To My Sons – Part 1

As one sun sets in David, another rises in Solomon.  Solomon acknowledged his responsibility as Israel’s new king in prayer:

“Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.  and Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted.  Therefore, give to Your servant an understanding (literally, a hearing) heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3.7-9). 

The LORD answered Solomon immediately and verbally:

“Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you” (1 Kings 3.12-13).  



The Hebrew mishle (translated proverbs in Proverbs 1.1) communicates the idea of a wise saying that usually comes by way of comparison.  The Greek word for parable carries the idea of setting items side by side for comparison.  The English word proverb does not fit the wider scope conveyed by the Hebrew concept.  These are the maxims and wise counsels of Solomon.  They teach and instruct in a memorable way.

  • To know wisdom and instruction – wisdom is competence or skill; instruction is a disciplined process for gaining this competence or skill
.
  • To perceive the words of understanding – the ability to draw proper distinctions in life

.

Wisdom is something given by God and put into practice by man.  As a skill wisdom shows us how to practice.  Wisdom is using knowledge in a right way.  Instruction comes by way of chastening; it is teaching through discipline.

Wisdom is practical in that it provides common sense and the skill to navigate through the struggles of everyday life.  Wisdom is also intellectual in that it provides the hearer with a keen sense of curiosity and fascination.

Wisdom means more than accumulating facts or mental sharpness.  Psalm 107.27 introduces a word picture that hones the idea of biblical wisdom.  Sailors in this verse are said to reel to and fro on a ship like a drunken man.  The text then states that these men are at their wits’ end.  The marginal note in the New King James Version of the Bible communicates the idea of wisdom being swallowed or consumed.  That is, these men no longer have the skills needed to weather the storm.

Wisdom refers to the skill of living in a way that pleases God.  The will of God is found in the Word of God.  Wisdom provides the skill necessary to do God’s will God’s way.  We accomplish the will of God by obeying Him not through a series of intellectual attainments.

  • To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity – the instruction of wisdom is the discipline of insight.  Justice, judgment, and equity are synonyms which speak of the outcome of receiving such insight.  Justice communicates the idea of righteousness or right behavior.  It refers to our conduct, as in living a life of justice.  Judgment speaks of the ability to make decisions; to discern what is right between things which differ.  Equity speaks of moral integrity, uprightness in character.  It is to be principled.
  • To give prudence to the simple – prudence in the sense of subtlety and craftiness; in the context, it means to detect that in others.  This is similar to the challenge Jesus gave to be as “wise as serpents.”  The ability to escape the wiles of the devil and his sons of disobedience is to be prudent.  “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished” (Proverbs 22.3).
  • To the young man knowledge and discretion – information that has wholeness to it; integrity (knowledge lived and proven in the realm of experience) and discretion; the ability to think thorough a situation.  These things often elude the simple and the young; simple people are open-hearted people who are susceptible to the external impressions of others and often easily misled.

It is not enough for you to know.  You must develop the skill of applying what you know.  Spend time on what really matters.  Pursue wisdom.  It is certainly the principal thing in life.

Faith in Romans – Part 12

“Knowing this …we believe …reckon …present …obeyed” (Romans 6.6, 8, 11, 13, 17).

These five verbs within Romans 6 demonstrate the process by which we have power over sin as children of God.  This is the process by which we bear fruit to holiness for the glory of God.  Unfortunately, we often circumvent this biblical process.  So, faith is an inseparable part of this process of overcoming sin.

  1. There is something we must know.  That is, we must be well-acquainted with a very important fact.  Our old man was crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin (Romans 6.6).  Those who die are freed from sin!
  2. There is something we must believe.  Romans 6.8 says that “if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.”  We shall live with Him in Heaven, but that is not what this passage is emphasizing.  We shall live with Him now on earth.  We must believe that the resurrected Christ lives in and through us in the present (see Galatians 2.20).  This is eternal life:  to know Christ and believe that He will grant us resurrection power to live a life well-pleasing to God because of our dependence upon His Son.
  3. There is something we must reckon.  We have the righteousness of Christ and power over sin.  Therefore, we must count that as true and start living an eternal quality of life.  This is an imputed reality.  But for all of it’s potential, I must count it as such.  If we have a million dollars in the bank and never use our debit card, who is responsible for such foolishness?  We are!  Bank on it.  You are indeed dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus!  Live out the life that you have …or don’t and keep spinning your wheels.
  4. There is something we must present.  Present is used in the sense of dedicating for service.  We must present ourselves to God as being alive from the dead.  That is, we must dedicate ourselves to His service.  What does this look like (see Romans 6.12-14)?  It’s a life of righteousness to God.  We behave in a Christlike way because we are no longer law-driveromans_6_11_by_blugi-d38zf5on but grace-driven.
  5. There is something we must obey.  Now, we have reached the step of obedience.  Know, believe, reckon, and present all lay the foundation for obedience.  Christians go from one extreme to the other.  They usually begin with obedience, but it is an obedience that is self-reliant and flesh-driven.  They have returned to self-righteousness.  This is sin leading to death.  However, if we know that we are crucified with Christ, depend upon His life at work in and through us, appropriate that life for our own by counting this to be true, and dedicate ourselves to the service of God, only then is our obedience Spirit-filled.  This allows us to demonstrate the righteousness of Christ in the things we think, do, and say.  Thus, we glorify God and not self.  This is “obedience leading to righteousness” (Romans 6.16).

