When the Apostle Paul closes what is the magnum opus of Christian doctrine in the Bible, he breaks into song! It's only right that he do so. How should you tie off the greatest story ever told? After walking through the grand reasons behind God's rescuing love for rebel sinners, only a doxology will do.
So with a heart that is full and a mind on fire, Paul intones the words of Rom. 16:25-27: "Now to Him who has power to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the sacred secret kept silent for long ages, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God, to advance the obedience of faith among all nations - to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ - to Him be the glory forever! Amen."
Notice the in last phrases of the entire book of Romans, Paul emphasizes one attribute of God - His wisdom. Verse 27: "to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be glory forever! Amen." My aim in this message, as it has been in every message under the banner of SEEING GOD FOR WHO HE IS, is to open a window in your mind to the infinite expanses of God. And particularly this morning, my goal is to display before you the wisdom of God, so that you see it more clearly and admire Him more intensely and trust Him more firmly and therefore obey Him more consistently and joyfully. (Pray)
I. Wisdom defined
One main statement will dominate the next several minutes in my speaking. I call you to let it take hold in your thoughts first, and then, by the Holy Spirit's enabling, in your heart as well. The statement is simple and deep: God is infinitely wise. I want to unpack that for a moment and then we will see that flowing from that truth is a perspective-shaping, comfort-giving, anxiety-killing, prayer-inducing implication that will revolutionize your life if you will take it as you own.
Let me start with a definition: "Wisdom," in the Bible, "is knowing the greatest goal in any situation, and the best way to achieve that goal." (Sermon by John Piper, "The Great Work of the Only Wise God", based on Romans 16:25-27) Wisdom sees the big picture, in focus, each part in its proper relationship to rest. Wisdom is different from knowledge. You can have knowledge without wisdom. There are a lot of brilliant fools. But you cannot have wisdom without knowledge, because in order to discern the best way to achieve a goal, you have to be able to integrate, to fuse together all kinds of factors from various sources of knowledge and experience.
Now, take up this attribute and think about God. And while you're connecting those dots, listen to the psalmist say of God, "His understanding is infinite" (Ps. 147:5). Listen to Jeremiah pray to the "great and mighty God whose name is the Lord of Hosts, the One great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are on all the ways of the sons of men in order to give to each person according to his ways and the result of his deeds." (Jeremiah 32:19).
When Daniel described God's wisdom, he wrote, "He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals the deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him." (Dan. 2:21-22) Nothing's ever a mystery to God. He is never puzzled or confused or uncertain.
Paul tries to talk about the wisdom of God, and when he does, it moves to praise: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." (Rom. 11:33-36)
What the apostle is saying is that God's wisdom is very deep - so deep that His judgments are unsearchable. I can't get there from here; it's beyond me. God's wisdom is so deep that His ways are untraceable. I can't follow what He's doing without being hopelessly over my head. It is so deep that no one has been or could be His counselor, ever.
In fact, the wisdom of God is so deep and so expansive that He does not and cannot increase in wisdom. The only way He could increase in wisdom is for something to come into God's mind that has not already come out of God's mind. But Romans 11:36 insists that this cannot be done: for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
So God's actions are always perfectly wise. There are no upgrades to His wisdom that are needed or even available. Think about this: God is constantly synthesizing billions and billions of strands of data, drawn from all possible fields of knowledge and realms of experience, so that He holds every relevant factor in every situation with total and perfect knowledge. He constantly weighs the facts, implications, costs, consequences, and how it fits into His purposes with flawless skill, so that what He does or wills is always the best possible move that can be made. And God does this all the time, without the least strain and without crashing a hard drive.
Does anybody on earth understand this? No way. He is totally out of our league. Do we trust Him more because of it? Well, let's see. I'm going to draw a massive implication from the wisdom of God that is challenging to consider. Are you ready?
II. One life-altering implication of God's wisdom
"The wisdom of God tells us that God will bring about the best possible results, by the best possible means, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time." (Charles Ryrie, quoted by Chip Ingram in God: As He Longs For You To See Him, p. 128.) Let's say that out loud and weigh the words as they pass through our mouths. (Repeat)
Now run that around the block in your present experience. Take that home with you and see how it works. What this implication from God's wisdom means is that whatever your life is like right now, God is wisely and sovereignly ordering your circumstances to do something in you, through you, in your marriage, in your family, in your work, in your witness, and in your worship that could not be accomplished any other way.
If there was a better way to accomplish these purposes, then you would be experiencing those other circumstances instead of what you are right now. If there was a kinder, faster, more expedient way, God would be using it. So the circumstances you are in right now are exactly what you need for this period in your life.
Let me ask you something: Would it change things for you if you firmly believed that the problem in your life that is pressing and difficult - the one you don't understand, that you chafe against, that makes you feel overwhelmed and ready to give up - was orchestrated or allowed by an all-wise, loving Father to bring about the best possible, longest lasting results for His glory and your good?
