Posts Tagged 'wisdom'

Panic Podcast: The Story of the Old Testament, Part 5

Good morning!  Here’s hoping you’re having a great week in the Lord so far.  In today’s podcast, I want to look at what we call “Wisdom Literature” in the Bible.  We’ll be spending some time in Proverbs, a book full of wisdom, so open up those Bibles and let’s get started.

Don’t forget to leave any prayer requests you may have in the comments section below.  Our prayer team at church is always ready to pray for you.  God bless you as we look to the Word.


Panic Podcast: Psalm 119, Part 13

Good morning, all you saints scattered all over the world! It’s the middle of the week, and I hope you’re having a good one. We’d like to take a second to wish all our visitors from Canada a very happy Confederation Day. I know, I know. It’s “Canada Day,” but I just can’t get used to calling it that. I prefer its original name.


Today we’ll be studying the Mem strophe of the wonderful Psalm 119. It all begins at verse 97, so open your Bible and let’s jump right in!



As always, we covet your prayers. Nothing happens unless somebody is praying about it, so please pray for our church and for this online ministry. Your financial help is also appreciated. You may give here.

1 Corinthians, Part 3

This is what man's wisdom looks like to God:  Foolishness.

This is what man’s wisdom looks like to God: Foolishness.

That the Corinthians were in trouble is clear near the very beginning of Paul’s first letter to them –

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV)

It’s not that Paul expected the congregation at Corinth to be in 100% agreement all the time about everything, but on the essentials of the faith they needed to be for the sake of their testimony in an unbelieving world.

The apostle was upset with the various cliques and schisms that had developed in the Corinthian church. There were groups that were fans and followers of Peter, others of Paul, and still others of Apollos. But that kind of thing was out of place in the church. Their loyalty shouldn’t have been to people but to Jesus Christ. No man died for them save the Son of God and Man, Jesus Christ. The Cross of Christ was what should have been uniting them, and that Cross is what unites all believers, from all time, from all over the world. In fact, the most effective way of dealing with just about any problem in the church is to do what Paul did: Deal with them in light of the Cross and Christ’s great love.

The power of the Cross

Human beings tend to be attracted to educated and eloquent humans. We exalt the latest popular preacher or teacher because we are impressed with their words and ideas. That’s what was happening in Corinth. There were these divisions in the church caused by loyalty to men, rather than loyalty to God. As far as Paul was concerned, he was sent by the Lord to preach, not his own ideas or philosophy but the word of the Cross.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1 Corinthians 1:17 NIV)

In truth, Paul baptized only a few people, not because he thought baptism was unimportant but because he had foreseen this very situation at Corinth. The last thing he wanted was having his converts identify themselves with him. His mission – his whole reason for existence – was simply to preach the Gospel of Christ. His ministry was free from any kind of outer ritual or ceremony.

The power to save a soul doesn’t lie in man’s wisdom but in the preaching of the Cross. God designed it like that so that no man (like Paul or Peter or Apollos) could boast about “the souls he’s saved” in his preaching. It’s never “his preaching” that saves a soul, it’s the Cross – which is the wisdom and power of God.

For the message of the cross is foolishness 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; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 19 NIV)

It’s strange, this power of the Cross. Its message saves some and causes others to reject its message. That’s what happens when people hear the salvation message of the Gospel – either the listener accepts it or rejects it. In verse 19, Paul introduces a quotation from Isaiah 29:14 to show how much God deplores and dismisses the wisdom of man as a means of salvation. The whole context of the Isaiah quote is interesting –

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” (Isaiah 29:13, 14 NIV)

This is what Paul saw happening at Corinth. The lines were being drawn; there were supporters of this preacher or that yet their salvation was the result no preacher but rather the word of the Cross.

That message of the Cross, by the way, sounds like nonsense to “those who are perishing.” In his commentary on 1 Corinthians, Robert Hughes asks a pertinent question:

How could something that seemed so foolish to most people be salvation to a few?

The answer is very simple and goes back to the Isaiah quote. In terms of what was happening in Corinth, it’s not exactly what was going on in Isaiah’s day, but their worldview was essentially the same as that of the ancient Israelites. They exalted man’s wisdom. In the Isaiah passage, the prophet showed how temporary man’s wisdom is – it vanishes with time, and sometimes it’s God Himself who causes it to vanish. It doesn’t matter how clever or well-spoken a man may be, that man and his teachings will eventually come to an end.

