Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Apostolic Faith

I am in the process of reading Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life  by Dr. Donald Whitney and I was reminded yesterday of the importance of not only Scripture memorization but of meditation as well. I have allowed both of these two disciplines fall by the wayside over the last year and decided that this morning would be different. I would both meditate and seek to memorize Scripture. I’m glad I did because through meditation on God’s Word, I noticed two great truths, one of which I will write about tomorrow. The other is the topic of today’s blog.

The second bout of meditation came because of my attempt to memorize Scripture. My daughter is trying to memorize all of 2 Peter for her Bible Quizzing competition, so I thought why not do it with her. In all transparency, I was supposed to be doing it with her a while ago. So I opened up to 2 Peter 1 to memorize the first verse. Here it is in the ESV: “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” What a verse!

Unlike 1 Peter, we don’t know where this letter was headed. The only addressees are those who have obtained a faith of equal standing. One could rightly say that any and every believer is the recipient of this letter from Peter. There are certain words that need to be focused on in this short verse: 1 – Obtained, 2 – equal standing, and 3 – by.

Obtained

The first word that we need to let sink deep into our souls is the word obtained. It could also mean received. But this is not the usual word in the Greek for receiving something. This word means to receive by lot. As the New American Commentary on 2 Peter states, “Zechariah obtained by lot the privilege of offering incense in the temple (Luke 1:9). Roman soldiers cast lots to see who would get Jesus’ garment (John 19:24). Judas was appointed to serve in an apostolic ministry (Acts 1:17). In each instance receiving something by lot is a give that one receives,” (p. 285). That isn’t to say that it was by sheer luck that this faith came to people. Remember what the Proverb states, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD, (16:33, ESV; italics mine).

What does all this mean? That if you are a believer you have become one by divine decision. As Peter Davids wrote in the Pillar New Testament Commentary on 2 Peter, it “thus indicates that faith is something that God has given them, a favor from tehir heavenly patron,” (p. 162). You obtained your faith. You didn’t conjure it up out of no where. While some would find this as bad news, this is absolutely fantastic news. If faith relied upon me to develop, I’d be waiting for eternity. There are so many dry seasons in life, so many painful moments, so many losses and broken dreams that my faith would be non-existent. Yet God has granted me faith. I have obtained it from God, not myself, and for that reason, though storms or droughts may come, my faith shall continue, not because of my strength, but because of His.

Equal Standing

Here is the meat of my meditation. This faith is of equal standing with the apostles’ faith. Another way of saying it is that it is of equal honor. We tend to see the apostles as those with faith that is better or bigger than our own. That may be somewhat true, only in that the apostles faced circumstances that grew their faith that we may not ever experience. But bigger does not mean more valuable. Stronger does not mean more blessings. Peter wanted to assure his readers that their faith was just as valuable to God as Peter’s or Paul’s or John’s or any of the other apostles.

Here is why I think it is just as valuable. The value of faith is not based upon who is believing, but upon who is being believed upon. Since Jesus is the object of our faith and since God has granted the faith to us (thus both originally from and going back to the Godhead), the faith of the believer–an believer–is equal to the faith of any other believer. We shall not receive less blessings or privileges than others. As Tim Keller once said and many before him, “It is not the strength of your faith, but the object of your faith that actually saves you.” And I would add “and by which your receive all your spiritual blessings in the heavenly places” (cf. Eph 1:3).

Do you realize, fellow-believer, that your faith is on equal standing, equally honorable, as that of the apostles. The faith that they obtained was no greater, no more valuable, no more stronger than yours. As Peter wrote in his first letter, “In this you rejoice (that God has given you faith unto salvation), though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 1:6-7, ESV). We see the apostles’ faith as greater or bigger or more valuable, but in reality it is shinier. The dross has been removed and it shimmers and shines. Trials removed the dross and impurities that this fallen world and fallen bodies have mixed within it. We all want the apostolic faith, and we have it, but what we don’t have yet is the shine. Only trials will bring the shine as they remove the dross. But let us remember that the faith we have, they too had, no more, no less.

By

The last word is the word “by.” This faith again comes by our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Specifically by His righteousness. There is debate as to what this phrase means apparently. I originally took it to mean that God’s grace came through the righteousness of Christ and because of His righteousness we were granted faith. That is one idea. The other is that righteousness here means fair or just. Thus in Jesus’ fairness, we are each given an equal standing of faith. I say, why can’t it be both!?

Jesus is equitable; He’s fair, but He is also gracious. He willingly and graciously gave of His righteous standing a equal standing of faith. Because this faith is by His righteousness, we cannot lose it any more than He could lose His righteousness. There may and probably will be times when our faith is weak, but that doesn’t make it less valuable and it doesn’t make it cease to exist. As Paul stated to the Philippians, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ,” (1:6, ESV).

In conclusion, the faith that we have, it is from God by the gracious and fair righteousness of Christ. It is just as valuable and honored as that of the apostles whom we tend to look at as giants in the faith. Let us know that God will be removing impurities and shining and buffing this faith that he has given to us. It is part of the process. Jesus is going to present us, “holy and blameless and above reproach,” (Col 1:22) and “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,” (Eph 5:27). May it be so, and may God grant the strength along with the trials.

