Friday, May 18, 2018

God Only Wise - Meditations And Applications Of God's Wisdom

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Romans 16:27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.


This particular post aims to consider the phrase: "only wise God" in last verse of Paul's magisterial letter to the church at Rome. For the last year and a half, I have preached verse by verse through the book of Romans. I'm certain it won't be the last time, since preaching through such an extraordinary book causes the preacher to see details he never saw before. I was struck by how Paul began this massive exposition on the power of the Gospel by introducing it with God's grace (Romans 1:1-7) and concluding it with God's wisdom (Romans 16:27). 

God's grace and wisdom function as bookends, holding together all of the wondrous truths of the Gospel in both its theological and practical considerations. In closing out this series in Romans, one could go in many directions. 

As I was preparing this final message in the series, as well as this post, I asked God to minister to me His attribute of wisdom. I didn’t want to possess a theoretical knowledge, but, to arrive at a deeper level of acquaintance with it. The difficulties of life test the metal of one’s faith. The entirety of human emotion is tasted. It was this week I crossed from seeing God’s wisdom as something to read about to that of a reality in which I’m to live. His wisdom has been my food and drink of the soul, even though I don’t comprehend many of the details in our current life (more on this later). 

In today's post, we aim to grasp the importance of God’s wisdom for our lives. My hope is that through this post, you will discover why it is so vital to personally know this only wise God. 

Defining God's wisdom

The late author A.W. Tozer comments on wisdom in general:

“Wisdom, among other things, is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means. It sees the end from the beginning, so there can be no need to guess or conjecture. Wisdom sees everything in focus, each in proper relation to all, and is thus able to work toward predestined goals with flawless precision.”

In a similar vein of thought, author J.I. Packer remarks about wisdom in his classic book: "Knowing God" - 

“Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.” 

As aforementioned, God’s grace and wisdom function like bookends to hold together the details of the Gospel, life and eternity. Wisdom is one of the attributes or characteristics of God. Per the doctrine of Divine unity (also called by the older term, "Divine simplicity"), whenever we have one of God’s attributes, we have all of God, since He is the sum of all His attributes. 

God's essential attribute of wisdom comforts me. His attributes are as light through a prism, transfiguring the white light of the sun into the manifold colors of the rainbow. By analogy, wisdom is that most noblest of virtues in creatures. If we consider the 11th century thinker Anselm's classic definition of God as: 

The greatest Being that can be conceived, compared to which none greater can be conceived" (i.e. the greatest conceivable being), 

then Divine wisdom is a necessary quality of God's being. In God, wisdom isn't something that God possesses. Instead, wisdom is what God is. No other rational creature (angel or human) can claim this unique point with respect to wisdom. No creature "is" wisdom, however, all rational creatures "have" wisdom in varying measure. Angels are wiser than human beings, with angels and humans exhibiting varying levels of wisdom among themselves. God, on the other hand, has no variation of wisdom, since He "is" wisdom eternally, infinitely and immutably (see Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). 

The infinite nobility and skill with which the Triune God executes His infinite life as God spills over into how He directs the course of creation to His intended end. Therefore, it is more than appropriate for Paul to refer to God as "God only wise", since all other created beings derive their limited ability to exercise wisdom from God that is, by nature, wisdom. We've attempted to define and explore a definition of God's wisdom. The question now before us is: "so what"? Below are three observations one can glean about "God only wise" in consideration of Romans 16:27 and other passages.

Gracious strength of God’s Wisdom. Romans 1:1-7; 1:16; 16:25-27. 

Romans begins and ends with grace and wisdom.  Reflecting on God's wisdom leads to certain questions:

1. Does God know what He is doing?
2. Can I trust God, even though I don't understand?
3. Is God still good, even though everything seems so bad?

Paul begins Romans 16:27 with this phrase: "To the only wise God". Such questions are answered in scripture by considering God's wisdom as a source of strength. Proverbs 3:5-6 - 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."

The prophet Daniel writes in Daniel 2:20-21 - 

“Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.” 

Thus we see in Daniel's prophecy how wisdom and God's strength are associated with one another (recall, whenever you have one of God's attributes, you have all of them). 

