Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: The Beginning and End of Wisdom

Douglas Sean O'Donnell | Review by: Matthew Kratz

Douglas Sean O’Donnell. The Beginning and End of Wisdom: Preaching Christ from the First and Last Chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. 235 pages. $17.99 US, $22.30 CDN.

Old Testament wisdom literature can be difficult to interpret and preach. Douglas Sean O’Donnell, senior pastor of New Covenant Church in Naperville, Illinois, masterfully conveys the nature of this genre in a powerful Christ-centered way. Demonstrating how to connect Hebrew poetry to new covenant redemption, O'Donnell shares six “Christocentic” sermons written primarily for preachers and seminary students. (p.13). Yet, since they are actual sermons, the questions asked and applications are useful for everyone.

As a good preacher, O'Donnell addressed my initial question by stating "at first reading, the book's title may seem presumptuous, as if this book is the beginning and end of wisdom" (p. 14). There are times when titles are general references, but this title is completely literal. O'Donnell uses this title because he examines the first and last chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job and how they look forward to Christ and the Gospel. He does this through thoughtful explanations on how these texts reveal God's insight and perspective on the sufferings of Jesus.

O’Donnell has two goals in the writing of this book. “1) To help you know and enjoy the Wisdom Literature so that you might preach on it more often; and 2) to show you how to preach Christ from this genre.” The first six chapters handle his first goal and the seventh chapter and the Appendixes handle the second goal. “In short this is a book on what the Wisdom Literature is, why we should delight in it, and how we should preach it” (p. 23)

Following the beginning and end of the major wisdom books, O'Donnell’s expositions include:
Chapter 1. Ship of Fools (Proverbs 1:1-7)
Chapter 2. Imperishable Beauty (Proverbs 31:10-31)
Chapter 3. Why Work? (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11)
Chapter 4. Repining Restlessness (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
Chapter 5. The Devil’s Question (Job 1:1-12)
Chapter 6. My Servant (Job 42:1-17)
Chapter 7. How Shall Wisdom Be Preached?

Referring to more than "general wise sayings", according to O'Donnell, Old Testament wisdom deals with a myriad of issues from suffering, work, relational dynamics, marital life etc. But most importantly,  we are not the center of this wisdom but God himself and we must humble ourselves before Him.

Since scripture points to fulfillment through Christ, O'Donnell's presentation of wisdom is Christocentric, always asking the question as of how a particular wisdom passage points one to the Saviour. O'Donnell helps the preacher through the weekly task of preaching from digging into the text, wrestling with its content, showing forth God through Christ.

The attention to detail and elaboration must be commended. Not content to strictly state that the "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom", O'Donnell explains that this means that "According to the book of Proverbs, 'the fear of the Lord' is a continual (23:17), humble, and faithful submission to Yahweh, which compels one to hate evil (8:13) and turn away from it (16:6) and brings with it rewards better than all earthly treasures (15:16)--the rewards of a love for and a knowledge of God (1:29; 2:5; 9:10; 15:33), and long life (10:27; 14:27a; 19:23a) confidence (14:26), satisfaction, and protection (19:23)."  (p.37).

This work is truly from a pastor's heart. Note his description of the book of Job: "the story of the kindness and severity of God, and of the sweetness and bitterness of his providence in the life of his servant Job. We come to a book that will teach us that God's love for us is bigger and broader than sentimentality and sympathy, and that his will for our lives is vaster and grander than our personal happiness or success. We come to a book that will renew our vows, so to speak, reminding us that we are to be faithful to God..." (p.93).

O’Donnell's final chapter, “How Shall Wisdom Be Preached?” provides practical tips The interpretative (hermeneutic) and preaching (homelitical) choices that need to be made which focus on the areas of 1) ethics, 2) types, 3) thematic aspects of Jesus’ teaching, 4) gospel illustrations, and 5) what he calls “gospel awe”—our attitude towards the God we preach.

