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 →
First John 4:18 is a beautiful passage. Speaking of the Day of the Lord, John writes: ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.’ By themselves, John’s words capture an important truth: for those who have trusted Christ, there is confidence to approach God with boldness (Heb 4:14-16); we are no longer mean servants, we are cherished friends (John 15:15) and beloved children (Gal 4:4-6).
However, like with every verse in the Bible, when 1 John 4:18 is taken as the singular and definitive word on fear, it necessarily misrepresents the whole counsel of God. God has far more to say to us about fear, love, and worship than that God’s love merely casts out fear. Let me suggest four truths about the fear of the Lord. Continue reading →
On Sunday I preached from Romans 1:16-32. Earlier this summer I preached from Romans 1:16-17. Last year, I preached from Romans 1:1-7. In each instance, I found great help from John Stott.
For those unfamiliar with Stott’s work, he was an evangelical Anglican who during the latter half of the twentieth century preached the gospel, championed missions, and published numerous books, especially commentaries on the New Testament. His commentaries are always brimming with insight and full of crisp clear exposition. Thus, I share a few of his remarks on Romans 1:16-20. They helped me unpack Paul’s opening argument about the gospel, and I trust they will help you as well. Continue reading →