Thursday, September 03, 2015

Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue



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Resisting Gossip was released on September 3, 2013 by CLC Publications.

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Preview, download, and read the endorsements, table of contents, foreword by Ed Welch of CCEF, introduction, and first chapter here.

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Go deeper into Resisting Gossip with the new participant's guide and Bible study Resisting Gossip Together, the corresponding video teaching series, and the Spanish version, Resistiendo el Chisme.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Psalm for Giving Thanks

"A psalm. For giving thanks. 

Shout for joy to the LORD,
    all the earth.

Worship the LORD with gladness;
     come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God.

It is he who made us,
     and we are his;

we are his people,
     the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
      give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
      his faithfulness continues through all generations."

                        - Psalm 100 (NIV 1984)

Greek Words for Gossip: "Psithurismos" and "Katalalia" (Part Two)

We are analyzing the Greek words commonly translated "gossip" and each New Testament passage in which they occur on our way to developing a biblical definition of gossip. Yesterday, we were introduced to two bad words, "Psithurismos" and "Katalalia,"

How Are "Psithurismos" and "Katalalia" Related?

What is the relationship, then, between these two word groups? C. E. B. Cranfield suggests,

Both words denote people who go about to destroy other people’s reputations by misrepresentation. The difference between psithuristas and katalalos is that the former denoted specifically one who whispers his slanders in his listener’s ear, whereas the latter means a slanderer quite generally, irrespective of whether he whispers his calumnies or proclaims them from the house-tops–though the fact that it is used immediately after psithuristas makes it natural to understand it to refer here in particular to the more open sort of slanderer. The psithuristas is, of course, the more vicious and dangerous kind, inasmuch as he is one against whom there is virtually no human defence.57
Douglas Moo agrees. “The final part of the vice list begins with two terms that denote slander. The first is the more specific, suggesting the ‘whispering’ of the person who spreads ‘confidential’ rumors about others. The word translated ‘maligners’ could more clumsily be paraphrased ‘one who speaks against.’”58

John Calvin writes,
Whisperers and backbiters are to be distinguished in the following way: the whisperers destroy the friendships of good men by their secret accusations, inflame their minds to anger, speak against the innocent, and sow discord. Backbiters, with innate malignity, spare the reputation of none, and as though driven by a passionate urge to speak evil of people, revile the deserving as well as the innocent.59
R. G. V. Tasker interprets them in this way, “By backbitings, katalaliai, are probably meant slanders spoken behind people’s backs; and by whisperings, psithurismoi, defamations in the forms of innuendos.”60

Larger and Smaller Categories

It seems, therefore, that the katalalia/katalalos word group is the larger category of evil-speaking against another (sometimes taking secretive forms) and the psithurismos/psithuristas word group is the smaller category that always refers to talk “behind someone’s back.”

Notes

[57] C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, Volume 1:1-8, ICC (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1980), 130-131.

[58] Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996), 120.

[59] John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, ed. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance, trans. Ross Mackenzie, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries 8 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1973), 38.

[60] R. V. G. Tasker, The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, TNTC (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1971), 185.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Greek Words for Gossip: "Psithurismos" and "Katalalia" (Part One)

We are analyzing the Greek words commonly translated "gossip" and each New Testament passage in which they occur on our way to developing a biblical definition of gossip.

Two Bad Words

1. Psithurismos/psithuristas and katalalia/katalalos. The first word, psithurismos, literally means “hiss, whisper” and in the New Testament is used “only in a bad sense whispering, (secret) gossip, tale-bearing.”52 The related form, psithuristas, is therefore, “whisperer, tale-bearer.”53 It is similar to the Hebrew word nirgan we encountered in the Old Testament. In both of their New Testament uses, these Greek words always appear in very close proximity to katalalos (“speaking evil of others, slanderous” used substantivally “slanderer”)54 or its related form katalalia (“evil speech, slander, defamation, detraction”).55 The two words seem to be connected.

