In the previous two articles we saw that Scripture is the source of true wisdom and that the gospel of Christ is the embodiment of God’s wisdom. In this final article we consider how the divine wisdom applies to us personally.
The apostle Paul describes the gospel as ‘the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory’ (1 Corinthians 2:7). Sadly, as we saw last month, it remains hidden from many today. They can neither see it nor understand it. Nor will they ever do so, unless they are among those whom God ‘chose … in [Christ] before the foundation of the world’ and whom he has ‘predestined … to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will’ (Ephesians 1:4-5).
Someone will complain: ‘That’s dreadful! Surely man has free will. He can choose to follow God or not to do so. Why do you talk about election and predestination in Christ?’
I talk about them because the Bible talks about them. I talk about them because they are an integral part of the hidden wisdom that God ordained before the world began; because in a real sense these great truths are the good news of the gospel.
Appointed to life
It is not good news to tell me (as one who is dead in trespasses and sins and blind to spiritual reality) that I must choose to follow Christ. Look at me! I am dead, blind and deaf. The things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to me. How can such a person follow Christ? (See Ephesians 2:1-3; 1 Corinthians 2:14.)
If I am saved, it is because God chose me in Christ and drew me with bands of love and raised me from spiritual death by the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit. That is the only reason I am a believer. It is all of God, all of grace, all of mercy.
In Acts 13:48 great crowds of people were joining the church and being baptised in their hundreds. How does Luke comment on that? He says ‘as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed’.
Did they believe because they made a decision for Christ? Because they thought ‘this is superior to our pagan religion’? Because they sought a high moral code? No. They believed because they were appointed to eternal life.
For our glory
This hidden wisdom, we are told, was ‘ordained … for our glory’. What a humbling statement that is.
Primarily, of course, the gospel was ordained for the glory of God. But in the amazing condescension of God it was ordained for ours also.
He counts us in. He includes sinners saved by grace. Sinners who deserve nothing but condemnation. He says, ‘I want you in glory with me, I want you as my bride, my temple, my body, my jewels’ (all these are pictures of the true church of Jesus Christ).
Why, Lord? Why do you want a sinner like me? ‘I want you’, the Lord replies, ‘because before time began I set my love upon you in all your defilement, rebellion, and spiritual blindness’.
If God wants us, he shall have us. There will be none lost of all that numberless multitude he has ordained to life.
This gospel, then, is for our glory. Paul quotes from Isaiah 64: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9). A glorious future awaits the believer in Christ, not through any merit of his own, but through the abundant grace of God.
Paul goes on to say that God reveals these things (this wisdom) to us through his Spirit. It is his work to instruct and to teach us these glorious truths. Our understanding comes, of course, through the Word of God, through reading the Bible and through the preaching of Scripture. But ultimately our teacher is the Spirit of God.
For, argues the apostle, it is only the Spirit of God who knows the mind and purposes of God. Only the Spirit has access to (‘searches’) the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10).
Therefore, only the Spirit of God can really teach us. Do not look to the preacher and say, he is a good teacher or a poor teacher. The preacher is only a messenger of the Spirit. Do not look to any man for enlightenment, for the only teacher who can impress these truths upon our hearts is the Holy Spirit of God.
Christ our wisdom
And what exactly is it that the Spirit lays open to believing minds? It is Christ himself, ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3).
There are many today who think the presence of the Holy Spirit is manifested by signs and wonders, by tongues, prophecies, healings and so on. But it was never the main work of the Holy Spirit to impart such signs and gifts. These manifestations were appropriate, and even necessary to some extent, before the New Testament was completed. But now we have that written revelation they are no longer necessary.
No. The primary work of the Holy Spirit is, and always has been, to take of the things of Christ and reveal them to us, and thus to glorify Christ (John 16:14). And that is the work he carries on now.
Wherever Christ is preached, the Spirit of Christ is taking the things of Christ and revealing them to our hearts and minds, impressing them on our wills and consciences, ‘bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
The heart of the matter
The Holy Spirit, then, leads us to the heart of this matter, Jesus Christ himself. For it is he who has become ‘for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord”’ (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Do we look for salvation? We shall find righteousness and redemption only in Christ. Do we desire to know God? Then he is revealed in Christ, who is ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1:15).
Do we seek wisdom for daily life? Then ‘consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself’ (Hebrews 12:3). Do we seek strength over temptation and sin? Then ‘let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Do we lack endurance in that race? Then copy Moses who ‘endured as seeing him who is invisible’ (Hebrews 11:27). Does our heart yearn for glory? Then behold ‘his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).
The Scriptures are wisdom and the gospel is wisdom. But, ultimately, Christ himself is our wisdom. For in him ‘are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge … and you are complete in him’ (Colossians 2:3, 10).