Three times in the New Testament you will find that God is called the "only wise" God (Romans 16:27, 1 Timothy 1:17, and Jude 25). According to the New Testament, God alone is wise. In this lesson we will look at the wisdom of God as Paul so eloquently attributes to Him in Romans 11:33, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" Like the past several attributes of God, the wisdom of God is also related to His immutability. His counsel and will never need change because they are always the wisest courses of action.
I. Wisdom Defined
What is wisdom? J.I. Packer defines wisdom this way: Wisdom is the power to see and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it. Wisdom is not the same as knowledge and the two are often distinguished from one another in Scripture (as in our text). The knowledge of God is the understanding of all things, while His wisdom is the skilful resolving and acting upon His knowledge. Let's look at a couple of examples from Scripture to further clarify this:
When Pharaoh had his two dreams about the corn and cows, Joseph correctly interpreted them as being a message that God was going to send 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine. He provided a plan to get them through the famine and advised Pharaoh to appoint a wise man over the situation (Genesis 41:33-36). Pharaoh appointed Joseph himself to the task telling him that "there is none so discreet and wise as thou art." Joseph used wisdom by applying his knowledge of the problem and forming a plan that would sustain life for both Egypt and the surrounding nations.
When God gave Solomon one request, for what did Solomon ask(1 Kings 3:5-15)? Yes, when Solomon asked for "an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad", he was asking for wisdom. God granted the request, and He gave Solomon more wisdom than any that had preceded him and more than any that would follow. Solomon's first display of this wisdom is found in 1 Kings 3:16-28 and this brought great respect from his people.
II. Wisdom Displayed
How has God shown His wisdom to man? Consider the following areas:
We know from Proverbs 3:19 that God created the earth by wisdom. Creation is like a poem showing the wisdom of the composer. If we study creation, we will see the wisdom of God displayed in variety and fitness.
How dull our lives would be if every flower were the same color or variety! What pleasure would there be in eating if all food had the same taste and consistency? What if all birds sang the same tune or all blossoms sent forth the same scent? Would we enjoy our appearance if we were made of only one member? Surely there is wisdom to be seen in this variety. As the Psalmist says: O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches (Psalm 104:24).
Surely we can see the wisdom of God in the usefulness and fitness of everything for its end. Every creature has members fitted for its habitation. Notice, for example, how the number and working of the eyes of the various creatures is fitted perfectly for their needs. Consider the various parts and functions of our body - some parts are made for changing food into blood, others to refine it, still others to convey it to other parts; but all work together to sustain life. Consider the wisdom of having a day and night and the ratio of the hours of light and darkness. Consider also the functions of rain, winds, rivers, and seas. All of these certainly proclaim the wisdom of a master craftsman.
Perhaps there is no greater wisdom shown in God's governing of creation than in His unfailing ability to turn that which is evil into something that is good and that gives glory to Himself. Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery to the Midianites, but God took this sin and used it to sustain their own lives. As Joseph would later tell them, "as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive" (Genesis 50:20). It may be that God took Jonah's disobedience and used it as an even greater testimony to repent (some speculate that Jonah's body would have been bleached from his stay in the whale and this would have caused the people of Nineveh to pay more heed to his preaching). God took Saul, the greatest persecutor of the church, and converted him into Paul, the churches' greatest advocate. God used the Jews' attempt to kill Paul as the means for the gospel to be preached to governors, kings, and eventually Caesar. God, in His wisdom, can take any evil attempt by Satan or any sin of man, and turn it into something that brings Him glory. What an awesome God!
Surely there is no greater reflection of the wisdom of God than that seen in His plan of redemption. "Christ crucified" is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:17-29). Justice would have called for man's destruction while mercy would have begged for his salvation. God, in His wisdom, was able to satisfy both of His attributes through the cross. Justice was satisfied by God receiving the punishment we deserved, and mercy was satisfied by God's gift of a full pardon. In one act, God reconciled the greatest hatred of sin and the greatest love for the sinner. Sin was punished without ruining the sinner, and yet the sin was repaired without indulging the sin. By a tree man fell, and by a tree man was redeemed. As Charnock says, man was "healed by stripes, quickened by death, purified by blood, crowned by a cross, advanced to the highest honor by the lowest humility, comforted by sorrows, glorified by disgrace, absolved by condemnation, and made rich by poverty". In this seemingly great set of contradictions is truly found some of the greatest wisdom. There is also wisdom seen in that God's plan of redemption was well suited for our lapsed state. Praise God that our salvation is not earned but is a free gift received through faith! We see wisdom in the publishing of this plan as well. The gospel message was revealed in a gradual series of revelations rather than a sudden flash of light in which we might have reacted as Lot did to the news of his salvation from Sodom. The translation of the news from the private language of the Jews to the common language of the world (Greek), and the use of the roads made by the Romans all show the wisdom of God in waiting for the "fullness of times".
III. Wisdom Done
There are many applications that can be made of the wisdom of God. For example, we see once again that Jesus must be God (Proverbs 8:12-13, 1 Corinthians 1:24, and Colossians 2:3). In this lesson we shall concentrate on the following:
The wisdom of God should cause us to trust Him with our lives. As the only wise God, He has the right and the ability to rule creation. We ought to see that God can do a far better job of governing our lives than we could ever do. As believers we have put our trust in God for our future lives; why not entrust Him with our present lives as well.?
Romans 8:28, in light of God's wisdom, should bring great comfort to the Christian. No matter what fearful situation or temptation we suffer, be it known that God will use His wisdom to work these out for good.
The Bible has much to say about wisdom and being wise. Proverbs 4:7 exhorts us with this: Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. We ought to seek to have the wisdom of God. It begins with having a respect for God (Proverbs 9:10) and involves asking for wisdom (James 1:5) and learning God's Word (Psalm 119:98, 1 Corinthians 10:11).
What would the universe be like without the wisdom of God? Let us praise Him, therefore, as Paul did for the greatness of this perfection.