"LO! More than Solomon is here!" (Matt.12:42). So does our Lord testify as to His own wisdom. In reality the wisdom of all before Him sprang from His, through His spirit, which was in them (1 Peter 1:11). Solomon could describe plants and animals, but Christ, from the very beginning, possessed perfect creative wisdom, for God made all through Him. So, according to His Father's will, He made the plan for every creation and carried it out. But His deepest wisdom rested on His knowledge of the course of God's love plan for the whole creation. He possesses a perfect comprehension of the wisdom of His Father, so that He does all according to the counsel of His will, and understands how to prepare Himself for His every purpose. How well He was acquainted with God's wisdom-filled decision to transmute all evil into good through His sacrifice is evident from the fact that it was the spirit of Christ which testified to it in the Hebrew Scriptures (1 Peter 1:11).
But this wisdom He did not bring with Him to His sojourn on earth. It was left behind in His "kenosis," or self-emptying (Phil.2:7). He had to regain it again. That is one of the most wonder-worthy aspects of His humanity as the Son of God. Even as a lad He was filled with divine wisdom (Lev.2:40). But at that time it was not perfected, for it is written again, "and Jesus progressed in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52)." To be sure, He was God's Son, Whose heart was altogether pure and untainted by sin, filled from birth with the spirit of God, the spirit of wisdom. Nevertheless He did not receive His wisdom miraculously, supernaturally from the spirit, but by perfectly natural means, by diligent reading and believing reception of the Word of God. His exhortation to "Search the Scriptures" was in accord with His own practice. In His previous glory He knew so clearly all about His great destination to be the Sacrificial Lamb that He imparted this plan of the Father to the writers of the sacred scrolls. Yet, O, the wonder of His self-emptying! When He became human, He had to repossess His own revelations. It was not through supernatural filling from above, nor remembering His previous existence in the glory with the Father, but through reading the Torah, the Hebrew Scriptures, the Bible of that era, through the powerful exercise of His spirit, that He learned every item of His task, all that was written of Him in the scrolls of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms (John 5:40; Luke 24:27,44). His own words, which He repossessed in His heart, grew in Him marvelously. His continued advance in knowledge of the Scriptures was, at the same time, an increase in wisdom. Even at the age of twelve He astonished the scribes by His questions and answers (Luke 2:46). And when He began to speak in public, they asked whence He had such wisdom (Matt.13:54), and how He had such a knowledge of the Scriptures seeing He had not learned (John 7:15).
The wisdom of Christ shines forth in many forms. In His discussions with His enemies, His replies, by which He escaped their subtle snares, were so full of wisdom that they were astonished (Mark 12:13-17).
Even deeper wisdom is found in His explanations of the Scriptures. With such knowledge no one before Him, much less the scribes of His own day, had opened up the Word of God. He fully grasped the inner connections of the sacred scrolls, and is a perfect example for us in correctly cutting it. In the synagogue at Nazareth, when He read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, He stopped in the middle of a sentence, so as not to mix the future day of indignation with that which was being fulfilled at the time (Luke 4:18,19,21). He had such a grasp of the prophetic scrolls that He could extend and enlarge on their predictions. Such a case is found in Matthew twenty-four.
Yet His most profound wisdom lay in His attitude to the evil which He met, as from the hand of God. From the prophets He knew that His sacrificial death was the divine will. To be sure, we see such conquests over evil in earlier men of God. Job could praise Him for the fearfully heavy trial which he had to endure (Job 1:21; 2:10). Yet he could not hold this attitude permanently, but soon sank into bitter questioning. Indeed, courageous Job was not able to do otherwise. He did not possess the resurrection power of Christ, together with the highest revelations, which alone give strength for the successful conquest of evil.
Not so the Son of God! He endured, accepting the evil from His Father's hand, even to the shameful death of the cross. He had such a thorough insight into the plan of salvation that He recognized evil as an expression of His deepest wisdom, for He used it as the means of displaying His unlimited love, at the cross. We may look upon the prayer of the Son, "Thy will be done," as the fruit of divine wisdom.
The Scriptures record other occasions when the Son took evil from the Father's hand and praised Him for it. When the hatred of the Pharisees was ready so great that they charged Him with having a demon (Matt.9:34), and it was becoming clear that He faced suffering and death, He prayed, "Acclaiming am I to Thee, Father, God of heaven and earth, for Thou hidest these things from the wise and intelligent, and Thou dost reveal them to minors" (Matt.11:25,26). In this way the Son makes plain that His Father had occasioned the opposition to Him, but only, in His wisdom, to use it for its final conquest.