The Appendices, on A) "Preaching Hebrew Poetry" and B) "Book Summaries and Suggested Sermon Series", provide an excellent summary and outline to put his insightful observations into practice. The Biography is helpful but I have only one frustration with this book with the Endnotes. They are such a breadth of information on background, and really essential key differentiations, that they needed to be endnotes instead. Take for example his citation how the word beginning can be interpreted "temporally as "beginning or starting point (cf. Gen. 10:10; Jer 26:1)" , or "quantitatively, as "first, best, or epitome" (Amos 6:6; Jer. 2:3 Ezek. 48:14....) (p.180). The flow of thought from the chapter needed to be connected with these key distinctions. One had to turn each time to the end of the book to find these observations, disconnecting with the argument being made in each chapter. I hope further editions put O'Donnell's 45 pages of helpful notations at the bottom of each page. Finally the "General Index", and "Scriptural Index", make The Beginning and End of Wisdom: Preaching Christ from the First and Last Chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job, an invaluable resources to guide, encourage, and inform the student and preacher on how to carefully yet boldly proclaim Christ from all the Scriptures (Lk. 24:27,44).

What is The Euthyphro Dilemma? With William Lane Craig

Special Guest Dr. William Lane Craig joins us and explains the Euthyphro dilemma, a dilemma posed to people who say that moral value is based in the gods. Watch this exciting episode and grab a copy of Dr. Craig's new book "On Guard" to learn more about this and other arguments on good and evil.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Go to Church?

Host and president of Jerry Johnson this week as he reads a letter from an average Joe as to why he doesn't go to church.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Willful Sinning (Hebrews 10) John MacArthur

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26-27)

Here is possibly the clearest and most concise scriptural definition of apostasy-receiving knowledge of the truth, that is, the gospel, but willfully remaining in sin. An apostate has seen and heard the truth—he knows it well—but he willfully rejects it.

Apostasy has two major characteristics: knowledge of the truth of the gospel and willful rejection of it.

Every apostate is an unbeliever, but not every unbeliever is an apostate. Many people have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel, even in part. They are sinful and, of course, do not believe in Christ, because they have never heard of Him or of His claims. An apostate, however, is well acquainted with the gospel. He knows more than enough to be saved.

The Greek language has two primary words that can be translated "knowledge." Gnosis has to do with ordinary knowledge, and in the New Testament is often used for general spiritual knowledge. But epignosis, the word used in verse 26, denotes full knowledge, understanding, and discernment. In other words, the persons described here are those who have much more than a passing acquaintance with the gospel. They know it well. An apostate has all the information. He lacks nothing intellectually. He has epignosis. He is among those who have "once been enlightened, ... tasted of the heavenly gift," and even "been made partakers of the Holy Spirit" (Heb. 6:4).

An apostate can be bred only in the brilliant light of proximity to Christ. Apostates are not made in the absence, but in the presence, of Christ. They are bred almost without exception within the church, in the very midst of God's people. It is possible for a person to read the Bible on his own, to see the gospel clearly, and then reject it—apart from direct association with Christians. But by and large, apostates come from within the church.

Eventually, sometimes even after years of pretense and self-deception, the unbeliever who acts like a believer finally falls away. He gives up, loses interest, and goes his own way. He returns to sinning willfully, with no more regard for the Lord's way or the Lord's people. To know God's way, to study about it and hear about it, to identify with believers, and then turn away is to become apostate. The process of falling away may be gradual, but at some point a conscious decision is made to leave the way of God, and reject the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Willfully (hekousios) carries the idea of deliberate intention that is habitual. The reference here is not to sins of ignorance or weakness, but to those that are planned out, determined, done with forethought. The difference between sins of ignorance and sinning willfully is much like the difference between involuntary manslaughter and first-degree murder. Hekousios is habitual. It not only is deliberate, but is an established way of thinking and believing. It is the permanent renunciation of the gospel, the permanent forsaking of God's grace.

A believer may sometimes lapse into sin and stray from intimacy with the Lord and with His people. But, unless the Lord disciplines him and takes him to heaven, he will come back. He will be too much under conviction to stay away permanently. In the meanwhile, he will be robbed of joy and peace and of many other blessings.

We cannot always determine who is apostate and who is backsliding, and we should not try. We are not able to distinguish between a disobedient carnal believer and an apostate unbeliever. That is the Lord's business. But there is a difference between the two, a very great difference. A person's concern should be first of all that he himself is a true believer (2 Cor. 13:5) and then that he is a faithful believer. There are many calls to self-examination in the New Testament. Every time a believer comes to the Lord's Table, he faces the reality or unreality of his salvation...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

No One Comes to Christ...Unless (John 6) John MacArthur

Jesus uttered some very solemn words: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him," emphasizing man's helplessness and utter inability to respond to Him apart from God's sovereign call. Unbelievers are unable to come to Jesus on their own initiative. If God did not irresistibly draw sinners to Christ, no one would ever come to Him.

