Tag Archive for 'Wisdom'

What Is Biblical Wisdom?

It may not be what many of us thought.

I was reviewing memorized Scripture and noticed parts of these two:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
James 1:5-8

What I would think is this is the type of thing where somebody asks you about something and you answer that you’ll pray about it and ask God for wisdom. Not that I believe that God whispers in our ear and tells us what to do, but he guides us and reminds us of Scripture that may help. Which he does…

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
James 3:17

This is a much different portrayal of wisdom than the scenario I wrote above. We often ask for wisdom and don’t get it. We’re sometimes asking for the wrong thing or expecting God to tell us what he doesn’t usually reveal to us. Biblical wisdom isn’t necessarily about making the right decisions or being able to answer people’s important life questions, although it could indirectly lead to that in some cases. Biblical wisdom is something that God promises to give to everyone. This is his will for believers.

I recently read Knowing Scripture and remembered a quote in there that really struck me as I was also pondering how James and other inspired writers portray wisdom. I’m now reading Communion With God and just read something about wisdom in that book. And I have a saved quote from a commentary on Job that I read a year or two ago (which is very good) that describe these things much better than I can.

Sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation (2 Tim 3:15). Paul refers to the Scripture’s ability to give wisdom. When the Bible speaks of wisdom, it refers to a special kind of wisdom. The term is not used to connote an ability to be “worldly wise” or to have the cleverness necessary to write a Poor Richard’s Almanack. In biblical terms, wisdom has to do with the practical matter of learning how to live a life that is pleasing to God. A cursory glance at the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament makes this emphasis abundantly clear. Proverbs, for example, tells us that wisdom begins with the “fear of the LORD” (Prov 1:7; 9:10). That fear is not a servile fear but a posture of awe and reverence, which is necessary for authentic godliness. The Old Testament distinguishes between wisdom and knowledge. We are commanded to acquire knowledge, but more to acquire wisdom. Knowledge is necessary if wisdom is to be gained, but it is not identical with wisdom. A person can have knowledge without having wisdom, but he or she cannot have wisdom without having knowledge. A person without knowledge is ignorant. A person without wisdom is deemed a fool. In biblical terms foolishness is a moral matter and receives the judgment of God. Wisdom in the highest sense is being wise with respect to salvation. Thus wisdom is a theological matter. Paul is saying that through the Scriptures we can acquire that kind of wisdom that concerns our ultimate fulfillment and destiny as human beings.

–R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture

The path of wisdom, godlikeness, and holiness would rely on Scripture for guidance without necessarily looking to specific texts to lay down hard and fast rules (though it occasionally might and we dare not neglect them when it does). Wisdom brings order to life and relationships, and the wise take God seriously. Wisdom derives from biblical values, but it is not necessarily bound to Israelite culture. Holiness recognizes that aspects of our behavior will sharply distinguish us from those around us. God’s holiness is embodied in his distinguishing attributes; we exhibit holiness by reflecting God’s communicable attributes (e.g., by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit). We can build ideas about godlikeness around the biblical text’s portrayal of God.

–John Walton, Job (NIVAC)

What Biblical wisdom is:

The sum of all true wisdom and knowledge may be reduced to these three heads: (1) The knowledge of God, his nature and his properties. (2) The knowledge of ourselves in reference to the will of God concerning us. (3) Skill to walk in communion with God.

–John Owen, Communion With God

What Biblical wisdom is not:

There are two things that might seem to have some color in claiming a title and interest in this business: (1) civil wisdom and prudence, for the management of affairs; (2) ability of learning and literature—but God rejects both these, as of no use at all to the end and intent of true wisdom indeed. There is in the world that which is called “understand— ing,” but it comes to nothing. There is that which is called “wisdom,” but it is turned into folly, “God brings to nothing the understanding of the prudent, and makes foolish this wisdom of the world” (1 Cor. 1:19-20). And if there be neither wisdom nor knowledge (as doubt— less there is not) without the knowledge of God (Jet. 829), it is all shut up in the Lord Jesus Christ: “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him” (John 1:18).

–John Owen, Communion With God

These are things I love to learn about. It’s great to be corrected by God through his Word because he’s speaking to us. When God speaks, it’s always, always about simple, practical, spiritual things that matter the most.