In a rather triumphant tone, Paul asks a question designed to answer itself –

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:20 NIV)

While no longer quoting Isaiah directly, he is alluding to things the prophet wrote. Things like this…

In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror: “Where is that chief officer? Where is the one who took the revenue? Where is the officer in charge of the towers?” (Isaiah 33:18 NIV)

In this verse, the prophet is describing the peace that would follow when the terrors of the Assyrian danger had passed. People would be astonished; what they thought would never end or change, did. Here’s another quote –

Where are your wise men now? Let them show you and make known
what the Lord Almighty has planned against Egypt. (Isaiah 19:12 NIV)

We all remember what became of Pharaoh’s wise men and magicians – they were made fools of by the power of God.

The pattern of history proves Paul’s case: God disposes of man’s so-called wisdom one way or another. The Corinthians were obsessing over something temporary and of no consequence. The only wisdom that stands the test of time is God’s wisdom.

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21 NIV)

And here’s why man’s wisdom is useless in knowing God: It’s God’s purpose that man’s philosophies will always come up short. There is just no way to know spiritual truths in a non-spiritual way. Now, it is true that some aspects of God’s character may be discerned through natural creation, but salvation can only happen as a result of the preaching of that which some think is foolish: the Cross of Christ.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:18 – 20 NIV)

Two groups of people

Paul has been contrasting human and divine wisdom (or power). He introduces another contrast with verses 22 and 23 –

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles… (1 Corinthians 1:22, 23

These were the members of the Corinthian church, converted Jews and Greeks who should have been glorying in the Cross, yet both groups clung to their cultural notions of what wisdom looked like. For the Jews, they were a superstitious lot always looking for signs and the Greeks insisted upon rational explanations for all things. Both groups were trying to squeeze God into their particular world view. Paul would have none of that though; all he would do is preach Christ crucified. In other words, he stuck only to the simple truth of the simple Gospel.

To the nationalistic Jews, whose idea of a Messiah was a political leader, the very idea of a crucified Messiah was, well, a stumbling block many could not get over. The Greeks were looking for a world of peace and harmony and beauty, so the Cross with its violence and ugliness just didn’t fit in with their ideas either.

but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:24, 25 TNIV)

And here’s the rub. Those who had responded to the call of God also discovered what Paul knew: Christ is the “power” of God and the “wisdom” of God. The order of that is not insignificant. We discover the redeeming “power” in salvation from sin before we discover the “wisdom” from God. That’s precisely why the unsaved (the Jew or the Gentile) make no sense of the Cross of Christ. They need to experience it first before they can hope to understand it.

Preaching: God’s means of deliverance

To help drive home his point, Paul asked his readers to remember where they came from. They weren’t the smartest or most educated when God called them. Intelligence had nothing to do with their salvation. Of course, this doesn’t mean God only calls ignorant people; He calls all people to repentance. In fact, Barclay makes some interesting points on this:

There was Dionysius at Athens (Acts 17:34); Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Crete (Acts 13:6 – 12); the noble ladies at Thessalonica and Berea (Acts 17:4, 12); Erastus, the chamberlain, probably from Corinth (Romans 16:23). In the time of Nero, Pomponia Graecina, the wife of Plautius, the conqueror of Britian, was martyred for her Christianity. Flavius Clemens, the cousin of the Emperor himself, was martyred as a Christian. Toward the end of the second century, Pliny, the governor or Bithynia, wrote to Trajan the Roman Emperor, saying that the Christians came from ever rank in society.

And, of course, let’s add Constantine who, in 312 AD, formally accepted Christianity as his religion.

But the great mass of Christians was made up the rank and file of society – slaves and freedmen, simple and humble people. And in Corinth, Paul pointed this out. And he pointed out, brilliantly so, that God often chooses to use the simple things (people) to get the job done.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27 – 29 TNIV)

So we’ve come full circle. God uses the very people we’d least expect Him to use for His glory so that nobody can boast about their great talents or station in life. Wise and educated, wealthy and influential may be able to steal God’s glory (though certainly not all of them do). In contrast, though, Christians – especially of the type Paul is writing to here – may glory in Christ because in Him they have experienced true wisdom and true power. By the world’s standards, they may be nonentities, but through their choice of the Cross they have demonstrated the highest wisdom and experienced the greatest wisdom and power the universe has ever known.