Explore the Book Lessons: Overview

BaxterJ. Sidlow Baxter’s Explore the Book is one of the most helpful surveys of the whole Bible I’ve read.  It was first published in 1960 in five volumes.  You can purchase them all in one volume by clicking the image to the left.  It is also available on Kindle.  I’m sad to say that it is not available on Logos to date.

I believe that it would be good to take your family, Sunday school, or small group through this book.  I am preparing lessons that will appear here in the months ahead.  They are based upon Baxter, but deviate here and there.  This first lesson provides the reader with a succinct overview of the Scripture.

The Bible consists of 66 individual books. There are two major divisions: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is made up of 39 books and the NT consists of 27 books.

The Old Testament

The Old Testament begins with a group of 17 books connected by a group of 5 books to another group of 17 books. The first grouping of 17 begin with Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This is a five-fold subdivision of the first grouping of 17 books. Moses is the author of these five books. They are historical. Some refer to these books as the Pentateuch (Five Books), the Books of Moses, or the Books of the Law. They are five historical books.

Next we find Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. All of these 12 books are historical in nature. The first 17 books of the OT fall into two subdivisions of five and 12. The 12 books may be further divided into two more sub-divisions of nine and three. The last three (Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther) are set at a time after Israel is expelled from the land and during the repatriation of the remnant. So there are five pre-Canaan historical books called the Pentateuch, nine in-Canaan historical books, and three post-exile historical books (5-9-3).

There is a bridge of five books connecting the two large blocks of 17. These are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. The 17 books preceding these five are historical in nature. But these five are individual, experiential books. The first 17 were national, and these five are personal. They deal with the individual human heart. The 17 historical books are narrative; these five are poetic. They are five experiential poetic books.

This leaves us with the final grouping of 17. This books are all prophetical books: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Just as the historical division could be further sub-divided, even so with the prophetic division. The first five books are called Major Prophets. The remaining 12 are called Minor Prophets.

We call the first five prophetic books major because in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel there are basic features of all OT prophecy. They also contain a more comprehensive scheme of Messianic prediction.

  • Isaiah – The Suffering Savior and the Victorious Sovereign
  • Jeremiah/Lamentations – The Righteous Branch of David and the Restorer of the Remnant
  • Ezekiel – The Perfect Shepherd-King
  • Daniel – The Kingdom of God Victorious over the Kingdoms of Man

Finally, these five books are major because they contain more revelation than each of the Minor Prophets. Lamentations is significant because it connects the two pre-exile prophets with the two post-exile prophets. It divides them positionally and historically. It marks the destruction of Jerusalem and the division of the pre- and post-exilic periods. It also marks the cessation of David’s reign and the dispersion of God’s children, Israel.

The 12 Minor Prophets amplify various aspects of prophecy, but do not shape it the way the Major Prophets do. They conform to the framework formed in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. They also subdivide into nine pre-exilic prophets and three post-exilic prophets (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi). Thus, the last three historical books (Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther) correspond with the last three prophetic books.

Therefore, the Old Testament consists of 39 books. Two groups of 17 connected by a bridge of 5. The groups of 17 are further sub-divided into three groups of five, nine, and three. The five books dealing with the individual human heart bridges the two five, nine, three subdivisions. Thus, we can remember the books of the Old Testament with the numerical outline: 5-9-3/5/5-9-3.

Over 30 writers contributed to the Old Testament throughout a span of 1,200 years. They wrote in different places, to different audiences, and for different purposes. Their writings were gathered together by God into a cohesive plurality which we call the Old Testament. Therefore, behind the human authors, God the Holy Spirit controlled the divine design of this collection.

The New Testament

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts are the only historical books within the New Testament. They are foundational for everything that follows and stand together. Therefore the New Testament begins even as the Old Testament did.

The next nine letters are all written to Christian churches: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians. These are nine doctrinal letters.

