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Workman’s Toolbox – 7.5.13

Great stuff here from David Helm. Dealing with the challenges of contextualisation, exegesis, theological reflection.

Text or full notes?  Tim Ward gives us the pros and cons of both.


I know these are pretty well known, but pastor you are missing a trick if you are not listening to the latest 9marks interviews. There have been a few superb ones recently with Carl Trueman and Zane Pratt.


Here is an interview with our own blogger Paul W Martin on his preaching. He discusses, among other topics, his struggle to produce illustrations, and tells us why he doesn’t see his wife as his main sermon critic!

From Wisdom to WISDOM

This is the million pound question.

Let me suggest four  routes that should take us “from Wisdom to WISDOM.”

Fearing the LORD… Jesus

The governing principle of wise living is “the fear of the Lord” (Prov 1:7, 9:10).  The fear of the LORD is a disposition towards God of reverence and reliance. Such fear and faith spring from a personal knowledge of Yahweh. The more we know of the LORD who has revealed Himself in history and Scripture, the more we will fear His displeasure and trust His grace.

We can easily transpose this into a Christian context. Perhaps the most common confession in the New Testament is that “Jesus is Lord.” Jesus is designated Lord approximately 120 times in the gospels alone. Significantly, this term ​kyrios (Lord) was used in the Septuagint to represent the divine name of God.  To call Jesus “Lord” is to unsubtly associate him with Yahweh.

Thus, in a New Testament setting, to fear the Lord is to reverently rely on Jesus. Wisdom begins with the question: what is my heart’s attitude towards the Lord Jesus Christ?

Christ: the wisdom of God

Paul, writing to the Colossians, designates Christ as “the wisdom of God” (Col 2:3).  Jesus is God’s wisdom.  This, despite the fact that Christ’s crucifixion is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks. Yet to those who are being saved Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24). His gospel carries the “power of salvation” (Rom 1:16) and in Him are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3).

All of this means that we can tell the world that Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s wisdom. The wisdom of the OT is provisional; the wisdom of the cross is ultimate.  Supreme wisdom is found in the gospel of Christ and ultimately “in Christ” Himself.

The New and Greater Solomon: wisdom’s practitioner and teacher

It is easy to demonstrate that Jesus is presented in the Gospels as a new and greater Solomon. Luke especially emphasizes the growth of the boy Jesus in wisdom and our Lord’s extraordinary wisdom as a youth (2:40, 46,47, 52). Jesus’ first sermon is said to produce “amazement” (cf. 1 Kgs 10:4); indeed afterwards the people asked “What’s this wisdom that has been given him?” (Mk 6:2). Later we see Jesus teaching using parables in the style of the wisdom teacher. Later still, we see Jesus brilliantly escaping the testing questions of His enemies (Mk 12:13, cf 1 Kgs 10:1). Finally, Jesus Himself claimed to be “one greater than Solomon” (Lk 11:31).

In Jesus we have a new and greater Solomon. In a way surpassing even Solomon, Jesus teaches the way of wisdom. And unlike Solomon, Jesus was the perfect practitioner of wisdom. With Solomon, it was sometimes a case of “do as I say, but not as I do.” But the wisdom Jesus teaches, he embodies, with a perfect life of righteousness.

Gospel implications and living wisely

I have sometimes heard it said that to Christ-centered preaching simply declares what God has DONE for sinners in Jesus Christ. It is true – wonderfully true – that the gospel is news of what God has done for sinners. It is also true – sadly true – that too many preachers merely proclaim a list of do’s, while they hide away the gospel of grace.

But while Christ-centered preaching must start with what God has done in Christ, it must not end there. The same disciples who are called to trust in the free offer of the gospel, are subsequently called to obey everything Christ commanded. There are ethical entailments which are not to be confused with the gospel, but which naturally flow out from the gospel.  Those saved by grace are also taught by grace to “say no to ungodliness” (Titus 2:12).

This is where the wisdom literature comes in. Interestingly, when the book of Proverbs is quoted in the New Testament (8 times), the proverbs are used predominantly in an ethical way. They are not cleverly applied to Jesus in some way we hadn’t thought of. They are applied as supporting Scripture to encourage godly living.

This is also “preaching Christ.” Jesus wants His life and death to be proclaimed for the salvation of men. But he also wants the life of godliness expounded for the sanctified living of the church. The children of God must learn, however slowly and limpingly, to walk as Jesus did (1 Jhn 2:6).



Previous posts in this series:

Why Do We Ignore Wisdom?

Why Bother With Wisdom?

What is Distinctive About Biblical Wisdom?

