What is wisdom? Wisdom does not consist of the information that we know; wisdom is what we do with what we know. Wisdom is revealed by decisions and actions. A wise person lives in a way that reveals an understanding of what they have come to know.
It is said that experience is the best teacher. We can listen to people say not to touch the stove because it is hot. But, when we touch a hot stove, we learn in a very different way. We learn to heed instruction.
Proverbs 8:33 says to heed instruction and become wise. We are wise when we apply knowledge in useful ways. Wisdom has us make good decisions based on the available information. Wisdom teaches us when to speak or not speak. He who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19). When we are wise, we know how to prioritize.
The opposite of wisdom is foolishness. The foolish are not known to be good listeners who heed advice. The fool surrounds themselves with foolish people. Fools think they are always right.
The reason to understand wisdom is because Jesus speaks of the way of salvation as being wisdom. The key to understanding the passage is found in the last verse. Jesus concludes with an interesting statement. He says, “wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
What it means is that the test of wisdom takes time. If what is believed is foolish, the child resulting from the foolish belief will be proven to be a fool. The offspring of birds are birds. The offspring of an elephant is an elephant. The offspring of wisdom is wise children.
There are people who think what Jesus teaches is unwise. But, Jesus says, it will prove to be wise, it will be vindicated, when His teaching bears fruit. Jesus’ salvation will prove wise when all those who follow Jesus walk through the gates into the kingdom of heaven. Time will tell what is wise and what is foolish.
God’s ways are wise. The ways of the world are foolish. The Bible has a section titled “wisdom literature” which contains the books, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.
The Bible says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. In other words, we may learn all the facts and information of life, but unless we have a foundational fear (respect and awe) of God, the information we have, our knowledge, is for nothing. Having all the knowledge of the world is foolish without the fear of God.
The New Testament frequently equates the wisdom of God with our salvation.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians says that the church displays the manifold (multi-faceted) wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). The first few chapters of the first letter to the church in Corinth compare the wisdom of man with the wisdom of God seventeen times!
To Timothy, Paul writes that beginning from childhood; Timothy has known the Scriptures which give the wisdom leading to salvation in Christ (2 Timothy 3:15).
The wisdom of God is revealed through the prophets who speak God’s word. Every prophet of God points to Jesus. In Jesus, are hidden all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom (Colossians 2:3).
In this passage, Jesus talks about three aspects of God’s wisdom.
The main idea of the passage is that we need to put our faith in the wisdom of God’s salvation. Believe God’s proclamation of salvation is perfect wisdom.
In Luke 7:23, Jesus says that those who are not offended because of Him are blessed. The passage we are looking at is a continuation from verse 18. Jesus continues where He left off, and is speaking to people about those who are offended and not offended by Him.
Jesus uses the teachings of John the Baptist as a dividing line of people who are offended and not offended because of Him. John the Baptist is a prophet. A prophet speaks for God. John joins a long list of prophets who speak the mind of God to the people of the world.
In John’s gospel, Jesus says that the Jews search the Scriptures because they think that they will unlock the words of eternal life. Jesus says they will not find what they are looking for because they fail to see that the Scriptures give testimony about Jesus (John 5:39). The prophets speak of Jesus. After the resurrection, Jesus reveals to the disciples on the road to Emmaus how the law and the prophets give testimony to Him (Luke 24:27).
Jesus asks the crowd what were they going out to see when they ventured into the wilderness to see John the Baptist. They didn’t go to see a reed shaken by the wind or a man dressed in soft clothing. Everyone who went to the wilderness to hear John the Baptist went to see a prophet. There is not a question in the minds of anyone who went out to see John. They went to see a prophet of God.
The implication is clear. The prophets of God speak about the Messiah. John the Baptist is a prophet who speaks of Jesus.
Jesus reveals that John is the greatest of the prophets. He is the one of who it is written, “Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.”
Jesus proclaims John the Baptist to be the prophet spoken about in Malachi 3:1. John is the forerunner to the Messiah. Those who believe the testimony of the prophet John will not be offended of Jesus. They gladly hear John’s testimony and believe John is preparing the way for Jesus.
John the Baptist ministry is a gospel ministry. John preached the gospel of repentance and faith. John’s ministry reveals the wisdom of God’s salvation. Those who believe John are not offended by Jesus. Those who reject John the Baptist reject Jesus.
We cannot have it both ways. We may not say John the Baptist is a prophet of God and reject Jesus. John’s proclamation as a forerunner is in unity with all of Scripture. Rejecting the testimony of John is to reject Scripture.
Jesus makes a further proclamation, which is remarkable. Jesus says, “I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John, yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
In the presence of His disciples, the crowd, and the religious leaders, Jesus proclaims John is the greatest man ever born. There is no greater title or compliment.
John the Baptist leads no army or revolution. He is not the king of a nation. He doesn’t cure cancer or disease. He doesn’t discover gravity or harness electricity. He is not an industrialist. He is not a sports legend or celebrity. There is no worldly human achievement associated with John the Baptist. By the world’s standards, John is a failure. But in God’s eyes, John is the greatest man who ever lived.
John is set apart from all the other prophets because He is the forerunner to Jesus. His role as a prophet is unique.
But, there is a way for people to be greater than John the Baptist. All who put their faith in Christ become greater than John the Baptist. Every citizen of the Kingdom of God is greater than John as he lives on earth. Those who are citizens of the kingdom of God are without sin. John the Baptist, although he is a great prophet, is still a man with sin.
Do you desire greatness? Do you want to be seen favorably in the eyes of God? Friends of the world are enemies of God. Forsake this world and become citizens of the kingdom of God. Put your faith in Jesus.
