Creekside Church
Sermon of November 17, 2019

"The Wisdom of God"
Ephesians 3:7-12

Pastor
Rosanna McFadden

 

Good morning! We are more than halfway through the month of November, a month when I have been preaching from the New Testament book of Ephesians, and we have been emphasizing the practice of gratitude: of being intentional about thanking God for the gifts of people and the gift of the church of Christ Jesus. Today we are going to focus on the wisdom of God, given to us in the Bible and revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Since we’re talking about the Bible, I thought I’d begin with a bit of trivia. Since the Bible has been the subject of so much study, scholars have turned up some surprising things: did you know that automobiles are mentioned in the Bible? Ted Foland, this is for you:

In Genesis, Yahweh drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden in a Fury, an automobile produced by Plymouth between 1955 and 1989.

In 1 Samuel, after the defeat of the Philistines, David's Triumph was heard throughout the land. The Triumph as a British automobile produced from 1921 to 1984 -- David’s must have needed a new muffler.

Mark says that immediately after Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit drove him into the wilderness: the Bible doesn’t say specifically, but I think we can assume this was in an off-road vehicle of some kind.

And finally, the book of Acts talks about the brethren being gathered together in one Accord. Each of my children drove a Honda Accord (the same one), and they got tired of me citing this reference. Sadly, if their experience is any indicator, you can only get about 6-7 Brethren -- maybe 10 if they’re flexible -- in one Accord.

The Bible is the God-inspired words which were given to believers thousands of years ago, and have been, protected, preserved, transmitted and translated for us to have today. The Bible is the most-distributed, most discussed, and most written-about book -- or collection of books -- of all time. I’m sure you know, so I’m not going to go into great detail, about the different genres of literature in the Bible: it’s a library of creation stories and family drama and law and history and civil record and poetry and prophecy and wisdom and apocalypse. And that’s only the Old Testament! The New Testament is shorter and a bit less diverse -- it was collected over a much shorter span of time. But what binds this collection together thematically is the work of God and God’s interaction with the beloved and troublesome part of creation known as humanity.

There are plenty of references to scripture in scripture itself -- but we need to handle these with care. References to scripture in the Old Testament are references to the holy Jewish writings we know as the Old Testament, especially the Law or the Torah: Jesus quotes those writings extensively, especially Deuteronomy and the prophet Isaiah. References to scripture in the New Testament are generally talking about the Old Testament, too -- because the New Testament was not collected and canonized until after all of the gospels and letters had been written, and we know that there were early Christian writings which were not included in the collection we call the New Testament .

This is not to take away from the inspiration or the truth of New Testament material like the letter to the Ephesians which I have been preaching from this month, but to hold the distinction between the word of God (with a little w) which we have been given in scripture, and the Word of God (with a capital W) which is revealed in Jesus Christ. I think it’s an important distinction to make because it’s the argument which Paul is trying to make to the church at Ephesus. Paul was trained as a Pharisee: a scholar with reverence for Jewish law, and expert in the language and interpretation of the Old Testament. Jews were using the tenants of Jewish law to argue against sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with non-Jews. Beginning in Ephesians chapter 3, Paul is arguing that in former generations, humankind did not fully understand God’s purpose. Even though they read and studied the words of the law and the prophets it was still a mystery. It is only when we look back at those scriptures in light of what has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, that we can begin to understand the wisdom of God. What is so amazing about scriptureis that God’s purpose for salvation is there and has been there all along: we just couldn’t see it completely until it was revealed through the grace of Christ.

There will always be a place for biblical scholarship -- for people who use the best of their intellect and analytical skills to research and wrestle with biblical texts. I thank God for people with these skills nearly every time I prepare a sermon. But I am here to tell you that you do not have to be a scholar to be a believer in the Word of God, Jesus Christ. No one-- not the greatest scholar nor the simplest child--will ever fully understand the wisdom of God: it is too wonderful for us. A theology which begins with, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” is not very sophisticated, but it’s a pretty good place to start. Essentially, the good news of the gospel which Paul was preaching to the Gentiles, and which was catching on like wildfire, was variation of that theology, “Jesus loves you this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” That new twist was radical. It still is. I challenge you to look at the people around you, people whom you see in the news, co-workers, classmates, immigrants, political figures -- whomever -- and say to yourself, “Jesus loves you, this I know . . .” and see if it changes your attitude at all. That may not seem like great wisdom, but I believe -- and I think Paul would have been with me on this -- that scholarship which does not change us is simply knowledge. It takes knowledge plus the grace revealed to us in Jesus Christ to have wisdom: and wisdom changes us. Wisdom is not simply information: wisdom is the belief we are sharers in the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel, and that gives us will to live as Jesus would.

This brings us around to gratitude -- again. Gratitude for the access we have to God’s inspiration and the words of the poets and prophets and evangelists in the Bible. There are places where owning or sharing the Bible is illegal. There are people who are translating or teaching the gospel who are risking persecution or expulsion if they are caught sharing the Bible with non-Christians. This is a book which we should never take lightly, or take for granted.

But the wisdom of God is not fully contained between the covers of this book, not in the Old or even in the New Testament. These writings point us toward Jesus Christ: hidden in the Old and more fully and explicitly revealed in the New. The Bible invites us to reading and study, but more importantly it invites us to belief: belief in a God who loved humanity so much that God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ to live among us -- not to condemn us, but to show us the way to serve God and love one another. Any knowledge which does not include the humility to know that we are limited by our own short-sightedness and sin cannot be wisdom. Wisdom comes from the grace of Jesus which changes our lives, and that transformation happens outside of the covers of this book. Transformation is the work of the Jesus the living Word, and how we incorporate Jesus into our lives day after day.

In the coming week, I invite you to think of, or search for, a favorite passage of scripture. Maybe you remember the gist of it, but can’t remember the address -- was it Psalm 118 or Psalm 136? Maybe you remember a short passage such as “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” but you haven’t read that in the larger context of Philippians 4 for a while. I don’t recommend closing your eyes and letting the Bible fall open and seeing where your eyes land: it’s kind of like fishing by tying a piece of string to a stick and throwing it in the water: it might work, but you’re not willing to put in any more effort than that, I wouldn’t blame God if you don’t catch anything. There are resources online if you’re searching for a specific topic such as hope or strength or grace. No time spent reading the Bible is wasted time, but like anything else, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. If you do not own a Bible, see me after the service and I will do my best to send one home with you.

Please take a moment today or through the next week to write a reference for your favorite verse or passage and put it on the Gratitude Tree in the Gathering Area so I can include them in the service next week. Next week will be the last week the tree is up.

I pray that we will increase in our knowledge of the Bible, but more than that, that we would be changed by God’s wisdom revealed to us in Christ Jesus; the firm foundation on which we are built, and the light which guides our path. Will you stand as we join in our final hymn?

 

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