What Is Distinctive About Biblical Wisdom?

Wisdom literature is not unique to the Bible. In fact, the bible itself refers to the wisdom and wise men of Israel’s neighbors. The wisdom of Egypt (1 Kgs 4:30), Arabia (Jer 49:7), Babylon (Is 47:10) and Phoenecia (Ez 28:3) are all given mention in Holy Scripture. Indeed many of these schools of wisdom emerged earlier in history than Israel. The wisdom of God’s chosen people flowered quite late in the day. And so, the question arises…

What is so distinctive about biblical wisdom?

1. Its Supreme Quality

Its widely accepted that Solomon was the wellspring of the wisdom corpus. Just as David was the spring of the psalms, so Solomon was the fountainhead of the proverbs . It is quite impossible, therefore, to think of Israel’s wisdom without also thinking of Solomon. And when we think of Solomon, we consider a man who possessed an extraordinary level of wisdom.

Several passages emphasize the unprecedented degree of Solomon’s wisdom. After Solomon asks Yahweh for wisdom, the LORD replies, “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be” (1 Kings 3:12, emphasis added). This unparalleled wisdom is then demonstrated in the following account, when Solomon brilliantly discerns between two claimants to one baby (1 Kings 3:16-28). Solomon’s wisdom is commended further through the visit of the Queen of Sheba. She concludes at the end of their state visit: “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” (1 Kings 10:6-7).

All of this is designed to demonstrate Solomon’s superior wisdom. The world may have its wise-men, but Solomon towers above them all. And if the wisdom corpus was largely spawned by Solomon, that means that it too has a superior quality.

2. Its Divine Source

Much of wisdom literature has an earthy feel. It reflects ‘life on the ground’ in the dirt and dust of daily life. Nevertheless, this earthy material – we mustn’t forget – has a heavenly source. Unlike other wisdom writings which are purely the product of human reflection, biblical wisdom is divine revelation.

This is not to say for a moment that God bypassed the human mind. We are not claiming that God circumvented the reflections upon experience which human beings are capable of. What we are saying is that the Holy Spirit was ultimately guiding this process. Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes are part of that ‘all Scripture’ which Paul tells us is ‘breathed out by God.’  Biblical wisdom is not merely human observation, it is divine revelation.

3. Its Divine Orientation

Biblical wisdom is God-conscious. This is in contrast to much of the wisdom materials outside the bible – whether in Egypt, or in Waterstones.  Human wisdom is entirely humanly focused. There is usually no mention of God in those writings.

But biblical wisdom is theological.  A repeated maxim in Proverbs is that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  (Proverbs 9:10. And Proverbs 1:7.  Also see Psalm 111 verse 10)

In biblical thinking, then, wisdom is not merely worldly experience or practical smarts.  The tree of wisdom, with all of its delectable fruit, grows out of the fear of the LORD. Reverencing God, and seeing all life in relation to Him, is the root system out of which the truly wise life develops and grows. The truly wise man is the man who knows God, fears God, relies on God and who lives their life with a constant consciousness of their Creator. Knowing and fearing God is the starting point of all true wisdom. This means that a person may abound in knowledge and experience and still be a fool (see Ps 14:10, Luke 12, James 4). If they haven’t factored God into their equation for living they are unlikely, indeed unable, to live with wisdom.



 Previous posts in this series:

Why Do We Ignore Wisdom?

Why Bother With Wisdom?



Why Bother With Wisdom?

Following on from yesterday’s post, let us now consider some reasons to preach from the wisdom genre.

1.  The value of the Bible

“All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Enough said…

2.   The aim of the Bible

Why do we have a bible? One legitimate way to answer that question would be: ‘God has given us the Bible to make us wise.’ In His astounding grace, God has purposed that the Scriptures should make us “wise for salvation.” And that is not all. The Bible is further designed to “thoroughly equip” us for every good work.  In short: the bible is wisdom to be saved by, and wisdom to live by. Therefore to preach wisdom literature is not to preach what is tangential, but central, to the Bible’s stated purpose.

3.  The art of skillful living

Wisdom could be defined as skill in the art of godly living.  Going by that definition, how many of us would dare call ourselves ‘wise’?  Could we not be more adept in our parenting? More skilled in handling our finances? How about our words? Are we always saying the right thing.. at the right time.. in the right manner.. to the right people?

If so, congratulations Solomon! If not, then wisdom opens its arms to embrace us. Wisdom is a goldmine of sagely-counsel; it invites the simple to delve into its plunder!