I’ve often thought that when I’m old(er), I would like to be a wise man without knowing or thinking that I am. I’m now much farther away from that ideal than I thought. It’s a great subject to explore. I’m oftentimes embarrassed that I don’t realize many of these things that seem to be so plain sooner than I do. It shows that “the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6) And his timing can be peculiar.

If you think you’re wise, you’re probably not

God wants us to compare ourselves to him and know that wisdom comes from him. If you have other verses/passages on that, let me know. There isn’t much difference between a fool and a wise person when we compare ourselves to God, which should keep us humble. The more we know, the more we know how much we don’t know–if we’re doing it right–along with wisdom.

These are all NLT because I like how it renders 1 Corinthians 3:18, and I usually try not to use a bunch of translations in one post. [Edited for clarity.]

There is more hope for fools
than for people who think they are wise.
Proverbs 26:12 NLT

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise.
1 Corinthians 3:18

For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?
1 Corinthians 4:7

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.
James 3:13-17

Behavior, Holiness and Wisdom in Job

For being a more basic commentary on Job, this has some deeper things in it, some much more than this. Walton also writes about wisdom in general along with Bible interpretation which makes the commentary all the more valuable.

Because we tend to see God’s requirements in the Bible as “rules,” we rationalize giving ourselves permission to do what it does not explicitly forbid. If we conclude that the Bible does not specifically speak against certain sorts of sexual behavior, against the activities we enjoy (but have been told are not spiritual), against the movies we want to watch, against the language we enjoy using, against the way we dress, and so on, we feel free to indulge ourselves with free conscience: “The Bible doesn’t say I can’t.” We may take comfort in all of the dastardly offenses we have not committed and decide that we are “good enough.” After all, we are not disobeying the Bible.

This is minimalism in its mature and virulent form. For instance, the Bible says nothing about drug abuse. Some might respond by pulling out a biblical injunction to respect your body, but that is the wrong approach, because it still assumes that we have to dredge up a biblical prohibition or command to regulate every aspect of our behavior. Attempts to explicate all the mandates of Scripture are criticized (truly enough at times) as illegitimate proof-texting that employs questionable hermeneutics and fails to consider cultural context. Let us consider briefly some of the ways that people seek behavioral guidance from the Bible.

Wisdom. Wisdom literature such as that found in the book of Proverbs provides many important guidelines for behavior. Two problems, however, must be noted. (1) The literature contains a combination of guidelines that could be considered universal and those that are more cultural. (2) The coverage of the material is spotty. The literature gives us examples of how we can order our lives based on the fear of the Lord, but it is far from comprehensive, systematic, or programmatic.

What does God want from us? How do we draw parameters without imposing potentially arbitrary rules? How does one develop biblical standards if the Bible does not yield specific information through role models, the law, or exhortations in the Proverbs or New Testament letters? Consider these ten principles:
1. We should conscientiously pursue wisdom (in its Old Testament sense), godlikeness, and holiness.
2. Beyond what is clearly stated in revelation, we should not presume to draw parameters for others (e.g., for what constitutes modesty, humility, appropriate entertainment), only for ourselves; these should reflect our goal (holiness) rather than the lowest common denominator that we can rationalize.
3. The boundaries may differ from culture to culture and perhaps from person to person, but there must be carefully thought-out parameters that reflect our desire for holiness.
4. We should not impose our boundaries on others, though we could hold them accountable to their own boundaries and challenge them to aim higher.
5. There must be discernable differences between Christian be havior and the world’s behavior (Rom. 12:1 – 2).
6. We should not concede either to self-righteousness or to self-indulgence.
7. We should understand that God does not need what we give; our behavior can please him but does not benefit him.
8. Our behavior should not be motivated by expectation of material rewards [as with Job]; further, our behavior cannot save us.
9. We should aspire to be godlike, not just to keep rules (which inherently only lead us in the right direction).
10. Obedience is expected but represents the minimal level of godliness.

