Things That Are Above

Gospel Thinking for Gospel Living

The Folly of Anger and the Wisdom of Jesus

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Yesterday I read Jonathan Parnell’s post, “That Angry Gentleman at the Restaurant,” at DesiringGod.org. Parnell’s anecdote about a man he saw blow his gasket recently at a restaurant serves to turn the tables onto us:

Then I realized it was me.

Okay, it wasn’t really me. I wasn’t the angry gentleman in the restaurant on this particular night. But I’ve been angry before, and I must look just as stupid.

That is the thing with anger, and the thing I needed to learn — perhaps we all could learn — from a scene like the one this angry gentleman put on. Unrighteous anger, no matter where it’s at, is silly.

Anger is always telling us something [link in original post, and I recommend reading that post, as well!], and most of the time, if we’re honest, it’s saying we’re ridiculous.

Those are words I needed to read. Those are words I need to lay to heart. When I get unrighteously angry, which is the case most of the times I’m angry, I’m being sinfully foolish. Solomon puts it this way in Prov. 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” God through Solomon is clear: anger is foolish. According to Solomon, wise people control their anger, whereas fools are controlled by their anger.

How often, to my shame, do I play the fool! How often, to my shame, do I let my anger control me, when I should be the one controlling it! The Holy Spirit convicts me: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:19-20).

Unrighteous anger is silly and ridiculous. Worse still it is ugly. It is a perversion of the wisdom to be Christlike. When Christ was angry, his anger was perfectly righteous. He never sinned in his anger. And there’s the rub: “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Easy words to say, some of the hardest words to put into action.

On my own, there’s no way for me to do this. On my own, it’s impossible for me to control my anger. Thankfully, the gospel brings me hope from despair.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 4:31–5:2)

How am I to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving? How am I to put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander? By dwelling on the fact that God has forgiven me of much more than I will ever forgive anyone else. By imitating God as his beloved child. By walking in love because Christ loved me and gave himself up for me.

Enmity, strife, and fits of anger are fruits of the flesh (Gal. 5:20). It pains my heart that they remain in my heart and overflow from it all too often. But as a Christian I’m indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit. And patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control are fruits that he can bear in me (Gal. 5:22, 23).

O God, bear the fruits of patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control in me! Prune the enmity, strife, and anger from my life. Help me to imitate you and to walk in love, as Christ loved me and gave himself up for me. For your glory, in his name.

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Wisdom in Lament (Wisdom Wednesday #4)

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Our sufferings don’t surprise God. Neither do our tears. God can sustain us in sufferings, and he can comfort us in our sorrows. That’s why it’s wise to lament as the Psalmists so often did. Some Psalms are particularly known for being “Wisdom Psalms,” such as Psalms 1 and 127. But even Psalms that are commonly called “Psalms of Lament” are examples of divinely inspired Wisdom Literature (as much as are the other “poetical” books of the Old Testament).

Take, for example, Psalm 10. This is a typical Psalm of Lament: the Psalmist is suffering at the hands of wicked people (vv. 2-11). He feels separated from God by his suffering (v. 1). He prays for God both to punish the wicked who are causing suffering (vv. 2-11 and 15) and to alleviate his suffering (vv. 12-14). Psalm 10 is a Psalm of Lament.

As a Psalm of Lament, however, Psalm 10 is also a Wisdom Psalm; it teaches us how to live wisely. In the Bible, wisdom is God-centered. Proverbs 9:10 teaches, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (ESV, as are all subsequent Bible references). And the Psalmist, even in the midst of his suffering, fears the Lord. The Psalmist feels like God his “stand[ing] far away” from him and “hid[den]” from him, but he addresses God as “LORD,” Yahweh, the God who is in a compassionate covenant relationship with him as he is with all his people (Ps. 10:1; cf. Exod. 34:6-7). From this attitude of faith, the Psalmist cries out to God in prayer (Ps. 10:2, 12, and 15). The Psalmist ends his lament confident both in God’s sovereignty (Ps. 10:16) and in God’s goodness (vv. 17-18). Biblical wisdom denotes rightly relating to God (and others) in everyday life. By modeling for us how to relate to God in the midst of suffering, the Psalmist who penned Psalm 10 illustrates the truth that Psalms is not only a book of poetry but also a book of wisdom, a book of how to live by faith in God, especially when that faith is so sorely tested by suffering.

