Saturday, September 30, 2023

Post #17 The Doctrine of God - P1 Reflections On God's Attribute Of Wisdom



    In this current series of posts, we are exploring the existence, being, and attributes of God. 

    God's existence speaks to the fact of "that He is". His covenant name, "Yahweh", revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, refers to His self-existence. This personal covenant name represents God's  unchanging character. Also too,  He operates independently of time while revealing Himself within it as "I AM who was, is, and am to come" (compare Revelation 1:7-8). 

    God's being tells us about "what He is" - without beginning, without ending, incomprehensible or incapable of being exhaustively comprehended. Though incomprehensibility places limits on how much we can comprehend, yet God is truly knowable because of His revelation in creation and the Scriptures. 

    The attributes, expressing God's being, tell us "how He is". God's being and attributes are one-and-the same substance, with the attributes not being parts, but rather whole expressions of the kind of God, God is. 

    As we move forward, we want to look today at God's attribute of wisdom. The Westminster Confession of Faith gives us one of the finest summaries of God's existence, being, and attributes in its article two, section 1. The following version of that article is found at the site I'll reproduce below the attributes of God it lists with verse references, underlying our target attribute, God's wisdom,

"There is but one only, (Deut. 6:4, 1 Cor. 8:4–6) living, and true God, (1 Thess. 1:9, Jer. 10:10) who is infinite in being and perfection, (Job 11:7–9, Job 26:14) a most pure spirit, (John 4:24) invisible, (1 Tim. 1:17) without body, parts, (Deut. 4:15–16, John 4:24, Luke 24:39) or passions; (Acts 14:11,15) immutable, (James 1:17, Mal. 3:6) immense, (1 Kings 8:27, Jer. 23:23–24) eternal, (Ps. 90:2, 1 Tim. 1:17) incomprehensible, (Ps. 145:3) almighty, (Gen. 17:1, Rev. 4:8) most wise, (Rom. 16:27) most holy, (Isa. 6:3, Rev. 4:8) most free, (Ps. 115:3) most absolute; (Exod. 3:14) working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, (Eph. 1:11) for His own glory; (Prov. 16:4, Rom. 11:36) most loving, (1 John 4:8,16) gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth."

The only wise God

    Years ago I had preached a series through Paul's letter to the church at Rome. As I closed that series, I delved into God's attribute of wisdom. Paul wrote in Romans 16:27 "to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen." In that series, 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. 

    As I prepared that final message in the series, (the main source for 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. 

    As I reflect back on getting ready to preach on God's wisdom, at the time I experienced a challenging week. I recall vividly crossed a threshhold in my mind from seeing God’s wisdom as a reality I read about to that of a reality through which I needed to live. His wisdom was then, and still is to this day, my food and drink of the soul. Though I don’t comprehend many of the details in our current life, nonetheless "God only wise" does.  

Defining God's wisdom

    Theologian Wayne Grudem defines God's wisdom on page 231 of his "Systematic Theology", 2nd edition,

"God's wisdom means that God always chooses the best goals and the best means to those goals."

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 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. 

God's wisdom and its communication to humans and angels
    We've talked before in prior posts of God's "communicable attributes", that is, those perfections which he shares with His creatures. Wisdom is among such communicable qualities of God. In God, wisdom isn't something that God possesses, rather, 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). 

Closing for now...

    In the next post, we'll continue by drawing forth implications and applications of God's attribute of wisdom to our lives.