The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: P-Q

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Prov, Christ's death in the

"How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Rom 6:2).
Our relationship to the sacrifice of the Lord is not something to be recalled once a week merely, but a principle that should be kept foremost in our minds constantly throughout our life in the truth. This is our principal duty.

The Truth: A way of life

Christ's crucifixion should be viewed with an eye to its supreme importance and practicality. It is the very foundation of the Truth and its commands. In regard thereto we are told to "exhort one another; and so much the more as (we) see the Day approaching" (Heb 10:25). We are exhorted to "study to show (ourselves) approved" (2Ti 2:15), in order that "the trial of our faith" may be "found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1Pe 1:7).

What do these familiar commands entail in relation to the death of Christ? Let us examine them more closely.

"Exhort one another". Exhort to what? To continue in the faith, in obedience to Christ's commands.

"Show ourselves approved." What does this demand? Works of faith based upon the example of Christ and his work.

"Be found unto praise and honor and glory." Through what means shall we attain unto this? Surely by a daily life of dedication and service. By this we will stand or fall at the judgment seat. Paul illustrated what this requires. He wrote:

"How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein? Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:2-4).
Christ's death and resurrection marked the first real victory over sin and its consequence, death. Our baptism into Christ commences for us the same battle which Christ fought successfully. It is a battle against the flesh; against all its tendencies to glory in the affairs of this present evil world, or to seek our own fleeting benefit instead of the service of our heavenly Father.

In that way, we must re-enact the death of Christ every day. He provides a perfect example we can follow; and a mediator through whom we may pray to God for strength and courage. Again, Paul reminds us of our obligations and privileges:

"Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1Co 11:1).
"For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted... seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Heb 2:18; 7:25).
Two paths open out before us, and as they diverge, we must make a choice between them. One path is wide and inviting. It is the way of fleshly gratification, which ends in death: the path chosen by all those outside of the Truth, and, sad to say, some in it as well. The other path is narrow and difficult. It is the path of life; a path of suffering, for it is associated with the death of Christ. But it is the path that leads to glory in the Kingdom of God. So Paul wrote:

"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors: not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Rom 8:13).

Praise and performance

Two books can assist us greatly in our walk in Christ. They are The Psalms and The Proverbs. Appropriately, they follow one another in the Bible. From the Psalms we learn especially to praise God, to worship Him for His goodness, strength and majesty. By this means we look outward towards God.

From the Proverbs we learn to match our praise with performance. We look inwards. We see ourselves as we really are: feeble and prone to error. We learn of rules that we must follow to please God: practical requirements of the Truth for daily performance. We learn what is required in putting to death the works of the flesh, of dying to sin as Christ did; and of living to God, as Christ did.

If we merely sing praises to God without doing His will, we become hypocrites, worthy of His contempt and rejection. Our words must be in harmony with our works.

The Hebrew word for proverb signifies a comparison, a likeness. A glance at individual proverbs will illustrate this meaning. Sometimes, however, proverbs will reveal a series of contrasts, rather than comparisons; or two divergent paths will be presented for our consideration. Some Bibles give the chapter headings of these proverbs as Moral virtues and their contrary vices, which is certainly true. The ways of the wise are compared with the ways of the fool; the path of life is contrasted with the path of death. Thus there is constantly brought to mind the significance of Christ's death and resurrection, and our responsibility towards it.

The way of wisdom

The first nine verses of Proverbs comprise an introduction to the whole book. After announcing its title, Solomon sets forth four objectives to be gained from its contents. The rest of the chapter then amplifies what has been expressed by exhorting the reader to keep separate from sin (vv 10-19); and to take hold upon wisdom (vv 20-33). The whole can be summarized in the one requirement: Obedience!

Consider, briefly, the four objectives of the introduction.