To explain how lost sinners supposedly have the power to accept or reject the gospel of their own free will, some theologians introduce the concept of prevenient grace. Millard J. Erickson explains,

As generally understood, prevenient grace is grace that is given by God to all men indiscriminately. It is seen in God's sending the sunshine and the rain upon all. It is also the basis of all the goodness found in men everywhere. Beyond that, it is universally given to counteract the effect of sin.... Since God has given this grace to all, everyone is capable of accepting the offer of salvation; consequently, there is no need for any special application of God's grace to particular individuals. (Christian Theology, 3:920)

But the Bible indicates that fallen man is unable, of his own volition, to come to Jesus Christ. Unregenerate people are dead in sin (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13), slaves to unrighteousness (John 8:34; Rom. 6:6, 17, 20), alienated from God (Col. 1:21), and hostile to Him (Rom. 5:10; 8:7). They are spiritually blind (2 Cor. 4:4) captives (2 Tim. 2:26) trapped in Satan's kingdom (Col. 1:13), powerless to change their sinful natures (Jer. 13:23; Rom. 5:6), unable to please God (Rom. 8:8), and incapable of understanding spiritual truth (1 Cor. 2:14; cf. John 14:17). Although the human will is involved in coming to Christ (since no one is saved apart from believing the gospel—Mark 1:15; Acts 15:7; Rom. 1:16; 10:9--15; Eph. 1:13), sinners cannot come to Him of their own free will. (Moreover, a comparison of verse 44 with verse 37 shows that God's drawing cannot apply to all unregenerate people, as proponents of prevenient grace argue, because verse 37 limits it to the redeemed whom God has given to Christ.) God irresistibly, efficaciously draws to Christ only those whom He chose for salvation in eternity past (Eph. 1:4--5, 11).

Once again, Jesus repeated the wonderful promise that all whom the Father chooses will be drawn, will come, will be received, and He will raise them on the last day (vv. 39--40, 54). Everyone who comes to Christ will be kept by Him; there is no possibility that even one elect person given to Him by the Father will be lost (see the discussion of v. 39 above)...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Does Man Have Free-will?

Join host Jerry Johnson this week as he discusses man's will. Is man's will free or under bondage?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sermon Outline: "Hope that Stands in the Storm" Ephesians 4:13-15

1) Unity of the Faith (Ephesians 4:13a)

  • Jude 1:3

  • 1 Corinthians 1:10

2) Knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 4:13b)

  • Ephesians 1:16-19

  • Philippians 3:10

3) Spiritual Maturity (Ephesians 4:13c)  

  • Colossians 1:27-29 

4) Sound Doctrine (Ephesians 4:14)

  • 2 Corinthians 4:2

  • Hebrews 5:11-6:1a

5) Authentic Loving Testimony (Ephesians 4:15)

  • 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12

  • Colossians 2:19  

I'm Suffering, Why Me? Why Now? - Charles Leiter

When a trial enters into your life are you asking God "Why?" or are you trusting the Lord, that no matter how great the storm, He is on the throne.

Charles Leiter is an elder at

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Are You Blaming Your Sin on a Disease? - Tim Conway

One can easily say "I have schizophrenia and I'm bipolar," and blame their mental health, but doesn't the Bible teach the fault for mans sin is the man? They're guilty.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Can God Make a Stone So Heavy He Can't Lift It? (William Lane Craig)

Can God Make a Stone So Heavy He Can't Lift It? Dr. William Lane Craig answers a question about God's attribute. In this case, His omnipotence.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Does Hell Last Forever? (Matthew 25) John MacArthur

Then He will also say to those on His left, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been repared for the devil and his angels...And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:41; 46)

To the lost who will be gathered on His left the King will say, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels." Joining the unredeemable devil and his angels in the eternal fire of hell will be those human beings who refused to believe.

