Who else wants true wisdom?

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

To know wisdom and instruction,
    to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
    in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
    and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
    the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:1-7

 

In my last post, I shared insight into the various types of parallelisms in Proverbs as an aid to understanding them. Today, I want to apply some of this to the mission statement or purpose statement if you will of the book. (more…)

Possessing the potent power of prudent proverbs

To know wisdom and instruction,
    to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
    in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
    and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
    the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:2-7

This is the mission statement for the book of Proverbs. Based on this mission statement, the book is for everyone. Regardless of how wise one may be due to lots of life experience or from unusual insight given by God as in the case of Solomon, we can always profit from reading and meditating in the book of Proverbs.

Wisdom literature, which includes Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of  Solomon, and Job, is a unique genre of literature. It is different from the historical narrative in which we get the Bible stories that are the fodder for children’s stories, and different from the epistles of the New Testament or the imagery of apocalyptic literature like Revelation, Daniel, and Ezekiel. These Wisdom books are also known as Poetic literature because they all contain lots of Hebrew poetry. When reading Proverbs, it is important to keep in mind the type of literature we are reading. (more…)

How to overcome a divided heart

Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name. – Psalm 86:11

Every Christian has a problem, the same problem, we are torn between the love we have for the Lord and the love we have for this world.

The world is this system of life in which we live. It is the water we swim in like the goldfish. Everything around us is water, and it seems to be normal and just the way things are. But then, we become a Christian and realize that this world is upside down. The way of the Lord is frequently the exact opposite of how life is lived in this world system. (more…)

Love is the fulfilling of the law. But how?

The paradox of loving a law that condemns me.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  – Galatians 5:13-14

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[f] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. – John 14:15-21

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him.33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” – Mark 12:28-34

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. – 1 Corinthians 9:21

As I have worked my way through the book of Galatians, a question has presented itself to my mind about the Law and the love of God. It seems to me that most of the time in my life when these two subjects have been put forward, they have usually been juxtaposed as conflicting with one another. I believe that idea is wrong. The two are beautifully compatible and mutually supportive. I am considering the moral law primarily since it is the portion of the law that is enduring to the end of the age. (more…)

New creation, the only thing that really counts

See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. – Galatians 6:11-18

Legalistic Christians are hypocrites according to Paul’s description. He says, “even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.” When I was much younger and didn’t have a broad grasp of the gospel, I too had rules that I inherited from some Christians around me. I was quick to impose those rules on others and found myself becoming a judgmental person. (more…)

Can a legalist really be hot for Jesus?

The incompatibility of legalism and love.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.

6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. – Galatians 6:1-10

Remember that the main thrust of Paul’s argument in Galatians has been that we are not justified by the works of the law of Moses, but by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus. He has been emphasizing our freedom from the human effort to obey the law of Moses and our freedom to walk in the Spirit and grow the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Now he is getting really practical with it. (more…)

What works to overcome sin since human effort fails every time?

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. – Galatians 5:16-26

Every Christian has a struggle. It is a struggle that will, in this life, never go away completely. It should become lessened as we grow in the grace of Jesus Christ, but we can not let our guard down, or it will come roaring back. It is the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. (more…)

Why spoil the gospel lump with legalism’s yeast?

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. – Galatians 5:2-15

This post will probably offend some readers just as Paul’s message offended some of his hearers. Fortunately for me, you are reading this on some digital device many miles from where I stand so you can’t easily arrange to persecute me and stone me as Paul’s hearer’s persecuted him. (more…)

Who chooses slavery when they are born to freedom?

The deception of religious human effort

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than those of the one who has a husband.”

28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 4:21-5:1

It is a perfectly normal human tendency to want to earn what we get. We don’t like to be objects of “charity.” However, when it comes to our relationship with God, we should probably rethink that posture. Paul lays out an allegory that carries us all the way to the end of chapter 5. It is a story of freedom and slavery. Given a choice, who would be a slave? (more…)