Ascending to Wisdom

Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary gives a simple definition of wisdom.

the right use or exercise of knowledge

This agrees with the scriptural use of wisdom as discernment and application. Knowledge is necessary to wisdom. There cannot be much wisdom without knowledge, but there can be much knowledge without wisdom.

The Bible often pits wisdom in contrast to folly. The self-professed wise men in Romans 1 are in reality great fools. You will note that they have a tremendous amount of knowledge, but they do not make the right use of it. Consequently, they deny God the Creator, worship the creation, and practice all forms of abominable ungodliness. Despite their high IQ’s and mental stockpiles of information, they are fools.

So then, what is a wise Christian? James addressed those who lack wisdom. Does that mean that they do not know about God or His Word? That is not the case; rather, they are not able to make right use of what they know, or they are not able to make practical application of the knowledge they have.

The lack of wisdom is addressed in Hebrews 5:11-6:2. It is interesting that the knowledge of doctrine—“the first principles of the oracles of God” and “the principles of the doctrine of Christ”—is there termed “milk.” Also, those that have progressed no further are called babes. For many the knowledge of doctrine is the pinnacle of Christianity. To have knowledge of some deep doctrine means that one has arrived and to wax eloquent about abstract doctrine from some obscure passage is nearly idolized among some.

However, the passage in Hebrews makes it plain that knowledge is not the summit, but a necessary climb on the ascension to the peak of wisdom. That wisdom is called “strong meat” and is the practical application of Scripture knowledge: “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). This wisdom is considered adorning the “doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:10-14).

The babes with all their coveted knowledge are either unwilling or unable to discern “both good and evil.” In other words, they do not make practical application of what they know. Their lives are not impacted and shaped by the application of doctrine. They may speak a long while on the doctrine of Christ’s Lordship, but they know nothing of personal submission to Christ’s reign (Luke 6:46) and forsaking all for the sake of His kingdom. Consequently, they live lives of antinomianism (though they may deny the doctrine), worldliness, and ungodliness, bringing a reproach on the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:27).

The ascension to wisdom is on this wise. The beginning of knowledge is to know the stories and facts of the Bible. We progress from there to gain knowledge of doctrine. We begin to understand the big picture of the Bible and the flow or progression of the stories. We begin to understand the spiritual significance of the Scripture. Climbing yet higher, we begin to make use of this knowledge and discern good and evil. So, we ascend to wisdom and we cannot skip the steps on the way up. If wisdom is like a tall ladder, we cannot get from the bottom rungs to the top rungs if we are missing the rungs in the middle.

About Jeff Short