We’re halfway through a series all about wisdom. We’ve defined wisdom, learned where it comes from, discovered why it’s important, and begun to learn what the Bible says about wisdom. In this post, we’re continuing the word study we started last week, but instead of the Old Testament, this week we’re looking at Wisdom in the New Testament.
But before we jump into that, let’s do a quick recap.
In part one (What is Wisdom and Why is Wisdom Important?), we set out to define wisdom and decided that: Wisdom is learning all we can about who God is, how He (Jesus) lived, and what He says and then placing such great value on that knowledge that we learn how to apply it to our own lives, asking God to guide us and give us good judgement.
Then, last week we looked at all the passages in the Old Testament that speak about wisdom by doing a word study with the words “wise” and “wisdom.” (If you don’t know how to do a word study, I recommend you go back and read the first few paragraphs of last week’s post where I explain what it is, how to do it, and what tools to use.) What we learned reinforced what we’d already discovered in week one, which is that wisdom comes from God and the fear of the Lord is the foundation on which wisdom is built. Also, without humility, the pursuit of wisdom will only make us look foolish.
Here’s that post if you want to go back and use it as a guide to study what the Bible says about wisdom in the Old Testament: 100+ Old Testament Wisdom Scriptures that Show Wisdom Comes from God.
So now it’s time to turn our attention to the New Testament and plug our words, “wisdom” and “wise” into Bible Gateway’s search bar. Since the New Testament is a lot shorter than the Old Testament, I am also going to include the words “understanding” and “knowledge” and maybe even pull a few passages from a search of the word “foolish” so that we get a really complete picture of what the Bible says about wisdom in the New Testament.
Jesus: The Wisdom of God
The New Testament starts with the Gospels, so that’s where we’ll start. These four books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, give us a wonderful picture of Jesus’s life here on earth. Our study of wisdom in the New Testament has to start with Him. We’ll get to the things Jesus taught about wisdom in a minute. But first I want us to understand what the Bible tells us about Jesus himself as it applies to wisdom.
Remember in week one of this series how we saw that Corinthians and Colossians both spoke of Jesus as wisdom itself? This is really important. We can’t miss it because it is part of what helps us know for certain that Jesus was who He said He was, which is the Messiah – God Himself.
In our Old Testament study last week we saw some prophesies about the promised Messiah, here is one of them:
Isaiah 11:1-2 – Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot – yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
So the first group of verses we’re going to look at are the ones that fulfill this prophesy. These are verses that describe Jesus during His time here on earth using words like wisdom, wise, understanding, and so forth. Matthew 12:42; 13:54; Mark 6:2; Luke 2:47, 52; 24:25-27; Colossians 2:3; Revelation 5:11-12.
Luke 2:39-40 – When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.
And here’s a little bonus verse that doesn’t use the word wisdom, but that shows how Jesus was the fulfillment of our prophecy in Isaiah 11.
Mathew 3:16-17 – After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
Jesus’s Teachings on Wisdom from the Gospels
So, if Jesus was filled with wisdom and even WAS the wisdom of God as Colossians states, then surely anything he taught about wisdom while He was here on earth is worth listening to!
I’m sure we all want our lives to be built of the firmest foundation possible. So here are the rest of the references to wisdom in Jesus’s teachings from the Gospels divided up according to the principle being taught in each.
- God reveals His wisdom and truth to the childlike and humble and hides it from the proud – Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21
- Those who listen to Jesus’s teaching will be given more wisdom and understanding, but to those who refuse to listen to Him, what wisdom they have will be taken away – Matthew 13:12; Mark 4:24-25; Luke 8:18
- The wise will wait with expectation for the return of Christ (the bridegroom) and will be prepared when He arrives – Matthew 25:2-8
- Foolishness comes from our own wicked hearts – Mark 7:22
- Wisdom is shown to be right by it’s results – Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35
- Religious “knowledge” that is not rooted in God’s truth but in tradition is foolishness. It keeps people from coming to God and makes fools of those who preach it. – Luke 11:37-54; Matthew 23
- A person who stores up earthly wealth without developing a rich relationship with God is a fool – Luke 12:20-21
- Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, will empower His people with the words of wisdom to answer the charges against them when they are persecuted – Luke 21:15
What the Bible Says About Wisdom in the Book of Acts
Moving on from the Gospels, let’s look at what the Bible says about wisdom in the New Testament by looking at the book of Acts. This is kind of a transitional book situated between the Gospels and the Epistles (or the letters to the churches). It tells us the story of the early early church as it formed and grew after Jesus’s resurrection and ascension.
