Scripture affirms that not only is God wise but He alone is wise: “to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Rom. 16:27; see also 1 Tim. 1:17; Jude 25). It is this wisdom which enables Him to attain right ends in a way that most glorifies Himself and brings blessing to others. It has been expressed in various ways.
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!…For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:33-36).
Ignoring the context for a moment, we might apply these words to the wisdom of God in creation. Where did everything originate? “Of Him” are all things. How did everything come to be and continue to be? “Through Him” are all things. Why was everything created and where is everything headed? “To Him” are all things. “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens” (Prov. 3:19).
In the Gospel
But the verses in Romans 11 are the climax to what has gone on before in the first eleven chapters of the book. Paul has written about justification: we are sinners exposed to the wrath of God, but God in His grace gave His Son as a propitiation, with the result that by faith we are declared righteous before God. Moreover, he has written about sanctification: we are united with Christ in His death and resurrection, dead to sin and dead to the law, and as a result we no longer walk according to the dictates of our sinful nature but walk according to the Spirit. And he has written too about glorification: God foreknew us, predestined us to be like His Son, called us, justified us, and glorified us (although it is yet future!). And in all this God extends mercy not only to Jews but to Gentiles also. This explanation of the gospel gives way to adoration: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!…Who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” No one first gave to Him because there is nothing anyone can contribute. The gospel is “of Him” as an expression of His righteousness and grace. And it is “through Him”, the death of Christ on our account and the working of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to faith. And it is “to Him”, that He might be glorified.
First Corinthians 1 tells us that this wisdom of God in the gospel is foolishness to man. Human wisdom rejects the revelation of God and substitutes a philosophy of naturalism which allows for nothing outside the material universe. But human wisdom, with its intellectual speculation and rationalism, is seen to be empty and futile. It leaves us floundering in total darkness with no truth, no moral compass, no meaningful purpose, and no hope. “But we preach Christ crucified.” To the Jews this was a stumbling block because they had expectations with respect to the Messiah which certainly did not include His dying on a cross. To the Greeks it was foolishness because it was inconceivable to them that God would become like one of His creatures and even more so that He should suffer at their hands and put to death. “But to those who are called, both Jew and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24).
In the Church
The purpose of the ages is that “in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him” (Eph. 1:10). To that end the Lord Jesus was the Lamb of God foreordained before the foundation of the world. When our first parents sinned, God informed the serpent that the seed of the woman would bruise his head. Throughout history God confirmed this message about a coming Deliverer in His covenants with His people and through the words of the prophets. And God’s eternal purpose is accomplished in Christ “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers (various orders of angelic beings) in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10). The angels knew something about the workings of God with men and women throughout the ages, the arrival on the scene of the Lord Jesus, His life of poverty and rejection, His brutal crucifixion, His victorious resurrection, and ascension to sit at God’s right hand. And now they appreciate the wisdom of God in all this in that countless individuals are being incorporated into the church of Christ which includes Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, men and women, educated and illiterate, all one in Christ Jesus, experiencing the same blessings, having the same hope, and possessing the same life.
View the vast building, see it rise,
The work how great, the plan how wise,
O wondrous fabric, power unknown,
That rest upon the living Stone.1
We are told that in the person of Christ are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Something of that was seen in His actions, always doing the right thing; and in His words, always saying the right thing. “The Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom” (Luke 2:40). At twelve years of age, His parents took Him up to Jerusalem where He spent time with the teachers, listening and asking questions, and “all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (Luke 2:47). And on different occasions during His public ministry they were amazed at Him and asked, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?” (Matt. 13:54).
In the Christian
The book of Proverbs encourages us, “Get wisdom! Get understanding!…Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom. And in all your getting get understanding.” (Prov. 4:5, 7). “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver” (Prov. 16:16). Paul exhorts us, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (Eph. 5:15). And he prays for us, “that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col. 1:9). And how do we get this wisdom? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). In a normal family, there is no need for a boy to be afraid of his father because he knows that his father loves him and has his best interests at heart. Nevertheless, there should be a healthy respect and fear that recognizes his authority and seeks to comply with what his father desires. The fear of the Lord is an appreciation of the character and the ways of God such that we reverence Him, seek to avoid what would displease or dishonor Him and earnestly desire to do what pleases Him. So, it is, that as we discover more and more of the character and nature of the Father, we gain a deeper appreciation of Him which results in greater understanding and an improved ability to choose wisely.
1. On Christ Salvation Rests Secure, Words by Samuel Medley