And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. 32 He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. 33 He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. 34 And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.
— 1 Kings 4:29–34 —
In Finding Favour in the Sight of God: A Theology of Wisdom Literature, Richard Belcher introduces the reader to the world of biblical wisdom (ch. 1). The majority of his book examines the literary and theological aspects of Proverbs (chs. 2–4), Job (chs. 5–7), and Ecclesiastes (chs. 8–10). And he finishes by showing the relationship between Wisdom and Jesus Christ (ch. 11). In all, his book provides a rich resource for studying Old Testament Wisdom.
Still, one of the most helpful parts of his book is explaining the development of wisdom in the first chapter. Contrasting critical approaches which identify wisdom literature with other ancient Near Eastern religions, Belcher connects wisdom literature in the Bible with Solomon, who was granted such wisdom when he boldly asked for the Lord’s help to rule Israel (1 Kings 3).
In his discussion of wisdom’s development, Belcher draws an important connection between Solomon and his royal wisdom and Adam and his royal priestly calling. Here’s what he says, “The account of Solomon in 1 Kings makes allusions to Adam in the garden so that Solomon functions as a second Adam.” He goes on to explain why this is the case, Continue reading →
[The following is a biblical meditation for young men considering engagement and marriage. You can find a PDF of the questions here.]
In Proverbs 31, we find a beautiful, twenty-two verse acrostic poem describing an excellent wife. While these verses focus on the character of a godly wife, they are written for a young man to discern and desire these characteristics in a future wife. For men seeking marriage, these verses can provide a fruitful place to prayerfully consider the kind of woman he should marry. With that in mind I’ve drawn a few questions from each verse, attempting to make contemporary wisdom that addressed an agrarian world.
For practical purposes, these questions do not all need to be answered in the affirmative to proceed towards marriage. No one marries a perfect spouse, but these questions can be asked to clarify the enigmatic question: Is this the one? More specifically, when answers arrive as weaknesses or negatives, godly men should ask: Can I embrace that weakness? Or better, is God calling me to lead, love, and lay down my life to bolster this woman and to cultivate weaknesses towards greater strength.
These questions should be asked with significant soul-searching and self-examination; they should not be used to judge another or to point out faults. They are for clarity, not condemnation. That said, many marriages stumble because biblical wisdom has not been applied from the start. These questions, therefore, are meant to stir up wisdom and to press young men to consider from Scripture the kind of characteristics that should be present in a godly wife. In so doing, the man should also grow in wisdom.
10An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
An excellent wife is from the Lord (Prov. 19:14), not from man. So in what ways can you see that God has brought the two of you together?
Does this marriage have the mark of God’s handiwork, or yours?
Why does Paul spend so much time on widows? In a letter with 113 verses, 16 of them (more than 10% of the letter) are dedicated to widows. Does Paul have a special ministry project for these women? Or is there something more central to the gospel here?
On Sunday, I answered those questions and attempted to show why care for these widows was so important to Paul. In particular, we saw how Paul’s discussion about widows is deeply connected to his concern for the gospel in Ephesus. Also, we saw how Paul’s gospel-centeredness teaches us to assess many matters in church and life today.
You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions are below, as are a couple important resources to seeing how the letter of 1 Timothy helps us understand these challenging verses.
In Proverbs 8 we find wisdom personified, a woman speaking who is sometimes called Lady Wisdom.
In church history, this chapter has raised all sorts of exegetical and theological questions with respect to eternal deity of Christ—Did God “possess” (ESV), “make” (HCSB), or “create” (LXX) wisdom in verse 22? Is wisdom speaking of Christ directly or indirectly (typologically) or not at all?
These are the debates made famous by the heretic Arius, who denied Christ’s eternal deity, and they are important questions, but my focus is not on this debate. Rather, I want to consider how Proverbs 8 speaks of wisdom with respect to righteousness and reward in verses 8, 15, 16, 18, 20.
In these verses we discover at least four truths about wisdom and righteousness and reward. They are worth our consideration and application, especially as we see how Christ is God’s Wisdom, who teaches his (once foolish) disciples to walk wisely after they have come to trust in his wisdom (cf. Matthew 11:28–30). Continue reading →
What is a Spirit-filled church? What does it mean to walk in the Spirit? And if you feel empty of the Spirit, what sort of ‘magic’ does it take to feel full again?
On Sunday, I sought to answer that question from Ephesians 5:15–21, as we considered the last of Paul’s instructions to walk worthy. In some ways this is the pinnacle of his instructions, going back to Ephesians 4:1. In another way, it is the hinge passage that turns from the general instructions (Ephesians 4:1–5:15) to the specific applications (Ephesians 5:15–6:9).
In any case, there are many helpful points of applications for us Ephesians 5:15–21. You can listen to the sermon online or read the sermon notes. Discussion questions and additional resources are below.Continue reading →
“Words of wisdom” may be the best way to describe Paul’s counsel concerning singleness in 1 Corinthians 7:25–40. Instead of comprehensive or absolute rules about marriage and singleness, he offers five portraits of marriage for singles and married couples to consider. In these portraits the Spirit-filled man or woman (see 1 Corinthian 2:14–16) can discern how to apply God’s Word to his or her life.
While others (see below) have been more comprehensive in treating the subject of singleness, my sermon sought to follow Paul’s train of thought and apply his words to singles, especially those contemplating marriage. In all, there are lots of technical question in 1 Corinthians 7, but the singular message is clear: Whether married or single, do all things to the glory of God, leveraging your position in life to know Christ and make him known. This is what it means to walk in wisdom, whatever your vocation.