Like the Psalmist, we should cry out to God in prayer. We Christians are in a covenant relationship with God because Jesus is our Passover lamb. By faith in his sacrificial death for us we are freed from our bondage to sin, as the Israelites were freed from bondage to the Egyptians. Like the Psalmist, then, may we through prayer come before God’s throne of grace boldly to receive help in our times of need (Heb. 4:14-16).

Why is it wise to pursue God in the midst of suffering, when perhaps he himself seems to be allowing it—if not directly causing it? Psalm 10 teaches us that it is wise to pray to God in our suffering because atheism is a trait of the wicked (v. 4) and is a self-imploding dogma (vv. 11, 13). It is wise to pray to God in our suffering because he sees us in our suffering and “note[s] mischief and vexation” (v. 14). To borrow from the New Testament, we should cast our cares on God because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). It is wise to pray to God in suffering because one day he will alleviate the suffering of his people—for all eternity (Ps. 10:17-18). The apostle John describes our eternal deliverance from suffering this way:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4)

Abandoning God because we feel abandoned by him in our suffering is the most foolish thing to do. As Psalm 10 (and, indeed, the whole Bible!) teaches us, we should instead wisely cry out to God in prayer for final salvation from the very presence of sin, which is the true source of all earthly suffering. John understood the wisdom of Psalm 10 and cried at the end of his book (despite his own adversity of being exiled on Patmos), “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). May we wisely join him in the midst of our own varied sufferings by earnestly pleading for Jesus’ soon return, when he will make all things new.

Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Part I) (Review Thursday #3)

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Paul and the Faithfulness of God (hereafter, PFG) is N. T. Wright’s 2-book fourth volume in his series, Christian Origins and the Question of God. I thus think it is appropriate to give an honest caveat at the beginning of this series of reviews of this book (a 1600+ page tome deserves extensive interaction): I am a newcomer both to this series and to its author. I have not read the first three volumes in this series (though I hope to read them in the future), and I have only before read (and this past winter, at that!) Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision out of Wright’s seemingly endless body of work. Wright, of course, is (in)famous for being the public face of “the New Perspective(s) on Paul.” Why read this book then? I am reading this book (I have just begun reading Part III) for two reasons:

  1. This book is the fruit of Dr. Wright’s 30+ years of researching and writing on various aspects of Pauline theology. Since I hope to research and write on Pauline theology in-depth during my time in seminary and since Paul’s letters will be a significant part of my preaching ministry as a church pastor, Lord willing, this book will be an important one for me to have read so that I can interact with its arguments.
  2. To quote Dr. James Hamilton, who himself is following the advice of Dr. Thomas Schreiner (both pastors in Louisville, KY, and professors at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary): “even when I expect to disagree … I’ve learned that sometimes you learn most from folks like N. T. Wright.”

In other words, this book’s value is (or at least can be) high both academically and pastorally. Having read Parts I and II, I can attest that PFG is a worthwhile read, both intellectually and spiritually. Because each Part of PFG is long enough to be its own separately bound book, I will review each Part individually. Below is my review of “Part I: Paul and His World.”

The first Part of the four-Part PFG gives us the background and contexts to Paul’s theology, which is treated fully in Part III. Part I alone is over 300 pages long—justifiably so, to Wright: a “reasonably detailed … description of Paul’s multiple contexts—Jewish, Greek, Roman—” is “essential” (xv). Perhaps. Certainly the Jewish background to Paul is helpful because Paul’s theology intersects with that of Second Temple Jews, most notably Jews who were “zealous” as Paul was prior to his conversion. Chapter 2 is rightly the longest chapter of this section. However, nearly 200 pages deal with Paul’s Greco-Roman context. Of these chapters, the fourth on Roman religion and culture seems most superfluous (perhaps in part because Wright himself admits that Peter Rodgers “nudged” him into writing this chapter [xxii]), although I feel like sections 2-3 of chapter five, which are a narrative of Roman history to AD 70, are also overkill. Despite feeling the need to skim read these sections of Part I, on the whole this section of PFG is not only an enjoyable but also edifying read.

