Posted On January 23, 2018
Scripture is clear that every believer is to desire and seek wisdom. The Proverbs of Solomon teach that it is a guiding influence upon a person’s decision-making and lifestyle choices. But how do you gain wisdom? If you grew up in the church you probably heard Proverbs 1:7 (“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction”) repeated ad infinitum. For the moment though, please forget that you ever read it. Now ask yourself, what was something that caused you to grow? Perhaps you thought of an uplifting experience at a church summer camp, a trial that shook you to the core, or that time you got your first job. If you came to Christ at an older age, you likely thought of your conversion. Now, think of someone who you consider to be wise. What color is their hair? You probably imagined an older Christian in your church, perhaps your pastor.
It is interesting that the Scriptures do not begin by mentioning experience when speaking of wisdom. While those things may accompany wisdom, none of them touches the essence of it. For every person who has gained wisdom from age, experience, position, or pain we could easily find five others who have only developed bitterness and anger. According to the Scriptures, the necessary prerequisite for wisdom is not an experience but a fear of—a disposition toward—Almighty God. As John Murray states, “The fear of the Lord is the soul of godliness… The most practical of mundane duties derive their inspiration and impetus from the fear of the Lord.”
This fear isn’t natural to us. Paul, quoting the Psalms, teaches that we both need and lack it as unbelievers (Rom. 3:18). We are not naturally indifferent toward God’s truth, as some would have us believe, but rather we naturally “despise wisdom and instruction.” Only when the Holy Spirit regenerates us do we begin to have true wisdom.
Despite the importance of the fear of God for sanctification, today’s popular Christianity does not seem to possess a great deal of it. Generic praise songs that could easily be sung to a boyfriend/girlfriend have been popular for decades now. If a Christian brother or sister lets the Lord’s holy name slip in an irreverent manner many of us are hesitant to admonish them—if we even think to do so. There are also examples in Scripture of men and women who had every reason to be mature in the faith but were still foolish. Well-meaning Uzzah (2 Sam. 6:5–11), churchgoers Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–11), and the priestly brothers Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1–3) rank among such. All of these biblical characters were apparently trusted by their peers as righteous, but they failed to understand the consuming holiness of the God they served.
So I ask again, how do you gain wisdom? Must we tremble at the thought of even seeking it out? According to the author of Hebrews, we need not (Heb. 4:16, 10:19–22). We can honestly sing, “bold I approach the eternal throne.” My pastor explained how to grow in wisdom during a RBC chapel service. He cited James, who wrote that, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (Js. 1:5). We come—humbly, in reverential fear and recognition of our need—to the source of wisdom and ask for it. Though the Lion of Judah is not, to borrow a term from C.S. Lewis, “tame,” He has promised to give us what we need because “he is good.” The fear of the Lord leads invariably to a truer knowledge of Him, and to know Him better enables you to further love and become more like Him. The fear of the Lord is the key to gaining wisdom.
Zach Johnson is an alumnus from Reformation Bible College.