4.  The perplexities of life

Tim Keller has commented that “Genesis stands behind Proverbs.”  He means that wisdom literature assumes Creation. God made the universe and inbuilt a certain ‘order’ to things. This is not just a predictable material order, but a moral order: human experience has typical patterns. To give but a few instances: righteous people tend to flourish, hard working people tend to make good money, and godless people tend to come to ruin. These are ‘trends’ in God’s ordered world.

But Job, in particular, reminds us that patterns aren’t the same as promises. Job was living a wise life, fearing the Lord, working hard, and raising his children prayerfully. Yet Job loses everything, save his own life. How do we account for this? Surely one thing Job is teaching us is that while the world has order, it also has mystery. While we live our lives in this world there will always be mysteries and perplexities, even for the godliest saint. The trick is to learn to trust God in the dark, as well as in the daylight.

5.  The wisdom of God Personified ​

A striking feature of Proverbs is that wisdom is often personified. Wisdom is frequently personified as a woman (Lady Wisdom), and is famously personified as a Craftsman in the Proverbs 8 account of Creation. The New Testament takes this a step further. There, wisdom is personified in the flesh and blood man, Jesus of Nazareth. The wisdom literature helps prepare us for his final revelation.

Theologians often refer to the three offices which God the Son fulfilled on earth.  Jesus is said to be “prophet”, “priest” and “king.” But we might easily add to that trio: Jesus as the “wise-man.” Our Lord is clearly presented in the gospels as being full of wisdom; one who is greater than Solomon. Much of Jesus’ style of teaching is cast in the wisdom style. Summing it up, Paul could says that “In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”  (Col 2:3). We will better understand our Lord and Savior’s ministry when we’ve first grappled with the wisdom literature of the Old Testament.

Tuesday Toolbox – 18.12.12

In the midst of those many Christmas talks and evangelistic opportunities, this week’s toolbox has a festive flavor!

Workman’s Toolbox – 11.12.12

With Christmas on the way, I was reminded of this great video:

Max McLean (that brother with the amazing deep voice!) gives us some thoughts on reading Scripture publicly and bible memorization.

An interview with John Piper on what he has learned over 30 plus years of pastoring. Was struck by this paragraph, where he encourages pastors to think:

“Outrun your people and your colleagues in thinking. That is, stay ahead of them in thinking through biblical implications of what is being said or proposed. Make a practice of thinking before a meeting. Think of as many implications of a proposal as you can. Think of as many objections to the proposal as you can. Think of good biblical answers to all those objections. Think of how much it will cost and how it will be paid for. Think of who might implement it. Think of the ways that it will bring joy—or temporary sorrow. Think about its relation to a dozen other things that people like or don’t like. Sit with your pencil in your hand (or your fingers on the keyboard) and doodle until you’ve exhausted the possibilities, or the time you have. Go to the meeting having thought more than any one else, and more deeply than anyone else. This is what good leaders do.”

RC Sproul reminds us about the true power of preaching.

Workman’s Toolbox – 4.12.2012

Scottish friends, did you know that Paul Tripp is coming to Scotland?  His marriage conference (held at Charlotte Baptist Chapel, Edinburgh) can be booked through The Good Book Company .


Speaking of Paul Tripp, here is a very convicted post by him: 5 Signs you glorify yourself.

This is helpful by Peter Mead: 10 mistakes preachers make with narrative. I’ve made more than a few of these!

I really like Thabiti Anywabwile definition of preaching:  “God speaking in the power of His Spirit about His Son from His word through a man.” Here is the latest post in his excellent series.

Preaching Christmas: How Shall We Package The Gospel This Time?

Suspend your disbelief, pastor. December is about to arrive on your pastoral doorstep. No, I am not “pulling your leg.” Snow will soon be falling. Advent sermons will soon need preparing. Ere long we will stand before the old and young, the believer and  skeptic, proclaiming the message that Angels once declared!

So how can we make the most of this opportunity?

1.  Be sure the incarnation is thrilling your soul.

The very repetitiveness of Christmas carries with it an obvious danger. Quite frankly, preachers can become bored with the subject matter. I have heard pastors talk of ‘advent sermons’ much as someone might speak of tax returns: a necessary chore that comes round once a year. Some of us may never have said as much, but God knows, we’ve thought it in our hearts.

Yet to groan about preaching the incarnation is to reveal darkened minds and cold hearts!  What could be more interesting, fascinating, and exciting than the Word becoming flesh?  “God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man” should fill our minds with wonder and our souls with praise!  If it doesn’t, we should get on our knees and open our bibles till our cold heart melts and our soul ignites in worship.

