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Description: God Can Give Us a Spirit of Wisdom
God Can Give Us a Spirit of Wisdom
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We’re studying Ephesians 1:17, and have studied the first two sections of it, 17a, and 17b, and it’s
the prayer that Paul is praying he says for this reason in verse 15, “Because I have heard of your
faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you,
remembering you in my prayers,” and then this is the important thing that he prays for them. Not
money, not wealth, not success and saving others, but “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
Father of glory my give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”
So Paul is praying that they will have knowledge of God, and we’ve already talked about the fact
that it’s not an academic knowledge, it’s a personal, close knowledge of God and that’s why he prays
that God would give us a spirit of wisdom. And you remember we talked about wisdom being mentioned
often in Proverbs, and us learning all kinds of verses which encouraged us to get wisdom, and then
we would study actual Proverbs that give us advice about ordinary human life and interaction with
other people and we would feel that’s getting wisdom. Well of course that’s not what is being
talked about here at all.
For one thing the prayer is that God may give you the thing, and of course we know when we’re
studying the Proverbs or when we’re studying words of scripture, we’re tending to, in fact we’ll
often say it, memorize that; keep that in your mind because that’s a good guide for the way you can
deal with people in business, or that’s a good guide of the way that you as a son or daughter ought
to treat your parents. Or that’s a good guide for the way you ought to deal in personal
relationships with other people in regard to money. And we’ll say, “Now lodge that in your mind;
keep that in your mind.”
In fact many of us have been involved in conferences and training programs that emphasize that. Now
of course that’s not what Paul is talking about here, because he’s not saying we’re to get this for
ourselves by memorizing words of scripture, he’s saying, “I’m praying that the God of our Lord Jesus
Christ, the Father of glory may give you,” not even may give you wisdom but may give you a spirit of
wisdom, a spirit. And so it’s something that only God can give us.
And it seems that sometimes we’ve missed wisdom because we’ve thought of it as something that we get
for ourselves, and in fact what we’ve ended up in getting is a kind of variation of worldly wisdom
or religious philosophy, or ethical precepts and we don’t really have a spirit of wisdom. Many of
us I think could testify to meeting other people who are like that. Unfortunately we don’t often see
it ourselves, but we have met other people who certainly can quote scripture to you, and can even
testify to some of the precepts and Proverbs, and some of the Biblical behavior patterns that we
find in the outline and scripture, but they themselves, we often feel, don’t even have common sense
let alone a wisdom that comes from God, a deep wisdom and knowledge.
Don’t they often say, “Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge?” Well they don’t even seem to have
an ability to use knowledge. But it’s very important to see that Paul is praying not just for
wisdom, which is the ability to use knowledge, but a spirit of wisdom, a whole spirit of wisdom.
That God may give you a spirit of wisdom. In fact it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit, and the only way
to receive a gift is to have a constant humble attitude to our Father. Makarios was the name of the
Archbishop in Cyprus years ago. “Makarios” is also the Greek word for happy and it’s the word that
is used in the beatitudes for “happy are the poor in spirit.”
One of the old church fathers said this means that we are beggars who expect to live off the wealth
of God. That’s the kind of person that God can give this spirit of wisdom to; a person who is very
aware of their lack of wisdom, who is very aware of their lack of ability to use knowledge for God’s
glory. It’s the description of a person who sues for peace with God and beseeches God, and is
utterly dependent on God, and comes as a beggar to God saying, “Lord I am the poor in spirit. I am
poor in that spirit of wisdom; I do not have the wisdom that I need. Father will you give me that
spirit of wisdom?”
Its utterly different to the proud attitude that says, “Well here are the Proverbs, now this is the
Proverb by which you ought to deal with your parents, this is the Proverb by which you ought to deal
with other business people, this tells you plainly to go to ants and search out their ways; to be
industrious like the ant, but so said many of the Latin and Greek authors; it’s one of the classical
virtues in a way — its industry. But it’s utterly different from the wisdom that comes from above
which is gentle and has a kindliness and a mercy to it, and comes from where — from the heart of
And that’s what we shared last time; that a spirit of wisdom is what Jesus talked about and you
could look it up though we know the verse very well, its John 4:14, “But whoever drinks of the water
that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring
of water welling up to eternal life.” It’s the water of life that Jesus gives us as we walk close
to him, it’s the water of life that he referred to when he said in John 15:15 “No longer do I call
you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends,
for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” A spirit of wisdom is something
that we receive from Jesus as we walk with him through life and we begin to see things through his
eyes and we begin to understand why he’s doing things, and understand what he plans to do, and we
therefore understand what he’s doing with other people.
We have a tendency to try to psychoanalyze each other and to think “Now I know what Joe needs; this
is his problem.” And of course you can see even as we talk that way it’s this old self taking over.
