Advice to Preachers and Teachers (20)
Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
She cries out in the chief concourses,
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words:
“How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.
Turn at my rebuke;
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you. Proverbs 1.20-23
Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4.12
“Therefore seek the supreme wisdom, not by verbal debate, but by the perfection of a good life, not with the tongue but with the faith which issues from singleness of heart, not with that which is gathered from the guess of a learned irreligion. If then you seek the unutterable by discussion, He will fly further from you than He was; if you seek by faith, wisdom shall stand in her accustomed station at the gate, and where she dwells she shall at least in part be seen.”
- Columbanus, Sermon I
Increasing in wisdom is a theme that recurs throughout the Scriptures. Moses taught us to pray for wisdom (Ps. 90.12). Solomon sought it, and waited on the Lord to receive it (Eccl. 2.12, 13). Proverbs and Psalms contain many exhortations to seek wisdom; and this theme continues in many places in the New Testament.
Every believer is charged with seeking wisdom, for from wisdom flow the good works that are the evidence of a lively faith (Matt. 11.19; cf. Eph. 2.8-10). Of course, the supreme Wisdom is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is the repository and fount of all the wisdom of God (Col. 2.2, 3). He calls out to us from His Word and in all other places – in the city, throughout creation, and in all the everyday clutter and busyness of our lives.
Columbanus counseled his students to seek wisdom. This is why Solomon wrote Proverbs (cf. 1.2, 3), warning that only fools disregard the importance of seeking the wisdom of God (1.7). He calls us to listen to wisdom (2.2), to store it in our heart (3.13), to get and keep it (4.5; 3.21), because “wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom” (4.7).
Which is to say, get Jesus. Get Him, keep Him, store Him in your heart, listen for Him, consider Him more precious than all things else. If we’ll seek Jesus this way, He promises to make His words known to us, and to have the Spirit-river of blessing flow from us to the people we serve (18.4). God “gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight” (Eccl. 2.26). If we seek the Wisdom Who is our Lord Jesus Christ, then God will grant more of Him to us.
Wisdom and the ministry of the Word
Increasing in the Wisdom Who is the Lord will benefit our ministries of preaching and teaching in at least three ways. First, it empowers us to live the truth of what we preach and teach, so that people can see in us what Jesus looks like lived out in the everyday activities of one’s Personal Mission Field. To all those whom Paul wrote letters, he reminded them of his conduct, and urged them to imitate him as he imitated Jesus (1 Cor. 11.1). We should have the same ability, though we will of course guard against trumpeting our wisdom. It will be enough to let it be displayed in all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities.
Second, by increasing in wisdom, we will know the way to true Wisdom, and be better able to lead the people we serve along the path to increasing in Jesus Christ. This is the overarching end of all preaching and teaching, for unless we connect God’s people with Jesus, we run the risk of making them dependent on us, or on some other lesser source of assurance, comfort, strength, and power. We want the people we serve to follow us in seeking Jesus, so that they may gain from Him the wisdom they need for good works in their daily lives.
Third, by seeking Wisdom, and preaching and teaching Wisdom to those we serve, we make it more likely that the blessings of Wisdom will abound in our congregation, and through the congregation into the surrounding community. Wisdom is the key to effective and persuasive witness. As we seek Wisdom, live out the wisdom of Jesus, and show Him as the Wisdom for full and abundant life, we may expect many to be attracted to Him who today know next to nothing about Jesus.
Worship should end in action, action characterized by wisdom, that is, Wisdom – the reality of Jesus living in and through each member and the church as His Body.
How do we seek Jesus? How do we learn to see Him in the 10,000 places He is revealing Himself each day (Hopkins)? How do we engage the eye of the heart to see Jesus, exalted in glory (Eph. 1.15-23)? What does it mean that we have been seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2.6)? How can we make sure that our minds are always fixed on things that are above, where Jesus is seated in heavenly places (Col. 3.1-3)?
These are not idle questions, or suggestions for a richer spiritual life. They seem to be markers of an overall desire to seek and know Jesus, as He is, where He is, and for the Wisdom He is. Can we help one another in this? What practices have you found helpful in seeking the Wisdom of God in Jesus Christ? How does this factor into your daily time with the Lord? Your daily walk with and work for Him? Share your thoughts and experience with the rest of us, so that we might learn from one another and thus stimulate one another to the love and good works that flow from increasing in the Wisdom of our Lord (Heb. 10.24).
The souls of those who are about to speak with wisdom should first be cleansed through divine fear. For to distribute the mysteries of salvation to the general public and to receive all persons equally, including those whose life is not adorned with purity and those who have not been examined and prepared to make reasonable use of the mysteries, is like pouring one’s most precious ointment into a filthy vessel.
- Basil the Great, Homily on the Beginning of Proverbs 4
T. M. Moore
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).