2.  Do not get original with your content.

Since there are a limited number texts from which we can preach Christmas, there is a temptation to become ‘creative’ in our expositions. Eisegesis is never more of a temptation than when preaching nativity narratives.

But the Christmas narratives do not need to be “jazzed up.”  Even as our hearts burn with wonder, let us keep cool heads and exegete our passage with the same careful precision as we would any other. Let us not be speculative, but exegetical. Let us not be original, but conventional. Let us preach the Word, trusting that the old, old story continues to have fresh force and impact!

3.  Keep “the packaging” of Christmas sermons fresh.

Being unoriginal in exegesis does not mean that there is no room for creativity in how we package our message. British preachers such as Rico Tice and Vaughan Roberts strike me as particularly good examples of how to be faithful with biblical texts but fresh in communicating it.

Our introductions and illustrations, particularly, should be bang up to date with the times in which we live.  We may be preaching about 6BC, but we are preaching in 2012. May we sound like it!

4.  Preach the full range of passages that address the Christmas theme

Although Nativity related texts are not numerous, pastors should utilize all that is available. Some preachers basically rotate around the shepherds, the wise men, and John chapter 1! But there are many more possibilities that we could consider. For example:

  • Genesis 3:15 (Christmas is promised)
  • Isaiah 7:1-17 (The virgin conception)
  • Isaiah 9: 1-7 (To us a Son is given)
  • Micah 5:2-5 (The ruler from Bethlehem)
  • Matthew 1:18-25 (The birth of Jesus)
  • Matthew 2:1-10 (Visit of the wise men)
  • Luke 1:26-38 (Angel’s announcement to Mary)
  • Luke 1:46-55 (The Magnificat)
  • Luke 2:1-14 (The birth of Jesus and shepherds visit)
  • John 1:1-14 (The Word became flesh)
  • John 3:16 (God so loved the world that he gave)
  • 2 Corinthians 8:9 (rich and poor, poor and rich)
  •  Philippians 2:5-11 (The humility of Jesus)
  • Hebrews 1:1-3 (God’s final word)
  • 1 Timothy 1:15 (Why Christ Jesus came into the world)
  • 1 John 3:4-10 (The reason the Son of God appeared)

5.  Consider consecutive Christmas preaching

There is great benefit to be gained from preaching a series of consecutive sermons on advent themes.  I am presently preaching a series on Luke’s gospel and have deliberately started the series in November to coincide with the advent season. Similar series could be preached on the opening chapters of Matthew, Isaiah’s advent prophecies, or the various Christmas ‘hymns’ which Scripture records.

6.  Consider preaching individual texts

Despite comment number 5, I must say that some of the most powerful preaching I have heard at Christmas has handled much smaller amounts of material. The focus has fallen on a single verse which has been explained to the Christian and unbeliever alike (eg. Isa 9:6. Mat 1:21. 1 Timothy 1:15).

Consider such preaching. Especially in an evangelistic context, a single verse well explained and applied can be a powerful approach.

7.  Remember to preach the Christmas narratives as fact not fiction

Many unbelievers consider the nativity narratives on a par with fairy-tales. As Christians we know different. Yet as preachers we are presented with the difficult challenge of knowing how to preach to such a skeptical listener.  Several things must be borne in mind as we seek to speak to such skeptical listeners:

First, we must convey to such skeptics that we will not take our theological scissors to the supernatural elements of the text. We will not excise the virgin conception from the Gospels because it might make them feel more comfortable.

Second, we must preach the supernatural “Apologetically.’ This means recognizing the existence of objections, and responding to them in a reasonable manner.

Third, we should assure the skeptics that we have no time for extra biblical legends that have become attached to the Christmas story (such as the three wise men, and the doorstop drama at countless Bethlehem inns!).

Finally, and above all, we must convey an evident conviction that we believe that what we are preaching is fact.  For us –  if not for them – the Christmas narratives are to be found in the section of the library marked ‘History’.



Workman’s Toolbox

Here is a great video from Rico Tice that explains the Christmas message.

This is such a powerful article! Geoff Thomas shares seven things that are essential to any pastor’s ministry (Preaching – The Method).

1. The work of the ministry will only be achieved by unfeigned belief in the truthfulness of the Bible.

2. The work of the ministry will only be achieved by enduring tough times.

3. The work of the ministry will only be achieved by toil.

4. The work of the ministry will only be achieved by dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

5. The work of the ministry can only be achieved in the defence of the gospel.

6. The work of the ministry will only be achieved by discriminatory preaching.

7. The work of the ministry will only be achieved by applicatory preaching.