(1) The first objective is "to know wisdom and instruction" (v 2). "Wisdom" is more than knowledge. It implies experience, solidarity, firmness. The precepts set forth by Solomon in this book are designed to make the student firm and stable in the Truth, "that we be no longer children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness" (Eph 4:14).
"Instruction" in its Hebrew form denotes correction, discipline. It suggests a rigid, strong code of behavior, with restraint which ensures obedience. We are expected to adhere to these requirements, turning to the Word for instruction, rather than making our own rules of behavior.

There should be no doubt, no wavering as to what our duties are: they are all simply and clearly revealed in the Bible. From the discipline of the Word we learn the virtues of temperance, soberness, and patience (or endurance). In short, everything to strengthen us in the love and service of our Father in heaven.

(2) Secondly, the Proverbs are designed to cause us "to perceive the words of understanding" (v 2). Many in the world reject the Old Testament from their considerations, relegating it to a much inferior position to that of the New. Indeed, to a lesser degree, even Christadelphians may be affected by the same attitude, or deprecate the importance of Proverbs. But the Scriptures as a whole are designed to educate us, to bring us to a state of spiritual maturity. Paul urged that we should so use them as to grow to a full age in the truth, that "by reason of use, our senses will be exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb 5:14).

The more we study the Bible, the easier it becomes to draw the lines of distinction between good and evil, and therefore to make correct decisions. In that regard Proverbs is a book for all time: whether before or after Christ. It comprises rules for a godly life, as important now as they were to the people of Israel then.

Many of Christ's parables are traceable to this book, showing the esteem in which he held it.

(3) Thirdly, the Proverbs are intended to provide practical guidance for daily living. Solomon wrote:

"To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning, and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels" (vv 3-5).
The term "simple" does not signify those who are stupid, but rather those who are naive or inexperienced, and therefore likely to be deceived or misled. Such must acquire subtlety.

We might have an aversion to the use of this word, recalling that it was a characteristic of the serpent (Gen 3:1). But the serpent used a "very good" attribute in an evil way. Subtlety is cleverness, skillfulness with words, ideas and logic. It is not evil in itself. It only becomes evil when used in connection with wrong ideas and motives, Christ commanded his disciples to be "as wise as serpents, but as harmless as doves" (Mat 10:16).

Cleverness, or subtlety, is wrong only when it is used to gain one's ends, contrary to the will of God. If our desires are to do the will of God in any particular, then it is right and essential to use wisdom and diligence to obtain them. Unfortunately, we do not always do so. The Lord warned:

"The children of this world are, in their generation, wiser than the children of light" (Luke 16:8).
Let us apply the lesson. A wise man of the world will give all that he has to achieve his ambition; he will sacrifice for the present to gain an advantage in the future. What of ourselves? We know what our great desire should be! Do we give all that we might achieve it?

(4) The fourth purpose of the Proverbs is expressed in v 6:

"To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings."
Nearly all of the commands are quite simple to understand. Many, however, have deeper meanings that are not apparent to a casual glance. As we study these commands more and more, we come to get a wider comprehension of them, and a deeper understanding of their significance; and we are caught up in wonder at the great beauty and unity of the Truth. That is what Paul meant when he told the saints at Ephesus that he prayed for them:

"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge; that ye may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:17-19).
We are brought to that point, when we recall the practical requirements of the Truth as exhibited in the Proverbs in the light of the death and resurrection of the Lord. We need to concentrate upon the real and personal significance of the Lord's sacrifice; not think of it only casually, for a moment, then to revert to worldly thoughts and concerns. It must become for us the most important aspect of life. Paul sets the example:

"I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live. Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20).
That is the objective of the call of the truth: to put to death the deeds of the flesh, and to be filled with all the fullness of God; to "grow in grace and knowledge". To that end, and for such an elevating goal of life, the simple, homely book of Proverbs can inspire and uplift us.
Let us thank God for His marvelous wisdom and foresight in providing us with such wonderful helps! And let us use them as guidelines for our conduct before Him.

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