Chapter One is Wright’s introduction to the whole book. Wright’s reading of Philemon, Paul’s shortest letter, was on the whole persuasive. Especially beneficial to my own understanding of Philemon was Wright’s contrast of it to a contemporary Roman official’s letter on the same subject (a runaway slave returning to his master). Wright highlighted how Paul turned Roman social custom on its head because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and this exposition of Philemon motivates me to see even “worldly” aspects of my life (such as college) more clearly and more fully in light of the gospel. For that I am grateful. However, Wright’s passing interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:21 as referring to reconciliation of people to people rather than of people to God is way off the mark. I am looking forward to reading his full treatment of this verse in Part III so that I can engage his arguments more fully.

Chapter Two is a comprehensive treatment of Paul’s Jewish background and context. Most helpful were Wright’s historical and sociological overview of Second Temple Judaism. Once again, however, I encounter an unhelpful quirk of Wright’s overall argument. One of Wright’s foundational arguments is that God meant the Jews to be the solution to the problem of sin but because of their own sinfulness Jesus then had to come and serve as the True Israel to rescue the world from sin. I cannot but disagree with this specific argument. As early as Gen. 3:15, we read of God’s plan to save the world (hundreds of years before he even called Abraham to be the first Jew!) through the singular “seed” of the woman, and this hope for a singular Savior is repeated throughout the Old Testament, famously in Isaiah 53. This argument emerges again in Part II and even more extensively in Part III, so I will interact with this theological flaw of the book more fully in reviews of those Parts. On the whole, chapter two was my favorite of Part I, perhaps in part because of the wealth of information I learned about Second Temple Judaism, which is the first century background with which I am most unfamiliar.

Chapter Three is a necessary but thankfully shorter chapter on Paul’s Greek philosophical context. In Wright’s own words, “this chapter is important” because Tarsus—Paul’s hometown—was known for “export[ing]” Stoic philosophers, in particular (199). As a historian, Wright is top-notch. Throughout these chapters on Jewish beliefs, Greek philosophy, and Roman imperialism, I could find nothing wrong with Wright historically. Chapter Three is thus excellent, and Chapters Four and Five, though way too long in my opinion, were also factually sound and will be helpful, I’m sure, in the future, for cultural and historical background to the New Testament.

Wright identifies Part I as the structural foundation of PFG. In the Preface, he depicts PFG as a chiastic staircase, with Parts II and III on the top floor (Part III being the ultimate climax). Chapters One through Five are thus important first steps for understanding Wright’s understanding of Paul (and Paul’s understanding of “the faithfulness of God”). These chapters build a historically sound foundation for the chapters to come. Theological errors, though present, are neither numerous nor threatening to the historical foundation of Wright’s book. I can only wish that this opening section was not so long so that I could get to what I consider the heart of the matter, Paul’s theology, faster. But before Paul’s theology, for Wright, comes not only Paul’s contexts but also Paul’s own worldview, which is the subject of Part II and will thus be the subject of the next post in my review of Paul and the Faithfulness of God.

Walking the Wise Way (Wisdom Wednesday #3)

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One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” It begins,

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; (lines 1-5)

Frost is talking metaphorically about one’s life journey. Throughout life, you make choices that determine your “way.” These choices can be simple and bear little consequence. What shirt will I wear? Do I want fries with that burger? Those choices can be more complex and have significant consequences. Do I stay single or get married? Do I attend college after high school or immediately embark on a career? The most important choice of all has eternal consequences. Will I take God at his word, the Bible, and follow Jesus as my Savior and Lord? How you answer this question will determine not only your eternity but the rest of your life. And the wrong answer could easily lead to the “worldly grief” that “produces death” instead of “repentance” (2 Cor. 7:10, ESV, as are all subsequent Bible references), which is the kind of regret Frost expresses at the end of “The Road Not Taken”:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. (lines 16-20)

Frost’s regret is expressed in his “sigh” and in the fact that he has entitled this poem, nostalgically as it were, “The Road Not Taken.” A major theme in Proverbs is the “two ways” to live life, the wise way and the foolish way. The foolish way leads to regret, like Frost’s road “less traveled by,” and ultimately eternal death, whereas the wise way leads to joy, like Frost’s “road not taken” presumably would, and ultimately eternal life. Which way will you choose? That is the question Proverbs poses to us.