We psychoanalyze each other instead of seeing each other through Jesus eyes, cuddling up to our
Savior so close that we can see things as he sees them, and he sees them of course absolutely and
completely differently from us. I am horrified with my dear wife how often I have missed things. I
think surely I understand; if there’s anybody who understands surely I understand. But I am
horrified how I miss what she’s really feeling or what she’s really thinking. And I think
repeatedly we do that; we just don’t see where each other really is. We don’t see into each other’s
dear little hearts and see what Jesus sees, and that’s what Paul is praying; that we will have a
spirit of wisdom, that we will have the wisdom of Jesus, that we will see things as he sees them.
Now it seems to me there’s where we make part of our error, because we think, “Yes, I should pray to
the Lord that he’ll give me a spirit of wisdom, that’s it — a spirit of wisdom. That’s what I need
so I’ll wait.” [There is the sound of something hitting you in the head] “That’s a spirit of
wisdom; I got the spirit of wisdom.” It’s not that, it’s not something that comes to you and you
don’t know where it’s come from. It’s something that comes to you and it’s burned into your very
being because you’re very clear where it’s come from. And that ties up with the piece of the verse
we’re studying today.
If you’d like to look at it, It’s Ephesians 1:17c, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,” and
revelation is the very opposite of Matthew 16:17, you remember. Jesus says in verse 15, “He said to
them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the
living God.’” And then verse 17, “And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For
flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
Now that’s revelation and its the opposite of flesh and blood. It’s God himself showing you things
that you have not seen before. It’s God himself enlightening you and revealing to you something
that you never knew before, and you did not even suspect, and flesh and blood cannot reveal that to
you. It’s not intellectual insight, it’s not human wisdom, it’s not the ability to psychoanalyze,
and it’s not even deep understanding of theology or doctrine, its God showing you something that you
haven’t seen before, and that’s what Paul is praying for; that God may give you a spirit of
revelation in the knowledge of him.
In a way you can know each other up to a point, and even as the other person talks to you, you can
know some things about them. They tell you about their mom or their dad, or their brothers or
sisters, or their school days, or they tell you about views they have of things, or things they
think of, or what they think about somebody else and up to a point you can know them as they appear
to reveal certain things to you that you did not know before.
But actually there are things that you will have revealed to you about them that even they will not
know they are revealing to you at times by words but often just by actions, and by observing their
ways. Suddenly it will dawn upon you, “Oh that person is really like that.” Now that’s what a
spirit of revelation is with God. It’s something first of all that he has to be willing to give to
you; it’s something that he gives to you. He reveals himself. [Karl] Barth is right when he says,
“It’s silly for us to talk about God as if we put God on this table like a little insect and then we
take our microscopes out and say, ‘God oh yes, God’s the creator, God is holy, God is righteous, God
is loving, God is merciful. Yes that kind of sizes him up, okay we’ve got God.” Well Barth says,
“That’s foolishness because you yourself are somebody that God created, you are far less than God,
how can you look up and understand completely someone that is so much higher than you?
And of course we can’t, and that’s why so much of our talk about God is so silly and foolish; it’s
on a level of superficiality that isn’t simply not worth sharing, but it is actually a distraction,
and its part of Satan’s deception by which he persuades us that we really know God when we don’t
know God. Because you can’t know God by studying him as if he were an object, as if we were able to
stand back and examine him. Because each time we stand back, the only way we can stand back far
enough is if we stand back so far we fall off the cliff. We can never get far enough back from God
because he is the one that encompasses us.
So the only way we will ever know God deeply is if he reveals that to us; he must reveal himself to
us in words. What we love to think is that if we pray this prayer or someone prays it for us God
will zap us with revelation. That’s really what we like to think; that in prayer if we will wait
upon God he will zap us with sudden revelations. We will even talk about revelation in that way. We
will say, “No, what Zachariah got, that’s what we want. Just tell us ‘Turn to the right.’ Okay we
turned to the right, just tell us ‘Put that money there,’ and we do that.”
We really are continually preoccupied, in a way, with ourselves and with getting from God and with
no exertion or exercise of discipline on our own part, getting something. We really want something
for nothing, and we’d like to think that that’s what it means. God will give us a spirit of
revelation; that is, I’ll be praying someday and suddenly it will hit me. Sometimes it does, but
this revelation is much deeper than that.
You know yourself that you know there are many things that you ought to do and you don’t do them.
You know that there are many little things still that you don’t even deify them with a name far from
sin of commission, it’s not really a sin of omission, it’s just there are whole ways and whole
attitudes and whole things and circumstances that in a way you know what they should be like, but
you don’t bring them about. Because in some way you see it in some part of your being, but it isn’t
in your flesh and blood. It isn’t in the fiber of your body, it hasn’t taken you over. And
revelation from God is something that not only gives you direction but changes you so that that
direction becomes natural for you. So revelation from God, or a spirit of revelation, is something
that not only shows you the way to go, but makes you fit to go that way.
