Thoughts On Wisdom: The Nature of Earthly Wisdom

My thanks to Dr. Mark Copeland who prepared this Bible study and makes it available for use. It can be viewed at Executable Outlines.  A video of this part of our study is available on You Tube.

Earlier in this study we learned that possessing wisdom, particularly heavenly wisdom, is to possess immeasurable treasure.  We discussed the origins of wisdom.  Earthly wisdom is from the devil.  Heavenly wisdom is a gift from God.

In this portion of our study we’ll look at the nature of earthly wisdom.

Earthly wisdom is self centered and envious.

14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.

and moreover in

16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

What is it to be full of bitter envy or even to harbor such an emotion? It is worldly. It is a sensation of the flesh. Bitter envy is anger directed at others for what they possess. Another person may have a thing or may possess knowledge that you do not.

Bitter envy is a choice. It is a desire in our heart to be angry, not because of a righteous indignation, but because of selfish flesh.

What is it to be self-seeking in the heart? It is a self professed knowledge that you have the power within yourself to be the solution to all your problems. We find ways from within ourselves to resolve an issue or to ignore it. We may find resolution if finding fault with another or finding fault in God. But the problem will never rest in our own lack of power.

Earthly wisdom finds power, position, privilege and prestige to be virtuous. Power corrupts. Position is fleeting. Privilege requires another’s loss. Prestige demands a lording over others.

It was this kind of wisdom that caused Satan and his minion horde of angels to rebel against God. Pride came over the Devil. He wanted God’s power. He believed he could stand in God’s place. He believed it was his right to demand the privilege associated with high office. He wanted to be recognized as being like God.

This kind of fleshly wisdom prompted the disciples to argue over who would be the greatest. They wanted power, position, privilege and prestige.

Luke 9:46
An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.

Churches today and the denominations they represent continue to be self-seeking for power, position, privilege and prestige. The Christian church, that is the True Christian Church, the church established by Christ Jesus has fallen away from His teaching.

Jesus was confronted by a “man of the law” and was asked which of the commandments is the most important?

Luke 10:25-28
Now an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” The expert answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

The legal mind understood the words of Truth and Jesus confirmed them.

Men, perhaps legal men, steeped in their own wisdom began to teach scripture not as the Father intended, but as their hearts led them. Over time churches aligned with governments and governments used the churches to manipulate the citizenry. Eventually governments became the church in order to subvert the supremacy of God. Governments and churches became allied to elevate themselves at the expense of the people.

Reformers were given by God. Reformers witnessed the alliance between churches and government and set out to right the wrongs. From the Reformation came denominations.

Good men, learned men, honorable men believed they were doing good things for the Name of Christ. Looking back, though, these good men were not doing good things at all. These good men did not unify the Bride of Christ. Rather they perpetrated a widening of disputes. These good men even created chasms that are difficult if not impossible to bridge.

The divisions in the church are not healing. These divisions are wounds that fester.

Adherents of denominations are more adamant and less forgiving. Denominational leaders are increasingly more strict and increasingly unloving.

Independent of each other we have seen the divisions in Christ’s Bride. Some of us have contributed to them. We’ve made the division worse by our pride; that is finding virtue in power, position, privilege and prestige.

In the Church that is His Body there are divisions that are unable to be healed.

Baptism, as an example, is divisive. Some Christian churches (the first church of baptism) believe a person must be baptized by full immersion in water. Other churches (the second church of sprinkling waters) believe a sprinkling of water is sufficient and appropriate. The first church will discount even disregard the baptism of the second.

Some churches (the first church and others like it) have adopted an “age of accountability.” A young person must attain a certain age before baptism will be administered by the church.

Some churches (the second church and others like it) baptize infants with sprinkling of water or with light touches with water on the baby’s forehead. The first church does not accept this practice as sufficient or even appropriate.

There are churches like the first church that believe in full immersion in water with a twist. Those churches believe the person baptized will rise up from the water and speak in unknown languages. The first church finds that abhorrent and not scriptural.

Salvation is another example of divisive doctrine in the church. Some churches believe a person who is accepted by Christ Jesus will show evidence of his salvation by a changed life. It is not sufficient to live a quiet, peaceful life, but the new believer will exhibit signs of his salvation. This doctrine of “Lordship Salvation” runs through many churches.

“Once saved always saved” (OSAS) is a doctrine accepted in most Christian churches but is anathema to other Christian churches because those churches believe a person’s salvation can be lost.

The doctrinal concepts of predestination and free will are opposed to one another. Some churches believe they are chosen by God. Others believe they have chosen God.

The doctrine of Hell is divisive. Some churches claim Jesus died spiritually as well as physically. Scripture teaches that while dead, before His resurrection, He preached to the saints. Other churches concur that He did preach to the saints, but not until He suffered unspeakable torment in Hell.

Some churches believe “hell” is a lake of unquenchable fire. The lake of fire will be the abode of the unrepentant and unbelieving person. Others believe hell is the grave or an unseen place.

Institutions of Higher Learning, specifically Seminaries, exacerbate the divisions in the Church. Almost all seminaries are associated with a larger denomination. Even those seminaries not directly affiliated can be construed as denominational.

A church I once attended hired their first Pastor who had a degree from a well known Texas seminary. Every Pastor who has been hired since possesses a degree from that same seminary. The church once proudly proclaimed their tradition of hiring their Senior Pastor based on graduation from that Texas seminary. The current Pastor once preached a sermon on the organization of his church. He pointed out that all the Pastors of that church were graduates of that Texas seminary. It seems a reasonable conclusion that that church was powerfully affected by the teaching of that seminary through its graduates. That church appears to be influenced by a denominational construct of that Texas seminary.

It causes me to wonder; “Is that church idolizing that Texas seminary?”

I participate in a Bible study at a local church. That church’s Pastor commented, “It is a shame so many, even most, churches are led by men and women that are not seminary trained.” The Pastor was serious in his assessment of the quality or lack of quality of Bible teaching by untrained teachers.

Of all the Apostles only Paul was formally trained in Scripture. His training as thorough as it may have been was severely flawed. Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus and retrained Paul.

The nature of earthly wisdom is self-serving, self-seeking, full of bitter envy and certainly unwise. I do not think good men or even good women set out to hold fast to worldly wisdom, but that kind of wisdom fills their minds, their sermons and their lives. Not all doctrine is approved by God.

Earthly wisdom is a millstone around the neck of Christ’s Bride.  It is the primary source of division and confusion in the church.  I am certain very nearly everyone reading this essay can point to an experience in their Christian walk in which earthly wisdom affected them.

It is my hope this essay will lead the reader to a personal assessment of how he or she arrived at their respective doctrinal positions.  I pray if earthly wisdom is determined to be the support for what is believed that the reader will assess his doctrines again and strive to be simply Christian.

About Jim Barnes

A man seeking to please the Lord. A man striving to abide in Christ Jesus. A man whose hope is to see just one more come into the fold.
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