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Wisdom and knowledge, both recurring themes in the Bible, are related but not synonymous. The dictionary defines wisdom as “the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.” Knowledge, on the other hand, is “information gained through experience, reasoning, or acquaintance.” Knowledge can exist without wisdom, but not the other way around. One can be knowledgeable without being wise. Knowledge is knowing how to use a gun; wisdom is knowing when to use it and when to keep it holstered.
God wants us to have knowledge of Him and what He expects of us. In order to obey Him, we have to have knowledge of the commands. But as equally important as having knowledge is having wisdom. Knowing facts about God and the Bible is not all there is to wisdom. Wisdom is a gift from God. James 1:5 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” God blesses us with wisdom in order for us to glorify Him and use the knowledge we have of Him.
The book of Proverbs is perhaps the best place in the Bible to learn biblical wisdom. Proverbs 1:7 speaks of both biblical knowledge and wisdom: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, / but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” To fear the Lord is to start on the path to knowledge, and God can then begin to provide us with wisdom through Christ, who the Bible says is wisdom itself: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Knowledge is what is gathered over time through the study of the Scriptures. It can be said that wisdom, in turn, acts properly upon that knowledge. Wisdom is the fitting application of knowledge. Knowledge understands the light has turned red; wisdom applies the brakes. Knowledge sees the quicksand; wisdom walks around it. Knowledge memorizes the Ten Commandments; wisdom obeys them. Knowledge learns of God; wisdom loves Him.
Doesn’t the Bible say that knowledge will be “destroyed”? Isn’t it “incomplete”? Doesn’t it “puff up”? And then there’s the “tree of”! But aren’t we also told to “look/ask/seek for it and walk in it”?First, we will look at knowledge, wisdom, and understanding as a single issue.
How Long Will Knowledge Be Useful?
1 Cor 13:8b-12 (Phi) For if there are prophecies they will be fulfilled and done with, if there are “tongues” the need for them will disappear, if there is knowledge it will be swallowed up in truth. For our knowledge is always incomplete and our prophecy is always incomplete, and when the complete comes, that is the end of the incomplete. When I was a little child I talked and felt like a little child. Now that I am a man I am finished with childish things. At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a small fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God has known me!
In The Meantime…
Knowledge is needed because there are problems as a result of The Fall. Knowledge that is true allows problems to be solved and avoided. If a car breaks down, mechanical knowledge is useful, otherwise, it is unnecessary. It is the same with all of life’s problems. God gives us the knowledge to help “fix” broken people, protect ourselves from the difficulties of life, and allow love to express itself in good works.
Knowledge Allows Love To Do What?
Prov 3:19-20a (NIV) By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge, the deeps were divided.
Prov 24:3-4 (NIV) By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge, its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
Love Without Knowledge?
Sandy Gregory’s story of the ignorant but loving mother: She feeds her children with an all-meat diet because she believes meat is the best kind of food. One day she gains some important knowledge after reading a nutrition guide, and she starts buying a mixture of food types for her children. As a result, her children become healthier. Question: Did this mother love her children more before or after she gained the knowledge? Hmmm…. The same! But until the knowledge, her love was fruitless, even counterproductive. Knowledge that is true allows love to blossom into good fruit. Rom 10:2 (NIV) For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.
Prov 19:2 (NIV) It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.
Hos 4:6 (NIV) My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
The “Simple” [those who are deliberately ignorant and actively avoid truth]
Prov 1:28-33 (NIV) “They will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat of the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”
Eph 5:17 (NIV) Therefore, do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Prov 23:23 (NIV) Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline, and understanding.
Prov 9:6 (NIV) Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding.
Jam 1:5 (NIV) If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
Prov 8:11 (NIV) For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Prov 19:8 (NIV) He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers.
Prov 13:20 (NIV) He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
Prov 24:5-6 (NIV) A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength. For waging war you need guidance and for victory many advisers.
Knowledge To Be Avoided
Gen 2:17 (NIV) But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.
1 Cor 14:20 (NIV) Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be like adults.
Rom 16:19b (NIV) But I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
Rom 16:19b (Phi) I want to see you experts in good, and not even beginners at evil.
