The Institutes and True Wisdom

“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.”1

It amazes me how truth which I have known for a long time still pierces my heart when I hear it phrased differently. I know that the only hope I have in understanding myself, both who I am and who I should be, comes from understanding the character and nature of God both in comparison and contrast to the character and nature of myself. He is Creator; I am creation. He is Holy and Just; I am a sinner who needs mercy. He is Sovereign over all things; I am under His sovereign will, not independent as I would many times like to think. He is our Savior; I am one who needs saving. He is Christ; I am being conformed into the image of Christ. He is Love; I am one who He loves.

Solomon understood the relationship between God and man well when he wrote: “13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecc. 12:13-14).

God is to be feared; I should fear Him.

Yet, despite this knowledge, it struck me to the core when I heard the word “wisdom” applied to the understanding of the comparison/contrast of God and man. Merriam-Webster defines “wisdom” as: b. the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships (or INSIGHT); c. good sense (or JUDGEMENT).

So, the core of all insight and judgement, of discerning the best qualities and making good decisions, stems directly from having a deep understanding of the character and nature of God compared to my own. This should drive me to press into Scripture to guide me when making decisions in all areas of life, not just when trying to answer a Theological question or for daily “quiet time”…though anyone who knows me knows that I’m never really quiet.

Yet, I find myself continually ignoring, or rejecting, this understanding of my need for God and HIS wisdom, and I go on suppressing the truth and making decisions that I feel make sense, but in the end aren’t always what’s best. Now, because God is making me more like Christ, there are times where my desires run alongside God’s desires, and this is a very good thing. But for me to assume that I am so sanctified that I can make most decisions without spending time in prayer and in Scripture isn’t just theologically incorrect, it’s practically stupid.

Yes, I know, we all do this. However, Paul makes it clear in Romans 1 that even though all men suppress the truth, that doesn’t make it excusable (Rom. 1:20). I realize that Paul may have been talking about something more cosmic, the denial of God as Creator and the search for autonomy. But, if I know Him and embrace Him as Creator and confess Him as Savior, but am not diligent to apply the wisdom of that understanding to all areas of life, am I not guilty of the same sin?

Just as the sin is the same, the call and command to repent is the same. It is no accident that in the 95 Theses, Martin Luther said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” The command to repent is not just a one-time confession of Christ as Lord, but a daily application of that confession, as the Spirit wills and we strive to change the way we think and act by searching and applying the truths of Scripture to our lives, minds, and hearts.

May God give us the grace and strength to do so diligently.

1. Calvin, John (2008-04-03). Institutes of the Christian Religion (Kindle Locations 756-758). Signalman Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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