Proverbs exhorts us to choose to walk the wise way of pursuing God. According to Proverbs 21:6, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.” We can justify anything we do, but what matters is whether God justifies us. As we read elsewhere in Proverbs,

Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD,
but those of blameless ways are his delight. (11:20)

The way of the guilty is crooked,
but the conduct of the pure is upright. (21:8)

In other words, God delights in the pure, the blameless, the upright; he hates the crooked and justly condemns them as guilty. The wise way is the way of loving God and loving others, to sum up the Old Testament as Jesus does in Matthew 22:34-40. The foolish way is the way of rebelling against God and harming others.

When taken in the context of the whole Bible, the foolish way is the road we’re all traveling from birth. The Ephesian Christians, prior to their conversion, Paul writes, “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3). Paul here tells us that we’re all naturally under God’s wrath, we’re all an abomination to him, because we’re all foolish and crooked; to use Paul’s phrasing in Ephesians, “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh,” which means we were living in rebellion against God. And James adds that the cause of human conflict–failure to keep the second greatest commandment–is our “passions” (Jas. 4:1). We’re all sinful, all foolish, all on the way to hell.

But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus offers a way–the only way–off of the path of folly and onto the way of wisdom. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt. 7:13-14)

Jesus calls everyone to enter by the narrow gate, to take the road that isn’t taken by most othersAnd Jesus himself is the gate by which we embark on the wise way: “So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. … I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture'” (John 10:7, 9).

How do we take the road not taken? The gospel breaks into the world of Frost’s poem by giving hope, hope that you can get onto the wise way no matter how many times you’ve taken instead the foolish way before. As Paul promises, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). Everyone. No matter how foolish and sinful you are. If you call on the name of the Lord to save you, if you repent, turning away from your sin, and trusting Jesus to save you from your sin by his death and resurrection, you will be saved.

And fellow Christians, following Christ on the way of wisdom means following him in holiness. Paul exhorts us: “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). Peter concurs: “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Ultimately, God himself speaks to us throughout Scripture to equip us “for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). Fellow Christians, let us walk by faith in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit the wise way set out for us in Proverbs and in all the books of the Bible, to the glory of God the Father.

Is God Anti-Gay? (Review Thursday #2)

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71gwlJNkHoLSam Allberry. Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions About Homosexuality, the Bible and Same-Sex Attraction. The Good Book Company, 2013.

This short book, part of the Questions Christian Ask series published by The Good Book Company, is worth well over its weight in the wisdom it contains on homosexuality. Perhaps more than any other subject, homosexuality is the “hot topic” of recent years both in American evangelicalism and in the broader American culture at large. Not only unbelievers but also Christians have been asking the question, “Is God anti-gay?” So Allberry’s answer is timely. More importantly, Allberry’s answer is biblical.

Allberry’s biblical answer to the titular question is most evident in his constant grounding of the issue of the Bible (and God) on homosexuality in the gospel. In Allberry’s own words: “God’s message for gay people is the same as his message for everyone. Repent and believe. It is the same invitation to find fullness of life in God, the same offer of forgiveness and deep, wonderful, life-changing love” (10). No one is reducible to his or her sexuality, so the gospel–although it addresses our sexuality–addresses our whole persons. This truth resurfaces repeatedly in this book, most notably in the final chapter when Allberry answers the question, “What’s the best way to share Christ with a gay friend?” (75-76). The central strength of Is God Anti-Gay? is its tight focus on the gospel of Jesus, which is good news for both heterosexual and homosexual people.

