Wisdom From Above

WISDOM IS THE ability to make proper use of knowledge. A man might possess a high degree of knowledge along various lines, yet not be a wise man. For example, one might have an excellent knowledge of national and international politics, yet not be a wise statesman. A certain degree of knowledge is essential in every field of human endeavor, but if one is to be successful in his chosen field he must have, or acquire, the ability to make proper use of knowledge, and it is this that constitutes wisdom.

What is true in human pursuits is also true in our relationship to God and to one another as brethren in Christ Jesus. It is important that we acquire as much knowledge as we can of the plans and purposes of God; and in addition to this it is essential that we make the proper application of this knowledge in our daily service of the Lord and of the brethren. The wisdom of the world is often foolishness with God, and if we are to be wise according to God’s standards it is essential that we acknowledge the superiority of his ways and seek to be guided by them. Solomon wrote, “The fear [reverence] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”—Prov. 9:10, RSV

A true reverence for the Lord will manifest itself in an earnest desire to’ become acquainted with his purposes and principles, particularly as they relate to his will for us as individuals. We will, through study of the Word, learn that we are by heredity members of a fallen and dying race which is alienated from God through wicked works, and that we, therefore, have no standing before him in our own righteousness. It requires a degree of humility to acknowledge this; and if we do we will rejoice in the provision the Lord has made, upon the basis of devoting ourselves to the doing of his will, to accept us into his favor through Christ and cover us with the robe of his righteousness.—Isa. 61:10

The acceptance of these truths and our obedient response to them is the first step in the pathway of wisdom. But the spirit of humility before God manifested by this step of full dedication to his service must remain with us as a proper background to every decision we make and every act we perform in our earnest desire to know and to do God’s will. Self and its interests have no place in the life of one who is endeavoring to be filled and guided by heavenly wisdom.

God’s will for his people of the present age is that they lay down their lives sacrificially in his service, even as Jesus did. Those who have accepted this viewpoint, and are attempting to be guided by it, are following the course of heavenly wisdom. To the extent that they hold back from carrying out the terms of their consecration they are unwise. To the world the course of a consecrated Christian seems foolish, but if we are wise we will not allow the world and its viewpoints to swerve us from the path of sacrifice.


Jesus was guided by heavenly wisdom, and his example is of great value in helping us to determine the course we should take. Near the close of his ministry Jesus revealed to his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem where he expected to suffer many things, and to be killed. The disciples knew of the enmity that existed in Jerusalem toward Jesus, and Peter concluded that Jesus was making a mistake to go there, especially since he knew what would result if he did so. So he said to Jesus, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” To this Jesus replied, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”—Matt. 16:21-23

Of course, Jesus did not mean that Peter was actually the Devil, but rather, that in trying to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem to suffer and die he had assumed the role of an adversary in his effort to prevent his Master from laying down his life as he had covenanted to do. And in doing this Peter had expressed a selfish human viewpoint. It was a viewpoint that, generally speaking, is considered wise in worldly circles.

Then Jesus pressed the lesson further by explaining that this way of sacrifice would have to be accepted by those who desired to be his disciples. He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (vss. 24,25) To tell a man of the world that the only way he could save his life would be by losing it, would certainly seem contradictory to him. Yet, for the followers of the Master, this is the course of true wisdom.

And what a wise course it is! Because of our reverence for the Lord and our willingness to be instructed by him, we have learned that those who suffer and die with Jesus will live and reign with him; that in the first resurrection they will be exalted to “glory and honor and immortality.” (Rev. 20:6; Rom. 2:7) But this glorious reward will be given only to those who are “faithful unto death.” (Rev. 2:10) This being true, how unwise it would be to hold back from laying down our lives in doing our Heavenly Father’s will.

Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren … that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1) To the worldly mind it would seem most unreasonable for one to present his body in sacrifice, but not so, from the standpoint of divine wisdom, for Paul says this is a ‘reasonable service’. Again Paul wrote, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (II Tim. 1:7) The ‘sound mind’ which the Lord has given us through his Word is not an overly cautious mind—a disposition to hold back from sacrifice lest the way become too difficult. It is a mind that urges on to greater and greater sacrifices, and corrective self-control.

