Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Proverbs 12:28 --- Walking in Eternal Life

Proverbs 12:28 
In the path of righteousness is life,
    and in its pathway there is no death.

One of my weaknesses is my inability to do more than one thing at a time.  I am not a good multi-tasker.  Therefore, in meditating on and writing about the Proverbs, I rarely look ahead, and if I do, at my age, I quickly forget what lies ahead.  So I am always amazed at how my poor attempt at a Christological interpretation of the Proverbs tends to such a smooth transition from one proverb to the next.  Yesterday, I argued that the Book of Proverbs is far more eschatological than is generally recognized by most of the commentators.  To put it more simply, Proverbs is constantly talking to us about eternal life and eternal death, heaven and hell.  I honestly had no idea that today's proverb would be one of the clearest examples of Solomon's belief in life beyond the grave.

The Israelites' belief in immortality should not surprise us.  Many of her idolatrous neighbors believed in immortality, so are we really to believe that the people of the true God would not also believe in life with the Lord after death?  Egypt, for example, is well known for its belief that the pharaoh upon his clinical death would journey from this life to the next life.  But Israel's belief in the next life is different than Egypt's view which limited eternal life to pharaoh.  In Proverbs the Lord democratizes this eternal life and offers it to all who are willing to walk in wisdom's path of righteousness.
It is true that the understanding of eternal life in the Old Testament was not nearly as clear as what we have in the New Testament.  As 2 Timothy 1:10 says, "Christ Jesus . . . abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."  Nevertheless, if we say Old Testament believers had no knowledge of eternal life, we turn the witness of the New Testament into a lie!  For the great hall of fame of faith for Old Testament believers, Hebrews 11, clearly tells us Old Testament believers were seeking a heavenly country (see Hebrews 11:14-16).

There is a hiddenness about the Old Testament.  The apostle Paul speaks of this hiddenness when he speaks of "the mystery hidden for ages and generations" (Colossians 1:26).  But this does not mean that New Testament believers should read the Old Testament in this hidden way!  On the contrary, the very next words from Paul's mouth are "but now revealed to his saints!" (v. 26).  We, Christ's people, are now to mine "the riches of the glory of this mystery!" (v. 27).  What was hidden in the Old Testament Scriptures, God has now made "fully known" (v. 25), through his beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

But we really don't have to do much mining of today's proverb to discover the immortality that is taught.  The word "life" in line one is paralleled with "no death," in line two.  Since every person born has also died, with the exception of Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:1-18), what can it mean that in the pathway of righteousness there is no death, except that those who walk with the Lord will live after they physically die!  Eternal life belongs to those who walk with the Lord.  It was said that "Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him" (Genesis 5:24).  Our verse is saying the same is true for all who walk with God in his path of righteousness, though unlike Enoch, we may have to pass through death before the Lord takes us to himself, barring his soon return.

The Heidelberg Catechism (Q&A 42) is very good on this point.  It asks:
            "Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die?"

And it answers:

            "Our death does not pay the debt of our sins.  Rather, it puts an end to our sinning and
            is our entrance into eternal life."

Jesus has transformed the death of his people into a blessing, namely, "our entrance into eternal life."

Finally, to this good news, I would add one word of warning implicit in our proverb.  True believers seek to live righteous lives!  While Christ alone saves us by his sheer, unmerited grace, this does not mean we can live lives that have no interest in walking with Christ.  Here, Colossians 2:6 speak a faithful word to us:

            "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him."

The second part of this verse, "walk in him," is not optional.  Sadly, many today think it is.  Undoubtedly, we all will struggle with the flesh, our sinful nature, our entire life.  But with that struggle understood, if we have no desire or interest in walking with Jesus in the obedience that flows from faith, then we should be concerned about our souls and cry out to Him for the help of his Spirit.  For the Spirit's work in our hearts, as the Heidelberg Catechism, again, faithfully teaches, is to make us willing to live for Christ:

            "Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life AND makes
            me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him" (Q&A 1).

Are you willing from now on to live for him?  If you are, praise the Lord!  But if you are not willing to live for him, then cry out to Jesus Christ to send his Spirit into your heart to do his gracious work of making you willing.  Then you too can have a true, not false, assurance that eternal life is yours.




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