The path of wisdom, godlikeness, and holiness would rely on Scripture for guidance without necessarily looking to specific texts to lay down hard and fast rules (though it occasionally might and we dare not neglect them when it does). Wisdom brings order to life and relationships, and the wise take God seriously. Wisdom derives from biblical values, but it is not necessarily bound to Israelite culture. Holiness recognizes that aspects of our behavior will sharply distinguish us from those around us. God’s holiness is embodied in his distinguishing attributes; we exhibit holiness by reflecting God’s communicable attributes (e.g., by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit). We can build ideas about godlikeness around the biblical text’s portrayal of God. Obedience is important, but our end responsibility is to strive to be like God. Disobedience will impede us from reaching this goal, but obedience alone will not necessarily achieve it.

Ideally, we should aspire to holiness, not because of benefits we can gain as a result, but because God is God and our righteous behavior is one of the ways we honor him. Regardless of whether we experience any advantages in life because of these decisions, we choose this path because of who God is.

–John H. Walton, Job (The NIV Application Commentary)

A Rambling Prayer

your will be done
Matthew 6:10

According to the risen Lord Jesus Christ,
Help us to do your will and be obedient to you.
Guide us in praying according to your will more and more.
Help us to gain spiritual knowledge and wisdom.
Compel us to highly value it.
Remind us to pray for it.
Energize us to enjoy seeking it.
Convey it to us, realizing that it comes from you.

Help us to meditate on your words in Spirit and in truth.
I confess that I sometimes go the way of my own earthly theories and introspection.
We know you long to bring us back when we go off your path.
Help our thoughts and ideas, private and verbal,
to be confined to those of Christ, the Word of truth.

Then let us continually go back to Scripture,
so that our rambling musings on things of You are always enlightened and corrected by Scripture.

We praise you for your word–for being living and active through it.
Remind us that we can hear you speak to us by just reading our Bible.
What an indescribably great thing!

Quote of the Day: Matthew Henry

1 Corinthians 3:18 NLT
Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise.

Here he prescribes humility, and a modest opinion of themselves, for the remedy of the irregularities in the church of Corinth, the divisions and contests among them: “Let no man deceive himself, v. 18. Do not be led away from the truth and simplicity of the gospel by pretenders to science and eloquence, by a show of deep learning, or a flourish of words, by rabbis, orators, or philosophers.” Note, We are in great danger of deceiving ourselves when we have too high an opinion of human wisdom and arts; plain and pure Christianity will be likely to be despised by those who can suit their doctrines to the corrupt taste of their hearers, and set them off with fine language, or support them with a show of deep and strong reasoning. But he who seems to be wise must become a fool that he may be wise. He must be sensible of his own ignorance, and lament it; he must distrust his own understanding, and not lean on it [Proverbs 3:5-6]. To have a high opinion of our wisdom is but to flatter ourselves, and self-flattery is the very next step to self-deceit. The way to true wisdom is to sink our opinion of our own to a due level, and be willing to be taught of God. He must become a fool who would be truly and thoroughly wise. The person who resigns his own understanding, that he may follow the instruction of God, is in the way to true and everlasting wisdom. The meek will he guide in judgment, the meek will he teach his way, Ps. xxv. 9. He that has a low opinion of his own knowledge and powers will submit to better information [Philippians 2:3-4]; such a person may be informed and improved by revelation: but the proud man, conceited of his own wisdom and understanding, will undertake to correct even divine wisdom itself, and prefer his own shallow reasonings to the revelations of infallible truth and wisdom.

–Matthew Henry, (italics are his, Scripture references in brackets have been added)

Questions on James 1:5-6 and Wisdom

James 1:5-7
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

When making decisions, we should pray for wisdom. What form does this wisdom come in? Obviously God doesn’t answer all our questions or make all our decisions for us.

Whatever form God gives to us, we should expect to always receive it. I take this to be literal and not like a parable.

What do you say?

Quote of the Day

The greater part of wisdom consists in understanding the relationships between complementary truths.

–Dick Gaffin

Matthew 21:22
And everything—whatever you ask in prayer, believing—you will receive.”

1 John 5:14
Now this is the confidence we have before Him: whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

I’m not certain if these verses are exactly the idea that Mr. Gaffin is referring to but they came to mind as I read the quote.

This quote was taken from an interview with David Powlison.