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30 TNIV)

This is a powerful verse that shows how truly blessed believers are. Christ is wisdom to us because He reveals and imparts wisdom, counsel, and the purposes of God to us through prayer and the Word. Through our ongoing relationship with Christ, God manifests more and more of His expansive character, allowing us glimpses of His splendor and mind, giving us a deeper and more profound appreciation for what He did for us. W. Grosheide, in his commentary of 1 Corinthians, put it like this:

What we are and have, we are and have received from God through Christ. United to Christ we are righteous and holy, since all those blessings are founded in His work. Redemption, often used of the liberation of slaves through the payment of a ransom, indicates the way Christ delivers us…by His sacrifice, His death on the cross. In surrendering Himself, He brings us knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.

Wisdom, and how to use it


You don’t have to read too far into the Bible before you realize something is very wrong with the human race. A problem exists that affects not only every single human being, but all of creation. This problem was not part of God’s original plan for man. It came from the outside and there is no way to escape it. The problem is sin. This problem is all around us; no matter where a believer may travel, he will always find sin. Or sin will find him.

Modern man doesn’t talk much about sin, preferring to call it dysfunction, addiction, disorder, alternate lifestyle, or whatever the current mot du jour may be. Those things are real problems, but there is a real danger in using new words to describe something the Bible calls “sin.”

In the Old Testament book of Proverbs, Solomon and others collected the “wisdom of the ancients.” There is truth in the saying, “the truth is the truth no matter where you find it.” Under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, then, the 31 chapters of the book of Proverbs provide truth for living. If a man could live according to the teaching of Proverbs, it has been said, his life would be completely glorifying to God.

As far as the “sin” problem is concerned, Proverbs gives the reader all kinds of excellent advice on how to avoid it.

Reject the world’s call, Proverbs 1:10—19

The reason for the book of Proverbs is a simple one:

These are the proverbs of King Solomon of Israel, David’s son: He wrote them to teach his people how to live—how to act in every circumstance… (Proverbs 1:1, 2 TLB)

The “people” included his son, as evidenced throughout the book with phrases like this one:

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. (Proverbs 1:8 NIV)

Part of the sin problem that plagues all men is inescapable. Many an unsuspecting young man, like Solomon’s son, first encounter it when he leaves home for the first time.

If young toughs tell you, “Come and join us”—turn your back on them! (Proverbs 1:10 TLB)

Very good advice! Be careful who you hang around with and whom you listen to. These “young toughs” are sinners; people who cause mischief and trouble. The funny thing about the allure of sin is that it is so enticing.

We’ll hide and rob and kill,” they say. “Good or bad, we’ll treat them all alike. And the loot we’ll get! All kinds of stuff! Come on, throw in your lot with us; we’ll split with you in equal shares.” (Proverbs 1:11—14 TLB)

There is a segment of the population to whom this kind of proposition sounds good. They want to be part of “the group.” They want their “fair share.” But it’s sin, plain and simple. Thomas Watson, the non-conformist, Puritan preacher, once remarked:

Associate with sanctified persons. They may by their counsel, prayer, and holy example be a means to make you holy.

For the believer, it’s best to ensure your friends are other believers. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be friendly to or associate with the unsaved. We can take lesson from Jesus. He closest friends were hand-picked people that held similar beliefs, but at the same time, our Lord had no problem associating with sinners.  His purpose in doing so was the winning their hearts.

Avoiding close associations with sinners is of the utmost importance:

Don’t do it, son! Stay far from men like that, for crime is their way of life, and murder is their specialty. When a bird sees a trap being set, it stays away, but not these men; they trap themselves! They lay a booby trap for their own lives. Such is the fate of all who live by violence and murder. They will die a violent death. (Proverbs 15—19 TLB)

This paragraph paints a pathetic picture of the hapless sinner. He just can’t help getting into trouble. The wise believer avoids people like this, lest they be dragged down along with them. The Bible does teach a kind of separation that Christians would do well to remember and practice, for the sake of their souls:

That is why the Lord has said, “Leave them; separate yourselves from them; don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you and be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.” (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18 TLB)

Listen to wisdom, Proverbs 1:20—33

Wisdom is personified for the first time in this paragraph. This is a very common technique in Proverbs. “Wisdom” is portrayed as God’s prophet carrying a vital message to the people, who are described as “simpletons.” Why are they described that way? It’s because they continually reject Wisdom’s call. Only a foolish simpleton would do that.

