Proverbs: Wisdom for the Whole of Life
A very good and helpful Bible study guide from the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity
Proverbs: Wisdom for the Whole of Life – A Six-Session Bible Study
By Antony Billington
Reviewed by: Ernest Lucas
Everyone knows that the Bible is a collection of many books. However, my experience of many Bible study groups is that people are not so aware that the Bible contains many different kinds of writing and that the way one reads, understands, and seeks to apply what is read in the Bible needs to take this into account. The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC) is to be thanked for trying to help Christians take this issue seriously in a series of short Bible study guides called ‘The Gateway Seven Series’ to be published by IVP. These will cover seven biblical books, each representing a different genre of writing: law, prophecy, gospel, letter, wisdom apocalyptic and narrative. Besides the emphasis on how to engage with different kinds of writing, the series is concerned, ‘to offer a gateway to a deeper love of God’s word and richer insights into its extraordinary implications for all of life, Monday through Sunday.’ That emphasis on 24/7 discipleship has been has been central to LICC’s mission since its foundation by the Revd Dr John Stott in the 1980s.
This study guide on Proverbs, representing wisdom literature, is the first in the series. Its author is Antony Billington, Theology Advisor at the LICC and also pastor of the Beacon Church, Ashton-in-Makerfield. It can be used for personal study but more will be gained from it if used by a small group. Each session covers a theme based on a passage from Proverbs and follows the same plan.
A ‘First Thoughts’ section introduces the theme and its relevance to everyday life. The study passage is printed in the book. After an initial question which helps the user to focus on the theme, there are three sets of questions. The first, ‘What does the Bible Say?’, concentrates on engagement with the set passage.
The second, ‘Going Deeper,’ seeks to put it in the wider context of the Bible, including Jesus’ teaching. The final set, ‘Living it Out,’ is aimed at application to daily life. The questions are well thought-out and pertinent. As Billington says, many of them do not have a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. They are intended to stimulate deeper thought and the sharing of insights from everyone in the group. Finally, there are suggestion for use in a prayer time.
Besides the Bible study sessions there are personal stories and short ‘Features’, such as ‘How does Proverbs fit into the Bible as a whole?’ and ‘Do I need to be male to read the book of Proverbs?’ There are also suggested schemes for reading through the whole of Proverbs on your own.
This is a very good and helpful Bible study guide and, if the subsequent guides in the series are similar to it, is will be a very good resource for encouraging ‘whole life discipleship’ in churches and other contexts, such as Christian fellowship groups in workplaces.
The Revd Dr Ernest C. Lucas is Vice-Principal Emeritus, Bristol Baptist College and an Associate Research Fellow, Spurgeon’s College