Four letters are then written to individuals: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. These are four pastoral/personal letters.

Then a group of nine follow the pastoral/personal letters: Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. These nine are not addressed to Christian churches in the way the first nine are. Hebrews, James, and 1 and 2 Peter are written to the dispersed Hebrew Christians. 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation are more general in nature. They might be termed Hebrew letters in the sense that they were written by Jews, but not to Jews. It may be best to designate the first eight as General Epistles and classify Revelation not as a letter, but as prophetic literature.

Here I depart from Baxter.  He calls the nine Hebrew Christian Epistles.  Thus, he includes Revelation as a letter.  I think this is a bit forced to provide symmetry (Nine Christian Church Epistles linked by Four Pastoral and Personal Epistles to Nine Hebrew Christian Epistles).  I’m not comfortable with 1, 2, and 3 John being classified as Hebrew Christian Epistles.  Revelation is clearly prophetic.  While it has the seven letters written to the seven churches, they are not Hebrew churches.  Also, this only accounts for Revelation 2-3.  Here are the diagrams with the changes I’ve made then:

Bible Overview Charts

Faith in Romans – Part 11

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace …access …[and] hope” (Romans 5.1-5).

Romans_5-1Paul begins Romans 5 with three benefits which belong to us as believers:  peace, access, and hope.  But before the benefits, he reminds us that we are justified by faith.  Everything within Romans 5-8 is for the believer …to nurture are growth in Christ.  Note what Paul states in Romans 5.1:  “Therefore, having been justified by faith…”  That is, it’s a done deal.  We believed in the Lord Jesus Christ “who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4.25).  All of our sins (past, present, and future) are gone because Jesus was delivered up for them.  So our justification is never nullified by our future sin.  I am not saved based upon my future performance; I am saved by Jesus’ past once-for-all performance!  Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5.24). We have passed from death into life …never to return again.

Justification and sanctification are related in this way:  they both come to us by grace through faith.  We are no longer in Adam; we are now in Christ.  We have the righteousness of God.  The people in our lives and the circumstances unfolding in our lives do not need to change; we do.  Romans 5.1-5 makes it plain that we will suffer and experience tribulation, but that will make us more like Christ and give us the hope we need to be convinced that we are children of God. 

Growth within a believer is a gradual process.  As we are delivered from the power of sin, we realize the benefits of our righteous standing with God due to the work of His Son.  Sin reigned in death, but now grace must reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5.21). 

The sum of all things for the Christian is to glorify God.  We do this by displaying God’s character to the world.  This is the manifestation of the righteousness He has given us.  Our position in Christ is settled.  He was delivered up for all our offenses.  But our growth and sanctification depend upon the resurrection power of Christ.  We are free from the power of sin as we depend upon that resurrection power.  This is ongoing faith and dependence.  Yet as a Christian, we may choose to remain in bondage to sin.  That is a discouraging realization, but it need not be.  This is why Paul not only reminds us that we are justified, but also that we have peace, access, and hope through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Believes All Things

“Love ….believes all things” (1 Corinthians 13.7).

Is love gullible?  Is it deluded when it comes to the true nature of mankind?  Is this what Scripture means when we are told love believes all things?  No, but love is eager to believe the best about people and put the most favorable spin upon motives and actions which seem questionable.

Love is not naive.  Believing all things does not equate with playing the part of a fool.  It does not mean that we should believe the world is flat, black is white, or 2 + 2 = 5.  Love believes all things in the sense that we give people the benefit of the doubt.  When we doubt, love necessitates that we do not make judgments hastily.

We are often too quick to believe all the things people say about others.  Instead of believing the best about a person, we assume the worst.  Love does not ask us to trust when the basis for that trust has been destroyed.  Yet love gives the benefit of the doubt when doubt exists.  Love trusts in the good intentions of other people as much as possible.

As a Christian, we have a social responsibility to inject hope into a sad, dejected, and increasingly jaded society.  We must not lose faith or hope when it comes to what the Lord Jesus Christ can and will do in the lives of the people for whom we pray.  There truly is no hopeless case in our midst.  There are not limitations to the love of God and no limitations to the love of His children.  Be confident in God who changes people.

Love believes all things.  It retains faith in God who can change the vilest sinner.  Refuse to take failure as final.  Pray for and love those cast away by the world and unfortunately cast away by many Christians.  Love believes all things.

Faith in Romans – Part 10

Part 9

“Now it was not written for [Abraham’s] sake alone that [righteousness] was imputed to him, but also for us. [Righteousness] shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4.23-25).  

The resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred in order to take away our offenses and to make us right with God.  God’s power is demonstrated in His ability to create something out of nothing, to give Isaac to essentially dead parents, and to raise up His own Son from the dead.  God’s power also clears away our sin and declares us righteous.  How could He do this?  He made Jesus Christ who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might have the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5.21).

Abraham believed God.  Do you?  Do you believe that Jesus Christ was delivered up and crucified because of your offenses?  Do you believe He was raised from the dead because of your justification?

How much did Abraham know about Jesus Christ of Nazareth?  Unless the LORD revealed to him something not recorded in the Word, he knew very little.  But what God did reveal to Abraham, Abraham believed.

We have a clear understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what Jesus Christ did for us.  We have a strong framework for faith.  God has made it clear.  Jesus Christ is the One “who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4.25).  Do you believe that?  It really is that simple.

To others you may produce very little by way of spiritual fruitfulness.  Abraham and Sarah were basically dead.  Yet they had a son, and Abraham clung to that hope because of the God who introduced it.  Improbable?  Most assuredly!  Yet, he believed God.  Contrary to hope, in hope he believed.  And all things are possible for the person who believes.

The gospel for Abraham was, “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (Galatians 3.8).  The gospel for you is that Jesus Christ, the God-Man, “was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4.25).  He believed.  Do you?

  1. No one is justified by works.  Self-righteousness will lead many to perish with or without the law.  You are no longer ignorant of God’s righteousness.  Do not seek to establish your own righteousness.  Submit to the righteousness of God (Romans 10.3).
  2. There is no doctrine more important to get right than this one.  Your are justified by faith.  Faith unlocks the door to justification and it opens up a new world to the new creation God made us to be.  “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”  So now that we are justified by faith let us “watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, and be strong” (1 Corinthians 16.13).

Rest and Reward

There is very good reason to come before the presence of the LORD with thanksgiving.  He is the great God, and the great King above all Gods (Psalm 95.2-3).  He is worthy of our worship.  We bow and kneel before Him alone (Psalm 95.6).  “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand” (Psalm 95.7).  The psalmist concludes with a bracing exhortation:

Today, if you will hear His voice:
“Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
When your fathers tested Me;
They tried Me, though they saw My work.
For forty years I was grieved with that generation,
And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts,
And they do not know My ways.’
So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.'”
-Psalm 95.7b-11

What is the rest to which the psalmist refers?  The writer of Hebrews quotes this psalm twice in successive chapters (see Hebrews 3.7-11; 4.1-10).  The LORD leads us to rest.  You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.  The LORD may lead us to rest, but we must not come short of it.  The rest of which the LORD speaks is the rest of our reward – our inheritance.

Our rest is not a location.  It is not sleep or a day off.  Some believe that rest is synonymous with Heaven.  Yet our rest does not refer to Heaven, but what awaits us once we get to Heaven.  As believers, we will go to Heaven because we trusted in Jesus Christ as our Savior by the grace of God.  We don’t enter Heaven because of our endurance.  That would be works-salvation.  Heaven is for those who trust in the finished work of Christ not the enduring work of men.  Heaven is assured regardless the level of commitment and faithfulness on the part of a believer (John 5.24; 6.47).  Our assurance rests on Jesus’ perfect commitment and faithfulness.

Joshua entered the promised land ready for battle.  He believed that the LORD would give Israel rest after the conflict with the Canaanites.  He won the war (Joshua), but Israel failed to follow through (Judges).  Many Christians start well.  They trust in Christ’s finished work.  They are called to press on and endure trials and suffering and overcome temptation.  As we rely upon the power of God’s Word and Spirit, we take ground.  We amass an inheritance in Heaven.  It is in store for us.  Yet by walking in the Spirit, we improve the quality of our lives here and now.  Our faith is strengthened, hope is bolstered, and the LORD is glorified.

The good news of Joshua’s day is the same good news preached to us.  That good news is that we have a rest waiting for us in the form of a reward.  Joshua’s audience, the psalmist’s audience, and the Hebrew Christians of the first century are all promised this rest.  It did not profit those in Joshua’s day because they didn’t rely upon the LORD; they rebelled instead.

Our inheritance is all God desires to give us.  We are assured of Heaven even if we backslide and fall away from the LORD.  We may not have that assurance because our feelings govern us, but we should rest assured of it.  If we fall away from the LORD, we will not receive our full rest.  Also, we will not live an eternal quality of life.  Our rest is our reward.  We must claim a full inheritance.

Christians have everything they need to amass a reward.  The wonderful blessing is that as we rest in Christ here on earth and accomplish our Father’s will, our reward in Heaven increases while our lives on earth gain more access, peace, and hope.  Truly, the most useful people on earth are those who are heavenly-minded.