Reading Proverbs Afresh: Proverbs in Light of Christ

Wisdom is often described as having the know-how of living out knowledge practically. This is a rather weak definition, especially if one is looking to biblical wisdom using books such as the Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. One need only to read through the Proverbs to find that the answer lies within the text itself. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight,” (Prov. 9:10, ESV). The writer here used parallelism to explain what wisdom is: the fear of God, the knowledge of the Holy One. Something similar is stated in 1:7 (The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge), though Proverbs 9:10 was chosen for its explicit use of wisdom/insight (synonymous terms) rather than knowledge (as one may tend to still see the two as separate entities as the weak definition above portrays). Thus, wisdom is the fear of the LORD and this use of “the fear of the LORD” (YHWH) is a purposeful use of covenantal language within the Wisdom books. Grant correctly wrote:

How is it that the “fear of Yahweh” indicates the presence of covenant theology within the Wisdom books? There are two answers to this question: (1) Proverbs’ focus on the fear of Yahweh points us specifically to relationships with Israel’s covenant God as being key to true wisdom; (2) fear of Yahweh takes the reader deep into Israel’s covenant theology because of its intertextual links with the book of Deuteronomy.[1]

Where in Deuteronomy? Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (one of the major chapters in all the book) brings out what one needs to know about this type of fear. “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good,” (ESV; italics added).

Grant explains, “The main question (“What does the LORD your God require of you?”) is answered by the initial central statement (“fear the LORD your God”), and each of the following statements explains what it actually means in reality to fear Yahweh (“walk in his ways, love him, serve him and keep his commandments”).[2] This would mean that the Proverbs are not simply a bunch of sayings unrelated to the rest of the Old Testament (and definitely not of the New Testament), but are intricately linked to both. Though it may not have all the echoes of laws and rites and prophetic remarks of the Laws and Prophets, as Trevor Longman III wrote on Proverbs: “[T]he whole book is theological to the core,”[3] and that theology is in total agreement with the rest of Scripture. “The concept of wisdom is not simply practical skill but is a theological idea.”[4]

That theology is not only shown in “fear of the LORD” language, but in Lady Wisdom (aka Woman Wisdom). Lady Wisdom is wisdom personified as a woman who calls out to young men to come to her, learn from her, and follow as they have been taught. Her archenemy is Lady Folly (aka Woman Folly). This personified foolishness also calls out to the young men to come to her, learn, and so live. As there are two women, there are two paths in which the women point: one being the path of wisdom and the other the path of folly. “The dark path represents one’s behavior in this life, but it culminates not in life but in death. On the other hand, there is the right path, the path that leads to life. This path is straight and well lit. The person who stays on this path will not stumble.”[5]

As one reads the Proverbs and encounters the many times Lady/Woman Wisdom speaks, he/she cannot help but begin to notice that as she speaks, so God has spoken or demonstrated elsewhere within the Bible. “[I]t is clear that Woman Wisdom is a personification of Yahweh’s wisdom and ultimately of Yahweh himself.”[6] Yet where does that leave Lady/Woman Folly? Longman argues that she is the false gods and goddesses of the world. Ultimately, “[T]he choice between Woman Wisdom and Woman Folly is no less than a fundamental religious choice between the true God and false gods.”[7]

Does this not dramatically change the way one reads the Proverbs? It must! As one encounters the many foolish ways (whether directly or indirectly stated), he/she must see that this is the way of this world. It is the way of idolatry, not simply a dumb move that may be regretted later in life. This brings new life and light to Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths,” (ESV). These verses are not simply about trusting God when one doesn’t understand what it is He is doing. These verses are calling upon the reader not to go down the paths of idolatry and live in folly, but to trust the God-given proverbs (law and prophets) and live by them so that one does not go down the dark way that seems right unto man but ends in death (Cf. Prov 14:12), but goes down the path of light leading to life. Thus, the writers of the Proverbs want what Moses and the Prophets wanted: for their readers to find God in all His glory and splendor. “Both sets of literature [Proverbs and Law] come to the conclusion that it is impossible to do so apart from real, and therefore inevitably covenant, relationship with God.”[8]

Yet, how does one build that covenant relationship? Longman answers: “[I]f one wants to know how the world works and thus to successfully navigate life, one had better know the woman, Yahweh’s wisdom—that is Yahweh himself.”[9] But this begs the question as to how then is one to know her. The answer comes as one reads and notices aspects of Lady Wisdom, such as her being described as being before creation (Prov. 8:28), being co-creator with God (Prov. 8:27-30), God’s delight—being well-pleased with Wisdom (Prov 8:30), and other aspects as well such as the fact that with her are abundant riches (Prov 8:18-21). Anyone who has a clear understanding of the New Testament can see that Lady Wisdom and Jesus Christ are one and the same (cf. Col 1:15-19; 2:3, John 1:1-3; Matt 3:17). “The message is clear: Jesus is Wisdom herself. . . Thus to understand the invitation of Woman Wisdom as the invitation of Christ to relationship with God makes the book contemporary to Christian readers.”[10] What an understatement! If wisdom is the Word of God (not only the recorded Word, but the Living Word) it is not only contemporary but massively important. To reject Christ is to reject wisdom and to reject wisdom is to reject Christ. To live a life in folly is to go after false gods, whether they be tangible or intangible and be utterly ruined, never to be in covenantal relationship with God. That very thought ought to keep the believer holding tight to the Proverbs. Without Christ there is no wisdom, there is no covenant relationship, there is no pleasure from or in God.

[1] J. D. Grant, “Wisdom and Covenant” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry, and Writings, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008) 860-861.

[2] Ibid., 861.

[3] Trevor Longman III, “Proverbs, Book of,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry, and Writings, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008) 550.

[4] Ibid., 549.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 550.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Grant, “Wisdom and Covenant” in DOT: Wisdom, 861.

[9] Longman III, “Proverbs, Book of,” in DOT: Wisdom, 550.

[10] Ibid., 551.