We just wrapped-up a series of posts going through all the characteristics of “the wisdom from above” that James writes of in his epistle. That’s not all there is to say about Godly wisdom, however. I already wrote an introduction post to this series that’s about God’s definition of wisdom, but today as we conclude this series of articles I want to narrow in our focus on wisdom as it relates to Jesus Christ.
My dad’s the one who pointed out to me that Paul says “Christ Jesus … was made to us the wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30). God — both Father and Son — are the starting point for true wisdom. It seems, though, that God the Son plays a special role in giving this wisdom to us, and I think that’s worth looking at more closely.
Glory in the Wisdom from God
One of the things Paul does in his writings is reference scriptures from the Old Testament as support for what he’s talking about in his letters. He doesn’t always quote the referenced passage in its entirety, though, leaving it to his readers to familiarize themselves with scripture and recognize the connection. That’s what he’s doing here in 1 Corinthians. He’s talking about God choosing the foolish, weak, lowly, and despised things of this world and then he says,
Because of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: that, as it is written, “He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:30-31, all quotes from WEB)
This phrase that Paul says “is written” comes from Jeremiah.
Yahweh says, “Don’t let the wise man glory in his wisdom. Don’t let the mighty man glory in his might. Don’t let the rich man glory in his riches. But let him who glories glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows me, that I am Yahweh who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness in the earth,
for I delight in these things,” says Yahweh. (Jer. 9:23-24)
Paul talks about God choosing people who are the opposite of wise, mighty, and rich to make a point. None of us have room to glory before God based on our own merits. Even the wise in worldly things are foolish in Godly things without the help of His spirit. Even the mighty in physical strength could not save themselves or win spiritual battles — they need God to save them. And even the wealthiest people cannot purchase the true, heavenly riches that only come to us as a gift from God. If we’re to glory or boast, it must be in the Lord.
Preaching the Wisdom of Christ
That’s not where Paul stops his discussion of wisdom. He also talks about how wisdom relates to preaching Jesus Christ. Back in 1 Corinthians 1:21-24, he said that preaching Jesus seems like foolishness to the world, “but to those who are called … Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” He continues in a similar vein, talking about his commitment to preaching Jesus “not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Preaching Jesus isn’t about proving to the world we’re wise, but about showing He is the way.
We speak wisdom, however, among those who are full grown, yet a wisdom not of this world nor of the rulers of this world who are coming to nothing. But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the wisdom that has been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds for our glory, (1 Cor. 2:6-7)
God doesn’t place a value on us being wise by human standards. He’s perfectly happy to welcome the under-appreciated into His family. And it’s also worth noting that those with human wisdom, wealth, and might aren’t excluded either — it just doesn’t give them an advantage. When it comes to spiritual things, we all start out foolish, weak, and lowly. He does not expect us to stay that way, though. Quite the opposite. We’re meant to grow in a new kind of wisdom. His wisdom. And we do this through the power of His holy spirit.
Knowing the Branch’s Wisdom
For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit. But we received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things. (1 Cor. 2:11-13)
We know from James that wisdom is one of the things freely given to us by God (James 1:5). The spirit which is from God teaches us the wisdom that is from above, which is “first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
In 1 Corinthians, Paul sums up this discussion of wisdom and the spirit’s work by saying, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). It is the Lord’s mind in us that makes it possible for us to understand things related to God. Both the Father and Jesus are God, ” in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden” (Col. 2:2-3). In fulfillment of Messianic promises that the Branch will have “Yahweh’s Spirit … of wisdom and understanding,” “will reign as king and deal wisely,” Jesus is the one through whom this wisdom is delivered to us (Is. 11:1-2; Jer. 23:5, see also Eph. 3:9-11).
Filled with Spiritual Wisdom
True wisdom only comes from God. Wisdom from the world might seem appealing in some ways, but it leads to fighting and broken relationships. It can even lead us to strive against God (James 3:13-4:4). Putting on the mind of Christ is a very different experience, and it’s the key to being wise in the way that God is wise. Jesus is the ultimate example of what it means to be pure, peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
For this cause, we also, since the day we heard this, don’t cease praying and making requests for you, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, that you may walk worthily of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:9-10)
This is a prayer that God is fully capable of answering for each of us. Ask, and He will give you spiritual wisdom. The wisdom from above is a key aspect of being spiritually minded, i.e. having the mind of Christ. Being transformed inside-out involves becoming wise as God is wise through the work of Jesus, who “was made to us the wisdom from God.” And when we have the mind of Christ, He enables us to become like God as part of His family, follow Him faithfully, and grow as wise Christians.
Featured image credit: Chris Mainland via Lightstock