99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. (Psalm 119:99–100, NKJV)
I remember a course in school called Reading Comprehension. We learned to read with understanding, retention, and application (the essence of education). Repetition assists comprehension and retention. By repeatedly hearing and using information, we learn and retain knowledge. Over time, the ability to comprehend and retain information educates the child, whose use of that education can produce success. Today’s passage explains the advantage of being educated and trained in the word of God. The student may even surpass the teacher in wisdom and understanding by consistent meditation on God’s word, as well as persistently obeying His mandates (Col. 1:9-10; Phil. 1:9-11). The “uneducated and untrained” apostles had a greater understanding than the religious intellectuals – much like their Master before them (Acts 4:13; John 7:14-15). Age does not necessarily mean greater understanding (Job 32:6-9). God’s word contains the knowledge and understanding we need to wisely “abhor what is evil” and “cling to what is good” (Rom. 12:9). Let us be humble enough to realize wisdom does originate with us, but with Almighty God. Then, may we absorb understanding from His word to live in harmony with Him, even when doing so does not harmonize with the learned ones of this age (1 Tim. 6:20-21).
Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. (Romans 15:14, NKJV)
Paul gave thanks for the faith of the Roman Christians: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Rom. 1:8). Now, he briefly outlines why he was confident they would follow the instructions he gave them. Each of his reasons are expressions of their faith, and by them we are exhorted to follow their good examples. First, Paul had confidence in them because they were “full of goodness.” Their virtue was genuine, not pretended. Nor was their goodness partial. Their lives were filled up with goodness. Next, Paul had confidence in them because they were “filled with all knowledge” (Eph. 5:17-18). Their knowledge of God’s word filled every part of their being. It informed their faith, their hope, their motives, and their conduct (Jno. 8:31-32). Thirdly, Paul had confidence in them because they were “able also to admonish one another.” They were situated to effectively caution and reprove each other because of their goodness and knowledge of God’s word. Knowledge standing alone puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1). But, when coupled with goodness one is equipped to admonish and to be listened when that warning is needed. We enhance our ability and opportunity to help one another be faithful by maturing our faith in goodness, in knowledge, and in the ability to admonish others from God’s word.
1 Elihu further answered and said: 2 “Hear my words, you wise men; Give ear to me, you who have knowledge. 3 For the ear tests words as the palate tastes food. 4 Let us choose justice for ourselves; Let us know among ourselves what is good.” (Job 34:1–4, NKJV)
The young man Elihu had listened while Job’s friends charged Job with having committed grievous sins for which God was punishing him with great suffering. He listened as Job justified himself rather than God. Then, Elihu spoke words of wisdom by the spirit God gave him (Job 32:1-14). Elihu challenged these men to listen to his words and test them so as to obtain true wisdom and justice. Like them, we must test the words we hear people speak. Are they true or false? Good or evil? Just as our palate tastes food and distinguishes flavors, so we must test what we hear according to knowledge. The question is, what knowledge base are we using to test what we hear? Is it the truth of God’s word and wisdom, or is it the word and wisdom of men (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)? We are not our own source of knowledge; We have all been educated by someone or something. We must educate ourselves with the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Read it, study it, and learn it – not to pridefully boost of your knowledge, but to humbly submit to the will of Almighty God. His truth frees us from sin and equips us “know among ourselves what is good” (John 8:31-32).
7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. (1 Corinthians 8:7–8, NKJV)
Paul addresses the situation of Christians who had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,” yet their conscience had been trained to honor the idol as real (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9). Their conscience toward eating things offered to an idol was weak (that is, it was not yet developed and trained according to the truth that there is only one God, v. 7). If they were to eat things offered to an idol (even though an idol is nothing, and even though food does not commend us or condemn us to God, v. 8), their conscience would be defiled. We rightly conclude from this passage that violating one’s conscience defiles it. Even though the conscience is not our standard of truth and error, we must not disregard it, violate it and thereby sear its ability to operate (1 Timothy 4:2). A seared conscience is unresponsive and cannot be trained by a knowledge of the truth. Therefore, we must not violate our conscience, including when it has not been fully trained by the truth. Instead, let us continue to grow in knowledge of God’s will and training our conscience toward the true God with it.
1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. (1 Corinthians 8:1–3, NKJV)
The next subject about which the Corinthians questioned the apostle was “things offered to idols” (that is, eating things that had been offered to idols, 1 Cor. 8:4, 10). Paul will explain that while we all know an idol is nothing and that there is but one true God, the consciences of some Christians were weak, informing them that the idol was still somehow consequential (1 Cor. 8:7). Rather than arrogantly dismissed them, their weak consciences were to be considered when deciding whether to use one’s personal liberty and eat things that had been offered to idols (1 Cor. 8:7-13). You see, knowledge, standing alone, invites arrogance (v. 1). Knowledge tends to inflate one’s opinion of himself. Humility, not pride, must inform and animate our knowledge (v. 2). We have not yet acquired the knowledge we ought to have if we view ourselves sufficient and superior in knowledge to others. Our goal is to be known by God, not to flaunt and force what we know upon others (v. 3). These principles inform our use of personal liberties. Paul’s call to combine knowledge with humility is needed whenever we are tempted to elevate ourselves above others (Romans 13:8-10).
20 “Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, 21 That I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth, that you may answer words of truth to those who send to you?” (Proverbs 22:20–21, NKJV)
God’s word repeatedly extols the virtues of wise counsel that comes from God’s words of truth. Wisdom is not merely knowing something is true. Wisdom is correctly and consistently applying one’s knowledge of truth to life’s situations and circumstances. Wisdom is not merely something to possess, it is something we must apply. As James said, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13). The proverbs are a case in point. These general maxims of life do us little good until we practice them. When followed, their wise counsel leads us down constructive and righteous paths. The wisdom of God is contained in the certainty of His words of truth. We see that one’s attitude toward truth is integral to shaping wisdom within the heart. If we refuse to bend and shape ourselves to the truth of God’s word we will inevitably make foolish, hurtful, and sinful choices. To be wise we must listen to and follow the wise counsel of God’s truth. Write His words on your heart and follow them (Hebrew 8:10; 10:16). They will equip you with wisdom for life’s endeavors and insight to sustain you as you face life’s challenges.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” 35 “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33–36, NKJV)
The gospel reveals the purposes of God to save sinners – us – through the redemption He makes available through His Son Jesus Christ. Paul had plumbed the depth of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge in the first eleven chapters of his letter to the Romans. Today’s passage summarizes with clarity and force that the judgments and ways of God are not measured and tempered by human wisdom. It is not man’s place to teach God. We must resist the temptation to make God in our own image, and then expect Him to agree with the ingenuity of our intuition, insight, expectations and knowledge. No, we must humble ourselves before the magnitude of God’s wisdom and knowledge. He is our Creator, our Sustainer, and our Redeemer. Every blessing we have is because God is all wise, all powerful, and all merciful. To Him be the glory forever.