Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.
1 Corinthians 1:23–25
Our whistle-stop tour of biblical wisdom, which has called in at Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job, ends in the New Testament. Here we find the claim that Jesus is the embodiment of God’s wisdom. Whilst this is an astonishing claim, it appeals to the wisdom found at our three earlier stopping-off points.
In Proverbs, Wisdom declares ‘I was there when the LORD put the heavens in place and stretched the sky over the surface of the sea’ (Proverbs 8:27 CEV). This claim is echoed in two passages in the New Testament which speak powerfully and profoundly about Jesus: the opening of John’s Gospel (John 1:1-18) and the hymn-like passage in Colossians 1:15-20. They suggest that this pre-existent Wisdom is Christ, who is supreme over all other forms of wisdom. As if to emphasise the point, Colossians goes on to declare that in Christ are hidden ‘all the treasures of wisdom’ (Colossians 2:3).
The message that the all-surpassing wisdom of Christ renders as folly all other wisdom reflects the teaching of Ecclesiastes and Job. According to that teaching, as we have seen, human thought and action that appears wise can turn out to be meaningless – like chasing after the wind. The same subdued assessment of human wisdom appears in the rhetorical question that occurs just before the passage at the top of this reflection: ‘Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?’ (1 Corinthians 1:20).
There are deep theological and practical implications to the idea that Christ is the embodiment of true wisdom. One negative implication is that the human pursuit of wisdom is doomed if it is not accompanied by revelation. No amount of logic, philosophy, or science can deliver the wisdom that is revealed in Christ: ‘the world through its wisdom did not know him’ (1 Corinthians 1:21). A positive implication is that, insofar as human wisdom reflects God’s wisdom, it expresses Christ at work in the world.
These implications can transform our frontlines. They provide all the support we need to give us confidence that the wisdom we have in Christ is superior wisdom and is applicable in every situation due to Christ’s all-encompassing sovereignty. They also provide grounds for humility when we encounter true wisdom from non-Christian sources, knowing that all wisdom is God’s wisdom. As a source of confident humility in fallen yet redeemed human culture, biblical wisdom is wisdom for life.
Peter S Heslam
Peter is director of Faith in Business, Cambridge.
Where is Christ’s wisdom at work on your frontlines, and how might you partner with him to increase it? Join the conversation in the comments below.