Never Be Wise In Your Own Sight

Never Be Wise In Your Own Sight by John Piper

Proverbs 9:10 NRSV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Proverbs 11:2
When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but wisdom is with the humble.

Matthew 23:12
All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Romans 12:3
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Duty Calls

Erasmus on understanding the Word

If you approach the Scriptures with all humility and with regulated caution, you will perceive that you have been breathed upon by the Holy Will. It will bring about a transformation which is impossible to describe. You will perceive the delights of the Blessed Bridegroom; you will see the riches of Solomon. The hidden treasures of eternal wisdom will be yours. Yet I would caution you. The entrance to this abode of wisdom is narrow. The doorway is low, and there is danger in not stooping when you enter.

–Erasmus, The Handbook of the Militant Christian

Thanks to:

Disclaimer: I’ve not read much of Erasmus, but I love this quote.

Psalms: Categories

I’ve been reading a Psalm a day since the beginning of the month (easy to keep track of which Psalm I’m on–at least for a month) and highly recommend it. Since I’ve been concentrating so much on the New Testament it’s nice to get a dose of the OT everyday.

But if you want to read a Psalm now and then and would like something in a certain category, they are divided up here according to the book How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth.

Try a few thanksgiving Psalms for Thanksgiving.

Book 1: Ps. 1-41; Book 2: Ps. 42-72; Book 3: Ps. 73-89; Book 4: Ps. 90-106; Book 5: Ps. 107-150


  • Individual-3; 22; 31; 39; 42; 57; 71; 88; 120; 139; 142
  • Corporate-12;44;80;94;137


  • Community-65; 67; 75; 107; 124; 136
  • Individual-18; 30; 32; 34; 40; 66; 92; 116; 118; 138

God as:

  • Creator-8; 19; 104; 148
  • Protector and benefactor of Israel-66; 100; 111; 114; 149
  • Lord of history-33; 103; 113; 117; 145-147

Celebration and Affirmation

  • 2; 18; 20; 21; 24; 29; 45; 46; 47; 48; 50; 72; 76; 81; 84; 87; 89; 93; 95-99; 101; 110; 122; 132; 144


  • 36; 37; 49; 73; 112; 127; 128; 133


  • 11; 16; 23; 27; 62; 63; 91; 121; 125; 131

Knowledge – What is it good for?

When reading and studying I don’t want to just build up knowledge, especially not knowledge that “puffs up”. (1 Corinthians 8:1) In addition to praying prior to each time I read and study I have come up with some indicators.

1) Does what I read and study cause me to pray about what I’m learning or being convicted of?

2) Do I ponder and meditate on what I’m reading?

3) Is what I’m learning producing change?

4) Does what I’m learning cause me to worship God?

5) Am I growing more humble with an attitude of fear and trembling instead of being puffed up?

Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Do you have anything to add? Since there aren’t many reading this blog I know I may be risking silence as I shout alone in my little corner of cyberspace.

A Prayer

Expel from my mind all sinful fear and shame, so that with firmness and courage I may confess the Redeemer before men, go forth with Him hearing His reproach, be zealous with His knowledge, be filled with His wisdom, walk with His circumspection, ask counsel of Him in all things, repair to the Scriptures for His orders, stay my mind on His peace, knowing that nothing can befall me without His permission, appointment and administration.

From Openness – Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett. Reformatted by Eternal Life Ministries.


I’ve been so busy moving to a new web host and email provider, moving this site from wordpress.com to its own domain and tweaking the look of this site I haven’t had time to get back to posting what I want to post. So today I will punt and post another quote.

Theology is faith seeking understanding, but understanding is more than theoretical. If we really grasp who and where we are as disciples, we should know how to live out our faith. All too often, however, the church professes its faith but is unsure how to practice it. Even some of my seminary students come to theology classes somewhat reluctantly, assuming that doctrine is neither practical nor relevant to their future ministry.

To define doctrine as direction for fitting participation in the drama of redemption – in what God is doing in Christ through the Spirit to form the church and renew creation – is to ensure that the understanding that faith seeks will not stop short of practice. My goal as a theologian is to move beyond the acquisition of knowledge to its application in real life: in a word, I want to get wisdom.

–Kevin Vanhoozer, Theologian