’s original plan was indeed very good, and that He has not abandoned His original intention in the created order. Of course Adam fell into sin in the garden, and with Adam, all of mankind fell. As a result, our physical bodies are fallen and subject to temptation, sin, and finally death. God sent His Son, the last Adam, to die in our place, and He secured victory over death by raising Him from the grave, so that all who are in Christ will also rise on the last day. The Corinthian church in the First Century had some in their midst who denied the resurrection of the dead, and in so doing, they denied the importance of God’s created order. The redemption of our bodies in the final resurrection is proof of the fact that God is unchanging – that He is the same yesterday, today and forever; and if He pronounced the creation of the physical body as “very good” (Genesis 1:26-31), then we would expect that in the end, He would finally give us new bodies that are very good.

Contrary to the ideas that held sway in ancient Greek philosophy, and continue to be embraced by much of Christendom today, we are not ghostly souls trapped in physical bodies waiting for death to set us free. Part of the reason for many Christians’ unhealthy attitude toward death and dying lies in a failure to see death as God’s enemy. But the Scripture describes death as a destructive force that must be conquered at the end of the age in the final resurrection. The unique Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body is an essential teaching of the New Testament because it proves that for eternity, love wins and death loses. This is a healthy biblical understanding of death.

Also the doctrine of the resurrection affirms the moral significance of life in our present bodies. Whether they meant it or not, the Corinthians’ denial of the final resurrection of the body was tantamount with a denial that what they did with their bodies had any ultimate significance with God. They failed to understand the truth taught in Romans 8:23, which refers to the resurrection as, “the redemption of our bodies,” (significantly not, “redemption from our bodies”). In other words, our present physical bodies will be changed, not replaced. Their immorality was a betrayal of their theological confusion over the resurrection; they therefore failed to see the importance of the body, so they used their bodies to serve immorality. So Paul takes a significant portion of this letter to correct and teach on this matter. It is no coincidence that a letter which opened teaching a theology of the cross (1:18-2:16) would conclude with a rich theological teaching on the resurrection. These two truths – the cross, and the resurrection – which form the bookends of 1 Corinthians – must also frame the entirety of our theology and practice. A proper understanding of the triumphant transformation of our bodies in the resurrection will go a long well in helping us to be a good steward of our bodies now, as we seek to use them in a way in keeping with their ultimate Christ-like end.

As we read 1 Corinthians 15:35-57 it calls us to expand our imaginations beyond what we know in flesh and blood. In this text we see that God’s creative power is beyond ordinary comprehension. Being that this is clearly a future event, the resurrection gives us a bright and hopeful future. Read the text a few times through along with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and utilize the sanctified imagination that God gave you to think about your glorious future condition.

Faith and Works – James 2:14-26

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:17-19

In what has become one of the most controversial passages in Scripture (Ja 2:14-26) James, the brother of Jesus, concludes his exhortations concerning the right attitude and behavior of Christians toward the rich and the poor. This context is often missed because of the clamorous controversy that is typically raised over the apparent contradiction between this text and the apostle Paul’s teaching concerning justification by faith alone. But when one looks at this text closely and in context, the apparent contradiction disappears, as it becomes clear that James is describing one who “says he has faith” (v. 14) followed by an example of what empty faith looks like. The good works of which James writes demonstrate the authenticity of true saving faith. In our text, James draws on two powerful examples from the Old Testament that show that true faith is manifested in good works. The first is father Abraham in verses 21 – 24; the second is of Rehab in verses 25 – 26.

On Sunday, we will open up this text under three heads: 1) Can workless faith save? In verses 14-17 we see an illustration of workless faith which James concludes is vain and cannot save; 2) An objection raised – from verses 18-19, where we find that despite allegations to the contrary, faith and works are inseparable; and 3) Abraham and Rahab (verses 20 – 26) – two illustrations of a working and saving faith.

Please join us, and prepare your heart for this very well-known text, which, Lord willing, we will apply to our lives today.

It’s a Wonderful Resurrection – 1 Corinthians 15:12-34

What would life be like if you had never been born? This was the premise of the 1946 holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Protagonist George Baily, struggling with the emptiness of life in light of a series of unfortunate happenings, is contemplating taking his life, when an angel shows him how valuable his life really is. The angel Clarence tells George, “You’ve been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you.” … “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

What if only one thing in history had happened differently, how would the world change? What about a major historic event? Imagine a world in which Adolph Hitler had been assassinated in 1938 before the rise of the Nazi party to power. What if Abraham Lincoln was never assassinated? What if the Confederate army had won the battle of Gettysburg? Such are the subjects of science fiction and can be interesting to think about. But what if the most important event in human history had never happened? What if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead? Many skeptics, atheists, and other religions claim that He did not; and even some Christians live as if there were no resurrection.

In our text this week, the apostle Paul, having established the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the common ground of all Gospel preaching and the Christian faith, moves into the main point of his argument, namely refuting those who deny the final resurrection of the dead. Apparently some in the Corinthian church were saying that there was no final resurrection of the body. Paul takes up this thought considering what life would be like if there were no resurrection. First in verses 12-28 Paul appeals to logic showing 1) that a denial of the resurrection of the dead is theologically false and would result in the futility of the Christian faith (v. 12-19); and 2) the consequences since the resurrection of the dead is true, namely that God is sovereign and omnipotent, so death must be conquered by a resurrection (v. 20-28). Then in verses 29-34 Paul makes an ad hominem appeal that, like his first argument, exposes the logical result and therefore illogical nature, of their thinking. If there is no final resurrection, then both he and they are fools for following what in the end has no value.

The irony is that many professing Christians who would never deny the resurrection, nevertheless live lives as if there were no resurrection. This week, read the text and think of ways that perhaps you and your family ought to live in light of the reality of the resurrection.