Jesus is speaking of eternal separation from God and from His goodness, righteousness, truth, joy, peace, and every other good thing. He is speaking of eternal association with the devil and his angels in the place of torment God prepared for them. He is speaking of eternal isolation, where there will be no fellowship, no consolation, and no encouragement. He is speaking of eternal duration and of eternal affliction, from which there will be no relief or respite.

Jesus uses the same word (aionios, eternal) to describe salvation and condemnation. If believers will be in heaven with God forever, the lost will be in hell with the devil forever.

Since the millennial kingdom will be worldwide, there will be no place on earth for the accursed to go. They will be slain on the spot and go immediately into the eternal punishment of hell, suffering permanent, everlasting crystallization of their state of spiritual death. At the end of the thousand years their bodies will be raised (cf. John 5:28--29), and they will again stand before God for final sentencing and final condemnation in bodies suited for hell's torments.

But the righteous will go away into eternal life, to spend all eternity glorified with their Lord and Savior. In marvelous contrast to the prospect of the accursed, at the end of the thousand-year earthly kingdom the righteous will discover that their eternal blessedness will only have begun.

Monday, September 12, 2011

No One Born of God Makes a Practice of Sinning

No One Born of God Makes a Practice of Sinning ( you are Born a new)
March 9, 2008

Author: John Piper
Scripture: 1 John 3:1-10
Topic: Sin
Series: You Must Be Born Again
Manuscript: Read this message

Being born again doesn't mean being sinless. It means coming to Jesus as your advocate.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sermon Outline: "That Sinking Feeling" :Matthew 14:22-33

1) Hope Through His Divine Authority (Matthew 14:22–23)

  • Matthew 28:18-20

2) Hope Through His Divine Knowledge (Matthew 14:24–25)

  • Hebrews 4:13  

3) Hope through His Divine Protection (Matthew 14:26–27)

  • Acts 27:21-25  

4) Hope through His Divine Love (Matthew 14:28–31)

  • 1 Peter 1:6-7  

5) Hope through His Divine Power (Matthew 14:32-33)

  • Mark 6:51-52  

Friday, September 09, 2011

The True Demands of Discipleship (Luke 9) John MacArthur

And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:59--60)

First to go and bury my father." At first glance, this seems to be a reasonable request. It was every son's duty to make sure that his father was properly cared for in death (cf. Gen. 25:9; 35:29; 49:29--50:13); only the high priest (Lev. 21:10--11) and those who had taken a Nazarite vow (Num. 6:6--7) were excused from their father's funeral, since they were forbidden to go near a dead person.

The problem with the man's excuse was that his father was not yet dead! Since the Jews did not embalm, Jewish custom dictated that burial take place immediately after death. A comparison of John 11:1, 6, and 17 reveals that Lazarus was buried the same day that he died (one day for the messenger from Mary and Martha to reach Jesus, Jesus delayed two more days, then arrived on the fourth day to find that Lazarus had been buried four days earlier). Both Ananias (Acts 5:6) and Sapphira (v.10) were buried immediately after they died.

What this man was really saying was that he wanted to delay following the Lord until his father died and he received his inheritance. He knew that Jesus was moving out of the area, and to leave now might cause him to lose out on his share of his father's estate. Unlike the Twelve (cf. Matt. 19:27; Luke 5:11, 28), he was not willing to leave everything and follow Jesus. He was an example of "the seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity" (Luke 8:14).

Jesus replied with a proverbial saying that was a rebuke of this man's wrong priorities: "Allow the dead to bury their own dead." That does not mean that believers are forbidden to attend funerals or care for their dead relatives' affairs. To say that the spiritually dead can bury their own dead is to say that there are issues that are priorities to the spiritually dead, but not to those who are alive in Christ. Jesus challenged this individual to leave temporal, earthly matters to worldly people and not make them his overriding priority. Secular people are preoccupied with secular matters, but he was to go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God no matter what doing so might cost him. But like the rich young ruler, he was more committed to personal riches than spiritual truth. It is impossible to serve both God and riches (Luke 16:13), and when forced to choose the men both chose riches...

Thursday, September 08, 2011

In Tough Times, Offer Hope

This clip is taken from the sermon "The Worst Tragedies Can Be the Best Opportunities," preached by Pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church Ballard in Seattle, Washington, and released on August 14, 2011.