In this way our Lord spoke of God's wisdom as He, with authority, exposed those learned in the law (Luke 11:45-48). He continued, "Therefore God's wisdom also said, `I shall be dispatching to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will be killing and banishing, that the blood of all the prophets which is shed from the disruption of the world.'" may be exacted from this generation (Luke 11:49,50). Here, once more, God resolved upon an undertaking of which He knew beforehand that it would meet the bitterest opposition. From the human standpoint, it is very unwise to send ambassadors anywhere when it is known in advance that they will be persecuted and killed. But now our Lord declares emphatically that God has done this. Therewith He teaches openly that it is God's will that evil should ripen, and that it is according to His wisdom when He allows it to do so. Therefore it cannot be foolish and aimless. Rather, it will be used for His glory. With this we have reached the depths out of which the special wisdom for us comes forth.
THE WISDOM OF STEPHEN
Stephen was filled with spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:10). Moreover, they were not strong enough to withstand the wisdom with which he had spoken. Unanswerably did he prove to his opponents that the crucified, resurrected One is Israel's Messiah (Acts 9:22; 18:28). In him was fulfilled the promise of our Lord: "I will be giving you a mouth and wisdom, which all those opposing you shall not be able to withstand" (Luke 21:15). His great defense speech before the Sanhedrin gives us a glimpse into this wisdom. It is seen in his deep insight into the divine dealings with his people. In a masterful way he sketches the history of Israel, continually exposing their disobedience, at the same time warning his hearers, who were guilty of the same sin. His defense reached its highest point as he charged them with it (Acts 7:51). This close of the speech of Stephen has a special significance, not only for him, but for all pious Israelites. This renewed opposition of their nation became a heavy, insoluble problem. Had we asked Stephen, who had so skillfully presented their history, what God planned after this, he would have acknowledged that he knew of no divine revelation. He knew very well, out of the Hebrew Scriptures, that their Messiah would come to set up His kingdom, and, in that day of His power, His people Israel will be willing to obey Him (Psa.110:3). Furthermore, he knew that there would be severe judgments before the coming of that kingdom. But, after Israel had rejected and crucified its King and then withstood the work of the holy spirit, the future was a dark problem, even for those who had the most knowledge and wisdom. So the question arose, "What will God, in His wisdom, do now?"
THE PROBLEM OF ACTS
This problem grew more difficult as the opposition of the nation became more and more stiff, and even turned to violence. Although a considerable number of Jews believed, the people as a whole, together with the spiritual and secular rulers, took the place of an enemy to the message concerning the crucified and resurrected One. After this opposition in the land became an established fact, the Jews of the dispersion had to be put on trial. This probe was performed by Paul, who carried the message beyond the boundaries of the land (Acts 13:2).
In Antioch in Pisidia the matter came to a head. In the synagogue there he heralded Christ as the Saviour of Israel, and some believed (Acts 13:16-43). On the coming sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord (44). Then (45) we get the result of this ministry.
However much of painful opposition God had already endured in carrying out His program, we may say that this renewed, almost universal, rejection of His beloved Son, their Messiah and King, was the principal cause for the casting off of Israel by God, and justified it. This renewed delaying and distancing of the coming kingdom had to lead to a severance of Israel's relationship with Alueim. Not only did His people become His enemies, but they became useless for carrying out their mission to bring blessing to the other nations. Must they continue to abide in hopelessness, without the light divine? It is written (Jer.4:1,2): "If you are returning, O Israel," averring is Ieue, "to Me are you returning. And if you are taking away your abominations from before Me, and are not wandering, and you swear, `Living is Ieue,' in truth, judgment, and in righteousness, then bless themselves will the nations, in Him, and in Him will they boast."
Consequently, during the opposite attitude of Israel, there can be no expectation of blessing for the other nations. The Hebrew Scriptures as a whole know of no other blessing for the world but that which comes through an obedient Israel. The renewed callousness of the priest-nation made the outlook dark and hopeless. And this especially also because, at that time, there was no further revelations concerning another unfolding of God's plan.
This dark era was lighted up by God, in that He began to reveal an entirely new method of salvation. This revelation was not given through Stephen, neither through Peter or John or any other of the twelve apostles, but rather through Saul of Tarsus, later the apostle Paul. By the very character of his call as a different kind of an apostle it is clearly intimated that God has a new commission to carry out. The revelations given to Paul show that the determined rejection of the Kingdom offer is, in reality, a divine necessity in view of a secret purpose, hitherto hidden. And the recognition of this gracious salvation is that wisdom which God planned before the eons, especially for our glory. This leads to the main theme of our present study.
