Know Your Bible

VOL. 7                           September 7, 2008                           NO. 33

"Wisdom Is The Principle Thing"

    The above is one of the more than one hundred statements in the Proverbs, in which Inspiration indicates the vital role that "wisdom" is to play in our salvation. In that verse (Proverbs 4:7), its role is especially highlighted, in that He says, it is "THE PRINCIPAL THING!" In defining "principal" W.E. Vine says it means, "noble, mighty, dominion, paralleled to captain, governors, etc.," and Webster says, "highest rank, authority, or importance; chief, main." And so it may be that Inspiration is not only highlighting the importance of "wisdom" in God's scheme of redemption, but is at the same time indicating its rank above "understanding," which He also urges us to strive for! The word translated "wisdom" in this text is "sophia" and that which is translated "understanding" is "phronesis." Of these, W.E.Vine says, "While 'sophia' is the insight into the nature of things, 'phronesis' is the ability to discern modes of action with a view to their results; while 'sophia' is theoretical, 'phronesis' is practical." Both definitions are possibly helpful in view of the many times that Inspiration associates the two.(eg. Pbs. 1:2, 5, 6; 2:2, 6; 3:13, 19, etc.)

    There are large sections of scriptures in which the fruits of wisdom are emphasized. Let's consider a few points from one of those; Proverbs 8:22-35. In these verses, we have one of several passages in which "Wisdom" is personified. Wisdom states that "the Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I have been established from everlasting, from the beginning, before there was ever an earth...When He prepared the heavens, I was there,(v.27)...When He marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside Him as a master craftsman..." (vs. 29,30) We should note clear evidence that "Wisdom" is not claiming Deity; that she says "I was brought forth..." (vs. 24 & 25). Surely these statements emphasize the great importance of OUR charge, "Get Wisdom!" (4:5, 7; 16:16!) Indeed, it "is the principal thing!"

    But before we consider just HOW we are expected to "GET Wisdom," we need to give at least brief attention to the fact that Inspiration indicates that there are TWO KINDS OF "WISDOM:"

    One, that which James says is,"earthly, sensual, demonic."(James 3:15) This is the kind of "wisdom" to which the apostle Paul refers in Romans 1:22f, "Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man...," and in I Corinthians 1:20f, in his condemnation of the division that was in the church at Corinth, "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of world? For since, in the wisdom of God the world through (its) wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness (to the world) of the message preached to save those who believe." But the other, "wisdom from above...from God," is that which Inspiration is challenging us to "get," and that leaves us with the question of HOW do we "get" it?

    And so, HOW is this wisdom that is so vital that "the wise man" states that "He who gets wisdom loves his own soul!" (Proverbs19:8), to be obtained? Consider that we are reminded that, "The fear of (reverence for_cgm) the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Proverbs 9:10) Reverence for God is essential to the true "understanding" of His Word, that we are likewise urged to "get," (Proverbs 4:5). We are told that "...the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding" (Proverbs 2:6). From this we understand that when we "apply (our) heart to understanding," we "incline (our) ear to wisdom" (Proverbs 2:2). And so, in the words of the apostle Paul, "Study to show thyself approved unto God..." (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV) is essential to the "getting" of "Wisdom from Above."

    PRAYER is likewise set forth as a means of obtaining "wisdom from above." In James 1:5 we read, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally, without reproach, and it will be given to him." But, let us not expect that He will give us this wisdom in some miraculous way! As we are encouraged to pray for "our daily bread," (Matthew 6:11), we are likewise urged to "Go to the ant...consider her ways and be wise." (Proverbs 6:6) And so, as the lowly ant "gathers her food...," so it is that we are to "Search the Scriptures...with readiness of mind..."(Acts 17:11); and that, along with sincere prayers that God may help us to gain "understanding" and "wisdom." God (and this might be "wisdom" personified) says, "I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths."(Proverbs 4:11); in Proverbs 9:9 He says, "Give instructions to a wise man and he will be still wiser," and so, that we may diligently seek to "Serve Him acceptably, with reverence and godly fear"(Hebrews 12:28), we need to HEAR the Word of the Lord, come to an UNDERSTANDING of His INSTRUCTIONS, and with PRAYER for His help; gain the wisdom that is from above.

    In conclusion, let us hear the "wise man" a bit further, "Happy ("blessed"  NASV) is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all things you may desire cannot compare with her!" (Proverbs 3:13-15)

    A FINAL WORD: Although it is certain that we may not all be capable of becoming "wise," as the world considers such, it seems to me that we are in these Scriptures (and we have only "touched the hem of the garment," even with the book of Proverbs), not only assured that each one of us CAN have this "wisdom that is from above," we are commanded to strive for it! My question is, am I seeking to "gain a heart of wisdom"? And You?

---Charles G. Maples, Sr.

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        Fifty Cents Worth Of Jesus, Please.

    I am often concerned about the mindset of some of those professing to be Christians. It seems sometimes we want to find out the bare minimum we have to do to get what we want. In many places, it seems that some have decided that being baptized, coming to church on Sunday, sitting through a class and sermon and partaking of the Lord’s Supper ought to do it. With this they are satisfied. It’s like a vending machine. Let me pop in fifty cent and get my blessing! Fifty cents worth of Jesus, please.

    Recently while reading, I came across an excellent paragraph written by Richard Owen Roberts, "If one turns to Christ for what he can get, how far toward Christ will he turn? He will turn as far as he thinks he must to get what he thinks he wants but no further. But suppose one turns to Christ because of Christ’s excellencies. How far toward Christ will that person turn? Because the motivation is God Himself, he will never cease turning. Those who are Christians for Christ’s sake are never content with half-measures. They simply cannot get close enough to Christ to be fully satisfied, and so they keep pressing closer and closer." (Repentance: The First Word Of The Gospel, pg. 120)

    Amen and amen! It saddens us to see a few Christians who seem a bit miserable. They go through the motions of their short checklists but joy is missing while they hope to make it to heaven by the skin of their teeth (Mal. 1:13). But what an adventure is ahead for those who pursue Jesus. They keep getting filled with that which makes them hungry. Each little bit they become more like Jesus thrills their hearts and keeps them joyfully journeying on. They say with the Psalmist, "As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness." (Psa. 17:15).

    May God help us all to be continually growing and changing and becoming more of what God would have us to be.

—Jeff May

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