Allberry’s book is superb from first to last. The introduction builds Allberry’s rapport with the reader: he is a Christian who has struggled with same-sex attraction (SSA) since his teenage years (10-13). Chapter one appropriately begins with the broader issue of which homosexuality is but a part: sexuality. Specifically, Allberry reviews how God ordained all people to express their sexuality exclusively in monogamous, heterosexual marriage. From there, Allberry notes how the Bible specifically addresses homosexuality in chapter two. After concluding that the Bible consistently condemns homosexuality, Allberry counsels Christians who struggle with SSA to pray, think about homosexuality biblically, and seek others’ support. He also affirms the application of the Bible’s teaching on sexuality for Christians who struggle with SSA. The sexual options for them, as for all people, are either heterosexual marriage or chaste celibacy. Himself celibate, Allberry does an excellent job highlighting the healthiness of singleness, going so far as to call singleness (rightly) a “blessing,” just as much a blessing as marriage is for married couples (54). The final two chapters of the book go hand-in-hand because Allberry offers practical advice to Christians on how to relate both to homosexuals within the church (whether visiting nonbelievers or Christians who struggle with SSA) and homosexuals in the world. Allberry concludes these chapters well:

It will be the quality of our community life as a church, as much as our ability to speak clearly into the public square, that will most visibly show a watching world that the Christian stance on sexuality is the most compelling. (79)

To reflect on the conclusion of the book is to return to the gospel-saturated nature of Is God Anti-Gay? because the conclusion is itself a meditation on John 6:35, where Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (ESV). Allberry’s main point about this verse is that Jesus is the bread of life. In Allberry’s own words: “The great gift that Jesus gives us is himself” (83). Amen. The gospel is the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, who promises everyone who repents–turning away from sin, whatever forms it takes in an individual’s life–and believes this good news that Jesus has given himself to us and for us to save us from our sins by his life, death, and resurrection.

For all these reasons, I cannot more highly recommend to Is God Anti-Gay? to every Christian I know. This book is accessible and gives great returns for the less than $10 investment to purchase it. The wisdom Allberry shares in this book is valuable because it is biblical–and being biblical, this book is first and foremost gospel-saturated. The gospel of Jesus Christ undergirds every page. May Is God Anti-Gay? help Christians respond biblically not only to the ideology of homosexuality but also to homosexuals. May this book help Christians “speak the truth in love” to homosexuals, for they are no worse sinners than we.

Wisdom for a King (Wisdom Wednesday #2)

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Two basic questions to ask when reading a book are (1) who wrote this book? and (2) to whom was this book written? Knowing both the author and audience of a book helps the reader to read the book well. Applying these questions to Proverbs is thus helpful in understanding how it applies to us Christians today.

Solomon wrote and compiled Proverbs in the tenth century BC. Proverbs begins by identifying him as the author of the book as a whole: “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel” (1:1). According to Prov. 10:1, “the proverbs of Solomon” continue through 22:16. According to Prov. 22:17, the following two and a half chapters are comprised of “the words of the wise” that Solomon has incorporated into his “knowledge.” Chapters 25-29 “also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied” (25:1). Proverbs 30 and 31 conclude with “the words of Agur” and “the words of King Lemuel,” which “his mother taught him,” respectively (30:1 and 31:1). Solomon is thus the main author of Proverbs, both by writing original proverbs and by compiling others, all under inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit.

Solomon originally wrote Proverbs to his sons, especially Rehoboam who was to succeed him on the throne of Israel. The father-son dynamic in Proverbs is apparent early on and throughout the book. In Prov. 1:8, Solomon writes, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” He also addresses his “son” in 1:10 and 15, as well as 2:1; 3:1, 11, and 21. Solomon addresses his “sons” in 4:1-9 before focusing again on his “son” in 4:10, 20; 5:1; 6:1, 20; and 7:1. Solomon, the wisest man ever to live, recorded his God-given wisdom for his sons, especially Rehoboam, who would need this wisdom in order to govern the nation of Israel well.

The individual Proverbs of Solomon gave Rehoboam practical advice for being a wise king. “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (11:14). “By justice a king builds up the land, but he who exacts gifts [or taxes heavily, ESV footnote] tears it down” (29:4). “It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness” (16:12). Biblically, a king should be just and merciful. Sadly, Rehoboam was neither. Though the wisest man in the world, Solomon was not perfect, and in Proverbs he urges his sons not to repeat his mistakes but rather to learn from them. Rehoboam, however, both repeated and worsened his fathers mistakes, which cost him ten of the twelve tribes of Israel (1 Kings 12:1-24). The wisdom for a king found in Proverbs was humanly impossible even for the wisest man on earth and his descendants, which ultimately lost the kingdom of Judah to the Babylonians in 586 BC (2 Kings 25:1-21).