It is the 86th sermon in our sermon series on the Gospel of Luke. To watch the full sermon, visit

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Let No One Judge You (Colossians 2) John MacArhur

Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16--17)

Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16--17)

Legalism is the religion of human achievement. It argues that spirituality is based on Christ plus human works. It makes conformity to manmade rules the measure of spirituality. Believers, however, are complete in Christ, who has provided complete salvation, forgiveness, and victory. Therefore, Paul tells the Colossians, let no one act as your judge. Do not sacrifice your freedom in Christ for a set of manmade rules. Inasmuch as "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Rom. 10:4), to become entangled again in a legalistic system is pointless and harmful. Paul reminded the Galatians, who were also beguiled by legalism, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1).

Legalism is useless because it cannot restrain the flesh. It is also dangerously deceptive, because inwardly rebellious and disobedient Christians, or even nonChristians, can conform to a set of external performance standards or rituals.

That Christians not be intimidated by legalism was Paul's constant concern. He commanded Titus not to pay attention to "Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth," because "to the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:14--15). Romans 14--15 and 1 Corinthians 8--10 also discuss Christian liberty and the only legitimate reason for restraining it: to protect a weaker Christian brother or sister.

The false teachers were telling the Colossians that it was not enough to have Christ; they also needed to keep the Jewish ceremonial law. The false teachers' prohibitions about food and drink were probably based on the Old Testament dietary laws (cf. Lev. 11). Those laws were given to mark Israel as God's distinct people and to discourage them from intermingling with the surrounding nations.

Because the Colossians were under the New Covenant, the dietary laws of the Old Covenant were no longer in force. Jesus made that clear (cf. Mark 7:14--19).

Paul reminded the Romans that "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17). That the dietary laws are no longer in force was illustrated by Peter's vision (Acts 10:9--16) and formally ratified by the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:28--29).

A festival was one of the annual Jewish celebrations, such as Passover, Pentecost, the Feast of Tabernacles, or the Feast of Lights (cf. Lev. 23). Sacrifices were also offered on the new moon, or first day of the month (Num. 28:11--14).

Contrary to the claims of some today, Christians are not required to worship on the Sabbath day. It, like the other Old Covenant holy days Paul mentions, is not binding under the New Covenant. There is convincing evidence for that in Scripture.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Greg Koukl - Jesus and Astrology

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason discusses whether Astrology points to Jesus. For more information, visit

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day: 8 Biblical Principles of Work: James Eckman

James Eckman @ outlines 8 principles that outline God's view of work:

2) Work is for a lifetime. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground (Gen. 3:19). God intends that humans are to work as long as they live. Meaningful activity plays a critical role in being a human being - whether paid or volunteer. The magical age of 65 shouldn't end meaningful, purposeful work.
3) Work is not a punishment. God did not create work as drudgery, but as a gift of fulfillment to life. A human being can do nothing better than...find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment (Ecc. 2:24-25)?
4) Work has three purposes: to provide money or resources to supply the necessities of life; to provide for a quality of life in the satisfaction of doing a job well; and to serve God.
5) Work calls for obedience. Even when the boss isn't looking, a good worker is consistent and diligent to the task and loyal to the organization (Col. 3:22, 24). The real boss is Jesus Christ. See your job as service to Him - not simply your employer. Employers should treat employees with respect and fairness.
6) Work should be done with excellence. You are to render service, as to the Lord, and not to men (Eph. 6:6-7); not to be men-pleasers but God-pleasers. God's standard of excellence needs to be the human standard.
7) Work is honorable. All professions and all kinds of work, assuming they are legal and biblically ethical, are honorable before the Lord. There is no dichotomy between sacred and secular work. All work brings glory to God and fulfillment to you, if it is done to God's glory (1 Cor. 10:31).
8) Work provides an opportunity for witness. You manifest a powerful message, both verbal and nonverbal, of a supernatural approach to work. The world today needs this powerful witness to the reality of Christ and the difference that He makes in His followers. (Matthew 5:16)

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Sermon Outline: "Hoping Against Hope". Romans 4:18-25

1)The Analysis of Biblical Hope (Rom. 4:18–19)

  • Hebrews 11:17-19 

2) The Assurance of Biblical Hope (Romans 4:20-22)

  • Hebrews 11:1 

3) The Application of Biblical Hope (Romans 4:23–25)

  • Psalm 78:5-7 

  • Romans 15:4