GOD'S PRE-EONIAN WISDOM
The nature of the wisdom given to us is reflected in the few words of Paul: "...we are Speaking God's wisdom in a Secret which has been concealed..." (1 Cor.2:7). Here it is emphasized that the wisdom destined for us comes from the revelation of a secret which was hitherto concealed in God. In the same spirit spoke Daniel, as he gave thanks for the revelation he received, and the wisdom it imparted: "...granting wisdom to the wise...He reveals the deep and the concealed" (Dan.2:21,22). So also the way in which God filled Bezaleel with His wisdom: "And filling him am I with a subjector's spirit, with wisdom ..." (Ex.31:3). This agrees with 1 Cor.2:10: "Yet to us God reveals them through His spirit, for the spirit is searching all, even the depths of God."
We see that divine wisdom and the method of imparting it remain the same in every administration. It lies in God's deep, well-considered purpose of blessing, which He shares with His own by His spirit, but with the difference that the gifts of today are by far the wisest. Let us see what Paul says concerning this fundamental truth: "God...in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are concealed" (Col.2:3). In this he teaches that God is the only Source of all wisdom. In the previous verses, however, he makes known that God is whole-heartedly ready to share these treasures with His own, and to put them into possession of these riches. "...being united in love, and to all the riches of the assurance of understanding, unto a realization of the secret of the God and Father of Christ..." (Col.2:3).
Yes, on God's side all has been done so that now His revelation also may reach the hearts of His own. First of all and in a special way they were given to God's chosen instrument, the apostle Paul, by the Resurrected One personally. In Eph.3:3 Paul says. "...for by revelation the secret is made known to me." And Gal.1:12: "through a revelation of Jesus Christ." It is easy to see why these things were given to Paul directly, for there was nothing at all about them in the Hebrew Scripture. Paul made these known for the first time in his letters. In Eph.3:8,9 he speaks as follows: "To me, less than the least of all saints, was granted this grace: to bring the evangel of the untraceable riches of Christ to the nations, and to enlighten all as to what is the administration of the secret, which has been concealed from the eons in God..."
Yet that is not the only secret that was given to Paul. The gift of divine wisdom consists of a whole chain of further revelations. In accord with our high calling, we are recipients of the deepest secrets, which give us full insight in His wisdom-filled way with His creation, to the very consummation. These secrets fully solve the question about Israel's present callousness. This knowledge had not been given to any of His own before. It belongs to the great advantages of the present ecclesia, and is one of the most convincing proofs how deeply God loves us, because He shares His deepest secrets with us, all of which are to be found in the Pauline epistles.
That does not mean that every believer can learn these revelations simply by reading God's Word. According to His settled order, teachers are needed, Whom He has foreseen and called. By means of a spirit of wisdom and revelation, together with diligent searching the Scriptures, they obtain a correct understanding and are enabled to acquaint the ecclesia with their findings by means of clear expositions. This, however, only makes it possible to us to make them ours, with zeal and patience we must test these expositions by the Word. Only in this way may believers come into possession of His spiritual, wisdom-filled secrets. God has already richly blessed the service of those called by Him. More and more of the saints are learning these deeper truths, and are filled with amazed wonder at the depths of God's wisdom.
Again and again believers are helped and heartened by this ministry and in turn become witnesses to these revelations of divine wisdom. This whole exposition is only a rehearsal of teaching received in this way.
Now Paul said that he could speak of these things only among the mature, that is, the advanced saints (1 Cor.2:6). In explanation he says (3:1,2): "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as to fleshly, as to minors in Christ. Milk I give you to drink, not solid food, for not as yet were you able, for you are still fleshly."
Nevertheless he does not absolutely exclude young believers, but shows that faith even in its beginning, is a fruit of divine wisdom. That is apparent, for if, under the law of Moses, the fear of Ieue is the beginning of wisdom, how much more, in the administration of grace, is it wise to believe in Christ, the Crucified and Resurrected One!
There are two classes of divine wisdom, that for the beginner and that for the mature in the faith. Paul expounded it in a complete section with an orderly arrangement. He begins with the elementary (1 Cor.1:18-2:5) and follows with the deeper wisdom (2:6-16). In accord with this we start with: "The beginning of wisdom in the administration of faith," in our next number.
(To be continued)