Earthly vs Heavenly Wisdom - Riverside Indonesian Fellowship

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Bible Study 2022
Earthly vs Heavenly Wisdom
Let us look at James 3:13 – 18, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” This is a comparison between wisdom from above, in verse 17 which is pure, peaceable, gentle, and so forth, and wisdom from below in verse 15 which is earthly, natural and demonic.

Men might say they possess wisdom. Is it the wisdom of men, or is it the wisdom of God? There’s a great difference. In verse 13, James says, “Who among you is wise in understanding? Let him prove it by his good behavior manifest through his deeds with an attitude of meekness.” So, if you claim to have wisdom from above, the burden of proof is with you to verify that indeed you possess that wisdom.

And “wisdom” is a magnificent word. In about 52 B. C. Cicero said, “Wisdom is the best gift of the gods; it is the mother of all good things. The best and that which generates all of the best.” Because if you had wisdom, you could just about get anything else. Wisdom is the chief thing in the pursuit of man. Proverbs 4:7 says, “Acquire wisdom, and with all your acquiring, get understanding.”

Remember God asked Solomon in 1 Kings 3:5, ‘Ask what you wish Me to give you.’ Then Solomon said, “‘Now, O Lord my God, Thou has made Thy servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a child; I do not know how to go out or come in.’” Verse 9, “so give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil.”

Verse 10, “God said, ‘Because you have asked this thing, I have given you a wise and discerning heart so that there has been no one like you before you. And I also have given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, I will prolong your days.’”

Solomon created 3,000 proverbs, and he composed 1005 songs. And he spoke of trees, from the cedar in Lebanon to the hyssop on the wall; he spoke also of animals, birds, creeping things and fish. And kings came from everywhere to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the nations of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.” And haven’t we all extolled the Wisdom of Solomon in human history?

Job, in the midst of an inexpressible series of events and problems sought wisdom from God. He knows that wisdom would be the highest and most noble and most valuable of all possessions. God gave Ezra in Ezra 7:25, wisdom in order that he might lead Israel, who had been brought back from captivity in Babylon. God granted Daniel knowledge, skill and wisdom, according to Daniel 1:17.

Paul also prayed for every believer, that we might be given the spirit of wisdom and revelation and the knowledge of Christ. And particularly in raising children from the time they’re young, you want them to be wise. It isn’t just a question of knowledge and information, it’s a question of wisdom which means knowing how to apply that information in every given situation.

God in the Bible, calls all men to be wise. As believers, we are called to be as wise as serpents, while being as harmless as doves. James poses this question, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him prove it by his conduct, his good behavior. Wisdom is made manifest in the way a person conducts his or her life. James is giving us a series of tests for genuine, saving faith.

In James 1, the test of saving faith can be seen in how a person responds to trials. Saving faith can be seen in how a person responds to temptation, solicitation to do evil. And then he said that genuine living faith, can be seen in how a person responds to the Word of God. In James 2, how a person responds to needy people. And in James 2, saving faith is manifested in righteous works.

And now comes the test of wisdom. If a person genuinely possess living faith, he will manifest in his life the wisdom of God. The kind of wisdom you have will be made manifest in the way you live. One’s relationship to God is revealed by the kind of wisdom lived out. And James tells us here there is false wisdom, verses 14 to 16, and there is true wisdom, verses 17 and 18.

False wisdom is earthly; it is natural; it is demonic. And divine wisdom, wisdom from above is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy, and producing righteousness and peace, according to verse 18. So, what kind of wisdom do you have? You say you’re wise and understanding? Then let’s look at your life and see who really has divine wisdom.”

So, from the Old Testament, all of God’s children, and particularly the judges who had to make decisions, were to have wisdom and understanding. The simple distinction is that wisdom relates to the application of principles, whereas understanding relates to the understanding of those principles. You can’t be wise if you don’t understand, and you can’t really understand if you’re not wise.

James is speaking to everyone who claims to be wise, and that’s a very common claim. We live in a world where there is no fool who is a self-confessed fool. Everyone is an expert in our world. We live in a sea of opinions. And nobody’s opinion is worth more than anybody else’s, unless you happen to be a psychologist. Because when anybody wants an expert opinion, they usually quote a psychologist.

The New Testament refers to a professional who is highly skilled in some area of knowing and doing. The Greeks used it to mean speculative knowledge, theory, and philosophy. But the Hebrews infused it with a much deeper meaning, and it had to do with the ability to apply knowledge to the matter of living life. To a Hebrew, it was a matter of practical living with skill and understanding.

So divine wisdom placed into the heart of a person produces a changed life. In verse 18, James says, “You have faith; I have works. Show me your faith without the works and I’ll show you my faith by my works.” So, he’s saying again here, “You say you’re wise? Demonstrate it. You say you’re righteous? Demonstrate it. You say you have saving faith? Demonstrate it. Let’s look at your life.”

How do you, in our lives, show that we possess the wisdom of God? The God-given ability to understand ourselves, and understand our nature, and understand God’s truth, and understand our world, and understand our environment, and understand God’s revelation so that we can live practically and wisely in accord with His will, how do we show that we have that wisdom?

Well, he says there are three ways. Number one, look at verse 13, by good behavior. We could even translate it as lifestyle, activity or movement or action. If you have the wisdom of God, it’s going to come out in the way you live. Secondly, he is speaking specifically, and he identifies the specifics of daily life, those separate acts that he calls works and deeds.