You can listen to the audio from Sunday’s message or read the sermon notes here. For those who want to go deeper, there are discussion questions below and links to a few other resources (articles, sermons, books) on 1 Corinthians 7 and the topic of singleness. Continue reading →
The last two chapters of John’s Gospel are full of personal revelations and tailor-made mercy. John records Jesus’ revelation to Mary in the Garden (20:11–18), to the disciples in the Upper Room (20:19–23), to Thomas eight days later (20:24–31), and finally to seven disciples on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1–23). Each of these “revelations” bring faith in the risen Lord (see Thomas’ response, 20:28), because each of them reveal to doubting eyes the truth of Christ’s resurrection.
At the same time, each of these revelations are intensely personal—meaning, they cater to the weaknesses and experiences of each individual. For instance, with Thomas Jesus answers his need to see the wounds in Jesus flesh (20:24–25) with an invitation to “put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side” (20:27). Jesus command (“Do not disbelieve, but believe”)—an instance of the effectual call?—is undergirded by giving Thomas the personal revelation he needed to trust in Jesus.
The same is true with Peter. After Jesus had appeared, Peter went back to fishing—not knowing Jesus’ plans for him. John makes a clear connection between Jesus words around the “charcoal fire” (21:9) and Peter’s denial, which also took place around a “charcoal fire” (18:18). In this personal visitation, Jesus restores Peter with his three-fold question: “Do you love me more than these” (21:15–19)? If it is to the fish he is speaking, Jesus is very personally addressing Peter. He is bringing up his painful past and using it against him—rather for him! Continue reading →
For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” — 1 Corinthians 1:19 —
In 1 Corinthians 1:19 Paul quotes from Isaiah 29:14 to make a case that the cross has destroyed and is destroying the wisdom of the wise. This verse sets the trajectory of this pericope (vv. 18–25), and with a second quotation from Jeremiah 9:23 in 1 Corinthians 1:31 (“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord”), it frames Paul’s double argument: the cross of Christ humbles the wise (vv. 18–25) and the call of God is for those who see how humble they are (vv. 26–31).
In the context of 1 Corinthians, this is the first of “at least fourteen clear quotations from the Old Testament.”And as is typical with New Testament quotations of the Old Testament, the verses supply conceptual and linguistic material for the apostles. In Paul’s case,
The backbone of the discussion in 1:18–3:23 is a series of six OT quotations (1:19; 1:31; 2:9; 2:16; 3:19; 3:20), all taken from passages that depict God as one who acts to judge and save his people in ways that defy human imagination. Paul thus links his gospel of the cross to the older message of judgment and grace proclaimed in Israel’s Scripture, and he challenges the boastful pretensions of his readers.
Therefore, to understand the full import of 1 Corinthians 1:19, we must return to Isaiah 29 (and Isaiah 25) to see how that ancient prophet anticipates what Paul says to the Corinthians. In the process, we will learn a few things about how Paul reads the Bible, with an eye to the cross. Continue reading →
Yesterday, I preached on “The Wisdom of the Cross” from 1 Corinthians 1:18–25. While most of the message concentrated on the doctrinal message of the cross and its radical contrast to way the world approaches life (i.e., man’s wisdom), I closed the sermon with a handful of quick applications, listed below.
For the church, the cross must be our shared story that shapes our communion.
In our evangelism, the cross must be our singular and uncompromising message. (1 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 2:14–17)
In our endurance, the cross must be our model and the source of strength. (Hebrews 12:3)
For individuals, the cross must be the wisdom that shapes every area of our lives.
In your hour of decision, let the self-sacrifice of Christ crucify your false desires; let the promise of resurrection embolden you to take God-honoring risks. (Luke 9:23–27)
In your hour of temptation, remember you are already dead to sin; sin no longer has dominion over you. (Romans 6)
In your hour of faith, praise Christ for purchasing your belief and obedience. (Ezekiel 36:26–27; Ephesians 2:8–9)
In your hour of failure, look again to the cross for your pardon and acceptance. (1 John 1:9–2:2)
In your hour of prayer, come boldly before God because of Christ’s blood. (Hebrews 4:14–16)
As we go into the week, may we give praise to God for Christ’s work on the cross. And may we continue to center our lives on Christ and his cross. As Paul teaches he is not an additive to our already full lives; he is the wisdom of God to bring our lives in conformity to God’s will.
May Jesus receive all praise and glory, as we live with ever-deepening dependence on the wisdom and power of the cross.
Earlier this week laid out a gospel-centered approach to understanding what Scripture says about divorce. Yesterday, I also listed eight points that the Bible makes about divorce. But today, I want to ask a practical question: What makes a divorce biblical?
That is to ask, if Jesus and Paul permit divorce in the cases of ongoing sexual immorality and/or abandonment, what should take place in the life of a believer and a church, if they come to the heart-breaking point of considering a divorce?
As a point of clarification, biblical does not mean the same thing as good or ideal. As with all relational strife, divorce is not good in itself. However, Scripture does give us commands, principles, and guidance on how to faithfully handle a divorce, so it is right to speak of divorce as “biblical” if it is in keeping with God’s Word. Likewise, a divorce pursued contrary to God’s Word makes it “unbiblical.”
Believing that Scripture has given us everything we need for understanding and pursuing a godly life, we should know what comprises a biblical divorce. Here is my attempt to begin to outline the steps of a “biblical” divorce. Continue reading →