When you think about preaching the attributes of God that your people most need to hear, what comes to mind? For many preachers, I think, the attribute at the top of the list is God’s love. I doubt we hear about any of God’s characteristics more in America’s pulpits today. We love the love of God! Because of this emphasis on God’s love, other preachers would likely say that people need to hear about God’s justice or wrath. Others would argue in favor of God’s holiness. Because man has such a habit or molding God in his own image they would say that a recovery of the transcendence and otherness of God is what parishioners need most. Still, others would probably point to God’s sovereignty or perhaps God’s glory or grace. Then others would say God’s faithfulness. However your list shapes up, I am guessing that God’s wisdom doesn’t rank very high on your list. Probably not in your top ten and almost certainly not in your top five. Sure, you wouldn’t argue that people don’t need to hear about it, but I suspect that for many of us preachers it just doesn’t seem quite as important as the others. In this post I will urge you to preach some aspects of God’s wisdom and tell you why I think teaching your people about this is particularly relevant in our day.
1. Preach Creation
God’s wisdom is profound (Rom 11:33). Interestingly, in Scripture God’s wisdom has a significant relationship to creation. The Bible states that God “established the world by His wisdom” (Jer 10:12; Prov 3:19). In Proverbs 8:22–31, wisdom is personified as being an agent in creation. The infinite God who is infinitely wise created the world by that wisdom. It means that as God created he did so with great understanding, purpose, and intentional design. This has significant implications for us and the people to whom we preach. One of the most crucial implications concerns issues of gender and sexuality. The culture at large tells our people that gender is a choice and homosexuality is innate. For them, it doesn’t matter how you were born, all that matters is how you choose to identify yourself. When it comes to sexuality, they say all that matters is how you were born. And the culture expects our people to affirm this as truth.
Yet the inspired Scripture communicates a remarkable relationship between God’s wisdom and his creation. That means there are laws in nature and a certain order to it. And the way that God made everything was inscrutably wise. His created order is good and is for our good. To violate that order is, therefore, unwise. Our people need to hear that we aren’t just trying to uphold traditional values on issues of gender and sexuality simply because we don’t like change. This has never been more relevant or important than in our day. Put God’s wisdom in creation on full display before your people.
2. Preach Racial Reconciliation
Paul says in Galatians 3:28 that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The ground is level at the cross and all races are welcome. The significance of this statement is heightened when one reads Galatians in conjunction with Ephesians. In Ephesians 3:8 Paul wrote that he had been given the grace “to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.” In 3:10, he says that the purpose of this was “so that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known through the church.” In chapter 2 Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians of how they, Gentiles in the flesh, were formerly excluded and separated from Israel, but how they now had been brought near by the blood of Christ (2:12–13). He spoke of how God united Jews and Gentiles (2:14), one new man (2:15), and a new building (2:21), a dwelling of God (2:22). So Paul says that in Christ God has brought together Jews and Gentiles to create a new building built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, of which Christ is the cornerstone. God has given him the grace to preach to the Gentiles to bring this about. Note the progression:
- Paul preaches
- Gentiles are saved
- Jewish believers and Gentile believers are made one in Christ
- God’s wisdom is made known through the church
God saving people of different races and making them one in Christ is a function of making his wisdom known. Racism, therefore, has no place in God’s people. To exclude any race from hearing the gospel, from our churches, or from our fellowship, is to frustrate God’s plan to unite races in Christ and make his wisdom known. Our people need to absorb this message. Some, perhaps, more than others.
3. Preach the Source
People often think of wisdom as an issue of experience. Those with gray hair among us are considered wise because they have been there and done that. I don’t want to denigrate the value of that kind of wisdom. Scripture certainly affirms it. After all, much of Proverbs is written by Solomon as wisdom from a father to his son (Prov 1:8). It is important to note, however, that Scripture does not stop there. In the Bible, wisdom is a matter of experience, but it is also, and primarily, a spiritual issue. God is the source of wisdom (Prov 2:6; Dan 2:20–22) and he is willing to share. Proverbs 9:10 says that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Therefore, the way to obtain wisdom is by having a heart that desires obedience to God. Our people need to hear that the fount of every blessing is also the fount of all wisdom and that he gives it generously to those whose hearts are right (James 1:5).
4. Preach Christ
As noted above, God is the source of wisdom. Yet, not only is he the source, he is wisdom. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24). This is especially pertinent for the subject matter of our preaching. There has been a pressure often placed on preachers to provide helpful tips for life to those sitting in the pews. How to be a better husband. A better wife. How to raise kids. The list goes on. But this wisdom is ultimately unhelpful until they have heard about and met the one who is himself wisdom. Make application, but don’t make the mistake of replacing God’s wisdom with advice for life.
5. Preach the Incomprehensibility
Many people in the pews are hurting. They are experiencing various trials and as they suffer they are often pondering one question: Why? Why is God allowing this to happen? We can look to Job for help. Job experiences a tremendous amount of suffering and he says he wants an audience with God to justify himself. He finally gets the audience he wanted in Job 38, but it doesn’t go quite as he planned. Instead of Job questioning God, God questions him. God’s first question sets the tone for all that follows: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2). God follows with a few dozen rhetorical questions all making the same point: “Job, you can’t understand. My ways are higher than your ways.” The answer to theodicy is often that there is no answer. At least not in this life. We must trust the wisdom of the wise one. This is a perennial struggle and one that our people need to hear from our pulpits.
I hope this post will encourage you to preach God’s wisdom. Our people need to hear about God’s wisdom in creation, his plan to make his wisdom known through uniting races in Christ, that wisdom is a spiritual issue, that Christ is wisdom personified, and that God’s wisdom is beyond our comprehension.
Jeff Hampton is a PhD student in Preaching in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s School of Preaching.