Theological Thursdays: Knowing God: God Only Wise

This post in our ongoing Knowing God Study is the 400th post on this blog since it was started on June 16, 2004. Hurray! If you are new to this study you can find all of the previous lessons using the Knowing God category link. There are also study materials for the book available at

As we continue our study we go from God’s eternal and glorius majesty, to this week examining his deep and abiding wisdom. Indeed, Packer makes the claim that only God is truly wise. That is a powerful statement in our post-modern secular age and I think two quotes from Thomas Jefferson are apropos.

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.

In Great-Britain it is said that their constitution relies on the house of commons for honesty, and the lords for wisdom; which would be a rational reliance if honesty were to be bought with money, and if wisdom were hereditary. Thomas Jefferson

So, to be wise we must first be honest, but honesty is not for sale and wisdom can’t be caught. Emerson had an idea where wisdom came from.

Wisdom has its root in goodness, not goodness its root in wisdom. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

So, Emerson believed that to be wise you must first be good, since bad men will delude themselves into thinking they are wise and only a good man will honestly separate wisdom from folly. This is in line with the biblical concept that wisdom has both a moral as well as intellectual component. But there is another problem, identified by Walter Lippman, the founding editor of The New Republic.

It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf. Walter Lippman.

This feeds nicely into the biblical argument of Paul in First Corinthians.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
     “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and
     the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Christ is the wisdom of God, which is why he is foolishness to those who are perishing, the natural man, but in those who have received salvation, who have the Spirit of Christ in them, the wisdom of God is made real. They have solved Lippman’s dilemma. At least they have begun to.

But, it can be readily seen that there must be a transition from the old man to the new, and an ongoing growth in maturity in the Lord. Packer uses several Old Testament saints as examples of the growth and maturity that occurs over time as a result of encounters with God. His examples are Abram who became Abraham, Jacob who went from a practitioner of deception to the Patriarch of Israel, and Joseph who went from condemned slave to vizier over all of Egypt, saving the future Israel from a devastating plague.

Packer also issues an important corrective to a common misconception about wisdom, as if to be wise is to be able to avoid all problems and live a happy and carefree life.

…God’s wisdom is not, and never was, pledged to keep a fallen world happy, or to make ungodliness comfortable. Not even to Christians has he promised a trouble-free life; rather the reverse. He has other ends in view for life in this world than simply to make it easy for everyone.

What is he after, then? What is his goal? What does he aim at?…His ultimate objective is to bring them [those who believe] to a state in which they please him entirely and praise him adequately, in a state in which he is all to them, and he and they rejoice continually in the knowledge of each other’s love—people rejoicing in the saving love of God, set upon them from all eternity, and God rejoicing in the responsive love of people, drawn out of them by grace through the gospel.

Instead, as Christians we come to accept and understand that trials and tribulations are normal for life in this fallen world. Suffering is normative, so much so that even Jesus himself “learned obedience through what he suffered…being made perfect…” (Hebrews 5:8-9) How should we, who are called to follow in his footsteps, expect anything less.

In the end, gaining wisdom means gaining trust in God our Father and believing not only that his grace is sufficient for whatever needs we have, but that no matter what happens it cannot separate us from the love of God.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Selections from Romans 8:26-39

As you continue your study in Knowing God, may you grow in grace and wisdom and may the peace which passes all understanding guard your heart and your mind in the knowledge of your salvation to praise and glory of His Name. Amen.