The first appearance of the word wisdom in the book of Acts comes in chapter 6. The church was growing, and at this point the Apostles were the only leaders. But the responsibilities of leadership had grown beyond the capacity of this handful of men, and so it became necessary to appoint deacons who would be able to manage the distribution of resources. One of the qualification the Apostles looked for among the men they selected was wisdom. But it wasn’t just any old wisdom. It was the wisdom that came from the Holy Spirit. (Luke 6:3)
One of these men was Stephen. In Acts 6:9-10, the Bible tells us how some men came to debate with Stephen, but none of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke. Of course, this kind of put a target on him and soon Stephen found himself the victim of severe persecution. As he stood trial before the Jewish religious leaders (Acts 7), Stephen spoke with great wisdom, just as Jesus had promised would happen in Luke 21:15.
Nonetheless, Stephen’s speech enraged the Jewish religious leaders so much that they stoned him and he became the first documented Christian martyr. Following his death, the Bible tells us a great wave of persecution swept over the church in Jerusalem and they were scattered throughout the world, taking the message about Jesus with them.
Wisdom in the New Testament Epistles
This meant churches sprung up all over the civilized world of the time. One way they all stayed united and on the same page in their messaging was through the teaching of the Apostles which came to each of them in the form of letters. Some of these letters have been preserved and Canonized to make up the majority of the New Testament. They are known as the Epistles.
Of these 21 letters, there are the letters to churches: Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, James, 1&2 Peter, 1 John, and Jude. And there are the letters to individual people or families: 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, 2&3 John.
What the Bible Says About Wisdom in Paul’s Epistles
The Apostle Paul wrote the majority of the Epistles, so let’s start with his letters and see if we can find some themes in what the Bible says about wisdom in Paul’s letters. Below you will find a list, like we did with Jesus’s teachings that groups together passages according to the message about wisdom in those passages.
- The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. 1 Corinthians 3:18-20
- Creation itself makes it obvious that God exists and to deny it is foolishness, but when people choose to reject that truth and trust their own ideas about wisdom, God gives them over to their foolishness. Romans 1:18-22, 28
- The Jewish religious leaders had put their faith in the law, rather than the God who gave them the law and as a result missed the whole point. They considered themselves so wise, but in God’s eyes they were fools. Keeping the law may make us feel wise, but it is not wisdom. The law is meant to help us understand how sinful we are, not to make us righteous or wise. Romans 2:20; Romans 7:9; Colossians 2:20-23
- No person is truly wise apart from God. Romans 3:11
- God is wise. His wisdom is beyond our understanding. He is greater than us in every way. Romans 11:33-36; 16:27
- Jesus is wisdom itself. 1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 2:2-3
- Scripture gives us the wisdom to receive salvation. 2 Timothy 2:15-17
- The message of the cross and the message of Christ are foolishness to those who reject it. But those messages are the wisdom of God to those who are called to salvation. This message is simple and does not require great wisdom to understand, just the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:17-27; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 2:13-16; Galatians 3:1-3
- The secret mysteries of God’s plan are revealed through wisdom to those who are mature in the faith. It is NOT the wisdom of this world. 1 Corinthians 2:6-9
- Our knowledge and understanding now is partial, but when the time of perfection comes, it will be complete. 1 Corinthians 13:9-10
- The gift of wisdom is a gift from Jesus given through the Holy Spirit and intended to be used to build up the church. 1 Corinthians 1:5; 1 Corinthians 12:7-8; Ephesians 1:8; Ephesians 4:11-13; Colossians 3:16; Titus 2:2-6
- The gift of love is more important than the gift of knowledge. 1 Corinthians 8:1, 10-11; 13:2, 8; 8:7
- The gift of knowledge or wisdom is more valuable to the church than the gift of tongues. 1 Corinthians 14:6
- We should strive to be mature in our understanding of spiritual matters. 1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 5:4, 15
- God uses believers to spread His message of wisdom. 2 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 3:10