Not a Minor Sin

In Romans 1, the apostle Paul has begun his grand exposition of the gospel of God. He is declaring the universal sinfulness of humanity and, in specific, the depravity of the Gentiles. Paul ends his first chapter by listing the sins of the depraved mind. “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips [psithuristas (plural)], slanderers [katalalous (plural of katalalos)], God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Rom 1:29-31). Gossip is not a minor sin. It shares space in a list with every other kind of wickedness deserving the wrath of God. “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Rom 1:32).

Repentance Required

Similarly, in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul uses these two words right next to each other (though in opposite order) in a list of vices that he fears will be present in the church in Corinth when he returns. “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander [katalaliai, (plural of katalalia)], gossip [psithurismoi56 (plural of  psithurismos)], arrogance, and disorder” (2 Cor 12:20). While the list in Romans 1 was about sinners in general, this vice list is more specific to dissension, disunity, and discord among the church in Corinth. Gossip divides Christians. When Paul returns on his third visit, for the edification of the church, he will have to exercise painful discipline unless the Corinthians examine themselves and repent (2 Cor 12:21-13:10). If someone has engaged in sinful gossip, the only way forward is repentance.

[To Be Continued...]

Notes

[52] BAGD 892.

[53] BAGD 893.

[54] BAGD 412.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Interestingly, this is the first place in our study of gossip throughout the Bible where a key term is used to describe the phenomenon of gossip itself and not the kind of person who engages in it. The Bible seems to be more interested in teaching us what kind of people to be than in giving us precise ethical definitions of what behavior is acceptable or unacceptable.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gossip in the New Testament

The next major stop on our tour of the Bible in search of a definition of sinful gossip is the New Testament. In my doctoral project, I introduced the NT section like this:

Gossip in the New Testament

As our study of gossip in the Old Testament centered upon the book of Proverbs, our study of gossip in the New Testament will focus mainly on the epistles. Gossip is denounced as much in the New Testament as, if not more than, in the Old Testament. Whenever it appears, gossip is viewed as negative, shameful, unrighteous, and undesirable. In what follows, we will study three sets of Greek word groups usually translated in English versions as “gossip,” “gossips,” “gossiping.” We will analyze each occurrence of these words, give exposition of the context and content of the surrounding teaching, and also note related terms and phenomena.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bearing False Witness

This is our last stop on our tour of the Old Testament in our series of fragments from my D.Min project showing how I arrived at my definition of gossip. We've been learning about phenomenon in the Old Testament we might call "gossip" even when a technical term is not used. Today's post is about the fourth of four important and related concepts, along with exposition of key texts.

Thou Shalt Not

4. Bearing False Witness. The ninth commandment is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exod 20:16, cf. Exod 23:1, Prov 3:30). We have seen that gossip often involves falsehood on some level (even when the facts being recounted are accurate). Reformed Christians have long understood the ninth commandment to prohibit gossip.49 It is fitting to end our study of the Old Testament50 by observing what question 144 of the Westminster Larger Catechism teaches about the obligations of the ninth commandment:

The duties required in the ninth commandment, are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging talebearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requires; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.51
Notes

[49] Question 145 of the Westminster Larger Catechism says, “The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are . . . speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, talebearing, whispering.” Johannes Geerhardus Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary, ed. G. I. Williamson (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2002), 394.

[50] Much more could be said about gossip in the Old Testament, including a survey of stories of gossip in action in the Pentateuch, History Books, and Prophets. All of the principles we have learned so far are illustrated in the garden, the land of promise, the wilderness, the conquest, the kingdom, and the exile.

[51] Johannes Geerhardus Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary, ed. G. I. Williamson (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2002), 394. I find this kind of ethical extrapolation from the 10 Commandments to be helpful for moral instruction even if I do not share all of the hermeneutical assumptions of covenant theologians.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "The Blessings of Justification"

“The Blessings of Justification”
All Roads Lead to Romans
November 23, 2014 :: Romans 5:1-11 

I love how the Lord has orchestrated this passage to be for this Sunday.