The gracious strength of God's wisdom aids us in those seasons wherein we don't grasp what God is doing. I'm reminded of an illustration I once read about the front and back of a clock or watch. If we were to take the back off of either, we would observe its inner workings. We would see gear works turning in opposite directions. We would note coiled springs, whirring wheels and dizzying motion. Unless we were the watchmaker, we might conclude the whole thing as a mess. However, once one turns the watch or clock over to the front, we see the hour, minute and second hands turning in the same direction. The wisdom of the watch maker is demonstrated in both the appropriated means of the design (the back) and the intended end (keeping time). 

God too is only wise. His gracious strength guides the believer's path and all things. Notice secondly, not only the gracious strength of God's wisdom, but also... 

Great Mediator of God’s Wisdom. Rom. 5:1,6-8; 8:1

In addition to what Paul writes about "To the only wise God" in Romans 16:27, we see the next phrase: "through Jesus Christ". God's wisdom, as experienced and expressed by his creatures, is a mediated wisdom. Another comfort I find about God's wisdom is that whatever God sends my way, it has went through the Son. An old saying I heard years ago states that nothing comes down to us that has not already first passed through the nail-scarred hands of the Son of God. Thus, since Divine wisdom is mediated by the Second person of the Trinity, who is truly God (touching His divine nature), then truly He has my best interest in mind. Furthermore, by remaining truly man, Jesus Christ is pleased to associate with His people as the decisive revelation of God in human flesh. To find out that God's wisdom is associated with and is the Divine nature of Christ Himself, as well as shared with His people via his true human nature, we can affirm that God does care. 

Even though Old Testament saints did not yet possess the fullness of revelation like New Testament believers have today, they associated God's wisdom with the fact that He cares. Job 2:10 

"But he said to her, 'You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips."

Job didn't grasp all that was happening in his life. He knew that all of it directly or indirectly came as a result of God's wise actions. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:30 -

"But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.”

Here we see that Christ Himself came to reveal Divine wisdom, since as God, He is wise by nature. With respect to God's wisdom mediated to the Christian in time of need, we are reminded of James 1:3-5 - 

“knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” 

This second point of Christ mediating Divine wisdom to us means so much whenever facing the unknown. To illustrate, this past week my wife received news that she had experienced a heart attack in the recent past. To say the news shocked us would be an understatement. The questions concerning God's goodness and trustworthiness began flooding my heart. But then, in meditating on the fact that God is only wise, and that His Divine wisdom is mediated to me through the Son, I found the strength to cope with this shock (even though I don't comprehend the "why's" and "what's next" sort of questions).  Again, the comforting thought strikes me: as I experience God in His wisdom, I experience all of Him, since in God there is no variation nor shifting of shadow (Jas 1:17). 

So, we've observed the glorious strength of God's wisdom and the great mediator of such wisdom - the Lord Jesus Christ. Now let's lastly consider...

Glorious Purpose of God’s wisdom.  

As with each of God's attributes, Divine wisdom brings the believer to the point of switching from study to outright praise. Paul's doxology in the middle of Romans both summarizes the first eleven chapters of his exposition on the Gospel and prepares us for the practical sections of Romans 12-16. This doxology (i.e. a statement of praise to God), is found in Romans 11:33-36 

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” 

Whenever I see that last word, "Amen", the truth of whatever was written beforehand is affirmed. To put it another way, good or bad, God’s purpose to glorify Himself will prevail, thus, there are no pointless details of life. Whenever I read this doxology, it corresponds perfectly to the final phrase of Romans 16:27 - "be the glory forever and ever. Amen." These verses answer the question: does God still have a plan? with a resounding, yes! Romans 8:28-31 states:

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?"

This idea of God's wisdom corresponding to life's purposes is expressed in James 1:3-4

“knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” 

If trials didn’t come, I wouldn't acquire the sense to see where I lack. Moreover, I would not depend upon the God, who alone is wise.

Closing thoughts:

In today's post, we considered the significance of God's wisdom in the phrase: "To the only wise God". After defining God's wisdom, we noted three observations about how His wisdom applies to our lives:

1. Gracious strength of God’s Wisdom. Romans 1:1-7; 1:16; 16:25-27 

2. Great Mediator of God’s Wisdom. Romans 5:1,6-8; 8:1

3. Glorious Purpose of God’s wisdom.    Romans 11:33-36  

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