The Attributes of God and Biblical Counseling: Wisdom

attributesThere are dumb smart people. You likely know what I mean, there are some individuals out there who despite their brilliance are exceedingly clueless. They have more degrees than Fahrenheit and less sense than a broken change machine. God, on the other hand, does not simply possess knowledge. He possesses wisdom. More pointedly, the Bible says He is the very essence of wisdom. The wisdom of God is a reminder of His trustworthiness.

Wisdom refers to “knowing how” not simply the “knowing about.” It is skill oriented, applied knowledge. So, throughout the Bible God gives wisdom to accomplish tasks. He gives wisdom to skilled craftsman for the building of the tabernacle and the design of the priestly garments (Ex. 28:3; 31:3, 6). He gives wisdom to rulers and judgments for their use in discernment and guidance of the people (Deut. 34:9; 1 Kings 3:28). He also gives wisdom for ethical living. So, the apostle James says that wisdom is displayed through a “good life, by deeds done in humility” ( James 3:13-18). In other words, God grants us a “how to” knowledge.

We often think that there are certain domains that belong to man and certain that belong to God. But all knowledge is God’s provision to us. John Frame has very keenly observed:

But all of our knowledge is based on revelation. When we know something, it is because God decided to let us know it, either by Scripture or by nature. Our knowledge, then, is initiated by another. Our knowledge is a result of grace. This is another manifestation of the lordship attribute of “control.” (The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 23)

We are never autonomous, but are always under God’s sovereign control, even in our gaining understanding. So, Paul can rightly ask the rhetorical question:

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Cor. 4:7)

We receive everything from God. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him to us (James 1:17). We receive wisdom from God, and this is the case because God is himself the source of wisdom.

God does not merely possess His attributes; He is His attributes. The doctrine of the simplicity of God means that the divine essence cannot be broken down into parts. God is always at the same time all that He is. We may be sometimes just and sometimes gracious, but God is always both just and gracious at the same moment. We may be sometimes wise, but God is always wise.  The English Puritan, Stephen Charnock very beautifully wrote of this concept, saying:

Secondly, Therefore the wisdom of God is the same with the essence of God. Wisdom in God is not a habit added to his essence, as it is in man, but it is his essence. It is like the splendor of the sun, the same with the sun itself; or like the brightness of a mountain is by the beam of the sun, but it is one with the crystal itself. It is not a habit superadded to the Divine essence; that would be repugnant to the simplicity of God, and speak him compounded of diverse principles; it would be contrary to the eternity of his perfections: if he be eternally wise, his wisdom is his essence; for there is nothing eternal but the essence of God…The wisdom of God, is God acting prudently; as the power of God, is God acting powerfully; and the justice of God, is God acting righteously; and therefore it is more truly said, that God is wisdom, justice, truth, power, than that he is wise, just, true, etc., as if he were compounded of substance and qualities. (The Existence and Attributes of God)

God is the divine essence of wisdom, and the Bible corroborates this fact.

Throughout the Bible wisdom is personified. In the book of Proverbs wisdom is a “woman” who calls young men to follow her and learn from her. In Luke 11:49 wisdom speaks and sends prophets. Most notably the Bible tells us that Jesus is the “wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24, 30). Proverbs 8-9 personifies wisdom and points to the ultimate realization of that personification in Jesus Christ. Note how Proverbs 9:1-4 parallels the language of Jesus in Matthew 11:28. When we seek wisdom, then, we are ultimately seeking God. When we desire to obtain wisdom we are ultimately desiring to obtain God. When we are given wisdom by God, we are ultimately given God. This is why the Psalmist declares that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10; 15:33). It is why James tells us that if we lack wisdom we should ask God for it (James 1:5).

The fact that God is wisdom, that He knows all and knows how to use all, is significant for our trust in Him. We never have to fear that God will fail to appropriately act, intervene, or apply truth. Furthermore, we can go to Him in our time of need because He possess all the answers and knows how to help us with all our situations. James tells us not simply that we should go to God when we lack wisdom, but that God “loves to give generously to all” (James 1:5). We can go to God when we do not understand, when we don’t know what to do, when we feel stuck and are struggling. We can go to Him because He is the source of all wisdom and He delights to share it. He delights to share it because He delights to give us Himself. This is most evident in the ways the Bible talks about the gospel. The Gospel is the wisdom of God for salvation (1 Cor. 1:18-2:16). The gospel is our call to come and seek wisdom from God, for even the so-called foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men (1 Cor. 1:25).

Biblical Counselors should remind their counselees of God’s wisdom. He is the very essence of wisdom and can be trusted to do what is best for us. Even when we don’t understand, even when we think and feel differently we can trust the “only wise God” (Rom. 16:27; 1 Tim. 1:17). He is wisdom and will always perfectly act and apply. We can go to Him for wisdom because He loves to give it and possess limitless stores of it. Use the attribute of God’s wisdom in counseling to encourage and invite counselees trust in this only wise God.

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