I didn’t plan it that way, but Somebody did.

The name of today’s message is “The Blessings of Justification.”

Because this passage is so full of blessing. It’s an explosion of blessing.

Which is just perfect for the Sunday right before Thanksgiving when we concentrate our celebration of all of the blessings that God has given us.

Count Your Blessings.

Well, we’re going to do that today in Romans 5, verses 1 through 11.

And they are just breathtaking!

I could easily preach 10 or 12 messages on these 11 verses. It wouldn’t be hard at all to spend a full quarter of a year on Romans 5:1-11. It’s just that good.

In fact, I ended up with a 6 point sermon for today. Don’t worry. They’re brief points, but I could have made it an 10 or 11 point sermon! There is just so much goodness here in just 11 verses.

And one of the great things about this astonishing passage is that it isn’t hard to understand. Unlike other parts of Romans!

All I have to do is read these verses to you, and you’ll get it. Especially because for most of you, this is not the first time you’ve heard them.

And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to read all eleven verses.

And here’s what I want you to listen for as I read.  Listen for “justification.” Because that’s been the theme of the letter so far, hasn’t it? Listen for how all of these blessings flow from our justification by faith in Jesus.

And also listen for all of the logic words. Paul is a logician. Listen for the words that indicate his logical argument. The “therefores” and the “how much mores” and the “not only that buts” and so forth. Because all of those are important for getting the message that Paul and, more importantly, God have for us to hear.

Ready? Here we go. Romans chapter 5, verses 1 through 11.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  (NIV 1984)
Did you hear those logic words?

And did you hear the tone of exultation? There is so much praise and rejoicing and wonder going on in these eleven verses!

Paul is just bursting with joy in the blessings of justification.

Did you catch that word justification again?

Verse 1.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith...”

Chapter 5 is the next step in Paul’s argument. He hasn’t left his explanation of the gospel of grace. He’s taking it to the next level.

There is a shift going from chapters 1-4 to chapters 5-8, but the thing that ties them together is justification. Righteous-ification.

That’s what Paul has been talking about since chapter 1.

In the gospel of grace, God solves our righteousness problem and His righteousness problem.

Our righteousness problem is that we are unrighteous and that invites the holy wrath of God.

God’s righteousness problem was that He had forgiven His faith-followers their sins before the Cross opening Him up to the charge of injustice.

And at the Cross, He solved our problem and His.

“...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

An incredibly important paragraph.

And then last time in chapter 4, we saw that Paul defended this idea of justification by faith alone by using the illustration of Father Abraham.

Paul said, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”

That’s a radical idea. Justification by faith in Jesus alone.

The last chapter ended, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

And now Paul will show us what that leads to.

It changes absolutely everything.

Six points. Six blessings.

#1. PEACE. V.1

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

See the logic?  Since we have this justification, this righteousness coming to us by faith alone and not through moral effort, we have peace with God.

That’s amazing. He’s going to say more about this peace in verses 10 and 11. There, he’s going to call it reconciliation.

This is not peace, the feeling. “I feel peace about it.”

This is peace, the restored relationship. “Peace with God.”

Because of our justification, we are no longer at war with God.

Everything we read about in the Bad News section of Romans about the wrath of God that is coming on those who are unrighteous and disobedient?  That’s over now for those who are justified.

God is no longer our enemy. We are at peace.

You don’t God as your enemy.

Who do you think will win that one? Who wants to go to war against and omnipotent enemy?

Well, stupid sinners do. Sin is irrational and unreasonable.

We have made war against God.

But Jesus has become our peace. Verse 1 again.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It’s because of Him. As we count our blessings this Thursday, we need to realize that they all come through Jesus.

That’s what Paul says about this second one. V.2

“...through whom [Jesus] we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”

Blessing number two?