For you turned away from me—to death; your own complacency will kill you. Fools! (Proverbs 1:32 TLB)

That’s the height of folly! It’s crazy to turn away from what you know to be true to pursue sin, which is “death.” This person is so foolish, they are described as “complacent.”  Chasing sin, all the while they are dying. One like that is a fool.

Punishment awaits fools who are indifferent to Wisdom’s call. But for those who take heed to Wisdom’s teachings, life and security awaits.

But all who listen to me shall live in peace and safety, unafraid. (Proverbs 1:33 TLB)

Avoid immorality, Proverbs 7:1—5, 21—27

All sin is not created equal and without a doubt, from the Bible’s perspective, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the the absolute worst sin of all.

Even blasphemy against me or any other sin can be forgiven—all except one: speaking against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come. (Matthew 12:31, 32 TLB)

Running a close second would be sexual sin:

That is why I say to run from sex sin. No other sin affects the body as this one does. When you sin this sin it is against your own body. Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that he lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you. For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God because he owns it. (1 Corinthians 6:18—20 TLB)

Specifically, the sin of adultery is singled out and given special mention throughout Proverbs. The sin of adultery is so insidious because it wreaks havoc not only on the one who commits it, but also on the one against whom it was committed, and also on other relationships. Adultery destroys all kinds of relationships. So, it’s not at all surprising that Solomon warns his son against its dangers.

The foundation of one father’s advice about adultery is built on wisdom, and wisdom is always the way of the Lord.

My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; And my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words. (Proverbs 7:1—5 KJV)

More than just good advice is needed to avoid temptation. It takes an active faith in God and the regular application of that faith in resisting the relentless onslaught of temptation. Only by taking God’s way of wisdom can you hope to stay on top of the sin all around you.

God’s wisdom is special; so special, in fact, it should be treated and cared for as you would the pupil of your eye. That phrase, “the apple of thine eye,” is a proverbial saying for something of inestimable value deserving of the utmost care or protection. This is how we ought to cherish God’s Word to us. Truth be told, we often don’t, which is why so often temptation gains the upper hand.

We ought to do more than just listen to the words wisdom; we need to “bind them” and “write them.” Those phrases were important to the Jews, and they took them literally. Recall Deuteronomy 6:6—9:

And you must think constantly about these commandments I am giving you today. You must teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning. Tie them on your finger, wear them on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house!

This is really describing an inward awareness of God’s Word. The Jews took this literally, but the idea is that the Word of God needs to be foremost on our minds all the time. Every aspect of our lives should be governed by the Word and the wisdom it contains.

The thing about the “wisdom of the Word” is that when it is properly applied, it acts like a barrier against sin. Remember the old saw,

Knowing God’s Word will keep you from sin…or sin will keep you from knowing His Word.

Here’s what Jesus had to say on the subject:

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Matthew 8:31, 32 NKJV)

God’s Word is wisdom and it contains the truth. Ultimately, knowing God’s Word is important because it keeps us going in the right direction on the straight and narrow. And anything or anybody that keeps us from God’s Word needs to be dealt with sternly. A.W. Pink, great Calvinist evangelist and theologian, wrote this:

If any occupation or association is found to hinder our communion with God or our enjoyment of spiritual things, it must be abandoned.

So, with that in mind, then, we read about the adulteress. Like wisdom, in Proverbs the adulteress is a personification of evil temptation. Sin, like an adulteress, looks good and is full of flattery. If a young man (a believer) is not careful, he will succumb to her allurements.

He followed her as an ox going to the butcher or as a stag that is trapped, waiting to be killed with an arrow through its heart. He was as a bird flying into a snare, not knowing the fate awaiting it there. (Proverbs 7:22, 23 TLB)

With gleeful ignorance, the witless believer can be chewed up spat out by sin. Sin promises so much, but delivers only death. It’s no exaggeration to say that sin will cost you your life.

For she has been the ruin of multitudes—a vast host of men have been her victims. If you want to find the road to hell, look for her house. (Proverbs 7:26, 27 TLB)

This warning is meant to be taken seriously. Of course, most of us aren’t out trolling the streets and back alleys in the dark of night looking for the adulteress’ house. What Solomon is talking about here is sin in its rawest form. Sin—any sin you care to name—will drag you away from God, straight to Hell. Sin looks so good and promises so much, but in the end it’s not your friend and will do you no good.

If you are a believer, make sure God’s words of wisdom are foremost on your mind. Live wisely. Practice discernment. Don’t get close to the adulteress.

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