The Call of Wisdom – Proverbs 8

Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice?” (Proverbs 8:1)

Many things compete for our attention on a daily basis. Each day, our minds and hearts are bombarded with thoughts motivated by our experiences and
observations. We often feel as though there exists a cosmic battle for our interest, until one side of that battle finally entices us and captures us completely.

The war is real. The principalities of darkness have been contending for the affections of man since the Garden of Eden. From the lure of the forbidden fruit to the modern day woo of billboards, man has heard the siren call of sin and has no power in himself to resist it.

Solomon knew this call very well, and we have observed how he warned his children against seduction several times throughout the first few chapters of Proverbs. In our last message, we felt his passionate plea against the lure of the adulteress and her evil call.

Thankfully, another call is heard. While the destructive call of sin seems to permeate this world, a better, more effectual call rings out from heaven: the call of wisdom! Wisdom is raising her voice, calling all those who have ears to hear to come and possess her. Unlike the destructive nature of the adulteress, wisdom speaks noble things (v6), righteous words (v8), and sound counsel (v14). Wisdom hates pride, arrogance, and perversion (v13). Wisdom is the source of authority (15-16). Wisdom has ancient beginnings (v22-31). Whoever hears the call of wisdom and embraces her “finds life and obtains favor from the LORD.”

What a stark contrast these two calls are! The difference is so great because the call of the adulteress comes from Satan himself, but the call of wisdom comes from Christ himself. When we examine each of wisdom’s attributes, we cannot help but see Wisdom Personified – Christ, the “Wisdom of God!” (1 Corinthians 1:24)

The Gospel – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Now I remind you, brothers, of the Gospel … (1 Cor 15:1)

Moving from the problem in the Corinthian church of disorderly worship, which required correction, Paul now deals with correcting a disordered belief. There is no question that in First Century Corinth, as well as today, errant belief concerning the Gospel invariably leads to errant behavior in the church. In fact one cannot expect to correct erring practice without ever getting to the root of errant belief. When we see inappropriate practices in worship in any church, usually at its core is a skewed understanding of the Gospel. In chapter 15 we come to the root doctrinal problem in Corinth, namely their misunderstanding about the final resurrection.

Paul prefaces his discussion about the resurrection with a prologue about what has been preached from the beginning by him as well as all of the apostles who witnessed Christ’s resurrection. He begins with something that there was complete unanimity on in all of the churches – namely Christ’s death for man’s sin and His resurrection. Ultimately he wants to bring them to the understanding that all Christians will be raised from the dead (or changed, if they are alive at Christ’s coming) into a new body, but as he so often does, Paul begins his argument where there is agreement.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 contains the Gospel (the good news) in four verses. It is a very brief summary of what he expands in detail in the first four chapters of the book of Romans, namely that mankind is in trouble, sunk in our sins, in need of being saved from God’s wrath; and salvation comes in this: Christ died for our sin, was buried, and was raised on the third day. This good news becomes saving as we hold fast to this message preached and truly believe it. Every time the Gospel is reiterated we find one form or another of this basic principle of “problem/solution” or “God-man / Christ-response.”

The Gospel is such a very simple message, but misunderstanding any part of it can result in havoc wreaked in the visible expression of the Gospel – the church. Usually churches that practice errant and even apostate practices have at their core, a misunderstanding of something that would simply be corrected with a proper explanation of the Gospel.

Rebuilding David’s Fallen Booth – Amos 9

(From sermon notes on Amos 9:13-15, originally published on July 6, 2008)

Read Amos 9, focusing on verses 13-15.

Underneath the surface of the text of Amos 9:13-15, and with the full light of the New Covenant shining upon it, the prophet’s words in these verses point to the glory of the Gospel age culminating in the future glory of the new heavens and new earth which will be ushered in with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ at the end of the age. Promises such as these prophetic words are said to be both ‘already,’ and ‘not yet;’ that is to say, the promises are ours to believe and hold fast to now, but await their eternal fruition in the future.

The plowman shall overtake the reaper.” While this is a reference to the physical land of Israel, it is a shadow of the greater truth of Christ’s removal of the curse incurred at the fall of man into sin. This describes far more than merely the reversal of agricultural affects associated with the fall of man, but it applies both to the church in this present age, as Christ converts sinners and the kingdom of God comes on earth, as well as a future church triumphant, in glory. As people from every tribe and tongue and nation are gloriously saved, they become members of the invisible church which prefigures a day when people from all nations will worship God as one, before the eternal throne of heaven (Rev 5:9-10, 7:9-10).

The return of an exiled people, the rehabitation of cities, and enjoyment of the vineyards and gardens, again goes beyond merely speaking of an earthly land; these are all shadows fulfilled in a future greater manner. Hebrews 11:9-10 makes it implicitly clear that while Abraham dwelled in the Promised Land, he understood that even though promised by God, that land would be temporary and point to a future city whose builder and maker is God. The Christian church made up of Jews and Gentiles together in the New Covenant, have already experienced a return from exile and enjoyment of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Is 55:1-7, Jer 31:31-34, Gal 5:22-25). Today it is the church of Jesus Christ that is described as a holy nation (1 Pet 2:9) even as we await a future dwelling place that is yet to come.

Finally God promises through the mouth of the prophet, I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up. Hallelujah! There is coming a day when the land which mankind surrendered at the Fall – Paradise Lost – will be Paradise Regained and restored in an eternal building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor 5:1-2. Rev 22:1-5). It is the triumph and glory of the church – men from every tribe, tongue and nation redeemed to God by the blood of Christ – that will outlast all other forces, even the very gates of hell (Matt 16:18) to be the permanent possession of the Lord!