The Lord has also given the spirit of love, and if we have love it will be manifested in our willingness to lay down our lives for the brethren, and in bearing witness to the truth. For a consecrated child of God to view the Christian life in any other way would be manifesting the spirit of an unsound mind, a lack of the heavenly wisdom with which the Lord has endowed us through his Word. In the following chapter Paul writes to Timothy, “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.” (II Tim. 2:11,12) How unwise it would be to take a course of unfaithfulness which would result in our being denied by the Lord!

James wrote, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” (James 1:5-7) The ‘all men’ in this passage, to whom James says the Lord gives his wisdom liberally, should not be construed to mean the entire human race, but rather those who are in Christ Jesus—those who have taken up their cross to follow the Master into death. To these the Lord will give wisdom.

But the important thing from our standpoint is to be able to accept the Lord’s answers to our prayers for wisdom. James suggests the possibility of wavering in our requests, and the cause of this might well be a lack of faith in the Lord’s answer to our prayers. In the next verse James states that “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Those who are double-minded are not wholly devoted to the Lord’s ways. They are not guided entirely by heavenly wisdom. They know they should lay down their lives, but their flesh holds back. If, when these ask God for wisdom, they are hopeful that he will show them an easier way to follow in the Master’s footsteps, they will not be prepared for the answer which they receive, and in their unreasoning may conclude that the Lord did not hear their prayers.

If we are truly wise toward God we will be prepared to accept whatever he gives us in answer to our prayers, whether our prayers be for wisdom or other blessings. Our material welfare should occupy a very minor place in our prayers, and then only to the extent that it is related to our life of sacrifice in the divine service. The burden of our prayers should be in the nature of thanksgiving for all the Lord’s goodness to us, and for his promised guidance and strength as we walk in the narrow way of sacrifice which leads to life in association with our blessed Master.


Basically, the Christian life is one of sacrifice, but in his Word the Lord has laid down certain principles for our guidance in the narrow way of sacrifice. To know these principles and to practice them is also to be guided by heavenly wisdom. James wrote, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual [Margin, ‘natural’], devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion [Greek, ‘tumult’, or ‘unquietness’] and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality [Margin, ‘wrangling’], and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown m peace of them that make peace.” (James 3:13-18) James presents some details pertaining to heavenly wisdom. He says that this ‘wisdom that is from above is first pure’.

No matter what undertaking we might have in mind, especially in connection with our service to the Lord and association with his people, we should see to it that our motive is pure, and that we are not seeking to accomplish our ends by worldly methods of any kind. We should not compromise ourselves. Neither would it be a display of heavenly wisdom to compromise the truth in an effort, shall we say, to bring about a greater display of outward unity among brethren who have deviated from the fundamental doctrines of the harvest message.

We are indeed to lay down our lives in making known the glorious Gospel of the kingdom, and in serving our brethren in Christ. This is the will of the Lord for us. The wisdom from above will guide us in doing this in the Lord’s way, which is in purity. If we are controlled by heavenly wisdom we will not ‘play politics’ in an effort to impress the brethren or others with the ‘great works’ which we are accomplishing. Purity and straightforwardness will mark our words and conduct if heavenly wisdom is ruling in our hearts.

‘Then peaceable’, James adds. We might well like to see a greater degree of peace among certain of the brethren with whom we are closely associated. Paul wrote that so far as possible we should endeavor to live peaceably with all men. (Rom. 12:18) Paul knew that this would not always be possible, and one reason is that we are not allowed’ by the principle of heavenly wisdom to seek peace at any price, especially at the price of compromising the truth. Heavenly wisdom urges that we dwell together with our brethren in unity if this can be done in the purity of the truth, and without compromising other principles which might be involved.

The wisdom from above is ‘gentle’, James tells us. Those who possess heavenly wisdom, and are guided by it, will not be unrefined. They will not run roughshod over others. Worldly wisdom often dictates that one should show his authority even to the point of being unkind with those whom he wishes to control.

Another facet of heavenly wisdom as set forth by James is that described by him as ‘easy to be entreated’. This means a willingness to hear the viewpoints of others, and where principle is not violated, a willingness to take them into consideration in reaching conclusions. This is particularly important where differences exist between brethren. For one under such circumstances to take the viewpoint that he is entirely right and the other brother completely wrong would display a lack of heavenly wisdom.

We are all frail and imperfect. Differences exist because of imperfections of the flesh, and as members of the Adamic race we all possess these fleshly imperfections. This is one of the first lessons we learned in acquiring heavenly wisdom. And now we should remember this lesson in our dealings with others and not set ourselves above being approached and entreated, but humbly acknowledging our own weaknesses, be willing to listen sympathetically to the viewpoints of others.