And of course the key to it is that deep verse in Philippians 3:10 and it talks about the same kind
of knowledge of God as we’ve been discussing. Philippians 3:10, “That I may know him and the power
of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible
I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” That I may know him and the power of his sufferings,
of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings becoming like him in his death, and that’s how God
gives us his spirit of revelation.
That’s the meaning of this veil of tears, but of course it’s something we reject and resent. God
has designed this life that you live to be lived by only one person. He has designed a life for you
that can be lived by only one person; Jesus Christ in you. But every time any of us come into some
experience that is beyond us, we feel we’ve failed or we feel resentful against God for leading us
into this experience or for allowing this to happen to us.
Indeed we tend to line up experiences in this world on the right and left of one column, and on the
left side we say these are bad experiences, and on the right side we say these are good experiences.
On the left hand side there are experiences that make us feel inadequate, and on the right hand
side there are experiences that give a sense of achievement and fulfillment. It’s completely upside
down, it’s the ones on the left that are God’s plan for us, and it’s the ones on the left that drive
us in desperation to the Savior for his power and life and strength.
It’s those experiences that drive us beyond our own adequacy and into that realm where we feel we’re
inadequate, where we feel we’re utter failures, where we feel there’s no way out of that, only then
are we beginning to touch the fountains of life in Jesus. Only then are we beginning to touch the
power of his resurrection, and that’s God’s plan. But in this veil of tears we regard all this as
proof of our inadequacy, and proof of our failure to live up to what God wants us to, and so we keep
scrambling to live up to that in our own strength, which is the very enemy of Christ.
It’s almost as if Christ is here with his arms out stretched to lift us in his own arms and we’re
saying, “Get out, get out, I have to get up to the standard that your Father wants me to live at.”
And all the time the experience is planned carefully by God to drive us out of ourselves and to
drive us into the death of our old selves, and into the resurrection of Jesus inside us. And it’s
that that gives us a spirit of revelation because as Christ then becomes real in us in that
particular situation there comes to us a whole wisdom and understanding of that experience that we
never had before.
Certainly we see the whole thing absolutely and utterly clearly. It’s like a world of wisdom and
understanding that we never suspected before and we’re utterly changed inside in that regard. And
so it can come through all kinds of things, it doesn’t actually have to come through, as it
certainly does come to some extent, through physical or medical disasters that you experience
yourself. Certainly there’s a whole understanding that comes from that, but actually that’s only
There are all kinds of situations that God has lovingly planned for us. Most of them are what we
call unpleasant situations; most of them are what we call situations that prove our inadequacy,
because that’s exactly the purpose God has in mind so that we will willingly reach out in hunger and
desperation for Jesus, and receive him into us. Receive him in, not in a nice polite devotional
way. Not just in a nice acceptance of some insight into one of his teachings, but a real embracing
of him with our hearts in hunger and desperation, grabbing him and pulling him to ourselves, and
submitting ourselves wholly to him. And in the midst of that there comes an interaction with Christ
that is deeper than anything else in our lives.
And in that interaction Christ is revealed to us, and then of course as Paul says in 2 Corinthians,
“Then because of that he is revealed through us to others, so that death is at work in us, but life
in them.” But that requires the utter death of self, and an absolute certainty that Christ only is
the one to be concerned with; Christ is everything and a spirit of revelation comes only when you’re
that hungry. When you’re at the point where Christ is everything every moment, and I think you know
what I’m talking about because we all know the theological truth that we are the body of Jesus. Of
course we are in Christ, of course Christ is in us but still, we’re pretty preoccupied with this
person that I think I am. Now what these experiences are planned by God to do is to drive us beyond
that and into Christ himself where there is no adequacy but Jesus.
So of course it’s always the truth, but we make it just a cliché; “the worst of times is the best of
times” for us. That’s it; in other words the experiences that we can only meet if Christ meets them
instead of us, those are the best, those are the best experiences, those are God’s gifts to us, and
that’s where real revelation comes. That’s where you’re changed in a way that nothing else could
Sometimes you look at an old saint and you think it is burned into his face, and into her eyes, and
into her body. This is not just some little flippity thing she learned by reading Thomas a Kempis,
this is something that has become part of her. She is an embodiment of this, that’s what we’re
talking about, that’s the kind of spirit of revelation that Paul is praying that we will have, and
there’s no other way that the beauty and the wonder of Calvary comes to us. There’s no other way
but that absolute falling down before Christ in hunger and desperation in those dark, dark, black
moments which of course are not dark black moments at all.
They are the moments that are filled with light, but we have such an upside down view of things that
we think they’re the darkest moments, but those are the most real moments, and it always will be so.
There’s always only one way to get into resurrection and that it by being buried in a tomb.
Let us pray.