Let me suggest four routes that should take us “from Wisdom to WISDOM.”
Fearing the LORD… Jesus
The governing principle of wise living is “the fear of the Lord” (Prov 1:7, 9:10). The fear of the LORD is a disposition towards God of reverence and reliance. Such fear and faith spring from a personal knowledge of Yahweh. The more we know of the LORD who has revealed Himself in history and Scripture, the more we will fear His displeasure and trust His grace.
We can easily transpose this into a Christian context. Perhaps the most common confession in the New Testament is that “Jesus is Lord.” Jesus is designated Lord approximately 120 times in the gospels alone. Significantly, this term kyrios (Lord) was used in the Septuagint to represent the divine name of God. To call Jesus “Lord” is to unsubtly associate him with Yahweh.
Thus, in a New Testament setting, to fear the Lord is to reverently rely on Jesus. Wisdom begins with the question: what is my heart’s attitude towards the Lord Jesus Christ?
Christ: the wisdom of God
Paul, writing to the Colossians, designates Christ as “the wisdom of God” (Col 2:3). Jesus is God’s wisdom. This, despite the fact that Christ’s crucifixion is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks. Yet to those who are being saved Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24). His gospel carries the “power of salvation” (Rom 1:16) and in Him are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3).
All of this means that we can tell the world that Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s wisdom. The wisdom of the OT is provisional; the wisdom of the cross is ultimate. Supreme wisdom is found in the gospel of Christ and ultimately “in Christ” Himself.
The New and Greater Solomon: wisdom’s practitioner and teacher
It is easy to demonstrate that Jesus is presented in the Gospels as a new and greater Solomon. Luke especially emphasizes the growth of the boy Jesus in wisdom and our Lord’s extraordinary wisdom as a youth (2:40, 46,47, 52). Jesus’ first sermon is said to produce “amazement” (cf. 1 Kgs 10:4); indeed afterwards the people asked “What’s this wisdom that has been given him?” (Mk 6:2). Later we see Jesus teaching using parables in the style of the wisdom teacher. Later still, we see Jesus brilliantly escaping the testing questions of His enemies (Mk 12:13, cf 1 Kgs 10:1). Finally, Jesus Himself claimed to be “one greater than Solomon” (Lk 11:31).
In Jesus we have a new and greater Solomon. In a way surpassing even Solomon, Jesus teaches the way of wisdom. And unlike Solomon, Jesus was the perfect practitioner of wisdom. With Solomon, it was sometimes a case of “do as I say, but not as I do.” But the wisdom Jesus teaches, he embodies, with a perfect life of righteousness.
Gospel implications and living wisely
I have sometimes heard it said that to Christ-centered preaching simply declares what God has DONE for sinners in Jesus Christ. It is true – wonderfully true – that the gospel is news of what God has done for sinners. It is also true – sadly true – that too many preachers merely proclaim a list of do’s, while they hide away the gospel of grace.
But while Christ-centered preaching must start with what God has done in Christ, it must not end there. The same disciples who are called to trust in the free offer of the gospel, are subsequently called to obey everything Christ commanded. There are ethical entailments which are not to be confused with the gospel, but which naturally flow out from the gospel. Those saved by grace are also taught by grace to “say no to ungodliness” (Titus 2:12).
This is where the wisdom literature comes in. Interestingly, when the book of Proverbs is quoted in the New Testament (8 times), the proverbs are used predominantly in an ethical way. They are not cleverly applied to Jesus in some way we hadn’t thought of. They are applied as supporting Scripture to encourage godly living.
This is also “preaching Christ.” Jesus wants His life and death to be proclaimed for the salvation of men. But he also wants the life of godliness expounded for the sanctified living of the church. The children of God must learn, however slowly and limpingly, to walk as Jesus did (1 Jhn 2:6).
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