Another element of heavenly wisdom is mercy. When we think of the extent to which our Heavenly Father is continually exercising mercy toward us, how unwise it would be for us not to exercise mercy toward others. The quality of mercy is revealed by our willingness to forgive others their trespasses against us. The Scriptures make it clear that unless we are willing to forgive others, neither will our Heavenly Father forgive us our trespasses against him. Matt. 6:14,15

In this connection we think of a statement by the Prophet Jeremiah shortly after the nation of Israel had been overthrown and taken into captivity because of her sins. He wrote, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22,23) According to the terms of the Law, God could have justly destroyed the people of Israel. Instead, he simply permitted them to be taken into captivity to be punished, and this was due to his mercy.

Yes, as Jeremiah indicates, God’s mercies are daily manifested toward his people, and that is just as true now as it was in the case of the typical Israelites. God’s mercies are new every morning, and how wonderful it is that we can have this assurance as each day we embark upon our various activities. And the Lord wants us to be like him in this as well as in all other respects. Are we wisely conforming ourselves to the Lord’s will by being merciful to others when they offend us because of their inherited weaknesses? Jesus’ lesson to Peter concerning the forgiving of those who sin against us even to the extent of seventy times seven, impresses the fact that our mercies, like those of our Heavenly Father, should be new every morning. We should never become weary of exercising mercy. It is an important ingredient of heavenly wisdom. Matt. 18:21,22

James includes with mercy what he describes as ‘good fruits’. We could well say ‘all’ good fruits. And these are the fruits of the Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is not producing the proper fruitage in our lives, then we are lacking in heavenly wisdom. Thus again the difference between knowledge and wisdom is emphasized. The Lord wants us to study his Word and thus become more and more acquainted with the various features of his glorious plan of salvation, and the purpose of this is that we might show ourselves approved to the Lord by conforming our lives to the principles of righteousness set forth by the truth. If we merely attain a knowledge of the truth, and then fail to apply its principles in our lives, we will be lacking in the wisdom which is from above.


James reminds us that heavenly wisdom is impartial in its dealings with others. He gives us an illustration of partiality, which he declares to be a sin. We quote: “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool: are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?” To this James adds, “If ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin.”—James 2:1-4,9

This illustration is based upon conditions which existed in the days of the Early Church, nevertheless it points up the fact that if we are guided by heavenly wisdom we will not be partial in any

of our dealings or associations with the brethren. According to the flesh it is natural to be drawn to some persons more than to others. In itself, this is not necessarily wrong, but if we permit ourselves always to be favoring some, and ignoring others, then we are not being guided by heavenly wisdom.

It is possible for us to practice a degree of partiality in our association with the brethren without our being aware of it, thereby missing blessings which we might otherwise be enjoying. It is well to seek to fellowship with those in the class with whom ordinarily we might be inclined simply to greet casually. We do not know what may be in the hearts and minds of others unless we converse with them. There may well be blessings waiting for us if we make it a point to become better acquainted with those who are not in our particular little group.


The Scriptures are firm in their denouncement of the sin of hypocrisy—and a hypocrite has no rightful place among the people of God. One cannot be guided by heavenly wisdom, and at the same time be a hypocrite. Paul spoke of being all things to all men that he might save some, but he did not mean by this that he was playing the part of a hypocrite. (I Cor. 9:19-23) Jesus said that we should be wise as serpents and harmless, or simple, as doves in our presentation of the Gospel message so as not unnecessarily to offend the hearers, but again this does not imply hypocrisy.—Matt. 10:16

If we are guided by heavenly wisdom we will be open and sincere to all. We will not be deceivers either by word or deed. Sincerity of heart is one of the essential elements of true Christian character. Without it we cannot be pleasing to the Lord, nor will we be able to make our calling and election sure to a place in the kingdom with Christ. May we indeed endeavor at all times to be sincere, and may the truth quickly cleanse us from the slightest encroachment of the sin of hypocrisy. Solomon wrote that wisdom is given to us by the Lord, and thus he agrees with James that it comes from above.

We receive this heavenly wisdom through the truth of the Word and our obedience to it. We quote: “The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the ways of the saints.” If we search for this wisdom through earnest study of the Word, and through prayer, and are willing to have our lives guided by it, “then,” as Solomon wrote, we will “understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.”—Prov. 2:6-9

Dawn Bible Students Association
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