Thirdly, you have the wisdom of God in your attitude. Because in verse 13, he says, “All of this will be done in the meekness of wisdom.” Most people who think they’re wise, are arrogant. A beautiful thought isn’t arrogant. Verse 14 says, “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and lie against the truth.” The wisdom of God has an attitude of meekness.

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.” Our Lord said in the Beatitudes, in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” James 1:21 says, “Put aside all filthiness and wickedness, in meekness receiving the implanted word.” Galatians 5, the fruit of the Spirit involves meekness. It’s being humble but having power.

The characteristic of meekness means to be under control of God. It also has a meaning within human relationships. In other words, the only way that we can define the word is in a context of relationships because it has to do with how we treat others. The man of the world desires to be counted and be anything but meek, and would deem such a description of him equivalent to being unmanly.

This is because we have taken in Satan’s conception of manliness instead of God’s. Christ has shown us, in whom God’s ideal of man was embodied. And He, when He was reviled, did not revile again. When He suffered, He committed Himself to Father who judges righteously. He, who was nailed to the cross, prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

We should recognize today that the wisdom of man is arrogant, conceited and self-serving, and the wisdom of God is humble, meek and non-retaliatory. Ecclesiastes tells us how mankind sees his world. It reveals the uselessness, and the frustration of false human wisdom. Ecclesiastes 1:16, “I said to myself, ‘Behold, I have increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me.”

God gave Solomon initially on a human level, wisdom to make human decisions, wisdom to make successful judgments in relationship to the things that he had to decide as the king. Verse 16 continues, “And my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.” Verse 17, “And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know extravagance – and folly.” I decided to study stupidity.

Solomon says, “I tried to know everything, and all I got was more grief and more pain.” He wants to find meaning in life. He didn’t find it in wisdom; he didn’t find it in stupidity. Now he’s going to pursue indulgence. He indulged himself with women ad infinitum. Look at our world, people out there going after education: studying and gathering. And behold, it too was futility.”

And then you see people out there with their long hair, their eyes all spaced out on rock music and drugs, and others knocked out on alcohol, and they’re deciding to find the meaning of life in madness. And then there are people who live for pleasure and possessions, and they want a bigger house, bigger car, better clothes and jewelry just for themselves. Human wisdom is in pursuit to fulfill itself.

Until Ecclesiastes 2:11, “Then I considered all my activities which my hands had done, and the labor that I exerted, and behold all was nothing and striving after wind, and there was no profit under the sun.” Verse 17, “So I hated life.” Everything is futility. I hated all the fruit of my labor, for which I had labored under the sun.” I hated all the gold; I hated all the silver; I hated all the women. I hated all of it.

Why? Because none of it brings him satisfaction. In verse 18 he says, “The thing that makes me mad is I’m going to die, and somebody else is going to get the whole thing.” That’s worldly wisdom: selfishness. He was bothered by the fact that he would die and leave all this to somebody else who didn’t do anything to get it. Verse 23, “Because all his days his task is painful; even at night he cannot sleep. This too is vanity.”

And I saw every work of God, and I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Do you know what he’s saying here? “You know God’s out there acting, at work, and you give your best to try to find it out. But as best you try, you can’t discover the reality of godly wisdom.” Even if you gave your heart completely to know wisdom and to discover God, you can’t do it.

The sum of all of this could be said in Ecclesiastes 4:2 - 3, “So, I praised the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them is the one who never existed.” That’s a death wish, and that’s the end of worldly wisdom. Isaiah 5:21 sums it up by saying, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes.” God curses those who have only worldly wisdom.

What is true wisdom which can satisfy the heart of man and satisfy the heart of God as well and make life worth living, by giving it meaning? Well, it’s the wisdom of God. Look at Psalms, and Proverbs and we discover over and over the wisdom of God. And the wisdom of God always relates to a person’s relationship to God and a person’s behavior. It is a selfless, humble approach to serving God.

Well, God is the source of wisdom. God is wise in heart and almighty. Proverbs 3:19 says, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding, He established the heavens. By His knowledge the deeps were broken up and the skies drip with dew.” Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”

We’ve seen human wisdom, and we saw the wisest man that ever lived, named Solomon, and we saw the utter futility of this supremely wise human being. Therefore, human wisdom at its best is bankrupt. Ephesians 3:10 says, “The Lord has done what He’s done in the church in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”

So, true wisdom comes from God. And that makes life meaningful. In Job 28, there is a call for the pursuit of wisdom. And look at verse 12, “Man goes to all these efforts to find precious metal, but he can’t find wisdom.” He says, “Even if man found it, he doesn’t know its value; it isn’t even found in the land of the living.” You can’t find true, divine wisdom in the world.

Verse 23, “God understands its way, and He knows its place.” If you want true wisdom, you go to God. Oh, we should clean up the church of a whole lot of human philosophy that has encumbered it. God knows where it is, because He sees everything under the heavens. He established it and searched it out. “Behold, the fear of the Lord, is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”

Proverbs 1:5 says, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Verse 20, “Wisdom is everywhere. The wisdom of God is available. “Wisdom shouts in the streets,” it’s coming through the voice of the Old Testament prophet. It’s coming through the voice of anyone who articulates the truth of God.

© 2017 Ferdy Gunawan

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