#2. GRACE.

It’s through Jesus that we have “gained access” into grace.

That’s wonderful, isn’t it?

Notice, again, that’s “by faith.” This is not something we earned. It’s grace!

And notice also that this grace is something in which we “now stand.”  It’s a free place to stand. It’s a new standing.

Not something we have done. Not a place we took ourselves to. But something Jesus has done. A place to stand made by Jesus for us.

That’s a blessing.

And then Paul goes from the present to the future. From NOW to WHAT’S TO COME. V.2

“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

Are those words familiar?

They should be. They’re right up here.

When Kathy Moore asked me what scripture verses to put on the praise banners, this was my first recommendation for her.

“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

#3. HOPE.

In many ways, this is the next big theme for the book of Romans.

He’s going to talk a lot about the hope of every Christian in the next four chapters.

And our hope comes from our justification.

“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

That word translated “rejoice” is a strong word. It means to exult. Some translations even have “boast.”

The idea is that we are so blessed and so excited about that blessing, that it just erupts  out of us.

“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God!”

It’s a wahoo word.

Yes!  Woot!  Yehah!

And what do we rejoice in? The hope of the glory of God.

Remember, this is not hope as a wish. This is hope as a sure future. Something that we don’t have yet but we KNOW is coming.

The glory of God.

Sharing in the glory of God.
Seeing the glory of God.
Living in the glory of God.

Heaven.
Glorification.

Where we become like God because we see Him as He is.

No longer are we falling short of the glory of God.

Now, we look forward to the glory of God. So much so, that we rejoice even though it’s not here yet like it will be!

Wow!

And Paul says, verse 3, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings...”

Wait. What?!

We rejoice in what?

In our sufferings? In our trials? In our tribulations? In our problems?

Hey, Paul, this is Thanksgiving season. We don’t want to think about that tough stuff.

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

The justified know that our sufferings are for a purpose. And the end result is more hope.

We don’t rejoice in our sufferings because we like pain. Christians are not masochists.

But we do rejoice even in sufferings because we know that they will produce more hope in us.

How does that work?

Paul gives us a chain of events that happens for all truly justified believers.

It’s very similar to the one in the first chapter of James which Alex Ielase taught us about in August.

First, we suffer. We go through hard things. Happens to everyone, including believers.

But believers are justified. They are righteous by faith in Jesus. And they believe. They trust. They put their hope in God.

And when they do. When we do, it produces perseverance.

Anybody want to guess what the Greek word is here translated “perseverance” in the NIV and “patience” in the King James?

It’s hupomonen.

Remember Alex making us repeat that word?

It’s stick-to-it-iveness. It’s endurance. It’s holding on.

The justified hold on. And that forms their character. They change.

Believers become more like Jesus over time.

And when they look the changes that God is working in them, however, imperfect they are, they know that what they hope for us coming.

And what they hope for us the total transformation of their lives into the image of Christ. Their glorification.

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God! V.5

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

We will not be ashamed on that day. We know that what we hope for us coming. It will not disappoint.

And how do we know? Because the Holy Spirit tells us so.

Because “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Yes!

#4. LOVE.

God has taken the great big pitcher, the hugemongous jug of the water of His love and poured it into our hearts.

Do you know that you are loved by God?

Remember when we started Romans, I challenged you to write it on a card and repeat it into the bathroom mirror?

“I am loved by God.”
“I am loved by God.”
“I am loved by God.”

The Bible tells me so.

And the Holy Spirit Himself pours that knowledge into our hearts.

And then Paul tells us how God shows us that He loves us. V.6

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. [He’s just amazed by this. He’s like, “Let me tell you this!”] Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It’s almost too good to be true.

This is how the justified are loved.

We are loved before we are justified.

When we were powerless, weak, helpless, and ungodly, Jesus died for us.

That’s love!

“God demonstrates.” Notice that that’s present tense. He is demonstrating right now His own love for us in this: back then while we were still His enemies, Jesus died for us.