To understand how Solomon’s wisdom for kings applies to us Christians today, we must go through the perfectly wise king, King Jesus. Jesus “established” his throne “by righteousness.” As it is written in Romans 3:21-26,

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Jesus’ life and death were wholly righteous, and his righteousness established his eternal throne over the universe, as Paul puts it elsewhere,

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name (Phil. 2:8-9).

Jesus is the perfectly wise king who established an eternal and universal throne by his perfect righteousness.

Which brings us to how Proverbs’s wisdom for kings applies to us Christians. Adam and Eve were originally meant to rule over creation (Gen. 1:28) but abdicated the throne of this world to Satan when they sinned in Eden (Gen. 3). Jesus, however, has fulfilled God’s promise in Gen. 3:15 to crush the head of the serpent. By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has defeated Satan. Although Satan still functionally rules over nonbelievers, Jesus has established his throne over all the universe, and we believers are no longer under Satan’s dominion. Paul says that we believers are “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17)–and if fellow heirs, then restored vice-regents as were Adam and Eve before their fall. We believers should therefore strive to live righteously in this life. Put simply, Solomon’s wisdom for kings is universally wise. Kings should be righteous as an example for their people to follow. King Jesus is perfectly righteous, and by the grace of God, we his people are being conformed to that righteousness day by day (Rom. 8:29). Let us Christians therefore wisely “walk in newness of life” because through faith we have been “raised from the dead” with Christ (Rom. 6:4).

“Why Jesus?” A Sermon on Romans 10:5-13

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In the midst of editing my research paper on Romans 9-11, I had the privilege to preach on Romans 10:5-13. This text is the heart of Romans 9-11, this section’s main point. In his recent Pauline theology, N. T. Wright convincingly argues that Romans 9-11 is a chiasm, the center of which is 10:5-13, most specifically 10:9 (Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 1161-1176). (Wright’s book was published subsequent to my initial writing of the paper, and my initial reading of its section on Romans 9-11 allowed me to cite Wright solely for his explicit rebuttal of theologians who try to argue that Jews can be saved by Jesus without believing that he is the Christ. Although I find Wright’s chiastic structure of Romans 9-11 compelling, I do not agree with some of his interpretations concerning Romans 9-11. Once I read this mammoth tome in its entirety I hope to engage its many arguments in more detail.) Because Romans 9-11 is chiastic, the central text is central to the section’s meaning. The basic problem of Romans 9-11 is how God is faithful despite many Jews’ rejection of Christ’s gospel and thus exclusion from the people of God. Romans 10:5-13 solves this problem: “confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Rom. 10:9) is the only way for God to be faithful and save people.

In the broader argument of Romans 10:5-13, Paul maintains that no one has ever been saved by keeping the law because no one (except Jesus) keeps the law (Rom. 10:5). In fact, the law itself has always pointed to the need of Jesus to save us from our lawlessness (Rom. 10:6-10). Finally, the law has always called all people to believe in the Messiah, who we know is Jesus of Nazareth, for salvation (Rom. 10:11-13).

So my sermon on Romans 10:5-13, “Why Jesus?” answers the question, “Why trust Jesus for salvation?” Romans 10:5-13 gives us three good reasons:

  1. Put your faith in Jesus because you can’t save yourself (v. 5).
  2. Put your faith in Jesus because the law calls you to trust him for salvation (vv. 6-10).
  3. Put your faith in Jesus because anyone can be saved by faith in him (vv. 11-13).

The audio for this sermon was recorded at Calvary Baptist Church on March 23, 2014. You can listen to the sermon here by clicking play on the on-screen Flash player. May God use this sermon to bring non-Christians to faith in Jesus for salvation by his death and resurrection, and may he use it to encourage us Christians to continue confessing and believing Christ firm to the end.

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