Mat 10:16 (NIV) I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
Our Own Understanding
Phil 4:7 (NEB) Then, the peace of God, which is beyond our utmost understanding, will keep guard over your hearts and thoughts, in Christ Jesus.
Job 36:26 (NIV) How great is God, beyond our understanding!
Prov 3:5,7a (NIV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding…. Do not be wise in your own eyes.
The Two Kinds of Wisdom: From Above and From Below
Jam 3:13-17 (Phi) Is there some wise and understanding man among you? Then let his life be a shining example of the humility that is born of true wisdom. But if your heart is full of bitter jealousy and rivalry, then do not boast and do not deny the truth. You may acquire certain wisdom, but it does not come from above–it comes from this world, from your own lower nature, even from the devil. For wherever you find jealousy and rivalry you also find disharmony and all other kinds of evil. The wisdom that comes from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, approachable, full of merciful thoughts and kindly actions, straightforward, with no hint of hypocrisy.
1 Cor 1:18-31 (Phi) The preaching of the cross is, I know, nonsense to those who are involved in this dying world, but to us who are being saved from that death it is nothing less than the power of God. It is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the prudence of the prudent will I reject.” For consider, what have the philosopher, the writer, and the critic of this world to show for all their wisdom? Has not God made the wisdom of this world look foolish? For it was after the world in its wisdom had failed to know God, that he in his wisdom chose to save all who would believe by the “simple-mindedness” of the gospel message. For the Jews ask for miraculous signs and the Greeks an intellectual panacea, but all we preach is Christ crucified–a stumbling-block to the Jews and sheer nonsense to the gentiles… for God’s “foolishness” is wiser than men…. But God has chosen what the world calls foolish to shame the wise… that no man may boast in the presence of God…. And this makes us see the truth of the scripture: “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
1 Cor 3:19-21 (Phi) Let no one be under any illusion over this. If any man among you thinks himself one of the world’s clever ones, let him discard his cleverness that he may learn to be truly wise. For this world’s cleverness is stupidity to God. It is written: “He that taketh the wise in their craftiness”, and again, “The Lord knoweth the reasonings of the wise, that they are vain.” So let no one boast of men.
Knowledge Without Love?
1 Cor 8:1b-2 (Phi) It is easy to think that we “know” over problems like this, but we should remember that while this “knowing” may make a man look big, it is only loved that can make him grow to his full stature. For if a man thinks he “knows” he may still be quite ignorant of what he ought to know.
1 Cor 8:1b (NIV) Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
1 Cor 13:2 (NIV) If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge… but have not love, I am nothing.
The Source Of True Knowledge
Prov 2:6,9-11 (NIV) For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair–every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.
Mat 11:25 (NIV) At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, and revealed them to little children.”
Jam 1:17 (NAS) Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting the shadow.
God’s Secret, Revealed By The Spirit
1 Cor 2:10a (NIV) But God has revealed it [wisdom] to us by his Spirit.
Phil 1:9-10 (Jer) My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognize what is best. This will help you to become pure and blameless, and prepare you for the Day of Christ.
Col 1:9,10 (NIV) For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.
1 Cor 2:6-10a (Phi) We do, of course, speak wisdom among those who are spiritually mature, but it is not what is called wisdom by this world, nor by the powers-that-be, who soon will be only the powers that have been. The wisdom we speak of is that mysterious secret wisdom of God, which he planned before the creation for our glory today…. But, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”. Thus God has, through the Spirit, let us share his secret.
Can We Ever Know Enough?
2 Pet 1:2-3 (Phi) May you know more and more of grace and peace as your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord grows deeper. He has by his own action given us everything that is necessary for living the truly good life, in allowing us to know the one who has called us to him, through his glorious goodness.
Romans 15:14 (NIV) I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
Col 1:28 (Phi) So naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ.
Phil 3:16 (Phi) It is important that we go forward in the light of such truth as we have already learned.
Jam 4:17b (Phi) If a man knows what is right and fails to do it, his failure is a real sin.
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