Now, I know that you know this. We talk about this all the time.

But don’t let it slide by without marveling.

I would die for my children.
I would die for my wife.
I might die for a stranger if I thought it was the right thing to do.

But to die in the place of the one who wants me dead? The one who is my enemy?

That’s what Jesus did.

Amazing love, how can it be? That you my King would die for me?

But that’s not all. There are even more blessings of justification.

Future blessings. V.9

“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!”

#5. SALVATION.

This is future salvation.

Not just initial justification but salvation from the wrath of God in the future.

“Since we have now been justified by his blood [his death], how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!”

Do you hear the logic?

It’s the harder to easier thing.  V.10

“For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

If God has already done the hard thing of sacrificing His One and Only Son for us, then how easy it will be for Him to shield us from the wrath to come.

Our justification has led to our reconciliation.

We have (v.1) peace with God.

We are no longer enemies. We are friends.

We are no longer separated. We are together.

We are not longer estranged. We are reconciled.

And we have been reconciled by Jesus’ death, how much more will be saved through His resurrection life?!

How’s that for a blessing of justification?

Safe from the wrath of God. FOREVER.

Salvation.

But it gets even better than that.

Can you believe it? It gets even better than that. Here’s blessing number six.

#6. GOD.

God Himself!  V.11

“Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

We don’t just rejoice in the hope of the glory of God or in the knowledge that our sufferings have a purpose.

We don’t just rejoice that we stand in grace or that we are loved or even saved from the wrath God.

We rejoice. We exult. We boast. We praise because we get God Himself!

“Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Again, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

He’s the One that makes it all possible.

He’s the One from whom all these blessings of justification flow.

The Lord Jesus Christ.

Two points of application and then we’ll sing it!

First: PUT YOUR FAITH IN JESUS TO BE JUSTIFIED.

All of these blessings come to those who have been justified by faith (v.1) and by His blood (v.9).

They do not come those who have not put their faith in Jesus and His blood.

If you are not trusting in Jesus, you are not a peace with God.
You are not standing in grace.
You have no hope of the glory of God.
Your suffering is to no eternal purpose.
The love of God has not been poured into your heart.
You are not saved.
You cannot rejoice in God.

 You cannot sing the songs we’ve sung today.

Turn from your sins and trust in the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Turn away from trying to earn God’s favor because justification is not by works. It’s by faith.

Put your faith in Jesus to be justified, and you will receive all of this!

And second application: REJOICE, REJOICE, REJOICE!

Raise your voice with Paul and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God!

Rejoice even in your sufferings because they will end up giving you more hope.

Rejoice in God (and all that He is and does and gives) through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rejoice in the blessings of justification.

Forever and ever. Amen.

***

Messages in this Series

01. All Roads Lead to Romans
02. I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel
03. The Bad News
04. Hope for Holy Sexuality
05. The Even Worse News
06. The Worst News
07. Justified
08. Father Abraham

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Meddling

Our series towards a biblical definition of gossip continues through the phenomenon in the Old Testament we call "gossip" even when a technical term is not used. Today's post is about the third of four important and related concepts, along with exposition of key texts.

Leave the Passing Cur Alone

Meddling In Others’ Business. Proverbs 26:17 says, “Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own.” The image in the first part of the proverb almost grabs the reader like the fool it describes! The point of the proverb is to motivate its readers to mind their own business and not meddle in others’. Waltke explains, “The dispute, which itself entails getting hurt (see 17:14), is likened to a semiwild dog. . . . Grabbing it by its sensitive ears connotes the inevitability of getting hurt in the needless dispute. . . . The senseless busybody should leave the passing cur alone, and the disciple should walk away from a dispute in which he has no interest.”48 We will see that the theme of minding one’s own business will be amplified in the New Testament (1 Thess 4:11, 2 Thess 3:11, 1 Tim 5:13).

Notes

[48] Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005), 359.

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