- Doing what is right is wisdom. We should live wisely among unbelievers and make the most of every opportunity. Romans 16:19; Colossians 4:5; Titus 2:12
- Following Christ will make us look foolish to the world. 1 Corinthians 4:10
- A church leader should be wise and live wisely. 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8
- Those who teach a message that is different than the Gospel or who choose to quibble over minor points of the teaching of Scripture are foolish. 1 Timothy 6:4
- We should avoid foolish discussions with those who oppose the message of Christ. 1 Timothy 6:20-21; 2 Timothy 2:16, 23; Titus 3:9
- The people who make up the church should have enough wisdom to settle their own disputes without involving the world. 1 Corinthians 6:1-6
- God gave Paul wisdom to offer sound advice and that is what he depended on, not his own ideas. And this is part of what proved his validity as a messenger from God. 1 Corinthians 7:25; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 6:6; 11:6; Colossians 1:28-29
- Paul prayed that God would give the believers in the churches spiritual wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:15-20; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:5
- People who long to be rich open themselves up to foolishness. 1 Timothy 6:9
New Testament Wisdom found in the other Epistles
The rest of the Epistles were written by other men, most of which are named for the authors. Although, Hebrews doesn’t name its author and may have actually been written by Paul. But since all Scripture is ultimately inspired by God, we find that the exact same messages are carried throughout despite the variety of authors.
- We should strive to be mature in our understanding of spiritual matters. Hebrews 6:1-3; 2 Peter 3:18
- If we need wisdom, we should ask God. But our faith should be in Him alone or else we will be unstable in everything we do. James 1:5-8
- Doing what is right is wisdom. If we understand God’s ways, we will prove it by living an honorable life. James 3:13-16
- Wisdom that comes from God is pure, peace loving, gentle, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy, shows no favoritism, is always sincere, and bears the fruit of good deeds. James 3:17
- Husbands should treat their wives with wisdom and understanding so their prayers won’t be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7
- The gift of wisdom is a gift from Jesus given through the Holy Spirit and intended to be used to build up the church. 2 Peter 1:2-8; 1 John 5:20
- Scripture comes from God, not from the human wisdom of the prophet who wrote it. 2 Peter 1:20-21
- Peter affirms that God gave Paul wisdom to offer sound advice and that is what he depended on, not his own ideas. And this is part of what proved his validity as a messenger from God. 2 Peter 3:15-16
What the Bible Says About Wisdom in Revelation
This brings us to the last book of the New Testament – Revelation. It is a book of prophecy that speaks about what will happen at the end of the world and then for all eternity. There are two messages about wisdom that we see in Revelation.
The first is that wisdom is needed to understand the prophecies it communicates. (Revelation 13:18; 17:9) And we have already learned from the rest of what the Bible says about wisdom that this wisdom will only come from God so we simply need to ask Him to help us understand.
But the second message about wisdom found in Revelation is the same one that has run throughout this whole study and it is a wonderful way to wrap up today’s word study.
Revelation 5:11-12 – Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered – to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”
And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:
“Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.”
And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.
Revelation 7:11-12 – And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. They sang,
“AMEN! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! AMEN.”
My friends, wisdom belongs to God. He created it, He IS it, and He is the One who gives it to us. We will spend eternity praising Him for it, along with every other created thing. We can turn to Him now, receive the wisdom He offers, and spend that eternity praising Him in His presence, or we can reject Him and His wisdom and embrace the foolishness of this world. We’ll still spend eternity praising Him, but we’ll do it with the rest of the fools, separated from Him forever in a place of eternal torture.
I can’t speak for you, but I want to embrace Him and His wisdom now and spend my life pursuing Him. I want to live like He wants me to live. I want to fulfill the purposes He has for me. I want to be wise.