Would it make a difference if you understood that your life is not God's Plan B or Plan C - that it is always and only Plan A, designed specifically for you while you live in this fallen world? What is everything in your life was a part of His wise plan? What would happen to your anxiety level? How would that affect your confidence in God?
But it's right here where we push back. "I would love to believe that, Lloyd, but it doesn't add up in my life. You call what has happened to me the best possible circumstances for me right now? And it's going to produce the best possible outcome! What outcome is God shooting for? I lost my baby! My son was killed in a car wreck. The storm took everything I had. I got a pink slip. My husband beat me. You're telling me that this is the best! I can think of better ways toward better outcomes. I don't buy it!"
All over this room, there are circumstances that defy any connection with this teaching. Those circumstances contradict phrases like "best possible" because they are awful, scaring, and painful. There are two things with which I want to plead with you to consider:
1. Remember that our experience of the wisdom of God comes in a fallen world.
This is not the best of all possible worlds, but one that lies under the shadow of the Fall of man. All creation groans and travails under the mighty shock of the Fall, when sin entered this world and death by sin. In this present evil world, God's wisdom does not necessarily shield His children from sin or calamity, nor punish wicked people in their sin. Right now, in His wisdom, "He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:45). But one day, all will be set right.
You have His Word on that in places like Galatians 6:7 where the Bible says, "Do not be deceived" (Don't be fooled by the delay in the full execution of God's perfect justice so that you think that He lets the wicked off the hook): "God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap." You can believe this: God will see to it in full on the day of His judgment.
2. Remember the wisdom of God in securing your salvation.
Everything about God's plan to save us through Christ looked doomed to fail. A teenage girl in a stable in a little flea-bag town? A carpenter's son? And then consider the disciples Jesus chose to whom He would delegate His cause. Not exactly your top-of-the-class group.
But the most foolish move of all was the crucifixion. I Corinthians 1:21-24 connects this for us: "For since, in God's wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom" (In other words, God rejected the possibility of salvation by human intellect and wisdom. We will see why in a moment.) "… God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God's power and God's wisdom."
In God's infinite wisdom, He chose a way of salvation through Christ that looks totally insane to us. No one on earth would have come up with a plan involving the brutal murder of the Son of God for sinners. Yet at precisely the most foolish-looking moment, God's wisdom triumphs. And at the point of His greatest weakness, God's power is unleashed. Verse 25: "because God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength."
In God's all-wise plan, this was the perfect way to achieve the greatest goal. What goal? Skip to v. 31: "Therefore, as it is written, 'The one who boasts must boast in the Lord.'" This is what His wisdom was aiming at. God chose us, purchased us, called us, and given to us everything else involving our salvation in such a way as to strip us of all self-congratulation and replace it with glorying only in the Lord.
I make this point for this reason: you and I don't know enough to fathom why pain and suffering and injustice and brutality happens to us in this sin-wrecked world. Like Job, we come to God with our questions. But in the end, God simply points out that in the grand scope of things, we know nothing. Suggesting our "better plan" to help God out is like proposing "1 + 1" to Einstein. When it comes to divine wisdom, we haven't been there and we haven't done that.
It takes time and repeated lessons in humility to bring us to the place where we can rest in His wisdom and trust His plan. But there are a few spiritual booster shots that can help us get there:
1. Wise Living Starts With Fearing the Lord.
Prov. 9:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Fearing the Lord is basically this: you recognize that He is the Creator, your Master, the Lord of all; He's holy and awesome and calls the shots. And in response you willingly submit yourself to Him and His plan for your life. Without this, there is no wisdom. It starts with salvation. It continues in reverent humility.
2. Wise Living Grows by Receiving God's Word.
Wise living grows by receiving God's Word. Ps. 19:7 says, "The instruction of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise." Nothing can match the Bible for showing you the mind of God. The more you sink roots in God through His Word, the more wisdom will mark your life.
3. Wise Living Requires that We Ask for It Specifically.
James 1:5-6: "Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind." In other words, you don't come to God for a second opinion. We come to God to say, "Overwrite your wisdom on this, Lord. Whatever you show me, I will follow."
A.W. Tozer, in The Knowledge of the Holy, wrote these words about God's wisdom in our lives: "To believe actively that our Heavenly Father constantly spreads around us providential circumstances that work for our present good and our everlasting well-being brings to the soul a veritable benediction. Most of us go through life praying a little, planning a little, jockeying for position, hoping but never being quite certain of anything, and always secretly afraid that we will miss the way. This is a tragic waste of truth and never gives rest to the heart.
"There is a better way. It is to repudiate our own wisdom and take instead the infinite wisdom of God… God has charged Himself with full responsibility for our eternal happiness and stands ready to take over the management of our lives the moment we turn in faith to Him." (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 63.)