The revelation of God’s wisdom is that true greatness is found by those who are in union with Christ.
Those who hear Jesus are divided into two audiences. There are those who acknowledge what Jesus says as true wisdom. And, there are those who reject the words of Jesus as foolish.
The first group of listeners acknowledge what Jesus says as wisdom. Luke describes them as the people and the tax collectors. Generally speaking, they are sinners. They acknowledge God’s justice.
Those who acknowledge God’s justice went into the wilderness to hear a prophet of God. They believe John is speaking, not for himself, but on behalf of the God of the universe. They listen to John and believe God communicates to His people through the prophets. They hear John speak about sin and they acknowledge God’s justice. They believe God is just in judging sinners and they repent and beg for mercy.
What about you? Do you believe John is a prophet from God? If you do, you will repent from sin and put your faith in God for your salvation. Do you hear John’s call to repent? If you do, you will ask, “what shall I do to be saved?” The answer is to cry out for mercy before the just throne of God.
All those who acknowledge God’s justice, repent and seek to flee the wrath of God by begging for forgiveness.
Luke describes the second group of people who listen to Jesus speak about John the Baptist. He categorizes them as the Pharisees and lawyers. They went out to the wilderness to hear John, but they did not believe John is a prophet of God. They hear John as speaking foolishness. They hear John proclaim the need to repent, but they do not see themselves as sinners. They believe they are good people.
What about you? Do you think you are a good person? Do you think you have no need to repent? Maybe you think you are righteous, especially compared to other people. Because you think you are good, you believe God will welcome you into His kingdom. The Pharisees and lawyers did not see themselves as sinners in the eyes of God. Therefore, they reject God’s purpose for themselves. They do not see the need to be washed of their sin because they do not think they sin.
The Pharisees and lawyers are like many people today who think they are good. Many people look at the outward acts of religion and think their works will save them. God doesn’t look at outward acts of religion, like going to church or doing good things for people. These things are good, but they do not save us.
God looks at the heart. We are sinners by nature. We are born in sin. Everyone is guilty. No amount of good works will erase our sin. A glass with 1% of poison and 99% of water is not pure. A life of 1% sin and 99% good works is not a pure life. God is 100% holy and He requires 100% purity. The only way to be pure and holy is for God to wash us clean of sin. The blood Jesus is the only cure for sin.
Jesus describes what is in the hearts of those who reject His and John the Baptist’s words. He says, “They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.”
Jesus is not paying them a compliment. He is saying they lack maturity. They are like children. The Pharisees and lawyers expect everyone to follow their lead. If they play a flute, they expect people to dance. If they sing a dirge (a song for mourning), they expect people to cry.
They do not understand the wisdom of God; instead, they expect others to see them as wise. They want to be the ones calling the shots.
As religious leaders, the Pharisees and lawyers criticize John the Baptist. John, who leads an ascetic life doesn’t eat bread or drink wine, and accuse him of being demon-possessed. They call Jesus a glutton, drunkard, and companion of sinners because he does eat bread and drink wine. No matter what John or Jesus does, whether they drink or not drink, eat bread or not eat bread, they are wrong.
They think that the only right is what they think is right. In their prideful self-righteousness, Jesus declares them to be completely wrong. They reject the wisdom of God.
Jesus concludes with this statement, “wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” In other words, what turns out to be true wisdom will bear fruit. You may not know today, but you will in the future.
God’s wisdom gives birth to children. The children of God’s wisdom prove God’s wisdom to be right. God’s wisdom is vindicated.
Those who put their faith in Christ are the children of God’s wisdom.
I could try to be eloquent and explain the wisdom of God and His salvation, but anything I say is incomparable to God’s word. Therefore, I will read what God says in His word about the wisdom of His salvation.
The best passage in Scripture speaking about our salvation and God’s wisdom is found in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth.
18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” (Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14)
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Nobody can boast about their salvation. We come to God, empty-handed, and unworthy.
The wisdom of God’s salvation always points to the cross of Jesus Christ. Any other description of salvation, which does not point to the cross, is no salvation. There is only one way to be saved from God’s just wrath, and that is the cross of Jesus.
The world thinks the cross is foolish. They reject the cross and invent a way to be saved. But the cross is the wisdom of God. God’s wisdom finds vindication (it proves to be wise) when those who put their faith in God’s way of salvation step foot into eternal paradise with Jesus.
God is holy and just. He hates sin. We are guilty of sin. God loves people, but people are sinners.
God must judge and punish sinners. The punishment for sin is death and separation from God.
We don’t go before a judge in a courtroom, having committed a crime, and talk about all the good things we do. We don’t talk about how we obey our system of laws.
Yet, some people think they can come into the courtroom of God, stand before His judgment throne, and tell Him they deserve to be saved. For us to think we can tell the judge we are not guilty, when we are guilty is absurd. The attempt by people to declare they are worthy to stand before a perfectly holy and righteous God without the cleansing blood of Jesus is ludicrous.
In God’s wisdom, He lovingly provides a way to be just and loving at the same time. He gives the world His beloved Son, who willingly takes the punishment we deserve. When people put their faith in God’s salvation from sin, by believing Jesus takes their punishment, they are saved from God’s judgment.
God’s holiness and justice make salvation necessary. God’s love makes salvation possible.
Jesus’ message is simple. Do not be offended by Jesus. Don’t stumble over the rock of salvation. Those who put their faith in God’s wise proclamation of salvation are saved.
Believe God’s proclamation of salvation as perfect wisdom.